Friday, June 29, 2007

Cheesman Park

( Cheesman Pavillion with the open land behind it that was destined to become the Denver Botanic Gardens)

When I look back on growing up and living in Denver I see that I spent most of my life there in the Capital Hill section of the city. I've lived on Gilpin Street between 14th Ave. and Colfax. On 16th Ave just off Lafayette Street. At the corner of 12th Ave and Humbolt Street. On Pearl Street between 13th and 14th Avenues- south of the Safeway store. On Lincoln Street between 11th and 12th Avenues. On 14th Avenue between Ogden Street and Emerson Street, almost catycorner from Morey Junior High School. In an apartment building at the corner of Colfax and Vine Street. On Elizabeth Street twice; one between 11th and 12th Avenues, right behind Stevens Elementary School, and once south of 11th Ave right next to the reservoir that backs up to Congress Park.

All but one of these points is within ten blocks of Cheesman Park. When my family lived on Elizabeth Street behind Stevens I walked through the park both to and from Morey Junior High when I was a student there. I've played in the children's playground at the west side of the park near 11th Avenue and climbed the trees surrounding that playground. I've ridden my bike and jogged around the park. I've rested in and climbed on the roof of the wooden gazebo at the north end of the park. I've been to picnics there several times. I've been in the park in Summer, Fall, Winter, and Spring. And I've know there were bodies buried on its grounds since I was a kid.

Cheesman Park began as Denver's first city cemetery. By the 1890's it had become so rundown and neglected the city decide to turn it into a park. People were told to remove their dead and the remaining unclaimed bodies were removed by an undertaker hired by the city to do so. Only the man they hired did not do a good job of it. Heck, he did wost than a bad job of it and anywhere from 2,000 to 4,200 bodies were left behind when the leveling of the grounds was completed in 1907. In the years since the park was officially opened there have been stories told about the ghosts of the people left behind walking the park at night and a feeling of sadness and despair blanketing sections of the park during the day. It is also said that at night during a full moon you can sometimes seen the outline of the unmarked graves in the open space near the south end of the park.

My supernatural encounter in the park happen when I was around 13 or 14 years old. I was hanging out in the Pavilion one summer day when I decided to wander into the pine trees that line the eastern edge of the park . On the other side of those trees is the Denver Botanic Gardens and separating the Gardens from the park is a tall wrought iron fence. What I did not know at the time is there is a gate in that fence right where the Japanese garden is now. That day I stepped out of the trees right in front of the gate. (This was within a year of the completion of the Conservatory and the laying out of the gardens was still being implemented.) When I looked through the gate I saw the Conservatory rising in the near distance above ground that was covered in tall grass and weeds. I thought it was kind of interesting since I had never had the opportunity to see the Gardens from this angle before and stood there enjoying the view.

Then I started feeling uncomfortable. Something was wrong but I was not sure just what. I looked over my shoulder and could see the white pillars of the Pavilion through the trees. The air was heavy and seemed to press down on me. The longer I stood their the more uncomfortable I got. What was wrong? I listened and then realized I could not hear a thing. I was surrounded by an eerie "dead" quiet. It was as if I was standing inside a glass box and cut off from the sounds around me. This scared me so much I turned and quickly bolted back through the trees and on to the park lawn that lay just on the other side them. I stood there, my heart racing from adrenaline. The air here was lighter and I could hear wind in the trees, car engines, and the voices of people playing volleyball over in the open area. I turned around and looked back through the trees at the fence. There was no way I was going back in there again.

Now, what I did not know at the time is that Cheesman Park is not the only piece of land that is part of the original cemetery, the Botanic Gardens, Congress Park, and the reservoir are also part of it.

(More ghost stories about the park here.)

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Buddha Loves You

I went online last night to buy some socks and found the website of a company who has been sending me catalogs for years. They were having a sale with up to fifty percent off on the kind of socks I wear. It was such a deal I ended up with a $60.00 (44.60 EUR) order. After my final sock selection I clicked on the shopping cart icon and was directed to the Order Total page. There across the top of the page was a quote about Jesus from the Gospel of John. A flicker of disappointment arose in me. I find it very annoying when people thrust their religious beliefs into business situations. Doing this does not make me more likely to buy anything from them. Doing this does make me wonder if the company I am dealing with is some kind of cult.

