Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Robert B. Parker's Wonderland - A Book Review

After many bestselling authors pass away, they still continue to produce a large number of titles anyway. Spouses often wind up finding "hidden" manuscripts in a desk drawer, behind the refrigerator, in the garage, etc.  Some even have mediums who transcribe the deceased author's dictation.  Far be it for me to suggest they are having someone ghostwrite these books, but it is refreshing to see that Joan, the widow of Robert Parker, simply went out and hired Ace Atkins, a well-known mystery writer in his own right, to continue Parker's Spenser series.  I read the first Spenser book, Lullaby, and thought it was pretty damn good. Even better than some of the 40 Spenser books Parker wrote himself.  When I saw that Atkins had written a new Spenser mystery - Wonderland - I checked the online reviews and saw that many had panned it.  I ordered the book from the library anyway, and was happy to see that it was just as good as Atkins first.  It is a mystery novel, after all, not the Great American Novel, and Atkins captures Parker's style pretty well.  As an old television commercial once proclaimed, "try it, you'll like it."

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

A Visit To The Dragon Boat Festival

I attended the 13th annual Colorado Dragon Boat Festival in Denver's Sloan's Lake Park last Sunday, and the weather was actually rather cool and overcast. This was in stark contrast to previous years, when the sun would beat down relentlessly and temperatures would approach 130 degrees or so.  Since Sloan's Lake has virtually no trees, desperate spectators would actually GO IN THE WATER.  Big mistake!  You could see the poor souls dissolve into the toxic stew right before your eyes.  This year was much more mellow - virtually no one melted.  And less melting meant more sales at the concession stands.  A win-win situation for all.  See you next year!

Monday, July 29, 2013

The First Annual Cheesman Park Art Fest

This past weekend was the first Cheesman Park Art Festival, held on the south end of the historic Denver park, and it was a great success.  The festival was much larger than I had expected, and featured artists from all over the country.  Despite the show's success, I have to note that neither Joe nor Carol - both talented artists as well as my former DU Bookstore coworkers - were displaying their art at the festival.  Are DU Bookstore artists not considered good enough for this festival?  Do we need to picket Cheesman Park? Should I make up some protest signs?  As regular Blog readers know, I just love stirring the pot.  It is one of my few pleasures in life.  Be sure to bring a lunch to the park, everybody!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Dinner With Linda And Wally!

Linda and Wally invited me to their house for steak dinner Friday night.   Dinner was served on their backyard patio, and it was both a delightful evening and a great meal.  Wally and Linda have just returned from a trip to Cape Cod to visit family.  Linda is looking forward to going back to work at the Denver Public Schools, while Wally - still working at the DU Bookstore - is spending his days unloading hundreds of boxes of law textbooks, in preparation for the start of the Fall Semester at DU's Sturm College of Law.  And I - who, as regular Blog readers know, no longer works at the DU Bookstore - spent the day looking for wildlife at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge.  I saw exactly two rabbits (one of which I almost ran over) and one chipmunk.  I have seen more wildlife from the balcony of my South Central Denver condo.  It is claimed by the government that there are coyotes, deer, bison, bald eagles, abominable snowmen, and all other manor of wildlife on the refuge, but I think that is all a lie.  The place used to be a chemical weapons plant.  My personal belief is that just one drink of the water out there and it is bye bye Bambi.  I am such a cynic.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Last Refuge Of Scoundrels

The zoo is the last refuge of scoundrels, photography wise.  Whenever I have no one to photograph and nothing important to say (I know, I know, but it's all relative, right?) I head to the zoo and look for willing subjects. Often, when looking at these animals, I am reminded of people I know or used to know.  I remember years ago working for WaldenBooks back in Chicago and having a supervisor who always stared at me exactly like the gorilla in the photograph above.  He shall, of course, remain anonymous, although I have always wondered what ever happened to Rick?

