Sunday, November 30, 2014

Old Town Fort Collins - Ready For the Holidays

I walked around Old Town Fort Collins late Thanksgiving afternoon before heading to my sister Susan and brother-in-law George's place for dinner (I was told not to show up before 6:00 P.M, or else!).  In any case, I was pleased to see that the City of Fort Collins, Colorado has gone all out with it's holiday decorations this year.  This is in strong contrast to a few years earlier, when Fort Collins, in order to not offend anyone, came close to banning all Christmas decorations in the city, resulting in offending nearly everyone. For a mere 20 bucks, I could have told the city that this was a bad idea, and saved them a lot of grief.  Which means I should probably become a consultant, even at this late age (39 years old, the same as Jack Benny).

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Portrait Of A Pampered Pooch

I went up to Fort Collins Thursday to have Thanksgiving Dinner with my sister Susan and brother-in-law George, and as always, I was amazed at how their household seems to revolve around their two dogs. Susan and George cater to their dog's every whim - especially Tutu, a rat-sized Yorkie seen in the photograph above.  This dog is so small, it needs to be lifted up and down the stairs, up and down from the bed (yes, the two dogs do sleep with them), and is pampered in countless other ways, too.  I would think a pet rat would be a lot less trouble, and cheaper to care for, too, but when I mention that to my sister, I get berated.  So much for trying to be helpful.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Thanksgiving Dinner! On Time!

By which I mean actually on Thanksgiving, instead of several days later.  For the past two years, my sister Susan and brother-in-law George have been running late in dinner preparations, and have postponed Thanksgiving until the next day or even the following Sunday.  I got a call from Susan yesterday afternoon, and was positive that dinner was once more being postponed for a few days.  But no - it was only being delayed an hour.  Dinner was served promptly at 7:30 P.M. yesterday, and it was excellent - a new record! However, I strongly recommend that they start Christmas dinner preparations now.  Postponing Christmas last year seemed slightly Grinch-like to me, although I mean that with all due respect.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving Deja Vu All Over Again...

Yes.  It is true. Astute Blog Readers will realize that I am featuring the exact same Thanksgiving Day photograph that I featured last year.  But in my defense, this is the only old family photograph I have that was taken on Thanksgiving Day.  It features, from left to right, my Grandfather Spillard's sister Susie (Aunt Susie to the rest of us), my mother Mary, my maternal Grandmother Louise Spillard, my paternal Grandmother Fleta Hoyt, and me, at my most charming best. And of course, in the background of the dining room of our house in the South Side Chicago neighborhood of Brainerd, our pet parakeet Petie.  Haven't changed a bit, have I?  Didn't think so. Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Missing Florida Already? After Only A Week?

Hell Yes!  It is cold here in Denver, the wind is blowing at a conservatively estimated 80 miles per hour, and snow is in the forecast.  Who wouldn't be nostalgic, even after having left Stuart, Florida only a week ago, after preparing our condo for a seasonal rental?  In point of fact, I am seriously considering heading down there in January with my suitcase and telling our renters that I plan to stay in the spare room. What reasonable couple could object to that?  I will even do the cooking.  Michelina's Frozen Entrees anyone?  In any case, in the photograph above I am featuring a self-portrait that I took just last week, as well as a photograph in the same spot that I took of my parents in the 1970s, back when I was about two years old. The place hasn't changed a bit, although the times sure have.  And what a shame is that.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

From Cow Town To Sophisticated City? The Art Tells It All

Denver has worked hard over the years to get rid of it's cow town image and has definitely become much more cosmopolitan since I moved here 34 years ago.  This can be seen in the progression of its public art from cowboys astride horses (as seen in the photograph above) to much more modern (i.e. bizarre) pieces. What other city can boast of having statues of two giant space aliens dancing next to it's Performing Arts Center, or a huge Blue Bear peering into it's Convention Center?  At the entrance to Denver International Airport there is a Devil Horse with glowing red eyes, rearing up on it's hind legs, ready to greet arriving visitors.  This horse actually fell on top of and killed it's creator, and the artist's son wound up finishing the piece. My favorite work of public art is a huge pile of red beans located in the Lower Highlands Neighborhood.  What I admire most is not the sculpture itself, but the salesmanship of the artist that got it placed in such a conspicuous location.  After all, if he can do it...

