Monday, February 29, 2016

Happy Birthday Larry!

Today - February 29th - is my former University of Denver Bookstore colleague Larry's birthday.  Since this is Leap Year and February 29th comes along only once every every 4 years, that makes Larry still a very young man. Mrs. Fitzpatrick, the librarian at Fort Dearborn Grammar School back in the Brainerd neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago, was also born on February 29th, but that was a long time ago and I don't have any photographs of her, and so we will concentrate on Larry.  Larry was one of the two Operations Coordinators at the store, got burned out, and decided to retire.  Larry was - and I am sure still is - a really nice guy, but none of us current or former DU Bookstore employees have ever heard from him again after he left the store.  I guess once he was done with the DU Bookstore he was done with everything connected with it.  But we are such wonderful people - what's the deal with that?  Phone home Larry.  And Happy Birthday!

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Plumbing The Depths Up In Fort Collins

I drove up to Fort Collins yesterday afternoon to have dinner - steaks and beer, no less - with my sister Susan and brother-in law George.  It was a great day to drive north along the edge of the Great Plains (to the east no civilization to speak of for 1000 miles, until Chicago, and to the west, the Rocky Mountains). The temperature was in the high 60s and the sun was shining, and spring seemed at hand. All was not roses up in Fort Collins, however, because of a very sensitive subject to me - plumbing issues.  In the photo above, Susan and George are laughing on the outside and crying on the inside after paying a $2,000 special assessment leveled by the homeowner's association.  Not only that, after the plumbers turned the water back on after a day of work the other day, it caused a major leak in their upstairs bathroom.  The same thing happened to me, and I wound up paying over $600 to fix it.  The moral of this story - I should have been a plumber.  That and the medical industry seem to be where the money is.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Lost Denver

As long as we are talking about nostalgia, I thought I would feature the front cover of Lost Denver, a beautiful photo book of Denver's lost buildings, put together by Amy Zimmer, a local author and historian.  It was definitely a bargain at $19.95 (less my bookstore employee discount, of course).  I went to a book signing and talk given by Zimmer a few years ago while she was promoting her last book, Denver's Historic Houses, but didn't buy the book, and so I feel I am making up for it now.  And in fact, that particular paperback was more expensive than this beautiful hardcover book, so go figure.  In any case, back in the 1950s through the 1970s, Denver's Lower Downtown area became pretty blighted.  The grand old hotels became flophouses and wonderful grand edifices like the Tabor Opera House and the Tabor Block were looking pretty run down. At the same time, urban renewal was born, and the city, instead of encouraging the renovation of these marvelous structures,  leveled virtually the entire area.  By the time I moved to Denver in 1981, the Lower Downtown area seemed to be a sea of parking lots.  Of course, since that time the area has been rebuilt, but it took 30 or 40 years to do it, and some really irreplaceable buildings were lost.  Be sure to buy the book, take a look, and weep.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Nostalgia Time...

I know I have featured this photograph before, but it is one of my favorites, and I think it was taken by me. It features - from left to right - my Grandmother Spillard (my mother's mother), my mother Mary, my father Nelson, and my Uncle Jack and Uncle Bill (my mother's two brothers). Sadly, all of them are gone now. The photograph was taken on a Sunday afternoon in the backyard of my Uncle Jack's house in Evergreen Park, Illinois, while my uncle barbecued in the garage and we all sat on chairs on the driveway.  I'm not sure why he did either of those things, but who cares - those were happy times.  We were family, and we were all together.  And what could be better than that?

Thursday, February 25, 2016


My friend Stuart was stunned - stunned! - when I showed him the USA Today baseball article at the Old Chicago Restaurant in Lakewood last night predicting that the Chicago Cubs would win the National League Central Division with a major league baseball leading 101 wins, while the Chicago White Sox - my Chicago White Sox! - would win the American League Central title with 90 wins.  This could mean a "subway" World Series between the Cubs and White Sox, the first since 1906, back when I was way too young to remember the series.  This means we will have to take a road trip back to Chicago to catch one of the games.  I say let's buy the tickets now, price no object.  And let's go White Sox!

