Thursday, June 30, 2016

The 16th Street Fair

I walked from the Bookstore where I work as a bookkeeper to Denver's 16th Street Mall to check out the 16th Street Fair this past weekend.  The fair takes place over a two day period in both June and August.  It was more of a craft festival than a true art festival, but the mall was crowded and brimming with activity, and so it was fun to just walk around and do a little people watching.

Although the street fair only takes place twice a year, the mall stays pretty lively year round.  They even have pianos scattered down the length of the street, just in case someone wants to stop and play a few show tunes (see photo at right).  Of course, everything is not coming up roses on the 16th Street Mall.  It has been a magnet for aggressive panhandlers lately, and just the other day was near the scene of a murder - suicide.  But still, the news media exaggerates the magnitude of these problems, and the odds are you won't be bothered, or for that matter killed, which is a good thing.  See you down there!

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Let There Be Light!

I noticed the other night that the Denver City and County Building was all lite up, and stopped to take the above photograph. It was unusual, because the building is usually lite up like this only during the holidays.  I assume (but am not sure) that the light show was in honor of Pride Fest, which took place across the street the previous weekend.  I think the lights look pretty nice, although some people (including my ex-wife) think it's kind of tacky.  But I like tacky, too.  So there.  In any case, the City and County Building is where you go if you are called for jury duty, and like clockwork they seem to send me a summons every year. However, the only time I actually served on a jury was when I first got out of college, back in Chicago.  It was a vote fraud case, and since vote fraud in Chicago is not considered a crime (at least then), 11 out of 12 of us wanted to acquit.  We could not convince the holdout to change his mind, and so were sequestered for the night at the Holiday Inn of Skid Row, on Chicago's West Madison Street  The next morning, the holdout came to his senses, and I have been dodging jury duty ever since.  So far so good, right?

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Chicago Magazine Remembers Disco Demolition Night

The July issue of Chicago magazine is out, and it features an article about Disco Demolition Night, which took place 37 years ago next month at old Comiskey Park in Chicago.  This event was one of the most infamous in baseball history.  Mike Veeck, son of Chicago White Sox owner Bill Veeck, teamed with WLUP disc jockey Steve Dahl to to blow up disco records between games during a double header between the White Sox and the Detroit Tigers.  The promotion drew 70,000 fans to a park that sat 45,000, and once the records were blown up, fans rushed onto the field, setting bonfires and raising mayhem, causing the White Sox to forfeit the second game.  In terms of a promotion, it was a major success, since people still remember it even today.  And this answers a question that has been on my mind for years.  Jimmy Piersall, who was Harry Carey's partner in the television broadcast booth for the White Sox back then, got mad at Mike Veeck and started strangling him.  Piersall was suspended for this, but Bill Vecck, the team owner, didn't fire him, and Piersall returned to the broadcast booth soon afterwards. Now I know why.

Monday, June 27, 2016

What's The Deal With Outdoor Black And White Photos?

As I was walking back to my car from the Denver Art Museum Friday night, I ran across some black and white photographs displayed on a building across the street (seen in the photo on the left).  Since it was just across the street from the museum, I assume the place was some sort of art gallery, but why display such provocative black and white photos on the front of the building?  It reminded me of another building with similar such photographs, which I decided to check out the very next day.

I went for a long walk Saturday afternoon, starting near my place of work and ending in the Lower Highlands, Denver's hottest (at the moment) neighborhood.  I remembered that the photographs were on the side of restaurant on Wyandot Street, a few blocks south of 32nd Street, the Lower Highlands main drag.  What I want to know is how I can remember that location after all these years, and not remember the password to get into my bank account.  But I digress.  The photos were still there on the side wall of a restaurant called Z Cuisine, a cafe and absinthe (Yes! Absinthe!) bar on the corner of 30th and Wyandot.  All I know is that if I ever suggested an art project like this, I would wind up in the slammer.