Monday, November 24, 2014

Warsaw '44 At The Denver Film Festival

I went to see the movie Warsaw '44 at the Denver Film Festival last night.  It was the final film of the festival, and the Polish Consul General and the star of the movie were on hand to talk about the film and answer questions.  I sat next to the former chairman of the film festival.  He told me he had attended films every day for the past 13 days and that this one might very well be the best of the lot.  However, I couldn't help but notice that he left less than a third of the way through the film.  The movie was about the famous Warsaw Uprising in 1944, which took the lives of 200,000 of Warsaw's then 900,000 people.  I must admit it was a pretty violent and hard film to watch, which is maybe why the guy sitting next to me left.  Either that or I forgot to use deodorant that morning.  Either theory is plausible.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Meanwhile, Back In Moz...

Cheyanne, daughter of my friend Valarie and a "teacher of teachers" with the Peace Corps in Mozambique, is keeping pretty busy during her last few weeks in Africa. She, her roommate Erin, and their JUNTOS group recently painted murals on the children's library building. Cheyanne's former roommate, Theresa, started up the library last year.  The building was evidently quite bland looking and needed some jazzing up, which is exactly what they did.  I suspect Cheyanne (seen on the right in the top photograph) might even have had to stay away from the beach for a weekend to get the job done.  No sacrifice too great for that girl.  Be sure to check out Cheyanne's Blog and all her new photographs at

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Stuart: Facing A World Of Possibilities

I went to the Old Chicago on Colorado Boulevard here in Denver Thursday night for sandwiches and beer with my friend Stuart. Stuart is expecting to start working from home on a full time basis any day now, and is excited about the idea of not having to get up at 4:30 every morning to take the bus up to his workplace in Boulder.  But I say why stop at simply working from home in Lakewood, Colorado?  Why not telecommute from someplace a bit more exciting, like London, Paris, Barcelona, or even Detroit?   Think outside the box, Stuart!  You could even rent my condo in Florida.  I would give you a good deal on the rent, too, provided you do a few assorted handyman chores each week.  I'll give you the complete list before you go.  What could be fairer?

Friday, November 21, 2014

Barhopping With John From Nebraska!

Actually, it wasn't exactly barhopping, per se.  It was more like the old Goldilocks fairy tale.  John, who works for Nebraska Book Company and was the DU Bookstore's sales rep when it was still part of the University of Denver, called me up the other day and invited me out for beers.  We drove over to 17th Avenue, not far from where I now work, and we started checking out the various restaurants in that happening part of town.  The first place, Ace Restaurant, was too loud.  The second place, Steuben's, was too expensive.  The third place, Park & Company Burgers, was just right.  We had burgers and beers there, and caught up on everything that has been happening in the college textbook world lately.  And as with the rest of the book world, there is very tough competition, but we are all still hanging in there.  With beers in hand, no less.  What could be better?  Sounds like a win-win situation to me.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The South Moves At A Slow Pace, As Does It's News

Being in Stuart, Florida for the past 5 days, I once again had to readjust to the slow pace of the South.  You can't be in a hurry for anything down there.  Everybody does things at their own speed and will not be hurried.  Amazingly enough, the news down there also moves at a pretty slow pace, as evidenced by the above photograph of this past Monday's headline in the Stuart News.  Hopefully the "Death of the Confederacy" won't come as too much of a shock to the local citizenry.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Goodbye (For Now) To Stuart, Florida!

Yesterday it was time to finish up prepping the condo for our seasonal rental (January through March), and head home for Denver.  The weather has been hot and sunny ever since I got here, but turned cold and rainy Tuesday. Fortunately I was able to take the above photo before the weather changed.  And everyone will be happy to know that because of the inclement weather I was forced to actually finish cleaning the place. Among other accomplishments, I was also able to install cable television for our guests in both the living room and bedroom.  My only complaint is that the one time I actually have access to cable television for a few days, I find out they have canceled the Honey Boo Boo show.  Life can be such a bummer.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

