Tuesday, December 31, 2013

New Years Eve!

Tonight is New Years Eve, and in honor of this occasion, I am posting a photograph of my mother (on the left) and her cousin Marie (on the right), taken at a New Years Eve party many years ago in the basement of Marie's home in Evergreen Park, Illinois.  Marie was quite the live wire, as you can probably tell from this photograph. Incidentally, Evergreen Park is the hometown of Ted Kaczynski, the Unibomber, who is currently residing at "SuperMax" here in beautiful Colorado.  My personal opinion is that growing up in Evergreen Park, Illinois could make a Unibomber out of anyone, but what do I know?

Monday, December 30, 2013

A Celebratory Brunch

I got together Sunday morning with some of the old DU Bookstore gang to celebrate my getting a new job with a Denver bookstore, which I will be starting this Friday.  In the photograph above (from left to right) are Jim, Tristy, Chris, Linda, and Darrel.  Tristy was the DU Bookstore's Director for 15 years, Darrel was the Bookstore's Accounts Payable Supervisor, and Chris was the Accounting Assistant for the store.  Thanks for the breakfast, everyone!  I'll keep you posted on my rapid rise through the ranks of my new company.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

An Unexpected Day Off

I was supposed to work all day yesterday, but my supervisor double-scheduled two of us, and so I got to take the rest of the day off after working only two 2 hours.  That meant that when sunset came, instead of being surrounded by coyotes, wolves, and mountain lions in the darkest wilds of Highlands Ranch, Colorado, I was actually surrounded by sidewalks, streetlamps, tall buildings, and the bright lights of Denver. Is that a great thing or what?  Those beasts will have to make due with an alternative supper, at least until Monday.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Still More Photographs From India

The photograph to the left was taken by my friend Valarie upon arriving in India this week to attend a wedding in Madikeri and then do some sightseeing with her daughter Cheyanne.  Although Valarie has posted some photographs on her Facebook page, she has not yet included any text, and so we have no update on how her trip is going.  Yesterday (Friday) was the actual day of the wedding.  I am told that Indian wedding celebrations can last for days - if not weeks - on end, and so we might not hear from Valarie for a while.  I just hope nobody gets trampled by one of the elephants, which I assume are a part of every wedding ceremony there.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Meanwhile, Back On The Indian Subcontinent...

Valarie, my friend and the former Operations Manager of the DU Bookstore, left last Saturday for India, where she will meet up with her daughter Cheyanne, a Peace Corps Volunteer in Mozambique.  They will attend a wedding in Madikeri and then tour the country. Cheyanne and her friend Jamie were going to arrive in India a week early and stay with a friend at a brewpub in Mumbai.  Does that girl live a charmed life, or what? In any case, Valarie posted several photos on her Facebook Page, although she didn't include any text.  I assume the photograph to the left is of the Tuk Tuk Taxi they took from the airport, taken in front of their hotel in Bangalore.  Hope you brought your hard hats, guys!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Two Wild And Crazy Guys Celebrate Christmas!

My friend Stuart and I celebrated Christmas yesterday afternoon at my condo here in Denver.  After working 12 or 13 hours a day this past week, I did not have time to put up a tree or any decorations, but Stuart didn't seem to mind - perhaps because he is Jewish.  Instead of turkey, we had rib-eye steaks and lots of Old Jubilation Ale, which I believe is a traditional Jewish meal on Christmas Day - and if it's not, it should be.  Merry Christmas Everyone!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Merry Christmas To One And All!  In honor of this joyful day, I am featuring the photograph I would have used on my Christmas card this year if I was able to send them out.  Unfortunately, having to work 12 to 13 hours a day every day this month without a lunch or a break (and I am STILL not complaining), that was not possible. Regardless, I hope everyone has a great holiday and wonderful New Year!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Eve!

