Monday, March 31, 2014

The Dogs Of Fort Collins

I visited my sister Susan and brother-in-law George up in Fort Collins Saturday afternoon, which by necessity also involved visiting with their dogs Blackberry (top photo) and TuTu (bottom).  I wouldn't exactly call these dogs terrorists, but they definitely make their presence known.  And known.  And known.  Not that I'm complaining, of course.  But I am certainly happy that whenever I leave Fort Collins, the dogs stay there.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Fort Collins Is Number One For Retirees? Really?

I drove up to Fort Collins (nicknamed "Fort Fun") yesterday afternoon to visit my sister Susan and brother-in-law George.  They have lived in Fort Collins for over 30 years and are just crazy about the place.  In point of fact, it has been named to many top 10 lists, including Money Magazines 2010 top 10 places to retire. What I want to know is why Fort Collins, not to mention most of the other cities, were dropped from that list the following year? What changed?  Was there a major increase in crime, a backlash against retirees, a dramatic spike in the cost of living?  Is it time for Fort Collins retirees to pull up stakes and move to cities in Texas and South Carolina that are on the current list?  And what happens if Fort Collins makes the list again in 2015? Should everyone move back?  Sounds to me like today's retirees might be best off living in a mobile home so they can more quickly and economically adjust to these dramatic swings in retirement nirvanas.  George, by the way, says he will never retire, so to him the question is moot.  That solves that issue.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Babylon On 17th Street

The Hanging Gardens of Babylon were one of the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World.  Although there is no archaeological evidence of their existence, ancient historians have described their magnificence in great detail. As for Babylon Floral Design, located on East 17th Street here in Denver, I wouldn't exactly call their shop magnificent, but they sure are a lot handier to visit than the site of the original Hanging Gardens, which were located in the central part of present day Iraq.  "Location, Location Location," as the real estate people are so fond of saying.  Plus, they have a really nice dog for a store pet, which counts for a lot, too.  What a shame I'm not in the market for flowers.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Living The Good Life In Mozambique

Cheyanne, a Peace Corps volunteer in Mozambique and the daughter of my friend Valarie, continues to live the good life at the college campus where she teaches future teachers.  Not only does she get to go to the beach every weekend, she also gets to do a lot of traveling around the country, seeing the sights and meeting the people there.  Talk about paradise.  If only they got the White Sox on cable, it would be perfect. Cheyanne, by the way, is in the back row, third from the left, in the photograph above.  Be sure to check out Cheyanne's Blog at

Thursday, March 27, 2014

A Reason For The Craziness

If I have been acting kind of eccentric (i.e. crazy) lately, there is a good reason for it - Bad Muzak. Wherever  I go these days, there seems to be Muzak playing in the background, and without realizing it, and if the song is bad enough, it immediately gets absorbed into my brain.  For weeks I had Barry Manilow's "Copacabana" going through my head 24/7.  And if that wasn't bad enough, after going to the Wendy's on Colfax Avenue for dinner the other night (I like to treat myself once in a while), my brain started playing "Torn Between Lovers, Feeling Like A Fool" over and over and over again.  There needs to be some kind of law against this.  Let's start the petition drive NOW!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Count Your Blessings...

Now that the weather has turned nicer here in Denver (snow only every other day), I am walking downtown to the Union Station Light Rail stop after work to get a little exercise.  It is only about three miles, but every little bit helps, I guess.  I alternate between walking down 17th Street (Yuppie - or whatever the "in" crowd calls themselves these days - Heaven) and Colfax Avenue (in-your-face reality).  Colfax is slowly being gentrified, but there are still a lot of people out there who are living desperate lives.  I am reminded to count my blessings each time I walk down that street.  Sometimes life can be hard, but so many others have it so much harder.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Grand Budapest Hotel - A Movie Review

I went to see Grand Budapest Hotel at the Esquire Theater here in Denver Sunday night. The film critic for the Denver Post, Lisa Kennedy, gave it 4 stars, and made it sound pretty good, so I decided to give it a try. I should have known better, after having gone to see Woody Allen's To Rome With Love, which Kennedy also gave 4 stars.  That particular movie was the most excruciating film I've had to sit through since Yentl, which I'm willing to bet Kennedy also gave 4 stars.  The Grand Budapest Hotel wasn't awful - just stupid. Really stupid. And it didn't even take place in Budapest, for God's sake.  I want my $11 back, Lisa! Be sure to send it to me postage paid.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Game Three Memories

I took the above photograph of my friend Stuart many years ago in front of Wrigley Field during a trip back to Chicago to watch the Cubs play the New York Yankees in Game 3 of the World Series.  At least I think we did - my memory is getting pretty hazy these days.  Perhaps it was during a previous life - sometimes it is hard to keep them all straight..  In any case, that was the game made famous by Babe Ruth's "called shot," when he pointed to the center-field bleachers during an at-bat and hit a home run to that exact spot on the very next pitch.  The Cubs, by the way, were swept 4 games to none in that series, proving that at least as far as the Cubs are concerned, some things never change.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Beautiful Junk!

