Tuesday, January 31, 2017

The Zoo - Part II

This past Sunday was a perfect day for taking photographs at the Denver Zoo. It was sunny and 61 degrees, warm enough to be comfortable in a jacket, and cool enough for the animals to want to stay in the sun, making for better photographs.  I was even able to take an outside photograph of the orangutan seen on the left for the first time in recent memory.  Of course, on the other hand, he was high up on top of a tree and far from the fence - in other words, a very uncooperative subject . Thank God for Photoshop and the cropping tool.  If only Ansel Adams had had that, he would have been even more famous.

I was also able to take a photograph of the elusive mandrill, seen in the photograph on the right.  Every time I come to the zoo, it seems like this damn creature hides in the shadows or turns his back to me, showing me his hairless behind.  Not a pretty sight. This time, however, he evidently slipped up. By the way, taking photographs of the mandrills, the black crested macaque, as well as the gorillas, too, is not easy, because they are mostly behind glass. There are reflections, hand prints, and other distortions that prevent a decent shot.  I propose that the zoo has a "camera day," when anyone with a camera would be allowed into the cages to take photographs.  It works at baseball stadiums, so why not at the zoo?  Write to management immediately about this.

Monday, January 30, 2017

A Return To The Zoo

As I mentioned in a previous Blog, I tried to go to the Denver Zoo last week, but could not find a parking spot.  Unknown to me at the time, it was a free day, and so most of the population of Denver seemed to be there, creating huge traffic jams in the parking lots of City Park.  I returned to the zoo yesterday - a non-free day, thank God - and easily found a space, despite the fact that it was a beautiful day (61 degrees and sunny) and still fairly crowded.  There were lots of families there, enjoying the day and each other's company.  In fact, the only one who did not seem to be enjoying the day was the zoo's Black Crested Macaque, seen in the above photograph.  I  have seen this particular monkey a number of times, and he never seems any happier, either.  I suspect the Black Crested Macaque is the curmudgeon of the animal kingdom.  Hey!  I can sympathize, guy.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Still Another Colfax Update

I recently got a part-time job to help with expenses until I retire next year (God and Donald Trump willing).  I underwent a week of computer training, and as an added bonus, the trainer gave me her cold.  I was therefore forced to go to Walgreen's to buy the generic equivalent of Sudafed, sold to you only after showing your driver's license and agreeing to an especially excruciating background check.  The nearest Walgreen's to my day job is right on Denver's Colfax Avenue, just across the street from 2 iconic landmarks, one of which - Pete's Cafe - can be seen in the photograph on the left.

And just two doors down is Satire Lounge, which has one of the most famous neon signs on Colfax. Satire is one of Denver's most popular dive bars.  Bob Dylan once sang here during the brief time he lived in Denver, and The Smothers Brothers, who lived in the apartment upstairs, were discovered here.  Judy Collins, who was attending nearby East High School at the time, also sang here. The neon signs on Colfax Avenue, by the way, were declared endangered by a group called Colorado Preservation Inc, and it was proposed that these signs be declared an historic "signs" district to help preserve them.  My favorite is the Big Bunny Motel sign.  This motel, by the way, was once the home of Sue Lyon, who starred as Lolita in the 1962 movie of the same name.  Lyon once got into an argument with the motel's manager and threatened to jump out the window. However, since the window was at ground level, the threat did not have too much dramatic impact. Ah!  The memories!

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Final Friday!

After a two month hiatus due to the holidays, the Denver Art Museum (The DAM) has started it's Final Friday program for 2017.  As usual, my first stop was the free hors d'oeuvres table, where I filled up on chips and salsa, cheese, tomatoes, and celery.  When I first started attending these events, they actually served hot items, but that was stopped soon afterwards.  I wonder if was because I would go back 5 or 10 times for refills?  Nah.

After my stop at the buffet table I went up to the 7th floor of the North Building (the Ponti Building) to check out the Photography Gallery. For the past 8 months - Yes! Eight months! -  Landscape Photographs by O'Sullivan & Bell, 1871-1874 was on display.  I realize how difficult it was to take these photographs back then, but frankly, I found them pretty boring, and certainly not worth an 8 month run.  In any case, the gallery was closed when I got there, so hopefully something new will be on exhibit soon. And the trip up to the 7th floor was not a total waste - I went down one floor and checked out the European collection, including the late 1400s painting on the right by a follower of Hieronymus Bosch.  It depicts what happens to people on Judgement Day if they make pigs of themselves at the buffet table.