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Open Season

I just finished reading Open Season, the very first Joe Pickett Wyoming based mystery novel, a series written by C J Box.  It was nominated for an Edgar award, and in my opinion deserved to win.  It is a great, fast paced adventure that is hard to put down.  The book centers around the murder of three local hunting guides, and Game Warden Pickett's determination to continue investigating even after a suspect has been found.  Pickett's daughter Sheridan winds up in grave danger in this book.  And just by coincidence, I am about to start reading an advance copy of Box's new book Off the Grid, which according to the blurb on back also has a plot that places Sheridan in grave danger.  At least Box lets his main characters survive, unlike James Lee Burke, who has killed off two or three of Dave Robicheaux's wives in that Louisiana based mystery series. What's the deal with that?

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Denver's Best Dive Bars...

I saw a book on the bargain table at the bookstore where I work titled Denver's Best Dive Bars.  I leafed through it, and was tempted to buy it, but realized that virtually every place it listed I had been in or knew about - surprise!  And in point of fact, many of the places listed I do not consider dive bars at all.  One I do think of as a dive bar is The Satire Lounge, located on East Colfax Avenue, just down the street from where I work.  I stopped and took a photograph of it last night to put on this Blog, showing its famous neon sign.  And as I have mentioned before, there is a movement here in Denver to declare the neon signs on Colfax an historical landmark, in order to save them for posterity (we like neon here).  But I digress.  Denver's Best Dive Bar's also lists the Casa Bonita, an all your can eat Mexican restaurant catering to the tourist crowd.  I don't even think they have a bar, and I couldn't understand why it was listed.  Then Peter, my office mate, pointed out that the Casa Bonita's main claim to fame is it's cliff divers, who dive off an artificial cliff into a pool below, as dinners sit at their tables and watch.  And so it is a "dive" bar.  Very funny. Another example of Denver humor.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Using Older Computer Equipment In The Workplace

My office mate Peter constantly complains about the old monitors that we both use at the bookstore where we work.  He frequently points out that even the store's break room has a flat screen monitor, while we don't. I myself have no trouble with using older equipment.  I say, if it works, it works, which is how I wound up driving my classic 1987 Honda Civic for almost 30 years.  In any case, I have suggested that Peter push the monitor off the desk and say it was an accident, but then the computer team, suspecting the truth, might give him an even older monitor, possibly an Atari, which would probably thrill the appraisers on Antiques Roadshow.  Where did you find this treasure?

Sunday, February 21, 2016

DU Hockey At Coors Field!

There was quite a lot of excitement in the air as I drove through the University of Denver campus yesterday. Everyone was wearing their DU hockey jerseys, and groups of students were walking to the Light Rail Station across the street from campus to catch the train downtown.  As I drove up University Boulevard toward my workplace, a DU student was hanging out the window and whooping, waving his DU hat in the air.  Then I remembered that the DU hockey team was going to play Colorado College, their arch rival, at Coors Field in lower downtown Denver that night.  I decided to drive downtown after work, walk around, and join in the celebratory atmosphere.  The temperature was almost 70 degrees yesterday afternoon, and so I don't know how they kept the ice frozen, but they evidently did, because the game went on and 35,000 people attended the game.  I walked around the stadium during the second period break, and a lot of people seemed to be leaving early, but it is only hockey, after all.  And DU won, too, by a score of 4 to something. If you want details, you're reading the wrong Blog.  In any case, I just hope they don't ruin the center field grass playing these damn hockey games there.  After all, opening day for baseball at Coors Field is only a little over a month away.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Antiques Roadshow UK

After a two year hiatus, Antiques Roadshow UK has returned to Rocky Mountain Public Television. Evidently it took them that long to collect enough donations to buy more programs.  No wonder they have a televised pledge drive for a full week every damn month.  But I digress.  Having Antiques Roadshow UK back on public television is great news, because it is a really fascinating and fun show, far more so than its American counterpart.  In the American version of Antiques Roadshow, the antiques are seldom more than a 100 years old or so, and the show usually takes place in a convention center.  However, Antiques Roadshow UK usually takes place in a castle, the garden of an historic estate, or some other such historic location, and the antiques can be hundreds of years old.  In York, for example, people with metal detectors have even found Viking jewelry and other such artifacts, well over 1000 years old.  How can you beat that for interesting? And if you find something like that, profitable.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Leave It To Bieber

And no - the above photograph is not of Justin Bieber.  It is a photograph of my bookstore office mate Peter that I took about a year ago.  Peter will not let me take any more photographs of him for this Blog, but he has plenty of suggestions on how to improve it.  For starters, he suggests that I feature photographs of popular stars such as Justin Bieber, Kanye West, and various and sundry Kardashians, and make up stories about them.  Of course, I really don't know anything about these people, and am not even sure what a Kardashian does to make them so famous.  I would much prefer to make up stories about Peter, but then he would probably walk across the aisle and give me a good whack.  Just not worth it.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Spring Training Starts Today!

