Dixie Darr

Archive for the ‘Colorado’ Category

Leaving Colorado

In Arvada, Colorado, Denver on April 3, 2018 at 10:54 am

Destiny, a waitress at my favorite restaurant, was telling me about her housing woes. The wildly inflated real estate and housing prices dominate our conversation here in Denver and no one seems to know what to do about it. Destiny and her husband, who works in security downtown, live with their one-year-old in a one-bedroom apartment not far from me in Arvada, where they pay $675 a month. “The only reason it doesn’t cost more is because the owner doesn’t take care of the building,” she said.
They’d like a bigger place, but can’t find anything in their price range. A two-bedroom apartment anywhere in the metro area would cost them about twice what they pay now. A house is completely out of the question, now averaging more than $500,000.
We’ve watched the older, smaller houses, which once could have served as starter homes for young families, get torn down and replaced with monstrous and monstrously expensive townhouses all over town, and we ask one another, “Who can afford to buy them?” And yet, people do buy them as fast as they come on the market.
Local governments are racing to find fixes from requiring builders to include affordable units in new construction to allowing tiny houses and micro-apartments, but these efforts are minimal at best. More and more people are now talking about moving out of Colorado. Gulp.
I’m lucky. I managed to buy a house in what was then a ghetto thirty years ago, long before housing prices took off. Selling it six years ago allowed me to buy a nice one-bedroom condo for cash. It’s now worth more than double what I paid for it with property taxes continuing to rise.
Would I consider moving out of Colorado? My family moved here on my third birthday, and I always considered it to be my birthday present. I never seriously thought about moving out of state because I think it’s the perfect place to live. How could I leave the mountains or our almost perfect weather?
Unlike Destiny, I’m not being forced into that decision. Yet. I am, however, starting to think about it.
It makes me very sad.


Read Trip

In Books, Colorado, Learning, Libraries on March 1, 2018 at 9:41 pm

This may be crazy.
It’s late and I’m tired—my cat kept me awake half the night and I had a meeting tonight. Maybe I’m not thinking straight. Also, it started on Facebook, and that’s never a good sign.
The subject, however, was libraries, and that’s always a good thing. A friend mentioned how much he likes the library in a little town in the Colorado Rockies. “The Georgetown Library is way cool,” he said. “Reeks of age and years, and years of use. Serene & friendly. Once I go in I feel like time doesn’t matter anymore.”
And I thought, “I’ll have to go visit it next time I go to the mountains.” Then I thought of the library in Idaho Springs (on the way to Georgetown.) And then it occurred to me that there are cool little libraries in lots of Colorado towns and I’d like to visit them all.
Several years ago when the Woodbury branch of DPL was being remodeled, I used that as an excuse to visit the other libraries in town. Every time I ordered a book, I chose a different location to pick it up.
This, of course, would be a much bigger project. I’d want to write a short piece about each one and that would require research and scheduling interviews with librarians and actually visiting each location. I need some input from my library-geek friends (Pat Wagner and Kathleen Cain, this means YOU.) The website I found listed 275, which is probably pretty accurate. I’m thinking only of public libraries right now, but since I only had this possibly stupid idea about twenty minutes ago, it’s still in flux.
I don’t have any timeline or deadline. It could take the rest of my life, which according to actuarial tables is another 16 years or so. (I don’t really know. I made that up.)
What do you all think? Really, I want to know.

Paradise is a Kind of Library

In Books, Colorado, Denver, Learning, Learning Tools on February 28, 2018 at 3:47 pm

I’ve written many times about how much I love libraries and the constant supply of books, ebooks, and audiobooks they supply for me. However, these days, libraries are much more than repositories for books in all their formats. You already know they have computers, wifi, printing, meeting and study rooms. Maybe you’ve attended a class or concert or movie or lecture at your local library as I have.
Have you used a Culture Pass yet? It gives free admission to many museums in the area. Both Denver and Jeffco libraries (and probably others in the metro area) offer passes to the Museum of Nature and Science, History Colorado, the Museum of Contemporary Art, and the Molly Brown House and Jeffco includes several more sites including Dinosaur Ridge and the Butterfly Pavilion. This does not include admission to special exhibits. By the way, you don’t have to be a resident of these counties to qualify for a library card. If you’re new to the area or have out of town visitors, these passes are an excellent way to get to know the area.
Since Denver is essentially a city of neighborhoods, you can also get acquainted with them through DPL’s Neighborhood Guides. Read about the history and development of 17 Denver neighborhoods from Barnum to LoDo on the library website, complete with pictures, or check out a recommended book and plan your own walking tour.
With libraries around the country threatened with local budget cuts and closings plus the administration trying to eliminate all federal funds for libraries, making use of library services is one good way to demonstrate that these are dynamic and essential resources for all Americans.
One of my rules for living is to always find and frequent your local library. It’s probably open and waiting for you now.