I believe that religion like most things works better when done in moderation. When you make religion the center of your world you tend to get a distorted view of just how important your religious beliefs are to other people. For the record, your religious beliefs are not that important to me when I am buying socks or anything else. I will buy from a Christian (be they Catholic or Protestant), Muslim, Jew, Buddhist, Taoist, Wiccan, Druid, Hindu, Kimbanguist, Agnostic, Atheist, or anyone else who believes that you should treat others as you yourself wish to be treated but only as long as you do not require that I be an unwilling subject of your preaching in order to complete the transaction. That little bible verse made me uncomfortable enough to delete my order and go find another website.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Big Sky

You can never have too much sky. You can fall asleep and wake up drunk on sky, and sky can keep you safe when you are sad.
-The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

Usually I would agree with this statement but not in this case. Below is the photo I took last summer of a tree limp that had fallen into in the street. Below that is a photo taken this summer of the same street. What looks like a small bush in that photo is what is left of the massive 100 year-old tree that used to stand there.

The tree was cut down last fall because the city was afraid that the loss of that large a section of the tree made the rest of the tree unstable. It is amazing how such a large tree can become invisible. I drove or walked down this street almost every day and never once really thought about that tree. The day the tree was cut down I was not in town. When I came back the next day and turned my car into the street I was almost blinded by sunlight. It was a little disorienting for me until I saw the reason why. The tree was gone. Until that moment I never realize how much that tree dominated the street. I felt sad because the tree was gone and now the sky too big.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

My Dog's Smarter Than Your Dog

Well, maybe not.

Last week while I was cleaning the bathroom I heard the loud bark of a big dog. I went to the living room window and looking out I saw Turk, a neighbor's large yellow Labrador, standing at the gate. Turk stops by every once in awhile to get a doggie biscuit. He earns it by jumping up and giving whoever is offering him a biscuit a high five with his paw when they hold their hand up. Since I was in the middle of cleaning I ignored him knowing that he would come back later if I did not give him a biscuit right away.

A few minutes later I heard Duke bark and again I went to the window. I was surprised to see the front gate open and Turk in the yard chasing Duke. I figured I must not have shut the gate tightly when I came back from picking up the mail earlier that morning. Turk pushing on it must have accidental opened it. I got a dog treat, went outside, gave Turk his high five and biscuit, let him out of the yard, and shut the gate securely behind him.

Two nights later when I opened the front door to let the dogs in I found the front gate open. I told my husband that he must have left the gate open after we brought the dogs home from their walk but he said he was sure he closed it. The next day my husband again found the front gate open and our dogs out on the sidewalk alone with Turk. That is when we realized that Turk must be the one opening the gate. Since we did not want the dogs out of the yard unless we were the ones to let them out we got a length of chain and thread it though the gate making a loop. Then we hooked the loop over the fence post. We figure that would keep Turk from opening the gate- if it was him doing so. We were not really sure that he was the one opening the gate. We had not seen him open it so maybe one of our dogs was doing it.

This morning I heard the sound of the gate latch clinking against the post. It sounded like someone was having trouble getting the gate open. I told my husband that someone was at the gate and asked him to see if they were having trouble with the chain. He opened the front door and found out our visitor was Turk. The big lug was outside the gate trying to get the gate open by nudging the latch up with his nose but the latch kept hitting the chain. My husband called me to the door and when Turk saw the both of us he smiled and started wagging his tail. We gave him a biscuit for being so smart and sent him home.

Monday, June 25, 2007

NBC's Track and Field Smack Down

Sunday afternoon I watched the US Outdoor Track and Field Championship on NBC. I did not enjoy it. I cannot get that excited about track and field anymore when I suspect most of the athletes are taking performance enhancing drugs. At this meet one runner was there after an 18 month suspension for failing a drug test. Who cares if a new meet record (Tyson Gay in the men's 200 meter) is set? Who cares if the woman (Jennifer Stuczynski) who won the Women's Pole Vault had never touched a vaulting pole until three years ago and then was a world class vaulter 10 month later? Who cares if this feat is, as her coach describes,"..(as) if one of us picked up a golf club and in 10 months beat Tiger Woods and won the Masters?" None of it has any meaning with the specter of drug use floating around this and all other sports. I also hate the fact that although this used to be an amateur event it is now a Pro/Am event with a mixture of runners from American colleges and universities running against people representing sports apparel companies.

But even with these thoughts in mind I would still have got more enjoyment out of the event if not for NBC's presentation of it. Every race was a showdown between two of the participants with lots of pre-race hype from the commentators. In the Men's 200, Tyson Gay (Adidas) against Wallace Spearmon (Nike). In the Men's 1500 meter, Alan Webb (Nike) against Bernard Lagat (Nike).