The highlight of the evening was a curator tour of the museum's Glory of Venice exhibit.  This show features works by Giovanni Bellini, Titian, and Carpaccio, among many others. Nineteen of these paintings are from the Gallerie Dell'Accademia in Venice. The museum recently changed directors, and one of the first things the new director said when he took over was "where the hell are all our paintings?" He made it clear that the museum would never do that again, and so Denver is lucky it got the exhibit when it did.  Bellissimo!

Friday, January 27, 2017

Everything But The Squeal

Whenever I drive up to Fort Collins from Denver, I seem to pass dozens of Swift & Company trucks heading up to Greeley, Colorado, where their meat-packing plant is headquartered.  Swift & Company was for many years a Chicago institution, founded by Gustavus Swift, who once famously bragged that the company used every part of the pig except the squeal.  It was abuses at the Chicago Stockyards by firms such as Swift that lead Upton Sinclair to write his expose novel "The Jungle," which shocked and sickened America and lead to the Federal Meat Inspection Act of 1906.  Hopefully that isn't one of the regulations Donald Trump plans to repeal, but you never know.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

My Mother's 101st Birthday!

Today would have been my mother's 101st birthday if she were still alive.  I am therefore featuring a photograph of her sitting in the backyard of our house in the South Side Brainerd neighborhood of Chicago, taken back in the 1950s.  I am using this particular photograph because I remember my mother mentioned several times to me that it was one of her favorites.  In the background, you can see our back porch, which my father had built to add an extra room to our 5 room Georgian.  As I have mentioned before, when my sister went off to school at Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois, I inherited her bedroom. When she came back, however, she wound up sleeping on the back porch.  Although she did forgive me for the outrage of being born when I turned 60, she has never forgiven me for taking her bedroom, and mentions it on the average of once a month. Perhaps she will forgive me for this when I am 70.  One can hope.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The Zoo In Winter - Busier Than You Would Think...

I tried to visit the Denver Zoo Saturday afternoon to take a few Blog photographs, but I could not find a parking space.  In fact, it was bumper to bumper traffic throughout City Park, where the zoo is located.  I spent about half an hour looking for a spot, but finally gave up the ghost and said to hell with it.  I did make a point to drive past the entrance in order to see if they were giving away $100 bills or something, and took the photograph on the left.  It seems the reason for the huge crowds was not free money, but a "free day."  As far as I could tell, there were maybe 100,000 cars circling the lot, and so I have to wonder where the hell all these cheapskates came from.  If you guessed California, you might just be right.

Because of this change in plan, I wound up driving to Fort Collins way too early for dinner with my sister Susan and brother-in-law George, and on a whim decided to visit Horsetooth Reservoir, located just to the west of town.  On the way back, I ran into a herd of deer - seen in the photograph on the right - grazing on a stretch of prairie.  How ironic is that?  I started the day trying to get into the zoo, and wound up photographing wildlife just a few miles west of my sister Susan and brother-in-law George's front door.  Go figure.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

A Visit To Horsetooth Reservoir

I drove up to Horsetooth Reservoir Saturday afternoon to kill an hour or two before visiting my sister Susan and brother-in-law George up in Fort Collins, Colorado.  It has been many years since I visited Horsetooth, and for some reason I thought it was a lot farther away than it really is - a mere 4 miles west of Fort Collin's main drag.

The last time I visited the place was back in the 1980s, on a picnic with my brother-in-law George's cousin Richard, his mother Frances, and my  mother Mary, along with George and my sister Susan.  I remember my mother mistakenly thought the name of the place was Whore's Tooth Reservoir, which we all found quite amusing, and if so, would have changed the whole atmosphere of the place. And yes, as you can see from the photograph on the right, it is indeed still a very pretty place.  And why have Susan and George never visited this area during the past 30 years, even though it s a mere four miles from their door?  Good question.  I suppose it is for the same reason so many people who live by the ocean never visit the beach.  You just take for granted that it is there, and always will be.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Political Divisions Strike Home