Today is Christmas Eve, and in honor of that, I am featuring a photograph of my sister Susan and brother-in-law George from a Christmas Eve long past.  Back then, we went through all the stress and hassle of celebrating the holidays on the actual holiday.  That is such old style, 20th Century era thinking.  This year we celebrated Thanksgiving on the Sunday afterwards, and we will celebrate Christmas on New Years Day. That means I can take advantage of all those post-Christmas sale events.  A cheapskate's dream!  Talk about win-win!

Monday, December 23, 2013

It's Dee!!!

I stopped off at The Pioneer, a popular University of Denver hangout very close to campus, for a couple of Titan IPAs Saturday night after still another 13 hour day without lunch or break (but I am still NOT complaining).  As I was leaving, I ran into my good friend and former DU Bookstore colleague Dee.  Dee is still working full time for The Spirituals Project at DU and is doing very well.  Plus, she is always up for a photograph, God bless her.  She once was even interviewed by PBS television about the Spirituals Project. Be sure to check out the Spirituals Project's website at http://spiritualsproject.org/.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

The Winter Solstice

Yesterday was the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year.  It was - and I guess still is - a very popular holiday with Druids, such as Doug, my friend and former colleague at the DU Bookstore.  It gets very dark very early here this time of year, especially in Highlands Ranch, where lately I have been working  at a "part-time" job 12 or 13 hours a day.  Once the sun sets, the temperature quickly drops 30 or 40 degrees.  As you are working, you can often glance up and see a dozen glowing red eyes in the distance, watching your every move.  Then you pick up the pace, hop in your truck, move on to the next stop, and let the coyotes or wolves find another victim.  But starting today the days are getting longer, which means less of a chance of being eaten.  No wonder those Druids celebrate the Winter Solstice with such gusto!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

4 Days Until Christmas!

Christmas is only 4 days away, and in honor of that momentous event, I am featuring a photograph that I took on Christmas Day back when I was a kid in our house in the South Side Chicago neighborhood of Brainerd.  The photograph shows a child's eye view of the world, and you can even see part of my old Lionel train set on the floor.  I still have that train set, and am tempted to set it up on the floor of my condo here in Denver when guests arrive on Christmas Day.  However, if I did that, they would think I am crazier than I already am, if such a thing is possible.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

I Don't Believe It! A Job Offer!

I was offered the position of Bookkeeper yesterday with an Independent Bookstore here in Denver.  I have given notice at my current "part-time" job and have only two weeks left to avoid being eaten by coyotes, wolves, werewolves or whatever they are that hang out at The Back Country subdivision after sunset.  And don't get me wrong - I am not saying that Highlands Ranch, Colorado is a bad place to live in at all, as long as you have a rifle handy at all times.

The Ghosts Of Circus Animals Past

I took the above photograph of a tiger cub last week at the Denver Zoo.  I walked up to the glass, and the cub immediately ran up to the window to check me out.  Within seconds, you could tell it was thinking to itself "borrrrring," and went back to romping with it's brother.  As they played together and growled a bit, I was reminded of Forest Park, Illinois, home of my first apartment - a studio right across the street from the Daisy Hill Meat Packing Plant and a Chicago "L" train barn.  Forest Park has a lot of cemeteries, and it is famous for having more dead residents than live ones.  Woodlawn Cemetery is where the 61 victims of the Hammond Circus Train Wreck are buried.  The names of many of the victims were unknown, and so the headstones say things like "Smiley the Clown" or "Greta the Fat Lady."  Many animals were killed in that disaster, too, and it is said that some nights you can hear the ghosts of these animals growling, roaring, or otherwise making their presence known. Cynics say it is simply the sounds of the animals from Brookfield Zoo, located 5 or 6 miles to the south, heard when the wind is just right.  I hate cynics - don't you?