A Walk On The Beach

I took a break from avoiding cleaning the bathrooms and kitchen at the condo and took a sunset walk from Stuart Beach to the House of Refuge the other afternoon.  It is a great trek along one of the most beautiful beaches in Florida.  As you get close to the House of Refuge, the coastline gets rocky and it resembles Maine more than Florida.  The only downside was that the place was crawling with wedding photographers when I got there. Evidently sunset at the House of Refuge is THE place to have wedding and engagement photographs taken if you live in the greater Stuart, Florida area.  In any case, it has been 35 years since I was last inside the old shipwreck rescue station, built in 1876.  The last time I took a tour, it cost $2.00. Plus, unless I was hallucinating at the time, they had giant turtles in the basement to gaze at.  Now they want $8.00 per person, and all the giant snapping turtles were moved to somewhere more suitable and humane years ago.  I don't mean to be critical, but what a ripoff!  And I mean that with all due respect to the Stuart Historical Society, whose members probably have those damn turtles in their bathtubs at home.  Somebody should definitely check..

Monday, November 17, 2014

A Visit To The Pier

One of the thing's I like best about my parent's Stuart, Florida condo (and yes, they are both long gone, but I still think of it as their condo) is walking down to the pier and gazing out at the St. Lucie River.  It is nice to stroll down there any time of day, but especially at sunset.  Over the past few years they have added some enhancements, including trees whose trunks light up at night.  I'm not sure I am too crazy about that - it takes away from the old Florida feel you get as dusk settles in, but unfortunately they didn't ask me about it before they installed them.  What were they thinking?  In any case, they have also added these same style of lights around the trees at the entrance to the complex, which I must admit helps you easily find  the driveway after dark.  I no longer have to orbit the block a few times like the old Mercury astronauts around the Earth.  Now that is progress.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Stuart's House Of Refuge - Still Standing!

Of course, the House of Refuge has been around since 1876, but it has been three months since I last saw it and I wanted to make good and sure it was still there.  Which I did, putting off cleaning the bathrooms and kitchen, plumbing the toilet, and other assorted chores for another day.  Rome was not built in a day either, after all, and getting my sister and my Stuart, Florida condo ready for a seasonal rental can't be rushed into. And if I keep delaying long enough, perhaps I can fly back to Denver and send my sister back on the Greyhound bus to finish up.  Sounds like a plan to me. I'll leave the toilet bowl cleaner under the sink.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Back To Florida!

I headed back to Stuart, Florida on the red-eye the other night to get the condo my sister and I inherited from our mother ready to rent for the season.  To commemorate this auspicious event, I am featuring a photograph of my mother Mary (on the left), myself, and my mother's friend Marion (on the right) taken a number of years ago.  Both my mother and Marion are gone now, as well as my father, and so coming back here to Stuart is a bit of a bittersweet experience.  However, once I got all my chores done Friday and was finally able to sit down and relax, it truly felt like I was back home.  Plus, it is in the 70s down here, as opposed to below zero in Denver, and so I will try to make do.  Time to put on the old Speedo and head for the beach!  And no, there will not be photos of that.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Running Into Roddy and Rupert

I ran into Roddy (on the left) and Rupert (on the right), along with a friend of theirs, Wednesday night at My Other Bar, across the street from the Esquire Theater.  Roddy is the Photography Professor at the University of Denver and Rupert is head of the Colorado Photographic Arts Center.  The three of them were off to see a movie at the Esquire, while I was just having a few beers before heading to the Cherry Creek Mall a couple of  miles away. Roddy tells me all is right with DU's Photography Department, and he is excited about once again leading a photography class on a trip to London and Paris during the winter break. Meanwhile, I get to get to go to Stuart, Florida to prepare our condo for a seasonal rental starting in January. London and Paris are okay, I guess, but they just can't compare to prepping a condo in South Florida.  I hear you can get arrested over there just carrying a toilet plunger.  Not in South Florida, where anything goes.  Let the good times roll!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Winter With A Vengeance

The last time I checked, it was still fall.  But yesterday the high was 6 degrees here in Denver, and the drive to work was across treacherous, snow packed roads. Plus, the low temperature last night was 11 degrees below zero at the airport and a toasty 6 below downtown. Does this seem like fall to you?  This is NOT the global warming we were promised. I definitely need to make a complaint.  But to who?

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Is Fidel Really In Denver?

