Thursday, May 24, 2018

Two Very Interesting Houses

This past week, I took photographs of two pretty interesting houses.  The one on the left is located two blocks south of the Denver Art Museum.  As far as I can tell, it is the only single family home on the block. Everything else is either a business, office building, apartment building, and last but not least, some really nice looking multistory townhouses.  Think single family brownstones in New York City - these are the Denver equivalent.  And I am sure they are reasonably priced, too.  At least for one percenters.  But I am not jealous - at least not much.

The other house I have featured on this blog in the past. When residential neighborhoods began to become too commercial back in the late 19th and early 20th century, homes would be sold to businessmen, who would put storefronts right in front of the house.  I imagine the owner of the shop would live upstairs, making going to work an easy trip.  There are a lot of examples of this on Colfax Avenue and Broadway here in Denver, but the house in the photograph on the left is a prime example.  The house itself is deserted these days, unless homeless people are squatting there. There are lots of broken and boarded up windows, too, and the place seems pretty run down.  Another piece of Denver history crumbling.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

The Final Day Of Degas - Part II

As I mentioned in yesterday's blog, I went to see the Degas exhibit at the Denver Art Museum this past Sunday on the final day of the show.  What I really like about these exhibits at the DAM is how they try to include historic photographs or film footage to set the scene for the works you are seeing.  The photograph on the left is actually a photo of a 15 second loop of film taken of Edgar Degas during his afternoon walk.  The filmmaker asked Degas if he could film him, Degas refused, and so the filmmaker set up his camera along the street in Paris where Degas took his daily walk.  Pretty sneaky, and pretty smart - it captured an everyday scene, and forever preserved a glimpse of the famous artist.

In the photograph on the right is a mock-up of Degas attic studio in Paris.  Degas was a bit of a collector, and so the studio was filled with knickknacks he picked up in his travels, his paintings and sculptures in various stages of completion, and of course, his brushes, paints, and other tools of the trade.  There was also a tin bathtub where his nude models would pose.  The few visitors who were allowed up there found it very claustrophobic.  What I like best about the scene is the view of Paris outside the window.  How great is that?

At the end of the exhibit was the photograph on the left, showing Degas and his hangers-on in a bit of a whimsical mood.  Like I said before, these photographs record a bit of history, show us what these artists actually looked like, and give us a feel for what their world was like back in the late 19th and early 20th century. And as far as I'm concerned, Paris looked good back then and looks good now.  As Audrey Hepburn once said as the title character in the movie Sabrina: "Paris is always a good idea."

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

The Final Day Of Degas

I went to the Denver Art Museum (the DAM) to see Degas:  A Passion for Perfection this past Sunday, which was the final day of the exhibit.  It was crowded, but since groups were only allowed in in 15 minute intervals, it was still a comfortable atmosphere in which to see the paintings.  The exhibit started with his early work, mostly landscapes and portraits, and traced the progression of his art through his lifetime.

Basically, Degas was most interested in painting 3 subjects: ballerinas, horses, and bathing female nudes, and there were plenty of all three on display. Although Degas exhibited his work with the impressionists, he did not consider himself one.  He liked to experiment with a variety of styles, and constantly carried notebooks in which he would sketch ideas for new paintings.  The show was presented and organized in conjunction with the Fitzwilliam Museum at the University of Cambridge, England, whose Degas collection is the largest in the United Kingdom.  The Denver Art Museum, by the way, was the only American venue for this exhibit, no doubt because the museum must have had incriminating photographs as a bargaining card.

What surprised me most about the exhibit was that taking photographs of the artwork was allowed.  Most of the time, if you try to take a photograph in one of these special exhibits, the staff swoops down on you and puts you in a holding cell in the basement for a couple of years.  Not this time - I was able to take as many photos as I wanted, which I did, since my sister Susan, who really wanted to see this show, could not attend, and so I wanted to take photographs of the more famous works to show her later on, such as the two in the diptych above.  Taking photographs without getting yelled at - what a concept!

