Sunday, January 31, 2016

The Calm Before The Storm

I don't know what the high temperature was in Denver yesterday (in the upper 60s at least), but I was able to go outside without a coat, and for me in the dead of winter, that is saying something.  I took the above photograph as I was leaving work last night, showing downtown Denver under a perfectly clear sky. However,  whenever it gets that warm here, it usually means a change in the weather is near.  And yes, the weather forecasters are going into a frenzy, talking about a massive storm that will arrive here this very evening.  It is what they call an "upslope," which means the storm comes from the south and moves in a counterclockwise circle, pushing against the mountains from east to west.  These are the storms that give us the most snow.  I think the weather geeks are predicting 6 to 12 feet, or something like that (they like to exaggerate).  Of course, they are usually wrong, so why worry?  Unless they are right.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

More 1940's Nostalgia

I ran across the photograph on the left in an old photo album the other day and decided to put it on the Blog.  It shows my sister Susan in her baby carriage and my Grandmother Spillard (my mother's mother) back in Chicago during the spring of 1943.  What I want to know is if was taken in downtown Brainerd, the South Side Chicago neighborhood where I grew up.  I can see a High Low Food Store in the background, which I remember being there, but there were High Low's all over Chicago back then, not to mention Walgreen's, also visible in the photograph.  I have e-mailed this photo to my brother-in-law George for him to show my sister, so she can confirm it's location.  She has always told me she was a brilliant child, and so I am sure she will remember this moment, even if she was only one year old.

Friday, January 29, 2016

The Fourth Watcher

I am just finishing reading The Fourth Watcher, a Poke Rafferty mystery novel written by Timothy Hallinan and set in Bangkok, Thailand. As usual, it is a great story, and was the only book in the series that I had not read.  Since I read the books in reverse order, I know that all the characters in the book will survive despite being in horrendous circumstances, and although it does take some of the excitement away from the story, it is a lot less stressful than not knowing.  Why can't life be like that?  Of course, that would spoil the adventure.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

A Rabid Raccoon

I saw the very strange looking raccoon in the photograph above sitting in the hallway by my office.  It was originally used on the bookstore sales floor so that our customers could take a "selfie" with it, and so I thought I would take one, too.  It is a very timely, since my office-mate Peter tells me that raccoons  are starting to invade his southwest Denver neighborhood.  Hopefully they are not quite as large as this one, but if so, it might be time to think about moving.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

A Final Word On The National Western Stock Show

The National Western Stock Show ended this past Sunday.  As usual, visiting the show was a fun way to spend the day.  The show was great for people watching, and there was plenty of livestock to visit and competitions to attend.  I imagine the sheep posing in the photograph on the left was dressed up for some sort of sheep oriented beauty contest. Dressing sharp is evidently important in these type of contests.

I took the photograph on the right of the brown billy goat inside the petting zoo.  I didn't actually go into the petting zoo, since  the line to get in was about two blocks long, and it was filled with roughly 20 zillion kids.  But I was able to get a shot from outside the fence, and after cropping the photograph was able to see that the owners of that goat probably need to put the poor thing on a diet.  Or else an exercise program at the local gym.

And for those who think the American Cowboy is extinct, a trip to the National Western will dispel that thought immediately.  The West is still filled with them, although they mostly ride around in pickups instead of on horses these days.  Of course, they probably are all Republicans, and will be voting for Donald Trump, but for 3 weeks we can certainly forget about politics and just enjoy life.  Or maybe even for a lifetime.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

My Mother's 100th Birthday!

Today would have been my mother Mary's 100th birthday if she was alive today.  She passed away in 2009 at the age of 93, after staying with me here in Denver for the previous 4 years.  I am featuring a photograph of her I took at the Cherry Creek Arts Festival, back when she was visiting from Stuart, Florida.  My mother loved Stuart.  She played golf on a regular basis and had more friends than any other time in her life.  She spent almost 30 happy years there, and I am truly glad she had that time to enjoy life.  Happy 100th Birthday Mother!