I went up to Fort Collins, Colorado Saturday night to celebrate my sister Susan and my birthdays.  And unfortunately, the subject of politics came up, which was not a good thing.  My brother-in-law George thinks the election of Donald Trump is the greatest thing to happen to this country in years.  Everything about Donald Trump and his policies that I find offensive, George considers a refreshing change, As you can imagine, it made for for an interesting dinner at Salsa Brava, where I took the above photograph of George and Susan between rounds.  And by the way - Salsa Brava, if you happen to be in Fort Collins and want to eat Mexican, is not a half bad choice.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Mutt Of The Month

The weather has turned warmer here in Denver lately (at least during the daytime), and so there are more and more people out and about, walking their dogs to the bookstore where I work on East Colfax Avenue, and then tying them up outside while they peruse the books.  The dog in the above photograph was extremely friendly, and perfectly willing to have his or her portrait taken.  No barking, no lunging at you, no hyperactive behavior - just a quiet, laid back demeanor.  Kind of like me, actually.  No wonder I like him (or her) so much.  And yes - this post is once again a direct result of Blogger's Block.  Perhaps President Trump will do something outrageous pretty soon to get my creative juices flowing again.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Born Again At The Laundromat

There is a cart of books in the office hallway at the local Denver bookstore where I work, and it has been sitting there for about two months now.  Each time I walk past it, I glance at the titles, which all seem to have a western theme, and one -  a used copy of Born Again at the Laundromat, by Dave Carty - grabbed my attention, and I bought it.  It cost me $5.00 plus tax, and I was shocked to find that I didn't get my employee discount because it was considered a "collectible."  And I am not sure why.  Carty is a freelance writer, mainly for outdoor magazines like Field and Stream, and this was his first (and as far as I can tell) only book, a collection of non-fiction pieces about the "New West" and published in 1992.  Carty went to school at Colorado State University up in Fort Collins, and lived in Boulder for half a dozen years before moving to Montana, where he still lives.  I googled him, and he has his own web site, where he offers his skills as a freelance writer.  But once again I ask - why is the book considered a collectible?  It is a pleasant enough read, and mildly interesting, but I suspect somebody at the bookstore is a friend, and put the fix in, resulting in me losing my $1.75 discount.  Perhaps I should e-mail Carty and demand he send me a check for that amount. Plus tax!

Friday, January 20, 2017

I'm Not "Putin" You On - Trump Becomes President Today

This is Inauguration Day, and today Donald Trump - God help us all - will be sworn in as the 45th President of the United States.  His supporters are going wild with visions of a wall along the Mexican border, the elimination of Obamacare, a ban on all Muslims entering the country, and lower taxes for corporations and the wealthy.  Will Trump truly make America great again?  Or will many of us, regardless of age, find ourselves drafted and sent to the Iranian front?  I am not optimistic about the next 4 years, but I have been wrong before. Perhaps Trump will become another Earl Warren, whose politics made a 180 degree turn after President Dwight D Eisenhower appointed him Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.  But in case you're wondering, I am not taking any cash bets based on that possibility. And by the way, the photograph above is the result of a disruption today in the space-time continuum and does not necessarily reflect the political viewpoints of this Blog.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Colfax Update

As regular Blog readers will recall, I posted a number of photographs featuring Denver's Colfax Avenue last month, and figured it was time to once again visit "America's Longest, Wickedest Street."  Especially since I took the photograph above of the Colorado State Capitol (located on the corner of Colfax and Lincoln) last week and wanted to somehow work it into the Blog.  In doing intense research for this post (googling Colfax Avenue), I discovered that someone has a "love letter" to the street posted on a Denver Public Library website Blog.  Until now, I didn't realize the Denver Public Library website had blogs , but I guess you learn new things every day.  Check out the link at https://www.denverlibrary.org/blog/longest-wickedest-street-america.   And before you try to make reservations, The Cheeky Monk, mentioned in that post, has closed it's doors.  Bummer.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Dealing With Birthdays...

Neither my sister Susan nor I like to celebrate our birthdays any more.  But we do have to recognize them, and so I feel obligated to announce that today is my sister's birthday, and tomorrow is mine.  I won't say how old Susan is, except to state that she is much, much older than I am.   The photograph on the left was taken when she was two years old in Abilene, Texas.  She and my mother Mary took the train down there to visit my father Nelson, who was in the army doing basic training, and soon to be shipped off to Okinawa.  Just looking at this photograph, you can see she was already on her way to becoming "a piece of work," as Miss Collins, one of her teachers at Fort Dearborn Grammar School, located in Chicago's South Side Brainerd neighborhood, referred to her during a talk with my mother.

