Eddie Arana, Rick Thibodeau, & Chris Bakunas San Diego, Ca. March 2012

Eddie Arana, Rick Thibodeau, & Chris Bakunas San Diego, Ca. March 2012
Eddie Arana, Rick Thibodeau, & Chris Bakunas at Luche Libre Taco Shop in San Diego, March 2012

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Hiking Green Mountain

                           Green Mountain is not all that imposing from the Alameda approach

This morning was quite the dramatic contrast to yesterday's day-long torrential downpour. Birds were chirping, cats were licking their chops, the hills were alive with the sound of...a really violent wind. 

But that's neither here nor there. What's here is the bright blue skies and blazing sun that made this morning perfect for a hike up and around Green Mountain, the first nature hike of the season for the most part.

                             Welcome to William Frederick Hayden Park At Green Mountain

Green Mountain is about 3 miles to the west of my home. It does not appear to be much of a challenge as far as hikes go, and truth be told, it's not. Oh sure, the elevation will probably put some hikers out, especially those from close to sea level, but that could be said of most hikes in Colorado.

There is about a 2,000 foot increase in elevation from my home to the top of Green Mountain, which is just enough to make the hike interesting without regret. 

The hiking trails along Green Mountain are in a park named after William Frederick Hayden, whose family donated or sold the majority of the land used for the park to the city of Lakewood.

                                                   Pick a trail and enjoy!

I took the Green Mountain trail today, as I was feeling chock full of vim and vigor.

                         After the first couple hundred yards, a bench is provided to rest on

The park covers about 4 square miles, and offers amazing views of Denver and the surrounding area. It's as hospitable as a park can get, with well-maintained trails and even several areas to rest along the way.
                                           A half mile up and the view is incredible

The hiking trails are a great combination of climbs and descents, almost rollercoaster-like in their undulations. It is about as easy a 2,000 foot climb as I've ever made.

                    Hey! I can see my house from here! And everything else to the east

The first mile of trail gets you about 1,000 feet up. From there the grid layout of the streets of Lakewood and the surrounding area begins to look like a model train set.

                               The trail up to the deceptive first tower hill...not quite the top

First time hikers can be fooled into thinking that the summit is within easy reach when the radio antenna is in sight. That is a common misconception. The angle of view hides the three hundred or so yards beyond the tower where the actual crest of the mountain is.
                                                   Love declared near the top           

At the tower, evidence of the easier west face approach abounds. The west approach follows the radio tower service road - beaten paths don't get much more beaten than that, Mr. Whitman. 
                                               Two joggers...I mean lunatics

The service road section of the Green Mountain trail is like a domesticated cat. it's easy to be fooled into thinking it's an approachable, docile creature.

                                     View to the east from the top of Green Mountain

The view from the area near the top of the mountain is incredible in all directions. You'll want to spend a few minutes drinking it in - and some water, if you brought it.

                      View to the north - Golden, Arvada, Westminster...if you squint, Broomfield

There are many small trails that lead away from the area near the top of Green Mountain. They look like game trails, but they are actually trails made by that special brand of lunatic known as mountain bikers.

              View to the southwest - Red Rocks park is right above Dinosaur Ridge

Once you have taken in the spectacular views from near the summit of Green Mountain, you're ready to actually crest the summit, a mere...several hundred yards away.

                                                 The last few hundred feet up

Just put one foot in front of the other...it's worth it, trust me.

                                                             The Cairn at the top

Finally! You're at the top, the very top! Look at that view! Look at all that...indistinct stuff.

                                                         Growing at 6,000 plus feet

Once you've crested the mountain top, it's time to head on down. The Green Mountain trail follows the service road down to the Rooney Valley parking lot on the southwest side of C-470...or you can take the Rooney Valley trail, which is much more scenic.

                   The Green Mountain Trail follows the service road down on the west side

With the 60 mph wind gusts at your back, going down is much more pleasant than going up.

                                                                      The Rooney Valley

The Rooney Valley trail skirts Green Mountain from near the summit until it parallels Alameda Parkway from just north of the bridge over C-470, and then back to the parking lot.

                      Just in case, you know, you hauled the thing up the mountain...and a machete

Green Mountain is more than just a recreation area for hikers, joggers, and mountain bikers. Feel free to bring your paraglider up for an afternoon of fun.

                                      Come to think of it, Green Mountain isn't much of a clever name

Once you're down in the Rooney Valley it becomes readily apparent why the name Green Mountain was chosen over, say, Mordor.