Monday, January 25, 2016

The Breckenridge Brewery

My friend Stuart and I walked down to the Breckenridge Brew Pub in Lower Downtown Denver Saturday evening after spending the afternoon at the National Western Stock Show.  Stuart and I dined here on their opening night, back in February of 1993.  I remembered that it was February and about 10 below zero outside, and that Coors Field was under construction just kitty corner from the place, but not the year. Stuart remembered the date exactly.  Serious cold will do that.  In any case, the Colorado Rockies had not yet begun playing baseball yet, so there was excitement in the air.  Today, however, after more losing seasons than I care to remember, I think that Colorado Rockies excitement is not quite as strong.  Go Figure.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

The National Western Stock Show

My friend Stuart and I visited the National Western Stock Show yesterday afternoon, stopping at the animal stalls first and then heading to the always popular stock show dog competition.  The show seemed to feature a lot of sheep this year.  We saw them in the pens outside, in the stalls inside, and then competing in the mini arena next to the sheep stalls. After looking at the photograph on the left, Stuart told me I was the master of the sheep shot.  But I still don't know if that was a complement or not.

The stock show is a great place to get reacquainted with rural America.  It is a way of life that everyone assumes is long gone, but is still out there.  These past two weeks are the highlight of the year for these farm families, the time when they get to show off their livestock, visit with friends and acquaintances, and enjoy time away from the everyday routine.But stay away from the rodeo.  Once might be interesting, but twice is a mistake.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Remembering Paris

When I was the Finance Manager for the University of Denver Bookstore, I received over 4 weeks of vacation days a year, and a fairly decent salary, and so decided maybe it was time to take a few trips to Europe.  As soon as I got my passport, the first place I visited was Paris.  As Audrey Hepburn says as Sabrina, in the movie of the same name, "Paris is always a good idea."  I visited there for 5 days, staying at the Royal Phare Hotel, right around the corner from the market  street of Rue Clare, and had a wonderful time.  Going up to the top of the Eiffel Tower was an almost surreal experience.  I visited all the museums and saw as much as possible on that trip.  I even climbed to the top of Notre Dame Cathedral, where I took the photograph on the left.  These days I am living in more modest circumstances, but in 2018, the year I hope to retire - and if I have the money - I plan to travel big time once again.  Watch out Europe!  I'll be back!

Friday, January 22, 2016

Bearing Down At Work

I'm not saying my fellow bookstore employees are eccentric (by which I mean crazy), but they definitely think and act outside the box.  I recently peeked into an office down the hall and saw the above bear sitting at the desk.  The employee in that office stopped by the other day to borrow one of our chairs for his sales rep, because the bear was occupying the other.  Evidently the bear could not be disturbed.  Makes sense to me.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

All The News That's Fit To Print?

Now that I am working two jobs, I don't have time to read the newspaper anymore, and so I canceled my subscription to the Denver Post.  Fortunately, at the part-time job where I work in the evenings, they sell various periodicals and tabloids, such as The Globe, so that I can keep up on current events.  I was recently surprised to learn that Queen Elizabeth is dying, that she has wasted billions of dollars on herself, and that the British Monarchy is in crisis.  I never read stories like that in the Post.  What have I been missing?  And they can't put it in the paper if it's not true, right?

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Driving Past The DAM

I was driving from work up to Fort Collins Monday night to celebrate my sister's and my birthday, and on the way passed by (actually drove under) the Denver Art Museum (The DAM), seen in the background of the photograph above.  The Hamilton Wing of the museum was designed by Daniel Liebskind, and has received a lot of critical acclaim.  Right next door is the fairly new Denver Public Library, which was designed using a number of different architectural styles representing Denver's past.  Everyone here in Denver seems to like it too, although personally I characterize that style of architecture as just plain weird.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Celebrating Our Birthdays!

My sister Susan and I celebrated our birthdays in Fort Collins yesterday evening at the Moot House, an English style pub featuring such dishes as bangers and mash (and did you know that bangers are actually sausages?  Go figure).  My brother-in-law George took the above photograph of us in front of their Christmas tree (yes - it is still up), and what amazes me most is how little we have changed from the photograph of us featured in yesterday's Blog, taken back in 1966.  Must be some sort of miracle or something.

