Saturday, April 30, 2016

Remembering April 30th, 1975

April 30th, 1975 was the day Saigon fell, bringing to a close the Vietnam war.  I remember the day very clearly, because I was sitting in a cottage along the Indian River in Jensen Beach, Florida, listening to the events take place on the radio.  That was the month my mother Mary and father Nelson and I traveled down to Stuart, Florida for the first time, to see whether my mother and father wanted to retire there.  We drove the long way, down I-57 from Chicago to Biloxi, Mississippi, and then along the Gulf Coast to Florida. Before heading inland toward the East Coast of Florida, we stopped for the night in Panama Beach, at a little motel along the water, where I took the above photograph of my father looking contemplative at the Gulf. My parents did move to Stuart the following year, and my sister and I still own the condo there.  But I will always remember that day in the cottage along the water, listening to the end of a disastrous 10 year war, resulting in thousands of lives lost or destroyed for absolutely nothing.  Unbelievable.

Friday, April 29, 2016

The Denver Zoo Advertises In Chicago Magazine!

Yes, it's true!  The Denver Zoo has a full page ad in April's issue of Chicago Magazine, featuring it's Giraffe Encounter, which allows patrons to get up close and personal with the giraffes and hand feed them. However, the problem is that as far as I can tell, it is rarely open.  The entrance usually has a sign across the gate saying "tummies full," or just shut with no explanation at all.  After driving a thousand miles to have a zoo encounter and finding a locked gate, I think the average Chicagoan would be justifiably perturbed.  Hell, I'm perturbed and I live only 5 miles away.  Perhaps the zoo better find an attractive alternative to feeding the giraffes, such as riding the giraffes.  Now that would be something to drive a thousand miles for.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

More Snow? Really? Now?

It's "Springtime in the Rockies" - which means temperatures in the 70s one day and a snowstorm the next. The weather forecasters are once again predicting 10 inches of snow will fall in Denver this weekend, just a few days, if I am not mistaken, before the 1st of May. What is the deal with that?  Of course, this time of year they are often wrong, and even if they aren't, it will be mainly just slush on the roads.  So why do I complain?  It's what I do, and do best.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

A Colorado Rockies Update

I went to the Colorado Rockies - Pittsburgh Pirates game at Coors Field Monday night with my friend Mark, along with Mark's cousin and a former co-worker of Mark, both native Pittsburgers (is that a word?) and both, of course, Pirates fans.  One of them was wearing a Pirates ball cap, not unnoticed by the usher, but surprisingly enough, most of the people in our section seemed to be Pirates fans.  And I learned a lot about Pittsburgh during the evening.  I also leaned that the local Denver sportscasters, who say the Colorado Rockies are much improved this year, are full of it.  I have now attended two games this season, and the Rockies have stunk both times.  The end result:  Pittsburgh 6, Colorado 1.  Just what is your definition of much improved, sportscasters?

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Dining Al Fresco With Mark

I went to the Colorado Rockies game at Coors Field last night with my friend Mark, who works at the University of Denver's Anderson Academic Commons (the library).  We were running a bit late, and decided to dine Al fresco, but still graciously, at a corner hot dog cart just outside the ballpark.  The owner was attentive and grateful for our business, and we had a great bench to watch all the lower downtown action. Plus the price was right.  What more can a cheapskate ask for?

Monday, April 25, 2016

Me And Travis McGee

I have probably mentioned this before, and even used the same photograph seen above, too, but I am getting old, so give me a break.  When I first started working in the book business, at the Walden Books in North Riverside, Illinois in 1976, I discovered John D. McDonald's Travis McGee novels.  We could strip the covers off the paperbacks and take them home, and so I was able to read all of the McGee stories McDonald wrote, and then bought the new hardcovers as they came out.  When John D. McDonald passed away, Travis McGee died too, and the books of course stopped.  That's why I was so happy when my sister Susan took the above photograph of me at the site of Travis McGee's old houseboat, slip F-18, Bahia Mar Marina, Fort Lauderdale Florida.  Susan, my mother Mary, and I were at Bahia Mar to take the Jungle Queen on a cruise up the New River, and I just had to see the site.  And there is actually a plaque (seen in the photograph above), marking the spot. How cool is that?  I believe Bahia Mar has now changed hands, and so I hope the plaque is still there.  And if not, I shall want to know the reason why, damn it.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Are Sunset Photographs Cliches?