I went to the Action Center's semi-annual "Beautiful Junk" sale at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds to find some used book bargains yesterday afternoon. During the last hour of the sale, you can fill a large bag with all the books you can fit in for $7.50.  My friend Valarie is the Office Manager of the Action Center, and as you can see from the above photograph, she was just overjoyed to have her photo taken and featured on this Blog for the second time this week.  As for the sale, I was kind of disappointed with my selections this time.  I usually find a lot of great hardcover novels, but this year some guy (no doubt a used book dealer) had a shopping cart filled with four huge boxes when I arrived, grabbing every hardcover novel he could get his hands on. He was back with a new shopping cart a short time later, too.  I guess losing out on some great books by not arriving earlier is just the price you pay for being a major cheapskate.  But I'm not bitter about it, not me!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

The Amnesia Man

I went to the Tattered Cover Bookstore on Colfax Avenue yesterday evening to hear David Maclean, author of The Answer to the Riddle is Me, speak about his frightening experience with amnesia.  While standing on a railroad platform in India back in 2002, Maclean came out of a blackout with total amnesia.  He had no idea of who or where he was. Now that is truly scary, especially when it happens in such a totally different culture.  I myself have occasionally woken up a little hazy on the details of the night before. My Grandfather Spillard was in Miami once during Prohibition, investigating some bootleggers, and somehow woke up the next morning in a hotel room in Havana (he never drank again after that experience, by the way).  However, he still knew who he was.  As for Maclean, it turns out that his amnesia was just one of the many possible side effects of an anti-malarial drug he was prescribed before going on his trip. The lesson here is to pay close attention to the disclaimers that are mentioned so quickly at the end of those television commercials advertising various prescription drugs  these days.  I strongly recommend staying away from any prescription drugs that have side effects that may include total amnesia, suicide, or death, even if it will get rid of your adult acne.

Friday, March 21, 2014

I Coulda Been A Contender...

I got a cell phone call at work a few weeks ago, but was in training with my boss at the time, and so decided to let it go to voice mail.  After work, I saw that I had two messages, but when I tried to listen to the second one, I accidentally deleted it.  I retrieved the number from the call log, dialed it, and got the switchboard of the Colorado Rockies Baseball Club.  I told them I was returning their phone call, but was told that if I didn't know who placed the call, they could not help me.  This is devastating news - I am convinced that this was THE CALL, inviting me down to spring training with the Rockies.  Baseball teams are always looking for seasoned pitchers, and anyone who knows me or has read this Blog knows that I am seasoned as hell.  And now I've missed my big chance.  Another promising career dashed before it even began.  

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Me And My Kimball

I don't know if I have ever featured the H.C. Kimball painting over my sofa on this Blog or not, but if so, I am just going to go ahead and feature it again, anyway.  It was purchased by my sister at an art gallery on 95th Street in the South Side Chicago neighborhood of Beverly.  Susan bought it to put over her sofa in her new studio apartment on the 40th floor of the 1130 South Michigan building in downtown Chicago.  It was a wonderful apartment with a great view of the lights of Chicago, not to mention the Chicago Police Headquarters Lockup on South State Street and an extremely seedy looking bar at the corner of 12th and Wabash.  I once dreamed of having an apartment in Chicago just like it, but eventually had to settle for a nice 2 bedroom condo in South Central Denver.  In any case, my sister gave me the painting when she finally got tired of it.  Like me, you are probably asking yourself how in the world anyone could get tired of a surrealist painting of Mary Queen of Scots next to her executioner.  It's just hard to figure, especially considering that it is probably worth a fortune these days.  I think I will have to start sleeping with a shotgun next to my bed, just like Fredrick C. Hamilton must have done at his humble Denver bungalow before he donated his 100 million dollar collection of impressionist painting to the Denver Art Museum.  And by the way, I am hoping Hamilton and I can get together some day and discuss our respective collections.  Maybe I can swap my Kimball for a Degas.  Hope springs eternal!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Meanwhile, Back In Mozambique...

