Monday, November 30, 2015

Dressing Up Your Pets For The Holidays

When I visited my sister Susan and brother-in-law George last Sunday, I was shocked to see that my sister had dressed up her Yorkie (TuTu) in a little outfit.  That is a sign that the pet owner has truly gone 'round the bend.  However, when I visited this past Thursday for Thanksgiving dinner, I was happy to see that neither of their two dogs (seen in the photograph above with my brother-in-law George) was dressed for the occasion. So there is still hope.  And perhaps there is some sort of self-help group if she winds up dressing the dogs for Christmas.  I can only hope.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Small Business Saturday

Yesterday was Small Business Saturday, the day when people are supposed to go out and spend money at locally owned establishments in their respective towns.  The Bookstore where I work celebrated this occasion by having local authors on hand to meet and talk with customers.  As the author of The Journey Home:  Returning to Chicago (, I should have demanded "a place at the table, "so to speak, but I didn't.  Why push the envelope?  In any case, the place was packed all day, so it appears the event was a big success.  And for the record, I did not spend any money at either a local or chain establishment yesterday.  There goes the economy.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Chicago Magazine's Pizza Issue!

I resubscribed to Chicago Magazine after a 6 month lapse (they never did offer me a bargain rate to re-up), and I received the first issue just last week.  It was the Chicago's Best Pizza issue, and featured the 38 best pizza places in the Chicago area.  I don't want to say that Chicago Magazine is run by a bunch of effete, stuck-up Northsiders, but I feel I have to.  The magazine is run by a bunch of effete, stuck-up Northsiders. Virtually all the pizza places they recommend are located on the North Side and other trendy areas near Chicago's Loop, and all seem to serve wood-fired, gourmet style pizzas.  When I was growing up on the South Side of Chicago, we ordered pizza from Vito and Nicks, and later on, Aurelio's in Homewood, Illinois, and we were not thinking gourmet.  We were thinking sausage and pepperoni and lots of tomato and cheese - not very dainty, but plenty good.  Our pet beagle Irma would go into a frenzy whenever we carried one of those pies into the house.  Both Vito and Nick's and Aurelio's are still around, by the way.  Chicago Magazine did not mention Vito and Nick's, but did say that Homewood's Aurelio's (now a chain) does not travel well.  Like I said - effete!

Friday, November 27, 2015

Black Friday!

Today is "Black Friday," the biggest (and most infamous) shopping day of the year.  It is the day people start  riots over quantity limited sale items, fight over the bargains on sales tables, and sometimes even use pepper spray on their fellow shoppers to snatch up the things they want.  My office-mate Peter, seen in the above photograph, is taking today off so he can join in the fray.  Hope he has his pepper spray handy.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving Everybody!

Yes!  Once again I am featuring a photograph I've used before, taken back on a Thanksgiving Day in the 1950s at our house in the South Side Chicago neighborhood of Brainerd.  It features - from left to right - my maternal grandfather's sister, Aunt Kitty, my mother Mary, my maternal grandmother Louise, my paternal grandmother Fleta, and me, right before I started to go downhill.  Petey the Parakeet is in the birdcage in the background.  Everyone in this photograph except me is gone now, and so it is a good reminder for everyone to enjoy their time with their family not only today, but every chance they get.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

George Makes A Point!

It was a relaxed dinner Sunday night up in Fort Collins with my sister Susan, brother-in law George, cousin John, and his significant other Barb, although afterwards the subject of illegal immigration came up and the discussion got a little lively.  I couldn't help but notice that George had his dog TuTu with him at the table. Was George planning to release the dogs if the conversation got too heated?  It never got to that point, however, so we'll never know. And thank goodness.  I hear Yorkshire terriers can be vicious.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Dinner Up In Fort Collins!

My cousin John (in the above photograph on the bottom right), my brother-in-law George (top right), sister Susan (top left), and Barb (John's significant other, on the bottom left) and I dined on Kaos pizza Sunday night and afterwards solved the world's problems in a little under 4 hours.  John and Barb are from Seattle, Washington, and are spending Thanksgiving with Barb's daughter, son-in-law, and new baby.  And yes, we did solve the world's problems all in one evening.  All I have to do is transcribe it, but since I work two jobs and have no free time, the world will just have to wait.  Perhaps I can get a grant to put it together.  Write your congressman now!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Kaos With John & Barb

My cousin John and Barb and I stopped at Kaos, the beer garden/pizza parlor on South Pearl Street in Denver to pick up pizzas, and then headed up to beautiful Fort Collins to visit with my sister Susan and brother-in-law George.  I gave them the grand tour of "Old Town" Fort Collins, all lite up for the holidays, and then headed over to Susan and George's place.  I got there in record time.  And John and Barb didn't even say anything negative about my driving, although I must say they looked kind of pale when we arrived. Oh well. Welcome to Colorado guys!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

John And Barb Are In Town!

