Saturday, October 31, 2015
Today is Halloween - a major holiday here in Denver - and to celebrate, I am featuring a photograph of my mother Mary (in the photograph on the left) and my sister Susan (on the right) taken at an Arts and Crafts Festival in Vero Beach, Florida many years ago. My sister and I went down to Stuart, Florida to visit my mother and father a number of times around Halloween. My sister really would get into the spirit of things, buying Halloween tablecloths, napkins, and treats. One Halloween, the 4 of us took a road trip up to Savannah, Georgia and Charleston, South Carolina and on the way home - stopping at a motel in St. Augustine - Susan found a black kitten that seemed to have no home. Susan insisted on taking it back home to Stuart, and my mother insisted it be put right back outside. As I recall, my father and I stayed neutral on the matter, which was the wisest possible choice, let me tell you. Ah, the memories.
Friday, October 30, 2015
I must admit that I was kind of disappointed when my friend Mark told me he didn't bring back a Putin Bobblehead Doll from Russia, where he recently traveled on vacation with his family. I know if he was caught with one, he would probably have been arrested and sent to a Gulag in Siberia, but that wouldn't be a problem. I would simply write to the KGB (or it's modern incarnation) and have them send the Bobblehead on to me here in Denver. However, I am happy to report that I spotted a Pope Francis Bobblehead Doll - the last one, I might add - on display last night at the bookstore where I work as a bookkeeper, and immediately snapped it up. I am sure it will be worth a fortune some day - probably not until after I am long gone, but you can't have everything. What a coup!
Thursday, October 29, 2015
Halloween is a mere 2 days away, and therefore I am featuring a photograph of my mother Mary and her cousin Junior, taken one Halloween back - I am guessing - in the 1920s on the South Side of Chicago, near 57th and Prairie. It looks to me like they are both wearing homemade costumes, as most kids did back then. It was a much simpler time, and nothing like today, when Halloween is celebrated as a major holiday (at least in Denver) and no expense is spared in buying costumes, trinkets, and candy. At the chain drugstore where I work part-time in the evenings, you can buy giant skulls, full size skeletons, and even hair spray that turns your hair whatever color you want it to be. What I especially like are the Halloween phones, which when picked up deliver a spooky and - I might add - very loud message perhaps 1000 times over a 7 hour shift. It's a lucky thing I am already crazy.
Wednesday, October 28, 2015
I took the above photograph last Sunday afternoon as I went in to work the 5:00 to Midnight shift at my part-time job. People are crazy about their pets these days. They put them in their shopping carts as they cruise the aisles at the local grocery store, drive all over town with their dog's head hanging out the window, and even dress them up in little outfits during the holidays. A number of dogs wear vests that state that they are "service dogs," although I have heard you can buy these on the internet, thus allowing you to take your pet into restaurants and onto airplanes. I recently read a book by Al Martinez, the late columnist for the Los Angeles Times, in which he claimed that someone actually brought a "service kangaroo" onto an airplane. How would you like to be sitting next to that? I wonder if they had to buy two seats?
Tuesday, October 27, 2015
I dropped off my (relatively) new Hyundai Accent at the dealership Friday morning to have the seat belts fixed before the warranty runs out. I was going to take the bus to work, but was persuaded to take the dealership's shuttle. I wound up riding through every corner of the City of Aurora, Colorado, which took roughly an hour longer than the bus and was less enjoyable than you might think. Therefore, when I went to pick up the car Friday afternoon, I decided to take the East Colfax bus back to the dealership. The trip was more than a ride - it was an adventure. Going either East or West, the Colfax bus always seems to have a large number of eccentrics (i.e. crazies) on board, or perhaps - to be fair - they might just be aliens from another planet. Unfortunately, I had to get off at Havana Avenue to transfer to another bus, and was kind of disappointed about it. I really wanted to ride to the end of the line to see the alien landing strip, but perhaps I'll do that on my next day off. May the Force Be With You.