I ran into Fidel Castro at the Denver Art Museum (The DAM) a few weeks ago during the last "Final Friday" event of  the year. There is no mistaking that communist icon, especially since he has begun using Grecian Formula 44 to keep the gray out of his beard and hair.  After reading my Blog post about this, some cynics (i.e. my office-mate Peter) have doubts that this is the real Fidel, but not me.  If I overheard correctly, he and his wife Posh (no doubt a second marriage) are house-hunting in the area.  That just proves that everyone is moving to Denver these days.  It's not just Californians anymore.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Veteran's Day

Today is Veteran's Day, and in honor of this holiday, I am featuring a photograph of my mother Mary, father Nelson, and sister Susan taken down in Texas before my father was sent overseas during World War II. Since he was in his mid-thirties, my father - a dentist - was very surprised, to day the least, when he got a draft notice.  His friend Ed Hartman - also a dentist - was at our house when the telegram arrived and thought my father getting drafted was the funniest thing ever, until he went home and found a draft notice waiting for him, too. Of course, Ed Hartman was sent to Paris, while my father went to Okinawa, so Ed definitely got the last laugh.  And as a side note, my sister Susan, pictured on the left with her trademark crabby face, was also featured on yesterday's Blog, too.  She hasn't changed a bit, either.  At least the crabby face part.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Kaos Up At The Fort

I drove over to Kaos Pizza to pick up a couple of pies to bring up to Fort Collins to my sister Susan and brother-in-law George (seen in the photograph above) Sunday afternoon.  The pizzas turned out to be excellent as usual, although it took over half an hour to get them.  I think the hold up was the Garden Pizza I ordered for my sister.  It comes with a fresh egg on it, and I imagine they had to wait until the chicken laid it before they could finish the order.  When they say something is "fresh" here in Colorado, they mean it.  In fact, I think it is some kind of state law.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

News Flash! The Days Are Getting Shorter...

As regular Blog readers know, I like to walk from my workplace on Colfax Avenue ("the longest, wickedest street in America") to the Light Rail train at Denver's Union Station each evening after work - about a three mile jaunt.  It seems like just yesterday that it was warm and sunny for the entire walk, but these days it is dark even before I get out the door.  I don't know about you, but I find that extremely depressing.  And although the temperatures up to now have been fairly warm, the weather forecast for this coming week is for the coldest temperatures since February.  And what do I see each evening when I finally get to the Light Rail Station and the train pulls up?  An advertisement covering the car promoting non-stop flights from Denver to Iceland, where it is even colder and darker.  As a matter of fact, I think in late fall and winter it is dark all the time up there.  And what do you do in Reykjavik this time of year besides sit in a bar and drink?  On the other hand...

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Dinner With Some Of The Old DU Gang

I had dinner at the Bonnie Brae Tavern with some of the old University of Denver gang last night.  We had a great time gabbing and finding out what everybody has been up to lately, and capped the evening off at the Bonnie Brae Ice Cream Shop across the street.  In the photograph above are former DU Bookstore Operations Coordinator Bill (third from the right) and his wife Renee (second from right); current DU Library staff member Mark (second from the left), and Mark's father and mother (on the left and right sides of the photo, respectively).  There was also one more University of Denver Library employee and one more Bookstore employee, along with his wife, who joined us last evening, but I am sad to report that they too have joined the Witness Protection Program and cannot be photographed or even named.  After our visit to the ice cream shop, they ran full speed down the street and were presumably whisked away by Federal Marshals. What can I say? Such is life when you've worked for the University of Denver for a while.

Friday, November 7, 2014

The Betrayers

I found an advance reading copy of The Betrayers, the newest novel by David Bezmozgis, in the break room of the Bookstore where I work a few weeks ago, and decided to give it a try.  I usually read only mysteries, and kept waiting for someone to be murdered, but it never happened.  The book is actually quite good and quite a literary achievement.  It takes place in the Crimea, and I must say that after reading this book, I am crossing  the Crimea off my "bucket list."  It seems very depressing there.  I say send Rick Steves there first to scope it out, and if he winds up liking it and makes a travel episode about it, I'll make reservations.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

