Thursday, December 31, 2015

New Year's Eve!

Today is New Year's Eve, the last day of the year and a major party night.  I will be celebrating both tonight and New Year's Night at my part-time job at a local branch of a major chain drugstore, working the 5:00 P.M. until midnight shift both days.  Since the store is located just a few blocks from the University of Denver campus, I anticipate a very lively evening, with students stopping in for snacks, drinks, and Chia Pets. possible even Vegomatics.  Let the good times roll!

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Meanwhile, Down In The Sunshine State...

It is snow-covered and freezing here in Denver, but down in Stuart, Florida they are enjoying warm temperatures, the beach, and the golf course.  And just why did my sister and I rent the condo we inherited from my mother Mary (third from the left in the photograph above) through next April?  Good question.  I guess sometimes you have to rent out paradise in order to keep it.   One of life's hard lessons.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Obligatory Pet Photo

Yes - once again I am resorting to using a photograph of my sister Susan and brother-in-law George's dog TuTu, which I took this past Sunday evening at their condo up in Fort Collins.  When Blogger's Block strikes, a cute animal photo is just the ticket.  TuTu, by the way, is a Yorkshire Terrier about the size of a small rat, but with a lot more hair.  He, along with their other dog Blackberry, are treated like children and, I might add, are both spoiled rotten.  Let's fact it - pet owners are weird. At least they weren't wearing little outfits this year, but that day might be coming.

Monday, December 28, 2015

The Road To Little Dribbling

I scored a coup at the bookstore where I work when my office-mate Peter found and gave to me an advance reading copy of Bill Bryson's new book The Road to Little Dribbling.  Although it will not be released until January 19th (my 63rd birthday, no less), I now have the pleasure of reading it before almost anyone else.  And it is truly good.  It is a sequel of sorts to his book Notes From a Small Island, in which he toured Great Britain and gave his witty impressions about it all.  In this book he also tours Great Britain and compares present day England with how it was when he first arrived there back in the dark ages.  Bryson is as curmudgeonly as ever in this book - perhaps too much so, especially when he interacts with a McDonald's clerk in Bognor Regis, but he is still extremely witty.  Since he has a son living in Vail, I can only hope that on one of his visits there he will stop at the bookstore where I work in Denver to sign books and give a talk.  I can then discuss his curmudgeonlyness with him directly.  Or not.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Stuart In Old Town Fort Collins

Before visiting my sister and brother-in-law for Christmas dinner Friday night, my friend Stuart and I stopped in Old Town Fort Collins to have a look around and take a few (which for me means about 200 or so) photographs.  It was around 18 degrees out, as befits a place a mere 45 miles from the Wyoming border, but who could complain about that on such a festive evening?  Well, Stuart, for one.  When we got to my sister and brother-in-law's townhouse, Stuart related our adventures to my very sympathetic sister, who has endured similar adventures and has often suggested my camera be taken away and smashed.  And as I mentioned in yesterday's Blog, when we went in it was perfectly clear, but when we came out there were 4 inches of snow on the ground.  A truly wonderful Christmas night atmosphere, unless you have to drive 75 miles back to Denver in it, of course.  Ho! Ho! Ho!, as I always like to say.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Christmas In Fort Collins

My friend Stuart and I drove up to my sister Susan and brother-in-law George's place in Fort Collins for Christmas dinner last, and we all had a fine time eating ham and chatting about various things.  It even turned out to be a  White Christmas, too.  Before we walked in, it was cold but dry outside, but when we left, there was 4 inches of snow on the ground, and it was still snowing, making for a very Christmasy (not to mention exciting) ride home.  I notice that in all those Christmas movies such as White Christmas, they all end before they show people having to drive home in the stuff.  Why is that?

Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas Everyone!

I want to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!  Enjoy your time with friends and family.  It is indeed the most important part of the holiday season.  And Yes!  That is me along with my mother Mary and dog Irma on Christmas Day back in 1964 at our house in the South Side Chicago Brainerd neighborhood.  Or was it Christmas Day of 1963?  I'll investigate and let you know.  Until then stay calm and Colorado on.  Cheers!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Christmas Eve!