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Lion(s) In Winter

I went to the Denver Zoo last week and was surprised to see that the two lion cubs in the photograph above were not only outdoors, but having a good time frolicking in the snow.  I assume that since they were born here and have lived nowhere else, they don't know they aren't supposed to like the cold, kind of like North Dakotans.  And I still say it's a shame that the zoo won't let these cuddly cubs loose to frolic with zoo visitors.  That would really enliven each evening's Zoo Lights event.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Danger! Danger! Danger!

I have mentioned in previous Blogs the dangers of being in Highlands Ranch, Colorado after dark, and now I have proof.  A week ago yesterday I ran into an elderly gentleman with a cane who was caught after sunset in the open spaces in below zero temperatures.  He was completely disoriented and didn't know where he was (that happens to me all the time out there, by the way).  Then, this past Saturday , I was working in the Highland's Ranch subdivision  called "The Back Country" when I spotted a coyote by the side of the road, near the entrance to an open space trail.  At least I think it was a coyote - it could have been a wolf or even Satan disguised in animal form.  It was evidently just waiting for some Highland's Ranch resident to come along and provide dinner.  In short, it is definitely scary out there, people.  I don't know about you,but I am starting to wear wreaths of garlic after sunset.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Kaos In Fort Collins!

I ordered a couple of pizzas yesterday afternoon from Kaos, a pizzeria and beer garden on South Pearl Street here in Denver, and brought them up to Fort Collins to share with my sister Susan and brother-in-law George.  I took the above candid photograph of my sister Susan right before dinner.  Susan is my closest living relative, and despite the fact that she tried to kill me numerous times when we were young, I did indeed survive. We both share the special experience of growing up together with our mother and father in the South Side Chicago neighborhood of Brainerd.  The important thing is that Susan did indeed fail to kill me, and therefore she and my brother-in-law George and I can all celebrate the holidays together.  This is definitely a win-win situation.  A truly magical time, indeed.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Zoo In Winter

Yes, still another self-portrait, this one showing me deep in thought at the Denver Zoo, wondering what photographs to put on my Blog this coming week.  For the next 8 out of 9 days, I will be working 12 hours a day without lunch or breaks at my "part-time" job (and yes, it is legal - I checked), and I need to put together 7 photographs that can quickly be uploaded to my Blog each night before I collapse in exhaustion. But I am not complaining!  I have lost 25 pounds in 5 months and am now slim and trim and much more youthful.  I should be paying them!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Diet Mania!

I had dinner and beers Thursday night with my friend Stuart (see photograph above) at Boone's Tavern. Boon's is our new South Central Denver hangout since Jordan's Irish Pub went belly up.  In any case, I was surprised to see that Stuart ordered a salad instead of a burger, telling me that he is trying to lose weight. Last night I ran into Chad, the head tech guy at the University  of Denver, and he told me he has lost 40 pounds via a lifestyle change.  I myself have lost 25 pounds, thanks to my physically challenging part-time job. America - or at least Denver -  is getting thinner, people.  Watch out world!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Lunch With Darrel, Cheryl, And Chris!

I had lunch yesterday afternoon at the Deli Zone with my former DU Bookstore colleagues Darrel, Cheryl, and Chris (from left to right in the photograph above).  They all agreed to let me take a photograph of the three of them together, but when I suggested taking individual photographs of each of them to feature on this Blog they drew the line.  Darn - there goes three days worth of Blog postings in a single day.  Now I'll have to go back to that cold zoo and get those freezing animals to pose for me again.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

A Messenger From God?

I had a very good day yesterday.  I didn't have to work, and so this afternoon I went to the Denver Zoo and took some great photographs.  Afterwards, I drove downtown to Denver's Paramount Cafe, where I had a couple of Isolation Ales at happy hour prices.  In other words, I was in a great mood, which made it all the more surprising when Thomas, the fellow sitting next to me at the bar (see photograph above), introduced himself and in a heavy accent told me to never stop believing in myself.  Thomas said he was from Portugal, although I suspect he or his parents might have originally come from either Angola or Mozambique, where Cheyanne (see previous posts) is a Peace Corps volunteer. Talk about a small world!  I am not a religious person, but is it possible that Thomas was delivering a message from God?  If so, I am glad to see that messengers from God also enjoy a few beers now and then.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Dinner Is Served!