Friday, July 26, 2013

Doing Life At The Denver Zoo

I returned to the Denver Zoo yesterday looking for willing subjects to photograph, and found this little guy (see photograph above) staring into space.  Let's face it - he is serving a life sentence, with no chance of parole.  His only hope is to make a break for it and hightail it to nearby Commerce City, home of the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge. Next time I'm at the zoo I'll try to remember to bring a file and sneak it into his cage.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

The "L" And I

I took Denver's light rail train home from Coors Field the other night after the Rockies game.  People here call it the light rail, but it is really just another name for the "L" or, as some people in Chicago prefer, the "El" (but that's a whole different conversation that usually ends in fistfights).  In any case, I have a long history with "L" trains.  I was born in St. Bernard's Hospital,  located right next to Chicago's 63rd Street elevated train, and my first apartment was right across the street from the Lake Street "L" car barn.  Then a few years ago, Denver's light rail train was built right behind my condo.  I was expecting it would make the place look like Elwood Blue's rooming house in the Blues Brother's movie, where the trains went by so often you didn't even notice them, but that turned out not to be the case.  Another chance for an atmospheric domicile dashed.  What a bummer.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Random Thoughts From The Cheap Seats

I went to see the Colorado Rockies play the Miami Marlins last night at Coors Field here in Denver.  I sat in what used to be the cheap seats (they now cost $27, when not on sale).  In any case, between each half inning the ushers go down to the first row of each section and stand guard, just in case an inebriated fan or random psycho decides to make a dash for the field.  Personally, I doubt our usher (seen in the photograph above) would have been able to stop them, especially if a prearranged "flash mob" decided to storm the field. Don't try it, guys!  Ballpark security would eventually round you up.  The dungeons beneath Coors Field are littered with fans who have tried this in the past.   Somebody call Amnesty International!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Two Thumbs Up For The Historians Ale House!

My friend Stuart and I stopped in at the Historians Ale House on South Broadway here in Denver last Sunday for burgers and beers after the Colorado Rockies game.  Not only were the burgers good and the prices reasonable, but the rooftop patio had a really nice ambiance.  I would recommend this place to anyone, even if they aren't hipsters like Stuart and myself.  And by the way, I do realize that I am featuring Stuart twice in a row on this Blog.  All I can say is, beggars can't be choosers.  No offense Stuart!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Catching The Cubs At Coors Field

My friend Stuart (see photograph above) and I went to Coors Field yesterday afternoon to watch the Chicago Cubs play the Colorado Rockies.  These two teams are very evenly matched this season (by which I mean pretty damn mediocre), and so it was a close and exciting game until the last pitch.  And the Rockies won, I am happy to report. Before we left for the game, I saw a bi-plane towing a banner over the University of Denver campus advertising an insurance company whose spokesperson happens to be a lizard. I was truly surprised that the plane didn't fly over Coors Field during the game.  I mentioned this to Stuart, and he began waxing nostalgic about bi-planes.  I guess Stuart must be a lot older than I thought, which is really saying something. Were you able to avoid military service during WWII, Stuart?  

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Daniel Silva Appears At The Tattered Cover

Bestselling author Daniel Silva (whose literary hero is Gabriel Allon, art restorer and Israeli Mossad agent) spoke at the Tattered Cover in Highlands Ranch, Colorado yesterday evening. I was already in Highlands Ranch Saturday afternoon (don't ask) and didn't want to have to drive all the way to civilization and then have to come back, so I stopped into the Landsdown Arms Bistro and Pub to wait for the event to start.  As I sat there, I wondered why the Tattered Cover had Silva speaking at the Highlands Ranch store instead of at their Lower Downtown Denver location.  And then it suddenly hit me ( I am especially good at analyzing things after my second imperial pint).  Silva is good friends with actual Mossad agents.  The Mossad must have some sort of operation going on in Highlands Ranch, and the Tattered Cover held the event there so his pals could attend.  Of course!  Even the bartender at the Landsdown Arms looked a little bit like agent Ziva David from the television show NCIS.  The talk by Silva was very interesting and insightful, but I came away wondering all about the "hidden" Highland Ranch.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

26 Years And Counting!

This summer marks the 26th year I have lived in this building without going into the swimming pool.  I have always tended to avoid the water, whether here, by the ocean down in Florida, or back in my native Chicago. Perhaps it has something to do with all those historic photographs of the Chicago River back in the 1800s that I've seen, showing the river filled with cow carcasses, garbage, rats, and raw sewage, courtesy of Chicago's meatpacking plants. Or maybe it has to do with those cruises we took as children down the Calumet River to Lake Calumet, on the far South Side of Chicago.  That particular area had it all - ugliness, squalor, and mind-numbing pollution. The hit men along the shore would even wave to us as they disposed of the bodies. I'm sure the water is perfectly clean here, but on the other hand, why take chances?    