Monday, May 21, 2018

More On Lower Downtown

As I mentioned in a previous blog, I went for a walk through lower downtown Denver last weekend.  The area where I started my walk is where Denver first began in 1858, and it still has a lot of the buildings from those early days (by which I mean the brick buildings that replaced the wooden structures after they all burned down).  There is even a former Wells Fargo Stage Coach Office at the corner of 15th and Market, which is now, of course, some New Age type of shop.  Bat Masterson once managed the Palace Theater and Gambling Hall just down the street at 15th and Blake, where there now stands a condo building called the Palace Lofts.   In the above collage on the upper left is Union Station, the middle of which was rebuilt after a fire in 1901, while the two sides were built in 1881.  The upper right photo shows the Abend Gallery, which used to be located near the bookstore where I work on Colfax, but has now gone upscale and moved to this new Lower Downtown location.  Nothing personal, but when it was on Colfax I never saw anything remotely interesting in there. Maybe they were catering to the Colfax Avenue crowd back then.  Big mistake. In the bottom right is the newly rebuilt train platform for both Amtrack and the local light rail trains, and on the bottom left is a bar called Society Sports and Spirits.  This is where a Denver institution called City Spirit Cafe, a restaurant and bar for an earlier generation of hipsters,  was once located, but it has recently been the home of a series of bars.  It is now a popular spot for hockey and basketball fans due to it's location not too far from the Pepsi Center (The Can).  I myself have never been there, since it is, after all, a hockey and basketball joint.  I'm not a snob, but...

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Pickup At Union Station

I just finished reading Pickup at Union Station, another book in the "Murph the cab driver" series by Gary Reilly. Reilly wrote 11 books in this series, 8 of which have been published.  They are funny and lighthearted stories centering on the misadventures of Denver cab drive Brendan "Murph" Murphy.  Reilly passed away before any of these books were published, but his friends and relatives got together to start Running Meter Press to make sure they made it into print.  This time Murph picks up a passenger who dies in the backseat of his cab.  A few days later he finds out that this passenger was up to something shady, and the man's cohorts are beginning to show up with lots of questions.  Once again, I recommend both this book and all the others in the series.  I just hope they publish those final 3 stories soon.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

The May Mutt Of The Month

The May Mutt of the Month is once again Tutu, my sister Susan and brother-in-law George's Yorkie.  Since I am in Fort Collins so often these days, it is an easy photograph to take, and personally, I think the above portrait of Tutu is pretty damn good.  I know I should be out there on the street, beating the bushes for moe varied dog portraits, and I will definitely start doing that - right after I retire.  Talk to me in 3 months.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Still More Vacation Nostalgia

Not long after World War II, my family and my Uncle Bill's family started vacationing together for two weeks in Ontario, Canada each August.  At first they stayed at a resort called Britannia, on the Lake of Bays. The photo on the left shows the families at Britannia around the early 1950s, before I was born.  In the back row (from left to right) are my Aunt Elsie, my Uncle Bill (my mother's brother), my mother Mary, and father Nelson.  In the front row are my cousins Linda and Judy, my sister Susan, and my Grandmother and Grandfather Spillard (my mother's parents). Susan and Judy, by the way, couldn't wait to get together on these trips to Britannia. Our family lived in Chicago, and my uncle's family in Cleveland, so it was the only time they got to see each other.  Then they fought with each other for two weeks.  Susan and Judy were the terror of the wait staff.  I think the waitresses drew straws to see who would have to serve them.

It was a beautiful resort, but eventually the prices got too high and the families began vacationing instead at Torpitt Lodge, which was located on Sparrow Lake and featured a nine hole golf course.  In the photograph on the right (from left to right) are my father Nelson, mother Mary, Aunt Elsie, and Uncle Bill, taken at Torpitt Lodge back in the early 1960s. My father and uncle played golf together on that course (in front of which the four of them are posing) for two weeks straight, and had a great time.  However, the cabin we stayed in was pretty rustic, and one year I came down with asthma from staying there, and had to be hospitalized in nearby Orillia, Ontario. I'm afraid that was the last time we saw Torpitt Lodge.  In any case, years later by Uncle Bill and Aunt Elsie retired to a condo complex in Stuart, Florida which featured a nine hole golf course, and my parents soon followed.  And once again my father and uncle were able to play golf to their hearts content, and not just for two weeks, either.  Good for them.