Monday, January 18, 2016

It's My Sister Susan's Birthday!

Today is my sister Susan's birthday.  I'm not going to say how old she is, only that she was born during the darkest days of World War II.  She never did serve in that war, however.  I am featuring a photograph of both Susan and myself (since tomorrow is my birthday, too, after all), taken in the backyard of our house in the South Side Brainerd neighborhood of Chicago.  It was taken on the occasion of my graduation from Fort Dearborn Grammar School, which both my sister and I attended.  I must state here and now that some of the teachers there told my mother that Susan was "a piece of work," and when I came around they automatically assumed that I was a piece of work, too, and treated me accordingly.  Not that I'm bitter.  At least not now.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

The Days Are Getting Longer! Yea!

As I came up the stairs from the bookstore offices the other day, on the way to my part-time job in the evenings, I was surprised to actually see the sun still shining through the windows.  It was a shock, to say the least.  The days have been growing longer without anyone noticing it, probably because of all the lousy weather we have had the past month or so.  And the tower you see through the windows of the bookstore belongs to Denver's East High School, whose students descend on the bookstore in droves during the lunch hour, to the delight of the coffee bar staff and the dismay of various curmudgeonly staff members.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Spring Training Is Just Four Weeks Away!

It's true!.  Four weeks from now pitchers and catchers will be reporting to their training camps in Florida and Arizona for the start of baseball's annual spring training.  I have to admit I have used the photograph above before, but I am using it again today for a reason.  It shows Todd Helton, the player who helped the Colorado Rockies get to their only World Series, walking off the field for the last time on the day he retired, superimposed upon a photograph of opening day ceremonies at Coor's Field, a day when hope springs eternal in the hearts of baseball fans.  However, after countless last or next to last place finishes, and with no true desire by management to improve the team and reduce income to the owners, I think fan optimism will be at a minimum this spring.  Expect to see Colorado Rockies spring training crowds crying into their beers all through February and March.  But let's play ball!

Friday, January 15, 2016

Colfax Update

Due to my part time job in the evenings at a local drugstore chain, I have not had much opportunity to take the bus to my job as the Bookkeeper at a local Denver bookstore and then walk down Colfax to the light rail station downtown.  However, as far as I can tell from occasionally driving down the avenue, it continues to gentrify.  There are still some iconic businesses that remain, of course, such as Pete's Kitchen (seen in the photograph above and in business since 1942), and the Satire Lounge (just down the street), famous for it's flashy neon sign.  In fact, preservationists want to declare the neon signs on Colfax Avenue an historic sight in order to preserve them.  A crazy idea or a smart one?  Both, probably.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Overcoming Blogger's Block

Yes.  It's happened again.  Another case of Blogger's Block.  It comes from too many long days without enough time to think.  Or for that matter, take new photographs.  Which is why I am featuring the above photograph of a bunny rabbit taken at the Denver Zoo some time in the past year.  Or so.  The rabbit is not skittish at all, since at the zoo he (or she) is free to roam without threats from human beings or anything else. Relaxing days.  Ample food.  The good life.  Is this what retirement will be like?

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

1940s Chicago Nostalgia

The two photographs I am featuring today were taken in the late 1940s - most likely 1948 - on the occasion of the wedding of my mother's - and my - cousin Shirley.  The photograph on the left shows Shirley and her father Byron on the front steps of their house at 85th and May Streets on the South Side of Chicago.  Not too long before she passed away, Shirley told me that she believed heaven was on the front stpes of their house at 85th and May, and to look for here there.  The next time I get to Chicago I definitely intend to do that

The photograph on the right was taken on the same day and shows my Grandfather Spillard (my mother's father and wearing the hat on the left) and my father Nelson, on the right.  Both are showing off the latest in late 1940s fashion.  This was the same year, by the way, that my family moved to our new house in the South Side Chicago Brainerd neighborhood.  Since my father had returned from serving on Okinawa during World War II, my mother Mary, father, and sister Susan lived with my mother's parents.  My mother said it was just heaven to finally have a place of their own, although my sister and her friend Janet seemed to control the neighborhood where my grandparents lived, and so Susan was less than happy to leave.  But for the residents of that neighborhood around East 85th Place, the reign of terror by two 6 year olds finally ended.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Sunset Over The Ritchie Center