And that reminds me of still another set of black and white photographs that were on the wall behind the Spark Gallery in Denver's Santa Fe Arts District.  They were a series of photos of Barbie, and not very flattering, either.  The photographer evidently had major issues with Barbie and Ken. The photos are no longer there, however.   I imagine that the artist eventually took them down and got psychological counseling.  All for the best, I imagine.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

In Motion At The DAM

As I was walking into the Denver Art Museum Friday night for their Final Friday event  I noticed a crowd gathered in front of an artist discussing her work, titled In Motion.  However,, I wanted to get inside the museum right away, so I could hit the free buffet table immediately (one must not sacrifice eating for art) and so I missed her talk.  From her body language it looked like she didn't have many answers anyway (See photo on left).

I later found out that the piece was weaved by fiber artists Katie Fowler and Tamara Leberer, and as I was leaving I saw that you can actually walk through it - hence the title In Motion, I assume.  I did just that, and it was kind of fun.  It is an interactive form of art, which I have always loved, ever since that rocking horse I had as a child.   I wonder what ever happened to that rocking horse, anyway?

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Abstract Women

It is NOT my imagination.  Time is definitely accelerating at a much faster pace. It seems like I just attended Final Friday at the Denver Art Museum (The DAM), and here it is again.  I think global warming is to blame for this, too.  It is a shame Albert Einstein isn't still around to work out some equations concerning this.  But in any case, I did indeed attend the Final Friday event at the DAM and the highlight this time was a talk by Gwen Chanzit, the curator of modern art, about the the new exhibit Women of Abstract Expressionism, which recently opened at the museum.  This exhibit features the work of a dozen women who painted during the 1940s and 1950s, but whose talents weren't acknowledged because of their gender. Chanzit has been working on this project since 2008.  She is understandably very excited about the exhibit, which was contagious and spread to the large audience in attendance, giving the evening a evening a really positive vibe. I definitely recommend taking it in, and I should know, since I am, as everyone knows, an artiste myself.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Nostalgia For The Roaring Twenties - Chicago Style

I picked up an advanced reading copy of Deirdre Bair's new book, Capone, in which she interviews members of the Capone family, still living in Chicago, and evidently paints a kinder, gentler image of Al Capone. Capone was the king of organized crime in Chicago back in the Roaring Twenties, and the reason I was so intrigued by the book is because I have so many photographs of my family from that time, like the one above.  It show, from left to right, my Uncle Jack Spillard, my Grandmother Louise Spillard, and my Uncle Bill Spillard, proudly standing in front of what I assume was a new car.  I'm pretty sure none of them met Al Capone, but it is just as well, no matter how nice he was to his family.  What a fun era, though, and what fun to look at the old photo albums.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Watering The Wildlife

I went to the Denver Zoo Sunday afternoon, a day when the temperature hit 97 degrees.  I was very surprised to see that the zoo waters their wildlife when the temperature gets hot.  I came upon the two zoo employees (at least I assume they are zoo employees) in the photograph on the left hosing off a hippopotamus.

I then walked over to the elephant enclosure, and saw them hosing down the elephant, seen in the photograph on the right.  Since both these animals are native to Central and Southern Africa, and are used to summers on the equator, I would think this wouldn't be necessary, but it evidently is.  Probably something to do with global warming. Since it is necessary here, I assume it is doubly necessary to do this in the wilds of Africa.  A much bigger job out there, and a need for a much much longer hose.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Uncooperative Gorillas

I hate to complain, but the Denver Zoo needs to make its animals - specifically the gorillas - more accessible to zoo patrons.  One of the female gorillas has a new baby, but does the zoo make it easy to view the new arrival and its mother?  No!  They let them lurk inside, on an artificial tree limb high up in the cage, making it difficult for gorilla - human interactions, not to mention better photo ops.  As a result, I have to make due with the technically inferior photograph of mother and baby seen above.  I say zoo management should send in a new trainee to chase the ape and her baby outside into the bright sunshine so we can all get a good look - and a good photograph - of the new arrival.  What do you say?  Send e-mails to them NOW!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

A Giraffe Encounter At Last!