Monday, October 26, 2015
The University of Denver, my Alma mater and my employer for 30 years, until they outsourced the DU Bookstore, is getting still another new tower, which I can see from the front window of my condo, along with the towers on the Ritchie Center and the Law School. This new tower is part of the expansion of the Korbel School of International Studies building, one of the university's most popular departments. There is also a new science building under construction across the street from Korbel, which will probably have a tower too. I am not sure why DU is putting a tower on every single new building on campus. In Italy, back in medieval times, they would build buildings with towers so that the family would have a place to seek refuge when the town was attacked. Perhaps DU is worried that it might be stormed by hordes of angry, laid off ex-employees. Just a thought. And I am still not bitter.
Sunday, October 25, 2015
Mark has returned from his trip to Russia and says that it was the best vacation he has ever had. He also says that he liked Moscow best, because it truly felt Russian, whereas St. Petersburg has more of a European feel. And so the trip was a great success. The only negative note is that Mark did not bring back a Putin Bobblehead Doll for me. I had visions of him going into the back streets of Moscow, making contact with some anti-government shopkeeper, making the purchase, and then smuggling the doll through customs under the very noses of the KGB. Of course, under that scenario, if he got caught, Mark would still be in Russia now, a guest of the government. Of course, then I could simply write to the KGB (or whatever they call themselves these days) and have them send the Bobble-head along. No problem.
Saturday, October 24, 2015
As long as we have been focusing on sports and baseball this past week, today I have decided to feature a photograph of my mother Mary, taken at a Florida State League baseball game at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, Florida. At the time my mother was living with me here in Denver, but we would go back down to Stuart, Florida every 4 months or so to check out her condo, visit neighbors, and see the eye doctor. She was always a good sport, and didn't mind occasionally going to the baseball game to see the Jupiter Hammerheads play. It is a long way from the Florida State League to the World Series, which starts in a few days, but going to the baseball game is all about the people you go with, which means that attending those Florida State League games with my mother so many years ago beats out a ticket to the World Series every time.
Friday, October 23, 2015
Thursday, October 22, 2015
I went with my friend Stuart to see the 4th game of the National League Championship Series between the Chicago Cubs and the New York Mets last night at the Old Chicago Restaurant in beautiful, exotic, Lakewood, Colorado. Not only did the Cubs lose both the game 8 to 3 and the series 4 to nothing, but when I went to take a Blog photograph of Stuart, both my camera batteries were dead. Talk about disasters. I did try to take a photograph of Stuart with my cell phone, but found I could not upload it into my computer but only e-mail it, which I was unable to do. That is why I had to resort to using the above photograph of Stuart taken at Hatch's Bookstore back in the 1980s, when he wore Groucho glasses on a regular basis. Eventually he traded them in for a regular pair of glasses, to help improve his career prospects. Good move. But yet again I digress. The point is that the Cubs have lost the National League Championship Series, and the Curse of the Billy Goat lives on. And as a former Chicago South Sider and current Chicago White Sox fan who is used to hopeless situations, I must remind everyone here and now that I strongly recommended not to bet the farm on the Cubs. I hope to God you didn't, people. I doubt even die hard Cubs fans did. In their hearts they knew this was going to happen. Tradition is tradition.
Wednesday, October 21, 2015
The trees have begun to turn, as can be seen in the photograph on the left that I took while driving to work - a tricky but necessary maneuver when you have no time left to take any other photos. Plus, the sun has already set when I leave work each evening, as seen in the photograph below that I took as I walked out of the Bookstore where I work last night. Although we have had fairly mild weather here in Denver up to now, today it is rainy and cold, with more of the same predicted for the rest of the week,and I'm sure our first snowfall is not far behind.
Most Denverites say that Fall is their favorite season, but not me. I prefer it in the mid-eighties every day, as opposed to one or two pleasant days a week, with chilly, cold, rainy, and often snow filled days the rest of the week. In other words, I am a big Global Warming fan. As the heroine in the vampire movie "Only Lovers Will Survive" stated, once Global Warming truly hits, cities such as Detroit will be the place to be. Make your real estate investments now, before the East and West Coasts are underwater.
Tuesday, October 20, 2015
My friend Mark sent me an e-mail from Russia the other day, where he and his family are cruising the rivers and lakes of the former USSR. They started in Moscow and are heading to St. Petersburg, seeing all the sights in-between. I asked Mark to get me a Putin Bobble-head Doll ( I am sure they are very popular there), and so I hope he comes through. I also told him to let everyone he meets there know how unhappy we all are with Putin, and that maybe it is time for another uprising. I'm sure the Russian authorities will realize that it is all in good fun. Otherwise I might never see that Putin Bobble-head.