As I mentioned in yesterday's Blog, I had coffee Sunday afternoon with my friend Valarie, and inquired how her daughter Cheyanne, a Peace Corps volunteer in Mozambique, was doing.  Valarie told me that Cheyanne was still really enjoying her role as a "teacher of teachers" at a college campus there, and was once again at the beach this weekend.  Actually, I would have been more surprised if she wasn't at the beach this weekend, but no matter.  I am sure she will be updating her Blog ( very soon.  In the meantime, I am posting a photograph of her "pigging out"  at the only Taco Bell in India a few months ago during a trip with Valarie to a wedding in Madikeri.  Talk about guilty pleasures  - couldn't you guys find a KFC nearby?

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Coffee At Starbucks With Valarie

I had coffee with Valarie, my friend and the former DU Bookstore Operations Manager, at the Starbucks on Colfax Avenue here in Denver Sunday afternoon.  It was nice to catch up with Valarie and find out what she has been up to lately.  Plus, I had the chance to describe to her in graphic detail the injury to my forehead I sustained a few weeks ago -  the horrifying fall, the skull hitting the sidewalk, the massive blood loss, crawling on all fours to my place of employment in a desperate attempt to seek help, the emergency brain surgery, or something like that, anyway.  At least that's how I remember it, and if it differs slightly from reality, it is probably due to the aftereffects of the injury.  And as for Valarie, by the way, is doing just fine.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Every St. Patrick's Day I think of my Uncle Jack and Aunt Helen (see photographs above).  They were both very proud of being Irish, especially my Aunt, whose maiden name was Fitzgerald.  Her family was VERY Irish.  You did not say anything negative about John Fitzgerald Kennedy in their presence, let me tell you. Both Uncle Jack and Aunt Helen were really nice people, and very generous to their nieces and nephews. My sister tells the story of how my Uncle gave my mother the money to buy her a Betsy-Wetsy doll, which I guess was once a really big deal (and they say today's kids are crazy). He also helped with college tuition and many other things.  Sometimes, when you are young, you don't appreciate just how wonderful some people are until it is too late.  A sad fact of life, I guess.  Let that be a lesson to you, all you young people out there!  In any case, Happy St. Patrick's Day Everyone!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Brunch With The Gang

I had brunch with some of the old DU Bookstore gang this morning, getting together with everyone for an early St. Patrick's Day celebration.  It was nice to catch up with what everyone has been up to lately, since it has been quite a while since we last got together.  In the photograph above (from left to right) are Darrel, the former Accounts Payable Manager of the DU Bookstore, his.wife Linda, Valarie, the Bookstore's former Operations Manager, and Chris, the Bookstore's former Accounting Assistant. Chris' husband Jim cleverly got out of being in the photograph, probably worried that his reputation might suffer if he appeared on this Blog. A truly valid concern, I must admit.  Great to see everyone again, guys!  

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Beers With Wally!

I met Wally, my friend and former DU Bookstore co-worker, at Spanky's Urban Roadhouse for beers Friday afternoon, and caught up on all the latest news from the University of Denver.  DU's Chancellor is leaving his position at the end of June, and a search committee has been formed to find his replacement.  I was shocked to learn from Wally that my name is not even being mentioned, at least not in regards to the Chancellorship.  What's the deal with that?  Maybe I should launch a "grassroots" campaign for the position. Vote for Hoyt and bring back the beloved Boone mascot!  Send your campaign donations in now!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Hanging Out In the Hood With Stuart

I met my friend Stuart (see photograph above) at Waffle Brothers in Denver's Uptown neighborhood for dinner yesterday evening, and afterwards we wandered down 17th Street checking out the bars and restaurants located there.  We wound up stopping for coffee at St. Marks Coffeehouse, which used to be located in LoDo (Lower Downtown Denver), but which relocated years ago to their present location next to The Thin Man, a trendy bar with the same ownership.  Although we both ordered coffee, I couldn't help but notice that this particular coffeehouse also sells pints of beer.  Now that's my idea of a full service coffee bar. Sometimes when you visit a coffeehouse, you just don't feel like coffee.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

C J Box Visits The Tattered Cover Bookstore

I drove down to the Tattered Cover Bookstore in beautiful Highlands Ranch, Colorado (which, by the way, regular Blog readers know is one of my very favorite towns) to hear Wyoming mystery writer C J Box speak and to get a signed copy of his new book for my sister Susan, an avid fan.  Susan is a fan of not only C J Box, but of Wyoming resident Annie Proulx, too.  In fact, she is convinced that Wyoming is a new center for writers and wants to move there to experience that literary atmosphere.  I think she envisions everyone meeting together on a daily basis like the Algonquin Round Table in New York used to do, except that instead of meeting at the Algonquin Hotel, they would be meeting at the Holiday Inn Express just outside of Cheyenne.  But hey, I am sure that is just as classy.  More Thunderbird please!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

My Father's 105th Birthday...