That is what Roddy, my photography professor, called them.  And I guess if you are a photography professor, you look at hundreds and maybe thousands of sunset photographs during your career, and just get plain sick of them.  Roddy also doesn't like photographs of the golden aspens taken here in Colorado during the fall, and for the same reason.  Of course, I an not a photography professor, and have no qualms about taking both sunset and aspen photographs.  I took the photograph of the left in the parking lot of the King Sooper's Grocery store on south Colorado Boulevard here in Denver just a few days ago.  Not only is it a pretty scene, it is located almost exactly where the Hatch's Bookstore was located, in the long gone University Hills Mall, which was the bookstore I managed when I first came to Denver.  The store faced west and had huge picture windows, and so we saw some great sunsets there, too.

On the other hand, sunsets on East Colfax Avenue seem a bit grittier, even though it has been gentrified and today is far from the "longest, wicked street in America," which it allegedly was back during Jack Kerouac's time.  It is still popular with the winos and homeless, however, and if you take the East Colfax bus there is always a conversation you can overhear about the passenger's latest meeting with their parole officer.  I took the photograph on the right driving down Colfax toward Union Station.  It shows the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception on the right, and the State Capitol on the left, with a little bit of a sunset looking down on the scene.  I bet Jack Kerouac would approve.  That's one.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

The Train To The Plane Is Up And Running!

The train between downtown Denver's Union Station and Denver International Airport (DIA) opened yesterday with much fanfare.  It is part of the "Fast Tracks" initiative that Denver voters approved a few years ago to upgrade public transportation in the metro area. It is important to remember that the train to the plane stays mainly on the plain, since DIA is located, as far as I can tell, very close to the Kansas border.  It will now take only 27 minutes by train to get to the airport, which means the train must travel around 200 miles per hour.  I took the photograph on the left of the crowds lined up to take a free ride out to the airport.  It says a lot about Denver that so many people lined up to ride all that way to the airport on a Friday night, and not even have to fly anywhere.

And as long as I was there, I went inside Union Station to check out the action.  As frequent Blog readers know, Union Station was remodeled a few years ago and has become one of the hippest places in town. However, it looked to me like the place was not as crowded on this particular Friday night as in the past.  In fact, there was only a very short line to buy a drink at the Terminal Bar.  Perhaps everyone was taking a free train ride out to the airport. Or else could a new hot spot be replacing Union Station?  And if so, why haven't I heard about it?  I am, after all, a hipster myself.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Felicia Day Appears At The Tattered Cover Bookstore!

Felicia Day, actress and online entertainment pioneer, appeared at Denver's Tattered Cover Bookstore last night to sign copies of her new book You're Never Weird on the Internet (Almost): A Memoir.  To be honest, I never heard of her before this week, but evidently a lot of people have, since the line to get a book signed went from the event space on the lower level, up the stairs, and then to the back of the store.  The April Newsletter stated that no posed photographs would be allowed, which is why I am featuring the candid, clearly unposed photograph above.  I just have to wonder what a posed photograph is considered to be?  It boggles the mind.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

The Book Of Knowledge

When my sister was growing up, she religiously read a set of encyclopedias called The Book of Knowledge.  The set we had was the 1918 edition, and it was filled with illustrations, short stories, poetry, and of course information on any subject you needed to know about, assuming you could use pre-1918 data.  When I was growing up, I used a set of The American Encyclopedia for my school work, since it had more updated information in it, such as how World War I turned out.  In any case, both encyclopedia sets were given away when we moved to a new home.  And then I saw a set of The Book of Knowledge for sale for a pretty cheap price on the internet, and ordered it.  My sister took a look at it and immediately turned up her nose. It was the 1943 edition, and had far more photographs than illustrations, and far more encyclopedia type facts than short stories and poetry.  And so if any of you our there have a set of the 1918 edition you want to get rid of cheaply, let me know.  After all, you have Wikipedia now online, and you already know how World War I came out.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Do Grammar Schools Still Exist?