Is that exciting news or what?  Baseball is back!  Pitchers and catchers report to spring training camps in Florida and Arizona starting today.  And although the Colorado Rockies are predicted to finish last and lose 100 games this coming season, both the Chicago Cubs and the Chicago White Sox are predicted to finish first in their divisions by USA Today.  How wonderful is that?  Although I have to wonder when baseball writers began smoking crack.  It's the only explanation.  In any case, in honor of the start of spring training, I am featuring a photograph that I took of the Comiskey Park scoreboard back in 1980, with one of my sport's heros - Bill Veeck - photoshoped  in.  Veeck owned the minor league Milwaukee Brewers, the Cleveland Indians, and the Chicago White Sox (twice).  Veeck believed baseball should be fun, and for that was never forgiven by the other team owners.  In 1980, when he wanted to sell the team to Edward Debartolo, so that he could continue to run the Chicago White Sox, the owners voted against the sale, I guess on the grounds that Debartolo was Italian, and Veeck had to leave baseball forever.  A sad day.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The Ashtabula Hat Trick

I just finished reading the Ashtabula Hat Trick, the new Milan Jacovich mystery novel by Les Roberts.  The novels take place in Cleveland and environs.  I have read all the books in the series, but they are definitely uneven in their quality and appeal.  This one, I'm afraid to say, is a miss.   It takes place in Ashtabula County, the most northeast county in Ohio, and seems to imply that everyone there is a racist, and that the place is beset by meth dealers and users.  It might be true, it might not, but the book was pretty boring until the last 50 pages.  Could Roberts be running out of fresh ideas?  I shouldn't be the one to criticize, of course, since I ran out of fresh ideas something like 20 years ago, but on the whole, I would say this one is a skip.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Lion Cub

I still haven't been able to get to the Denver Zoo to take photographs this winter, and so have decided to post the above photograph that I took a year or so ago of a lion cub posing for the camera.  At this age the animals are full of energy and very curious about you, and head right over to get a closer look.  They are very cute at this age, which is why I imagine some people want to keep them as pets.  Of course, once they get bigger, this becomes a problem.  This is probably what happened to that guy in New York City, who was found with a fully grown lion (or was it a tiger?) in his studio apartment.  What I want to know is what the neighbors thought of that?  Is everyone in New York so blase that they don't even think twice about a lion living down the hall?  Scary.

Monday, February 15, 2016


Yesterday was Valentine's Day, and I worked my usual evening shift at my part-time job at a drugstore in the neighborhood.  It was quite busy for a while, and the biggest sellers were giant stuffed animals (called plush animals in the trade).  They were especially popular with the University of Denver co-eds, and I kept having to refill the front display table with them.  Teddy bears were the most popular, and dogs too, but nobody wanted to buy the giant stuffed monkey.  What's wrong with giving a giant stuffed monkey to your sweetie on Valentine's Day?  Which probably goes a long way to explaining why I am divorced.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Remembering St. Thomas Seminary And Father Bob

I was driving past St. Thomas Seminary on my way to work at the bookstore yesterday afternoon and decided to take a photograph of it for old times sake (the photo on the left). These days it is no longer St. Thomas Seminary, but the Pope John Paul II Center for the New Evangelization.  But back when my now ex-wife Lisa and I used to visit here, it was St. Thomas, where Father Bob was the musical director for the school.  Father Bob was - and probably still is - quite the character.  When my wife Lisa and I would go out for Mexican food at La Plaza, which was located down the street from the seminary, we would often run into Bob and his posse of fellow priests, and we would join them for beers and burritos and a lot of laughs.

Whenever Bob traveled anywhere and people found out he was a priest, they would offer to let him use their cars, vacation homes, etc. anytime he wanted  Whomever he met or where ever he went, people immediately liked him.  Which is how my wife Lisa, sister Susan and brother-in-law George (in the back in the photo on the right), Father Bob (kneeling in the front), parishioner Linda (on the right), a nun named Sister Carla, and a bunch of priests  wound up staying in a large condo in Breckenridge one August weekend.  When I heard a nun would be joining us, I asked my wife Lisa if she though she might be offended if I brought beer.  She thought not, and when I drove up to the front door and saw Sister Carla standing there wearing bib overalls, holding a cigar in one hand and a bottle of beer in the other, I didn't either.  In any case, a few years later Bob left the priesthood and eventually married Linda.  Both Lisa and myself tried to contact Bob several times, but never heard back.  I guess he wanted to leave that part of his left behind.  But not me - those were fun times.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Exactly 51 Years Later...

