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Springs rides a roller-coaster


Lots of phrases and adjectives work in trying to describe Colorado Springs.

Sometimes we're thoroughly fantastic. Sometimes we look lame-brained. Sometimes we're capable of standing out on a national level. Sometimes we embarrass ourselves at the most inopportune times.

We've even capable of making all of that happen at the same time. This past week has reaffirmed the city's enigmatic persona, in more ways than usual.

First, the State Games of America, which attracted nearly 11,000 athletes from kindergarten to age 90, the largest multi-sport event in Colorado history.

The opening ceremony on Aug. 2 was superb, packing a record crowd of 10,007 (it looked like more) into the World Arena. The program, capped by skating superstar Michelle Kwan lighting the flame, provided atmosphere, flavor and inspiration for thousands of visitors and just as many locals.

All good. Yet, local TV stations treated it like just another Colorado College hockey game, if that buried in their nightly newscasts or, for some, only in sports. You'd think, with so many people taking part, jamming even the fleabag motels and creating such an enormous scene, TV would have been all over it. Instead, a flooded state highway near Beulah (pop. 1,164), about 30 miles southwest of Pueblo, was a much bigger deal. Bad judgment.

Next, let's go to the Fine Arts Center's "Extremely Grand Opening."

Indeed, the expanded facility deserves all the attention it has received, and the spacious galleries take the FAC to a much higher level. In particular, the "Colorado Room," with more than 25 distinctive, regional landscape pieces from the family collection of Kathy and Dusty Loo, should be instantly popular. The museum is a great new asset for the city, though one has to wonder if $12 a head is too much for adult nonmembers to see the permanent and traveling collections.

The FAC put together an exceptional weekend, especially the Saturday night presentation with Joel Grey of Cabaret fame. Even at 75, Grey's energy, spunk, stories and charm are all boundless, whether he's reflecting on his career, show business or his increasingly well-known passion for photography.

The "conversation" between Grey and FAC President/CEO Michael De Marsche drew a near-full crowd to the SaGaJi Theater, which was renovated ahead of the museum expansion.

Yet, for such a grand occasion, the sound system was abysmal. Other than a rostrum at the start, the evening required only two remote microphones. Yet, De Marsche's was low-volume and too heavy on the bass, rendering him barely audible. Grey's microphone was worse, reverberating with an inexcusable squeal. Finally, after several pained expressions, Grey asked the audience, "Is this driving you crazy?" About 500 voices replied, "Yes."

Having a sound system that performed at country-bar quality was a distraction like a five-star hotel serving dinner on plasticware. Grey was mesmerizing, but many walked away grumbling for a reason that had nothing to do with him.

Again, Colorado Springs looks so good, until our warts come into play.

A final example: our politics. More particularly, our Republicans. We have enough of them that Mitt Romney in July, and now Rudy Giuliani this week, are making pit stops here to cultivate support.

Wonder how they would feel to know that El Paso County Republicans, split into factions in recent years, have leaders with their own views of separating church and state. On their Web site calendar next Tuesday, Aug. 14, is a lunchtime "prayer meeting" at the county GOP headquarters, 710 S. Tejon St.

It's apparently going to be a monthly thing, and that has offended longtime local Republicans. They already have felt alienated from those area GOP leaders who embrace their membership among the religious right. Recently, the deeper-rooted Republicans have tried to help reunite the county GOP. But having regular prayer meetings at party headquarters will erode that progress.

Such is life throughout this crazy place called Colorado Springs. We're wonderful, yet bizarre. We're classy, yet narrow-minded. We dream big, yet don't think to check what might make us feel ashamed.

And from every indication, we're not about to change.

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