Ellie Caulkins Opera House
It sounds trite, especially since the analogy was repeated over and over during the construction process, but putting the Ellie Caulkins Opera House inside the historic Quigg Newton Auditorium really was like building a ship in a bottle. The auditorium -- a 1908 buff-colored brick building designed in a neoclassical style by Robert O. Willison -- had become run-down over the years and had long since lost its historic interior. In 2002, voters approved a bond initiative to pay for a renovation, and Denver's Semple Brown Design was hired to design it. Peter Lucking, the firm's principal in charge of the project, came up with a gorgeous, neo-modern interior that's all rich woods and shining glass and metal. Lucking made the best of an unimaginably difficult situation and gave this city a winner.
The Denver Art Museum's Frederic C. Hamilton Building is getting close to completion, although most of the titanium panels that cover it are still encased in plastic wrappers to protect them from airborne debris raised by the construction of the nearby Museum Residences. But from the moment the steel beams started going up, people have been drawn here to look at the site, take pictures of it, let their visiting out-of-town friends and family check it out. The jagged forms of the building designed by Daniel Libeskind aren't even contained by the confines of the block, since part of it flies over Thirteenth Avenue. And if an unfinished building is already one of the best sights in town, imagine what's going to happen when it opens.
To get a quick read on a prospective new landlord when apartment hunting, you need look no further than the lobby. If the foyer is completely devoid of adornment, turn around and run -- and don't look back. There's always another building with a beautiful theme and decorating scheme, including the ever-popular pilgrim, Mediterranean, Southwest and ski-chalet models. But nothing says "We take care of this place" better than a landlocked lobby with a nautical design. For the best example, pop through the front door of the Captain Cook Apartments, where a glassed-in alcove features regulation fishing nets and dried starfish, all framing a full-sized treasure chest. It's a display worthy of the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, and you're guaranteed to fall for its charm -- hook, line and sinker.
Next time you hop on one of RTD's free mall shuttles, look at the odd seating arrangement: All of the seats are located on one side, and most riders are uncomfortably bunched together, shoulder to shoulder, in an effort to avoid sitting too close to less savory passengers. But look over there, on the passenger-loading side, next to the middle door: There's one single seat that's gloriously extra wide. Its expanse guarantees a comfortable ride, and its central location is perfect for keeping an eye and ear on everyone. Fair warning: These thrones are popular with germaphobes, fat-asses and people-watchers alike, and they're rarely vacant mid-mall. Your best bet for preferred seating is to board at the Union Station end of the line.
Anyone who'd ever been to the bus stop at Colfax and Logan knew that you could catch more than the number 15 there -- until local businesses paid to install cameras at the corner last year. Today you may still see a casual slip of the sack in exchange for some cash, but now the eye in the sky sees it, too.
With cameras documenting all of the action at Colfax and Logan and the State Capitol just two blocks west of there, Denver's crack crack dealers have moved east, to a nice, shady corner next to an unoccupied building at Pearl -- but far enough away from Office Depot so that the rock-roasters don't mistake pencil-pushers for potential buyers.
Nob Hill Inn
The drinking hour comes early to Nob Hill Inn, where the alcohol starts flowing at 8 a.m. and doesn't stop 'til 2 a.m. This Colfax dive welcomes all comers -- from day laborers on their way to work to night-shifters knocking back a quick one before bed. But it has a strict zero-tolerance policy for those folks involved in the brisk Colfax street-drug trade, which is why it blasts classical music from a speaker system mounted on the tavern's outside wall. Though classical music has been shown to increase brain activity in young children, it's apparently a powerful weapon in the war on drugs. Forget DARE: Nob Hill fights rock with Bach -- and Tchaikovsky, Mozart and Chopin.
E.B. Rains Park
Do you believe in power centers? No, not factory-outlet shopping malls, but those magical spots where cosmic energies concentrate to inspire human beings to create meaningful monuments? And no, still not shopping malls -- think of Stonehenge, the Pyramids of Egypt, the Parthenon and the Louvre. To that storied list you can now add the Sensory Playground at E.B. Rains Jr. Park in Northglenn, which features equipment designed for children of all physical abilities. This playground builds bodies as it builds community -- and those low, wide swings even invite seniors to join in the fun. The playground's enlightened entertainment has proven so popular, it can be tough to find a spot to park in this park.
If, as some say, God is in the details -- then surely Christ must be in the coiffures. What living creature doesn't want to look sharp for the Second Coming? To prepare your hair, start at Peggy's Barber Shop, 4382 South Broadway in Englewood, where the storefront signage reminds us that "Jesus is lord...Prince of Peace." Hair peace, we presume. Then, down the street at Waggin Tails Fur Parlor, five-foot tall, hand-painted fluorescent letters promise that "Jesus Is the Answer." What's the question again? Never mind, you're looking marvelous.
Although judges are cutting back on public access to information across Colorado, don't blame Karen Salaz. The public-information officer at the State Court Administrator's office, Salaz balances the individual's right to privacy with the public's right to know, supervising the placement of court documents online (at www.courts.state.co.us) and offering timely updates to the media. Her work on the Kobe Bryant case earned her the Jean Otto Friend of Freedom Award last May from the Colorado Freedom of Information Council, but Salaz's dedication to less glamorous daily drudgery is what makes her a friend to all Coloradans.

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