Monday, October 19, 2015
I visited the Denver Zoo yesterday to have a "Giraffe Encounter," but once again the giraffes refused to be encountered. I therefore walked around the zoo and took the photograph above of the Black and White Colobus. As I have mentioned on this Blog before, these monkeys appear to be VERY depressed and the Denver Zoo has obviously not taken my advice to feed them Valium or some other mood enhancing drug. Being locked up for the rest of your life is obviously a pretty depressing prospect, but these monkeys seem to be especially down. Perhaps if they don't want to put drugs in their food, the Denver Zoo could let visitors take these monkeys home every weekend to cheer them up. What could possibly go wrong?
Sunday, October 18, 2015
I went to the Denver Zoo this afternoon to take photographs at the "Giraffe Encounter," but as usual, the "Tummies are Full" sign was up, and without food, those damn giraffes don't want anything to do with you. And so instead I wandered around the zoo looking for animals actually wanting their portraits taken. I was very surprised that the mandrill in the photograph above was out in plain sight and actually posed for me. These creatures are usually very shy and go into hiding whenever I try to take a photo of them. Kind of like DU Bookstore employees. But don't get me started on that subject.
Saturday, October 17, 2015
I work on the sales floor of the Bookstore where I am employed for two and a half hours each week, to make sure I remember how to operate the cash register when the Christmas season rolls around. That is the time of year when everyone in the store has to help out on the floor. A couple of weeks ago, while I was at the register, a customer purchased The Big Book of Lionel, and we talked a bit about our respective train sets. The customer looked a lot like the father in Frasier, cane and all (in other words, much older than me), and talked about his experiences with his train set in the 1950s and his plans to set it up again in his basement. I told him about how my father would set up my train set on Christmas Eve each year while I was asleep, and how I would play with it all Christmas morning (see the photograph above that I took in the early 1960s of the living room floor of our house in the South Side Chicago Brainerd neighborhood). Of course, my father is no longer around to set up the train, and therefore it has sat in various attics and storage lockers for the past 50 years or so. Because of this nostalgic feeling, will I set up the train under the Christmas tree this year on the floor of my condo? Why not? It's not possible that people would believe I could be any crazier, is it?. On the other hand, maybe I'll set it up next year instead.
Friday, October 16, 2015
I say yes - it is no longer "our" anniversary, but it still an anniversary. Although we divorced in 1987, I still remember that long ago day on October 16th, 1982 when Lisa and I were married at the First United Methodist Church in Golden, Colorado. Since Lisa and her parents were Catholic, we had both the Pastor of First United (where Lisa was the choir director) and Father Bob, a friend and Catholic priest at St. Thomas Seminary (just down the road from where I live here in Denver), perform the ceremonies. The photograph above was taken via a tripod and timer at the Maroon Bells, just outside of Aspen, Colorado, while we were on our honeymoon. What can I say? Those were happy days which eventually turned sour. I am now older and wiser. Okay - make that a lot older and just a little bit wiser.
Thursday, October 15, 2015
With the Chicago Cubs victory over the St. Louis Cardinals at Wrigley Field the other day, putting them in the National League Champion Series, I started getting all nostalgic about Chicago once again and began leafing through a copy of The Best of Mike Royko: One More Time - a collection of the late Tribune columnist's best pieces. The very last article in the book was about the infamous curse of the Billy Goat. As I mentioned in yesterday's Blog post, Bill Sianis, owner of the Billy Goat Tavern in Chicago - tried to bring his pet goat to a Cubs game back in 1945, was turned away, and afterwards put a curse on the team. That curse has lasted to this day. Royko says in the article that we should stop blaming some poor goat and blame the real culprit - actually an old goat, former team owner P.K. Wrigley. Just after the start of the curse, Branch Rickey broke the color barrier in baseball and drafted Jackie Robinson. After that, most major league teams began drafting talented black players from the old Negro Leagues. Most, but not all. The Cubs did not draft any black players until 1953, and while other teams became far more competitive, the Cubs sank into the lower division and stayed there for decades. The habit of losing became acceptable, and the team has been languishing ever since. Is this the year they finally break through and win it all? I say no, but then again, I am just a White Sox fan from the South Side of Chicago. And what do White Sox fans know? In point of fact, we know all about losing. So good luck to the Chicago Cubs, but expect the worst.