And tomorrow is my birthday (my 64th), and the diptych on the right was taken of me when I was at my most charming best, just before the long slow slide to where I am today.  In the photograph on the left, I am being held by my mother Mary and in the photo on the right by my father Nelson.  The night before I was born was my sister Susan's 11th birthday, and she and my parents celebrated at the Rosewood Inn, a restaurant owned by my father's friend Art Houle in the southern Chicago suburb of Blue Island. They celebrated Susan's birthday, and then took my mother to St. Bernard's Hospital, where I was born the following morning.  My sister desperately wanted a baby sister, and was absolutely crushed when I showed up.  Happily she forgave me for this outrage on the occasion of my 60th birthday, so it all worked out.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Those Holiday Lights Keep Shining...

I took the light rail train down to Denver's 16th Street Mall the Sunday before last to walk around and take a few photographs, and was happy to see the Christmas lights were still up. It definitely brightens the place up, especially when the streets are still wet from a recent snowstorm.  The 16th Street Mall, by the way, is Denver's top tourist attraction.  It has restaurants and tourist oriented shops, but not a single department store.  When I first moved here, it had 5, but as their leases expired, they all left, and the hipsters gradually took over.

And so these days the 16th Street Mall and Lower Downtown are a big nightclub district.  The bars all close at 2:00 A.M., and thousands of well-lubricated party animals pour into the streets at the same time, often starting fights, urinating in alleys and doorways, and sometimes having the occasional shootout.  The rest of the time, the area is very safe, although last summer homeless transients made their home on the 16th Street Mall for a while, and in one notable incident, a homeless person started attacking passersby with a large pipe.  Since then, there has been a significant police presence on the mall, since the tourist crowd gets all sensitive when they are chased by homeless people with lead pipes.  Wimps.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Watching The Soccer Match With Mark

I watched Manchester United play Liverpool yesterday afternoon with my friend Mark (seen in the snow in the photograph above), who as regular Blog readers know works at the University of Denver's Anderson Academic Commons (the library).  Mark was originally going to spend the weekend up in Steamboat Springs, Colorado with his parents and brother.  However, they have had so much snow lately in the Colorado mountains that it is not safe to drive up there, and he had to settle for soccer on the telly.  In any case, Mark was full of information about the various soccer players, and mentioned that the ex-wife of one of these players was now dating one of the members of One Direction.  Naturally I asked what One Direction was, and Mark replied that I "really do live under a rock - no offense intended."  Mark then explained that One Direction was a "boy band" that is as hot as The Beatles were back in 1964.  Personally, I don't believe it, since as far as I can tell, they have not yet appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show.  And by the way, Manchester United scored late in the game and the match ended in a 1-1 tie.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Trump This!

My friend Stuart (seen in the photograph above) and I had burgers and beers at the Old Chicago restaurant on South Colorado Boulevard here in Denver last night, and as usual, the topic of conversation was dominated by the soon to be inaugurated Donald Trump.  Trump is like a car accident you pass by - you just can't stop yourself from looking  - or in this case -  talking about it.  While Stuart is not wildly optimistic (to put it mildly) about the future of the country under Trump, I was surprised to hear he thought Trump's nominee for Secretary of Defense - know to friends and loved ones as "Mad Dog" - was a good choice.  Of course, Mad Dog and Trump have diametrically opposed world views, and so it will be interesting to see how this plays out in the coming months.  When Trump gets insulted by an article about him in Le Monde and decides to invade France, will Mad Dog be able to stop him?  We shall see.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Private Railroad Cars - Why The Hell Not?

I could swear I did a blog post on private railroad cars a few months ago, but looked back and couldn't find any trace of it. I am hoping that if I can't find it, you can't either, and so am going with that topic today.  And it is especially relevant now that Donald Trump will soon be president.  He promises large tax cuts for the wealthy and for large corporations, and they will need to figure out how to spend all that excess wealth.  I definitely recommend going the private railroad car route.

