Cherry Creek, Phone Home

The greatest thing about the place was the phones. They weren't cordless or modern, but a retro red-plastic take on the classic American telephone, affixed right there to the wall in your booth. There weren't any salty waitresses to deal with, no debating whether to tip 12 or 12.5 percent. It was just you, the menu, some crappy, knock-off pop art on the walls, and those amazing crimson telephones. You'd place your order -- giggling anew every time at the sheer irreverence of ordering your meal on a telephone, in a restaurant! -- and then you'd wait. Oh, how you waited. And just when you thought you couldn't hold out another second, that phone would issue an oddly institutional-sounding buzz, and off you'd sprint to the front of the restaurant, where you'd receive your trays stuffed with burgers and grilled cheese sandwiches, French fries and chocolate, vanilla and strawberry shakes. You'd dutifully pump your ketchup into the small plastic containers -- a process that always yielded hilarious farting noises -- and then sprint back to your booth to feast.

"Hey, dare me to dip my French fries in my milkshake and eat them?"

"You won't."

"Yeah-huh. Check this out."

And then you did it, and everyone died laughing, and it was awesome and actually tasted pretty good, like a delicious fried heart attack, only sweeter.

Were someone to make a dramatic highlight reel of my life -- a poignant montage set to some heart-wrenching Velvet Underground track -- there would be a scene just like this, because as any true Denverite can tell you, Round the Corner was a special place. And not just special, but the defining landmark of Cherry Creek for a kid. Our parents would drag us through the specialty stores of Cherry Creek North, which we'd endure by going limp and holding to the promise of Round the Corner, a place where your parents would never complain that they were breaking the bank to feed you, and where you could place your order over the phone.

And then one day, Round the Corner suddenly closed up shop. I'm not sure if you can gentrify an already gentrified area -- like when a Whole Foods fucks a Starbucks or something -- but when Round the Corner disappeared, it marked the end of an era and the death of a small part of myself, perhaps the pancreas. Because when they tore down that beloved restaurant and replaced it with a combination fur store/pay-to-punch-poor-people-in-the-face boutique, the message was all too clear: Hope you enjoyed your little foray into Cherry Creek, peons, but if you don't mind, we're going to keep the riffraff out now.

And then the domino effect kicked in. One after another, the stores I liked disappeared. The Cherry Creek Shopping Center was built, and though my visits there had their moments -- remember buying toy guns at KB Toy Store and then shooting shoppers with plastic yellow bullets from the second floor? -- what the mall has boiled down to is an Urban Outfitters, a piss-poor movie theater and a horrific exhibit of giant plastic food, where diseased children swarm like an infestation of ants while their au pairs suck down Wetzel's Pretzels. Which cost $15.75.

And now the final nail in Cherry Creek's coffin hath been hammered: The Tattered Cover, the little bookstore that could, has fled, unable to afford the sky-high rent. For shame, Cherry Creek. Are you so vain as to not realize that the only thing that kept people flocking to your silly little burg was one of America's greatest independent bookstores? Yes, yes, the Cricket has delicious burgers, but come on, CC, the Tattered Cover was your rock! And now it's your island, drifted far, far away to places Colfaxian -- which is the Cherry Creek word for "poor." On the bright side, though, at least now the Colfax homeless won't have to walk all the way to the downtown library to masturbate to National Geographic.

Truth be told, Tattered Cover made a good move. The new space is great, closer to where I live, and in the midst of a burgeoning neighborhood that's probably more in tune with the mindset of such an independent institution. In a landscape that's rapidly morphing into nothing more than fancy hotels, interchangeable, gimmicky restaurants, chain stores and hot, hot MILFs, the Tattered Cover had no place. And, I'm afraid to say, I don't either. So consider this my farewell, Cherry Creek. I can no longer envision a scenario in which I need to visit you.

Unless, of course, there's a Red Apple Sale at Foley's. Man, those prices just can't be beat.