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"Civic Center Blues": The Rocky Mountain News series that needs to be flushed

Like retracing Steinbeck's steps through Salinas, James Anthofer makes like the Rocky's James Meadows and pisses in a fountain.
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James Meadow’s hard-hitting “Civic Center Blues” features in the Rocky Mountain News haven’t shied away from the tough issues: Skateboarders. Half-naked women in the seal pond. Secret messages on the walls. And now, poop.

We'd hoped it was just a three- or four-part series, something quick to highlight areas to clean up in the park. But it's now on its eighth day. It just won't stop. It's like the Widespread Panic song of crappy newspaper series.

Monday’s story, “Got The Urge to Purge?” is the latest example of Rocky publisher John Temple's obsession with Civic Center Park, and the latest indicator that the chamber in Meadow’s sawed-off shotgun of irrelevancy is indeed empty. In a 750-word story that felt like 1,400, he tackled public restrooms in City Park:

“Sometimes, however, it’s not just bodily fluids you have to worry about. Two weeks ago, we encountered a large piece of excrement. It was clearly of human origin — unless Big Foot lives in The Park. FYI, it was located near the shuffleboard courts on the west side of the Amphitheater.

Despite its size and out-in-the-open location, the object endured. Not even last week’s City of Denver’s annual employee salute celebration prompted its removal.

Look, we know sometimes, well, stuff happens. We also know this: Haste may make waste. But, hey, removing waste requires haste.”

After sleeping off the after-effects of reading Meadows' latest installment, I ventured to the park yesterday to check up on Meadow’s fastidious research, to see what I was missing. It seems that he wrote his article the day before Denver’s Parks and Recreation crew cleaned up the stairs and ampitheatre. The crew had the whole area scrubbed clean.

To try to get into Meadow’s frame of mind, I placed a facisimile poo next to the shuffleboard courts, and I couldn’t think of anything but how small a thing it seemed under the Denver skyline. I experimented with the guerrilla urinals (the two lion fountains) that Meadows had mentioned and found them, as he described, to be relatively accommodating, though awfully out in the open for my taste.

The Port-O-Potty I tried earned special scorn in Meadow’s story, but I found it cleaner than almost any I had ever been in. Perhaps he simply picked a bad day to investigate the two toilets, since the note on the wall said that they had been cleaned that day. The Seal Pond, which Kenny Be highlighted in his comic last week, and Meadows in his first Civic Center Park feature, was as clean as I had ever seen it. No half-naked women, no post-DNC excrement yet.

But, you know, stuff happens. Sometimes the park’s clean, sometimes it’s dirty. The freaks, as Meadows calls them, don’t seem to notice much, especially on a beautiful morning like yesterday.

Maybe the real freaks are the ones obsessed with all this shit. -- James Anthofer

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