Thursday, April 30, 2015
Forty year ago today I was down in Jensen Beach, Florida - along with my parents Nelson and Mary - staying at a cottage on the Indian River (seen in the photo above) while we visited my Uncle Bill and Aunt Elsie and took a look at Stuart, Florida for the first time. My father very much wanted to retire down in Florida and play golf for the years he had remaining, which turned out to be a mere 8 more. My mother hated to leave Chicago, and only moved down there to please my father. She actually wound up loving the place, and lived there happily for 30 years. In any case, I remember sitting in that cottage on this day 40 years ago and listening on the radio to the fall of Saigon, marking the end of the United States' involvement in Vietnam. Ten years of fighting, the loss of over 58,000 American lives, not to mention the loss of over 1 million Vietnamese lives, and all for nothing. Talk about a sad anniversary.
Wednesday, April 29, 2015
I mentioned in yesterday's Blog that it has been 20 years since Coors Field opened. As much as I am amazed by that fact, I find it even harder to believe that it has been over 30 years since I managed the Hatch's Bookstore in the University Hills Mall here in Denver. The Hatch's Bookstore chain is long gone now, as is the University Hills Mall itself, but I keep in touch with many of the people who used to work there. My friend Stuart - standing on the right in the photo on the left and wearing his trademark (at the time) Groucho glasses - is frequently featured on this Blog. Sitting on the step in the front row are (from left to right) Maggie, now head of The Colorado Center for the Book, Lisa, my then wife, currently an elementary school teacher in San Francisco, and Carrie, who went off to New York City and became editor in chief for a major publishing house. My sister Susan and friend Robin, although not in the photograph, also worked at Hatch's, and are often featured on this Blog. Bruce, in the back row on the left, moved to Wyoming to become an archaeologist for the highway department, and was never heard from again. That happens a lot to people who move to Wyoming. Frankly, I advise people to not even drive through the state, let alone move there.
Tuesday, April 28, 2015
Unfortunately, just like Elvis, Jack Kerouac has left the building for good. However, there are plenty of places here in Denver that Kerouac used to hang out in with fellow Beat Generation Poet Neil Cassady. Cassady grew up in Denver, and Kerouac spent a lot of time here. In fact, Kerouac actually bought a house in the Denver suburb of Lakewood. Lakewood? It boggles the mind - at least my mind, anyway. Kerouac moved his entire family there from New York, but they hated it so much, they only stayed a month. Surprise! In any case, as I have mentioned on this Blog before, one of the places Kerouac and Cassady used to hang out in was the Terminal Bar, located in what at the time was Denver's skid row. These days, the Terminal Bar has been remodeled into Jax Fish House, and is located in yuppie and millennial heaven. And just why is seafood so popular in a city a thousand miles from the sea? I attribute it all to legalized marijuana, plain and simple.
Monday, April 27, 2015
Yesterday was the 20th anniversary of Coors Field, home of the Colorado Rockies Baseball Club, but the celebration was quickly squashed when the game was postponed due to an all-day, cold soaking rain. My friend Stuart and I attended that first game at Coors Field 20 years ago. It was Opening Day (Opening Night, actually), and it was cold as hell. The game lasted 14 miserable innings, until Dante Bichette ended it with a home run. Personally, I feel they should have played yesterday's game anyway. If the game was played last night, the miserable conditions of twenty years go would have been recreated almost exactly, giving today's fans a taste of what it was like. And how are the Rockies doing this year, you ask? Not half bad, although when they win it seems to be against poor or mediocre teams. When they play the better teams, they lose. Am I the only one who notices this disturbing pattern? Evidently. Everyone still talks about going to the playoffs when the Rockies beat doormat teams. Go figure.
Sunday, April 26, 2015
"Forbear being out after midnight when the powers of evil are exalted," if I might paraphrase the advice given by Sir Hugo Baskerville to his sons, in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's famous short story The Hound of the Baskervilles. That has been pretty hard for me, lately, since I have been working two or three night a week until 12:15 a.m. at a part time job, in order to keep the home fires burning, not to mention the electricity on. In any case, I have not seen any hell hounds wandering the streets after I leave work, but you do meet an interesting assortment of characters working those hours. Which I assume is what people think to themselves about me when our paths cross at that hour. In other words, it's all good. Still living the dream.
