Life is full of unending battles. Hitting your ideal weight and body habitus; making the perfect Bloody Mary; sending a politician to Washington who displays a range of emotions greater than an ear of corn's and is more concerned with doing the right thing than with planning his future book deal or sleeping with staffers; getting prompt customer service at the mall during the Christmas season; locating an unused parking meter in the same time zone as the bar you're going to in LoDo; finding that one-in-a-million woman or, failing that, one with a pulse who tolerates you, your friends, your inability to put the seat down and your mounds of unlaundered shorts that are showing evidence of evolution; and proving to yourself and everyone within a twenty-foot radius how masculine you are.
That final challenge is what gives this world its drive toward progress, as well as endless heartache and entertainment. Without the male imperative to prove himself the king of the pride, we wouldn't have wars, senators, the Summer Olympics, the Department of Homeland Security, light "beer," traffic jams instigated by guys slowing down to glare at other guys for cutting them off, preposterous lying about how many women we've slept with, "nightclubs," self-absorbed rants in local newspaper columns, cell-phone belt clips or 24-Hour Fitness and Meat Markets, Inc. Without guys constantly establishing their virility, we also wouldn't have plasma TVs, the Cummings Turbo Diesel engine, ESPN, sports bars, ladies' nights, Dolby Digital 5.1, heart-to-heart conversations with our closest friends in which we still lie about how many women we've slept with, Monty Python's Flying Circus, or Keith Jackson and college football.
Mao Asian Bistro (201 Columbine Street) looks like the culmination of several years of men's work to convince other men, and the world in general, that they've had more women than the rest of us, despite being the skinny kids in school who wore their shorts in the locker-room shower and who still have physical and psychological scars from being snapped with wet towels. And Mao might have worked, too, except that they removed the porn from the premises.
When Mao first opened, soft-porn video clips played in the bar and bathrooms, an "accident" that just happened to encourage an admirable morally casual attitude. After complaints, though, the establishment knuckled under to feminine pressure and turned this potentially great bar into a run-of-the-mill, if upscale, watering hole.
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Today, Mao is the epitome of Cherry Creek: all flash and little substance. Our drinks were watered down; apparently they feel that the kaleidoscope colors of the bar top changing every few minutes will distract you from the fact that you're drinking $5-plus Cokes or tonic waters. (Our bartender may have had a conscience, though, because we did get a couple of free rounds). After diluting your bloodstream with caffeine and water, on the way to the bathroom you trek past crowds of beautiful women with slimy guys twice their age earnestly telling them that "love is like a journey" (I really heard that) over expensive bottles of champagne with names like Cuvée Obligates You to Sleep With Me Tonight, 1994. The bathroom itself, despite its marble appointments and gilded faucets, falls flat when the TV screens over the urinals aren't working. The overriding theme: I hope you think I'm cooler than I really am.
I blame the end of the evening on the weak drinks. The night before, the big brother of the Head of Drinking Regrets had been proving his manliness when he broke his hand against an immovable object; he was now in significant pain. We'd relied on Mao to help with pain control, but the Chairman failed us miserably. The combination of the pain, the psychological trauma of breaking his hand and the dismal drinks led to a major gastrointestinal event on the ride home. Needless to say, we'll never again be able to dial the all-3s cab company.
In other circumstances, "Rob" (I'm using quotes to disguise the fact that this is his real name) might have rallied -- the most crucial of all guy abilities, and a major weapon in our arsenal of proving how great guys are in our own minds. Remember, rallying to party the rest of the night after yorking on your date at the homecoming dance effectively preempted any ridicule coming your way the next Monday. And even as adults, it's important to show resolve and self- control by continuing your carousing instead of ending the party or forcing your friends to show their loyalty by not abandoning you to a cabbie who might otherwise take the opportunity to get a big fare by driving the comatose you to Vegas.
We at the Institute of Drinking Studies feel that it's important to pick the right venue for your night out. You should demand a place that recognizes your need to drink good drinks beyond the limits of sanity and physiology. We thought Mao might fit the bill, but it turned out to be the equivalent of a "man" who owns a cat. Still, we firmly believe that, like any respectable guy, this bar could rally. Bringing back the porn would be a good start.