Dixie Darr

Archive for the ‘Home’ Category

Almost Native

In Colorado, Home, spirituality on June 9, 2017 at 6:47 am

Colorado is the most beautiful state in the U.S. That’s a stupid statement, I know. First, beauty is subjective. Science has yet to invent an objective scale to measure relative beauty. Second, while I have seen quite a lot of the state, I sure haven’t seen it all. Third, even if I had seen it all, I haven’t seen every bit of every other state with which to compare it. Nevertheless.

My family moved to Denver on my third birthday. We had a party in the morning, and then packed up the car and left Des Moines for good. I always considered both the city and the state to be my birthday gift. When they came to visit (and a lot of them came to visit), my Iowa relatives told me how lucky I was to live in Colorado.

We would take them up to Central City (before gambling) to see the face on the barroom floor and to Garden of the Gods and to Estes Park.

On my parents’ summer vacations, we ventured farther afield. Most of the time we camped in a station wagon with roof top tent my dad made from a pattern in Popular Mechanics.

When I was 10, we took our most memorable trip, driving west to Grand Junction then south to Ouray, “The Switzerland of America.” Still heading south we drove the harrowing hairpin turns of the Million Dollar Highway to Silverton. Carved into the side of a mountain in the 1880s, the narrow road is one of the most spectacular drives in the country. Ask anyone.

We also rode the narrow gauge railroad between Silverton and Durango and then headed west to Mesa Verde. The ancient and mysterious cliff dwellings moved me deeply although the precarious cliffside position scared the piss out of me (literally, but that’s Too Much Information). Let’s just say I learned that year that I have a fear of heights.

Our last stop was Four Corners, where we took the obligatory pictures standing in four states at once before heading home to Denver.

I defy anyone to take that trip and not believe Colorado scenery, from the city to the mountains to the desert, surpasses everything else in the country.

I feel the same way about Colorado that Eliot felt about E.T.

It’s mine. I’m keeping it.

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

In Home, spirituality on June 5, 2017 at 6:20 am








If the congregation bursts into applause when the pastor enters the sanctuary singing, you know you’re in for a treat. #bestserviceEVER”

I posted that when I got home from church and lunch at Carl’s yesterday. What made it the best service EVER?

First, my friends were there. I saw Kathryn and Dan and Max and Holly and Michael and Elly and Alex and Ashley and Carolyn and Cristina, all of whom make me happy.

We laughed, we cried, we danced in the aisles. Well, okay, we didn’t dance in the aisles (except one three-year-old who couldn’t contain her joy) because that would be unseemly in church. But we have been known to sway with gusto to the music.

Speaking of the music, it was fabulous. The choir made a joyful noise, and during the offertory, Nhi, our pianist, ripped into an excerpt from Rhapsody in Blue that had us all tapping our feet and counting our blessings to have had such a gifted musician as part of our service for the past year and mourning our loss as she moves to Stony Brook to earn her doctorate.

We had nostalgia and righteous indignation and hope.

Pastor Brad entered the sanctuary singing the theme to Mr. Rogers and proceeded to change from a suit jacket to a cardigan and slip from his dress shoes into rainbow-colored sneakers because June is Pride month. (http://eos/10108046567406311/) We all laughed and applauded, and a few people cried. His sermon, not surprisingly, invited us to be neighbors. Good neighbors.

Displayed on the altar was a neighborhood quilt made by the creative women on our quilting team that depicted the church and other neighborhood landmarks, including the public bike repair station our green team installed. We hung it at the Street Fair Saturday, and dozens of our neighbors cheerfully complied when we asked them to tie a knot and say a prayer or make a wish for the community.

He told us he attended the first Latino Gay Pride event the previous week to offer a prayer and then stepped in when the scheduled priest pulled out at the last minute because his church hierarchy forbade him to appear. Think about that. His church wouldn’t allow him to give people God’s blessing.