Friday, July 19, 2013

Driving Around With Susan And George

My sister Susan and brother-in-law George drove down to Denver from Fort Collins last Saturday to pay a visit.  We went to the Mark Rothko exhibit at the Denver Art Museum and then had dinner at Kaos, a beer garden / pizza restaurant on old South Pearl Street.  Whenever Susan and George come to town, I can't help but notice that they refuse to ride in my car, a late model 1987 Honda Civic.  I always wind up riding around the city in their back seat.  Granted, my car has no air conditioning, no radio, and makes some fascinating sounds, but it is definitely safe and reliable, even if the body needs a paint job.   I actually tried to restore the car's finish with a product from Turtle Wax yesterday, but it wound up taking the paint off instead of restoring it. On the bright side, the finish is now much more consistent. Consistency is good, right? Whenever I drive down the street, I see people staring at my car, obviously green with envy.  Time to buy those classic license plates!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Cheyanne And Theresa: Making A Difference!

Whenever I get together with Valarie, my friend and the former Operations Manager of the DU Bookstore, we talk about her daughter Cheyanne, who is a Peace Corps Volunteer in Mozambique.  In the photograph above, Cheyanne is posing with her students, who put on a skit about the importance of reading during the celebration of the opening of a children's library in the town of Homonie, a project spearheaded by Cheyanne's roommate Theresa. With so much emphasis on the negative these days, it is nice to see that many of America's youth are getting out there and making a difference in this world.  Idealism is still alive and well - not even having to learn Portuguese can deter them.  Talk about dedication!  Be sure to check out Cheyanne's Blog at

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Sunday Afternoon With Val

After biking Sunday morning with fellow cyclists Jim and Darrel (see yesterday's post), I went to the Farmer's Market in Old Town Arvada with Valarie, current Office Manager for The Action Center of Jefferson County and former Operations Manager of the DU Bookstore.  It was a very pleasant afternoon, and after lunch we caught the movie White House Down.  It was an exciting movie, very well done, and clearly showed what the Secret Service was afraid of when it denied me a White House tour several years ago.  However, I want to make it perfectly clear that I am not the new Hunter S. Thompson.  I think the Secret Service is still bitter about all those snide comments I made about them on this Blog when one of the Presidential debates took place at the University of Denver, just across the street from my condo.  I was just kidding, guys.  Really!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Always Bring Extra Batteries

I went for an early morning bike ride this past Sunday with Darrel (in the photograph above on the right) and Jim (in the center).  We biked from Sedalia, Colorado to Larkspur through beautiful rolling countryside.  However, when I took out my camera to record what might have been the greatest portrait of my unheralded career, I'll be damned if the battery wasn't dead.  I wound up having to do a little work in Photoshop to accurately capture the spirit of the moment.  Bet you wouldn't have even known the photograph was photoshopped if I hadn't told you.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Joe At The Rothko Exhibit

I ran into Joe - my friend and former colleague at the DU Bookstore - this past Sunday at the Denver Art Museum's Mark Rothko exhibit.  In addition to working at the Bookstore, Joe is a monotype artist and an instructor at the Art Students League of Denver.  I tried to take a photo of Joe, but as soon as I got the camera out, a guard walked over and said it was not allowed.  How insulting!  Joe has every right to have his photograph taken.  The guard mumbled something about background noise or background something, so we walked out to the exhibit's entrance and took the above photograph.  The Rothko exhibit is really great, by the way, no matter what the museum thinks about Joe.  Be sure to check out Joe's website at

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Experiencing Kaos With Susan And George

I went to the Denver Art Museum (The DAM) with my sister Susan and brother-in-law George yesterday afternoon to see the Mark Rothko exhibit.  The Rothko paintings were excellent, although both my sister and I noticed that security was pretty intense.  Susan claims that one of the guards was following us the entire time we were in the gallery.  Maybe it made them nervous whenever Susan remarked to me that a particular painting would look good over my sofa.  Or perhaps we just fit the classic profile of art thieves.  Regardless, once we finished viewing the exhibit, Susan and George were so overwhelmed by the experience that they had to go to the Kaos Beer Garden immediately to recover, which we did (see photograph above).  I for one will never stand in the way if emergency measures need to be taken.  Viewing art can be a truly draining experience, but nothing a little beer and pizza won't fix.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Elk Hunting On Colfax Avenue