Wednesday, October 14, 2015
My friend Stuart (seen in the photograph above) and I had burgers and beers at the Old Chicago Restaurant on Colorado Boulevard here in Denver last night and watched the Chicago Cubs win the National League Division Series and move on the the National League playoffs. If they win that one, they will be in the World Series for the first time since 1945 and on course to win their first World Series since 1908. Does this mean the curse of the Billy Goat has finally been lifted? Only time will tell. Perhaps because we White Sox fans (the White Sox play on the South Side of Chicago, the Cubs on the North Side) are so used to hopeless situations, we refuse to believe the possibility that a Chicago baseball team can make it all the way. And so I still say, don't be the farm on the Cubs.
Tuesday, October 13, 2015
I stopped by the Old Chicago Restaurant on South Colorado Boulevard here in Denver to see the Chicago Cubs beat the St. Louis Cardinals 8 to 6 last night, putting them just one game away from moving on to the National League Championship Series. Could this be the year the Cubs win their first World Series since 1906? They were, of course, in both the 1932 World Series (when Babe Ruth called his shot in Game 3) and the 1945 World Series (around the time the curse of the Billy Goat began), but lost both times. The curse of the Billy Goat began when Bill Sianis - owner of Chicago's famous Billy Goat Tavern - brought his pet goat to one of the Cub games, but was asked to leave because the goat smelled so bad. He put a curse on the team, and they have not been in a World Series since. Will the curse finally be lifted? Stay tuned.
Monday, October 12, 2015
Yes! It is true! My sister and I signed the lease and e-mailed it back to the realtor (God bless her!) and our Stuart, Florida condo - which my parents moved to from Chicago in 1976 - is rented. For 6 months! That is almost beyond wonderful. It means that we can pay for all 2016 expenses without dipping into my retirement savings (unless of course disaster strikes, which always seems to be lurking out there) and, since the lease expires on May 1st of next year, we will still be able to fly down in August for Dancing In the Streets and even fly down sometime in October, when the temperatures there start to moderate. Is that win-win or what?
Sunday, October 11, 2015
Not according to author and journalist Carl Hiaasen, who wrote a book called Team Rat: How Disney Devours the World. Which is a shame, since Disney World is just a short drive down the Florida Turnpike from Hiaasen's Vero Beach, Florida home. He would be able to go there every weekend. In any case, this makes me think of the first time I went to Disney World during the summer of 1977 (I think) with my sister Susan (on the left in the photograph) and mother Mary (on the right). As I recall, it was a happy day. My parents had moved to Stuart, Florida the previous year. This was the first time Susan had visited Stuart, and insisted on visiting Disney World.
My father Nelson did not join us on this two hour jaunt to Orlando. I think he shared Hiassen's view of the place. He spent all his life working as a dentist in Chicago - a job he truly hated - and finally got to retire to Stuart, Florida at the age of 67. He could now play golf every day with his brother-in-law (my mother's brother Bill) at the condo complex's 9 hole course, sit on the back porch and enjoy the warm Florida weather, and at last lead the good life. As far as he was concerned, Stuart, Florida was the happiest place on earth, so why leave the place to visit Team Rat. But as I said before, my mother, sister, and I did indeed have a nice time that day. And what amazes me is how little Susan and I have aged since that golden afternoon (see photo on right). I have GOT to check that portrait drawn of me in Paris that I have stored in the closet to see if it is aging instead of me. Another item on the to do list.