My cousin John and his significant other Barb are in Denver for the Thanksgiving holidays to visit a daughter and son-in-law with a new baby.  We will be getting together this afternoon to drive up to Fort Collins (the town on everyone's bucket list) to visit with my sister Susan and brother-in-law George.  I haven't since John and Barb since the big Hoyt Family Reunion in Cannon Beach, Oregon the 4th of July before last (see photograph above).   Both John and Barb are now retired and living the good life, traveling to Europe, taking Caribbean cruises, and generally having a great time.  Of course, how can that possibly be as rewarding as working two jobs and doing one's part to keep the economy strong?  Shame on you, John and Barb.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

I'm Certainly Not Getting Old, Am I?

I took the above self-portrait - which seem to be called "selfies" these days - a few weeks ago in front of the USS Midway, when I was in San Diego.  My friend Wally (who still works at the University of Denver Bookstore) served on this ship, and I always like to kid with him and ask what it was like to serve on that aircraft carrier during World War II.  He actually served on it during the Vietnam War, which is not exactly just yesterday, either.  But I got a taste of my own medicine the other day when I dropped off my car to have a part replaced and took the bus to work from there.  Both on the trip to work and the trip back, I had to stand, and both times people got up to offer me their seats.  And one of them was no spring chicken, either.  Granted, that was a nice gesture, but it had me looking in the mirror that night to see what other people were seeing.  And all I saw was that fresh faced kid from the South Side of Chicago.  Perhaps the mind filters things out for your own good.  Better that way.

Friday, November 20, 2015

"A Piece Of Work"

That is how Miss Collins, one of my sister Susan's teachers at Fort Dearborn Grammar School, described her to my mother during a parent-teachers meeting many years ago.  That may or may not have been the case (although she certainly does indeed look like a piece of work in the photograph on the left at age 2) , but when I came along a mere 11 years later, all those teachers, including Miss Collins, automatically assumed I was a piece of work, too, and treated me accordingly.  Now I ask you - is that fair?  But as with so many other things, I am not bitter about it, even after a mere 50 years.  That's just the kind of guy I am.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Catching Up With Stuart!

I had pizza and beers with my friend Stuart at the Old Chicago Restaurant on South Colorado Boulevard here in Central Denver last night.  Stuart seems to be doing well and was thinking that he might take a road trip next week to visit his Alma mater, the University of Wisconsin, in Madison, Wisconsin, then Lake Zurich, Illinois to visit his brother, and finally to Morton Grove, in the northern suburbs of Chicago, to have Thanksgiving dinner with his father and brother.  Sounds like a plan to me.  I asked Stuart if he planned on taking a day and going into Chicago, but he said no way - he's been there and done that.  I guess once you've seen Lakewood, Colorado, nothing else compares.  Go figure.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The November Blizzard!

At least that is how the television news programs described the snowstorm we had here in Denver Monday night into Tuesday, although in Central Denver it sure didn't live up to the big hype.  On the radio this morning it was stated that the eastern plains of Colorado and the southern metropolitan area received 15 to 17 inches of snow and the interstates were closed to the South and East, but who knows for sure? Maybe they are just lying to save face.  As far as I'm concerned, it was just another example of the media seizing on anything they possibly can to fill up their news programs.  Where is OJ when you need him?

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Phil Goodstein Speaks At The Tattered Cover Bookstore!

Phil Goodstein, a local Denver author and historian (signing a copy of his book in the photograph above), gave a talk last night at the Tattered Cover Bookstore promoting his latest book, How the West Side Won. Goodstein is quite a character, and always has highly entertaining stories about Denver's distant and not so distant past.  He also has some pretty outrageous opinions, which keeps the conversation lively.  And I must say, he is a relentless promoter.  Last night he passed out a handout listing over a dozen talks and classes he is offering over the next month or two throughout Denver.  He is even giving talks at the Buckhorn Exchange, Denver's oldest bar, and at the Book Bar, a bookstore/wine bar in the Highlands neighborhood of Denver. If I am not working those two nights at my part-time job, I definitely plan to attend.  You have to support Denver's local authors, after all - not to mention the local bars.  I am nothing if not public spirited.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Post Office Flashbacks

