Dixie Darr

Archive for the ‘Denver’ Category

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.

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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.

Christmas Blizzard

In Christmas, Denver, Home on December 23, 2017 at 6:53 pm

Street lined with buried cars after the Blizzard Of ’82. Denver Post Library Archive

My Secular Advent, Day Twenty-one
Everybody has a story. If you were here in 1982, you remember the Blizzard of ’82. Snow started falling in Denver overnight, and by the time I woke up the morning of Christmas Eve, we already had several inches on the ground.
My parents and I were driving to Fort Collins to spend Christmas Eve with my brother’s family. I knew a little snow would never deter my dad, but because of the heavy snow, I left a little early for my parent’s house. I barely made it.
By the time I slid to the curb at the front of their house, we had well over a foot of snow on the ground and it was still coming down, harder than ever. My parents couldn’t believe I had risked the drive to their house and I was already regretting it because it was clear I’d be there until the storm ended.
If you lose respect for me because of what I’m going to say next, I’ll understand. I decided I couldn’t live without popcorn and Coke, so in whiteout conditions, I walked through snow up to my knees to the convenience store two blocks away. Much of the time I had no idea what direction I was going, so I only made it there by pure dumb luck. Emphasis on dumb.
I ended up with the mother of all colds, sick in bed at my parents’ house for the next three days. My mom and I didn’t get along well under the best of circumstances, and me being around other people for more than a couple hours at a time is not a pretty sight. Somebody could have died.
If you think this will turn into one of those stories where everything works out for the best and the people rediscover how much they love and cherish one another, sorry. The minute my dad and I could dig out my car and the news reports indicated that getting around town was possible, if barely, I hightailed it out of there.
I had to park two blocks away from my apartment, but I was thrilled and relieved to finally be home. My lesson that Christmas was, “There’s no place like home.” So, just in case you’re wondering, I’ll be home for Christmas.
That’s my story. What’s yours?

Bleak Midwinter

In Christmas, Church, creativity, Denver on December 21, 2017 at 9:43 am

My Secular Advent, Day Nineteen

Snow is falling. Snow on snow. In Denver today, the sun rose at 7:18 and will set at 4:38, and around the world, people will celebrate the longest night of the year.

Nobody really knows when Jesus was born. Some early traditions hold that the Annunciation, when Mary was told she would give birth to Jesus, was March 25 and nine months later is December 25.

The first recorded date of Christmas being celebrated on December 25th was in 336, during the time of the Roman Emperor Constantine, the first Christian Roman Emperor. A few years later, Pope Julius I officially declared that the birth of Jesus would be celebrated on the 25th December.

Many believe that the midwinter date was chosen because people were already celebrating the pagan winter solstice festival of Saturnalia at that time, so the transition to Christianity came easily. Holly, mistletoe, and Christmas carols also stem from the winter solstice.

Christians call Jesus the light of the world, so situating his birth when darkness begins to fade also makes theological sense.

Scandinavia, the Feast of Juul, or Yule, lasted for 12 days celebrating the rebirth of the sun and giving rise to the custom of burning a Yule log.

Thousands of Druids and Pagans gather at Stonehenge, England to chant, dance and sing while waiting to see the spectacular sunrise.

In Iran, families often kept fires burning all night to assist the battle between the light and dark forces.

Lighting candles or a fireplace are ways to honor these ancient traditions. If you don’t have a fireplace, find the Netflix video of a crackling fireplace and burn a little pinon incense.

Finally, since the winter solstice is an ultimate natural phenomenon, find a way to connect with nature. Fill your bird feeders and put out some peanuts for the local squirrels. Take a walk around a lake. Buy a flowering plant.

I’m planning to snuggle with my cat, eat some chicken tortilla soup, listen to Christmas carols, and read a book.

Here comes the sun/son.

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.

Friday Favorites

In Books, creativity, Denver, Learning on November 24, 2017 at 6:54 am

Man Reading Book and Sitting on Bookshelf in Library — Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

Now that Thanksgiving is over, nobody can yell at you for playing Christmas music. If you like yours with a little humor, here are a few treats for you. Start with Christmas music in the style of the Beatles from Fab Four – Hark! 

Or step a little farther outside the box with Bob Rivers Christmas parodies.