After every race a quick word with the first and second place finishers- except for the Men's 1500 meter. The race started with Webb and Lagat in front with either one expected to win it. Near the end Webb and Lagat had pulled away from the pack with only four other runners staying with them, one of those runners being Leonel Manzano from the University of Texas. The camera was on Webb and Legat at the final turn of the last lap and in the background, running fifth, you can see Manzano make his move and pass the guy running in fourth. He is right behind Leagat as Webb makes his move and pulls away from Legat. Manzano catches Leagat and then steals second place from him as he hits the tape .26 seconds before Legat does. Big upset. Webb runs a new meet record time and Legat finishes third.

So, what does NBC do? Do they interview the two men who finished first and second? They do not. The men who end up being interviewed are Webb and Legat, first and third place. Leonel Manzano is the man who wasn't there. He just disappears from NBC's radar. I wait for the interviews to be over and the commentators to mention Manzano. It doesn't happen and NBC goes to commercial. I wait to see if NBC will mention Manzano after the break. Still doesn't happen as they move on to another event. My husband wonders if they did not interview Manazano because he is Hispanic. I wonder if they did not interview Manzano because he was not running for one of the sports apparel companies. I also wonder if I will be watching the Olympics next summer. NBC is doing the coverage.

(A story about Manzano's second place finish in the Men's 1500 meter here. )

Friday, June 22, 2007

My New York Age Is 33

This New York age puts you into a middle category between young and old (but not "middle age" per se). Be proud. You've got a nice balance between going out hard-core and staying in. You care about culture but also like some quiet nights. Keep it up, but think about expanding your horizons in the other directions. Head to Studio B or Anthology Film Archives for the first time, or finally check out the Village Vanguard or Elaine's for a dose of old-school NYC.

Does your age reflect how you're living? Let us know.

What's your New York age? Take the Time Out New York quiz and find out!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Cruel, Cruel Summer

A Happy Summer Solstice to you all. The thermometer is reading 98F (36.7 C). Yep, it's going to be a cruel, cruel summer.

Bananarama singing Cruel Summer

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggity-Jig

I spent a long weekend in Denver and got back last night. Will write again when I find work.

Friday, June 15, 2007

There Is An Eagle In Me That Wants To Soar...

and there is a hippopotamus in me that wants to wallow in the mud.
Carl Sandburg

Your Power Bird is an Eagle

You are spiritual and able to soar to great heights.
You are a true inspiration, and many people look to you for guidance.
And you are quite demanding in relationships... but you're worth it.
People know that you will become even greater than you imagine.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Go Away From My Window

When I was in junior high school I used to rush home every day to watch Where The Action Is. Where The Action Is was a half-hour, five days a week, music program for teenagers. School let out at 3:15 PM and the show started at 3:30 PM so if I was lucky I would see about 15 minutes of the program.

Where The Action Is was pretty white bread with people like Paul Revere and the Raiders, Tommy Roe, and The Knickerbockers. A group called The Turtles was on it a lot too.

The Turtles were an example of how talent mattered more than looks or size at the time. Some popular people and groups from the 60's who probably would not be stars today include "Mama" Cass Elliot, Janis Joplin, Eric Burton of The Animals, and most of the members of The Rolling Stones.

I loved The Turtles and remember them singing their hit song It Ain't Me Babe on "Action":

It wasn't until a couple of years later that I found out it was a Bob Dylan song:

Holy Crap! How did I miss the fact that this song is so bitter? Dylan's poisoned Valentine to a woman he is about to dump. Was it- (a) because of the bouncy way The Turtles sing it? (b) because I never really listened closely to the lyrics, even when I sung them myself? (c) because I was just too young to understand what the song was about at all? or (d) all of the above.

D, all of the above. But I could not have been the only one who did not understand the song. It was a Billboard Top Ten Hit for The Turtles in the summer of 1965.

As "CorsairJock" over at YouTube said, "The Turtles, like other Rock n' Roll groups during early '60s, discovered the secret to success: take a Bob Dylan song and play it with electric guitars, preferably a Rickenbacker 12 string."

I won't begrudge The Turtles their success. If it wasn't for them I would have never discovered Bob Dylan.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

When The Rain Came

Yesterday we were under a flash flood warning for most of the afternoon. Twenty minutes after these photos were taken the waters had drained away with only large puddles left in a few low areas.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

I'm In Love

Saw one of these at an air show last weekend. It is a Beechcraft D17S Staggerwing built sometime in the 1940's. (Sigh)

Monday, June 11, 2007

Good Advice

Advice is what we ask for when we already know the answer but wish we didn't.
-Erica Jong

My Horoscope for June 11, 2007
Gemini (May 21- June 20)
Sometimes parking your energy and holding off on decisions is the best way to deal with a problem or insecurity. The information that heads in your direction could point to a new beginning tonight.
Tonight: Happy Day

Coming Home To Your Body: 365 Simple Ways to Nourish Yourself Inside and Out by Carmen Renee Berry
June 11
Include All of Your Senses
It is time to bring your life back into balance. Assess which areas need attention...Give all of your life the attention it deserves.