Last summer I was walking from the bookstore where I work on East Colfax Avenue here in Denver to Union Station, where I catch the light rail train home.  As I headed toward the southbound line, I noticed a number of old-time railroad cars parked in front of the station.  I wasn't sure why they were there, but took a number of photographs, and a few days later did a little bit of research on the internet (always a reliable source).  It turns out that 21 cars were being assembled for a trip from Denver to Spokane, Washington, and was sponsored by the American Association of Private Railroad Car Owners as part of  their 2016 convention.  In other words, not only are there people with private railroad cars, and not only can they hire Amtrak to haul them across the country, but there are enough of them that they have conventions and their own non-profit organization. Wow!  Is that an amazing fact or what?

Not only does this organization sponsor trips around the country for people with private railroad cars, they also offer vacations trips to the general public and the opportunity to rent these historic cars.  When I found about this, I immediately thought of my friend and former University of Denver Bookstore co-worker Wally and his wife Linda. They have a daughter getting married this year, and I suggested to them that this would be just the ticket for the wedding reception.  They could park the car on a siding at Denver's Union Station, have the guests board the train, and then let the champagne flow.  That evening the car could be secretly hooked up to the nightly Amtrak train to Chicago, and when the reception ended (keep the champagne flowing till dawn, I say) the guests would find themselves in Chicago, that toddling town.  And how do the guests get home, you might ask?  That is, of course, their problem.  Is that a great idea or what? And for all you "one percenters" (rich people) out there, check out the American Association of  Private Railroad Car Owners (AAPRCO) website at http://www.aaprco.com/.

Friday, January 13, 2017

One Week Away from A Trump Presidency

Today is Friday the 13th, and it is also exactly one week away from a Trump presidency.  A coincidence?  I think not.  After promising to unite a deeply divided America on election night, President Elect Trump went on a victory tour across the country to celebrate his victory, but only in the states he won - not in the states he lost to Hillary Clinton.  Does this strike you as a bit hypocritical, or is it just me?  In any case, Trump is tan, rested and ready to take office next week, and his supporters are beside themselves with joy. All I can say is I am damn glad I am not of draft age. At least for now.  And no, I did not take the above photograph.  If my own sister is willing to chase after me with a knife because of a bad photo, I can just imagine what this guy would do to me if I had taken that image.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Your Hemorrhoid Operation - Sponsored By Preparation H?

I was walking around the rooftop garden at the Museum of Contemporary Art - Denver this past Saturday, and couldn't help but notice that everything in sight was sponsored by a donor.  The outside bar (strangely uncrowded) I am posing in front of in the photograph above has a plaque on the side mentioning the donors who made it possible.  And just behind me, there is a plaque thanking sponsors for making the view from the rooftop possible.  Yes - the view!  And it is not just non-profits who do this, either.  The 7th inning stretch at baseball games is now sponsored by companies seeking to advertise their products, and these days it is damn near impossible to find a baseball park without a corporate sponsored name.  Mark my words - you may someday be wheeled into the operating room of your local hospital and be greeted by a surgical team wearing scrubs covered in advertising logos, much like today's stock-car drivers.  How scary is that?

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Denver's Riverfront Neighborhood - Fun But Unaffordable

When I first moved to Denver back in 1981, the Platte River Valley, situated between Denver's Union Station and the Highlands neighborhood, was just a wasteland of railroad yards.  These days it is one of Denver's most popular neighborhoods.  When Riverfront Park first was established, it was a sorry looking place, more like a desert that a park.  Of course, that was almost 30 years ago, and now it a great, people-oriented gathering spot. The apartments and condos lining the parks perimeter are now some of the most desirable residences in the city.

I was pondering all this as I was walking back to my car after visiting the nearby Museum of Modern Art this past Saturday afternoon.  One of the buildings I walked past was the old Moffat Depot (seen in the photograph on the right), built in 1906 as the terminus for the Denver, Northwestern and Pacific Railroad. Years ago it was a dilapidated, abandoned  building in an empty field. Now it is the "Great Room" for the Balfour at Riverfront Park Retirement Community, a senior living community for wealthy, urban-oriented retirees.