A drag queen in attendance said our pastor’s prayer and homily made her feel wholly loved by God for the first time ever. That’s when I cried.

We celebrated Pride month with a rainbow of candles in the candle tree, those rainbow sneakers, and tee shirts with our motto, “We are PROUD that God loves all people.”

At communion, people gasped when Pastor Brad broke the bread open to reveal the rainbow colors inside. They must be new. We do that every year.

I’m so happy to call this church home. If you want me to sum up this best-ever service with one word, it’s love. I wish you all could have been there.


In Auntie Flat, Home, Learning Tools, writing on May 24, 2017 at 10:39 am

Some things are just so essential that you have to have them with you at all times. No, I don’t mean my phone.

Reading glasses are a necessity for me. I have them in every room of my house plus a pair in my car and in my purse. I keep three pairs in the common room – one at my computer, one at my work table and one where I read and use my iPad or Fire tablet. I need readers because I may break out a book at any time.

Of course books live everywhere, too. The Kindle containing 600 books goes in my purse when I leave the house so I never have to face the predicament of being somewhere without reading material. Every flat surface in the house and some not-so-flat places hold stacks of books. As that wag Cicero said, “A room without books is like a body without a soul.” My car is home to several audio books as well as library books on their way to or from the library, plus I have the Kindle in my purse.

Writing materials also proliferate. I never know when I’m going to have a brilliant thought that I have to record. I keep several journals in different places including a small notebook at my bedside for things that pop into my head as I drift off to sleep.

My phone (you thought I’d forgotten about the phone, didn’t you?) goes with me when I drive, walk, or go to the gym. I use it to listen to audio books from the library. I could also use it to take or record notes, but I don’t. Instead, I keep an index card and a pencil in the case. I’m not a Luddite; nor am I addicted to my phone. Typically, on the rare occasion that it rings, I can’t locate it before the ringing stops. Oh, well.

As far as food goes, on heavy snow days when everyone runs to the store for milk, bread, and eggs, I stock up on popcorn, butter, and diet Coke.

With these necessities, I can make it through just about anything.

To Love Somebody

In Home, spirituality on May 8, 2017 at 8:29 am

If your church tells you LGBTQ people are incompatible with Christian teachings, your church is an abomination. Jesus told us to love one another. Period. He didn’t say it’s okay to love this person but don’t even think about loving that one over there.

Unfortunately, the United Methodist Church finds itself having to publicly defend its position that LGBTQ people are incompatible with Christian teachings, and I am a member of a UMC congregation. My beloved Highlands UMC is a reconciling congregation, which means we believe that our LGBTQ friends and family are just as worthy as everyone else of God’s love and protection.

Reverend Karen Oliveto, the first openly gay UMC bishop, is our bishop, and her election has spurred much reflection and heel digging within the church. She is warm and wise and a much better person than I will ever be. Nobody who meets her can say she is unworthy of her office, but some people just seem determined to hang onto their hate.

And don’t start on me with “love the sinner, hate the sin.” Calling someone a sinner and telling them they’re going to hell is not generally considered an acceptable way to express love. It might even be considered incompatible with Christian teachings. Bishop Oliveto in an interview on NPR, said it best: “wherever love is, God is.”

The UMC could end up splitting over this issue.

I could go find another church to attend, yet I’m staying. Why?

Because I love my church family, and we’re not “that kind” of Christians.

Because I don’t know anyone who agrees with me 100%.

Because with continued work and prayer we just might bring around those who disagree with us.

Because I’m not willing to leave the UMC to bigots and hatemongers.

A Real Small Town

In Auntie Flat, Denver, Home on May 4, 2017 at 10:08 am

So I moved to Olde Town Arvada. The word my friends and family most often use to describe my new home is “perfect,” and that annoys me. Perfect is boring.

True, my apartment is exactly what I wanted and much better than I had any hope of finding. And Olde Town is “authentic,” a real town, according to the Colorado Real Estate Journal. It’s something that can only happen over time, in this case over the span of 120 years. “No matter how hard new developments across the metro area may try, it’s impossible to design and build a place this authentic.”