Saturday, October 10, 2015
My office mate Peter was talking to one of the Bookstore's computer team members, and the discussion turned to the subject of her neighborhood. She has owned a house for many years in what is now called "LoHi," known in English as The Lower Highlands. Since a new place called Avanti Food and Beverage, "A Collective Eatery" opened up at 3200 Pecos Street, the area is even more crowded than ever. Once one of the oldest neighborhoods in Denver, it is now the hippest. New high rise apartments are going up everywhere, not to mention all kinds of new bars and eateries along 32nd Street. When our fellow co-worker was growing up, it was an ordinary middle class neighborhood, and later became one of Denver's poorer neighborhoods, with a crack house on every block. Now it is party central, and often the partying hoards park in her driveway, sit on the grass in front of her house to watch fireworks at nearby Coors Field, and generally make a nuisance of themselves. Plus, her taxes have gone up five-fold in recent years, which would probably have driven me over the edge right there. She now wishes for the good old days of crack houses on every block and taxes that were low low low. Being the hipster I am, I drove over there last night, parked in her driveway (there is no other parking around there), and had a look at Avanti. It was nice, I guess, although most of the patrons were about 40 years younger than me. The rooftop deck has a great view of downtown, there is food court, several hip looking common areas, and both a downstairs and rooftop bar (where most of the action was). However, a pint of beer was $7.50. I don't think I've ever paid $7.50 for a beer before - at least not voluntarily. The price of being a hipster, I guess.
Friday, October 9, 2015
I had lunch with Darrel , the former DU Bookstore Accounts Payable Manager and his wife Linda (on the right in the above photo), and Chris, the former DU Bookstore Accounts Payable Assistant and her husband Jim (on the left), at The Good Son, a restaurant that is in the same building as the Bookstore where I now work as the bookkeeper. Chris picked out the restaurant, and did not realize that I worked in the same building, and so she was a bit worried that I might not find the place. But I did. As a matter of fact, we dined directly over the basement office where I work. Darrel is now retired, and he and Linda are doing a lot of traveling these days, while Chris works 3 days a week at the University of Denver's Chemistry Department. In other words, everyone seems to be living the good life except me. What is wrong with this picture? In any case, both the company and the food were good (Detroit style pizza, no less - who knew?). Great to see all of you guys again! And yes, I did find my way back to work.
Thursday, October 8, 2015
I can't believe it! The Cubs won their playoff game against the Pittsburgh Pirates 4 to nothing yesterday and move on to the National League Division series against the St. Louis Cardinals Friday night. To celebrate this momentous occasion, I am featuring a self portrait I took of myself at Wrigley Field - home of the Chicago Cubs - on Opening Day back in April of 2010. "The Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field" is probably the most beautiful baseball park in the country, and a great place to watch a game, but unfortunately the home field advantage goes to the Cardinals in this series. I wish the Cubs the best of luck, but I still say don't bet the farm on them.
Wednesday, October 7, 2015
Yes! It's true! The long suffering Chicago Cubs are in the playoffs. Tonight they will play the Pittsburgh Pirates to see who will move on to the National League Division Series. It is a one game playoff, and so the Cubs will have only one shot to move on. Considering that the Cubs have not been in a World Series since 1945, they have history solidly against them. Of course, the Cubs are Chicago's North Side team, and I was born and raised on the South Side of Chicago, which is White Sox territory. Naturally, there is a friendly - and sometimes not so friendly - rivalry between the two teams and it's fans, but during the postseason we Chicago baseball fans put aside our differences and root for the home team. But my advice is still not to bet the farm on the Cubs.
Tuesday, October 6, 2015
Once the recession ended, people started moving to Denver in droves, and as a result, there are new construction projects going up all over town. While new high rises are going up in the downtown, LoDo, and Cherry Creek neighborhoods, here in University Park (close to the University of Denver), the apartment projects are more in the range of 5 stories. Just down the block from my condo building, "Modera Observatory Park" is going up quickly and will consist of two 5 story buildings totaling 275 apartments. If you calculate that each apartment will probably house an average of 3 D.U. students, each with a car but only one parking space per unit, we will soon see an additional 550 cars looking for a place to park each evening. It will soon be a 24 hour a day game of musical cars around here, just like the Lincoln Park neighborhood back in Chicago. Can the Denver version of the Lincoln Park Pirates (the University Park Pirates) be far behind? Watch out for those tow trucks, people!
Monday, October 5, 2015
I wanted to take a photograph of Peter - my office mate at the Bookstore where I work - to put on the Blog, but like many of my former colleagues at the University of Denver Bookstore, he does not want his face to appear on the web. I can only assume, like the DU Bookstore employees, that he is also in the Federal Witness Protection Program. And what are the odds of that? Maybe Denver is just a popular place to relocate these desperados. The mind boggles at the thought.