                                              Yellow daisies dot Green Mountain 

The flora and fauna of Green Mountain is varied. There is much to appreciate, but there is also quite a bit to be careful of. Coyotes and rattlesnakes inhabit the area, as well as some man-made menaces. 

As one of the signs below points out, if you see something that looks like it may have been used by the military, there is the chance it was - leave it alone.
          Sign, sign, everywhere a sign...

The park is very well-maintained, by Jefferson County staff and by volunteers. A tip of the hat and mucho thanks to all of them!

                                               This sign reflects yesterdays torrential rain 

As Green Mountain does not have dense vegetation that inhibits the flow of water, specifically rain, the storms that hit the area frequently result in muddy, muddy trails. be careful!

                                          This sign got the memo updating conditions

Today, after just a few hours of sun, all the trails were pretty dry and accessible. It as a truly great day for a hike and if you have the time and inclination on a similar day, I can't recommend it strongly enough!


Her Sensible Shoes Were Only Bested By Her Sensible Dress

Older, slightly plump, with less make-up and 
Wide hips, skin taut but not 
Curious eyes bright with intelligence, steady
Mouth set but not in concrete
Elemental in her approach but 
Rational in her response
Nothing remaining of that adolescent confusion
Quick with a laugh and right back
At you with a joke
Willing to play Twister 
On her wedding night
Speaks her mind without a filter but is rarely
Crass or embarrassed by her words
Likes jello 
Even without the vodka
Has a smile she shares fearlessly
Doesn't hide her scars and doesn't
Exhibit them 
Or relive their creation
Believes the best is yet to come and is always ready
To meet it halfway

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Pestered By The Cat That Played With Brushes

Fire-breathing Rottweilers ravaging the lawn
Some auto-tuned adolescent ruining a favorite song
Neither of which is anything worth seriously dwelling on
                                            Candy apple carcasses
                                            Rotting in the sun
                                            Lithuanian Charismatic
                                            Strumming a machine gun
French Foreign Legionnaire declaring himself Don Juan 
Claims to be a Spaniard and hopes everyone will play along 
Had a wife and children but left that life in Ceylon
                                            Gingerbread fortresses
                                            Besieged by the flying nun
                                            Country folk operatic
                                            Headed straight to number one


Sunday, May 26, 2013

These Are The Indistinct Old Days...

It is very possible that right now, at this very moment, somebody, somewhere is having the greatest time of their life. They are laughing, smiling, maybe even singing, in the company of friends or family or perhaps even alone. 

The magic of this moment for them is beyond measure, potentially even beyond comprehension. They will never again come close to how they feel at this exact moment in time, not even for a fleeting second. 

Maybe it's at the birth of their first child, or hell, maybe it's at the conception of their first child...just sayin'...or maybe they're signing a recording contract after spending years playing the bar-band circuit, or maybe they've become debt free for the first time in decades and they're dancing naked in the living room (I did, when that happened), or maybe they have just had dinner with a friend and everything went absolutely perfectly right.

It could be a million things, it could be anything. But whatever it was, once it passed, it became the bar, the measuring stick, against which all other great times will be measured.

We all have that comparison model tucked away somewhere in the back of our minds. We don't realize we do - until we pull it out. 

Usually after (or maybe during) some great event in our lives - say you're cleaning up after a party and just suddenly it pops into your head: "Wow, this is the best party since Halloween of '04...man that was the party to end all parties..."

Of course the opposite is also true. We all have memories of the bleakest of times that we compare all other bad times to: "Man, this is the worst night I've had since my Honeymoon...not as bad as that, nothing could be as bad as that, but it's close, definitely top five."

The odd thing is, most of us, if not outright all of us, do not have any idea we are experiencing the greatest time of our life when it is happening. We just know we are having a great time. 

However, when we are having the worst time, the absolute worst time of our lives, we are keenly aware of it. It's as if there is some mechanism in the mind/body that is activated for the sole purpose of remembering the absolute worst time of our lives. 

And it usually reminds us of that worst time at inopportune moments, such as when we have finally gotten over the grief/embarrassment/guilt of the memory...that's when the electro-chemical synapse makes the leap at the cellular level. We'll be watching a comedy and the main characters will become engaged in a situation that is similar to the situation that led up to the worst moment of your life (except with better clothes/hair/teeth, and much wittier dialogue) and BOOM! You're crying. 

