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"Damn!" exclaims Chief, looking up at the television above the bar, where the Jets and Giants are engaged in a pre-season grapple. It's the only television turned on in the cavernous establishment. All the others -- the big-screens in the adjoining Mexican restaurant, the wall of TVs stacked like bricks in the corner, the projectors aimed at white screens on the walls -- are silent and blank, since there's no one else to watch them, no one sitting in the long rows of blue vinyl booths or leaning against the pool tables or shuffling around the dance floor.

Blaze gestures toward the huge glass windows lining the back of the bar, each framing an unparalleled vista of Invesco Field at Mile High, its undulating upper bowl like a gaping mouth ready to swallow the big blue sky. He was there about a year ago, Blaze says, for the first Broncos game of the season. Great seats, too. "Dude, the cheerleaders were right there, man!" he exclaims, his voiced raised over the sound of Vicente Fernandez crooning "Mujeres Divinas" on the jukebox.

Both Blaze and Chief have the day off from their surgical-tech jobs at Saint Joseph Hospital. They may play some poker later, but they probably won't return to Angel's tonight, when the numerous screens will be blazing with the Broncos facing the Cardinals in their final pre-season game. "The bar is not cheap," says Blaze, before taking a swig from his gargantuan mug of beer. Chief concurs. "I guess I'm not a sports guy," he adds.

In the back room, Angel's co-owner Elvira Gutierrez hopes they'll reconsider. Times have been tough since she and her sister tore out the brown carpets and installed the neon Budweiser signs seven months ago, exorcising all remnants of the establishment's former life as a private club. But aside from the occasional wedding reception or quinceañera party, most of the plastic-lined tables in Angel's, which is a Mexican restaurant as well as a sports bar, have remained free of enchiladas and chiles rellenos and fajita plates, and even the Friday Old-School House Parties with DJ Big Moe have failed to draw a crowd.

And then there was that problem this summer, when Gutierrez and her sister, Maria, traced a funny smell around the back of the bar and down into a basement apartment, where they found a squatter doing meth. "He was one of those guys -- long hair, skinny, with a Metallica shirt," she says. He took off on a bicycle, leaving in his wake a basement that's still cordoned off with plastic tarps, orange tape and severe warning signs from the Denver Department of Environmental Health, plus a bar that had to close its doors for a month while the authorities determined there was no trace of contamination.

"Can you believe that happened here, across the street from Invesco Field?" asks Gutierrez. "We had to throw away all the food and everything. Staying home for a month, it was something else."

Angel's reopened two weeks ago, and she figures it's just in time, what with the Broncos kicking off their season on September 10. She fondly remembers the only game that Angel's was open for last season, the AFC Championship match against the Steelers. The contest proved to be heartbreaking for Broncos fans, but not for Gutierrez. "Oh, my God!" she says, her palm raised in emphasis. "I've never seen so many people! We were going crazy when the Broncos lost. Everyone had sad faces. But it was beautiful."

She pauses, looking out the window at Invesco, imagining its tarmac moat packed bumper-to-bumper, her tables and bar stools filled with fans in dressed in blue and orange. "We'll see this year," she says. "Hopefully, we'll make it this year."

It's not clear whether she's talking about the team or her bar. -- Joel Warner

Rose's Hair & Nail
1079 South Federal
1:55 p.m.

Early afternoon is the slow time at Rose's Hair & Nail. No customers are wandering the blue-and-white tiled floors, shopping for knock-off purses or looking at the array of antique vases filled with fake flowers. In fact, only one person is here: a Vietnamese beautician who watches over the front desk and the ancient salon chairs.

Right now I'm the only one sitting in one of those chairs, and she pulls her cuticle trimmers and nail clippers out of her purse and proceeds to run through the same manicure/pedicure routine that thousands of beauticians around the country use, expertly executing each step of the process with a slightly bored look on her face. But at 2 p.m., something happens. She gets up and switches on the small television at the back of the salon, then sits back down at her foot-bath station, occasionally glancing at the screen while she continues her work.

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