I went to the Denver Zoo Sunday morning and was very surprised to see that the Giraffe Encounter was actually open.  It was warm, the "tummies" were not full, and the stars were evidently aligned, since this is the first time in over a year that the exhibit has been open.  There was a fairly large crowd waving what appeared to be leaves at the giraffes, but ironically, the giraffes didn't seem interested.  Finally one walked over and sampled the cuisine, as seen in the photograph above.  Soon after, he walked away, as did I.  I think if they offered the giraffes chocolate, zoo patrons would have better luck  I'll mention that to zoo officials the next time I am there.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Catching A Soccer Game With Mark

I brought over a pizza to my friend Mark's place Saturday afternoon and we watched the Belgium - Republic of Ireland soccer match (part of the Euro 2016 soccer tournament), played in Bordeaux, France.  It was a rebroadcast of the game, which took place at 7:00 A.M. Denver time.  I draw the line at watching anything other than coffee percolate at 7:00 A.M., and so we watched the rebroadcast instead of the live event. I took the above photograph of Mark after the game, and can't help but notice that instead of a soccer shirt, he was wearing a Brevard County Manatees tee shirt.  The Brevard County Manatees are part of the Florida State League, a Single A baseball league in Florida.  Rooting for Brevard County means that Mark and I are rivals, since I root for the Jupiter Hammerheads and Palm Beach Cardinals, who are both in the same league.  I'll see you at the Florida State League championship game, Mark.  And by the way, Belgium won the soccer match 3 to 0.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Happy Father's Day!

Today is Father's Day, and in honor of this special day I am featuring a photograph of my father Nelson and myself taken back in the 1950s.  This must have been taken mid-summer, since I am wearing my wadding pool outfit.  We had a small wadding pool in the backyard of our house in Brainerd, on the South Side of Chicago, that I could play in when it got hot.  And since Denver, the entire Southwest, and who knows where else is suffering through a major heat wave, I have a tip for getting cool.  During the summer, when I was otherwise preoccupied, my mother used to put on her bathing suit, sit in the wadding pool, and have a beer to cool off.  What an excellent idea!  Maybe I'll put one out on the balcony this year, since our homeowner's association wants to take away the condo's swimming pool.  That'll show 'em.  Happy Father's Day Everyone!

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Some Final Thoughts On DU

In yesterday's Blog I wrote about the University of Denver and the outsourcing of the DU Bookstore to Follett Higher Education Group.  I personally feel that it was a big mistake, but it is the trend now nationwide. Of course, when Fort Lewis College in Durango outsourced it's bookstore to Follett, they offered the store's employees other jobs on campus, but the University of Denver did no such thing. However, that was a few years ago, and the university now has a new chancellor, Rebecca Chopp (do they call her "Chop Chop"?), and Frederico Pena, the former mayor of Denver and Secretary of Transportation, who I have always admired, is now on the Board of Trustees.  Maybe their input would have resulted in different decisions if the outsourcing had occurred today.  In any case, I did have a steady job at DU for almost 30 years and almost 30 years of participating in their 401K plan (or whatever numbers they use), and so I really can't be bitter about the whole thing.  At least too bitter, anyway.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Walking The DU Campus

It was such a nice evening, I decided to walk around the University of Denver campus yesterday after I got home from work.  It wasn't much of an effort, since I live right across the street from it.  As regular Blog readers know, I worked at the DU Bookstore for almost 30 years, until the store was outsourced to Follett Higher Education Group.  But I am not bitter.

The university was in danger of closing back in the 1980s, when Dwight Smith took over as chancellor and began to turn things around.  His successor, Dan Ritchie, donated his own money and got many of his wealthy friends to donate money to build many new buildings and start new programs. The university is now thriving. Sadly, Ritchie stepped down as chancellor, but still is involved with the campus, recently donating the money to build a new science building.  I firmly believe that if Ritchie stayed on as chancellor, the DU Bookstore would not have been outsourced.  But in any case, I am still not bitter.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Buried On Avenue B