My father would have been 105 years old today if he were still alive.  He and my mother moved to Stuart, Florida in 1976 and he was able to enjoy 7 years of retirement there before he passed away at the age of 74.  I believe  - although am not completely sure - that the above photograph is the last one I ever took of him, standing in front of his Chevrolet Camero back in August of 1983.  I remember one time he and my mother were driving  from Stuart to Chicago and from there to Denver in that car when he was stopped by the police for going 88 miles per hour on the interstate at a time when the top speed limit was 55.  He told the officer that he could not see the speedometer due to cataract operations and was therefore just keeping up with the flow of traffic.  I don't think the cop bought that excuse, but it was certainly worth a try.  Happy Birthday Dad!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Waffles And Beer Is Finally Here!

Yes, it's true!  A South Side Chicago tradition is coming to Denver at last!  Waffle Brothers is now open in an old Victorian house on trendy 17th Street.  There is nothing like starting your morning with a couple of waffles and and a few cold beers.  It really gets you all fired up for work.  It is what made the South Side of Chicago one of the world's major steel producing regions.  But wait a minute.  Come to think of it, the last time I visited Chicago a few years ago, South Works and most of the other steel plants were all closed.  Go figure.

Monday, March 10, 2014

The Zoo - Part Two

It's all happening at the zoo, as Simon and Garfunkel have often sung.  In that same song, they also say that giraffes are insincere.  I don't know if that is true or not, but they are definitely a bunch of wimps.  The giraffes at the Denver Zoo NEVER go outside the giraffe house during the winter, no matter how nice the temperatures are outside.  This makes it much harder to take a decent photograph of them, although after about 70 or 80 tries I was able to get the above photograph of a smiling giraffe - and I was damn lucky to get that.  As far as I can tell, giraffes spend 99% of their time either eating or licking the walls of their cage. And I thought Republicans led boring lives.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Saturday Afternoon At The Zoo

Yes, it is sad but true - I have run out of Blog ideas.  And therefore, after working half a day yesterday at my job as the Bookkeeper for a local bookstore chain, I headed to the nearby Denver Zoo to look for a few photo opportunities.  Unfortunately, many of the animals are inside this time of year (what's the deal with these wildlife wimps, anyway?), making it much harder for me to get a decent photograph.  Plus, many of the animals seemed especially camera shy yesterday, including the gorilla in the photograph above turning its back to an admiring throng of youngsters.  Oh well, you can't be Anne Leibovitz or even Diane Arbus every day, I guess.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Retiree Night At The DU Hockey Game

Last evening was University of Denver Retiree Night at the DU Hockey game.  I got two free tickets and was going to go with my friend Stuart, but at the last minute, Stuart had to cancel.  I had been planning to take his photograph at the game for this Blog, so I decided to print out an old (a 30 year old, no less) photograph of him wearing his (once) trademark Groucho glasses and photograph that instead.  As for retiree night, it was pretty snowy outside and so there were very few retirees in attendance.  And those who were there were MUCH OLDER than me.  Nice to be the known as the kid once again, even if just for the evening.  And by the way - yes, I am still bitter about the University of Denver outsourcing the DU Bookstore to Follett Higher Education Group and "retiring" me, but hey, free is free.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Walking Downtown After Work...

It was such a nice day yesterday that I decided to walk to the light rail station downtown instead of taking the bus home from work.  I had the choice of taking a walk on the wild side down Colfax, as Chicago author Nelson Algren would have put it, or else strolling down 17th Street and mixing with Denver's hip crowd.  It is just amazing what a difference two blocks can make here in Denver. Since I move so easily in ultra hip circles, I decided to take the 17th Street route, greeting passersby with a cheery "Dude, What's The Haps?" I could tell by their smiles that they knew I was one of them.  Ah, it is wonderful to be part of the "in" crowd.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Somber Thoughts On Ash Wednesday

"Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return."  Not a happy thought to contemplate, but very appropriate for this particular Ash Wednesday.  I learned yesterday that both Peggy Catlin, my mother's best friend from childhood on (in the top photograph on the right) and also Marion Bellarosa, my mother's good friend from Stuart, Florida (in the bottom photograph on the right) have recently passed away.  Both they and my mother, Mary Hoyt (in the center in the top photo and on the left in the bottom photograph), lived good long lives and really enjoyed their retirements.  Margaret White, the woman in the top photo on the left, did not live too much longer after that photograph was taken.  Which just goes to show that we never know when the end will come, but come it will, eventually.  As the old song goes: "enjoy yourself, enjoy yourself, it's later than you think."  Happy Ash Wednesday Everyone!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Give Up The Beach On Weekends? De Jeito Nenhum! (Portuguese For No Way)

I think someone suggested to Cheyanne, daughter of my friend Valarie and a Peace Corps volunteer in Mozambique, that she skip the beach once in a while so she could update her Blog more often.  Her reaction was captured in the photograph above.  I have no intention of pressing the issue with her. I might be crazy, but I'm not nuts. Be sure to check out Cheyanne's Mozambique Blog at

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Help Wanted: Cut Man

I began receiving health insurance this past Saturday through my new employer, and decided to celebrate the occasion by cracking my skull open on the sidewalk along Colfax Avenue Monday morning. What's the sense of having health insurance if you don't use it?  My boss and a co-worker were kind enough to escort me to the Kaiser Permanente Emergency Room, where the doctor there patched me up, putting in 14 stitches.  He then gave me some salve and told me to have my cut man put it on my wound when I got back to the gym.  At least that's what I think he said.  Hard to believe, but I was actually more mixed up than usual yesterday morning.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Happy Birthday Harry!

My brother-in-law reports on his Facebook Page that last Saturday would have been baseball announcer Harry Caray's 100th birthday.  Harry was the announcer for the St. Louis Cardinals for 25 years, became the TV and radio announcer for the Chicago White Sox when Bill Veeck owned the team, and finished his career with the Chicago Cubs.  Harry was not your politically correct baseball announcer, as demonstrated by his announcing style and such actions as giving first lady Hillary Clinton a smooch and asking "how ya doing, doll."  I took the above photograph of Harry in 1980 at the old Comiskey Park, which has since been torn down and replaced by an inferior stadium in order to make more money for the owner.  I remember Harry and his color man, Jimmy Piersall would get into arguments every once in a while on the air.  Piersall, who had a nervous breakdown when he was a baseball player - immortalized in the book and movie "Fear Strikes Out," - would always end the argument by telling Harry that "I've got papers in my pocket that say I'm sane, Harry.  Do you?"

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Let's Play Ball...

Friday marked the start of baseball spring training games in Florida and Arizona, and to celebrate this momentous occasion, I got in my car Saturday afternoon, tuned in to a Colorado Rockies game on the radio, and drove down to the Coors Field Box Office to buy a few weeknight "Rockpile" tickets.  Rockpile seats are horrible, but cheap.  What they do, however, is get you into the stadium and allow you watch the game standing behind the infield seats.  Unfortunately, I found out yesterday that the Rockies no longer sell these tickets for $1 in advance to old geezers (those over 55) like me any more.  If you want to pay just a buck, you can only buy these tickets 2 hours before game time - if there are any still left, that is.  It has been my experience that Rockpile seats on game day are about as rare as snowballs in hell.  Therefore, I wound up paying the exorbitant price of $4.00 per ticket.  The Colorado Rockies are evidently trying to pad their bottom line on the backs of old people.  Not that I'm bitter, of course.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Final Fridays At The Denver Art Museum

I attended Final Fridays at the Denver Art Museum (The DAM, or DAMN when you have to pay your annual dues) last night for the first time, and was very impressed.  It is held on the last Friday of every month, and features a variety of art related events.  Last night I attended a talk by Chuck Forsman, whose photographs are being featured in the Photography Gallery, and also attended a talk by film critic Jack Hanley on the extremely nifty "Polish Film Posters for the American Western" exhibit, also currently being featured at the museum.  However, the big highlight for me was the fact that the museum provides FREE FOOD from Kevin Taylor (a very fancy restaurateur) at these events.  Art is indeed food for the soul, but unlimited egg rolls is my idea of heaven.  I have not been so enraptured with an event since those breakfast meetings back in the good old days at the DU Bookstore, when we had UNLIMITED BACON on those rare Friday mornings.  Count me in for Final Fridays next month!