As Dave Barry once wrote, "Twas the night before Christmas and all though the house, not a creature was stirring, except Dad, who was stirring his third martini, trying to figure out how to put together a toy for his young son.  My mother once told me that my own father had several Christmas Eve's just like that.  And in honor of them and Christmas Eve's past, I am once again featuring their photograph (along with our dog Irma), sitting on the back porch of our house in the South Side Chicago neighborhood of Brainerd on Christmas Day.  Was it really such a magical place around the holidays, or is every place magical around the holidays when you are young?

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Two Days Until Christmas!

Yes - it is indeed time to start thinking about Christmas shopping, people.  You have two days left.  I started my own Christmas shopping last night at Denver's Cherry Creek Mall, whose Christmas tree is featured in the above photograph along with my sister Susan, sitting on Santa's Claus' lap (taken more than a few years ago, I might add.)  In any case, last minute shoppers rejoice.  The drugstore where I work (part of a national chain) will not only be open until midnight Christmas Eve (the shift that I am working), but also 7:00 A.M. until midnight Christmas Day.  You will be able to tell your family and guests that you are stepping out for a few minutes to buy cough drops and go get that Chia Pet or Veg-O-Matic for the person who has everything.  Far out, as we used to say back in the day.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The First Day of Winter!

Today is December 22nd, the first day of winter - the Winter Solstice - and the shortest day of the year.  It is the day ancient people celebrated the coming of longer and warmer days, and is still celebrated by modern day pagans at places such as Stonehenge.  In fact, an early Pope decided to celebrate Christmas on December 25th,  a date very close to the Winter Solstice, in hopes of combining the traditions and gaining converts.  It seems to have worked. Go figure.

Monday, December 21, 2015

A Man And His Dog

I took the above photograph of my brother-in-law George this past Saturday night in the living room of his and my sister's townhouse up in Fort Collins.  George absolutely loves both Fort Collins and his home, and spends much of his non-working hours right in that chair, often with two dogs sitting on his lap.  And in fact life in that household revolves around those dogs.  Blackberry and Tutu are like their children, and are treated as such.  They aren't given places at the dining room table, but I fear that day is coming.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Christmas Card Time

I drove up to Fort Collins yesterday to have dinner with my sister Susan and brother-in-law George, and to also take a photograph for my annual Christmas card, which at this rate should be ready by Valentine's Day.  I brought Santa caps with me for everybody, including the dogs.  And let me tell you,  it is not easy to put Santa caps on two struggling dogs.  I was lucky to get the photograph I did.  It is not perfect,  but generally gets the idea across - i.e. still crazy after all these years.  Let the holiday festivities begin!

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Refrigerator Art

What you put on your kitchen refrigerator says a lot about who you are.  If it is filled with photographs of children at various stages of their life, you are a parent. If it is filled with dozens of candid photographs of the same person, you are probably the Zodiac killer.  But if it looks like mine, I don't know what it says, but I definitely don't want to find out.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Spring Training Is Just Around The Corner!

Even though Denver and many other parts of the country are in the firm grip of unofficial winter, it is important to remember that Spring Training in Florida and Arizona is just a mere 8 weeks away.  And, best of all,  I own a condo in Florida!   Of course, it is rented through May 1st, but I am sure my tenants would love to have me stay in the spare bedroom if I wanted to catch  a couple of games. What reasonable person would say no to that?

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Old Chicago On A Winter's Night

Okay - it is still technically fall, but since the temperature was around 8 degrees last night, it did indeed seem like a winter's night at the Old Chicago Restaurant in Lakewood, Colorado.  My friend Stuart and I had sandwiches and beer at the upstairs bar of that fine establishment, and afterwards I took a photograph of Stuart in front of two old beer advertisements.  One was for Hamm's Beer and reminded fans that they could follow both the Cubs and the White Sox on WGN Channel 9.  Both Stuart and I remember the Hamm's Beer commercials during those broadcasts, featuring a cartoon bear doing various antics to the tune "From the Land of Sky Blue Waters."  Stuart offered to sing the lyrics to that particular melody, but thankfully was persuaded not to.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Like A Broken Record...