My Favorite Holiday

In Arvada, Colorado, Denver, Home on January 31, 2018 at 1:59 pm

For a mostly ignored and disdained little bastard of a month, February has a lot going on. It’s Black History Month, plus features Mardi Gras, Ash Wednesday, Valentine’s Day, President’s Day, Chinese New Year, and my personal favorite, Groundhog Day. This year, the Olympics also run in February, so plenty to celebrate.
Why is Groundhog Day my favorite? I’m glad you asked. As you know, that’s the day Punxsutawney Phil ventures out into daylight and either sees his shadow or not. If he sees his shadow, he runs back into his hole for six more weeks of winter; if not, he predicts an early spring which will take about six weeks to get here. Either way, spring is on the way.
Even with six more weeks of cold and blustery weather, I always think of February as the beginning of spring because that’s when the flowers start to bloom in Colorado. It will probably be toward the end of the month when we will see the first crocus and daffodils begin to bloom, frequently poking up through snow. That will be an exciting day.
Next, come tulips followed my phlox and iris and snowdrops and then everything else. Everybody freaks out when we have snow after the flowers start blooming, but these are hardy Colorado flowers, I tell people. The only thing I worry about is a late hard freeze after the lilac buds are set because that could kill the lilacs, my favorite flower. A year without lilacs is a very bad thing.
Yes, we have plenty more cold weather on the way. February is, after all, the second coldest month her on the high plains. Yet, we will also begin to see evidence that spring is just around the corner.
I’m ready.

Missing Out

In Colorado, creativity, Learning, Learning Tools on January 19, 2018 at 8:46 pm







Once upon a time, the good people at Colorado Free University offered me a job as their assistant director of courses or some such title. It would have been perfect except I couldn’t live on the salary they were offering. A single woman on my own with no fall-back position, I had to be practical, and the job that eventually came along was one I thought I really wanted. I wanted to work with adult students who were creating portfolios of prior learning for college credit, and that’s the job I got, but as frequently happens, these things don’t turn out the way you expect.
While I became a master of portfolio learning, developing courses and teaching and helping hundreds of students, I also learned that colleges and faculty really don’t want people to learn outside the classroom. It’s more lucrative to keep students penned in by the way the teacher wants them to learn. Ultimately, the colleges want to maintain control.
CFU and similar programs across the country are different. They grew out of the upheaval of the 1960s and many remain today as both resources for and reflections of the communities they serve. CFU has grown a lot since then and become somewhat more corporate, but they still offer an astonishingly wide variety of classes open to anybody who wants to sign up. That’s what the “free” is all about. The cost of taking a class is definitely NOT free.
A recent Facebook post from CFU read, “Lots of classes in our building tonight. I love walking by and seeing the lively interaction and hearing the learning going on! Here are a few:
Carol Core explains a thrifty way to finance building your own custom home.
Lee Claymore talks about preparing for Medicare.
Lisa Sveland shows folks how to be Money Smart.
Caitlin Berve leads students in Origami.
What wonderful variety!”

In my “road not taken” moments, I sometimes wonder how my life would have been different it I had said yes to that job. It must be wonderful to be surrounded by people learning things they really want to learn. I like the idea so much that I set the cozy mystery I may or may not be writing at an adult education arts colony in the Colorado mountains. I’m learning that one of the reasons to write fiction is to create a world you’d like to spend time in. I can only live one life at a time, but I can imagine so many alternate universes. I may end up writing this book after all.

Losing. It’s a Good Thing.

In Colorado, Learning, Learning Tools on January 16, 2018 at 9:11 am

Someone once said that a world without men would be full of fat, happy women, implying that the only reason for us to get or stay thin is to attract men. Maybe. I started to gain weight when I was about 40, which is typically when our metabolism starts to slow, but in my case also accompanied a bitter breakup. On some level, I think I didn’t do anything about it then because I wanted to keep men away, at least in a romantic sense. I’ve always had great male friends.