I was driving down Denver's Colfax Avenue (the longest street in the United States) the other day and noticed a pickup truck in the other lane driving along with a dead elk in the truck bed (see photograph above).  Did they just shoot that elk, or what?  As I sat waiting for the light to change, I had a vision of two guys sitting at an outdoor table at the Cheeky Monk Belgian Beer cafe, sipping their beers, watching the traffic go by, when all of a sudden a huge elk ambles past, right behind the Colfax number 15 bus.  They pick up their rifles - which are leaning against their table, of course - take careful aim, and blast the living hell out of one of God's living creatures.  They then load the elk into the back of the pickup and head home.  As you can see, Colorado is definitely a paradise for hunters, and you don't even need to leave the city, let alone leave your table at the local brew pub.  Talk about heaven!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Dave B. Resurfaces!

I ran into Dave B, the former Supply Buyer and Marketing Coordinator of the DU Bookstore, in the parking lot of King Sooper's last weekend (he will be fine - just a few cuts and bruises).  In any case, Dave decided not to stay on at the Bookstore when the University of Denver outsourced the store to Follett Higher Education Group.  Instead, he started his own company.  He now owns and runs Fantastic Nature LLC, maker of a a healthy chocolate snack called Superfood Squares (  The company has been a great success, and Dave says things are going really well.  I asked him if he was taking applications.  His answer: "and your name is?"

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Michael Harvey Speaks At The Tattered Cover

Michael Harvey, author of such mystery novels as The Third Rail and The Chicago Way, which feature cynical Chicago private eye Michael Kelly, spoke at the Tattered Cover Bookstore last night to promote his new novel, The Innocence Game.  Harvey told many fascinating stories about his career as a lawyer,  investigative journalist, and documentary filmmaker.  He has achieved much of his success by exposing political corruption in Chicago. Now to me, that seems a lot like shooting fish in a barrel, but I digress.  What I really want to know is why the Tattered Cover had a big city Chicago writer speak at their suburban Highlands Ranch location instead of at their Lower Downtown Denver Store? Perhaps they felt he would be more comfortable speaking just a few miles from where former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich is currently incarcerated.  By the way, Michael, I hear he is doing just fine out here!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

A Children's Library For Mozambique

Cheyanne, the daughter of my friend and former DU Bookstore colleague Valarie, is a Peace Corps volunteer in Mozambique, and reports on her Blog that they have opened a children's library in the nearby town of Homoine. The grand opening was on Mozambican Independence Day, with a ribbon cutting and champagne toast by the mayor.  The project was the work of Cheyanne's roommate Theresa (in the photograph above on the left), with lots of help from Cheyanne (on the right).  All of the books are in Portuguese, so I think I will skip getting a card.  In any case, the library was a big hit with everyone, especially the children who will be using it.  Check out all the details of the ceremony (it doesn't sound like it was easy to arrange) on Cheyanne's Blog ( 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Pool Is Open!

The pool at my condo is open at last!  It usually opens a little later than the pools at other complexes here in Denver.  I am told this is because it takes longer to get it ready, but I have noticed that it always opens a week or so after classes at the University of Denver have ended and most of the students who rent apartments here go home.  This is probably just a coincidence, and probably has nothing to do with the fact that some students who used to live here liked to have a few beers and then jump off the balcony into the pool.  No doubt they were rocket science majors.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Culinary Arts At The Cherry Creek Arts Festival

Yesterday I returned to the Cherry Creek Arts Festival here in Denver and discovered that not only were the traditional arts being represented, but the culinary arts as well.  I took the above photograph of a team of chefs getting ready for an onstage cooking demonstration.  Now, my question is, what are they staring at, and why do they look so horrified?  Glad I didn't stick around for the free samples.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Wizard's Chest Wows Festival Goers

