Dixie Darr

Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

A Mystery to Me

In Books, Uncategorized on May 5, 2017 at 9:53 am

As a kid, I read all the Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden books I could get my hands on and later discovered Agatha Christie. Then I abandoned mysteries. In my twenties, I was all about science fiction, reading Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Ray Bradbury, Robert Heinlein, and Frank Herbert’s Dune series. A friend told me he thought I’d like Larry McMurtry’s All My Friends are Going to be Strangers. He was right; I read every McMurtry book that came out through the exquisite Lonesome Dove and several beyond that, although there was no matching that one.

Edging toward thirty, I turned to nonfiction, reading all kinds of books about philosophy and writing and finding your calling and nature.

Somehow I found my way to Louis L’Amour. I started with Riders of the Purple Sage (because purple) and then ran his entire collection of westerns. When I read his autobiography The Education of a Wandering Man, I adopted his habit of making a list of every book I read, which I continue to this day.

In the mid 1980s a friend told me about Tony Hillerman. I became a devoted Hillerman fan and through him, a fanatic reader of mysteries. I love finding new mystery writers and tend to read every book they write. Here’s a list of my favorite mystery authors with some commentary.

Tony Hillerman – when he passed away in 2008, I mourned as well the loss of his characters, Jim Chee and Joe Leaphorn, so I was thrilled to learn that Hillerman’s daughter Anne intended to carry on the series. Her first book, Spider Woman’s Daughter, was terrific, but I was very disappointed in Rock With Wings. I’m cautiously optimistic about the just-released Song of the Lion. I’m #53 on the holds list, so it could be a while. I especially enjoy her emphasis on Chee’s wife, Officer Bernadette Manuelito.

Sue Grafton – I was browsing in the mystery section of Woodbury Library in 1991, before the days when every library (and every other entity in the universe) had a web site, and I found H is for Homicide. After reading that, I started over at A is for Alibi and have read every book since, three times so far. I’m looking forward to Y is for Yesterday coming out in August but also already dreading that Z is only a year or two away. Nobody even begins to fill her shoes.

Margaret Coel—the Wind River series appealed to me because it was set in Wyoming and gave me a chance to learn about the Arapaho living on the reservation there. That Coel lives in Boulder is a plus. I met her at a Colorado Authors League lunch once and turned all fan girl. I was sorry to learn that she is ending the series after Winter’s Child, the latest book.

Here in no particular order are some other mystery series authors whose books I look forward to every year.

Sara Pretsky

Marcia Muller

J A Jance

C J Box

Dana Stabenow

Craig Johnson

Nevada Barr

Julie Smith

Susan Wittig Albert

Lisa Lutz

I’m always on the lookout for new authors if you’d like to make a recommendation.

Favorite Fiction Books

In Books, Uncategorized on April 18, 2017 at 10:49 am


In no particular order. There could be dozens more on this list. These are the ones that come to mind and that I return to over and over.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee – first read as a high school sophomore. Thank you, Miss Jacobs. Also a great movie, and the audio book read by Sissy Spacek is outstanding.

Milagro Beanfield War by John Nichols – full of subtle humor. Also one of my favorite movies.

Violet Clay by Gail Godwin

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen – the six-part BBC series with Colin Firth is the definitive film adaptation.

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

Broken for You by Stephanie Kallos

Pocketful of Names by Joe Coomey

Brooklyn Follies by Paul Auster

People of the Book by Geraldine BrooksI couldn’t resist a book with this title. Luckily the story lived up to the title.


What’s on your list?

Man of Steel

In Books, Lent - Season of Change, Uncategorized on April 12, 2017 at 4:37 pm

smileyLent – Season of Change, Day 37

Andrew Carnegie is my kind of Superhero. A Scottish-American born in 1835 in Scotland, he emigrated to the United States in 1848 and led the U.S. steel industry to became one of the richest Americans ever worth $374 billion in today’s equivalent. I couldn’t care less about that.

What I do admire is that he spent the last 30 years of his life giving away 90% of his fortune and suggesting that other rich people to use their wealth for the benefit of society, kind of like the Bill Gates and Warren Buffett of the 1900s. He used much of his money to build 2,509 libraries including some 1,689 were built in the United States, 660 in the United Kingdom and Ireland, 125 in Canada, and others in Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, Serbia, Belgium, France, the Caribbean, Mauritius, Malaysia and Fiji.

When the last grant was made in 1919, there were 3,500 libraries in the United States, nearly half of them built with construction grants from Carnegie. As I said, my kind of guy.

