Is The Hunger Games set in Denver? It wouldn't be our first doomsday scenario.

Colorado is certainly no stranger to doomsday scenarios, post-apocalyptic fantasy and end-of-the-world intrigue. Stephen King's The Stand, Tom Clancy's The Sum of All Fears and the movie Red Dawn all feature our fair state in misery; more than ninety years ago, future radio evangelist and Family Radio Network founder Harold Camping was born in Boulder, which helps explain his skewed worldview that doomed all his doomsday prognostications. And then there's Denver International Airport, where more conspiracy theories land daily, covering everything from underground aliens to secret chambers, all hinted at in the Leo Tanguma murals.

And those murals are where Washington Post writer Lucas Aykroyd begins his journey into the heart of Denver's darkness. "I read a lot. And ever since the 2008 release of The Hunger Games, the first book in the best-selling sci-fi trilogy by Suzanne Collins, the rumors have been floating around: Denver is quite possibly home base for — cue Beethoven's Fifth — the forces of evil," Aykroyd writes in a March 30 story. "Seem impossible? Consider this: The novel, set in a post-apocalyptic, starvation-plagued North America, describes the decadent futuristic capital of the totalitarian dictatorship of Panem as 'built in a place once called the Rockies.' Suspicious, no?...Is Denver the Capitol in The Hunger Games? Armed with only a well-thumbed copy of the novel and sixteen-year-old heroine Katniss Everdeen's never-say-die attitude, I searched for clues during a mid-March visit."

But after laying out various tongue-in-cheek correlations between Denver locales and the book, what Aykroyd really ends up penning is a love letter to the city — and he hits up nearly two dozen or so of our favorite people and places, many of which Westword honored this year or in years past in our annual Best of Denver issue (which Aykroyd notes). The name-checks include: Bound by Design tattoo shop; Rockmount Ranchwear, the Western-wear monument on Wazee Street; the Tattered Cover; B-cycle; the Cherry Creek Bike Path; the Children's Museum of Denver; the REI flagship store; the Colorado Railroad Museum; Colorado Avalanche player Gabriel Landeskog; the Wynkoop Brewing Company; the CELL terrorism museum, which features a few doomsday predictions of its own but is currently off limits because of renovations; the Clyfford Still Museum; Ale House at Amato's; the demon-eyed "Mustang" at DIA; and Restaurant Kevin Taylor.

An ambitious trip, but one that left him hungering for more.

"I checked out downtown's new crystal-chandelier-laden Fluff Bar, which offers on-site haircuts and shaves while you imbibe," Aykroyd concludes. "I even envisioned a makeover that could get me into the Games and make Katniss's prep team of stylists proud. Crazy stuff, but fun. Just like Denver."

Scene and herd: The NCAA Women's Final Four might have been in Denver over the weekend, but some stores at the Denver Pavilions dropped the ball by closing at the non-Final Four hour of 7 p.m. on Saturday. With restaurants packed and lines out the door for gelato and ice cream around the 16th Street Mall, out-of-town fans were left pulling on locked doors at stores such as Hot Topic and PacSun, which cater to younger consumers with plenty of their parents' cash to spend. "Why do these stores close so early? Don't they want to make money?" asked a frustrated group of teens wearing matching Final Four T-shirts. "If I owned it, I would!"

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