I have been reading Michael Harvey's new book Brighton (which is excellent, by the way), and in one of the chapters the main character reminisces about his old grammar school.  It made me stop and think about my old grammar school, Fort Dearborn, located in the Brainerd neighborhood on the south side of Chicago, where I grew up.  I visited Brainerd a few years ago, and the school is still going strong.  But I wonder if it is still called a grammar school?  These days I hear about elementary schools, middle schools, and junior highs, but never about grammar schools.  Has the name been eliminated?   And if so, why?  In any case, I took the above photograph of one of the Kloak kids (I think he was one of about 20 or 30 brothers and sisters) in front of Fort Dearborn in 1963, back when I was a budding young 10 year old photographer.  Such talent even then!  Can you believe it?

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Remembering The Paramount

I had a rare night off from my 2 jobs last week and drove into downtown Denver to see what was happening.  And the answer is a lot.  New buildings going up, restaurants and bars doing a box office business, and people just out and about enjoying the evening.  As I walked around town, I took the photograph to the left of the Paramount Theater's marquee.  The Paramount is an old time Denver movie theater that is enjoying a new life hosting live music and other events.  The last time I was in the place was when I went to hear Hunter S. Thompson speak.  He was about 2 hours late.  A lot of the fans were a bit on the strange side, and the place had a full bar doing a bang up business, which was a very bad combination.  By the time Hunter showed up, the audience was pretty rowdy.  The main thing I remember about the evening is that it was an election year, and Thompson seemed to be to be far more level headed than his fans.  He said that everyone needed to get out there and vote, since that was the only way to change things.  As I walked past the Paramount the other night, I saw that people were lining up to hear Generation Axe. Probably a 1940s dance band.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Another Big Spring Snowstorm

The weather forecasters were right - it snowed like crazy this past weekend.  Denver wound up with a foot of snow, and other areas of the metro area received much more.  It was a lot of snow, but the temperatures were on the warm side, the streets stayed relatively clear, and so I was able to get out and do my usual routines.  Among other things, I picked up a book at the library and took the above photograph of the Bonnie Brae Ice Cream Shop, located right across the street, where I went with some old DU colleagues and friends just this past Friday.  Unlike Friday night, it looked like it would pretty easy to find a table there both Saturday and Sunday.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

It's Noah!

I was walking out of the bookstore where I work Friday night and who did I run into but my old University of Denver Bookstore colleague Noah, who was taking his 2 daughters into the store.  As long-time Blog readers will remember, Noah was always willing to have his photograph taken and put on this Blog.  As a matter of fact, a friend of his once ran across this Blog while looking for something else online and thought it was actually a Blog dedicated just to him.  Noah is still the stockroom manager at the DU Bookstore and tells me all is going well for him and his family.  Good to see you again Noah!

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Another DU Get Together At The Bonnie Brae

A group of us former (and current) University of Denver employees and friends got together at the Bonnie Brae Tavern for pizza Friday night.  It was good to see everyone and catch up on what everyone has been up to lately.  Amazingly enough, the DU Bookstore was only mentioned in passing, as opposed to being the main topic of conversation for the evening, as it has often been in the past.  What's the deal with that?  Afterwards we made the obligatory trip across the street to the Bonnie Brae Ice Cream Shop, where Rudy Giuliani once waged his ultimately unsuccessful campaign for president.  I wonder if Donald Trump will be showing up there this summer, too?  In any case, in the photograph above (from left to right ) are Bill, former Operations Coordinator for the DU Bookstore, his wife Renee; Ruthie (mother of Mark), Mark, who works at DU's Anderson Academic Commons (the library), Mark's father Dale, and Wally, who still works part-time at the DU Bookstore.  Great to see you all!

