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What's So Funny

It's not often that What's So Funny uses the word "hero." We don't take that word lightly around here. But every once in great while, someone comes along for whom no other label seems appropriate. Mark Upshaw is such a someone. Shoot, he and his whole ragtag crew at the Denver Department of Parks and Recreation are heroes, because they want to give our city some of the finest, most thought-out public park bathrooms in the country. And as an institution that is completely and utterly full of shit, What's So Funny appreciates a good place to expel our bile.

When Upshaw and company first set out to recommend sweeping plans for Denver's dilapidated public park bathrooms, they turned to other cities first, to survey industry standards and get a feel for the market. After hours of research, they were shocked to find out that there was no conclusive study of the matter. No go-getter Harvard urban-planning student had ever thought about where America's park-goers place their fat asses; no visionary mayor had ever personally tested his city's evacuation procedures.

"Seattle had some good stuff," Upshaw explains. "But no one had really developed location criteria for the restrooms -- what kind of factors need to be present to necessitate a bathroom, what sort of numbers go through the space, etc. This is a little bit of a landmark."

Mark, don't be so modest. Mt. Rushmore is a landmark. This is a fucking Nobel Prize-worthy breakthrough! Since the summer of 2002, when the parks department held eight public meetings to discuss the condition of this city's bathroom facilities, Upshaw and his colleagues have surveyed toilets and urinals all over town, studied bathroom traffic patterns, figured out how to perfectly meet Denver's needs. They presented the draft of their master plan to the Denver City Council's Public Amenities Committee on January 4, carefully outlining their $4.1 million proposal to renovate 28 restroom facilities and build ten more over the next twelve years. City officials hope the plan will be adopted by the full council in March.

Now, we know what you're thinking: Four-point-one million dollars seems like a lot of money for urinal cakes. But if you could only see the sorry state of our parks' bathrooms, you would not only demand more money for the effort, but you'd dip into your kid's college fund to see it through. Don't believe us? Perhaps this brief survey of a few targeted bathrooms will change your mind.

City Park ballfields: What's So Funny remembers this place from our days of rec soccer and CYRA baseball. Back in those days, the public bathrooms were housed in a squat brown building between two of the diamonds. Here you could defecate and micturate in the dark, being careful to avoid the collection of homeless men with no teeth who offered to touch you in all sorts of wacky places. Now, not even those facilities exist, so short of dropping trou in the middle of the grass and aiming for one of the thousands of Canada geese, there's nowhere to relieve yourself in the high-traffic fields.

Garfield Lake: At this picturesque park, seagulls hover above the lake and seek out food on the frozen ice. Couples walk their dogs on the numerous walkways, while children play basketball. In summer they all swim in the pool. And they must pee there, too, because there's no way the park's one MCS porta-potty can accommodate them all. And though the portable toilet's service record, helpfully pasted on the inside wall, indicates that it was last serviced a mere day earlier -- the john actually smelled sweet and minty, like a trip to Grandma's at Christmastime -- more bathrooms are a must.

Sloan's Lake North: Next to a locked adobe shack that blares Mexican music -- you just know the guys in there are shitting in style -- stands yet another MCS porta-potty. Unfortunately, the service record on the inside wall has been crossed out, and judging from the bountiful amount of diarrhea spray lining the seat, floor and walls, this one hasn't seen an attendant in quite some time. It looks like some circus freak who can only walk on his hands came in here and trumpeted an entire feast out of his anus in what was surely the most devastating and deafening handstand of all time. Further east along 17th Avenue is a small brick building housing two indoor bathrooms. Inside, the cement rooms are reminiscent of the back quarantine units where zoos hose down incoming animals. It would be more sanitary to just piss yourself.

Cranmer: What's So Funny remembers this park well, though we always referred to it as "Sundial Park." It offers a stunning view of the Rocky Mountains, and a map listing the prominent peaks and their elevations is engraved in the stone observation deck. In Sundial Park, you can play on the soccer fields, tell time the old-fashioned way or fly a kite on a windy day. But you can't relieve yourself -- not unless you've got a bedpan. There's not a bathroom in sight.

David T. Garland Sr.: What's So Funny executed our proudest moment in sports at the baseball fields here, when we knocked a field umpire flat on his ass with a screeching line drive to his back. Hilarious. What's not funny was the third MCS porta-potty of our survey. Although the potty is lightheartedly positioned next to a sign that reads "No Dumping," the park's patrons have obviously ignored those words with great zeal -- and the toilet hasn't been serviced since 2004. That type of crap wouldn't wash when David T. Garland was around. Back then, trains ran on time. Farther along in the park is a squat brick shack that looks like the sort of spot gunslingers hole up in before the big showdown. The doors are locked, with a sign that announces "Closed for the Season." If only I could do the same to my man-hole.

Clearly, our city's park bathrooms are in dire need of attention. City council, vote yes. Parks and Rec, our pants are off to you, you brave bunch of heroes.

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Adam Cayton-Holland

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