Tuesday, February 28, 2017

A Death In Vienna

I recently finished reading A Death In Venice, a Gabriel Allon espionage novel by Daniel Silva.  As usual, it was an excellent read, and I enjoyed it thoroughly.  As I have mentioned on this Blog before, I have read all of Silva's more recent books, and am reading his older books in the reverse order of when they were written.  I thought this book would be about the bombing in Vienna that killed his son and drove his then wife to madness, which would have indeed been sad, but it wasn't.  I am beginning to think that that will permanently remain a back story.  I only have three more books in the series to read, and so I will find out shortly.  One jarring note is looking at the photographs of author Daniel Silva on the back cover of his books.  Looking at the back cover photo on A Death in Vienna, Silva looks like a teenager, as opposed to the late middle age (he is 57 years old) photos on his more recent books.  How lucky I am not to have aged like that.  No doubt some sort of miracle.

Monday, February 27, 2017

The Blu Ett

Every morning I drive up University Boulevard to the local Denver bookstore where I work as the bookkeeper, and pass the apartment seen in the above photograph.  It is called The BluEtt, and looking it while waiting at the stoplight, I often wondered why.  I looked the place up on the internet, and it is spelled Bluette on their web page, which I personally feel is much different than The Blue Ett, which reminds me a lot of The Blue Angel, a 1930 movie starring Marlene Dietrich.  What I want to know is whether this building is from that same era, and is Marlene Dietrich the super?  

Sunday, February 26, 2017

But Is It REALLY Art?

I went to Final Friday at the Denver Art Museum (the DAM) Friday night, and was surprised that they featured a talk on wresting by the Rocky Mountain Pro Wrestling Association. They also had a large television screen on the wall that featured an advertisement from the Mercury Pro Wrestling Academy, wanting you to sign up for wrestling lessons.  Probably more like acting lessons, but what do I know?  The speakers insisted that wresting was indeed an art form. Really?  I mean really?  I think that is stretching things.  Who will the DAM invite next, I wonder?

I got very bored very quickly with the wrestling talk and instead went to see the Buntport Theater presentation of Joan and Charlie, two actors who do a skit in the freight elevator while dressed as the figures in one of the museum's paintings. Is this art too?  Perhaps not, but they are funny.  They perform a different skit each month, and do it to promote the offerings of the Buntport Theater.  I am sometimes tempted to visit it, but I suspect they might want you to pay money to see their performances there, so forget it.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Final Friday February

Last night I went to the Denver Art Museum (the DAM) for Untitled Final Fridays, held the last Friday of each month (except November and December).  This time I was finally able to see the Mi Tierra exhibit, which took almost five months to install and features the work of Hispanic artists depicting their place in the American Southwest.  It was interesting to see and the art was good, although I'm not sure why it took five months to install.  The painting on the left is part of a series called Lupita by artist Ramiro Gomez, who lives and works  in West Hollywood.  Lupita is a janitor at the Denver Art Museum, and Ramiro features her in an effort to see people above and beyond their occupations.  I was expecting most of the artists to be from Denver, but many are from other parts of the western United States, as well as Mexico.  It is definitely worth a look.

It didn't take long to tour the Mi Tierra exhibit, and so I thought I would check out the photography exhibit in the North Building.  I pushed the elevator button for the 7th floor, but it didn't work.  Then I saw the sign that the 7th floor was temporarily closed.  What is it about the DAM closing entire floors? Will the 7th floor be closed for 5 months, too?  In any case, I went to the 6th floor instead and eventually wound up in the Pre-Colombian exhibit, where there was to be a "performance."  It turned out to be "slam poetry" reading, which I am not fond of, and so I toured the gallery instead and saw the earthenware female figure on the right, which was placed in a tomb as a substitute for human sacrifices and made between 1100 to 1400. Is it just me, or is this statue wearing goggles?  Did the museum have this thing authenticated before buying it?  In any case, in another part of the gallery were older objects from the Aztecs, and the sign said that the Aztecs had a daily human sacrifice to the Sun/War God to appease it, so the sun would rise the next day.  That does not sound nice to me.  It seems like they were as ruthless as the Spanish, which is saying something.  And so I learned something on this visit.  A first!