Leon Redbone’s voice lends a froggy irony to traditional Christmas songs on his classic album, Christmas Island. You remember him from the end of the movie Elf when he sang Baby It’s Cold Outside with Zooey Deschanel

The PBS Great Performances documentary, Hamilton’s America, about Lin-Manuel Miranda’s creative process in writing the Pulitzer Prize-winning Hamilton isn’t about Christmas, but it’s a real treat. You have to be a PBS member to see now. However, you can watch In the Heights: Chasing Broadway Dreams at the PBS website or the Roku PBS channel.

Maya Angelou said, “I always felt, in any town, if I can get to a library, I’ll be OK.” The libraries were closed yesterday, but they’re open again today. Hurray! I feel as if my regular life has returned.

Finally, as a self-professed nontraveler, I find myself in the rather odd position of considering a trip to Italy. First, though, I want to learn a little Italian. Two resources I have found especially helpful are Fluent in Three Months  with Benny the Irish Polyglot. I ordered his book, Language Hacking Italian, from the library.

Another resource available at DPL is Mango language learning. At the library home page, click on services/research resources/popular topics/learn a language. Mango has lessons for 72 languages, so the one you want is probably there. If you’re not in Denver, check your local library for a similar resource.

Have a great weekend. As always, if you miss my posts, you can always find them on my blog, The Constant Learner .

Tiny Dancer

In Denver, Learning, women, work on October 16, 2017 at 10:11 am

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Yesterday, I met a new waitress at Carl’s named Sam. A petite redheaded twenty-something, she wore an over-sized Bronco shirt with her long hair pulled back into a low ponytail.

Carl’s is a North Denver institution serving pizza and Italian meals for over 60 years. It’s a friendly, authentic neighborhood kind of place. Almost everybody knows John, the owner/cook and customers frequently know one another. Even if they don’t they chat across the booths like it’s a big family meal. The original space contains six red vinyl booths lined up three by three under pictures of Frank Sinatra and Rocky Marciano, plus three two-seater booths by the door. I sit by the window where I can see everything going on. As I watched Sam work, it occurred to me that some people are made for their jobs.

Waitressing is hard work.

You’re on your feet all day, dealing with sometimes crabby customers and men with roving hands all while continuing to smile. Sam juggled her multiple tasks with grace and good nature.

That day most of the six original red booths were full and a few tables in the back as well. Destiny acted as cashier and took orders over the phone. It was busier than usual with fewer takeout orders at noon, probably because the Bronco game didn’t start until that night.

A Denver police Sergeant came in, and Destiny said, “I swear it wasn’t me, Officer,” to which he replied smiling, “yeah, I seem to have that effect on people.”

Two elderly men at another table chatted with him about playing bocce ball while Sam went about her business, seating people, taking orders and delivering orders, delivering and refilling drinks, wiping down tables, supplying placemats, napkins and silverware, writing and figuring tickets, all while continuing to smile and make small talk with the customers, calling everyone Luv.

When they had a few free minutes, Sam and Destiny folded towers of pizza boxes for the rush sure to come later during the game.

Watching someone who’s good at her job and seems to enjoy it is like watching an accomplished dancer performing intricate choreography and making it look easy.

I’m giving Sam this week’s Tiny Dancer award.

And, of course, a good tip.

Homeward Bound

In Church, Denver, Home on August 9, 2017 at 6:48 am

“Daddy, everyone should have a place to live,” said five-year-old Joey.

When we started talking about homelessness, we quickly realized what a huge and overwhelming topic it is. In the Denver metro area, more than 6,000 people are unable to acquire and maintain regular, safe, secure and adequate housing. Efforts to solve the problem run into ignorance and misconceptions.

A 2015 report from The Denver Foundation, found that 64% of homeless people are families with children, not single men. They are more likely to stay with friends or live in their cars than on the street while working or looking for work and trying to save enough to cover the ever-increasing rent and deposit requirements for housing.

The family living in my church’s studio apartment have a typical story. Both the husband and wife were working and, with their sons, living a good life in New Mexico. Within one month both lost their jobs. It seemed as if we blinked and found ourselves struggling to stay above water,” the wife said.

They came to Denver to find work and spent the last of their savings waiting for the new job to begin. They found help through Family Promise, a nonprofit that helps families with shelter and support services.

The wife’s favorite thing about living in the church apartment is being able to do normal things like clean dishes, cook meals, watch TV, and be together as a family. She also enjoys spending time alone with her husband after they put their sons to sleep.