It’s also convenient. Within a couple of blocks of my condo are numerous restaurants, bars (including three breweries), retail shops, coffee shops, a bank, a candy store and ice cream shop, a town square with a popular splash pad, a yoga studio, a bakery, a mechanic, a post office, a park, a gallery, churches, and, most important for me, a library. For music, we have the Olde Town Pickin’ Parlor and for fishing, Charlie’s Fly Box. To keep things from getting too precious, we have the Army and Navy Store. Now that I cannot walk as far as I used to, Olde Town offers convenient benches every 50 feet or so where I can sit and rest.

If I head the other way, we have big box stores, a hotel, and a multi-screen movie theater, currently undergoing remodeling and set to reopen in the fall.

Sometime this year (fingers crossed) we will finally have our commuter rail line open,which will give us direct access to Union Station and bring hundreds of new people here to enjoy the charms of a real small town. We are also slated to get local high-speed internet someday, so I can finally stop paying the hated Comcast every month.

The only thing we don’t have is a grocery store. And a deli. I’d really like a deli. See? It isn’t perfect.

On the other hand, it is precisely the best place for me now. It’s been fun watching the changes happening over the past five years, and it will be fun watching the continuing inevitable development.

Maybe my problem is that it is too near perfect, and I’m more comfortable swimming against the current. At any rate, there is no denying that my superpower is picking great neighborhoods.

Down Among Them

In Denver, Home on May 3, 2017 at 6:24 am

My block on Alcott Street

I went to brunch in my old neighborhood with a couple of friends, and it made me a little nostalgic.

When I moved to Highland neighborhood in 1978, a coworker who lived in North Denver advised me to stay north of 38th and west of Federal. Of course, I did neither of those things. I moved to the heart of the “bad” neighborhood. Friends didn’t feel safe visiting me. One who gave me a ride home one night said, looking around, “you really live down among them, don’t you?” A pretty racist thing for a smart, educated man to say, and I never looked at him the same after that.

About half of my neighbors were Chicano.

It had always been an immigrant neighborhood, just above the Platte River and downtown Denver, housing first Italians and then Irish before the Chicanos and Mexican immigrants moved in. Churches in the area reflected the residents’ ethnicity: Mount Carmel, Saint Patrick, and Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Houses dated from every decade since Denver was founded in 1858, and it was rare to see two houses in a row that looked alike. We had tiny Italian markets, some of Denver’s best restaurants, businesses, government offices, community gardens, galleries, a community center, and more than our fair share of bars and liquor stores. I delighted in walking all over because there was always something interesting to see. I loved it.

Then in 1995, two things happened that changed Highland forever. Denver Public Schools ended court-ordered busing and Coors Field opened an easy walk away across the 20th Street viaduct. Young white families started to move in, and seemingly overnight we became the “it” neighborhood.

New owners gutted little old houses, expanding and modernizing them to suit their suburban sensibilities. Then developers started to tear down houses and replace them with big boxy glass townhouses. Bars, liquor stores, even a gas station and a mortuary metamorphosed into chic restaurants.

Because I had always liked the mix of housing stock, I never lamented the addition of contemporary houses. “You mean you like them?” people would ask. While others seemed to think the neighborhood should be preserved as a kind of living Victorian museum, to me the new construction just increased the variety that I adored.

Those friends who were afraid to visit me in 1978 now said, “I wish I could afford a house in Highland.”

Did you expect this to happen?” one friend asked.

Yes, I did. I just didn’t expect it to become quite so high-end. I always loved Highland and never did understand why others looked down their noses at it. I love it still, but it is no longer my neighborhood. Its shabby quirkiness seeped into my soul decades ago, curled up and made a permanent nest there.

Although I’ll never again be a part of Highland, it will always be a part of me.