Which scares your date, and now this becomes the new absolutely worst time of your life.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Dance Of The Deluded Awkward Bear

He honestly thought he was a bear
Not just any bear, either
The world's best dancing bear

Some weeks he would hit the clubs
Four, maybe five nights

Intent on showing off his skills
On the dance floor
Most people who saw him had to admit
That bear could really dance

Dancing made the bear happy

He could and would dance to anything
Electro-Funk Power-Jazz Folk-Punk
If it had the slightest semblance of a beat
That bear found a way to move rhythmically to it
He didn't need a partner either
That bear was happy dancing alone
Dancing was all that mattered

Then one evening it happened
A woman approached him
Asked if she could have a dance 

Suddenly it dawned on him
That he wasn't a bear
Certainly not the world's best dancing bear

He looked at the woman who asked to dance
And realized that he was just a sweaty fat guy
Dancing in the corner of the dance floor
Slowly he backed away
And walked out of the building

He never danced again

Friday, May 24, 2013

The Remarkable Politeness Of Ghosts

People believe in ghosts, apparitions, spooks, phantoms
Call 'em what you like  
The spirits of the dead floating about forlornly
No longer having to contend with the vagaries of life
Yet somehow envious of those still drawing breath
        They moan and groan ever so dramatic 
        Angrily slamming doors
        And at two in the morning stomp around in the attic

               Haunting places where they died
               Seeking vengeance for having been killed
               Or perhaps jealous of those who survived

 Which, when you consider all those who met their end
 In wars, acts of terrorism, murders, careless accidents  
 In numbers to big to comprehend                           

                                 I mean, they would number
                                 In the billions
                                 You have to wonder

                                 How is the world such a quiet place
                                 Especially at night
                                 It makes me think
                                 That ghosts must be polite

       And use their inside voices
       ...or whisper

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Urban Renewal In A 44 Year-Old City

At the tail end of the summer work crews started demolishing the office tower formerly known as the Geico building. This six story structure had sat vacant on the southeastern corner of Wadsworth and West Alameda for over a decade, and the structure, while fairly unique in it's appearance, was pretty much an eyesore. 

Earlier, the long-abandoned decrepit building that was next to it, formerly a Bennigan's restaurant, had been demolished, scraped away to allow for redevelopment of the whole corner. 

The contractor chose to use an unconventional method of tearing the Geico building down, dismantling the structure floor by floor in order to minimize the impact to the surrounding environment and to maximize the recycling of the structural components. 

The building was completely down by the first week of October, and with the removal of all the waste the only indication that anything had ever been on the site was a large pile of dirt.

Soon construction crews replaced the destruction crews, as the site was going to be re-utilized for a Walgreens and a Key Bank.

By the end of November the foundations had been laid out. There were a few snowfalls of note, but snow melts quick in the Denver metro area - more days of sunshine here than any other major city in the U.S.

The new buildings started to take shape in December, aided by the mild winter. I drove past the site five times a week and  while it was hard to notice any progress some days, the progress was fast from week to week.

By January, the walls were going up on both buildings. For three months of actual construction in the middle of winter at altitude, the crews were making commendable time.     
March and the facade is almost finished. There were three fairly heavy snowfalls in March, which slowed the construction crews down a bit. A couple of early Spring snowfalls in April also contributed to the slowdown.

However, once all the glazing was done, the HVAC crews moved quick to get the buildings ready for the interior crews to start mudding walls, installing ceilings and doors, as well as fixtures.

...and there you have it, another Walgreens and Key Bank open up in Lakewood. Smack dab in the heart of Lakewood, in fact. 

There must be 3 or 4 Walgreens in Lakewood already, so why another? 

Two factors at play: First, Lakewood finally has it's own hospital - Saint Anthony's, a 279 bed hospital with a level I trauma center, opened in June of 2011. It's hard to believe that a city of 142,000 people never had a hospital until almost two years ago, but that was due to all the cities that surround Lakewood having hospitals.

Second, Lakewood has an old, old population - one that is only getting older. Within one mile of this new Walgreens there are at least three large assisted care senior living communities.

Those two factors mean one thing - lots and lots of prescriptions! The people who run Walgreens are not dumb - they not only know which side of the bread is buttered, they know where the very best butter is.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Every Man Has The Right To Wear The Shirt Of His Own Choosing

I have earned the right to wear the shirt that has become a badge of the survivors. Yes, the survivors. We who have spent decades assailed by advertisers, salespeople, friends, lovers, and even members of our own family to dress respectably, especially in public.