Saturday, April 25, 2015
Yesterday evening the Denver Art Museum (The DAM) held it's Final Friday event. It was a pretty subdued affair this month, which gave me the chance to visit the Joan Miro exhibit now on display at the museum. There were a number of guided tours of this exhibit, but none of them explained the really important questions, such as why was he named Joan? Was it a traditional Spanish male name? This, of course, reminds me of the story of the famous Washington Post sportswriter Shirley Povich (father of television sleaze host Maury Povich). Shirley Povich grew up in a small town with a large Russian Jewish immigrant population,. and Shirley was a traditional male name. There were several men named Shirley in the town, and when a girl named Shirley moved in, everyone thought that was absolutely hilarious. But of course, with a name like Shirley, it did cause some confusion. Povich was named to the list of Most Notable American Women one year, and the biography clearly stated that he was married to a woman and had two children. That entry got a lot of publicity, and the next year he was dropped from the list (just like he had married a stripper or something, as Povich puts it). I suspect Miro's experience was not nearly as colorful, but hey - what do I know? I 'm just a kid from the South Side of Chicago.
Friday, April 24, 2015
I haven't given much thought to David Von Drehle in about 25 years or so, but recently I saw that an article he wrote was the cover story in that week's Time Magazine. Von Drehle graduated from the University of Denver the year before I started working at the DU Bookstore. I never met him, but his mother worked at DU's library and used to come into the store quite a bit. At that time David Von Drehle worked at the Miami Herald. His mother was very proud of him, and told me his ambition was to be a political writer. Since he was from Colorado, where Gary Hart was about to launch his presidential campaign, the Herald was planning to let him cover the campaign. Then Hart was discovered by reporters on the boat "Monkey Business, " in the company of model Donna Rice, and Von Drehle's dream of covering the 1988 presidential campaign evaporated. It does not appear Von Drehle let that keep him back. Soon afterward he became the Washington Post's New York Bureau Chief, and later went on to become Editor at Large at Time Magazine. I wonder if Von Drehle will be at University of Denver Alumni Night at the Colorado Rockies game this July? Time to network!
Thursday, April 23, 2015
My friends Ana Silvia and Joe are heading off to Florida to visit friends in Fort Lauderdale next week, and afterwards will visit Ocala and Gainesville to see if they might want to move to beautiful and affordable North Florida. When I heard this, I immediately told Ana Silvia to take the boat trip on The Jungle Queen, which cruises the waters around the City of Fort Lauderdale. It leaves from Bahia Mar Marina, close to the Fort Lauderdale Beaches, and cruises up the New River - past the homes of multi-millionaires - to an island in the middle of the river, where there is a tropical atmosphere and exotic animals are on exhibit. My mother Mary, sister Susan, and I had a wonderful afternoon taking this cruise many years ago, and I am sure that it is just as nice these days, too. Bahia Mar Marina, by the way, was where literary hero Travis McGee used to live aboard his houseboat, The Busted Flush. There is even a plaque there marking the spot. Of course, since the Travis McGee mystery adventures are a bit out of date, I imagine just old guys - plus me - probably still care. Happy travels!
Wednesday, April 22, 2015
Every August when I would visit my mother (second from the right in the photograph above) down in Stuart, Florida, we would play golf on the nine hole course that winds through the complex. One year, unbeknownst to me, the course rules were changed, and men were now required to wear shirts with collars while playing golf. I will forever remember the day that I was playing on the course in a T-shirt and was hunted down by Mr. Gagliardi, the volunteer course monitor, driving his golf cart 90 miles an hour down the fairway, headed right at me. Gagliardi was furious, and unceremoniously threw me off the course. The following year I did venture out on the course again (wearing the proper attire, of course), but never fully got over the trauma. Even today I break out in a cold sweat when I don a T-shirt to wear while bicycling. Nothing a few decades of psychotherapy won't cure, I'm sure.