I took the above photograph from the balcony of my condo of the University of Denver's Ritchie Center, a sports complex paid for by Dan Ritchie, the Chancellor of the University of Denver for many years.  Ritchie is independently wealthy, and financed many DU projects out of his own pocket.  He also got a lot of his wealthy friends to donate to the university, too.  Ritchie is a good person, and I truly believe that if he was still chancellor, the University of Denver Bookstore  -where I worked for 30 years - would not have been outsourced to Follett Higher Education Group.  But who knows?  It is water under the bridge now.  One more thing about Ritchie:  he thought my building was very ugly and took away from the ambiance of the Ritchie Center.  He wanted to buy the building and tear it down, but the price was too high, and so it went condo instead. And just what is wrong with "Soviet style architecture," anyway?

Monday, January 11, 2016

The Crossing

I have just finished The Crossing, Michael Connelly's latest Harry Bosch novel. and I must say it is very good.  Connelly's books always seem to be uniformly excellent.  This time Bosch is working for his half brother, Micky Haller - the Lincoln Lawyer - to prove that Haller's client was framed for a gruesome murder.  I was given the book - signed by the author, no less - by my friend Randy, the Hachette Book Group's sales rep for Colorado.  Of course, not to be picky, but the book actually has Connelly's initials, not his signature, but why look a gift horse in the mouth?  I would still like to know, however, why Connelly can't just sign the book with his actually signature, like every other author.  Just lazy I guess.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Still More Snow...

I know I sound like a broken record, but is seems like we are getting a lot more snow around Denver than usual lately.  The other morning I took the above photograph on my drive to work.  The driving was pretty hazardous, especially when you are  taking photographs at the same time, which I suppose could be considered a bit of a risk.  Which is why I am probably one of the few people in Colorado who has some sympathy for a photographer in Estes Park who walked right up to a giant Elk, took a photograph,  and then promptly got gored.  I personally would have used a zoom lens and left a little room to run away, but perhaps the photographer did not have a zoom.  Or was just stupid.  But he did get the shot.  I assume.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

A Stand-In For Peter

The Santa Elf in the photograph above was given to my office-mate Peter by a co-worker, who claims it looks exactly like him.  I offered to bring in a Santa cap and take Peter's photograph wearing the cap and holding the elf, so that my Blog readers could judge the resemblance for themselves, but he refused.  I still can't figure out why so many people refuse to appear on this Blog after just one appearance, but whatever. Suffice it to say that the elf will continue to stand in for Peter whenever he is the subject of that day's Blog. One disturbing note is that this elf seems to move around the office a lot after everyone leaves for the day.  In the mornings I often find him on my chair, next to my computer monitor, etc.  Peter claims he is not moving it, however, and of course he wouldn't lie about something as serious as this  Pretty scary.

Friday, January 8, 2016

The Doors of the Perennially Hip

I took the above photograph of a door to a row house in the Lower Highland neighborhood of Devner a while back.  It is the hippest neighborhood in the city these days, but what does a door like this say about your neighbors?  Of course, I don't live in this neighborhood, so I don't have to worry.  But if you do, you should seriously think about moving to a less hip, but saner location.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

The National Western Stock Show Is Here!

I had burgers and beers with my friend Stuart last night at the Old Chicago Restaurant on Colorado Boulevard here in Denver. On the television, as we dined, were several basketball games and a hockey game between Russia and Finland, but of course, no baseball - the start of spring training is still 5 weeks away.  However, the National Western Stock Show begins this weekend, and is one of the biggest events of the year in Denver.  Stuart and I agreed that we will definitely go.  Rodeos, cowboys, championship cattle, sheep, goats, and hundreds of booths selling some of the weirdest items on the planet.  Photo opportunities galore! Far out, as we used to say in the day.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016


Today is Epiphany, the twelfth day of Christmas, Twelfth Night, the day the 3 Wise men arrived in Bethlehem.  The Christmas decorations are all still up here in Denver, and so it is still very festive downtown, especially on the 16th Street Mall, where I took these photographs.