Soon, they will move into permanent housing and their lives can really get back to normal.

They are among the lucky ones.

As T.S. Eliot said, “Home is where you start from.” Without a home, you’re untethered.

The Denver Foundation survey revealed that homelessness is much more common than many believe. One in ten respondents had once been homeless themselves, and one in five had come close. Many of us are only one crisis away. What would you do? What would you miss?

Our extraordinarily low unemployment rate (2.1%) helps, but housing costs continue to rise. We’re a long way from Joey’s vision that “everyone should have a place to live.”

Meanwhile, we’ll keep working in our own little corners to do what we can to help one or two or ten people and take some comfort in knowing we made a difference to them. We’re trying, Joey.

Now for a Brief, Mad Interlude

In Denver, Learning on July 19, 2017 at 6:19 am

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My worst date ever was more an ambush than a date. A date implies planning, an invitation, and acceptance. None of those things happened, at least as far as I knew.
In 1972, I was 24, newly divorced, and had recently learned how to smoke pot from my friend George. I heard a knock at my door and opened it to find Arnie, a high school friend of George’s and also his dealer. I’d met him once or twice. He was my age with long, greasy, blonde hair beginning to thin on top.
With some trepidation, I invited him in. He pulled a baggie of pot out of his jeans pocket and handed it to me.
“Thanks,” I said wondering why he was there.
He let me know that he wanted sex.
I said I wasn’t interested, so he took off his clothes. All his clothes.
I was appalled and ever so slightly amused and asked him to please put his clothes back on. Yes, I said “please.” I try to be polite even when the situation doesn’t merit it.
He ignored my request and proceeded to wander around my apartment in all his glory looking at my stuff as if this was a perfectly normal, everyday occurrence. I don’t know. Maybe for Arnie it was.
I asked him to leave. Instead, he plopped his naked butt on my couch and just looked at me.
Did he think that if I saw him au naturel I’d be overcome with lust? Boy was he wrong. Men can be so clueless.
Did he think I was so grateful for the marijuana that I’d sleep with him out of appreciation? Boy was he wrong.
Did he think I’d sleep with him just to get rid of him? Boy was he wrong (although I was growing increasingly desperate).
After he ignored my repeated requests that he put on his clothes and leave, I called Gail, George’s wife and described the situation to her, asking if she had any suggestions how I could get him to leave. She couldn’t stop laughing.
Eventually, I guess he realized it wasn’t his lucky night and he left.
To his credit, he let me keep the baggie.
I breathed a sigh of relief and disinfected the couch.

Sit a Spell

In Church, Denver, neighborhood on July 13, 2017 at 9:04 am

Every other week a small group from my church gets together to talk about current events. This summer, the gathering moved from the church to the parsonage front porch.

Yes, my church still has a parsonage, right next door, which makes the pastor’s commute to work about 30 seconds. The house, built in 1915, sits on a busy street in one of Denver’s most popular neighborhoods and features an iconic wraparound porch.

Our discussions have become more like casual chats, as we sit there and watch people come and go from the pizza place across the alley as well as neighbors out for an evening stroll.

That’s what front porches are for.

Almost uniquely American, porches emerged in the mid-1800s as cities grew and people started living in single family homes. Backyards still contained outhouses, trash heaps, and vegetable gardens, so front porches became the place for families to relax in the evening, catch a breeze, and get to know their neighbors.

In the 1950s outhouses disappeared and television captured the family’s attention inside. Air conditioning and computers led us increasingly to forsake the front porch. Today, while still popular house features (53% of new homes have front porches ), they are typically only decoration, rarely used as intended.

In some ways, I suppose, that makes our pastor a throwback because he loves and uses the parsonage porch. It gives him a unique eye on the neighborhood he serves and lets him get to know people who might not otherwise come to our church.

When I did a google search for front porches, I was astonished to find that the first several pages listed only commercial entities with the name Front Porch, from bars and cafes to realtors and newspapers. The name suggests a relaxed ambiance from a bygone era. Eventually, I found a series, Summer on the Porch, on NPR exploring the role of the front porch.

I also discovered a quotation from the famous fan dancer, Sally Rand, who said, “I’m not the type to sit on the porch and watch life go by.”

We like sitting on the porch and being a part of the life going by.

Y’all come back now, y’hear?