A Portrait Of Peter

I was very surprised that Peter, my friend and office mate at the Bookstore where I work, agreed to have his photograph taken (armed with a banana, I might add) yesterday morning.  I ran into Peter a few weeks ago at the Zombie Crawl on Denver's 16th Street Mall and at that time he didn't want to be photographed. Originally I thought he might be in the Witness Protection Program.  When I worked at the DU Bookstore, almost everyone there told me they were in witness protection, which seems like a statistical improbability, but I know they wouldn't lie to me.  In any case, I guess Peter was just photo shy because he was worried about retribution from The Undead at the Zombie Crawl.  I myself worry about that night and day.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Hanging At Hickenlooper Headquarters

Yesterday was Election Day, and as I walked through Denver's Union Station after work on my way to the Light Rail train, I noticed that Governor John Hickenlooper had made the center of the station his election night headquarters.  This seemed like a pretty egalitarian gesture, letting the general public hang out with the Democratic fat cats, instead of gathering at an expensive hotel ballroom and shooting any onlookers who crossed the threshold.  Since I knew it was going to be a close election and a late night, I decided to head home instead of hanging around waiting for the outcome.  I figured I could always get dressed and go back to Union Station if the mood struck me.  It didn't.  And by the way, as of today - Wednesday - the jury is still out on the result.  I wonder if everybody is still there?

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Election Day!

Happy Election Day Everybody! Here in Colorado it is for the most part a mail-in election, and so I drove down to Union Station Sunday afternoon to drop off my ballot.  I had received a list of drop-off locations in the mail, and Union Station was mentioned as one of them.  However, I could not find it.  I did see a lot of slotted trash receptacles, however, and after all those horrible attack ads running night and day on the television, I was sorely tempted to drop it in one of those.  But I didn't, even though watching these commercials it appears virtually everyone running for office these days belongs in jail.  If only we could put them all there, even if just for a few decades.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Meanwhile, Back In Mozambique...

The clock is ticking.  Cheyanne - daughter of my friend Valarie and a "teacher of teachers" with the Peace Corps (seen in the photograph above on the left) - is down to her final 6 weeks in Mozambique.  After that, it will be goodbye to that country and it's beaches along the Indian Ocean, and back to Denver, Colorado. Of course, Cheyanne can still go to the beach here.  It will just have to be the beach at the Cherry Creek Reservoir, which I am sure has a similar ambiance.  And by the way, Cheyanne has been offered a position with a non-profit in Maputo, the capitol of Mozambique, but her mother Valarie has personally threatened to go over there and strangle her if she takes the job.  Which sounds a bit on the hostile side to me, but what do I know?  In any case, check out Cheyanne's Blog at

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Still More Halloween Nostalgia

I am ending Halloween Weekend with a blast from the past: a photograph of my mother Mary and her cousin Junior Dumas dressed up in costume back in the 1920s. This, by the way, is the only Halloween photograph I have of any family member, myself included, wearing a costume.  Back on the South Side of Chicago, Halloween was for kids and was considered a minor event, unlike it is these days here in Denver, where virtually everyone downtown is dressed up in costume and wandering the streets.  Back in Chicago, kids put on makeshift costumes and went trick or treating for a few hours every October 31st and that was that. Adults didn't wear masks unless they had a legitimate excuse, like holding up a convenience store.  And even here in Denver, after today, no one will have the experience until next year of going into a restaurant and sitting next to a table of zombies, unless of course they really are zombies.  In which case, I should definitely have paid more attention to what the "zombie experts" were saying at the Denver Art Museum's Final Friday event the other day.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Halloween At The DAM

I went to the final "Final Friday" of the year at the Denver Art Museum (The DAM) last night and had a great time.  The theme of the evening was - naturally - Halloween and the supernatural, and there were talks given by mediums, zombie experts (yes, I was surprised to hear there are zombie experts, too), and DAM staff members who have had experiences with the supernatural.  The woman at the top right in the photograph above is Gina Laurin, a conservator at the museum who spoke to visitors about her many paranormal experiences while working as a conservator and archaeologist.  Laurin told some great ghost stories and evidently has the gift of being able to relate to the spirit world.  This is obvious, of course, considering the fact that the ghost family posing for the photograph above decided to attend her talk, too.  Also, just to add an unrelated historical footnote, Fidel Castro also attended the talk.  He can be seen in the upper left corner of the photo.  I think he is looking for a house here.