I did not realize it until I looked at the writing on the bottom of yesterday's Blog photograph of myself and my 7th grade class at Fort Dearborn School, but it was taken in February of 1965, exactly 51 years ago. And so today I am posting a photograph showing how I look now, which I took this afternoon on the balcony of my central Denver condo, enjoying the springlike temperatures.  Back then I was a bit of a nerd, while today, of course, I am a hipster, living the dream - except for the part about having to work two jobs, of course.  In any case, the groundhog was right.  It didn't see it's shadow, and so it will be an early spring. Temperatures here will be in the 60s this week and next, with no snow in sight.  Let the good times roll!  And now off to work.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Fort Dearborn And The Joy Of School Holidays

Today is Lincoln's birthday, which back when I went to Fort Dearborn Grammar School in the Brainerd neighborhood on Chicago's South Side, was a school holiday, as was Washington's birthday just a week and a half later.  Those were the good old days, although to be absolutely honest I was not crazy about school. It was especially hard to sit in class at the beginning of June, the windows open, the weather nice and warm, and the sound of power lawn mowers in the background, waiting for the day to end.  What a joy the last day of school was, with an entire summer to look forward to.  And how amazing it was how quickly Labor Day came, along with the start of another school year.  Talk about depressing.  In any case, I the photograph above was taken in February of 1965, back when I was a carefree 12 years old.  In case your are wondering, I am in the middle row on the far left.  Nerd city.  

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Johnny Carson Is Back!

Kind of.  He is still dead, but local television is now broadcasting reruns of his nightly talk show.  I have watched several of the programs, and am amazed at the quality of the guests.  Over the past few nights, I have seen interviews with Truman Capote (sitting next to Johnny in the photograph above) and Carl Sagan. However, the opening monologues, which used to be my favorite part of the show, are pretty dated. Gerald Ford, President Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev jokes just don't cut it anymore.  Go figure.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

A Good Day To Avoid Downtown

Yesterday there was a parade and a big celebration in Civic Center Park to congratulate the Denver Broncos on their Super Bowl victory.  The reports on the radio said a million people attended, which is quite a crowd for Denver, since the metropolitan area has only a total of 2,700,000 people and the entire state 5,000,000.  Not that I question the estimate, but that meant that one out of every 5 people in Colorado was downtown yesterday.  Although I love to walk from the bookstore where I work on East Colfax Avenue downtown to Union Station whenever I can, and take the Light Rail train home, yesterday was definitely not the day to do it.  It definitely must have felt a little claustrophobic in that crowd.  And I don't even feel bad about using a photo of a Denver sunset that I took last summer for today's Blog,  instead of a photograph of yesterday's frenzied scene.  So there.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

The Promise

I just finished reading Robert Crais' new Elvis Cole and Joe Pike mystery adventure The Promise.  I was on the waiting list at the Denver Public Library for 3 months in order to get it, so I knew it had to be good, and it is.  It takes place in LA, as usual, and involves a search for a woman making plastic explosives and trying to sell them to al-Quada.  It is an exciting read, and also involves the main character from Crais's last book,  Suspect, featuring K9 officer Scott James and his police dog Maggie.  Definitely check it out from your local library, or better yet - if you have some bucks - buy it from your local independent bookstore.

Monday, February 8, 2016

The Denver Broncos Win The Superbowl!

And thank God.  Now we won't have to endure the city being in a funk for the next 6 months, which happened last year.  The Denver Broncos beat the Carolina Panthers in convincing fashion, 24 to 10, and now Peyton Manning, Denver's geriatric quarterback, can retire on top.  Meanwhile, down in the Carolinas, they are remembering the last lines of a famous poem:

Oh, somewhere in the favoured land the sun is shining bright,
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light;
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout,
But there is no joy in the Carolinas - the Carolina Panthers have struck out.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Super Bowl Sunday!