I don't know if it is El Nino, La Nina, or some other damn Nino, but whatever it is, it is evidently responsible for all the snow we have received here in Denver this year.  And it isn't even winter yet.  Yesterday we received 10 to 14 inches, and the temperatures have dropped like a rock.  I know I have complained about this before, but I am I damn well going to complain about it again.  I'm just glad I'm  no longer a Rural Carrier for the Post Office down in Highlands Ranch, Colorado (Motto:  it is not the edge of the earth, but you can see it from here).  Talk about a miserable job.  These days I think I would just throw myself into a snowbank and to hell with the mail.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Phil Goodstein At The Buckhorn Exchange

I went to hear Denver historian and author Phil Goodstein give a talk last night at the Buckhorn Exchange, Denver's oldest saloon (seen in the photograph on the left).  First I got a bottle of beer at the bar (no drafts at this place - too traditional for that.  We are lucky they actually have heat and electricity). Then  I walked into the back room, where Goodstein was to give his talk.

I was surprised to find that the only people in the room were Goodstein (seen in the photograph on the right), a fellow historian, and two friends. I was immediately informed that I myself was the audience.  Instead of a formal talk, Goodstein and his friends traded very fascinating stories about Denver's colorful history and the sleezey and unethical characters who made fortunes at the public's expense.  These stories included projects implemented by local politicians I have admired and who I thought were above politics as usual. In any case, two others came into the room as Goodstein talked, and so at least I was no longer an audience of one.

When the other two people arrived, Goodstein gave his talk about the history of the bar, which dates from around 1885, and the neighborhood around it.  It was a very entertaining spiel, and at the end of it Goodstein pointed out a table of his books for sale.  Just try and get out of buying a book when there are only three people in the audience. Goodstein is not a fan of modern technology, and so it was cash or check only.  Fortunately he had some books for sale for $5.00, and I had exactly $5.00  in cash on me that I had planned on using for laundry.  I bought the book and got it signed, thanked Goodstein for his talk, and walked out into the bar area, where I took the photo on the left. The upstairs bar is very laid back and very Victorian in it's decor, while the downstairs dining room is a pricey steakhouse popular with out of town visitors with expense accounts.  It also has an entire ceiling covered with the horns and antlers of deceased animals, and so if you happen to be in Denver, I advise you to definitely not take your vegetarian friends or any PETA members here for dinner.  Just like in Victorian times, they would swoon.

Monday, December 14, 2015


As I mentioned a few days ago, I was all set to see Spike Lee's new movie - Chi-Raq - until I found out it wasn't a documentary about the South Side of Chicago, but a drama based on an ancient Greek play.  I would tell you more about it, but I fell asleep reading the review.  Therefore, this past Saturday night I instead went to the Denver Pavilions on the 16th Street Mall to see the new James Bond movie, Spectre.  It was great.  It was just like a Rick Steves travel show, except much faster and far more violent.  The action moved from Mexico City to London to Rome to Austria to Tangiers and then back to London. And I still can't get over how much I resemble Daniel Craig, both physically and in his James Bond persona.  We could be twins.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

A Winter Wonderland?

I hate to complain - and regular Blog readers will attest to the fact that I seldom do - but it has been snowing a lot around here lately, and it isn't even officially winter yet.  The above photograph that I took in Denver's Washington Park yesterday on my way home from work might look all picturesque and Christmasey, unless you factor the wind and the cold temperatures into the scene.  All it did for me was make me want to head home and build a fire, which of course is a big problem, since I don't have a fireplace.  Oh well, only 6 more months until spring.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Union Station - Still Hopping