Colorado boasts 35 Carnegie public libraries plus one at the University of Denver. Thirty of these buildings are still standing, and 18 still operate as libraries. Denver has nine, five of which are still used as libraries including Smiley where I pick up and return books every Saturday and Woodbury, the branch I frequented for the 33 years I lived in North Denver.

Smiley was built in 1918. It’s a sweet little library in Berkeley Park at 46th and Utica that gives me access to books from libraries all over the country. It’s on the Doors Open Denver event April 29-30 and my friend Bill will be leading tours there on Saturday, April 29. Stop by and say, “Hi.” (Hi, Bill.)

Somebody Stop Me

In Books, Lent - Season of Change, Uncategorized on April 11, 2017 at 9:57 am

library booksLent – Season of Change, Day 36

These are all library books I currently have checked out, but, sadly, it is not all of them. I have twelve more books and a DVD in the other room, the one I’m reading on my desk, and a couple in the car, ready to go back to the library. And that doesn’t count the the audio or Kindle books or I have downloaded.

Somebody should stop me from this – what shall we call it? An addiction? An obsession?

I guess you could call me a serial hoarder because they make me return them periodically.

I’ve always been bad at this. As soon as I hear about an interesting book, I request it from the library. It’s gotten worse since I installed the Library Extension app on my browser. It acts on amazon and other booksellers to show you when a book you look at is available at your local library. Just click and place a hold. You can see how dangerous this could be.

Obviously, I won’t be able to read all these books. My only solace is that I’m helping my library drive up circulation, which helps them get funding and justify important services and positions. Hey, whatever I can do to help. To me, the library is the most important resource in town. Any town.

Note to whoever is in charge of returning my library books when I die. If they’re from somewhere other than Denver or Jefferson County, return them to Jeffco. That’s where I get all my interlibrary loans.

It’s National Library Week. What have you done to help your library?


You Are What You Read

In Books, Finding Your Calling, Lent - Season of Change, Uncategorized on April 10, 2017 at 10:00 am

night bookmobile

Lent – Season of Change, Day 35

I’m not generally a fan of graphic novels, but I pick one up every once in a while because they’re wildly popular, and I think I ought to give them another try. The title of The Night Bookmobile by Audrey Niffenegger made it a natural for me. I love libraries (it’s National Library Week!), especially bookmobiles. I’ve enjoyed several books about people running bookmobiles and this one would seem to kill two birds with one stone – I’d get to read another book about bookmobiles and also assuage my prejudice against graphic novels.

It wasn’t what I was expecting and it had a bizarre ending, which I won’t go into here. It’s about a young woman, Alexandra, who happens upon a bookmobile while she’s out walking in Chicago late one night. She begins to browse only to discover that she has read every book there. It is, in fact, a collection of every book, indeed, every written word she’s ever read, including cereal boxes. She was charmed. “In the same way that perfume captures the essence of a flower, these shelves of books were a distillation of my life,” she thinks.

I want to stay here,” she tells the librarian. “I want to come with you. I could be your assistant.”

That isn’t possible,” he says and tells her he has to leave.

Over the years, she searches futilely for the bookmobile and completely changes her life, going to library school, so she can work in the night bookmobile and be united with her lifetime of reading.

It occurs to me that, while I don’t have a library of all the books (let alone cereal boxes) I’ve ever read, I do have a sort of card catalog of the past 30-40 years of them. That’s how long I’ve kept a diary listing every book I read.

I have often wondered why I never became a librarian. It seems like a natural for someone who loves books as much as I do although my friend Pat, who teaches seminars for librarians all over the country, tells me that librarians don’t really read as much as you’d think. They’re too busy.

George R.R. Martin once said, “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. . . . The man who never reads lives only one.” Ignoring the sexism, I’m sure that in at least one of those alternate lives I’ve lived I was a librarian.

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.

Exact Change

In Lent - Season of Change, Uncategorized on April 6, 2017 at 12:35 pm


Lent – Season of Change, Day 32

You’re standing in the checkout line behind an old woman who is meticulously counting out change to the exact amount due. You’re annoyed because it’s taking ten seconds longer than you think it should. That woman is me. It makes me happy to have the right amount. Have a little patience and wait your turn.

I asked a cashier once if old people are the only ones who count out correct change. “No,” he said. “Kids do it, too.” All righty then.