Today is Super Bowl Sunday, and the Denver Broncos will play the Carolina Panthers this afternoon for the National Football League Championship.  Denver is obsessed with the Broncos year-round, but has been in an absolute frenzy this past week.  I watched the local news last night, and it was almost exclusively about the Broncos.  Even the weather report was more about Santa Clara, California, where the game will be played, than Denver.  I truly hope the Broncs will win, because otherwise the entire population of Colorado will be in a funk for weeks or even months, until the Broncos start training again.  Nobody deserves that kind of hell. Not even me.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Equal Time

Last week I featured a photograph of my sister Susan - at age one - and our Grandmother Spillard (my mother's mother), and felt it only fair that I post one of myself with my grandmother, too, taken back in the 1950s in front of our house in the South Side Chicago neighborhood of Brainerd.  As I recall, my Grandmother was training me for the Tour de France when this photograph was taken.  And in fact, I am still in training for that prestigious race, and feel I will be read for it soon.  Do you have to qualify for it, or can you just show up with your bike?

Friday, February 5, 2016

Spring Training Is Only 10 Days Away!

Yes, baseball fans!  Pitchers and catchers report to the spring training facilities in Florida and Arizona in only 10 days.  It may still be cold and snowy up in the frozen north, but in just a few weeks you can turn on the car radio and listen to exhibition baseball games taking place in warmer climes.  And played in the afternoon, no less, before commercial television and greedy owners decided to play baseball only during prime time hours.  No matter what the weather is up north, listening to these games, you  know Spring is near.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

The Bonfils - Lowenstein Theater

The Bonfils-Lowenstein Theater closed in 1986, and was later remodeled and turned into the main store of the local bookstore where I work.  The lobby of the theater has been almost perfectly preserved, and when I work late and walk up the stairs from my office on the lower level, I am always impressed with the room. The owner did a great job of retrofitting the theater as a bookstore.  Even the basement is pretty interesting. A river actually runs underneath the store.  You can lift up floor coverings and find what looks like manhole covers.  You can then open these up, drop a fishing line down into the water, and actually catch fish while sitting in the travel section of the bookstore.  What other bookstore can boast that?  Eat your heart out, Sports Authority.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

A Tale Of Two Lions

I received the lion in the above photograph from my sister Susan as a birthday gift last week.  And this particular lion has a story behind it, too.  Many years ago my sister gave my father Nelson a ceramic lion as a birthday gift.  He liked it very much, as did my sister.  In fact, she liked it so much she decided to keep it for herself.  She wound up giving him the lion she recently gave me in place of the first one.  My father was a good sport about it all, and actually thought it was pretty funny.  My sister still has the original lion.  Some people might call my sister an Indian giver, but I am told that is politically incorrect..  I guess the expression now should be "Native American giver."

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

The Winter Storm

The big snowstorm predicted for Monday and Tuesday here in Denver came in with a whimper.  Traffic was moving at it's normal pace, and the main streets were snow free.  As you can see from the photo on the left, taken yesterday morning, the side streets did have some snow on them, but not all that much.  I came up from my office in the basement several times during the day, and each time I looked, it was no longer snowing

Had the weather forecasters blown it again?  It sure looked like it, until I walked to the parking garage that evening and found that the temperatures had dropped, the storm had finally intensified, and the roads were now snow-packed.  I was all set to make fun of the weather geeks, and now it appears they were right.  I personally find that maddening.  Plus, it is still snowing this morning and now I have to drive to work in this mess. Bummer.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Dinner With The Gang

I had dinner Saturday night with some of the old University of Denver Bookstore gang.  As regular Blog readers know, the the University of Denver outsourced the DU Bookstore to Follett Higher Education Group a couple of years ago, laying off the employees and resulting in the former staff spreading out far and wide.  Darrel and his wife Linda invited us all to their house for pizza, and it evolved into a kind of pot luck, and a damn fine one, too. In the photograph above are - from left to right - Darrell and his wife Linda, Jim and his wife Chris, and Jake and his significant other Valarie.  Darrel was the Accounts Payable Manager for the DU Bookstore, Chris was the Accounts Payable Assistant, and Valarie was the Operations Manager.  I myself was the Finance Manager, back when I was on top.  It was a wonderful evening, and everyone stayed until almost 11:00.  Whereas at previous gatherings we talked about the good old days and what everyone is doing now, this past Saturday night a good part of the evening was spent discussing the presidential candidates and the upcoming caucuses and primaries, and the very real possibility of a Bernie Sanders - Donald Trump contest.  It was a great evening, but at the end everyone agreed that it was my turn to host the next get-together next.  Which means I will actually have to clean my place.  And that could take months, if not years.  Time to call Molly Maids.