You'll have a swine time at the Cherry Creek mall

First the airlines stopped letting you carry on your nail scissors and shampoo, forcing travelers to check bags or buy new stuff at their destination. Then they started charging $15 for the privilege of checking that bag ($25 for two). And now, after a second baggage handler at Denver International Airport has come down with swine flu, we can only assume that the airlines have found a new way to screw us: by breathing on our luggage.

Thankfully, fears of a deadly, widespread epidemic are dying down — unless you count the massive pig slaughter proposed in Egypt. Note to Egypt: You can't get swine flu from eating swine. Even the Cherry Creek Shopping Center — home to the awesome, though heavily breathed-upon breakfast-themed indoor playground — has remained calm, despite the fact that one of the play items is...BACON!!!

"It is cleaned every day at 2:30 p.m., 6 p.m. and overnight," says mall marketing coordinator Jessica Johnson of the play area. Like a public swimming pool, the mall holds the kids at bay — booting them off the waffles and eggs — while two staffers make the rounds with disinfectant. The third cleaning was added recently, but Johnson doesn't know why. "We do spend in excess of $10,000 a year on the disinfecting hand wipes that we keep down there," she adds. "People love those. Kids and parents always grab a handful."


Cherry Creek Shopping Center

Not all kids find the playground thrilling, however, especially after they hit that tender age when they're too old to be amused by giant fruit but too young to know the teenage joys of sexting. Twenty years ago, this older set would have been hanging out at a mall arcade, furiously pumping tokens into Street Fighter while their mothers shopped at Woolworth's. But the modern Cherry Creek mom wouldn't be caught dead at a Woolworth's (if any were still around), and the closest "arcade" to the mall is in Glendale.

So now the prime hangout for tweens is the Apple Store, and the new arcade monkeys are Apple Store employees. Last weekend, the store — which reopened in April after three weeks of renovations — was swarming with dozens of iKiddos diddling the sleek display items for hours while their parents power-shopped in peace. And while you won't find a crappy prize counter or blood-splattering game here, you may spot a few ironic fashion mullets and the effervescent glow of happiness. There has to be an app for that.

Professor pork: As the swine flu scare spreads across the country, people have become desperate for answers. They're looking for experts to give them direction, context and reassurance about this strange new terror. Turns out that Westword reporter Joel Warner is exactly who they're looking for — at least they think he is. Google search "swine flu" and you'll find a college paper he wrote in 1999 titled "The Sky Is Falling: An Analysis of the Swine Flu Affair of 1976" among the top page returns. The page, on the Haverford College web server, is nothing fancy, but it's enough for it to be referenced by lots of online sources over the past few days, including one site that refers to him as "biology professor Joel Warner." For the rest of this amusing pig's tale, log on to www.westword.com and search the Latest Word blog for swine flu.

Scene and herd: The Better Denver Bond program took a nasty hit last week — but not in monetary form. On Friday afternoon, contractors working on an irrigation project along the Sixth Avenue Parkway ruptured a Qwest pipeline at Birch Street, knocking out phone and Internet service for anywhere from dozens to thousands of people. (Qwest spokeswoman Johnna Hoff says she can't wager a guess as to the exact number.)

The irrigation project is part of the Better Denver Bond Program, $550 million in infrastructure work that the city's voters approved in 2007. Although Hoff says that phone service was restored to most of the customers by late Saturday, repair work continues in the massive underground pit, which has been surrounded by trucks and lights. Jill McGranahan, the city's parks spokeswoman, says the contractor knew there was a pipeline there, but didn't know about a second one — and that's the one that was ruptured.

And who's paying for the repair work? Bond projects have contingency monies built into them for "unforeseen things like this," McGranahan says.

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