Friday, February 24, 2017

Equal Time Nostalgia

I posted a photograph of my father Nelson in the living room of my parent's condo in Stuart, Florida yesterday, and thought it only fair to post a photograph of my sister Susan and mother Mary taken years ago down in Stuart, too.  The above photograph was taken at the Pirate's Loft - a hotel, marina, and restaurant on an outlet of the Indian River in the town of Part Salerno.  I know I have used this photograph before, but at this point in my life, I don't care anymore.  I like it, and so it is worth posting twice.  Or maybe even three times.  It was summer and we had just finished having dinner and were taking a walk on the piers and looking at  the boats.  Was this the time my sister stole part of my crab cake right off my plate?  I can't remember, but no matter when it was, it was just plain wrong.  Plain wrong.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Time For Nostalgia!

I am currently working a part-time job in the evenings and on weekends, and so have less time to take Blog photographs these days.  Therefore it helps that I have lots of old family photographs that I can draw on in a pinch.  I took the photograph on the left of my father Nelson probably back in the early 1980s on a visit to my parent's condo down in Stuart, Florida.  When my sister and I visited them, my father would get up in the mornings and make us all breakfast, while still wearing his pajamas.  It makes me smile to look at this photograph.  My sister and I still own the condo, and have tried to rent it - with mixed success - during the season to help pay the maintenance.  It looks very much like it did when my parents moved there back in 1976, which is probably why it is not all that popular a choice for the "snow birds" who flock down to Florida from January through March.  On the other hand, I like it just fine that way.  It is like coming home when I go down there.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Dinner With Mark At The Three Lions

I had dinner with my friend Mark - who as regular blog readers know works at the University of Denver's Anderson Academic Commons (the library) - last night at the Three Lions, a soccer pub on Colfax Avenue, just down the street from the bookstore where I work.  Mark recently visited the UK and tells me the Three Lions is very much like the pubs in England, which does not surprise me.  I always expect the real deal on Colfax.  Spring break is just two weeks away at the University of Denver, my former employer, and Mark and his family will be off to Maui for a week's vacation.  As for me, working on Colfax is like a daily vacation.  What better entertainment can you ask for?

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

More East High Memories

I took the above photo of Denver's East High from the parking garage of the bookstore where I work as the bookkeeper, just before heading to my part-time job.  East High is south of City Park, which is one of Denver's oldest.  The City Park Esplanade, which is also seen in the photograph above, connects the park to Colfax, just across the street from the bookstore, which makes for a nice green space along what is otherwise a sometimes gritty urban corridor.  When I first moved to Denver, this was the location of The People's Fair, an annual festival that takes every June.  It was later moved to Civic Center Park, right across the street from the state capitol building, but still straddling Colfax.  And why did it move?  Too many people at The People's Fair, I suspect.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Peter At Pepper

My office-mate Peter took me to lunch Friday at Pepper, a Chinese restaurant about a block or two east of the local Denver bookstore where we both work.  It was a pleasant day, and all the windows were open, bringing in the springlike air.  Peter hates to have his photograph taken, but let me snap the above shot of him perusing the menu.  I was able to capture his eyes studying the entrees, however, which I consider a major victory.  So there!

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Has Spring Sprung?

The temperature hit 75 degrees in Denver yesterday, the third record high this week.  Washington Park, seen in the above photograph, was crowded with people enjoying the unusually warm weather.  Is winter over for the year already?  Probably not.  March and April are considered Denver's snowiest months, and usually when we get such high temperatures, the following day or week we are punished with a nasty storm. Besides, Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow on Groundhog Day earlier this month and therefore predicted 6 more weeks of winter.  But what I want to know is why it is that if a groundhog in Pennsylvania  sees its shadow on Groundhog Day, it means the entire country gets 6 more weeks of winter?  Explain that one to me.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Atlas Obscura

One of top selling books this past holiday season was Atlas Obscura, a travel guide to hidden and often very weird sights around the world.  I was actually thinking of buying a copy, but it sold out on Christmas Eve and took well over a month to come back into stock.  Once it was back on the shelf, I took a closer look.  It seems to describe lots of sights that feature skeletons and skulls and other macabre things.  I would like to travel a bit after I retire, but there are only so many places you can visit, and remote regions of the world that contain skull-filled castles is, for me, not one of them, and so I decided not to drop the $35 bucks (less my store discount) that it would take to buy the book.  As a confirmed cheapskate, I have to wonder - what I was thinking?