More and more stores and restaurants ignore and penny here and there. At Carl’s, my usual bill is $13.24. I hand over a twenty and a quarter and receive back $7.00. Not $7.01. At another restaurant, if my bill is $4.63 and I’m a penny or two short, that’s close enough.

It isn’t that a penny one way or another makes a difference to me, it’s that once upon a time I worked in the accounting department of a federal reserve bank and had to balance the books to the penny every day even though we were dealing in millions of dollars. They paid us a lot of overtime so we could find those extra few pennies.

My mother also taught me to balance my checkbook to the penny every month. Many months I would spend hours trying to find the piddling amount my calculations were off.

I hear they want to get rid of pennies because it costs more (1.7¢) to manufacture them than they are worth. That makes sense (or cents), and anyway, we’re probably on our way to paying electronic with our phones for everything.

At least I no longer write checks. When I’m in line behind an old person (it’s always an old person) who’s writing a check, I marvel that anybody does that anymore. And, okay, I may get a tiny bit irritated because it takes thirty seconds longer to finish the transaction.

Loose Change

In Lent - Season of Change, spirituality, Uncategorized on March 11, 2017 at 10:23 am


Lent – Season of Change, Day 10

I rarely spend time with kids. That isn’t a complaint, but one of the things I value about my church is the abundance of kids, little bitty ones. On the second Sunday of every month, they come out into the pews to collect our spare change for charity. It’s my number one favorite thing in church. I try to remember to bring as much change as possible, so I can dole it out to several different little ones.

Each year, they collect a thousand dollars or so and donate it to organizations that fight the spread of HIV/AIDS or malaria. This year it goes to help Family Promise, a nonprofit that works to end homelessness one family at a time.

In the big picture, I suppose $1,000 doesn’t go very far to end homelessness or fight a deadly disease, but it means a lot to these kids. They’re learning to care for others, and they’re learning the concept of thinking globally and acting locally. As Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Our kids (yes, I think of them as “our” kids) are learning that early.

Read This Book

In Uncategorized on February 21, 2017 at 12:28 pm


Although I used to read a lot of science fiction, I moved on to other genres in about 1970. Sometimes, though, a book just screams to be read. All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai reads like a breezy letter from a friend. Remember those?

Tom Barren lives in a 2016 that resembles the Jetsons’-like future imagined by 1950s and ’60s authors. Flying cars, automated and personalized, well, everything were all made possible by harnessing the endless energy of the movement of the planet through space, which “fueled a technological revolution that transformed the world.” The inventor, Lionel Goettreider has become a cultural icon, whose name is spelled by children singing to the tune of Mickey Mouse. It is, according to Tom, “the world we were supposed to have.”

A catastrophic accident lands Tom in the 2016 where we live, which seems hopelessly backward and foul to him, a “degraded mirror of the world.” Slowly, though, he finds certain aspects of our time that he prefers to his own.

Tom learns that only he has the power/opportunity to save the world. But which one will he save? The technological utopia or the sweet, flawed now? Is it possible to have both?

New York Times bestselling author Jonathan Tropper, has this to say about it. “A novel about time travel has no right to be this engaging. A novel this engaging has no right to be this smart. And a novel this smart has no right to be this funny. Or insightful. Or immersive. Basically, this novel has no right to exist.” I can’t argue with that.

Bugs on the Brain

In Uncategorized on February 13, 2017 at 10:50 am


I was chatting with Esther and Dan before church yesterday and asked them, “What’s the title of that famous Russian short story about a man who woke up as a cockroach?”

I’m planning to write a series of posts for Lent using secular essays, stories, poems, etc. on the topic of change, and this seemed like an obvious one to include.

Esther knew what I was talking about, but she couldn’t think of the title either. Dan, on the other hand, let me know it was outside his bailiwick. “Sounds to me like a question for Google,” he said, whipping out his phone.

Just then Erin slid into the pew ahead of us and said hi. “Hey, Erin,” I said, “what’s the title of that Russian short story about a man who woke up as a cockroach?”

“Oh,” she said, “um, uh, The Metamorphosis.”


Dan seemed disappointed that she got it before he could find it online.

Apparently, I had everything wrong.

It’s a novella, not a short story.

The author, Franz Kafka, was Czech, not Russian.

The bug the man becomes is never identified as a cockroach. It’s just a hideous bug.

With my erroneous description, could Google have answered my question? I searched for my original question this morning, and the first result was the Wikipedia entry for The Metamorphosis.

I intended to make a point about the human brain still being better than a search engine, but it turns out I just talk faster than Dan can type.