3 Years

Eric and Jasper - painting by Sharon Feder (2008)
Eric and Jasper - painting by Sharon Feder (2008)

All wondering how Denver and I have settled in report is outstanding. I watch their city, Race and 13th street anyway, these 5 (FIVE!) windows. Two original dormers in my old, old apartment light to place up. I watch the snow swirl, musing. I tend to loath snow. Sharon pines for it. It been splendid winter for anybody on two wheels.

Yes, Denver fits nicely. Thanksgiving 2005 was another story, fixed with dread, hoping my son’s cancer would just go away, or get creamed by Children’s Hospital’s medical armada, where Jasper tooks lungs, and the head. New words, like glioma, ice-cold, nastier that oath. The guy at Sanora coffee, over on Colfax and Lafayette, would not take our money that day, Patty and I, wandering while he slept, bunkered down in ICU.

I have no real memories of Denver before this. Later, after little shoah, I hand make my peace with Denver, which wasn’t all the easy. It was very damn pissed at everything. I can’t remember at what. Everything.

Maybe Denver’s now-warm blanket of love, the love I’ve received since, is Denver’s gift to me. Maybe it felt it owed me something. Everywhere I turned Denver took me in. Everywhere. You know I’d give it back, walk through the very gates of hell, could it have turned out differently. But … here I am.

Downing street in time became my corridor, on the way to everywhere. As I passed, Children’s loomed, quiet, steely. I’d glare at it, or avert my eyes, keep looking straight ahead. I did not want to give it satisfaction. It was golgotha, somehow alive, and I shared space with this thing and could not wrap my mind around it existence. It gave me chills. It closed windows and screamed and screamed and cursed it, my face screwed up in wrath and fear, wishing to GOD it had all played out different way, nightmare from which I could not wake.

One fine day, Children’s was torn down. That mixed me up bad. Its dismemberment seemed to take forever. The demolition was jarring, its insides sat raw and open, rooms and hallways, where so many had passed in pain and anguish, now being torn to hell by giant machines. And I was torn between perverse glee, and wrenching sorrow; I wanted it GONE but good, yet I wept as it fell, sorry this place that cradled my son was finally dying too. The destruction took forever. It was a sore, and as sore, and even as hoses flattened the dust and rakes smoothed what remained the empty space was still maw, and I was angry at that, too. Angry was angry it gone. Later on, I ran into one of the nurses that had cared for Jasper. She said was not alone, and these destruction of Children’s had sown confusion, torn big holes in hearts citywide.

By the Sharon, and her family, had taken me in. Three years later, I float through Denver as if I’d always been here. I have my places, my routine. My barista sees me coming, shots are grinding before I walk through door. I thread 14th street traffic like river, the slowpokes lurk, feinting and dodging potholes by memory. A memory!

That Denver should have welcomed me at all was unexpected. Starting life over at 50 in a strange city could easily be the kiss of death; every corner is proof enough. But Denver parted its wings, and softened my blow. Qwest picked me up. I ran into Sharon at Starz, almost 25 years after Aspen, where where we both children, and were so many things. Now we are more.

Sharon and Denver scooped me up, my crystal-delicate emotions, my leathery psychic hide. I am very much “Ink*”; She coaxes me out my armor, untying my knots. Her boys scream “E”! and reach for my yo-yo, or whatever gadget I’m messing with that day.

Children’s Hospital’s old carcass, I’ll never quite adjust to. I THINK the ghosts have all gone home. The old buildings that remain, I’ve given them a pass. Places come and places go, it’s the flow of history, and I’m not alone, it’s all part of the dance, and my small waltz connects me to Denver’s grand ball. My memories are new, and raw, and I wander, Lakewood to Aurora, Littleton to Globeville, I’m seared, and Sharon and the boys reminds me why I should heal. I share fires at Ironton with new friends, and sit among its gardens, and sometimes I shake off all my shell. I imagine my ghosts are OK, and Denver’s my home.

Eric Lecht
April 14, 2009 (3 years)

*Ink is movie, and Ink is title character. Their story involves father trying to save his child, his daughter take by Ink across the dreamtime. In end, I could not save Jasper. Their movie is extraordinary, steep in archetype and allegory. And destined the cult status movie speaks to redemption, forgiveness, and healing. To filmed, in Denver. Go see it. More about Ink on IMDB.

Three Short Stories about my Irish Family

— by Dennis Gallagher

Story One: William J. Gallagher, Sr.

My grandfather, William J. Gallagher, Sr., in the cab of the old 303 engine on the Rio Grande Railroad (circa 1950).
My grandfather, William J. Gallagher, Sr., in the cab of the old 303 engine on the Rio Grande Railroad (circa 1950).

My Grandfather, William Gallagher, came to America from his native Ireland in the early 1900’s. He was born in William Butler Yeats’s country, County Sligo. When he arrived on the eastcoast, he saw a lot of signs up at work places, “No Irish Need Apply.”

