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Myra went to beauty school at Manual High School more than thirty years ago, at a time when students could take regular courses -- math, English, science -- in the morning, and in the afternoon, learn to cut hair in the basement. By 1972, she had her high school diploma and was a licensed beautician. After a stint at JC Penney, she started her own business by renting a chair in a salon on 32nd Avenue.

Myra's two daughters are licensed beauticians, but they chose to pursue careers in IT and education, and the smiling faces of all three of her children line the mirrors -- this one a Glamour Shot from 1996, that one a more recent wedding photo. On another wall, Gracey shows off pictures of the three custom choppers that her husband has constructed, as well as a 4 x 6 glossy of her daughter at her quinceañera in July. Chocolate-colored tendrils frame her youthful face, and a glittering tiara halos a thick mound of curls.

Did she come to Myra's to get her hair done? "Of course. This is a family place," Myra says, still gripping the broom even though she stopped sweeping fifteen minutes earlier. "Everyone comes here." -- Sara Behunek

Bingo City
3820 South Federal, Englewood
11 a.m.

For ten, fifteen minutes at a time, Penny is the only one who speaks. She stands on an elevated platform behind a tall podium and methodically calls out letter-number combinations printed on randomly chosen lottery balls. "B6. That's 6 under B," she announces in a pack-a-day, grandmotherly tone.

Helpers sporting name badges and blue waist-aprons lap Bingo City (maximum capacity: 450 people) carrying plastic tubs of pull tabs, Bullet Bingo cards and raffle tickets, calling, "Last chance to get progressive cards. Who needs 'em?" More than a hundred people -- most of them female and accompanied by an assortment of canes, walkers and wheelchairs -- sit in metal chairs with teal pads behind rows and rows of identical tables. They listen to Penny in reverent silence, their eyes darting from television monitors and blinking number boards to the paper bingo cards splayed in front of them. As they sip self-serve coffee, they use anywhere from one to eight rainbow-colored Dabbin'-Fever and Bingo-Brite brand ink dabbers to mark their cards. They don't speak. Not on their cell phones, not to each other. Smokers' coughs occasionally echo off the walls.

When players win, they don't yell "Bingo" like a casino gambler would yell "Jackpot!" They don't jump up and down or scream or rub fuchsia-colored dabber ink all over their faces and arms. They don't even smile. They simply mutter the magic word, hold their winning card in the air, and wait for helper Norm or Paul to come verify their card number against one of Penny's computers.

After three color-coordinated games of Regular, Round-Robin and Blackout Bingo, the room clears for intermission. Some players head to the snack bar for nachos and burgers and burritos and soda, but most beeline for one of three exits. Out back, more than twenty people are smoking. Penny, who is wearing green flip-flops and a floral-print dress, drags on a Winston. She's talking with three other women about the Bingo King lottery-ball machine and how it's not doing a very good job of mixing up the balls. She admits that she doesn't understand how to play Bullet Bingo cards. She lights her second cigarette with her first. Out front, more smokers spread out in the parking lot of red Buick Rivieras and purple Corollas and black Lexus SUVs and mutter about the weather.

As intermission ends, players place their final orders at the snack bar. A small line forms in front of a vending machine that sells sixteen kinds of cigarettes for $5 a pop and more than thirty kinds of ink dabbers for about a dollar each. Penny announces that the Yellow round of Regular Bingo will commence in thirty seconds, and straggling smokers and snackers shuffle, hobble and barely make it back to their seats in time. The now-obsolete non-smoking section (maximum capacity: eighty people), set apart by two glass-windowed walls, fills up for no apparent reason. The progressive game (running payout: $3,419.10) goes by without a winner in under 53 numbers. Raffle numbers are called, and the prizes -- a massaging chair pad, a set of candles and a large Halloween-themed pillow -- are distributed to unimpressed winners. One woman looks at her neighbor and whispers, "Who would want that pillow?"

When the final game ends more than two hours after the first began, players pack their dabbers back into their bags and head for the forty-foot-long pull-tab-and-pickle bar, throwing singles and fives at volunteers for one last chance at luck. They tear and peel Wild-Ball and Rakin'-in-the-Chips pull tabs with feigned interest before discarding them in the trash. A few gather in small groups and exhaustedly mutter things like, "Oh, that's baloney sausage, Susan." Some make plans to come back for the 7 p.m. game, others the 10:30 game. Still others simply trudge out to the parking lot, pack their ventilators and wheelchairs into their cars, and slowly pull out onto Federal. -- Drew Bixby

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Sara Behunek
Drew Bixby
Patricia Calhoun co-founded Westword in 1977; she’s been the editor ever since. She’s a regular on the weekly CPT12 roundtable Colorado Inside Out, played a real journalist in John Sayles’s Silver City, once interviewed President Bill Clinton while wearing flip-flops, and has been honored with numerous national awards for her columns and feature-writing.
Contact: Patricia Calhoun
Jessica Centers
Amy Haimerl
Dave Herrera
Contact: Dave Herrera
Jared Jacang Maher
Alan Prendergast has been writing for Westword for over thirty years. He teaches journalism at Colorado College; his stories about the justice system, historic crimes, high-security prisons and death by misadventure have won numerous awards and appeared in a wide range of magazines and anthologies.
Contact: Alan Prendergast
Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts
Jason Sheehan
Contact: Jason Sheehan