Nancy Drew's Guide To Life by Jennifer Worick
Don't force your date to go to a ballet or another activity that may not be to his liking if he was knocked unconscious earlier in the day.
-The Double Jinx Mystery

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Friday, June 08, 2007

Signs of the Apocalypse

Breaking News on MSNBC news channel:

Judge Orders Paris Hilton Back To Jail Immediately

I remember when "Breaking News" was saved for, oh, the shooting of presidents and things of that magnitude.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

The Comment Not Given

Loyalty to a petrified opinion never broke a chain or freed a human soul.

I read this over at Changing Places the other day. Donna wrote about a conversation between Bill O'Reilly and presidential candidate John McCain on O'Reilly's show The O'Reilly Factor. They were discussing immigration. At one point O'Reilly said this:

But do you understand what the New York Times wants, and the far-left want? They want to break down the white, Christian, male power structure, which you’re a part, and so am I, and they want to bring in millions of foreign nationals to basically break down the structure that we have.

As Donna points out, this is O'Reilly's losing power and becoming irrelevant fear speaking loudly and clearly. She also quotes another blogger to explain what is sitting at the base of this fear- insecurity:

And the people who are falling back on “But I’m male” and “But I’m white” and “But I’m credentialed” and “But I’m supposed to be in charge, the plaque on my desk says so” right now are doing so because deep down they know their authority and control are no longer good enough in and of themselves. They’re staggered by the idea that privilege might have to be earned, instead of bestowed on them as a birthright, and it contradicts the entire story that they tell themselves in their heads, about how they have what they have not because they’re any better than anybody else at any one thing but because they freaking deserve it. Butting up against somebody’s internal hero cycle is always a jolting experience.

Now, as I read this I realized Norman Doidge's book, The Brain That Heals Itself, offers another reason for this fear and I decided to leave a comment but as it so often happens in Blogland my comment disappeared into that other dimension where all missing socks and comments go. I re-wrote and reentered my comment but again it vanished. This is not Donna's fault but I got so frustrated at this point I quit trying.

Since I found both observations interesting and because the comment that I made ties into this I decided to write about it on my own blog and quote my own missing comments:

"Another reason for this behavior can be found in Norman Doidge's book, The Brain That Heals Itself. Doidge's book is about the neuroplasticity (malleability) of the brain and how this plasticity declines as we age:

As we age and plasticity declines, it becomes increasingly difficult for us to change in response to the world, even if we want to. We find familiar types of stimulation pleasurable: we seek out like-minded individuals to associate with, and research shows we tend to ignore or forget, or attempt to discredit, information that does not match our beliefs, or perception of the world, because it is very distressing and difficult to think and perceive in unfamiliar ways. Increasingly, the aging individual acts to preserve the structures within, and when there is a mismatch between his internal neurocognitive structures and the world, he seeks to change the world. In small ways he begins to micromanage his environment, to control it and make it familiar. But this process, writ large, often leads whole cultural groups to try to impose their view of the world on other cultures, and they often become violent, especially in the modern world, where globalization has brought different cultures closer together, exacerbating the problem.

Sounds like Bush, Cheney, the Vatican, religious fundamentalist of all sects, and all those other middle-aged and old men in charge. I am sure this decline in plasticity is more prevalent in men. There seem to be more grumpy old men than grumpy old women in the world. Maybe this is one of the reasons why woman outlive men."

Monday, June 04, 2007

The Awnings Are Up

Which means Summer is almost here. This will be the last post for awhile. We are mailing the Mac out today and I will be back once the replacement computer is here and up and running. Should be by the end of the week.

FYI:Below you will find a second post that should keep you occupied till I get back. See you soon.

Charlie Chan, Bugs Bunny, Mickey Rooney, and Me

Warner Oland as Charlie Chan. (Photo from Charlie Chan Family)

I grew-up watching Charlie Chan Theater every Sunday afternoon on Denver's Channel Two (KWGN). I know he is considered politically incorrect today because he was portrayed by white actors but when I was a kid I never even noticed. I did notice that there were two Charlie Chans though. Most of the movies shown were with Sidney Toler as Charlie but every once and a while they would show one of the Warner Oland movies.

