Best Of :: Shopping & Services
When it comes to dumpster-diving, the best advice you can follow is this: Look before you leap. Peruse, peruse, peruse. And wear comfortable shoes. But here's where the looking's easy on your eyes: You'll find quality and abundance in these well-heeled alleys and, at the same time, get a unique insight into how the other half lives.
Everyone has musical skeletons in their closet: an embarrassing Euro-trash obsession, a long-outgrown affinity for death metal, an Alanis Morissette disc purchased during a particularly weak moment. Don't fret. The curiously friendly counter crew at Cheapo Discs has seen it all, and they pass bills instead of judgment. Here, old, unwanted CDs turn into money -- which one can pocket or spend on the store's impressive and inexpensive inventory of used discs. It all works off the magical and dynamic wheel of musical tastes. After all, the Cheapo people know that we all make mistakes -- and that at any given moment, someone else is ready to make that same mistake again.
Now you can get one leg tattooed while the other one is being waxed! No, seriously: The Blue Door does offer tattooing services, along with related applications of permanent cosmetics and henna body painting. But you can also indulge in every bit of new-age massage media, from Reiki to aromatherapy, all provided by experienced women practitioners. Kick back. Take the ring out of your nose. Relax.
One day earlier this year, a young woman arrived in Capitol Hill to get her hair done. Since her regular hairdresser was still snipping the locks of another customer, the woman wandered two doors down, walked into Twisted Sol and got her genitalia pierced. There are many ways to kill time while waiting to get a haircut -- reading a magazine, for instance -- but there's nothing as creative as getting a new piercing or tattoo, and finer tattoo aficionados can spot a Twisted Sol epidermis a mile away. Whether it's Jeff Kopp's pinpoint portraits or Jeramiah Clark's spray-paint style, this place has the finest den of young ink artists in Denver. "We'll work as many hours as there are in the day," says co-owner Alicia Cardenas. Currently, there's a three-month waiting period for any of the five featured tattooists, but that will change soon. This month, Twisted Sol will expand into an adjacent space (the former Majordomos coffee shop) and add two new tattooists and another piercer. Cardenas says the store will also sell tribal art and jewelry. Whatever you decide on, it's sure to go perfectly with your trendy new trim.
Imagine Baco-Bits made of yesterday's Firestones, and you're on your way to envisioning Crown Three, a nifty lawn-care product from a company called Jaitire. Sprinkle it on heavily trafficked areas of turf grass -- dog runs, the mailman's shortcut, the path your kids beat to the swingset -- and this tiny rubber carpet will protect the crown of the grass root while conserving water, extending the growing season and insulating your lawn from the winter blues. Keep your car off the lawn, though. Non-recycled tires tend to leave a mark.
Taking its design inspiration from the board game Candy Land, the folks at Can Land Recycling do their damnedest to put the fun back into recycling. Nestled among the modular-home dealerships of north Federal, the entrance to Can Land is marked by candy-cane-striped poles and a huge, festive sculpture of suspended wooden barrels with massive grins and outstretched arms. That welcome alone is worth all the drudgery of rinsing and sorting a truckload of garbage. The grounds are decorated with a profusion of brightly colored paintings of happy homes and grateful cans caught frozen for all eternity in mid-hug. Maybe hope and happiness can live on beyond the confines of a children's game.
These good people know all about lifting life's little burdens. Aside from being a thrift store, the nonprofit Family Tree Foundation is dedicated to improving the self-esteem of people needing to overcome family crises, violence and homelessness. The funding comes from donations by the materially overwhelmed, and the folks here run their store with the same care that they run their services. Most notably, unlike some other thrift stores, no item gets thrown away. Even if it's slow to sell, a donation may finally find its value in one of the signature mix-'n'-match packs that make shopping here interesting and affordable. The people at the Family Tree Foundation are experts at getting rid of -- and helping others get rid of or deal with -- unneeded stuff.
