The End of the RainbowChristopher Jenner
The End of 2008
Last day of 2008, the intersection of Monaco and Evans, Denver, Colorado. I’ve seldom driven through this intersection in the past twenty years. Nothing here you wouldn't find in any strip mall: Chinese takeout, Wendy’s, Starbucks caffeine jolt, a Laundromat, King Soopers. But there is a Walgreens too—different than all other Walgreens—and I’m on a mission: 1) buy sensitivity toothpaste for my aching teeth (I’ve been grinding them—stress?—this never used to happen), and 2) take a trip down memory lane. Dad is riding shotgun.
Over the years when I happened by, I saw the old marquee, towering high above the street on two sturdy steel pillars, that still reads: “The Rainbow Music Hall.” The building was first a three-cinema movie theater until Barry Fey, Denver concert promoter, decided to knock down the walls and create a 1,400-seat concert hall—a place for music’s up-and-coming acts—which opened January 26, 1979.
As Dad and I enter through Walgreens’ automatic doors, the scene is what I expect from the drugstore chain monstrosity: antiseptic aisles, tile floors, textured ceilings, and a lot of the color blue, in bright, nauseating splendor. Rows of fluorescent lights threaten to suck the vitamin D out of your skull. Want mouthwash? Batteries? A card for your uncle on the occasion of his retirement? Blue signs in neat sets of six hang above each aisle, guiding you to the major items, but never the one, it seems, that you’re looking for. Good luck! Walgreens is a collection of meandering zombies, searching for something that isn’t there.
This morning I read, in an online article from the March 11, 2008 Rocky Mountain News, that this building was to be torn down and rebuilt, but would remain Walgreens. According to the article, upon hearing of the impending construction, Barry Fey said, “Aw, (expletive). A lot of great memories in that building.”1
Up and down the aisles, Dad and I wander, searching for dental supplies.
“These pillars look different,” I say. “Thinner. The old ones were bigger, and square.”
I finally locate a small tube of Sensodyne. Dad grabs a tube of Tom’s of Maine. “My contribution to the Rainbow,” he says. We look for and can’t find shaving stuff, but I know it’s here, and that’s why I hate Walgreens. Why can’t they post a sign: Hey dumbass, your razors are here!
I decide I don’t need razors and we head for the register. The Muzak™ blasts Ambrosia, Juice Newton, and Air Supply, ruining my memories of the Rainbow’s great music. Gotta get out of here, before I starting humming.
At the register we chat with a clerk whose nametag reads “Elaine.”
“Do you know if they tore down the old music hall building?”
“They’ve been sayin’ they’re gonna for years,” replies Elaine, picking up my Sensodyne, “but they never do. I’ve been working here sixteen years—always the same. The owner of the building doesn’t care.”
Elaine hands me my change. Dad puts his toothpaste on the counter’s blue pad.
“Back when it was the concert hall, my friend lived right over there.” She points over her shoulder. “Said she could hear the music.”
“I came to several shows here,” I tell her. “But I haven’t had a reason to come back since the eighties.”
“You can get toothpaste anywhere,” says Elaine.
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