Sunday, October 4, 2015
My Grandfather Spillard was quite the character. He left school at a young age to go into vaudeville in Chicago. He wanted to be an actor and singer, but was advised he wouldn't make it, and so became a song plugger. He just loved show business, and loved meeting and schmoozing with show people when they came to Chicago. In 1918, a Federal Movie Theater Admission Tax was instituted (moving pictures had just started) and he was hired to collect these taxes. Because he did such a good job doing this, he was hired to be a United States narcotics agent, a job he did for many years. However, he still wrote songs and mixed with show people for the rest of his life. On the left is a picture of my Grandmother Louise and Grandfather William at their 50th wedding anniversary party, along with a copy of "Chicago Wants You to Have a Good Time, "written by none other than my Grandfather.
My sister Susan (who is after all MUCH older than I am) remembers this much more clearly than me. My Grandfather and Grandmother Spillard would take her to the circus, where many of these vaudeville actors wound up after vaudeville disappeared. They were getting old by then, and the audience did not think they were very funny, and frequently booed. My sister still talks about how sad this was to see. On a lighter note, Susan recalls that whenever Jimmy Durante came to town, my Grandfather would bring him home for dinner. Susan says my Grandmother did not mind setting an extra plate, and probably didn't even know who he was, other than a pleasant and amusing guest. I assume this was around the time my father Nelson was in Okinawa during World War II and my mother Mary and Susan were living with my grandparents at their first floor flat at 1633 East 85th Place - a golden time for my sister, who along with her best friend Janet were know around the neighborhood as Bad Susan and Bad Janet. And probably well deserved, too. They are pictured in the photograph on the right (Bad Susan on the left, Bad Janet on the right), which I took when I went back to Chicago a few years ago, recounted in my international best seller "The Journey Home: Returning to Chicago." Be sure to check it out at http://www.blurb.com/b/1361398-the-journey-home-returning-to-chicago.
Saturday, October 3, 2015
And as usual, the most popular form of art at this event seem to be the food trucks, which are popping up all over Denver whenever there is an event that draws more than 3 or 4 people. The truck in the photograph on the right has it's own work of art on the side, right over the condiments. I am no culinary expert (think Michelina's Authentico Frozen Entrees), but I guess that particular food truck specializes in Mexican food.
It was once again a very pleasant evening, but it is definitely getting colder here after the sun sets these days, and sunset is coming earlier and earlier. If I was retired I would be thinking about heading down to Florida around now, where the sun sets just as early but the temperatures stay warm 24 / 7. Of course, at this point in time I don't want to leave my fellow Artistes living and working here in Denver. They need my attendance at these events and my moral support. No money guys - just my attendance and moral support. Deal with it.
Friday, October 2, 2015
Once again I have missed Denver's annual Oktoberfest celebration. I was planning on visiting the festival after attending the baseball game last Sunday at Coors Field, just a few blocks away, but because the game lasted longer than expected, by the time I got there it was over. Fortunately, the banners were still up, and there were still a few people walking around, and so I was able to take the above photograph. And just to lend a bit more atmosphere to the scene, I "photo-shopped" into the photograph the couple wearing the Bavarian peasant costumes. I had originally taken their photograph as they were going into the Great American Beer Festival Friday night, but I think they look much more at home in this photo instead. But what I really want to know is why Oktoberfest takes place in September? Here in Denver it was held the last two weekends in September, and even in Munich it starts September 19th and ends October 4th. Must be some sort of German thing. But because of that, I missed competing in Denver's world renowned "stein-hoisting" competition. And I truly think I coulda been a contender in that contest.
Thursday, October 1, 2015
Halloween is just around the corner, and the chain drugstore where I work part-time in the evenings has had all of their Halloween items out since September 1st. Much of the stuff seems pretty ghoulish to me, one example being the gravestone I am holding in the photograph above (taken in front of a property I am thinking of buying - a fixer-upper). In any case, Halloween here in Denver is a really big deal, with virtually everybody in the downtown and LoDo nightclub areas dressed in costume. The best thing about it all is that everyone actually seems to like being photographed, a situation I do not encounter the other 364 days of the year. Therefore, let the good times roll. And say cheese.