It's the holidays, and that means the season for large family dinners.  Many years ago, in the Southside Chicago neighborhood of Brainerd, my mother and father (seen in the photographs above back in 1957) would cook all the holiday dinners, attended by myself, my sister Susan, my grandparents from both sides of the family, and other assorted relatives.  When we had turkey, my father would roast it in the oven and my mother's mother would make her famous sausage dressing.  My sister recently remarked this past Thanksgiving Day that it all seemed so effortless - effortless until you grow up and have to do all the work yourself.  Surprise!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Still No Word From Mozambique

Cheyanne (in the middle in the photograph above) is the daughter of my friend Valarie and a Peace Corps volunteer in Mozambique.  I am sorry to report that she has not updated her Blog since October 16th. Valarie tells me that Cheyanne and her new roommate spend all their weekends at the beach, and so she probably doesn't have the time to update it.  Come on, Cheyanne.  What's more important?  Hanging out every weekend at the beach or keeping your readers informed about what is happening in Mozambique? Time to put your nose to the grindstone, girl!  Check out Cheyanne's Blog at www.timeinmozambique.blogspot.com.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Off To India!

I had lunch in the Highlands neighborhood of Denver yesterday afternoon with Valarie, my friend and the former Operations Manager of the DU Bookstore.  In less than two weeks Valarie will be flying to India to meet up with her daughter Cheyanne, a Peace Corps volunteer in Mozambique.  They will attend a wedding in Madikeri and then tour the rest of the country.  I offered to put together an itinerary of non-stop sightseeing for them, but Valarie insists they want more of a relaxed schedule. Go figure. You can relax when you're dead has always been my philosophy.  Have a great time in India, Valarie!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

The View From Chatfield Farms

I was working in the far southwest suburbs of Denver yesterday and was quite impressed with the view of the mountains from there.  I took the above photograph from a subdivision called Chatfield Farms.  The scenery almost made me forget that it was 9 degrees outside.  Almost.  But I definitely couldn't forget that it was only two and a half hours from sunset and the "dark hours when the powers of evil are exalted," and when your chances of surviving in those harsh elements are considerably reduced.  I had visions of being weakened by hypothermia and suddenly surrounded by wolves, worrying that no one would find what was left of my body until spring.  Happily that didn't happen - at least this time - and I decided that I will definitely not be moving to Chatfield Farms.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

A Canceled Lunch And A Lost Photo Opportunity

I was going to have lunch this past Thursday with Darrel and Chris - former DU Bookstore Accounting Office employees who now work at the University of Denver's Math and Chemistry Department - but had to cancel when I was unexpectedly called into work.  I was planning to drop into the Math and Chemistry Office yesterday to take a Blog photograph of Darrel, but was told that he had visited the Kaiser dermatologist that morning she had gone "zap happy on my face."  Darrel suggested putting off the Blog photograph until next Thursday.  I told him that my Blog readers loved to see gritty reality-type photographs, but I couldn't convince him to let me photograph the gory details.  Instead I am using a photograph taken of Darrel from my international bestselling book, "The Book on the DU Bookstore." Check out the Bookstore's entire motley crew from back in our halcyon days at http://www.blurb.com/b/1230340-the-book-on-the-du-bookstore.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Cold Cold Cold...

It was 15 below zero yesterday morning here in Denver, tying the record low for that date.  It was 14 below zero this A.M.  When I get up in the morning and see the steam coming from the Excel Power Plant just to the west of here (see photograph above), I know it will be a very chilly day.  As regular Blog readers know, I have a part-time job working outside these days in Highlands Ranch, Colorado, and so the weather has suddenly become  a major factor in my life.  In any case, yesterday I wore every bit of my $48.61 purchase of thermal underwear, woolen socks, and stocking cap to try and stay warm.  As a result, I survived the day.  Survival is good - very good indeed.  On the other hand, Miami Beach is better.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

It's Ten Degrees Above Zero In Denver - A Cheapskates Dilemma...