Friday, April 15, 2016

Emancipation Day 2016

I was really stressing out the past few days, since I had to work a lot of hours at my two jobs and have not been able to find the time to do my income taxes.  With only a few days until April 15th, I was planning on doing some very late night tax work.  Then I found out that the deadline was April 18th this year, because April 15th is Emancipation Day in Washington D.C. and a holiday. I assume Emancipation Day means they are finally freeing the slaves in Washington (and about time, too in my opinion), but I digress.  Because of this holiday, I have this entire weekend to finish my taxes.  What a wonderful universe!

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Meanwhile, Back In Stuart, Florida...

In a little less than 3 weeks, our Stuart, Florida tenants will be leaving the condo my sister and I inherited from our parents and will be empty for at least the next 7 months.  This is both good and bad.  Good because it means we can actually use the place once in a while - bad because the income stream we have been receiving will be gone.  And in recognition of this annual transition, I am featuring a photograph of my father that I took at the Circle Bay condo complex back in the 1970s.  Circle Bay is right next door to our condo. While Circle Bay emphasizes boating and provides a boat slip for every tenant, our complex (the Monterey Yacht and Country Club) has a nine hole golf course and features free golf for the residents.  My parents used to like to walk along the docks of circle bay, enjoy the river views, and look at the boats, and I would sometimes go along with them.  They had many friends who  lived there, so if anyone asked them what they were doing there, they simply said they were friends of so and so.  Of course, if I tried to walk around there these days, they would probably just call the cops and ask questions later.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Is Michael Harvey Headed for The Big Time?

Michael Harvey is a mystery writer who writes a series of books that take place in Chicago.  They include The Third Rail, The Chicago Way, and The Governor's Wife.  All of them are very well written, and since they take place in Chicago, my old home own, they are also a lot of fun to read.  However, I just recently picked up an advance reading copy of his new book, Brighton, which takes place in Boston and is a very serious novel.  I know it is a serious novel because I have started to read it and it is depressing as hell.  It reminds me a lot of Mystic River, written by Dennis Lehane, which also takes place in Boston.  Lehane wrote a very enjoyable detective series that took place in Boston, but once Mystic River became a best seller and was made into a movie, Lehane stopped writing the series and continued to write "serious" novels.  I just hope Harvey won't do the same if this new book is a big success (the movie rights have already been sold before publication).  Perhaps I'll write him a threatening letter.  That always works.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Snow In The Forecast

It will be hard to adjust after several weeks of temperatures close to 70 degrees, but snow is once again in the forecast.  Of course, April is traditionally Denver's 2nd snowiest month after March, so it should be no surprise.  I don't know if we will be getting as much snow as the spring blizzard we had a few weeks ago (the photograph above shows the view from my balcony the day after that storm), but regardless, spring storms are heavy and wet and disappear fast.  It will undoubtedly be sunny the next day and the snow will soon be a distant memory.  Another benefit of living in Denver.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Laurie R. King At The Tattered Cover

Laurie R. King discussed and read from her new book The Death of Mary Russell Friday night at the Tattered Cover Bookstore.  She writes a series of mysteries about her heroine Mary Russell and a now retired Sherlock Holmes, which involve solving mysteries around the world.  I have never read any of her stories, but judging from the enthusiasm of the crowd, she is highly popular.  I read all of the Sherlock Holmes many years ago.  I kind of agree with a critic that Sherlock Holmes may have survived a fall from the Reichenbach Falls (where author Conan Doyle prematurely killed off his character), but that he wasn't the same man afterwards, but maybe I will give King's books a try anyway.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Baseball Honors The Military

I attended Opening Day at Denver's Coor's Field Friday, and a big part of the Opening Day ceremonies was honoring the military, reminding everyone that we are still fighting a war of sorts in Afghanistan and, for that matter, throughout the world.  Since it a war against religious fanatics, it appears to be a war without end, perhaps to go down in history as a struggle similar to the crusades, or the 100 Years War versus England and France.  I have no solutions to this, of course.  My point is that it is a good thing that major league baseball is honoring the warriors in this ongoing struggle.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Opening Day 2016