Tuesday, April 21, 2015
Every time I go the Central Library here in Denver, my eyes are drawn to the sign over the north wing of the building announcing the Burnham Hoyt Room. When I lived in Chicago, our family was the only Hoyt family living there, but out here in Denver the place is filthy with Hoyts. Burnham Hoyt was an architect who designed the north wing of the Central Library, Red Rocks Amphitheater, as well as many other structures here in Colorado. Another prominent figure in Colorado was Palmer Hoyt, for many years the publisher of the Denver Post. Back when I was the Manager of the Hatch's Bookstore in the University Hills Mall in Southeast Denver, his widow, Helen May Hoyt, used to come into the store and chat with me. She was, by the way, the queen of Denver society at the time. One day she invited me to her son's house for a big get-together. Finally - I was about to enter Denver high society! I drove to her son's house, and was introduced to him by Helen and led to a seat in the living room. There was a blackboard at the front of the room, and a short while later her son walked to the front of the room, pointed to a circle on it, and said "This is you." It was an introduction I was well familiar with. Just a week earlier my then wife Lisa and I attended a similar gathering at the house of a friend of hers, where we were asked to become Amway distributors. So much for entering high society. Blind ambition foiled again.
Monday, April 20, 2015
I stopped by the Wizard's Chest here in Denver Saturday afternoon to visit with Doug, my old friend and former co-worker at the University of Denver Bookstore. Doug is the resident magician at the Wizard's Chest on Saturdays, in addition to his regular job as the DU Bookstore's Textbook Manager. Doug tells me he is going to "semi-retire" this coming June and start working just part-time at the Bookstore. I would have taken a photograph of Doug Saturday for this Blog post, but Doug has become very camera-shy over the past few years. Instead, I am featuring a photograph of him (on the left), along with Marty, another former DU Bookstore employee (on the right), taken in Paris back in 1888 as the Eiffel Tower was being built. When I say Doug is my old friend, I mean REALLY old. For that matter, Marty is no spring chicken, either. Good Luck Doug!
Sunday, April 19, 2015
I stopped by Peter Barton (Random Rich Guy) Stadium Saturday afternoon to check out how the University of Denver Lacrosse Team was faring against rival Providence (I think that is back east somewhere, isn't it?) in DU's final home game of the season. I only stayed a few minutes, observing the action from the cheap seats. After all, it is only Lacrosse. I guess I am still bitter about DU tearing down it's baseball stadium to put up a parking lot, and then eliminating the baseball program after their long-time coach retired. Of course, as far as I know, they let him retire on his own terms, as opposed to laying him off and telling him he had the option of "retiring," which happened to me after 30 years, when the DU Bookstore was outsourced. Of course, the baseball coach retired years ago, when it was a kinder, gentler DU. But as I have said many times, I am not bitter about that. In fact, I am thinking of going to DU Alumni Baseball Night this July on the party deck at Coors Field to see the Colorado Rockies play ball. There will be a two hour pre-game meet and greet that night, which would give me the the opportunity to let everyone who attended know how not bitter I am. But I digress. DU won the game against Providence 13-9, have now won 15 games in a row at home, and are on their way to the playoffs. Too bad it is just Lacrosse.
Saturday, April 18, 2015
I just finished reading the book Blue Moon the other night. It is one of a series of mystery novels by John Leslie, and takes place in Key West, Florida (aka Key Weird). I read the first book in the series about ten years ago, and after seeing the above book on a web site while looking for a different title, decided to get it out of the library and read it. As you can tell, I am a strong believer in not rushing into anything. That is why I was still searching - after 28 years - for just the right car radio to install when my classic 1987 Honda Civic broke down for good a few months ago. As far as I am concerned, 28 years without a car radio is a small price to pay if you eventually find the right deal.
Friday, April 17, 2015
It was snowing yesterday morning when I drove to work, and it was snowing in the evening when I left. It was still snowing this morning, too. I am now officially "over" winter. However, when I mention this to a lot of people here in Denver, they tell me they actually like the change in weather and enjoy the snow. Of course, a lot of people here are crazy. Probably all transplants from California.