Anyway, I joined WeightWatchers. Reading about the different habits of thin people informs me that thin people eat when they’re hungry. Fat people eat when it’s time. Being diabetic exacerbates this because we have to eat regularly, no skipping meals.

Thin people don’t sit still. They stand and move around and fidget.

Thin people weigh themselves. Oh, boy. If there’s anything I hate more than exercise, it’s weighing myself. These are habits I need to develop, though, and I can do that.

Apparently, Colorado has the highest percentage of people with a normal weight, neither overweight nor obese, in the nation. I guess I’m what you call an outlier.

The state has the country’s largest system of city parks, more than 3 million acres of national parks and forests, 10 major ski resorts, and 400 mountain-biking trails. In addition, 20 percent of Coloradans belong to health clubs―the second-highest percentage in the United States. (Delaware has the highest.) Colorado’s weather also helps with 300-plus days each year when it’s nice to be outside. Staying indoors is something else I need to change.

My reasons for losing weight are many:
To decrease my diabetes medication.
To relieve the pain in my knees.
To make exercise easier.
To buy new clothes in a size that doesn’t embarrass me.
To move through the world more comfortably.

And no one is more surprised at this than I am, but there’s this man. . .

Did You Miss Me While I Was Gone?

In Colorado, Denver, Friends on January 15, 2018 at 9:18 am

I took last week off from blog posting because I was entertaining an out-of-town guest, Florida Boy. To be clear, I don’t do that. I neither have nor entertain out-of-town guests, so this was a first for me.

I drew on my childhood when we had lots of relatives and friends visit, mostly from Iowa. Back then we’d head to Estes Park and Trail Ridge Road or Central City (before gambling) closer to town. I no longer go to Central City, although I understand that much of the original town remains unchanged and I’d like to see the face on the barroom floor again.

We did go to Estes Park but didn’t see any elk roaming through town. I pointed out the Stanley Hotel, and remembering The Shining, he asked if the town gets snowed in during the winter. It is winter, I reminded him, and there wasn’t a snowflake to be found. Too bad Trail Ridge Road is closed nine months of the year. That would have shown him some snow.

Nor did we see any snow on our trip to Idaho Springs, my favorite mountain town. The drive back through Clear Creek canyon did offer miles of thick ice on the creek and stunning up-close views of our famously rugged mountains. Just for good measure, we drove up Lariat Trail to the top of Lookout Mountain where we saw one lone deer by the side of the road but still no snow. He did love the view to the west from the Buffalo Bill parking lot showing range after range after range of mountains as far as we could see.

We went to the Stock Show one night and saw the wonderful gallery of western art plus the obligatory cowboys, ranchers, and cows.

Of course these days, the quintessential Colorado experience is a marijuana shop, and we went there, too, noticing that nobody lollygags there, presumably because once they buy their stash they’re eager to get home to enjoy it.

The quintessential Denver experience is the Buckhorn Exchange, Denver’s oldest restaurant with Colorado’s first liquor license, and we went there, too. Everyone from elsewhere should go there for the food and the ambiance.

The Florida Boy was confounded by people wearing shorts here in January even though the weather was relatively mild all week. He was also amazed at people eating on restaurant patios in 40-degree temperatures.

While we stayed busy, we saved many things for him to see on his next visit. Here in Colorado, we have a never-ending supply of wonders.