It reached a high of ten degrees above zero in Denver Wednesday, and I was scheduled to work outside the entire day in lovely Highlands Ranch, Colorado.  I was forced to make a major financial decision - should I buy thermal underwear, woolen socks, and a stocking cap for $48.61 or risk dying from hypothermia?  I was reminded of that old skit with Jack Benny, where he is accosted by a thief who tells him "Your money or your life." After he hesitates and the thief prods him, Benny replies "I'm thinking, I'm thinking."  In the end, I decided opt for survival and pay the $48.61 to my good friends at Target.  I could only afford one pair, and so I will make sure I wash the long-johns at least once a month. Hopefully it will warm up soon.  I hate it when your co-workers know when you are approaching just by your smell.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

A Fort Collins Kind Of Christmas

Fort Collins, Colorado is all decorated for the holidays.  I took a walk through Old Town Sunday afternoon and the streets were packed with cheerful shoppers.  The atmosphere was very festive and jolly, as opposed to Highlands Ranch, a suburb South of Denver, where as I have said before, I have definitely felt the presence of The Devil.  Some people tell me they think the only reason I am saying these things about Highlands Ranch is because I have to work there - outside in the cold and often at night.  That is definitely not the case.  After reading a number of Steven King novels, I have become an expert at this kind of thing.  I am even thinking of becoming a part-time Exorcist.  That's where the bucks are, I hear.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Going To The Dogs

I went up to Fort Collins to have dinner with my sister Susan and brother-in-law George this past Sunday afternoon.  They have two dogs - Tutu (in the photograph on the left) and Blackberry, on the right.  Susan and George treat them like their children and cater to their every whim.  They have often suggested that I need to get a dog, too, but I just can't take on the additional expense.  Not the cost of feeding a dog, but all those other expenses that Susan and George wound up having to pay, such as having to replace their ruined carpet, veterinary bills, hundreds and hundreds of doggie toys, doggie bonnets, doggie clothing, etc.etc.  In other words, not only am I a cheapskate, I am also half-way sane.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Thanksgiving Dinner At Last!

I went up to Fort Collins yesterday afternoon to have Thanksgiving dinner with my sister Susan and brother-in-law George.  And yes, I know Thanksgiving was last Thursday, but that was just too soon for Susan and George, and so they postponed it until Sunday.  As I recall, they also postponed Christmas one year, too. When you think about it, it makes a lot of sense.  Why stress yourself out of your mind trying to get everything done in time when you can just relax and choose a date that works best for you?  They have me convinced.  I just wonder where the Pope stands on this issue.  I'll have to give him a call this week and find out what he thinks about this (I hear he's that kind of guy).  I'll let you know what he says.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

It's The Christmas Season!

Today is December 1st, which means it is now officially the 2013 Christmas season.  People are crowding the malls, duking it out with fellow shoppers for those Black Friday specials, and generally getting more frantic by the day.  For me, Christmas was the most fun when I was a kid, like in the photograph above of my mother, myself, and my dog Irma during the Christmas of 1963. The photograph was taken by my father on Christmas Day in the living room of our house in the South Side Chicago neighborhood of Brainerd.  Today I feel that Christmas is not about presents, but all about getting together with friends and family on Christmas Day, feeding them some nice road kill turkey, and enjoying their company.  The photograph on the left shows my mother and myself just before one such celebration, taken a few years before she passed away. Togetherness is far more important than giving and receiving gifts. And with that said, I am out of work for the first time in 32 years, and therefore, as my mother used to say, "It is going to be a slim Christmas everyone!"