Thursday, April 16, 2015
My maternal grandparents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary at our home in the Southern Suburbs of Chicago back in 1968, and I have a box of slides of that occasion taken by Mr. Hess, the stepfather of my cousin Betty's husband. Seated on the couch in the above photograph - from left to right - are my Great Aunt Babe (Florence) McNally, Viola Miller (an old family friend), and my Grandmother Louise Spillard. Aunt Babe and Grandmother Spillard were the last of 6 children. They were born in St. Estache, Quebec, on the family farm, but the family would travel to Chicago during the winter, where my Great Grandfather Charles St. Pierre, worked as a carpenter. Until I recently read my mother's notes about the family, I had no idea that my grandmother and her sisters were born in Quebec, and later became naturalized US citizens. One time many years later, Aunt Babe, her husband, and children went to Canada on vacation, and when they came back, the US border agents - learning that Babe was born in Canada - refused to let her back into the country. It was a very emotional scene, from what I heard, but they finally relented and let her back in. Ever vigilant, these border patrol guys.
Wednesday, April 15, 2015
Yes. Once again the forecast here in Denver is for snow, and of course the weather bunnies do not know just how much yet. A few flurries or a few feet - it is still up in the air, so to speak. Time to once again think about the good old days back in Stuart, Florida. I took the above photograph a few years ago at sunset in the Japanese garden just outside of the Benihana of Tokyo in Sewall's Point, an exclusive neighborhood just to the east of Stuart. Years ago my parents and I went there for the sunset special, back when we were all young and adventurous. Whenever I mention that place, my mother always used to recall the story of how the chef put on a show as he chopped vegetables at the table, and was able to launch one right into my shirt pocket. I myself don't remember that at all. Was my mother's memory faulty, or is mine? We'll never know. The acorn never falls far from the tree, after all.
Tuesday, April 14, 2015
I'm afraid it is finally time to say goodbye to my old Swiss Army watch. It was given to me by my brother-in-law many years ago as a Christmas gift. My mother, who was sitting next to me when I unwrapped it Christmas morning, pronounced it the ugliest watch she had ever seen. When I visited her in back in Stuart, Florida the following August, she insisted on buying me a Timex watch at the Treasure Coast Mall, and told me never to wear the Swiss Army watch again, except when I was in the presence of my brother-in-law. My friend Wally, my former colleague at the DU Bookstore, wanted to know if I got the watch free with a magazine subscription. When I went back to Chicago several years ago I unknowingly dropped the watch on the grave-site of Confederate soldiers at Oakwoods cemetery. When I realized it was gone, I went back, but the gates were closed. I returned the next morning, and it was right where I had dropped it. It was too ugly to steal. And now the Swiss Army company has stopped making parts for it. What is the Swiss Army coming to?
Monday, April 13, 2015
Writing about Chicago baseball teams and players, not to mention Wrigley Field, a few days ago, I have been feeling pretty nostalgic about my hometown of Chicago. And therefore today I have decided to feature a photograph of two Chicago icons - The Berghoff Restaurant in the Loop and Studs Terkel, noted Chicago author, radio personality, and all-around good guy. The Berghoff has been an institution in Chicago for decades. Studs, of course, has written many oral histories of people from all walks of live, and had his own show on WFMT radio for many years, too. Studs was not the most organized of people, however, and his office at WFMT evidently looked like a disaster area. In fact, it was referred to as his room, not his office. It just goes to show that organization isn't everything, as I often tell my boss at work.
Sunday, April 12, 2015
I just hate doing income taxes. It is complicated and takes forever - by which I mean the entire weekend, which is increasingly becoming my definition of taking forever. That is why I wait until the last weekend before April 15th to do them. Even when I am getting money back, I always wind up putting them off. My friend Valarie - my former colleague at the University of Denver Bookstore, where I was the Finance Manager - tells me I should simply pay someone like H&R Block to do them for me. What? Pay someone hundreds of dollars to do something I can do myself just as well, if not better? No Way Jose! After finding out just how much it costs to have a tax preparer do your taxes, I have begun to think that a weekend of misery each year is probably good for the soul.
