Friday, February 28, 2014

Speaking Of Colfax...

I was driving down Colfax Avenue the other evening and noticed that the scaffolding was coming down from around the state capitol dome after several years of restoration work (see photograph above).  The results are impressive.  The gold dome is looking much brighter these days. On the other hand, after the scaffolding came down from Union Station, it looked the same. EXACTLY the same.  Talk about a ripoff.  Hopefully the inside looks different, or it might be time to call one of those ambulance chasing lawyers that advertise on late night television all the time.  Is Norton Frickey still around?

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Saving Historic Relics - And I Don't Mean Me

In referring to the saving of historic relics, I am talking about all the neon signs on Colfax Avenue here in Denver.  Many of them are in a severe state of disrepair.  The Big Bunny Motel's neon sign doesn't even light up anymore.  The Big Bunny, by the way, was the onetime home of actress Sue Lyons of Lolita fame. Colorado Preservation Inc. has placed these signs on it's 2014 list of endangered places.  If you want to contribute to their upkeep, just send me the cash and I will make sure places like the Satire Lounge (in the photograph above) wind up getting it, one way or the other.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

TMI (Too Much Information) From The Denver Zoo

I admire the Denver Zoo's attempt to educate the public about the various animals it has on display, but sometimes I think they tell us a little too much, with Exhibit A being the "Piles of Poop" plaque next to the hyena compound.  And while we are on the subject, it looks to me like hyenas are simply big, friendly dogs. They appear to be far better behaved than my sister Susan and brother-in-law George's two dogs.  The hyenas are certainly far quieter, anyway.  Maybe Susan and George could work out some sort of trade with the zoo.  Be sure to check with your homeowner's association first, guys!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Revisiting The Denver Zoo's Lion Cub

I dropped by the Denver Zoo Sunday afternoon to take a few animal portraits.  As usual, the lion cub was more than happy to pose for the camera.  I like an animal that looks you right in the eye when you take their photograph. Those are the ones that make the best house pets.  I imagine that's why that guy who was in the news a few months ago kept a 200 pound Bengal tiger and a 5 foot alligator in his Manhattan apartment.  It is estimated by experts that 10,000 to 15,000 tigers are kept in captivity as pets, as opposed to just 5,000 who are left in the wild.  I, for one, am convinced what great pets these wild animals can be.  I assume, of course, that they come already housebroken.    

Monday, February 24, 2014

One Senior For Monument Men - A Movie Review

On my friend Stuart's recommendation, I went to see Monument Men at the AMC Theater in the Cherry Creek Mall here in Denver.  It was a pretty good movie - not an Academy Award winner or anything, but very entertaining.  In fact, it was the first World War II movie I have seen in decades.  The most striking thing about it for me was finally recognizing what other people have been me for years. George Clooney was wearing a mustache in this movie, and because of that I now realize that if I ever decided to wear a toupee, people would never be able to tell us apart.  As they say, it's like we were separated at birth.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Off To See The Wizard

I finished work around 3:00 in the afternoon a few days ago, and it was such a nice day that I decided to walk downtown and take the Light Rail home instead of the bus.  I made my way down trendy 17th street, passing dozens of ultra hip bars, bistros, and coffee shops.  They all seemed to be doing a box office business - it is just amazing how many people (mostly in their 20s) have the afternoon off these days. However, when I got to the 16th Street Mall, Denver's main drag, I noticed a very disturbing thing - we seem to have a big wizard problem downtown.  They are everywhere, walking around in their brightly colored robes and pointed hats, long white beards, carrying their staffs, tarot cards at the ready in case you want your fortune told for a small fee. Can nothing be done about this?  I myself blame those damn Harry Potter books.  How many wizards did you ever see walking around town before those books started coming out?  And for God's sake, don't give them money - it only encourages them.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Remembering My Mother And Her Family

