Colorado, Italian-style: How the West was undone

As soon as Obama shells out enough cash to buy our economy back from the devil, do yourself a favor and book a trip to Italy. You deserve it. First, get the whole tourist thing out of your system: drink a few Bellinis, float around in a gondola and snag that picture of you holding up the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Then get your ass to a real Italian city, sans tourists. A city like Bologna. In this stunningly well-preserved, medieval metropolis, you'll find the planet's best tortellini, mortadella and, of course, ragù alla Bolognese. It's even home to the world's oldest university, founded in 1088 AD.

Last month, while I was there visiting family, I discovered something else amazing: the Old West Pub. While I was briefly bowled over by the idea of anything calling itself "old" in a 2,000-year-old city, a closer inspection was truly stupefying.

The bartenders were dressed as frontier cowboys; the waitresses as Native American Indians. But these weren't half-assed costumes -- they knocked the Western stereotype on its caboose. The men sported ivory-handled revolvers in flamboyant double holsters and shiny gold spurs spinning on their boots. The women wore fringed buckskin dresses with pink feathers sticking up from brightly colored, beaded headbands that held down their braided hair. It wasn't until they turned back towards the kitchen that I noticed the bow and furry quiver of arrows slung over their shoulders.

The menu was equally outrageous, proudly featuring such items as Boomtown Burgers & Bronco Fries right alongside Gnocchi alla Gorgonzola and Lasagne Verdi al Forno. The music was a loud, acid-tipped nightmare of pop country fusion, while every inch of wall space was littered with what appeared to be the entire contents of the Only in Colorado store on the 16th Street Mall.

Even more amazing, the place was packed. Every table was full of young, stylish Europeans, drinking wine (?) and eating things like "Wild Bill Chili" under the watchful eye holes of over-sized antelope skulls and rusty, mounted shotguns.

Is this how the Italians interpret the first half of our country's history? Had my cynical attempt to locate the most perfectly authentic, tourist-free destination slammed into a bison-sized roadblock? I was sure of only one thing: I needed to leave the techno-tinged Tanya Tucker tavern immediately.

A few blocks down one of the narrow, cobblestoned streets, I ducked into a quiet place to sit and think about what I'd just witnessed. Sadly, it was only after I'd slid into a booth that I realized I was in a McDonald's.

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