Saturday, April 11, 2015
I took the day off from both my jobs yesterday to attend the Home Opener at Coors Field between the Colorado Rockies and the Chicago Cubs. It was a beautiful day, and the streets of Lower Downtown Denver were packed with fans. Opening Day has become a popular party day here in Denver, rivaling even St. Patrick's Day. It was especially crowded yesterday because the Rockies were playing the Cubs, who have a huge following out here. In any case, I took the above photograph of the pregame festivities, which included a father and son looking at the action. It reminded me of the first baseball game my father took me to many years ago. It was in 1961, when I was 8 years old. Although we lived on the South Side of Chicago in the Brainerd neighborhood and were Chicago White Sox fans, my father took me to Wrigley Field to see the Cubs play the Philadelphia Phillies that day. I think it must have been a subliminal acknowledgement that Wrigley Field was the nicest ballpark in which to watch a game, but when I asked him about it years later, my father told me it was because the Phillies were in the process of setting the modern day baseball record for most consecutive losses, and that the Cubs would have a better than even chance of actually winning a game. And he was right! The Cubs did indeed win that day, and the Phillies went on to lose 23 games in a row. Will the Cubs - or even the Rockies - best that record this year and go into the history books? Stay tuned. By the way, the Rockies beat the Cubs 5 to 1 and are now 4 and 0 for the season. Break up the Rockies!
Friday, April 10, 2015
Today is the Colorado Rockies home opener at Coors Field. The Rockies started the 2015 baseball season in Milwaukee this past Monday, and won all three games, and so naturally, with only 159 games left to play, people are already talking World Series (or World Serious, as the "Busher" called it in Ring Lardner's book "You Know Me, Al." However, since I was born and raised on the South Side of Chicago and am therefore first and foremost a Chicago baseball fan, in honor of Opening Day I have decided to feature two of Chicago's greatest baseball icons, both of whom have recently passed away. Positioned in front of the Comiskey Park Scoreboard ( a photograph I took back in 1980) are, on the left, Ernie Banks, the great Chicago Cubs shortstop and first baseman, and on the right, Minnie Minoso, star outfielder for the Chicago White Sox back when I was a mere slip of a lad in the South Side neighborhood of Brainerd. Just by coincidence, Ernie Banks was the first black baseball player for the Chicago Cubs, and Minnie Minoso was the first black player for the Chicago White Sox. Banks went on to be known as Mr. Cub and Minoso Mr. White Sox. Let's play two, guys!
Thursday, April 9, 2015
I talked to my friend Ana Silvia (who is also my brother-in-law George's cousin), and she tells me that she and her husband Joe - seen in the above photograph taken on the balcony of my condo - are thinking of leaving Denver and moving to Florida. They currently own two condos here in Denver, but would like to buy a house and feel that they have been priced out of the Denver market. They are considering either Ocala or Gainesville, both smaller communities in the north central part of the state. Trying to be helpful, I strongly advised them to move to Gainesville, home of the University of Florida. That is what I would do if I had to choose between the two, since Gainesville would have more of the hip, "with-it" crowd that I naturally fit in with. And yes - if you move there, I will visit. Make sure my room is ready and the beer is cold when I arrive.
Wednesday, April 8, 2015
I have taken a lot of photographs in my lifetime, as many of my friends and loved ones will tell you. In fact, many of these same friends and loved ones have threatened me over some of these photographs. As people get older, they sometimes become more sensitive about having their photograph taken. My Grandmother Spillard used to take a scissors and cut out her face from photographs that she didn't like. My sister Susan drove me out of her kitchen with a knife a few weeks ago to keep me from taking a photograph of her. However, I personally believe that photographs of friends and family at any age are priceless, such as the two above of my mother and her family. The top photograph was taken of the Spillard family in front of their apartment on the South Side of Chicago sometime in the 1930s. From left to right are my mother Mary, my Uncle Jack, my Grandfather William (Bill), Grandmother Louise, and my Uncle Bill. The bottom photograph was taken at my grandparent's 50th wedding anniversary party, held back in 1968 at our home in the Southern Suburbs of Chicago. In that photograph my grandparents are standing in the back, and from left to right on the couch are my Uncle Jack, mother Mary, and Uncle Bill. What great memories these photos evoke. Is photography a wonderful thing or what?