I preferred Warner Oland over Sidney Toler because Toler seemed to have a mean-spirited glint in his eye that made him very scary to me. And I preferred Charlie's "number one son," "Lee" (Keye Luke), over "number two son," "Tommy" or "Jimmy" (Victor Sen Yung), depending on which movie you are watching. Lee was impulsive and a little naive but at the same time anxious to help his father while Tommy was impulsive, also anxious to help his father, but a bit of a buffoon. I am not really a fan of physical comedy unless it is being done by one of the three masters- Buster Keaton, Lucille Ball, and Jennifer Saunders.

I got The Charlie Chan Collection Vol. 1 & 2 (Warner Oland) for my birthday and I have watched the first six (1934 to 1936) already. It is interesting to watch how fast the technical quality of sound improves in those few years. The first one is a bit claustrophobic and set in various rooms, like a stage play, but by 1936 the camera is no longer locked down and even allowed to leave the studio for some of the scenes.

These movies also give you a look at some actors at various stages in their careers:

Two actors at the start of theirs- Ray Milland in CC in London (1934) as Geoffrey Richmond and Rita Hayworth (billed as Rita Cansino) in CC In Egypt (1935) as Nayda.

An actor at the height of his- Boris Karloff in CC at the Opera (1936) as Gravelle. Frankenstein (1931) had made him a well known man by this time.

An actor on the downward side of his popularity- Francis Ford in CC at the Circus (1936) as John Gaines. Francis Ford had also been a silent movie director and by the time he appeared in CC at the Circus he had been in 337 films as an actor and directed another one hundred seventy-four.

You never know who is going to show up in a Charlie Chan movie. In CC in Egypt it was Lincoln Perry, an actor better know as Stepin Fetchit. He plays a man named "Snowshoe" who is a stereotypical, shiftless, child-like black man. In our more conscious times, watching him is cringe inducing. He moves slowly, thinks slowly, reacts slowly, and talks slowly and indistinctly. All symptoms of children who have suffered brain damage from severe malnutrition. As I watched I wondered why this bothered me more that a white man playing an Asian. With Charlie Chan I think "that was just the way it was back then" but that explanation doesn't work with this embarrassing performance.

I remember watching propaganda cartoons from World War II on television as a child. I did not see anything wrong about Bugs Bunny fighting Japanese soldiers who all were portrayed as having yellow skin, wore coke bottle thick glasses, had buck-teeth, and spoke broken English. They were cartoons. I knew real Japanese soldier were not like that any more than real rabbits were like Bugs Bunny. Now, of course, I can see just how racist these cartoons really are.

Still from Bugs Bunny Nips The Nips (Photo from Cartoon Research)

But by the time I was eleven-years-old I totally understood why Mickey Rooney playing a stereotypical Asian man in Breakfast At Tiffany's was not funny. I remember the first time he appeared on screen as Mr. Yunioshi and being confused as to why he was even there. Each time he reappeared on the screen he was less and less funny. It got to the point where I just wished he would go away. This performance has not aged well either. I saw Breakfast At Tiffany's on TCM a few years ago. It had been so long since I had last seen it I had forgotten Mickey Rooney was in it at all. When he first appeared I was shocked. It was like cutting into a cake and having a cockroach crawl out. I got up and turned the TV off.

Mickey Rooney as Mr. Yunioshi in Breakfast At Tiffany's. Notice resemblance to Japanese soldier in above photo. (Photo from Think Quest)

So, why does Mickey Rooney, the cartoons, and "Snowshoe" bother me while Charlie Chan doesn't? Well, except for Charlie Chan, because all of these characters are negative, stereotypical images of Asians and African-Americans and, especially in the case of Mickey Rooney's role in Breakfast At Tiffany's, the people making these things should have known better.

I look at Charlie Chan and see a man who is smarter that everyone else, who is respected by the men in his field, who pretends to be what bigoted people think he should be (all those corny Chinese sounding aphorism) so they will underestimate him. By doing this he can slip under their radar and do his job. He is the precursor to Lieutenant Columbo.

So when the next volume of The Charlie Chan Collection comes out I will buy that too. These movies are fascinating as movie history and cultural history. They are also very entertaining with their simplistic plots and view into a world that no longer exists and at the same time never existed anywhere but up there on the screen . But I will only be buying the Warner Oland Charlie Chan movies. The rest they can keep.

Friday, June 01, 2007

On This Date

It's a heck of a day at sea, Sir.
-Coast Guard Spotter Lucas in Overboard (1987)

1801- Brigham Young was born.

1846- Pope Gregory XVI died.

1926- Marilyn Monroe was born.

1943- Leslie Howard died.

1967- Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band was released.

1980- CNN goes on the air.