I’ll Take the Low Road

In creativity, Denver, Home on May 2, 2017 at 12:09 pm

I’ve lived in 21 places that I remember in my lifetime, maybe more, and every one of them was originally made as a residence. A couple were apartments carved out of a single-family house, and one truly weird one was made by fusing two studios into a single, dark one-bedroom apartment with two bathrooms and remnants of a second kitchen. Anyway, this is significant only because my dream has always been to live in a space converted from another use—a former library or schoolhouse or church. I guess that goes on my list of things to do in my next lifetime along with my dream of building my own house.

When I sold my house in Highland neighborhood, I wanted an open loft space in an industrial building with no interior walls except around the bathroom. What I got instead was a typical newish condo that was called a loft but has walls in all the usual places albeit with a great layout and in a terrific location.

You can’t always get what you want, to quote the Rolling Stones.

Stewart Brand points out that these converted structures allow for unusual flexibility and attract the most creative people. In his book and YouTube series, How Buildings Learn: What happens after they’re built, he describes the commercial use of what he calls Low Road buildings—low rent, low visibility, no style, high turnover abandoned buildings in iffy parts of town. Shabby, spacious, and frequently meant to be temporary, they survive by offering endlessly adaptable spaces to artists, entrepreneurs, and inventors and states that “most of the world’s work is done in Low Road buildings.”

Urban design icon (and one of my personal heroes) Jane Jacobs agrees that vibrant and viable neighborhoods need old buildings because “new ideas must come from old buildings.” (The Death and Life of Great American Cities).

Of course, Silicon Valley grew from businesses hatched in someone’s garage. Brand also discusses creative uses of self-storage units. “In these spaces you find the damnedest things—a boxer working out, quiet adultery, an old gent in a huge chair enjoying a cigar away from his wife, an entire British barn in pieces, a hydroponic garden, stolen goods, a motorcycle repair shop, an artist’s studio, someone shaping surfboards, lots of very ordinary storage, and, about once a month somewhere in America, a dead body.”

The news in Denver recently featured the story of a veteran who was living (illegally) in a 70 square foot storage unit because even though he was working he couldn’t afford the soaring rent in Denver. That may constitute creative use of an alternative space and marginally better than sleeping on the streets, but the only positive part of the story is that he has since found real housing.

Sometimes you get what you need.

The Live-in Library

In Auntie Flat, Books, Home, Lent - Season of Change on April 13, 2017 at 12:33 pm

Warren_Branch_LibraryLent—Season of Change, Day 38

I describe my decorating style as “demented cowgirl librarian.” When I moved to my condo, I got rid of the three pairs of red cowgirl boots on the mantel and the three red cowboy hats above the entry and several boxes of books. The books have crept back in with stacks of them threatening to topple over on most horizontal surfaces, and I have several pictures of cowgirls, too. The demented part just indicates that my home is not exactly normal.

It’s my reading, writing and listening studio, a paean to the written word. Still a home library is not the same as a library home.

I have always wanted to live in a library. This is as close as I get. Thirty years ago when searching for a home, a realtor showed me the former library in Elyria. Sold in 1952, the previous owner had gutted it. The small Carnegie library would have been much too large a home for me and also much too expensive to buy and remodel.

The former Henry White Warren Library, located at 3554 High Street, pictured here, opened in 1913 and was Denver’s first branch library. The building was sold by the City and County of Denver and now houses residential lofts, also much too big for me and not on the market anyway.

While a former library may retain some ambiance of a library, what would it be like to live in a working library?

In NYC during much of the 20th century, many public libraries featured caretaker apartments. Ronald Clark grew up in the Washington Heights branch of the NYPL and benefited from having the run of the library after hours. Living in the library gave him a desire for knowledge and led him to became the first person in his family to graduate high school and go on to college.

Maya Angelou spoke at The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture about what libraries mean to her. “Each time I’d go to the library I felt safe. No bad thing can happen to you in the library.” Sounds like home to me.