For most of the time I was growing up, my father's parents, as well as his brother and his brother's family, lived in California.  Therefore, I spent much more time with my mother's family.  And although our side of the Spillard family is gone now, I still have many fond memories of them.  Assuming my mother was around 8 years old when it was taken, the top photograph is from around 1924.  My Grandmother and Grandfather Spillard are in the back, while in the front (from left to right) are my mother, my Uncle Jack, and my Uncle Bill.  The bottom photograph was taken in November of 1968, on the occasion of my grandparent's 60th (I think) wedding anniversary party at our house in Country Club Hills, Illinois.  In the back row - once again - are my grandparents, William and Louise Spillard, and in the front row, on the couch, are my Uncle Jack, my mother Mary, and my Uncle Bill, all of them a little older and wiser than in the first photograph. The scary thing is that my mother was a mere 52 years old in this photo, my Uncle Bill was 59 (two years younger than I am now), and my Uncle Jack was even younger than that.  Also, that reminds me!  After reading a recent Blog post, my friend Stuart wants me to make sure everyone knows that I am actually two years older than he is, which means that while his first car may have been a Ford Model A, mine was the classic Model T.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Off To Old Chicago For - Water And Salad?

Yes - it's true.  My friend Stuart (see photograph above) has forsaken burgers and beers for salad and water these days, determined to lose the weight he has gained over the past few years. Stuart says that even jogging on a regular basis is not enough for him to lose any weight these days.  Thank God I never started that nasty habit.  To quote Mark Twain, whenever I feel like exercising, I lay down until the feeling passes. More fries, anyone?

Thursday, February 20, 2014

No Hat Trick For Cheyanne

Cheyanne - daughter of my friend Valarie and a Peace Corps volunteer in Mozambique - has updated her Blog twice in the past two weeks.  I was hoping she would do a third post and then start updating her Blog weekly, but evidently the lure of the beach every weekend is too strong.  But no matter - when Cheyanne does post to her Blog, she goes all out - lots of news and plenty of photographs, such as the one above of her and her fellow Peace Corps volunteers on a bus in Maputo (Cheyanne, by the way, is on the right in the back, looking very Cheyanne-like}.  Be sure to check out her Blog at

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

For Sale! A Great Bargain If You Like Sketchy!

Denver is filled with great old houses from the late 19th and early 20th century:  Victorian, Queen Anne, Italianate, you name it, we've got it.  If you don't believe me, check out "Denver's Historic Homes," the new book by local author Amy Zimmer.  In any case, the home on the right in the photograph above is located just south (and I mean just south) of Josephine and Colfax Avenue here in Denver and is for sale.  If you don't mind sketchy, it could be a great buy.  I say sketchy because despite gentrification, Colfax still has its share of strange characters.  Jeff, one of my old coworkers at the University of Denver Bookstore, used to live three blocks from Colfax.  He said living there was just fine, although every once in a while someone would knock on his door late at night and want to know if "Moose"  was there.  Jeff would simply reply "naw, Moose ain't here," and they would go away. No problem there, right?  Make an offer today!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Chicago Then And Now

I recently treated myself to a new paperback book titled "Chicago Then And Now."  It shows photographs of Chicago the way it used to look years ago (back when my friend Stuart lived there), and what the same scene looks like today.  Having grown up in Chicago,  I find this book fascinating.  I just love looking at these old photos of the city.  Stuart has often tried to describe to me what it was like, but it is just not the same as a photograph.  And while we are on the subject, I have great news for all you Chicago buffs.  The 2014 CTA (Chicago Transit Authority) Calendar is now available to download onto your computer (for free, no less) at the CTA's official website.  The calendar has some great black and white images from a time that even Stuart doesn't remember.  Be sure to go to and check it out.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Seen In Passing - The Photographs Of Chuck Forsman

I went to the Denver Art Museum yesterday to see the museum's current photography exhibit:  "Seen in Passing:  Photographs By Chuck Forsman." The photos by this Boulder photographer consist of two black and white series - images that Forsman took from his car window while driving through the American West, and photographs of his dog Magpie exploring various western locales.  I thought the exhibit was definitely worth seeing, but I still don't understand why taking photographs in the photography gallery is not allowed.  I had to take the above photograph from the next room.  If I had tried to take a photograph while inside the gallery, the DAM guards would have shot me on the spot.  And it would hardly have been worth it.  The exhibit was good, but not that good.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Happy First Day Of Spring Training!