I went to the Post Office to mail some bills Thursday night around 10 P.M., and noticed that the gates for the postal trucks was still open.  I didn't even think about it again until I went back to the Post Office Saturday afternoon, before my 5:00 until midnight shift at my part-time job, and remembered that Wednesday was Veteran's Day.  That meant a day off for postal employees, but double the workload the following day.  And that meant that the postal carriers were out in the freezing cold delivering the mail well past 10 P.M. Thursday night.  I immediately flashed back to the days when I was delivering the mail.  Sometimes I was out there until after midnight, trying to read the addresses in the darkness, desperately wanting to be done.  And no matter how late you worked, you only got paid a fixed amount for the route - no overtime.  Suddenly, working two job - including three nights until after midnight - doesn't seem so bad after all.  Heat! Light! Lunch Breaks!  My cup runneth over!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Horror In Paris

I try to keep this Blog light and breezy, but sometimes events take place in the world that can't be ignored, such as Friday night's wave of terror in Paris.  Unfortunately, I have no insight or wisdom to offer on the subject.  It is unbelievable to me that ISIS, al-Qaeda and the people and countries who support them believe that killing innocent people is justified, and even condoned by God.  How can this violence be stopped without the Western democracies uniting to eliminate any safe havens these terrorists occupy, which of course would be a difficult and bloody thing to accomplish.  I don't think it is possible to reason with fanatics, and so what other alternatives are there? All I can do is shake my head at the senselessness of it all, and offer my sympathy to France and to all the people affected by this terrible event.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Memories Of Suburbia...

When I was about to enter high school, my parents decided we should move from the South Side Brainerd neighborhood of Chicago to the southern suburbs, where they felt the schools were better than Calumet High School, where I was scheduled to attend in the fall.  The suburbs were a mixed blessing.  Granted, the schools were better, but I don't think any of us really adapted.  My sister soon moved to the 40th floor of a downtown Chicago high rise, where she met her future husband George.  My mother (seen in the photograph on the left with our dog Irma, in front of our Country Club Hills split level) returned to the workforce and worked for her friend Julie at the Country Club Hills library.  She also volunteered at the Tinley Park Mental Hospital, where one day she met an old family friend who had been placed there by his wife (husbands beware!).

My father (seen in the photograph on the right, sitting in his favorite chair) moved his dental office to Alsip, Illinois, and was so successful there that he was able to work half days while waiting for me to finish college (at which time he and my mother planned to retire to Florida).  My favorite part of that era was putting the bike in the back of the car, driving to the parking lot at the Adler Planetarium, and riding along Chicago's lakeshore and through the adjoining neighborhoods. However, on the whole, I think it was definitely for the best when my parents decided to retire to Stuart, Florida in 1976 (where they were very happy), and I myself moved to my first bachelor pad, across the street from both the elevated train car barn and the Daisy Hill Meat Packing Plant (in Forest Park, Illinois, which is just west of Chicago and a short "L" ride from downtown Chicago).  And I must tell you, I still get a case of the cold sweats whenever I leave the city limits these days and enter suburbia - any suburbia. Perhaps intensive analysis is called for.  Preferably intense but free analysis.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Back In Denver - Is That Really Snow?

I arrived back in Denver just in time for our first significant snowfall of the year the other day.  I had to brush about 3 or 4 inches of snow off the car before heading to work, but as is the case most of the time here, with the exception of the shady areas, most of the snow has melted away.  I took the above photograph from the den of my condo this morning, and as you can see, there are just a few white patches remaining.  Even the foothills have lost their dusting of snow.  However, although the sun is out now, snow is once again predicted for next week.  And so it goes here in Denver - snow, then sunshine, then snow again.  I hate to complain, but why can't it be like San Diego here- a consistent 80 degrees every day of the year?  When will global warming really kick in?

Thursday, November 12, 2015

A Gentrified Tijuana?

I am back working my two jobs here in Denver, but wanted to share with you an interesting article in the San Diego Union-Tribune that was in the paper this past Sunday.  It seems Tijuana, Mexico has become a big arts center. As proof of this, I have attached a photograph on the left of the front page of the arts section from last Sunday.  And remember - they can't lie about anything in a major metropolitan newspaper.  In any case, before I come out here again, I am going to get my passport renewed so I can go down to Tijuana to check out the budding art scene there.  And then I can tell all my friends that I went to Tijuana, but just for the art.  "Yeah.  Right."