Denver's Union Station - remodeled into a jet set hangout a little over a year ago - is still going strong, attracting huge crowds every weekend.  In addition to trendy restaurants, a boutique hotel, and upscale shops, it even has an Amtrak train or two come through every day.  Plus, the local bookstore chain where I work has a small store there, which is still doing a booming business.  The center attraction is The Terminal Bar, named after one of Jack Kerouac's favorite Denver watering holes, where you can order a beer at the old ticket window and then hang out in a huge lounge area (see photograph above) that used to be "The Great Hall," the station's massive waiting room.  A far cry from Kerouac's Terminal Bar, located just down the street and remodeled into the upscale Jax Fish House.  Still another victim of gentrification.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Denver During The Holidays

I'm afraid downtown Denver pales in comparison to Chicago in terms of Christmas decorations and holiday atmosphere, but I must admit it is trying very hard to catch up, with Exhibit A being the ice rink that is set up each year outside the Tabor Center on the 16th Street Mall.  It always seems to be packed with people, young and old, having a good time.  Entire families skate (and often fall) together, which is a very good thing indeed.  Nobody even seems to notice he pain - at least until the next day, when they can't get out of bed. But hey - it's the holidays!

Thursday, December 10, 2015


Since resubscribing to Chicago Magazine after a 6 month lapse, I have become a dedicated, if not obsessed, reader.  Call it nostalgia, or steroids, if you wish.  The December issue features an interview with filmmaker Spike Lee, who has just released a new film called Chi-Raq, whose subject is the incredible violence that is taking place on the South Side of Chicago these days.  Being a native of Chicago's South Side, I was very interested in the article.  Lee says that Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel tried to bully him into changing the title of the movie, which the mayor claimed would have a negative impact on the city's image, but Lee held his ground and kept the title.  I made up my mind to see the movie, and was surprised to find that it is now playing at the Sie Film Center, just across the walkway from the bookstore where I work here in Denver.  But then I found out that it was not a documentary, but a fictional drama.  So forget about it.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

The Spirits Are Back.

Once again it is the Christmas season, and the spirits are back each night trying to convince me to end my miserly ways.  I would think they would have given up after all these years, but no.  This year they are even more annoying than ever.  Especially that damn Marley, dragging those chains of his around and moaning every other minute.  It makes it very hard to sleep.  Fortunately, unlike Scrooge, I have sleeping pills for just such occasions.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Winter Of The Wolf Moon

I just finished reading Winter of the Wolf Wind, the second Alex McKnight novel mystery writer Steve Hamilton ever wrote.  Once again, it was a great read.  It is the only book of his that the Denver Public Library doesn't carry, and so I wound up buying a used copy on  the internet.  The stories take place in Paradise, Michigan. 30 miles to the West of Sault Ste. Marie, and just across the bridge from Canada.  I imagine Paradise must be a lot like Herbster, Wisconsin, where my Grandfather Hoyt and Uncle John (my Grandmother Hoyt's brother-in-law) bought 80 acres of forestland back in 1918.  The last time my family visited the area was back in 1966, but I still own half of the property and have often thought it might be fun to build a cabin up there.  My father and his family once stayed up there through November, and my father told me he had to get out of the horse-drawn school wagon and jog along side of it to stay warm.  It just amazed me that my father actually rode a horse-drawn wagon to school, and I think I mentioned to him that he must really be ancient to have had that experience.  And I don't believe he appreciated that comment at all.  Go figure.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Pearl Harbor Day

Today is December 7th, Pearl Harbor Day, the day the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941 , killing thousands, and bringing the United States into World War II.  There are very few veterans left who witnessed that event.  My father, who was drafted around 1944 and was sent to fight teeth in Okinawa (he was a dentist), would be 106 years old if he were alive today.  He is pictured in the photograph on the left along with my mother Mary and sister Susan, taken while mother and Susan were visiting him in Abilene, Texas, right before he was shipped off to Okinawa.  And no, I was not the one who took the photograph.  I was born much, much, much, much later, in a totally different era, known as the 1950s.  Which is why I am still a relatively young man, as opposed to my sister, who is - well, I won't say it.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

The Parade Of Lights 2015

Yes.  I did go down to see the Parade of Lights last night, despite the cold. And for that matter, so did everyone else in the Denver area.  Denver - at last count - has a population of 2,700,000, and it is still a one event kind of town.  The People's Fair, the Taste of Colorado, the Parade of Lights, the National Western Stock Show, even every single damn Broncos game, everyone in town shows up for it.  I took the Light Rail train myself, and watched the thousands of cars entering downtown and trying to find a parking space.  Some probably still are. Most of the crowd seemed to really enjoy the event.