In any case, Riverfront Park is a truly  great spot to hang out, with a wonderful park along the banks of the Platte River on one side, and trendy shops, restaurants, and expensive condos and apartments on the other. What more could one ask for?  It is like having an apartment on a much less congested Park Avenue, but with a tremendous view of the Rocky Mountains.  All you need is money.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Remembering A Long Ago Summer Sunday

To counteract the negative effects of mid-winter, I am today featuring several photographs I took of my sister Susan and brother-in-law George back in the summer of 1973, during a bike ride along Chicago's lakefront.  I frequently used to put my bicycle in the back of my car, drive downtown, park near the Adler Planetarium, and then bicycle along the lakefront until the parkland ended and the high rises along Sheridan Road began (which I believe can be seen in the photograph on the left).  I am pretty sure Susan and George only accompanied me on this ride once, which I was adroitly able to capture on film.

What amazes me most is just how young they both look.  Of course, this photograph was taken almost 44 years ago. Susan and George had been married a mere 4 years at this time, and I myself was still living at home and a little over a year away from graduating from college.  I assume that the photograph on the right was taken in Lincoln Park.  Susan and George are posing in front of a totem pole, which I don't remember ever being there.  In fact, I didn't even realize that there were Illinois Eskimos that produced that kind of art, but considering the winters we used to have back there, I am not surprised.

Monday, January 9, 2017

A Monday Morning Shocker!

The past few days as I have walked through the stockroom of the bookstore where I work, I couldn't help but notice the headline on the stack of tabloid newspapers.  It seems that Prince Charles is on trial for murdering Princess Diana.  I mentioned this in passing to my office-mate Peter, but he refused to believe it. I finally had to grab a copy and actually show it to him before he finally acknowledged the headline did indeed say that.  Peter still doesn't believe it is true, but they wouldn't be able to print the story if it wasn't, right?  I am sure the Globe has to have two reliable sources before they can actually print the story, just like Woodward and Bernstein in All the President's Men. I doubt that Charles will be convicted, but he damn well better not get caught stealing Royalty memorabilia.  If he does, they will lock him up and throw away the key, just like O.J.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

The MCA Denver - What Hath The Art World Wrought?

Yesterday was one cent day at the Museum of Contemporary Art  - Denver, and since the price was right, I decided to check it out.  At the admission desk I got a little nervous because the two 20-something women in front of me handed the clerk dollar bills without getting any change, but I needn't have worried.  They evidently didn't have - or want - any change.  I, on the other hand, had change but no dollars, so it all worked out.  I have not visited this museum too often in the past.  I have found the art there is just a little too "far out" for my taste, and I must say this trip was no exception.  If anything, over the years it has gotten even weirder.

The first floor was an exhibit called Bodacioussss, described as an alternative perspective on "post-internet" art, where the artists "move fluidly between the physical and digital worlds."  I put together the collage on the right showing some of these pieces. Is weird a strong enough word?  You be the judge. The second floor was dedicated entirely to one artist's work, and the first room featured sculptures called "Ladyjs," which allow a woman to urinate standing up.  There were also photographs along the walls showing women using these devices.  The next room featured work involving gardens seen as objects, and the room after that sculptures with a nature based motif, which seemed almost normal, but I couldn't get those "Ladyjs" out of my mind.  I kept thinking that this woman should be institutionalized.  Then I read the artist's statement and saw that she lives and works in Boulder, Colorado, and so happily realized she already is.

And so why do I keep going to this museum if I hate most of the art there?. The main reason is the building. For 7 years the MCA was located in a renovated fish market in Lower Downtown Denver's Sakura Square. Then they raised enough money to build a first rate facility designed by British architect David Adjaye.  He designed the building with the purpose of eliminating the line between the art inside and the city outside, and he succeeded wonderfully.  Unlike most museums, there are huge floor to ceiling windows with views of the neighborhood beyond, which at the same time allows people on the outside to see the art within.  They might recoil in horror at what they see, but see it they can.