It's been said that life's only truly worthwhile pursuit is tidying the house. Sadly, it's nearly impossible to convince children to participate in the joy without having to reward them with some costly bauble that only adds to the clutter. Never again. Family rooms, backyards and garages will sparkle if kids are promised a trip to the dump at labor's end. What is it about the dump (sorry -- landfill!) that they love so much? For starters, the landfill at 88th Avenue and Tower Road is a reeking mountain of trash. Oh, sure, they'll say they hate the smell, but they can barely hide their glee at inhaling each vile whiff. The drive-up Garbage Mountain affords fantastic views of the Front Range while jets arriving and departing from DIA hang noisily overhead. Frequent charges are blasted to scare away birds. En route to the dropoff point, community-service convicts pick grocery bags off fences, but the thrill of consorting with criminals passes as soon as kids see the wall of garbage. Huge city dump trucks unload dripping bales of nobody's business overhead, while pickup trucks, vans and trailers are emptied of yesterday's news at the base. Dangerous? You bet! But BFI doesn't allow anyone to wander five feet from their vehicle. Kodak moments? Aplenty! There's nothing like the look of a kid watching a sofa mashed into the muck by a bulldozer bigger than a house. But sadly, cameras are forbidden. The experience must live on in memories and the promise of another spring cleaning.
So you want to stick it to the Man? What better place than the lawn between Denver's formidable City Hall and its gilded State Capitol? The best time to score is in the middle of the afternoon: Foot traffic is relatively heavy, and all you'll need is maybe $15 for an eighth of an ounce of pot. The quality's not the best, but it beats being sober when you go back to your data-entry job after lunch, loser. The sellers are friendly, too. They'll smoke with you if you like, and they always approach with a toothy grin and a cheerful voice. If you're cool, they might even hook you up with someone who can score you something stronger. We've got your war on drugs right here, buddy.
You don't have to be gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered to attend the Ray of Light Narcotics Anonymous group at 7 p.m. on Wednesdays and Saturdays at the Gay and Lesbian Services Center; all of those gals in the busload from the treatment center certainly aren't, nor is that biker guy. The important thing is that they all feel welcome -- something that isn't always the case at the other NA meetings around town. And while this new meeting has grown so much over the last few months that it might eventually have to leave the cozy confines of the GLS center, there's something uniquely inspiring about that confluence of festive gay decorations and the promise of recovery from drug addiction: Somewhere over that rainbow, dreams really do come true.
Ivonne and Bob Rosnik gave up their real-estate business in May, but over the past fifteen years, the statuesque Swiss matron and her soft-spoken lawyer husband helped more than 150 gay and lesbian couples and individuals buy into the American dream. "For us it was just natural, business-wise, to be involved with the gay community, because we have so many contacts in the gay community," says Ivonne. The Rosniks have four grown children, two of whom are gay; as soon as their eldest son came out in 1982, they joined Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays -- Ivonne running the hotline and coordinating the speakers' bureau. Business was so good, in fact, that they acquired clients only by referral. "One led to another, and that's how we built up a very solid business," she says. "There are a lot of gay and lesbian realtors, but what was unusual was that I was a mom, so I was involved as a parent working with gay couples."
Ivonne's favorite story involves two men. "They were delightful people. They wanted a property in the mountains where they could have non-traditional animals -- a llama and maybe a goat, which most zoning doesn't allow -- and they wanted land around it. We finally found a place in their price range on the other side of Bailey Mountain. That's a long way from Denver. I set up the showing, and when they saw the house and the sixteen acres, they said, 'This is our place!' I went to the door and it says 'The Joneses.' I rang the bell and this lady appeared, in her late fifties, and right behind her was another lady about the same age. This was a lesbian couple, and we found out there were about ten other lesbian and gay couples in that same area."
It's too late for the Rosniks to help you buy a house, but you can still benefit from their expertise: They're now selling Pre-Paid Legal Services ("It covers domestic partnership and is available for nonmarried heterosexuals and also gay and lesbian couples," Ivonne notes). But then, even if Bob and Ivonne were selling free condoms, we'd buy some.
Still stuffing that condom into the dark crevices of your crammed wallet until the latex sheath decays? Make it a problem of the past by shopping at the Planned Parenthood gift shop, which boasts a slick storage method for your rubber buddy: The Crazy Condom Keyper, a key chain with an opening for the condom. Keypers cost $2.40 and come with spurts of sexual wisdom from such characters as a cartoon condom with a jazzy smile and sunglasses that reads "You've got to put me on," and a cow wearing red rubber boots that advises you to "wear your rubbers." For $1.50 more, you can also get matchbook-style condoms with a story about Dick and Jane. "See Dick with an erection. See Dick with no protection. See Dick with an infection." Everyone will be very impressed -- and, hey, you might even get lucky.