Friday, February 17, 2017

An Update On The Baby Zebra

I took the above photograph of the Denver Zoo's new zebra baby and it's mother interacting Sunday afternoon.  The baby zebra does not look too small any more, but on the other hand I saw it the day after it was born and it was not all that small, either.  It must have been damn hard for the mother to carry that thing around for I don't know how many months.  I am sure she is at this very moment thinking "never again." That's zebras for you.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

The Zoo - Part II

As I mentioned in yesterday's blog, I visited the Denver Zoo this past Sunday afternoon to take a few photographs.  It was not overly cold, but evidently too cold for the monkeys and apes, and so I contented myself taking photographs of the big cats, such as the cheetah in the photograph on the left.  This cheetah is definitely not afraid to stare you right in the eye.  I often wonder what it is thinking as it looks at you - is it bitter about being caged, and blames you for this?  Is it better to let these creatures stay in the wilderness and not cage them in zoos across the world?  There are arguments for both sides, of course, and I can see both points.

The cheetah - which I understand can run up to 500 miles per hour, or something to that effect  - I feel sorry for, but I notice that the lions seem to prefer to just lay around doing nothing most of the day.  The lion on the right is one of four teenage lions the zoo acquired a while back, and all four never seem to move around very much.  Is this the way they are in the wild, or are they just clinically depressed?  If so, they need to send an intern into the compound to poke them with a stick, and get them moving about.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Another Damn Free Day At The Denver Zoo

At least that was my first thought.  I knew it was a free day a mile before I got to the zoo - there were lines of people walking along the street to the parking lots on the other side of City Park, which could only mean it was a free day crowd.  And that was in fact the case.  However, thanks to a little bit of luck and the fact that it was late in the afternoon, I somehow found a parking space.  When I got through the gate, the place was packed.  At first I was a little put off by that, but then I began to realize that a great many of these people - many of whom were part of large families - could never afford to visit the zoo if it weren't a free day, so I decided to put away my inner curmudgeon for the day.  But only for the day.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The First Day Of Spring Training

Today, February 14th, is the first day of baseball spring training.  Just how wonderful is that?  Of course, I do know that February 14th is also Valentine's Day, but that pales in comparison to the start of the baseball season.  And does it surprise anyone that I am divorced?  In any case, the above photograph features none other than Shoeless Joe Jackson, who was part of the 1919 Chicago White Sox team that threw the World Series.  Jackson played flawless ball, but was still banned from baseball for life along with his teammates. I took the liberty of photo-shopping Jackson onto a photograph I took at Coor's Field one long ago Opening Day.  I should have used a photograph of old Comiskey Park, but I'm sure Shoeless Joe wouldn't mind.  Go White Sox!

Monday, February 13, 2017

A Quick Trip To The DAM

I had only about 40 minutes until closing time, and so I rushed to the Denver Art Museum Saturday afternoon to take a quick look at a new exhibit called Mi Tierra.  It is a show taking up the entire top floor of the Hamilton Wing of the museum, and features Latino artists whose works express their interpretation of  Hispanic life in the Southwestern United States.  I arrived so late at the museum I took the clerk at the reception by surprise.  I grabbed my sticker and sprinted up the stairs to the top floor, taking a brief moment to look over the side to the lobby below (see photograph on the left).

I needn't have hurried.  The exhibition was not going to open until February 19th.  And I might add that they have been setting up this exhibit for months now - I think the impressionists painted most of their masterworks far faster than the time this project is taking. Hopefully when it finally opens, it will be a stunning presentation.  We shall see.

The visit wasn't a total loss, however.  I stopped in to take another look at the Glory Of Venice: Masterworks of the Renaissance, which will be closing soon, as well as What it Means to be Modern, 1910-1960, which showcases modernist works on paper from the first half of the twentieth century.  What I didn't see was the museum's featured exhibit - Start Wars and the Power of Costume.  They are actually charging big bucks to see that show, so forget about it.  Seeing the various costumes painted onto figures on the various elevators throughout the building (see example in the photo on the left) was quite enough for me, thank you very much.  All in all, it was a quick but very satisfactory visit.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Abraham Lincoln's Birthday!

Today is February 12th, Abraham Lincoln's birthday.  Bach when I attended Fort Dearborn Grammar School (seen as it is today in the photograph above, along with a black and white photo I took of one of the Kloak kids in the playground back in the 1960s), it represented a day off from school, along with Washington's birthday 10 days later.  I was not too crazy about school, and so those two holidays were a big thing to me.  A while after I graduated from Fort Dearborn, the travel industry persuaded the President and the Congress to have most of the country's holidays fall on a Monday, creating three day weekends.  In the process, both Lincoln's and Washington's birthday were eliminated and President's Day was established on a Monday between these two dates.  If I was still in school when this happened, I would have been outraged - one of our precious February holidays had been taken away from us.  No three day weekend is worth that.  Did the Fort Dearborn student body riot when that happened?  I hope so.  I would have.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