This weekend marks the start of baseball spring training.  It is a wonderful time of year, especially for Colorado Rockies baseball fans.  This season the Rockies have built a new upper right field party deck, which will take the fans minds off the game being played down below if there is another mid-season collapse like last year.  Rockies Manager Walt Weiss is convinced the team will do much better this year, since it has added a bit more depth, but if he is wrong, just party on, Rockies fans.  Let's play ball!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Fighting The Good Fight With Mark And Wally

I met Mark (in the photograph on the left) and Wally (on the right) for beers at Spanky's Urban Roadhouse last night, where we toasted the start of baseball spring training.  Mark works at the University of Denver's Penrose Library (now called the Academic Commons since it was remodeled and had half the books removed), while Wally still works at the DU Bookstore.  I work at one of the last independent bookstores in Colorado, and so the three of us represent the last holdouts against the digital revolution. Not quite as exciting as serving in the French Foreign Legion, but we are fighting an important battle none the less.  Stay tuned for updates on how the struggle is going.  

Friday, February 14, 2014

Sunset Over The Light Rail Station

Is there anything more beautiful than seeing the sunset over the University of Denver Light Rail Station?  Oh sure, some people might mention the sun setting over the Greek Island of Santorini, but hey, I've been there, and it is soooo overrated.  And yes, you have indeed seen this same scene once or twice or maybe even twenty times before on this Blog, but never in the same light.  After all, Monet (not to drop names or anything) did the same thing.  He painted Waterloo Bridge at Sunset, Waterloo Bridge in the Mist, Waterloo Bridge in the Snow, Waterloo Bridge with the Monty Python Group (a much later work), and many other paintings of the same scene but in different light.  If it worked for Monet, why not me? Besides the obvious answer, I mean.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

More Blog Posts From Cheyanne!

Cheyanne - daughter of my friend Valarie and a Peace Corps volunteer - has posted more news from Mozambique on her Blog.  This is her second posting in the past two weeks, and I believe this sets a personal Blog record for Cheyanne (third from the left in the photograph above, taken with some fellow Peace Corps volunteers in Maputo).  In any case, she discusses how the Peace Corp and its volunteers are launching a campaign to help increase literacy among grade school children in Mozambique.  Cheyanne sent me a Facebook message telling me to check out her new post, and I get the feeling she thinks she doesn't have all that many readers. Hopefully my millions of Blog followers will go to and catch up on Cheyanne's doings in Mozambique and give her some positive feedback on the great work she is doing there, despite the fact that she spends every weekend at the beach.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

A Passport To Paris - Revoked!

The Passport  To Paris exhibit at the Denver Art Museum (The DAM) ended this past weekend, and due to a variety of reasons, my sister Susan and brother-in-law George (seen above in my bestselling Blurb book "Denver People and Places") were unable to get down to Denver to see it.  On the bright side, Frederick C. Hamilton, whose collection of impressionist paintings made up over a third of the exhibit, has more or less said "what the hell, let the museum keep them," thus giving Susan and George and everyone else a second chance to see these works.  Hamilton's collection is estimated to be worth over 100 million dollars, and I can't imagine keeping a collection worth that much money in your house, which I assume in Hamilton's case is probably just a humble little bungalow.  He must have slept with a shotgun by his bed all these years.  Now that Hamilton has given his paintings to the museum, I am sure he will sleep much easier.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Visiting With Tony

I stopped by the DU Bookstore - my old stomping ground - Saturday afternoon to get my "Happy First Day of Spring Training" cards printed at the store's Quick Copy Center.  While there, I visited some of my old Bookstore colleagues, including Holly, a student employee, Owen, the Computer Store Manager, and Tony, the Manager of the Quick Copy Center.  I got so involved with visiting my old chums that I forgot to take any Blog photographs.  For this reason, I decided to reuse the above photograph of Tony that I took a year or so ago.  And by the way, I am having to make my own spring training cards because they are impossible to find in stores these days.  What's the world coming to?