A few years ago I bought a mystery novel by Peter De Jonge titled Shadows Still Remain, and really liked it. The book features a flawed New York police detective named Darlene O'Hara.  I always wondered if De Jonge had written another book, and finally got around to buying the next book in the series - Buried on Avenue B - for one cent (plus shipping) on the internet.  It is also a very good read, and I heartily recommend both books to anyone looking for a good mystery.  Plus, it is always fun to read about a flawed hero or heroine.  Makes you feel much better about your own flaws.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

A Perfect June Evening At Old Chicago

I had burgers and beers with my friend Stuart (seen in the photograph above) last night at the Old Chicago restaurant in Lakewood, Colorado.  It was such a nice evening that we had dinner on the rooftop deck.  We were surrounded by our fellow hipsters, who were there enjoying that famous Lakewood lifestyle that Jack Kerouac also enjoyed so many years ago, before he sold his house and moved to San Francisco just 2 months later.  I suspect he couldn't keep up with the Lakewood high life and had to move to a more serene environment, like San Francisco in the 1950s and 60s.  Whatever floats your boat, I guess.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

The Dogs Of Kaos

I went to Kaos, the pizzeria / beer garden on South Pearl Street here in Denver Sunday afternoon with my friends Ana Silvia and Joe, who are moving to Ocala, Florida this week.  I couldn't help but notice that Kaos is very dog friendly.  The people at the table behind us had a large dog, seen in the photograph on the left.

The people at the table in front us had 4 (Yes! Four!) dogs with them, one of which is the dog seen in the photograph on the right.  I can't imagine living in a house with four dogs.  I would think the dogs would wind up running the place, and all the owners could do would be to try and limit the chaos.  If they weren't already crazy, they probably are now..

Monday, June 13, 2016

Kaos With Ana Silvia & Joe!

I took my good friends Ana Silvia and Joe out for pizza yesterday afternoon at Kaos, the pizzeria / beer garden on South Pearl Street here in Denver.  Ana Silvia and Joe have bought a house in Ocala, Florida and are moving down there this Wednesday.  It was a very pleasant, mild evening, the storms that were forecast never materialized, and we had a really nice visit.  When I go back down to Stuart, Florida in October, I will visit them and they can show me their new neighborhood, which, by the way, includes Silver Springs.  Silver Springs is a large park that features glass bottomed boat tours, which I remember visiting with my parents and Grandmother Spillard back in 1964.  Of course, I was a mere slip of a lad back then, and so I imagine it might appear different now from back when I was 11.  Hopefully they will at least still have the springs, silver or not. Good luck Ana Silvia and Joe!

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Working Like A Dog?

I am back at my job as the bookkeeper for a local Denver bookstore chain, working extra hours in the evenings and on the weekends, playing catch up.  I wouldn't say I am working like a dog, but then again, just how hard does a dog work these days? The one in the photograph above taken during my lunch hour sure wasn't working very hard, unless you consider begging for food work.  The phrase evidently comes from the time when farm dogs allegedly worked from sunrise to sunset, but what exactly did they do on a farm?  Plant corn? Milk the cows?  Most likely it is just more propaganda from the ASPCA.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Don Mammoser Appears At The Tattered Cover

I went down to the Tattered Cover Bookstore at the Aspen Grove Shopping Center in Littleton, Colorado last night to hear photographer and world traveler Don Mammoser talk about his new book Photographer's Eye and a Traveler's Heart.  Mammoser is a professional photographer, and also takes tour groups interested in photography and travel to locations around the world.  Mammoser got his start teaching at the nearby Arapahoe Community College, just like my old University of Denver Photography Professor Roddy Mc Innis>  He then started taking groups around the area on photography workshops, and went on from there to worldwide photography workshops.  This is what I would have loved to have done as a career, and now I have a model to follow in my next life.  In any case, during a midlife crisis, Mammoser decided to take an open-ended, world wide journey, which lasted 21 months and during which he met and married his Russian born wife.  This is the subject of his new book.  Be sure to check it out, and to also check out Mammoser's website at

Friday, June 10, 2016

A Final Word On Stuart, Florida...