After today, however, the decorations will come down quickly and it will be back to business as usual.  Does that mean "Peace on Earth, Good Will to Men" will go away for another year? Probaby.  But we can always hope, can't we?

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

A Final Word On The Road To Little Dribbling

I have just finished reading an advance reading copy of Bill Bryson's new book The Road to Little Dribbling and thoroughly enjoyed it.  It is a sequel of sorts to his book Notes from a Small Island, and I heartily recommend it to anyone who enjoys witty armchair travel.  Interestingly enough, one of the towns he travels to is Blackpool, once a very popular English seaside resort but now experiencing hard times.  This was the town where my Aunt Elsie, my mother's sister-in-law (on the right in the photo above), her sister Margaret, and their mother, known as Grandma Blackburn (third from the right) emigrated from just after World War I. That war devastated most of Europe, and resulted in a massive loss of life.  The family moved to Cleveland for a better life, and my Uncle Bill, my mother's brother (on the left) and Elsie eventually met and got married.  Also in the photo are my Grandmother Spillard (second from the right), my cousin Judy (in front on the left) and cousin Linda (in front on the right).  I don't remember Grandma Blackburn, by the way, but my sister does, and remembers that she always used to call her Grandma Blackbird.  Who could object to that? Grandma Blackbird from Blackpool.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Zoo Redux

I had planned on going to the Denver Zoo this past weekend to take some Blog photographs, but having to work 3 of the past 4 evenings at my part-time job, was not able to make it there.  And zoo authorities would probably have frowned on me visiting when I got off work after midnight.  Therefore, I am featuring an oldie but goody that I took a while back.  Enjoy.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Watching Cricket With Mark

I visited my friend Mark - who works at the University of Denver's Anderson Academic Commons (i.e. the library) - yesterday afternoon to watch a cricket match on television between Melbourne and Sydney.  I have never watched a cricket match before, but after watching the game over a three hour period even I was able to get the gist of it.  And I was surprised to learn that the three hour cricket match is a relatively new innovation.  Traditional cricket games can go on for the entire day. and "test" cricket matches can last three days.  For those games I assume fans bring their pillows, blankets, and toiletries with them. In any case, I took the above photograph of Mark wearing all his cricket gear, which he wears when watching the matches. We White Sox fans, however, wear no such paraphernalia.  It is painful enough to be a White Sox fan, let alone to be identified and ridiculed as one.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

The 2016 CTA Historical Calendar Is Here!

This is truly exciting news.  Every year the Chicago Transit Authority issues a downloadable calendar with historic photos of CTA trains and buses in various parts of the Chicago, and it now online  You can download it and just view it on your computer, or you can print it out and hang it on your wall.  I myself printed out the March 2007 page to put on my refrigerator, since it features a 1930s era photograph of a streetcar going down the hill on 111th Street, in the Beverly neighborhood, close to where I grew up in the Brainerd neighborhood of Chicago.  I took the above photograph of that particular calendar page, along with another of my favorite possessions, a 1948 world globe I bought years ago at Chuckle's Used Books and Fine Antiques in Hobe Sound, Florida.  And do not think I am not a forward looking person just because my favorite things feature the distant past.  I'm known to my friends as "Mr. With-It." Download the CTA Calendar now at

Friday, January 1, 2016

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year everybody!  Once again I am featuring the photograph of my mother Mary (on the left) and her cousin Marie (on the right), taken at Marie and her husband Ed's house on New Year's Eve in Evergreen Park, Illinois many years ago.  As you can tell from the photo, Marie was quite the live wire. When Marie and her brother Junior were young children, their grandmother used to refer to them as "devils on wheels."  I don't know what devils on wheels are, but it definitely sounds lively.  My mother and her cousin Marie were very close, and sadly,  Marie passed away from cancer at a fairly young age, not too many years after this photograph was taken.  The moral, of course, is to enjoy life, your family, and your friends, since none of us knows what the future will bring.  In other words, make it your business to enjoy 2016, not to mention all the years after.