Tuesday, April 7, 2015
I just finished reading The Big Finish, James W. Hall's latest and (according to the dust jacket) his final "Thorn" mystery novel. The series features an outcast Key Largo resident named Thorn who is always getting into various jams and adventures along with his detective friend Sugarman, usually in the Florida Keys. I thought this latest mystery was very good, and am perplexed why Hall intends to make it his last book in the series. Probably due to income tax problems. That damn IRS ruins everything (and if the IRS happens to be reading this, I'm just kidding, guys).
Monday, April 6, 2015
I drove up to Fort Collins after work Sunday evening to have Easter dinner with my sister Susan and brother-in-law George. Susan has become rather camera shy these days, and at first she refused to be photographed. I pointed out that I was the one who drove 70 miles north to celebrate with them and also was the one who brought the beer. I added a few tears to the mix, too, but only got her consent when I threatened to go home and take the beer with me. Do professional photographers have this kind of trouble, too?
Sunday, April 5, 2015
I know. I know. I used this exact same photograph last Easter, and more than likely the Easter before that, too. But it is the only photograph in my possession that I know for sure was taken on Easter Sunday. Plus, it was taken when I was at my most charming best, as opposed to now, no longer called "the kid," even in the retirement communities of Florida. I have gone from the Dean's List to the mailing list for local mortuaries here in Denver in the blink of an eye. Of course, I am now working part-time for a national drugstore chain 3 evenings a week, and viewing some of the clientele, I can see that I am far ahead of the curve health-wise. So no more complaints. Just a bunch of whining.
Saturday, April 4, 2015
At my part-time job I usually work until midnight, and working those hours you meet some pretty interesting characters and hear some pretty interesting conversations. A few weeks ago I overheard two guys discussing a mutual friend who drove to Juarez, Mexico to have dinner with his girlfriend. There was some kind of disagreement, and he wound up leaving her there in Juarez, but I was not able to hear the details. In any case, it was a 10 hour drive to Juarez, and it surprised me to learn how close Mexico was to Denver. Kind of reassuring, too. If you need to leave the country in a hurry and can't show your face at the airport, that would definitely be the way to go. Of course, my passport has expired, but on that kind of trip, I guess it doesn't matter.
Friday, April 3, 2015
Yesterday I helped pack up the books at the Highlands Ranch branch of the local bookstore chain where I work, and today I am off to the Aspen Grove Shopping Center in south suburban Littleton, Colorado, to help unpack all those books at the new location. I must say that I was never crazy about the Highlands Ranch bookstore. The store looked very much like a Barnes and Noble, and people were always writing their checks out to that particular establishment when they paid for their books, to the great frustration of the staff. The new location is smaller, but with a lot more atmosphere, and even includes a fireplace to gather around on chilly winter evenings. Kind of like what an independent bookstore should look like. Plus, on a personal note, I used to deliver mail in Highlands Ranch as a rural carrier for the Post Office, and a number of times, as the temperature dropped to 30 degrees below zero and the time approached midnight, the devil himself (a local Highlands Ranch resident), used to appear in front of each postal box as I approached, laughing mockingly. Which I sometimes found a bit disturbing. The rest of the time my reaction was simply "whatever," as I recall.
Thursday, April 2, 2015
I couldn't help but notice that baseball was in the headline of the Denver Post sport's section a few days ago for the first time this year. And why not - Opening Day is a mere 4 days away! Yes! Four days! Let the good times roll! Let's Play Two, as Ernie Banks used to day. It is always good fun to watch your favorite team drop still another double header. Gear up, Colorado Rockies Fans. It is going to be a long season
Wednesday, April 1, 2015
As long as I have it, I might as well include the photograph of my former DU Bookstore colleague's cat that I took this past Sunday afternoon, to go along with the picture of Sailor the Dog that I also took that day. As an added bonus, I swear that the cat - Stella - is sitting on a chair that used to be located on the DU Bookstore's sales floor, before it was outsourced to Follett Higher Education Group. The chair looks much better than it did when it was on the sales floor, but it is hard not to recognize. As for the cat, it was a friendly beast, and actually liked to be petted. It really is a cat? Amazing?