The Walkability Factor

In Home, Lent - Season of Change, Uncategorized on April 7, 2017 at 8:38 am

lifestyle-city-walking-people-urban-scene-22371860Lent – Season of Change, Day 33

I’ve mentioned before how much I’m enjoying reading Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney, and I’ll have more to say about that when I finish it. That will be sooner than expected because the library wants it back tomorrow. I had enjoyed reading at a more leisurely pace than normal as I stopped to look up maps of Manhattan.

It reminds me how much I liked walking in my old neighborhood, a couple miles a day almost every day. Several physical problems now limit my walking, although I’m trying to build up my stamina. Still, when I walk around Olde Town, I realize how much more fun it was to walk in Highland, a hilly urban neighborhood with houses from every decade since the 1850s and little business areas every few blocks.

When I decided to move, one of the main things I wanted in the new place was walkability. The real estate sites all included a walkability score for each location, and I was astonished that the score for Olde Town was actually higher than Highland. Here we have a whole town with restaurants, bars (lots of bars), shops, churches, a library, a park, plenty of services and soon, a light rail station. The only thing we’re missing is a grocery store.

Yet, I miss walking in the old neighborhood, which was just more interesting somehow. Highland has changed quite a bit in the five years since I left and it was changing even then with big modern townhouses replacing small brick homes and young white families taking over the older, more ethnic vibe.

The same thing is happening here, except there aren’t many ethnic minorities to displace. Transit-oriented development (TOD) continues to transform the area, which makes it a bit more interesting to watch. Maybe by the time I’m 85 like Lillian Boxfish, a day which, oddly enough, keeps getting closer, I’ll stroll around Olde Town and remember the times I’ve had.

My Life Story in Ten Objects

In Auntie Flat, Home, Lent - Season of Change on March 28, 2017 at 3:31 pm

Lent – Season of Change, Day 24

Do your possessions tell your history? Here’s a fun exercise given to me several years ago by an art journaling teacher and my answers. List ten objects that tell your history.

  1. Baby shoes – They’re brown, ankle high and ugly. The right one is more of a left shoe than the left shoe is because my right foot turned inward. I had to wear them day and night and reportedly hated them.
  2. Toy cupboard – Made for me by my Grandpa Darr when I was just a baby and my most prized possession.
  3. Tiny Terri Lee – My last doll. My mom made most of her clothes, plus she has a crocheted dress made by my Grandma Wood.
  4. Five Little Peppers – Written in the 1880s, it’s the only book I remember my mom reading to me, although there were surely others. I still have my copy, tattered and much loved.
  5. Beatles pictures – 8 x 10 glossies that came inside the White Album. The Fab Four still define my teenage years. I saw them live at Red Rocks and try to work that into the conversation as often as possible.
  6. Diploma – It took me three colleges, six majors, and twelve years to earn my bachelor’s degree, and it changed my life.
  7. Buffet – My space-aged looking buffet came from the old May D&F at Zeckendorf Plaza in 1969 and still looks way more modern than anything you own. I also have a valet and double dresser, my only designer furniture. If my nieces don’t want them, they’ll go to the Kirkland Museum when I die.
  8. Fiesta Pitchers – I started collecting Fiestaware about 25 years ago when they introduced their deep purple color. I now have eight of their iconic full-sized pitchers in different colors and a cupboard full of other dishes, too. Purple is still my favorite.
  9. Purple computer – I was a relatively early adopter of computers and the internet. This one came about twenty years later and, although dead for several years, remains the only computer I ever loved. Last year I tried to get the guy at PC City to use it as an empty case to build me a new computer, but he convinced me to buy a new one instead. 😦
  10. Dishwasher – The dishwasher is not my favorite thing about my condo; that would be its location in Olde Town Arvada and its layout, but those aren’t things. When I moved here, I had done without a dishwasher for over thirty years.

So there you have it. Not a very impressive list, and if I were doing this assignment today, I wouldn’t pick all the same objects, although most of them would remain the same. What would you choose?