Dixie Darr

Archive for the ‘neighborhood’ Category

Bertie’s Christmas

In Books, Christmas, creativity, neighborhood on December 12, 2017 at 8:59 am








My Secular Advent, Day Ten

Bertie doesn’t ask for much. The beleaguered and frequently bewildered six-year-old from Alexander McCall Smith’s 44 Scotland Street series really only wants two things for Christmas, a Swiss Army knife and Irn Bru, a carbonated soft drink called “Scotland’s other national drink” (after whiskey).

He’s quite sure his mother, who considers him “The Bertie Project” will never allow him to have either. Instead, she insists that he attend psychotherapy and yoga classes, two things that annoy him the most.

She declared, “Christmas is a distraction.”

From what?” Bertie wondered.

From the real issues. From the matters that should be concerning us. Commercial manipulation, Bertie. That’s what that is.”

Bertie had remained silent.

No,” Irene continued. “There’s no doubt about it. We are being encouraged to spend on things we don’t need.”

But presents are nice,” said Bertie mildly.

He looked forward to the impending nativity play at school until the school asked parents for a volunteer to produce the play, and Bertie’s mother accepted the challenge.

Unfortunately, she thought “Nativity plays are very tired.”

I’m going to change the setting entirely,” Irene said. “We shall be in the contemporary West Bank.

They heard the news in Big Lou’s coffee bar on Dundas Street.

I feel sorry for that wee boy,” said Big Lou, from behind her counter.

Angus Lordie, the portrait painter from Drummond Place, decided to make the day special for Bertie despite his mother’s lack of Christmas spirit. He dressed as Santa and surprised Bertie on Christmas Eve with a can of Irn Bru and shared a whiskey or two with Bertie’s father.

When our families disappoint us, it’s always a blessing to have good friends and neighbors.


The Mitford Snowmen

In Books, Christmas, Church, creativity, Home, neighborhood on December 6, 2017 at 10:07 am

My Secular Advent, Day Four

It’s Christmas time in the small North Carolina mountain town of Mitford. Father Tim and his cronies hang around the Main Street Grill to hash out the pressing issue of downtown parking. Snow is falling and they see some of the other merchants building snowmen outside their shops.

It’s a contest,” someone says, with a prize of a dozen doughnuts from Winnie Ivey’s Sweet Stuff Bakery. They do their best work to win that. They add hats and coats and gloves and glasses to make the snowmen look like well-known neighbors.

As the merriment ends, they realize there was never a contest at all, just people having fun in the snow. The mayor declares them all winners and leads everybody to the bakery for doughnuts and hot chocolate.

This is a story about community and a town that prides itself on taking care of its own. This year’s Advent theme at my church is harmony. Pastor Brad told us the story of how the improbable pair of Bing Crosby and David Bowie came to sing the duet, Peace On Earth/Little Drummer Boy on Bing’s Christmas special. Bowie refused to sing Little Drummer Boy (not one of my favorites, either, David), so the writers dreamed up a brand new song, Peace On Earth, to act as counter-melody to Bing’s singing Little Drummer Boy. It’s a story about being true to yourself and finding harmony with others.

The Mitford stories illustrate this principle all year long. Every book is a Christmas story.

Out to Lunch

In Arvada, Friends, neighborhood on November 8, 2017 at 9:24 am

I’d like to invite you to Newk’s, my new favorite Arvada restaurant at 52nd and Wadsworth. Lone Tree has one, too. It’s a chain out of Mississippi, so normally I wouldn’t like it just on principle, my principles being I don’t like chains and I don’t like the South. The latter stems from the movie, Easy Rider, which scared the bejesus out of me in 1969 and I never got over it.

Apparently, this is part of the fast casual restaurant craze favored by millennials and offering casual-dining quality food at fast food speeds. When they discover that some of us old farts like it, too, they may move on as they did when baby boomers and gen Xers took over Facebook.

I prefer service at my table, and here you have to order at the counter, but then they bring it to your table. I also have to schlep my own drinks, but at least I can get a refill on my diet Coke whenever I want it. And I favor booths because they are both comfortable and private. Newk’s has booths and tables as well as those high tables with stools which I hate, but which the younger crowd seems to like for some unknown reason—feeling above the rest of us, perchance?

It’s light, clean and open with plenty of space between tables.

They offer soup, salad, sandwiches, and pizza, plus bread-and-butter pickles to die for at the condiments table. I’m always on the lookout for a good turkey sandwich, and they have one. I’ve also had the pepperoni and sausage pizza, which is very good.

The only thing that would make it better is if it were in Olde Town so I could walk there. At least here there’s plenty of parking, which can’t be said for Olde Town unless you want to use the mostly unused RTD parking garage next to the still not operating commuter rail line. Don’t get me started.

Let me know if you want to have lunch. I’m available.