For every suit, shirt, tie and polo that hung in my closet and then on my back at the insistence of a woman, be it my mom, any of my sisters, or any of the women that have graced my life, I now have a replacement.

That replacement, of course, is the shirt that has become the universally recognized symbol of emancipation for men all over the world.

I am writing, of course, of the Aloha shirt, more commonly known as the Hawaiian shirt, and it's many variations.

These colorful, fanciful, and fun shirts were first produced and sold in Hawaii in the 1930's, and like many things Polynesian, made their way to the states with the servicemen returning home after WWII.

The Hawaiian shirt was always popular where I grew up, Southern California, but not necessarily in the neighborhood where I lived in Southeast San Diego. No, there was a different look going on there.

Few people know this, but Hawaiian shirts are responsible for the tradition of casual Friday - seriously, look it up. 

Now it has come to represent freedom for men who have lived rich, full lives of constant struggle against neckties and their non-stop strangulation, against regimented workplace uniformity, against restrained, understated, muted, dull-as-dreck conformity. 

For awhile in the mid-2000's it looked as if the Hawaiian shirt was losing ground to the bowling shirt, but that fad proved as temporary as Charlie Sheen's sobriety. The Hawaiian shirt is back on top, where it belongs.

The Hawaiian shirt - proudly shouting "Screw you, I'm old enough not to give a damn about how bad you think I look."

Of course, my wardrobe is not limited to Hawaiian shirts - I have a few Guayabera shirts for special occasions  and of course the 50 or so T-shirts that proclaim my love for a particular thirty-years-out-of-date recording artist, pop culture artifact, or beverage. 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Look At Me...Dammit!

He explained it to me once
How he liked to keep to himself
Whenever he went out
But he hated being ignored
So whenever he had to be in public
He would do whatever it took
To get people to look at him
Purple askew hair
Orange Capri pants
Leather vest
With nothing underneath
All his tats revealed
For the world to enjoy
But just in case
Somebody was foolish enough
To want to talk
He kept his earphones in
But with his iPod off
Because he needed to know
If he was being talked about
After all
Everything about him
Every item of clothing and jewelry
Every affectation
Was just one long painful scream for attention
But not interaction

Monday, May 20, 2013

A Short Synopsis Of The Second Day Of A Trip Taken In September Of The Year 2000

In the morning we took the Piccadilly Line to Piccadilly Circus, getting on the tube at the Manor House stop, which was only a few blocks walk from our lodgings in Finsbury Park, near Arsenal.

Piccadilly Circus is the London equivalent of Times Square, but with even worse restaurants. We ate at The Angus Steakhouse - the indifferent waiters and tasteless food seemed to be designed to give tourists the stereotypical English dining experience, and they pulled it off without a hitch.

There were lots of great stores and theaters, all of which are housed in classical revival style buildings that the British do so well. Piccadilly really is a great place to walk around, shop, and people watch, which we did for most of the day.

On the tube back to the small room we were staying in we met an Australian couple. The initial meeting went something like this;

Australian guy on the far side of the subway car (calling over to me): "Hey, what are you? A Jackaroo?!"

Me: "Me? No, I'm just a tourist from the states."

Australian: "Oh, well, I thought with the hat and all, you might be a Jackaroo! I knew you couldn't be an Englishman - you're not staring at your shoes!"

Me (with a bit of a laugh): Hah, yeah, no, I'm an American wearing a brown felt fedora. You Australian?'

Australian: "Yea. Where you heading?"

At that point we walked over to where he was standing so we didn't have to continue shouting across the car. He was with his girlfriend, Chelsea (his name was Troy). 

They both worked at the Manor House pub which was right outside the Manor House tube stop. Troy was a bartender and Chelsea was a waitress. They coaxed us into paying a visit to the pub "to experience the sights and smells of dancing Turks and Poles."

The place was a dive, and it was indeed full of recent immigrants from Turkey and Poland. Troy explained that the women would go out on the dance floor by themselves and soon be surrounded by Turkish and Polish men dancing around them trying to win their attention, with the eventual result being that the men would start shoving and then fighting each other on the dance floor.

The fights would be broken up, things would calm down, then the whole ritual would start again.

Chelsea made the comment that the women, also Turkish and Polish immigrants, were all a size 14 or bigger, which wasn't too bad, but they were all wearing size 10 clothing, which was. 

We stayed until 1:00am. Very entertaining in a National Geographic documentary sort of way. 

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Always Look On The Bleak Side Of Life...