The top floor of the building consists of a much smaller art space, a rooftop garden, and a free-standing, glassed in cafe.  The garden is just a wonderful place to walk around and take in the city views from all sides, and the cafe is a really great, glass-enclosed people space.  And that small exhibit space I mentioned?  This month it is featuring work from a teen art contest, and the walls are covered from floor to ceiling with drawings, photographs, and all other manner of artwork (it can be seen in the top right corner of the collage photograph).  What is most important, however, is that almost all of this artwork is really good, especially the photographs, and all done by teenagers.   Does this mean that art in the future will be far less weird?  One can only hope.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

First Friday Art Walk - January

I decided to attend the First Friday Art Walk on Santa Fe Drive here in Denver yesterday evening despite the snow and cold temperatures (12 degrees Fahrenheit ).  With the side streets still snow packed, I figured I would park directly on Santa Fe Drive, and if no spots were available, just go home.  I didn't have to worry, since not too many people seemed to want to walk around in the 12 degree weather.  And as you can see from the photo on the left, there were not too many people perusing the Center for Visual Arts' Collective Nouns exhibit, a Metropolitan State University Denver faculty exhibition.  And yes, that gold baby carriage is actually an art piece.  There were also three photograph on display, each with a title that had absolutely no relation to the photograph itself.  Could legalized marijuana be having a negative effect on the Colorado art world?

The musical act in the next gallery I visited didn't seem to have much of an audience either, and yes - that white mannequin with the removable peace sign stomach in the photo on the right is also another work of art.  However, as I looked around the place, I actually saw some really nice photographs, especially the ones on display by Kevin McMahon.  One his photographs was of a very colorful wall in Moscow, with a drunken man lying on the sidewalk right in front of it.  It was a pretty powerful image, as were many of his other photos.  And in point of fact, I must say that I saw a lot of really nice photography in the other galleries I visited, too.  After looking at the various collages, mixed media, and hand colored pigment prints on display, it made me want to explore these alternative forms of photography when (or if?) I retire.

Among other photographers I was impressed with were Jeff Carter and Carl Scofield, whose works were on display at John Fielder's Denver Photo Art Gallery (https://www.johnfielder.com/gallery-location/), and three spectacular, lighted cityscapes by photographer Fred Hodder.  I was especially impressed with the lighted collaboration with wife Monroe titled 42nd Street Times Square (check out that photograph as well as others at http://frederickhodder.com/).  I also was very impressed with the work of Jim Stevens, on display at the Habitat Gallery on Santa Fe Drive.  He describes his work as monofilament and abstract linear paintings that float in empty space.  I would swear these portraits are photographs, but they are just realistic representations  in acrylic paint using up to 8 layers of monofilament 129 lines across, suspended in empty space.  Most amazing of all is that Sullivan is legally blind.  He was shot in the head in Vietnam and as a result suffered from severe migraines, one of which resulted in a stroke in 1993 that caused blindness.  Eventually he decided to take up his artwork again with the assistance of special lenses.  Check out his paintings at http://fineartamerica.com/profiles/jim-stevens.html?.tab=artwork.  In summarizing the evening - cold? What cold?

Friday, January 6, 2017

Have I Ever Mentioned How Much I Hate Winter?

A snowstorm came through the Denver area Wednesday night and lingered on through the day Thursday. The snow totals ranged from 6 inches in central Denver to 12 inches in locations near the foothills.  The City of Boulder seemed to be in total meltdown (no pun intended) yesterday, with schools, government offices, and many businesses closed for the day.  As for me, it was business as usual, except for having to drive both to and from work over icy, snow-packed roads (see my standard, highly overused "drive to work in the snow" photo on the left).  But as usual, it was not the snow so much as the cold temperatures that made things so miserable.  In fact, last night the temperature dipped to 9 degrees below zero Fahrenheit (and God knows what Celsius. I do know that 32 degrees Fahrenheit is 0 degrees Celsius, but after that you're on your own).

In any case, when I got to work yesterday morning (the entrance to the store is seen in the photo on the right), the coffee urn was empty.  I returned 4 times during the day to get a cup, and wound up getting a total of one half cup for the day.  Was this because the staff was gobbling it down as fast as it was made, or because the coffee bar was understaffed due to the weather?  I suppose I could have broke down and actually bought a cup like a regular customer, but when you have a reputation as a notorious cheapskate, it is important to maintain your image. The really surprising thing was what I heard over the radio on the drive home.  The DJ was reading a list of states with the best and worst winters. Surprisingly enough, the survey said that Colorado has the 4th best winter in the US, followed by Florida at number 5.  I was so shocked, I had to search the internet to find this report for myself (it is on the web site of St. Louis radio station Y98: http://y98.cbslocal.com/2017/01/05/states-with-the-best-and-worst-winters/).  I understand the reasoning for the choices, but I still say they are nuts.  Try putting together that report at 9 below zero and see what the results are.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Back To The Dogs Again