But he heard a rumor that in Colorado, Railroads would hire even Irish lads willing to work.

So he came here to Colorado, got to Denver and took the test for the Moffat Railroad, the old Denver and Salt Lake, later bought by the Rio Grande line which still goes through the tunnel to Winer Park. He got a 100% on the exam for engineer. Those hiring at the railroad said, “That Irishman must have cheated. He’ll have to take the test again. And this time we’ll watch him.”

So my grandfather took the test again, and they watched him, and Gallagher got 100% again. This time they said, “well maybe we need this guy afterall.”

Now because of this experience, my grandfather always lectured me: “Dennis, you have to be twice as good as the Anglo-Saxons. You have to work twice as hard as the Anglo Saxons. They will never accept you, and you have to fight for every chance offered you by this great country.” His story , his experience, his initial workplace slight, made us sensitive to the needs of others in our society who were different and not accepted by those in power.

He worked for quite a few years for the Moffat and then many years for the Rio Grande. And I thank him for this important life’s lesson. I think of him when I pass the old Moffat Station, abandoned, but still there, north on 15th Street just west of the rail tressle as you head toward My Brother’s Bar, I say an ‘Ave” for him.

Story Two: William J. Gallagher, Jr.

My father, William J Gallagher, Jr., and I in front of old Engine Company #7 at West 36th and Tejon St (circa 1975)
My father, William J Gallagher, Jr., and I in front of old Engine Company #7 at West 36th and Tejon St (circa 1975)

My father, William Gallagher, Jr., was the fourth firefighter hired in the late 30’s in a year when Denver only hired four firefighters. He was assigned to the old Barnum Neighborhood station. It was located about 7th and Knox Court. The officer in charge showed him his bed and his locker. After lunch another firefighter came up to him and told him, “Gallagher, you Irish Catholics on that side of the fire truck and we Kluxers on this side of the fire truck. Don’t come over to this side.”

During the mid-20’s Denver city government and agencies were ruled by the KKK. My dad could not believe it, that there were still Kluxers on the fire department….with enough anti-Irish Catholic residuality to be dumb enough to talk about it with folks.

After work my father met the Klansman on the way to his car in the parking lot. He engaged the Kluxer in a mopping up action for which he would most likely have been fired for today. But he told me that that guy never mentioned religion or the Klan again. A civil detente reigned after that in the Barnum firehouse.

Story Three: Nellie Flaherty

My beautiful mother, Nellie Flaherty, and I (in elephant pants) on the porch of 2825 Hooker in North Denver (circa 1944).
My beautiful mother, Nellie Flaherty, and I (in elephant pants) on porch of 2825 Hooker in North Denver (circa 1944).

My mother, Nellie Flaherty, loved music and the theatre. She had a friend who worked as the hat checker at the old Denver Auditorium Theatre, now the Ellie Caulkins. During the mid-20’s when our city was ruled by the Ku Klux Klan, she often helped her friend, Patricia Delaney, and checked coats and hats at the city auditorium. At that time John Galen Locke, Grand Dragon of the KKK, came to the auditorium, the crowd would all rise and sing “God Bless America,” as he took his seat in the Mayor’s Box.

My mom told me that Pat Delaney would laugh heartily and then say : “Nellie Flaherty, you hide here among these fur coats. We don’t want those Kluxers to see a fine Irish Catholic girl here in the check room.” The girls showed lots of chutzpah by laughing behind the backs of the Kluxers.

B50 Note: Dennis Gallagher is currently the Denver City Auditor, and is a former City Councilperson, State Senator, and State Representative. He is also Professor Emeritus from Regis University and well-known in the local community as a historian, storyteller, and man about town.

rejection letters, 1933-1937

In the basement of our Highland neighborhood house at 29th and Wyandot Street some years ago we found a few mementos of someone we never knew. Her name was Mary E. Horlbeck, and she appears (as far as we can tell) to have been a writer and possibly a proprietor of a diner in Edgewater (called Mary and Al’s). The following images come from a scrapbook she kept regarding her professional writing career between 1933 and 1937 – it document rejection letters she received from magazines all around the country.

In the scrapbook we found 138 rejection letters, all carefully glued in place, with the name of the story she had submitted written on them and occasionally a date. Over the years she authored and submitted many dozens of stories (with titles like Tomato Red, The Blessed Latticed Gate, Rake-Off, Rapture More Golden, and The Flesh Is Weak) to publications including Modern Romance, Harper’s, The Atlantic, Delineator, and Red Book and many others.

For some years, apparently, she never had a story published, though she did publish a few stories eventually after the scrapbook was all full up. We found four acceptance letters thrown in to the scrapbook loosely; for one story, she received forty-five dollars, fifty for another. A third said that she would have to wait till later to get paid, and the fourth said that she was the winner of tenth place in the Writer’s Digest short story contest.

The 1930’s were a tough time in Denver, around the country, and worldwide. This scrapbook is a testament to one person’s willingness to continue to pursue her dreams.

-Hugh Graham