However, some did not, such as the poor homeless man trying to stay warm in the photograph on the right.  There was also a homeless young woman, looking very miserable, sitting next to her worldly possessions right behind the crowd watching the parade, a sign asking for handouts propped up beside her.  Denver has a large homeless population and there is still an ongoing debate about what to do about it, although I suspect it won't be much.  . If I was homeless, I would be on the road to Florida this very instant. As far as I am concerned, homeless and warm is a heck of a lot better than homeless and freezing.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Christmas Lights And The Parade Of Lights

The Christmas lights are up all over downtown Denver, and I must say, it really livens the place up.  All down the 16th Street Mall, the lights brighten up the street, and there is even an ice rink set for those who like to skate and don't mind the frigid temperatures.  And this Friday and Saturday is the Parade of Lights, an annual Denver tradition. I have attended this event a number of times, and no matter how mild the temperatures are predicted to be, it always feels about 10 below zero.  Nobody seems to mind, except me, who eventually says the hell with it all and heads home to where the heat is.  Does that make me a Scrooge? And if so, so what?

Friday, December 4, 2015

The Pioneer Woman Signs Books At The Tattered Cover

Ree Drumond, the "Pioneer Woman," (in the above photograph on the left) signed copies of her book - The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Dinnertime - last night at the Tattered Cover.  Drumond is a Food Blogger, a photographer, a cookbook author, and Food Network Star, and hundreds of fans showed up to meet her and get an autographed copy of her book.  Personally, I never heard of her until yesterday, but as I understand it, she became famous as a Blogger sharing her recipes.  Which of course gives me a great idea - perhaps if I share my recipes on this Blog, I will become famous, too.  The Pioneer Guy Spices Up Ragu! Fame and fortune, here I come!

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Alleys Are Cool, And Other Symptoms Of Eccentricity

I  have always thought alleys are great subjects for the camera.  Not only do they often have fire escapes, murals, and even alley houses that make for great photographs, but you can also usually photograph all manner of people walking down them.  Of course, in the suburbs there are no alleys, which is still another thing that I hate about them.  No wonder they are so sterile and boring.  I say what the suburbs need to do is to start putting alleys behind all those suburban ranches and spit levels in an effort to liven the place up.  And I would just love to be the one photographing the resident's  reactions for posterity.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Too Cold For The Lions...

I wanted to go to the Denver Zoo this past weekend, but it was so damn cold the animals had to stay inside. I can't blame them, of course.  I wasn't too crazy about going outside, either.  Therefore, I am featuring a photograph I took of one of the Denver Zoo's lions a number of months ago.  It is a great lion portrait (if I do say so myself), and I don't think I can improve on it.  And best of all, by using a photograph I took in the summer, I stay warm and the lion stays warm, too.  A classic win-win situation.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

It's December!

Hard to believe that it is already December.  It seems to me I was just whining about all the rain we had this past spring, and now here I am whining about all the snow we've had already.  In honor of this blast of winter, I am featuring a photograph I took of my mother Mary in front of our house in the South Side Brainerd neighborhood of Chicago back in March of 1962.  My mother is standing in front of our 1961 Pontiac Catalina, which my father traded in for a 1963 Pontiac Grand Prix that December.  He went to Jim Miller Pontiac to get the cigarette lighter fixed, and came back with that brand new car.  And my mother was not pleased.  Christmas of 1962 was not a happy time.  I know I'm starting to repeat these stories, but tough.