DENVER -- What started out as a joke between friends about Denver is now a best-selling book on Amazon.
"Judgmental Maps" is a best seller in the Historical Atlases & Maps section of Amazon.
"The Historical Atlases & Maps category is ripe for innovation," said author and comedian Trent Gillaspie.
"What category should it be under?" asked Denver7 reporter Marshall Zelinger.
"Not Historical Atlases & Maps. Honestly, this should be under Humor, but I think the publisher knows better than putting this up against Amy Schumer and Aziz Ansari, for his like millionth month."
Gillaspie was back in Denver, where he lived for 20 years, for a Tuesday night book signing at the Tattered Cover on Colfax Avenue. His book takes 77 cities and renames neighborhoods with plenty of judgment. As his book sleeve notes: "A no-holds-barred look at city life that is at once a love letter and hate mail from the very people who live there."
"There are 77 different maps in this book, and those came from 77 different authors," said Gillaspie, who helped craft Denver, Boulder, Fort Collins, Austin (where he now lives), San Antonio, Houston and Bourbon Trail (Kentucky)
"The overall idea of this was to build a blog that was a place where people could anonymously submit these types of maps without the risk of getting fired," said Gillaspie. "I would say this is a little bit anti-PC. We released this on Election Day and then it somehow lined up really well with the rest of things, with a judgmental outlook."
"Do you want people to be offended?" asked Zelinger.
"Yeah, I would like it if everybody who read this book was like, 'Yeah, that's sort of offensive.' I would enjoy that if they said that. If somebody says, 'I'm not offended by this.' Then we probably messed up," said Gillaspie. "It's a truth atlas. It should be funny. You should laugh at it. You're not a horrible person for laughing at it."
Many of the labels are not journalistically safe to share.
"What's the least offensive label that you have?" asked Zelinger.
"I think there's a lot in here that is less offensive than it could be. You could talk about 'everyone forgets about this area,' this is off of the Grand Rapids, Michigan map. Everybody forgets about Grand Rapids, let's be honest," said Gillaspie. "'The people who live in those rich neighborhoods are like, 'Yeah, thank you, of course, why wouldn't you label me rich?' Those aren't offensive; those are more like congratulatory."
He listed off some of the original Denver labels:
- People with cars parked on their lawns
- Loose Chihuahuas running around the street
- Bullet holes in windows
"I think probably the most accurate one is 'Cougartown,'" said Gillaspie of the Cherry Creek area.
A comedian friend of his wrote a short blurb for the Baker neighborhood just west of South Broadway.
"Baker, South Broadway: If you're looking to see a group of popped collars waiting in line for brunch while a homeless guy peeing gets ignored by two bearded dudes making vegan ice cream, this is the spot," said Gillaspie.
One area that got off easy is Casa Bonita, a well-known attraction just west of Denver, which was labeled "Casa Bonita."
"Casa Bonita didn't get a judgment; it should just be 'diarrhea and tortillas," said Gillaspie.
We asked what emoji he hopes his book causes people to share.
"Take the Facebook options; like, love, whoa and haha, and that's it, oh and the angry face, of course. It's all of them. And then 'poop' (emoji)," said Gillaspie. "A lot of people are telling me, 'Hey, it's in my bathroom,' which is great. Didn't make the coffee table, but made the junior varsity in your house."
He said this book is similar to the 1976 The New Yorker cover of Saul Steinberg's "A View of the World from 9th Avenue."
"Where it's 9th Avenue, 10th Avenue, states, Japan," said Gillaspie. "There's a little bit of edge to it. There's a little bit of snark to it. I think some people are a little bit nervous when they open it up to see what they're going to find. Hey, if you don't like this, life is too short, laugh at it."
Not all the effort is simply to be snarky. He wants to take some of the proceeds and give back to some of the cities.
"How can we take some of the earnings from this book and put it back into the communities that we're destroying through judgment," said Gillaspie. "I'm a big fan of Habitat for Humanity. I think the Habitat for Humanity does really good work."