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

A Final Word On San Diego

San Diego seems to be a delightful city to live in.  It has great weather all year round, wonderful beaches and neighborhoods, and plenty of things to do for us hipsters.  The only drawback  is that it is a little pricey.  Home prices are astronomical and rents are through the roof.  However, as I was taking a self portrait in one of the monk's quarters at the Mission San Diego de Alcala, I thought that this would not be a bad place to live.  A small refrigerator, a microwave, a little television set (I wonder if the Mission gets cable?) and you've got yourself a home.  I think I'll sent the Mission an e-mail about it tomorrow and offer them $400 a month.  Seems like it would be pure profit to them and a pleasant place to hang out for me.  Another win-win situation.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Farewell To San Diego!

My long weekend in San Diego is over, and today it is back to work once as usual.  My Uncle Jack, Cousin Denise, and Denise's husband Paul (from left to right in the photograph above) showed me a really nice time, and it will definitely be hard to get back into the swing of things again. Perhaps in a month or two.  In any case, thanks for all the hospitality, guys!  Come to Denver any time, and I will definitely put  you up at my condo, show you the sights of Denver, and feed you very well.  I just hope you like Michelina frozen entrees. After all, they are "authentico."

Monday, November 9, 2015

A Visit To Torrey Pines State Beach - Is That Guy Really Nude?

I went with my Uncle Jack and Cousin Denise to Mass at the Mission San Diego De Alcala yesterday morning (see photograph on the left), which was a really pleasant experience.  The Mission was built in 1769 and was the first established by Father Junipero Serra.  Later that afternoon Denise took me for a walk along the beach at Torrey Pines State Park, which is probably one of the nicest in San Diego.

You will probably notice that Denise's eyes are closed in the photograph on the right, and with good reason. Denise said we should walk up to a line of rocks up the shoreline and then turn back, because beyond that was Black Beach, a famous San Diego nudist beach.  However, before we got there, some honest to God nude guy had crossed over that line of demarcation and was walking toward the sea.  I should have walked up to him and told him that he was way over the line, but I didn't.  Perhaps next year..

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Sunday At Mission San Diego De Alcala

This morning my Uncle Jack and Cousin Denise and I went to the Mission San Diego de Alcala, where my Uncle Jack is the head usher at the Sunday Mass.  It is a beautiful mission church established by Father Junipero Sera in 1769.  And just in the San Diego newspaper today, there was an article about a very large protest that took place here a few weeks ago.  Native Americans are very unhappy that Father Sera was made a saint by Pope Francis when he visited the United States a few months ago, and choose to have their protest here, the first mission Father Sera founded.  That is kind of a shame, considering the people who attend mass here each Sunday are such a pleasant, mellow kind of crowd, many of them elderly (by which I mean older than  me).  In any case, I guess it must have woken them up and got them out of their usual Sunday routine for a while.  Or "rocked their world," as we hipsters say.  No word yet on whether Pope Francis intends to retract sainthood, but I will keep you posted.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Greetings From San Diego!

Or more specifically, La Jolla.  After a rocky start finding my way to Uncle Jack's house last night in the dark (and hence this Blog posting being 10 to 12 hours late, we had a great day of sightseeing around town.  First we went up to Mount Soldad, which looks out all over the city of La Jolla, California (see above photograph of - from left to right - myself, my cousin Denise, and my Uncle Jack, taken by Denise's husband Paul), we visited the cliff's around La Jolla,  the beach at La Jolla Shores, and later Imperial Beach,  south of Coronado and not too far from the Mexican border.  We could have had Paul in the photograph if we asked one of members of the Hell's Angels, who were having some kind of ceremony up by the cross on Mount Soledad, to take it, but I was voted down.  No sense of adventure, these guys.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Off To San Diego!

Today I am off to San Diego for a long weekend with my Uncle Jack ( seen in the photograph above on the right), my Cousin Denise (on the left), and Denise's husband Paul.  I took the above photograph last year over the 4th of July weekend, at the Hoyt Family reunion in Cannon Beach, Oregon.  As I recall, I took that photo early in the morning, with a mist still in the air, just before I left to take the bus back to Portland and from there fly back to Denver.  This year we were not able to get together in that magical little town, and so I am happy to get together with them in San Diego this weekend.  And after experiencing the first snowfall of the season here in Denver yesterday, I am definitely ready for a little warm weather.  This morning, if all goes well, before heading to my Uncle's place, I will be taking the ferry to Coronado, biking to the Hotel Del Coronado, and then biking along the beach up to La Jolla, mixing with my fellow beautiful people. Let the good times roll!