The Goods

There is a restaurant right next to the bookstore where I work, which is called The Goods (seen in the photograph above).  Over the three years I have worked at the bookstore, it has been called Sylvia's Kitchen, Udi's, The Good Son, and now The Goods.  Changing names so frequently is never a good sign, although I think the owners did sell off the Udi's brand and then reopened the place as an independent operation.  Having a restaurant next door is pretty important to the bookstore, since many people want to browse the bookshelves and then have lunch next door.  The store even reopened a long closed door between the two businesses to allow easier access.  I haven't eaten at the place since it was The Good Son. The food and service were both good, and I wouldn't mind eating there again if I wasn't on a tight budget these days.  Back when it was The Good Son, the place featured "Detroit style" pizza, which I assumed consisted of the favorite recipes of the Detroit mob.  These days it is heavy into vegetarian offerings, a bow to the tastes of the surrounding neighborhood, I suppose.  No doubt California transplants imposing their tastes on us poor Coloradans.  The swine.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Is This Place Haunted?

Last year I posted a photograph of a house just down the street from the bookstore where I work after a tree blew over on an especially windy day and crashed into it.  The damage was extensive, but I assumed that it would soon be repaired.  But after all this time, it remains in the same state, and continues to be unoccupied.  This is a surprise, considering the neighborhood has been gentrified and housing prices are at record highs.  Rumor has it that the owner wants to tear down the house and put up an alternative church. And yes - many people in Denver are in fact true eccentrics, but I blame that entirely on the massive influx of Californians in recent years.  And if that damaged house was not haunted before, I bet it sure is now.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Still Another Colfax Landmark

Just across the street from the bookstore where I work stands one of Colfax Avenue's major landmarks - East High School.  It is hard to ignore, since roughly 100,000 students descend on the bookstore's coffee bar at lunchtime and seem to occupy every square inch of the place.  The building is modeled after Independence Hall in Philadelphia, by the way, and it has a long list of distinguished graduates, including Beat Generation icon Neal Cassady, singer Judy Collins, former first lady Mamie Eisenhower, Douglas Fairbanks, actress Pam Grier, Academy Award winner Hattie McDaniel (for Gone With The Wind), author Sidney Sheldon, and astronaut Jack Swigert.  I myself went to Rich Central High School in Olympia Fields, Illinois (we were of course "The Olympians"), but the only famous alumni I know who graduated from there was David Mamet, author of Sexual Perversity in Chicago, and he had the nerve to graduate the year before I started there.  Talk about getting no respect.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Speaking Of Murder

I just finished reading Speaking of Murder, the latest Milan Jacovich mystery novel by Les Roberts.  All of these stories take place in Cleveland, Ohio, of all places.  This particular mystery involves a murder at a convention of motivational speakers.  Roberts grew up in Chicago, but now lives in Cleveland and is an enthusiastic booster of the city.  I picked up one of the books in the series years ago, and got into the habit of reading each new novel as it came out.  They are nothing exceptional, but the stories peak your interest, and I enjoy the local color, learning a bit about modern Cleveland.  Evidently the city is thriving, as opposed to years ago when it was called the "mistake by the lake" and it's Cuyahoga River actually caught fire.  My Uncle Bill and Aunt Elsie lived there, in the suburb of South Euclid, and I remember visiting them with my parents.  I even remember us going one time to the local amusement park, Euclid Beach - located right on Lake Erie - along with my cousin Linda.  It was a very rainy night, all of the rides were shut down, and we didn't stay long.  What I know for sure is that Cleveland might of changed, but it's lousy weather sure hasn't.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Getting My Ducks In A Row At Washington Park

This past weekend the weather turned much warmer, and on Sunday, before I went to my part-time job, I decided to take a walk in nearby Washington Park.  Washington Park is one of Denver's favorite places to hang out, and as expected it was packed.  It is especially popular with the duck and geese population, which for some reason decides to winter here instead of flying south for the winter.  I'm not exactly sure why they endure our freezing temperatures all winter, but I guess the expression "bird brain" exists for a reason.

In any case, the place was filled with joggers, dog walkers, and people just hanging out enjoying a warm February day.  The park has become so popular during the summer months that nearby residents are beginning to complain about the crowds trashing not only the park but the nearby neighborhoods.  And as you can  imagine, the homes near this park are not cheap, so these residents have some clout.  The city has agreed to add more port-a-potties and staff to patrol the park, so hopefully that will help.  But for now, in February, there doesn't seem to be any problems.  It was definitely a mellow kind of park day.