I worked half a day at the bookstore where I serve as the bookkeeper, and then took the Colfax bus (always good entertainment) downtown, where I walked to Coors Field to attend the Opening Day baseball game between the Colorado Rockies and San Diego Padres.  It was a big party the entire length of my walk, with the street-side patios of the bars and restaurants bursting at the seams, music everywhere, and dozens of booths set up in front of the ballpark.  I immediately went to the upper deck to stake out the best position to take a photograph of all the Opening Day pageantry, and then headed down to my seats.  And no - the above photograph of Denver's Coor's Field is not the same one as last year.  It is just that the Opening Day ceremonies are the same every year.  Don't blame the photographer.  In  any case, everyone was in a great holiday mood - until the Rockies started to play baseball, of course.  Their pitching looks as bad as I have ever seen it, and I truly thought the 4th and 5th innings would go on forever, since the Rockies pitchers kept giving up hit after hit and walk after walk.  I had to leave at the top of the 9th inning, with San Diego leading the Rockies by a score of 11 to 6.  I later learned the final score was 13 to 7, meaning the agony went on for a little while longer.  But hey.  Maybe it was just Opening Day jitters.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Happy Opening Day!

It's finally here.  Baseball is back, and today it the home opener for the Colorado Rockies.  In honor of this momentous event, I am featuring a photograph of Comiskey Park that I took back in 1980, along with an image of Bill Veeck that was on the ticket stub of the game honoring his contributions to baseball.  By 1980, Veeck could no longer afford to own the Chicago White Sox, and hoped to sell the team to Eddie DeBartalo, who was planning to let Veeck continue to run the team.  However, the major league baseball owners, who hated Veeck because of his belief that baseball should be fun, disapproved the sale - I think on the grounds that DeBartalo was Italian.  Veeck was forced to sell the team to Jerry Reinsdorf, who promptly stated that "from now on we are going to run a class operation."  After Veeck heard that, he became a Cubs fan, finishing his life watching the team that his father once ran and where he worked as a young man.  Happy Opening Day People!

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Have You Mailed Your "Happy Opening Day" Cards Yet?

For many years now I have sent "Happy Opening Day" cards to all my friends and relatives at the start of each baseball season.  And can you guess how many "Opening Day" cards I have received in return?  That's right - none, nada, zero, zip.  Is that a sad state of affairs or what?  Life here in Denver is a lot different than living on the South Side of Chicago, where people eat, sleep, and breath baseball and their follow their respective north or south side team religiously.  Sad but true.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

A Favorite Set Of Snapshots

The photographs featured on today's Blog are two of my favorites.  They were taken in the summer of 1977, a year after my mother Mary and father Nelson moved to Stuart, Florida from Chicago.  My sister Susan and I came to visit, and we hit all the high spots, including Stuart Beach.  The photos show everyone staring intently into the sky.

As I recall, my sister said something to the effect of "Look up there  - penguins!"  We all were stunned and looked upward immediately.  Then my sister said "I mean pelicans," which are a lot less unusual to see in the sky. Surprisingly, Susan still often says "penguins - I mean pelicans" to this day.  What can I say.  We were both raised on the South Side of Chicago, where both penguins and pelicans are fairly rare.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

The Pool Controversy

It has been two years since the pool at my condo building was open.  Last year it stayed closed because of a leak, and I have not yet heard whether the homeowners association (The HOA) intends to have it fixed this year or not.  I think it is pretty strange that a major amenity such as a pool would be kept closed year round, but maybe it is because of all the balcony jumping incidents that have taken place over the years.  Since the building is right across the street from the University of Denver, we get a lot of DU students living here, and some of the frat types like to impress the coeds by jumping off the building's balconies into the pool.  The last time this happened, the student hit the bottom of the pool and broke his collar bone.  Still, I think it makes no sense to keep the pool closed just because some DU students have the brains of a turnip.  I say let Darwin's Law do it's job, and open the damn pool.