Interesting observation: Whenever I write about people who have succumbed to or become involved with the bleaker side of life, I get 10 to 15 times the number of page views than when I write about people who are happy.

Does that mean that blog readers like the bleaker side of life more than they like the brighter side? Does it mean blog readers identify more with the bleaker side?

Or does it mean that people who identify with the brighter side of life don't read blog posts as frequently as people who identify with the bleaker side?

Maybe it means nothing at all, but it is a statistical anomaly.

Dancing To Exist, Dancing To Forget

                              Working On The Outside, Dying On The Inside

She had always loved to dance
Started hitting the clubs when she was still in High School
Using her oldest sister's drivers license to get in
She'd get on the floor and fall into a trance
She wasn't there to drink she just wanted to dance

By the time she was twenty-one she had
Four years of clubbing behind her
She never went to clubs to dance anymore
Raising a five-year old (deadbeat dad)
Miscarried another in June last year (secretly glad)

Nowadays her dancing was confined to a stage with a pole
She had rent and bills and a kid
And a little problem with meth that she couldn't shake
She remembers her first night working in that hellhole
She remembers well the night she sold her soul

The drunken men who thought their comments were funny
The young men who spent their paychecks buying her cola
Married men whose wive's no longer paid them attention
The hideous club manager who always called her Honey
She no longer cared as long as she got her money

In those early days she could take home $5,000 a week
Back when her body had contours and her skin was smooth
Now she works an early shift with fewer regulars anymore
Her face ravaged by the scratching when she would tweak
Only twenty-four and well past her peak

Friday, May 17, 2013

Stick Around, Try Some Of The Cheesecake

There are parts of America I long to see
And parts I strive to avoid
                         For reasons I cannot grasp
              I have no desire to sit on the veranda, any veranda
                         Of any country club, anywhere
                         And sip Mojitos
                         It's just not my thing
I do want to take a seat in a bar on Chicago's Northwest Side
Maybe in the Dunning neighborhood
               And order a Jack and Coke
               Listen to the people sitting on either side of me
                         Bragging about their kid's accomplishments
                         Or talking about work
                         That's more my thing


Thursday, May 16, 2013

Avoiding Disaster While Playing With Raster

Today seemed like a great day to play with Microsoft Paint. For awhile I had been wanting to try to ink a cartoon rough using MS Paint if only to see what was possible within the limitations of the dot matrix structure. 

It was a bit tedious, but also surprisingly interesting. My initial thinking as I used the pen and brush tools was that being one of those people who have mastered the Etch-A-Sketch would have been handy, as a steady hand and boatloads of patience are required.

The version of MS Paint I have is the one installed with Windows XP (I have Windows 8 on the laptop, but I was on the desk top, which is an antique in computer years, so I had to make do with Windows XP's version). The big difference between this version of MS Paint and the newer version is the ability to re-position text (not being able to reposition the text is annoying), and the effects brushes available via the added ribbon GUI.

I like the end results as the bitmap grid added character to the line. A little more practice and I could become a master of the raster.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Move Forward Past

I have not ripped up my past and discarded it
Rather, quite naturally, I have outgrown it
As, hopefully, everyone does
Your past is exactly that
Past. A dim memory
That should not
Ever interfere
With what is
Here &
                 I cannot recollect how many people I have known 
                 Who did not know how or just could not let go
                 They desperately cling to what once was
                 As if it that was the last best hope
             For a much happier tomorrow
                 Never quite realizing that
                The better tomorrow
                 Was only possible
               Through leaving               

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Cheating The Gods Out Of Another Sacrifice

He rode the fifty dollar bicycle down to the Jetty
Walked out on the rocks without locking it up
Ain't no one goin' to steal 
A purple and yellow wobbly-tired piece of crap like that

                                         He made his way out
                                         Carefully climbing over
                                         The boulders and concrete slabs
                                         His eyes busy
                                         Looking for footholds
                                         Involuntarily he started counting
                                         Beer cans

          Finally he reached the very end of the Jetty
          And climbed up on the slab of concrete
          That had been poured to support the warning light
                         He sat on the edge of the slab
                         And scanned the horizon
                         The slight breeze
                         The smell of the ocean
                         The warmth of the sun
                         Combined to make him smile

                                                              He decided
                                                              Then and there
                                                              That today was not 
                                                              The day

And made his way carefully back down the Jetty
To the fifty dollar
Purple and yellow wobbly-tired piece of crap bicycle