Stuart is a great place to spend time, but I still can't decide if I would like to live there full time or not.  It has a great beach, year-round golf, boating, minor league baseball, and fun spots to eat and drink.  It is also centrally located for road trips to places like Miami, Key West, Savannah, Georgia, and Charleston, South Carolina. And perhaps someday even Havana.  But what would it be like to live there for long periods of time?  It is definitely not the same as living in a big or even medium sized city. My plan right now is to hold on to both the Denver condo and the condo in Stuart, spend time in both places, and find out.  In other words, I want it all.  That sounds reasonable, doesn't it?

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Back To Denver Via The Train from The Plane

I got back to Denver from Florida Monday night around 9:30 P.M., and after taking the new train from Denver International Airport (seen in the photo above) to Lower Downtown's Union Station and from there the Light Rail train to my condo, I arrived home at 11:45 P.M.  In other words, the flight from Orlando took 3 hours and 23 minutes and the train home took 2 hours and 15 minutes.  Is it me, or is there something wrong with this equation?  I imagine this is why, in Europe, it is faster to take the train from Paris to London than to fly.  On the other hand, I saved $50 by taking the train rather than parking at the airport - truly a cheapskate's dilemma.  I believe it was Albert Einstein who first discovered that time = money.  So right you are, Albert.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Tropical Storm Colin Fizzles Out

I got to Orlando International Airport (seen in the photograph above) around 4:30 Monday afternoon.  Once I was safely inside,  it started raining pretty hard.  After just a short while, however, the rain stopped, and from what I have read, Tropical Storm Colin just fizzled out everywhere.  As usual, the weather forecasters in Florida have been talking like Colin  was going to be a major, dangerous storm.  Wrong again. And I notice that they still send the newest reporters out into the worst part of the storm to do their reporting. Probably an initiation rite.  If they survive, they can move up the organization ladder. In any case, needless to say, my flight back to Denver left Orlando right on time.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Storm Warning

June is probably the rainiest month in Florida, and so I know I was taking a chance traveling down to Stuart this past weekend.  But I was pleasantly surprised to find that the weather was nice and sunny both Friday and Saturday.  However, Sunday was mostly overcast.  I went to Stuart Beach  and to the House of Refuge Sunday afternoon and found both places deserted, but with a nice breeze off the ocean.  Looking out over the Indian River (see photo at left) it definitely looked like a storm was moving in.

I walked across the street to the House of Refuge and took the photograph on the right of a storm-tossed sea, and then moved on to Stuart beach for a while. When I started to feel a few raindrops I headed home.  On the local television news that night they predicted that Tropical Storm Colin was on its way and there would be heavy rain and winds Monday, the day I was heading back to Denver. Fortunately the rains held off until I reached the Orlando airport Monday afternoon.  Luck of the Irish.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Stuart Florida Nightlife

Saturday night I took a break from my labors at our Stuart, Florida condo and went over to the Jolly Sailor Pub, which is an outdoor bar attached to a high end restaurant called Sailor's Return, and is part of the Sunset Bay Marina complex.  The place was packed, there was a band playing, and people were dancing, having dinner, and watching the sun set over the St. Lucie River.  All up and down the waterfront walkway people were out strolling, enjoying the mild weather before the summer heat cranks up.  It seems to me there are a lot more young people here than when my parents moved here in 1976, but then again I am a lot older, and almost everybody looks young to me now.  In any case, I took the above photograph of the guitar player at the Jolly Sailor, with the old Roosevelt Bridge in the background.  It is the last drawbridge in town, and is used mainly as a back way into town and for fishing. Once all the bridges here were drawbridges, but the big increase in population caused such big traffic backups that they were all replaced.  Very sad - the end of an era.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Another Florida Sunset