Yes - hard to believe, but once again I am suffering from a case of Blogger's block, and am therefore bringing back my "Dog of the Month" feature.  The dog in the photograph above was tied up outside the bookstore where I work the day after Christmas while the owner was inside hunting for bargains.  The weather had warmed up a bit that day, and so people were getting outside and letting their dogs give them some exercise.  My only complaint was that the dog refused to look me in the eye.  He or she obviously has something to hide.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

The Black Widow

I just finished reading Daniel Silva's latest spy novel, The Black Widow - featuring Israeli spy Gabriel Allon - and thoroughly enjoyed it.  I was on the waiting list for it at the Denver Public Library for about 4 months, and so I knew that if that many people were requesting it, it had to be good.  The story involves sending a civilian volunteer undercover into the heart of ISIS, which turns out to be - surprise! - pretty harrowing.  This is a familiar plot line in Silva's books, and I have to say, all of these volunteers usually wind up within seconds of a horrible end.  And in one case, his undercover agent was actually beheaded.  And yet spymaster Gabriel Allon always seems to be able to persuade these people to help him.  Talk about a great salesman.  The one criticism I have is that, like another author I like, Steve Berry, Silva's political opinions are starting to show. In The Black Widow, Silva seems to blame Barack Obama for the violent situation in the Middle East and for the rise of ISIS.  On the other hand, I am now reading one of his older books, The Messenger, and in that book he wasn't crazy about the previous president, either, so who knows?

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

The 2017 CTA Historical Calendar Is Here!

The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) has released it's 2017 historical calendar.  Is that great news or what?  I have been downloading these calendars for years, and they are great.  Not only do they show various CTA trains, buses, and trolley cars from years past, but also great historical photos of Chicago.   I myself have a 1930s era photograph on my refrigerator from the 2007 calendar that shows a streetcar climbing the 111th Street hill in the Beverly neighborhood, not far from the South Side Brainerd neighborhood where I grew up. Of course, contrary to popular opinion, I actually do not remember 1930s Chicago, but it still makes me feel nostalgic about the area.  And the best thing of all about the calendar is that it's free. Yes! Free! You can keep it on your computer, or print it out and put it up on the wall.  And did I mention it is free?  Download it now at http://www.transitchicago.com/historicalcalendar/.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Happy "Official" New Year!

As many of you have suspected, New Year's Day was on a Sunday this year, and so like Christmas, many people were able to celebrate these holidays over a two day period, since the following Monday was the "official" holiday.  Ebeneezer Scrooge is probably turning over in his grave right now.  In any case, this happy occurrence allows me the opportunity to share even more holiday photographs.  On the left is a photo of the D&F Tower - a downtown Denver landmark - that I took on New Year's Eve.  I decided to take the light rail downtown to see the 9:00 P.M. fireworks show on the 16th Street Mall.  There is also a midnight fireworks show, but I felt that would be way too much fun.

As it got close to 9:00 P.M., I headed over to the mall (seen in the photo on the right).  When the appointed time arrived, I began to hear fireworks sounds, but didn't see any fireworks.  It appears they were set off on 15th Street instead, and the tall buildings on 16th Street prevented the thousands of people gathered on the 16th Street Mall from seeing them.  City government functioning at it's finest!  These thousands of people began to move toward the one cross-street where the fireworks were visible, but of course by the time we arrived the show was over.  I then decided to head to Union Station, which was recently turned into Denver's premier yuppie gathering place - while also still functioning as a transportation hub - but found it was closed for a private party, which is pretty strange for a public building.  It looks like the Trump philosophy is being implemented already.  And needless to say, after all that I headed back to my condo, where I was pretty sure I would still be admitted.

New Year's Day I headed up to Fort Collins to celebrate a belated Christmas with my sister Susan and brother-in-law George, who have been sick with a virus since well before Christmas Day.  At first I suspected they canceled Christmas because the Denver Broncos were playing their most important game of the season that night, but I was wrong.  That was just my natural cynicism coming through.  In any case, we had a nice dinner and then adjourned to the living room, where we opened our presents to the cheerful holiday sounds of the Green Bay Packers - Detroit Lions football game.  What can you do?  The "Pack" is back.