Business is booming at the Wizard's Chest these days, what with 350,000 people expected to attend the Cherry Creek Arts Festival over the holiday weekend. The Wizard's Chest has been located in Denver's Cherry Creek neighborhood for many years, and is where my old DU Bookstore colleague Doug works as a magician on Saturdays.  If you need a balloon animal, a mermaid costume, or for that matter any kind of costume whatsoever, it is the place to go.  In fact, this is where all of Denver's vampires and zombies shop, and like everywhere else, Denver is just teeming with these creatures lately.  I don't know about you, but personally, I wear my wreaths of garlic 24/7.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

The Cherry Creek Arts Festival

I spent yesterday afternoon at the Cherry Creek Arts Festival, looking at the artwork, doing some people watching, and checking out all the photography on exhibit, seeing what techniques I might emulate (i.e.steal). It was all great fun. The festival had all the usual monster sculptures (perfect for the art lover who has everything), banjo players, and truly eccentric art devotees (wackos).  There were even free samples of Newcastle Beer.  Is this heaven or what?  

Friday, July 5, 2013

Photo Op!

I was waiting to photograph the 4th of July fireworks over Coors Field the other night when a Colorado Rockies baseball fan stopped and insisted that I take her photograph.  I think she recognized me,  admired my work, and wanted her portrait to be included on my Blog.  I don't know why so many other people act like they hate for me to take their photograph.  They all are probably just playing hard to get.  The problem with that is, the older I get,  the harder it is for me to chase them down to get the photo.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Happy 4th Of July!

Today is the 4th of July, and to celebrate, I went to see the fireworks display at Coors Field in Lower Downtown Denver last night.  I didn't actually go inside the stadium, just listened to the game in my car until the 9th inning, and then hightailed it to a good spot across the street.  The first spot I picked was next to the Tavern Downtown.  The rooftop deck was packed with revelers, and the music was blasting throughout the neighborhood, most likely to drown out the competing music on the rooftop deck across the street at the Lodo Bar and Grill. Since I was beginning to go crazy (OK, crazier) where I was standing, I moved to a location kitty corner from the stadium and listened to the more soothing sounds of city traffic.  As I waited for the fireworks show to begin, I began to realize that teaching sign language might be an excellent career opportunity - none of these kids will be able to hear a damn thing in a few years.  Do I sound like an old curmudgeon or what?  Nah.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The Horrific Consequences Of Gun Control

Draconian new gun controls went into effect July 1st in the State of Colorado, including the banning of high capacity magazines for assault weapons.  This despite the fact that huge packs of coyotes are running wild here in South Central Denver, carrying away cats, dogs, babies, and frail senior citizens (see photograph above).  If high capacity assault weapons were still legal here, these vicious packs could be eviscerated if they tried to drag away someone's granny.  Of course, granny would probably be eviscerated too, but you must be willing to pay the price of freedom.  Now, all we can do is listen to those pitiful screams as the coyotes drag off another victim.  Where is Rush Limbaugh when you need him?

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Cheyanne Meets The Cubans

Cheyanne is the daughter of Valarie - my friend and the former Operations Manager of the DU Bookstore - and is a Peace Corps Volunteer in Mozambique.  She instructs future teachers at a college campus in the province of Inhambane.  Cheyanne recently mentioned on her Blog ( that the Peace Corps volunteers in Mozambique have been joined by volunteers from Cuba.  In the photograph above, she is posing with two Cuban volunteers who recently arrived at their campus.  During the cold war, Cubans in Mozambique might have been a major issue, but these days, not so much.  As a matter of fact, I am going find out if Cheyanne can network with the Cubans and find me a '57 Nash Metropolitan, which I am sure are plentiful back in Havana.  Make sure they leave a box of cigars in the glove box, too!

Monday, July 1, 2013

What's The Deal With Camera Shyness?

After attending a very pleasant dinner party hosted by Linda and Darrel (see yesterday's Blog), I wanted to take a photograph of Valarie, my friend and former co-worker at the DU Bookstore, before she left for the evening.  I wound up having to actually chase her down in order to get the above photograph before she ducked into her car.  I also had to chase down Chris, another former co-worker, to get her photograph before she escaped into her car after a lunch with myself and Darrel a few months ago.  My own sister once told me that I should never even think about taking photographs of people.  If I didn't know better, I would start to believe they didn't want me to take their photograph.  Fortunately I know that can't possibly be true.