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Two Oceans In One Year - Again!

Yes!  For the second year in a row I will be seeing both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.  After visiting Stuart, Florida this past August (see photograph above of Stuart's famous House of Refuge), I will soon be heading to San Diego to visit my Uncle Jack (my father's brother), my cousin Denise, and her husband Paul. Thinking about visiting two oceans within the past 3 months, I am reminded of Woody's Allen's classic film Radio Days, in which he states that his parents could fight about anything, even oceans:  "Are you telling me you think the Pacific Ocean is a greater ocean than the Atlantic?"  Hopefully the subject won't come up while I am there.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Communist All Star Nesting Dolls From Mark!

I had dinner and beers with my friend Mark (seen in the photograph above) at the Three Lions Pub, a soccer pub (Yes! A soccer pub in Denver!) just down the street from the bookstore where I work.  Mark recounted his adventures cruising the waters between Moscow and St. Petersburg and seeing the sights both in those two cities and everywhere in between.  He returned from Russia just this past week, and tells me that he liked Moscow best, since it feels more Russian than the more European oriented St. Petersburg. Mark very much wants to return to Moscow in August, when for a week or two the temperature rises above zero degrees. Plus, Mark brought me back Communist All-Star Nesting Dolls, with Vladimir Putin featured on the outer doll (see photograph on the left).  How wonderful is that?  I will feature him on the bookcase right next to my Pope Francis Bobble-head Doll.  Talk about a happening kind of knick-knack collection. Thanks for the gift Mark!  Welcome Back!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Genuine Antique Person (Or Persons)

I took the photograph on the left of my mother Mary and sister Susan a number of years ago in front of Hoffman's Ice Cream Shop in downtown (now Old Town) Stuart, Florida. Downtown Stuart runs along the St. Lucie River and is always a great place to visit.  Back then there were still a number of mom and pop style stores, such as stationers, antique shops, and locally owned restaurants, but these days Old Town Stuart is quite trendy, and chain restaurants and expensive shops have been replacing many of the mom and pop operations.  Of course, as of this week, our condo in Stuart - within walking distance of downtown, I might add - is rented through April, and so there will not be any forays down to Stuart for at least 6 months. The rental money allows us to keep the place in the family, of course, but it would certainly be nice if the renters would let us come down and stay with them every once in a while.  Perhaps I will feel them out on the subject.  How could any reasonable person refuse?

Monday, November 2, 2015

History Of The World - And Family - In Photographs

I recently bought a used copy of History of the World in Photographs at the local bookstore where I work as the Bookkeeper, and I must say it was a tremendous bargain.  If you only order books from Amazon, you miss the pleasure of walking around a cozy, atmospheric bookstore and discovering bargains like this one. Let's hope independent bookstores stay around forever.  In any case, I decided to feature the book on this Blog, and it was only when I was setting up the photograph with my tripod that I realized that I was taking a photo of not only the History of the World in Photographs, but also the history of my family in photographs sitting on my bookcase shelves. What a wonderful experience it is to sit in front of the coffee table in my living room, typing away on the computer, and being able to look at all the wonderful photographs of my family from the 1890s to the present.  My friend Valarie has a completely different viewpoint.  She never took family photographs, saying it was more important to be involved in the moment rather just capturing images of it.  However, when her daughter Cheyanne graduated from college and had a big party at The Music Bar (which was located in the Highlands neighborhood of Denver), she wanted to put together a scrapbook featuring the Cheyanne's life up to that point.  To do this, she raided her sister's photo collection in order to fill the scrapbook with images.  I rest my case.  The moral of the story - take plenty of photographs of your family and friends.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Nightmare In The Halloween Aisle...

I worked the last two nights at my part-time job at a local chain drugstore, and the place was busy as hell. Halloween afternoon was the busiest, and the Halloween aisle was trashed and took forever to put back together.  But it was exciting.  If you touched the orange plastic pumpkin, it would start spinning in circles and shout "My Candy! My Candy!" at you.  And if you moved one of the ghost phones and the handset was jarred, it starts ringing and then a ghost starts talking spooky to you.  On the plus side, most of the people who came in were in costume, which was highly entertaining.  At least, I think they were in costume.  I didn't compliment anyone on their outfits last night, just in case that was how  they looked all the time.  Then it would have gotten ugly, and you don't want ugly on Halloween.