A Matter of Time

In Colorado, Denver on January 1, 2018 at 7:19 am

It was only a matter of time. You had to know that this old hippie would eventually find my way into a marijuana store.
During the seventies and eighties my friends and I would dream of a day when marijuana would be legal, and we could just go to a store and buy some or stop at a neighborhood bar for a smoke. Now the former has been here for several years and the latter is on the near horizon, and yet I had never ventured into a dispensary even while they sprang up on almost every corner in Denver.
Did you know that Denver has twice as many pot shops as Starbucks? Colorado as a whole has three times as many pot shops as Starbucks, so they are far from obscure or hard to find. And, of course, its LEGAL for adults to just walk in and buy something, nothing illicit about it.
But I had never gone into one. I stopped smoking marijuana more than 20 years ago and no longer thought of myself as someone who “did that.”
In fact, it took a friend planning a visit from out of state to remind me that it was part of being a Coloradan now, and I really should take advantage of it. And now there are edibles, too.
So, I researched the best store in Denver (The Joint on West 38th, if you’re interested) and off I went. “I want something to help me relax that doesn’t make me cough up a lung,” I told the cute, young clerk. He eyed me and asked, “Are you looking for pain relief or do you want to get high?” Given my age, I suppose that was a logical question.
I just smiled and said, “Oh, I want to get high.” He recommended their best seller, a white chocolate bar containing both CBD for pain relief and THC to get high. “It gives you a nice full-body high,” he said, whatever that means.
He warned me not to take more than one dose because it takes an hour or so before you start feeling the effects and lasts a couple of hours.
I’ve enjoyed it enough to know that my first trip to a marijuana store will not be my last. And my friend comes to town in a week, so I’ll get to play host Colorado style and show him around. The only problem is that I really hate shopping, so I’m looking forward to someday being able to order my chocolate from Amazon.
As I said, it’s only a matter of time.

She Loves You

In Colorado, Denver, music on November 30, 2017 at 7:12 am

One month after the devastating assassination of President John F. Kennedy, “I Want to Hold Your Hand” hit American radio stations, including KIMN here in Denver. I remember thinking it was a strange title for a song by a group named after bugs, but the song was fabulous—cheery and optimistic. If there was one thing this country needed right then, it was a little optimism and good cheer.

It debuted on the KIMN top fifty chart on my 16th birthday in January of 1964 and I’ve felt a special connection with the Fab Four ever since. Paul McCartney has broken my heart three times in the past 53 years by marrying other women when I was the one he was clearly meant to be with. When I was 16, he was too old for me. Now I’m too old for him. Sometimes the world just sucks.

That summer they came to Red Rocks and I wanted to go more than I’ve ever wanted anything before or maybe since. Somehow, I had the $6.60 for a ticket. Very expensive for that era. They went on sale at the downtown Denver Theater box office on a Saturday and my dad had to work that morning. I was inconsolable, convinced they’d be sold out before I could get there. Miraculously, they were not sold out and my brother and I both bought tickets. As we would later learn, the concert at Red Rocks was the only venue on their first US tour that didn’t sell out. I have no idea why.

Danny and I went to the concert and I am eternally grateful to him for taking his younger sister to the biggest event of the year. That was my first concert at Red Rocks and still ranks among my peak experiences. Watching Ron Howard’s sensational documentary Eight Days a Week—The Touring Years last night on PBS brought it all back.

If I seem to have a little extra spring in my step today, it’s because I’m feeling 16 again.

First Snow

In Arvada, Colorado, Learning, neighborhood, solitude on October 10, 2017 at 9:23 am

The woman in the grocery store gave me a big smile and said, “It’s a BEAUTIFUL day.” I agreed. The first snow of the season was falling in huge, fat flakes making everything seem peaceful and a little miraculous even in this aging suburban strip mall.

The national news, as usual, made a big deal out of our early taste of winter and people around the country congratulated themselves for not living in a place where winter came in early October. If they only knew. Here in Colorado, we celebrated the arrival of the peak tourist season with a foot or more of snow in the mountains and a few inches in Denver. A couple of ski areas plan to open this weekend.

Today, the snow has mostly disappeared in town with sunshine and warmer temperatures melting the rest before the day ends.

This is fall in Colorado, where a little blip of early snow doesn’t phase us. Some of us (me!) like it. The sun is shining and my maple tree has turned a bright and glorious red-orange. As I sit at my computer I watch the leaves drop slowly one by one. In a week they’ll all be gone for another year.

I’ll never understand those who think snow alone makes a terrible horrible no good very bad day. They live in warm climates and brag that they will never again have to shovel snow. My condo association takes care of that now, but at my house, I kind of liked shoveling snow unless we had a foot or more of heavy accumulation. If my back hurt, I didn’t have to do it all at once, and with my neighbors also outside shoveling and calling to one another, it was a social event. As I grew older, they sent their little boys to shovel my walk for me.

Remember that episode of Northern Exposure where the whole town celebrated the first snow by wishing one another “bon hiver” (good winter)? I wish we had that tradition here instead of having to listen to people lamenting its arrival.

Time to burrow in, light a fire or a candle or burn some pinon incense. Time to bake bread and make a pot of chili. Time to appreciate the quiet time and cultivate interior resources. Time to rest and rejuvenate.

Bon hiver.