Boo to You

In Arvada, neighborhood, women on October 31, 2017 at 4:08 pm

I’m not a fan of Halloween and I don’t know when (or understand why) it became a holiday for adults. By the way, it’s not a holiday, as I had to continually explain to my students who complained about having to go to class on Halloween. “Did you have to work today?” I’d ask. They’d mutter a “Yes,” and I’d repeat, “See? It’s not a holiday.” Boo hoo.

I liked working on Halloween because it got me out of the house and away from trick-or-treaters. It’s really a terrible night for anyone who lives alone. The young ones always came first, just when I was trying to make dinner. The little kids are cute, although having no contact with current tot culture, I rarely recognized the costumes even if they weren’t hidden under coats for our traditional freezing weather. Looks like tonight will be cold, but not freezing.

Anyway, I had to wonder about the parents who brought their tiny babies dressed as pumpkins to my door for candy. Was I really supposed to believe that Snickers was for the four-month-old?

Later came the older kids, usually boys in packs looking sinister no matter what their costumes and wanting handfuls of treats. A little frightening for a woman alone, so I was happy to be gone that night.

Now I live in a security building with no or almost no kids, so I don’t have to deal with any of those things. I bought one bag of Snickers for myself and put it in the freezer so I wouldn’t eat it fast. My favorite part of Halloween, however, is candy corn. Save your scorn; I LOVE candy corn and allow myself to indulge in a bag or two (who’s counting?) every year at this time.

Other than that, the closest I come to celebrating this day is having a cat named after Boo Radley.

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.

Under the Big Top

In Church, Friends, music, neighborhood on September 11, 2017 at 6:00 am

Sometimes church is just too much fun. Going to church always makes me happy. I love seeing my friends, singing and praying in community, and hearing uplifting words from our pastor. But sometimes, it’s an exuberant celebration of life and love and, yes, God. Yesterday was one of those days.

Once a year, we leave the sanctuary to have our service in a big tent in the parking lot. A local bluegrass band, Thunder and Rain, provides the music. People wander by because it’s that kind of neighborhood and also because there’s a farmer’s market just down the street, and some of them join us for a song. Being outside makes us much more relaxed as does keeping our three or four dozen kids in the service with us. It makes us louder, too.

Many people, not all of them kids, danced in the aisles as we sang “May the Circle Be Unbroken,” “Just a Closer Walk With Thee,” “Amazing Grace,” and my favorite, “I’ll Fly Away.” Abby and Scarlett, both about four, played with Abby’s doll carriage and stuffed animals. Several people strolled to the back of the tent for refreshments before returning to their seats.

We learned that the United Methodist Church, with which everyone in our congregation disagrees on at least a few things (*cough* social principles), encompasses members as diverse as George W. Bush and Hillary Clinton, Elizabeth Warren and Jeff Sessions. It’s a big tent. We acknowledged the founder, John Wesley, with a bobblehead doll.

Afterward, just about everybody there helped fold and stack every chair we own to haul them back to the church. We’re a family; we all pitch in. Note to self: We need to buy more chairs because the family is growing.

Then, since it was also bike to church day, people took off on their bikes for a short communal ride around the neighborhood park. A glorious good time was had by all.

Bridge Over Troubled Water

In Church, Friends, neighborhood on September 1, 2017 at 6:37 am

Hurricane Harvey caused the worst flooding ever including almost 52 inches of rain in one day, yet Republicans still refuse to acknowledge climate change. They’d rather blame the catastrophe on Houston having a gay mayor or the country allowing marriage equality. Sure, that makes sense.

During times of crisis, it is always gratifying to see pictures of neighbors helping neighbors, although the newspeople report it so breathlessly that you would think it never happened before. The truth is that every disaster brings out our altruistic spirit. We reach out, send money, assemble flood buckets, use our boats and cars and wagons, open our homes, whatever we have to help others.

Unfortunately, disasters can also bring out the worst, as illustrated in the tweeters who praise 45 for his response while criticizing Obama for his response to Hurricane Katrina when it was George W. Bush who botched that effort so spectacularly. Obama was an Illinois Senator who was, in fact, helping people displaced by the flooding in New Orleans.

Maybe the biggest fail of the week goes to Joel Osteen who refused to open the doors of his megachurch to shelter flood victims until he was forced to do so by public scorn. His excuse modified from saying the church was flooded and inaccessible (not true) to “they didn’t ask me to” when it is perfectly clear that Jesus asked him 2,000 years ago.

The Christian response came from Jim McIngvale, the Houston furniture store owner who didn’t hesitate to open his furniture store doors to shelter and feed hundreds of desperate people with nobody asking him to. Also lauded were the four bakers who found themselves trapped at work and spent their time making hundreds of loaves of bread for other flood victims.

The response from local, state, and federal government is being called excellent so far, although experts remind us that it will take years to recover from Harvey. What it takes to build a bridge over these troubled waters will be all of us linking arms like those people who formed a human chain to rescue people trapped in flooded cars. As Anne Lamott said, “Give someone hope, and then there will be hope in the world.”

We need to become a human chain of mercy and compassion.

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?