I drove over to the Sunset Bay Marina yesterday evening and took the above photograph of the sun setting over the St. Lucie River.  I know sunset photos are cliches, but I don't care.  They are still pretty.  Sunset Bay Marina is owned by H. Wayne Huzinga,  owner of the Miami Dolphins, and is filled with luxury yachts, including one whose home port is Centennial, Colorado, just down University Boulevard from where I live in Denver.  I still don't understand that one.  I just know there is no way they can sail a yacht into Colorado - I think.  In any case, there is a big controversy down in Stuart about the St. Lucie River these days.  Lake Okeechobee's water levels are very high, and so each day the state is releasing 33 million gallons of water into the river.  This water is very polluted from sugar plantation runoff, and is causing algae blooms - some toxic - in the river.  The governor here does not care, and so protesters held a rally on the Palm City Bridge yesterday to get the attention of President Obama, who is in town this weekend to play golf.  Lots of luck with that, guys.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

The Magic Of Minor League Baseball

Back when Denver had the AAA Denver Bears instead of the Colorado Rockies, I never appreciated being able to drive up to the stadium gates 10 minutes before game time, buy a ticket, and sit right down front, not even missing the first pitch.  This is why I always try to attend at least one Jupiter Hammerheads or Palm Beach Cardinals baseball game when I am down here in Stuart, Florida.  Last night I saw the Palm Beach Cardinals lose to the Dunedin Blue Jays (Dunedin is tough this year) and had a great time.  I bought a ticket for $7 and was told I could sit anywhere, and so I sat in the first row right behind the Cardinals dugout.

The best thing about minor league baseball is the atmosphere - very laid back and fun.  Lots of families with lots of kids, and a different type of contest or promotion every half inning. Sometimes you might even run into a giant juggler, like the guy in the photograph on the right.  Although it didn't seem that crowded, over 5,000 people attended the game last night, and so minor league baseball is still very popular.  There was a fireworks display after the game, and they didn't even quadruple the ticket prices for it, unlike the Colorado Rockies.  What could be better than that?

Friday, June 3, 2016

Back To The Ocean At Last!

I took the red eye (with an 11:59 P.M. departure time) from Denver to Orlando yesterday evening, and from Orlando made the 2 hour drive to Stuart, Florida via a Hertz rental.  The first thing I did when I got there was stop at Stuart Beach to make sure the ocean was still there.  Rest assured - it is.  Although I did get to watch the sun rise over the ground fog as I was driving to Stuart - which was quite a stunning sight, by the way - I'm not sure it makes up for the hassle of traveling all night.  But evidently I am not the only cheapskate in Denver - the flight was packed with people who choose price over comfort.  Good thing they don't offer super low fares in the luggage hold.  I'm sure that would be packed too.  And sad to say, I would probably also choose that option if it didn't involve traveling overnight.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Time For A Florida Kind Of Weekend

It is time once again to head back to Stuart, Florida for a long weekend, so I can check out my sister and my condo down there, which has been in the family since 1976. Our tenant's 6 month lease ran out May 1st, and so I will need to clean the place up, do some minor repairs, and get it ready for next season. Of course, June is the monsoon season down in Florida, so if it rains every day, I will not be surprised. On the bright side, that will keep me focused on the job at hand and not tempted to spend all day at the beach or on the golf course - nose to the grindstone and all that.  And I would certainly not be bitter - at least not too bitter - if that happens.  On second thought,  I would be bitter. Really bitter.  In any case, the photograph on the left was taken of me back in the 1970s at Circle Bay, the condominium complex right next door to our condo.  I am always amazed to see that I have not aged at all since that photograph was taken. I definitely need to take a look at that painting of me in the closet.  Talk about something really hideous.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

A Quiet Memorial Day Barbecue

I drove up to Fort Collins Monday afternoon to have a quiet Memorial Day barbecue with my sister Susan and brother-in-law George (seen in the photograph above).  Susan and I proposed a hike in Rocky Mountain National Park like we used to do in the good old days, but my ex-wife Lisa couldn't jet in and George insisted he had to work on his paperwork.  As I drove up to Fort Collins from Denver, I did notice that 14,000 foot high Long's Peak was bathed in sunshine, while just to the north, Rocky Mountain National Park was covered in black storm clouds.  At that altitude, it would probably just have been snow instead of rain during our hike, so no problem.  What could be more pleasant than hiking through a little snow shower? I must say, however,  it was a very nice barbecue, with no need to call for a search and rescue team.