Monday, February 6, 2017

More Florida Nostalgia

Last week it was hellishly cold here in Denver.  It was even cold in the basement office of the bookstore where I work as the bookkeeper.  I wound up wearing my coat each day, trying to stay warm.  No wonder I am feeling nostalgic about Florida, where my sister and I own a condo in Stuart, which we inherited from my mother.  The photograph on the left I have in a frame in the living room, and shows my sister Susan, myself, and my mother Mary about to board the Jungle Queen, a sightseeing boat that cruises up Fort Lauderdale's New River.  It leaves from Bahia Mar Marina, where John D. McDonald's literary hero Travis McGee moored his houseboat, the Busted Flush.  That was indeed a happy day, cruising past mansions and then a stretch of wilderness to an island in the middle of the river that featured a few old time tourist attractions.  We were all together, happy, and warm.  Those were the days.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

No News Is Good News!

There was a neighborhood meeting - partially sponsored by the University of Denver - a few weeks ago to discuss possible changes to the Colorado Boulevard and University of Denver Light Rail Stations.  I heard about it only at the last minute, and couldn't attend, but did learn someone from the Washington Park Profile, the neighborhood newspaper, was going to be there.  I am interested in this because DU is hellbent on moving the DU Station to the very corner where my building is located, so the riders will arrive across the street from a proposed "Gateway Village" the university wants to build.  What makes me nervous is that I have seen a campus map in the DU Vice Chancellor's Office that shows the Light Rail Station in the exact spot my building is located.  Perhaps DU is thinking about putting the station on the other side of the street, but it has released no drawings.  There was no article about this in the February issue of the Profile, and perhaps that is a good thing.  It might mean no major changes proposed.  On the other hand, DU is used to getting its way no matter what.  I just hope they give us warning before the wrecking ball arrives.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Yard Signs Work!

As I make the right turn onto 14th Street on my way to the bookstore where I work, I can't help but notice the house in the photograph on the left, which sports several signs in the front yard opposing two related proposals by the City of Denver.  The first sign extols everyone to "Save City Park Golf Course," which refers to Mayor Michael Hancock's plan to take 50 acres of this site and put in an industrial storm drainage sump, cutting down several hundred trees in the bargain. All of this is necessary to support a plan to rebuild a portion of Interstate 70 underground, and keep the new interstate from flooding.

The other sign in the yard says "Don't Flood Globeville."  Globeville, by the way, is a poor community north of Interstate 70, near the Denver Coliseum, which is home to the National Western Stock Show. This issue is connected to the same project threatening City Park Golf Course, a storm water project that will greatly increase flood risks in the area.  Not only that, but this water is highly toxic and the construction will endanger the health of the people living in the area, not to mention the entire population of Denver.   This was something I was totally unaware of until now.  I guess yard signs do work.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Burgers And Beers At Red Robin

I had dinner with my friend Stuart at the Red Robin Restaurant in Golden, Colorado last night, a change from our regular Old Chicago routine.  However, the conversation still revolved around the Trump Presidency. Stuart told me he is far less optimistic about the country's future than he was at the start of the Trump administration, which is saying something.  Stuart is especially concerned about the appointment of a political adviser to sit on the National Security Council, and limiting the attendance of both the Director of National Intelligence and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  Don't worry, Stuart - just think of it as a new reality television show.  Survivor America.  Let's just hope it doesn't get renewed.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Not Another Dog Photo? Yes!

Let's face it - it is an easy photograph to take.  Nobody yelling at you, nobody chasing after you with a knife because they don't like having their picture taken.  Just a mild mannered dog looking at the lens of your camera, while patiently waiting for it's owner to come back out of the bookstore where I work and continue it's walk.  Plus, this dog has brought it's dog toy along to help wile away the time.  How great is that?

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Prince Of Fire

I just finished reading Prince of Fire, one of author Daniel Silva's Gabriel Allon spy novels.  Allon is an Israeli agent, working for the Mossad and fighting both Islamic terrorism and the frightening specter of a KGB run Russia (much beloved by Donald Trump, I might add).  I have read all of Silva's recent novels, and am therefore reading his older works, in reverse chronological order.  The good thing about that is that you already know how all the characters wind up, and so you suffer a lot less anxiety as you read the book.  The Prince of Fire was, as always, an excellent read, and revolves around an Islamic terrorist targeting Allon himself, and even kidnapping his institutionalized wife.  The previous book in the series I will read next is A Death in Venice, which centers around the car bombing of Allon's wife and son.  His son dies, and his badly maimed wife winds up an institutionalized, life long mental patient. Even though I know how it all ends, I am not anxious to read that particular story, for obvious reasons