Monday, February 10, 2014

Dinner With Ana Silvia And Joe

My friends Ana Silvia and Joe came over for dinner last night, and we had a really nice evening together.  It was the first time we had seen each other in many months, and we had a lot of catching up to do.  And as usual, I went over to the Red Coral Restaurant at Colorado Boulevard and Mexico Avenue here in Denver and picked up some Chinese food (which we used to call chop suey back on the South Side of Chicago) to serve them.  After I got home, I put everything in my own dishes and then claimed I cooked everything myself. And it worked! Ana Silvia and Joe both think I am a great cook and tell me I should open up my own restaurant.  And maybe I will.  As I have always said, when you have it, you have it.  I just prefer not to say what "it" is.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Remembering Lewis Grizzard...

For some reason I have been thinking about Lewis Grizzard lately.  Grizzard was a nationally syndicated columnist from Atlanta before he passed away from heart trouble at the age of 48.  He was a big champion of the Waffle House, a southern breakfast chain that also serves inexpensive steaks.  Never having dined there before, I decided to give it a try yesterday afternoon.  Grizzard liked the fact that the steaks were cheap and the waitresses always called you "hon."  And as a matter of fact, the waitress this afternoon did repeatedly call me honey.  Plus, she told me I could have grits instead of hash browns with my steak if I preferred.  She must have recognized my Southern (Chicago) roots. By the way, the nearest Waffle House from my condo is just across the freeway from Highlands Ranch, Colorado, where I delivered mail for the past 6 months.  The only bad part of the meal was that I could hear the agonized ghostly cries of rural carriers past who were overcome by hypothermia during subzero cold waves and carried off by wolves. Not a problem, though, since the steak tasted pretty damn good.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

First Friday!

I drove over to Santa Fe Boulevard here in Denver last night for the first time in 5 months to experience the art walk known as First Friday.  I have not been able to attend this event since September because of my previous job delivering the mail, which could often take up to 12 hours to complete.  I really enjoy walking around with the crowds from gallery to gallery and looking at the art, since it allows you to see the work of talented, up and coming artists such as the one who created the masterpiece in the photograph above. Who says Denver is still a cow town with artwork like this?

Friday, February 7, 2014

Catching Up With Valarie

I got together with my friend Valarie (see photograph above) last night for the first time since she returned from her trip to India. Valarie had a great time there, getting together with her daughter after more than a year, experiencing other cultures, and  learning what these cultures can teach us.  What I also heard from Valarie, in addition to all I have mentioned, was the frustration of having to constantly avoid stepping in human excrement and dealing with the constant smell of urine.  Sounds to me like you should have just visited lower Manhattan, Valarie, and avoided all that jet lag.  But hey, what do I know?  I'm just a simple kid from the South Side of Chicago.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Life At 19 Below...

The official low temperature was 19 below zero here in Denver yesterday.  Of course, that was the low at Denver International Airport, which is located close to the Kansas border, while at the University of Denver light rail stop and bus station  it was a balmy 9 below, enjoyed by the usual cast of characters at the stop. The woman with the whining daughter was there (actually, I was whining on the inside myself), as was the young guy talking, as usual, to his wife on his cell phone ("I should have done that, yes, yes, sorry, I love you, goodbye").  There was also what might have been a pretty young girl wearing an orange stocking cap at the stop, although it was hard to tell since only her right eye was visible.  We actually only had to wait 15 minutes for the bus, which is far better than what my old friends at the Highlands Ranch Post Office had to deal with, having to work out of doors all day, as well as several hours after sunset.  If I was still there, I would have thrown myself in a mail hamper and refused to come out. I wonder if that is a federal offense?

