Turning the Tables on Valentine’s Day

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Romantic restaurants on Valentine’s Day are overpriced, overcrowded and overbooked, or at least that’s what you can tell yourself when you realize you’ve forgotten to make a reservation. But eating is optional, people, like those mawkish diamond “journey” pendants and the single red rose, and there’s no reason why you can’t just round up your squeeze and have an alternative night on the town. Go on, prove your love.

For time-honored tradition, there’s always the sweet, blowsy Valentine's Day at the Mercury Café. It puts one in mind of an insular world governed by the spirit of Mae West, where Marilyn Megenity whips up her annual “love potions” in the kitchen (dinner tables are likely to be tight, but the Merc serves dinner from 5:30 to 11 p.m.), the Mercury Motley Players make love and fun on stage in Lovers, Split, Strangers and there’s always some sort of couples dancing going on, including this year’s slow dance lessons to blues music at 6 p.m. and a Hot and Spicy Valentine's Dance at 8 p.m. Best of all, the Merc is cheap, like Ms. West herself: Dinner is filling yet reasonable, dance lessons run $7 a person, dance admission is $5 and it’s $10 a seat in the theater. The Merc is at 2199 California Street; log on to www.mercurycafe.com or call 303-294-9281.

Modern partying can be found at the second annual Black Lotus Erotica Ball, an event hosted at the 3 Kings Tavern, 60 S. Broadway, by the Pan African Arts Society and BluBlak Media and somehow meant to celebrate both human sexuality and African American History Month. But if erotic poetry, belly dancers, edible aphrodisiacs and safe sex demonstrations rally you to either cause, get in there quickly; the Dionysian evening of art, romance and raunch kicks out the jams with a champagne toast at 8:30 p.m. and continues until last call. Admission is $12 to $15 (or $20 to $25 for couples); go to www.panafricanarts.org/events.htm for deets. More wicked love poetry will slung at 8 p.m. in Boulder at the nationally ranked Denver Slam Team’s Valentine Slam at the Dairy Center for the Arts, 2590 Walnut Street. Expect the theme to be heartfelt and super-enhanced by an array of wine and desserts. For tickets, $10 or $15 per couple, visit www.thedairy.org or call 303-440-7826; the evening doubles as a benefit for the Dairy. If fiery dance and food you eat with your hands are a turn-on, watch the cultures of Morocco, Romany and Spain collide forcefully and gracefully when René Heredia' s Flamenco Fantasy Dance Theatre stamps into Palais Casablanca Moroccan Cuisine, 2488 S. University Boulevard, for a pair of hot, hot, hot Valentine’s Day flamenco shows with plenty of serious strumming, hand-clapping, stomping and rose clenching between the teeth. Guitarist Heredia and troupe steam up the joint at 7:30 and 9 p.m.; cross your fingers and call 303-871-0494 for reservations. For the squeaky clean, ice skating is a fine Valentine’s Day activity for sweethearts. Throw on those matching snowflake sweaters and swing your skates over your shoulders, Hans Brinker wannabes: In Boulder, head for the Ice Rink at One Boulder Plaza, 1801 13th Street, for a Valentine's Day Party on Ice, with extended skating hours and two-for-one admission all day, from 10 a.m. until 9 p.m. Pairs skate for $3 to $5 (skate rental is $3 extra); go to www.bouldericerink.com or call 303-209-3722. And at Lakewood’s Rink at Belmar, it’s Valen-Twins Day: Skaters who dress alike skate for free from 4 to 9 p.m. and prizes will be awarded for the best twin kids, couples, women and men. Belmar is at Wadsworth Boulevard and Alameda Avenue; surf to www.belmarcolorado.com. At Denver's Dangerous Theatre, 2620 W. 2nd Avenue, you can treat your sweet to a stack of Love Notes, a collection of mostly comic, love-themed scenes submitted by playwrights from across the country. Although the show runs throughout February, with cabaret-style seating, a chocolate fondue fountain and a bring-your-own-wine option, with accoutrements provided, the Dangerous folks are doing it up for Valentine’s night by also including roses for the ladies. Plus, if you’re brave enough, you’ll have the opportunity, before the show, to stand up and profess your love for your partner to all. Cute. Shows continue Thursdays through Sundays until March 2; admission is $20. Log on to www.dangeroustheatre.com or call 720-233-4703. And now we come to the poor, the lonely, the geeky – you know who your are – who still ache for a good time and a chance to hear weird music in the company of others, whether accompanied by an equally cynical lover or not. The UnValentine's Day Party for Lonely Hearts and Other Miscreants is just your ticket. Subtitled the Cupid & Freud Ball, this non-mushy evening hosted by local abstract rockers RacecaR is a Palindrome, the Inactivists and Skinflix at the D Note, 7519 Grandview Avenue, Arvada, promises nothing but music, pizza and an esoteric scene to join up with for a night; music starts at 9 p.m. and admission is $5 at the door. Visit www.dnote.us or call 303-463-6683.

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