Monday, April 4, 2016

A Message For The Times?

As I mentioned in yesterday's Blog, I was able to attend the First Friday Art Walk on South Santa Fe Drive here in Denver.  I enjoyed it very much, and in the back one of the art galleries I took the above photograph, which was not of art at all but seems to have an  important message during this political year.  I don't know if it was intended or not, but to me it seems to be a message for the times .  In any case, let's pray that "exit hope" is not the theme of the next 4 to 8 years.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Catching Up With Ana Silvia And Joe

I invited my friend (and my brother-in-law George's first cousin) Ana Silvia and her husband Joe (also a friend, of course) over for pizza yesterday evening.  I have not seen them since early November, and so it was good to catch up with what was happening with them.  Ana Silvia and Joe recently bought a house just outside of Ocala, Florida, and will be moving there sometime in May.  Both of them wanted to buy a house, and Denver was just too expensive. Ocala is much more reasonable, and a heck of a lot warmer, too.  Ocala is just a three hour drive away from Stuart, Florida, where my sister and I own a condo, and so I will be checking out their new digs when I travel down to Florida this coming August.  Get my room ready, guys!

Saturday, April 2, 2016

First Friday! Again!

Yes.  Not only does the Denver Art Museum have it's Final Friday events, but a mere week later the First Friday art walk takes place on South Santa Fe Drive here in Denver.  And that leaves two Fridays open for future monthly events. In any case, since I had the evening off, I was able to attend this month's art walk. As usual, the galleries were crowed with art enthusiasts, especially at the Center for the Visual Arts, where the graduating Metropolitan State University BFA (Bachelor of Fine Arts) students were exhibiting their senior projects.  One of the photography students exhibited huge panels of photographs of small businesses.   It was very impressive and demonstrates once again that if you put together large numbers of average photographs, you can create something much greater than the sum of the individual parts.  I know I should have worn my red beret to the event like the guy in the photograph on the left, but didn't.

As usual, it was an interesting crowd, and lots of interesting if not outright strange art.  I started at the Spark Gallery and worked my way south down Santa Fe Drive, looking for photography exhibits.  For the 2nd First Friday in a row Bruce Zander was exhibiting his photos at the Artwork Network Gallery,  just across the street from the Spark Gallery. They were traditional black and white photographs - mainly street photography - of Chicago and various locations throughout Europe.  Very good.

On the other hand, there was art like in the photograph on the left, too.  In all seriousness, would you buy that painting in the window and hang it over your living room couch?  Possibly if it was your mother, but otherwise no. What is the point?  Who paints these things?  Of course, I'm just a kid from the South Side of Chicago, so what do I know? Perhaps that painting is in the window because it is one of the great masterpieces of all time.  Or maybe it is the artist's mother.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Another Great Bookstore Bargain!

I found a book on Toulouse Lautrec at the bookstore where I work while browsing the store on my lunch hour, and snapped it right up.  It has beautiful color photographs of Lautrec's work, and cost me a mere $8.60, including tax.  Of course, that was with my employee discount, but anyone could have snapped it up for $12.00.  I was not in the market for a book on Toulouse Lautrec, and would never have found it if I wasn't browsing the used book shelves at the store.  This shows just how much people miss when they only shop on (The Dark Side).

And by the way, regular Blog readers will remember that I actually saw Toulouse Lautrec at the Denver Art Museum a few years ago. And if you scoff, I offer the photograph on the right as definitive proof.  Faithful Blog readers will also remember that I took a photograph of Fidel Castro and his wife Posh during a Final Friday event at the Denver Art Museum, too.  I overheard that they were house hunting here in Denver, too, and probably have a place here by now.  Many people have told me that it was just somebody dressing up as Fidel, since it was Halloween night, but I think he was the real deal.  I would look up his phone number in the White Pages, but I suspect he is probably unlisted.