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Winter Returns!

Winter has returned to Denver, with low temperatures forecast to be in the 10 below zero range tonight. And it is not just Denver that is dealing with the snow and cold.  Chicago is having a hard winter too, and has had far more below zero temperatures than here.  Of course, hard winters are nothing new in Chicago. As I recall, we actually took a perverse kind of pride in how bad the weather was.  "Guess how cold it is now?" was always a fun question to ask, unless you happened to work outside.  In any case, winter was no match for our Pontiac Catalina, which my mother is posing in front of in the photograph above, taken in front of our house in the South Side Chicago neighborhood of Brainerd during the winter of 1960.  It was as close to a tank as you could get back then, back before gun rights advocates started lobbying for our constitutional right to drive actual tanks.  But I digress.  Back to my original point - it's cold!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The Latest From Mozambique

Cheyanne - the daughter of my friend and former University of Denver Bookstore colleague Valarie - is a Peace Corps volunteer in Mozambique and has just posted an account of her (and Valarie's) trip to India a few weeks ago.  Cheyanne reports that she and a fellow Peace Corps volunteer were able to stay at the Barking Deer Brewpub when they were in Mumbai.  It is owned by an American, a friend of a friend, and he threw out the welcome mat for them.  Personally, I have had recurring dreams about staying overnight in a brewpub, although not necessarily in Mumbai.  In the photograph above, Cheyanne is in the center, sitting at a table in the Barking Dog with friends.  Check out Cheyanne's highly entertaining account of her trip at

Monday, February 3, 2014

A Not So Super Sunday

My friend Stuart and I got together last night at my condo (right across the street from our beloved Alma Mater, the University of Denver) to watch the Super Bowl, and I must say it was not a good night for Denver.  In point of fact, it was a rout, and Seattle won big time. Thank God spring training for the Colorado Rockies begins in only 10 days, so cheer up Bronco fans!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

A High Spirited Day!

Yesterday was a high-spirited kind of day, and not because of the Super Bowl between the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks that is taking place this afternoon.  I decided to drive over and have a look at the Herman H. Heiser House, located at 30th and Osceola Streets in the Highlands neighborhood of Denver.  I learned about this house at a lecture by Amy Zimmer, author of Denver's Historic Homes.  She mentioned in the lecture that this house is reputed to be haunted by the ghost of a former owner.  His son died while swimming at nearby Sloan's Lake, and he spent the final years of his life sitting in a rocking chair in the turret, looking out and waiting for his son to return home.   Denver Auditor Dennis Gallagher happened to be in the audience that night, and mentioned that he once made an unsuccessful offer to buy the house.  Later on he got to know the new owner, who gave him a tour of the place.  As they passed by a room in the turret, the owner told Gallagher that there is a rocking chair in the room, and that sometimes when she walks past the chair is rocking all by itself.  As I was taking the above photograph, I just had to wonder whether I was being watched, and watched by whom or by what.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Pizza And Beers With Wally And Linda!

I got together with my friend and former DU Bookstore colleague Wally and his wife Linda for pizza and beers last night at the Bonnie Brae Tavern (a famous south Denver landmark).  It was a very pleasant evening, cold and snowy outside, but very pleasant inside the nice warm bistro.  We spent most of the evening discussing current and former DU Bookstore employees, which brought both laughter and tears. Linda mentioned that she is heading off to Cape Cod to visit her elderly mother Valentine's Day weekend, and so she suggested that Wally and I get together for Valentine's Day beers at Spanky's Urban Roadhouse. Sounds like a great idea to me. It's a date, Wally!  I'll buy the first round!