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.

More Hard Times

— by Bill Amundson

LANDSCAPE WITH STORE (HARD TIMES I), Pencil/Colored Pencil, 18\" by 18\", by Bill Amundson
LANDSCAPE WITH STORE (HARD TIMES I), Pencil/Colored Pencil, 18" by 18", by Bill Amundson
LANDSCAPE WITH STORE (HARD TIMES) II, Pencil/Colored Pencil, 18\"h by 18w\", by Bill Amundson
LANDSCAPE WITH STORE (HARD TIMES) II, Pencil/Colored Pencil, 18" by 18", by Bill Amundson
LANDSCAPE WITH STORE (HARD TIMES III), Pencil/Colored Pencil, 18\" by 18\", by Bill Amundson
LANDSCAPE WITH STORE (HARD TIMES III), Pencil/Colored Pencil, 18" by 18", by Bill Amundson

“Love and Hope are wonderful things, but sometimes I have to side with the late George Carlin and his memorable motto: FUCK HOPE.”

B50 note: These images are part of Bill Amundson’s ongoing “Hard Times” series; they are avaliable through Plus Gallery in Denver. Plus Gallery will be opening their new space at 2501 Larimer Street on Friday, March 13th. More work by Bill can be seen at his website, amundart.com.

Denver’s Great Telescopes (19th and 21st Century)

— by Robert Stencel

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Small telescopes have been part of Denver history since our origins. Witness the fine brass refractor on display in the parlor of the Byers-Evans house downtown. With the rejuvenation of the University of Denver in 1880, a smart young professor arrived in town that same year, beginning a sequence of events that would lead to a classic telescope in Observatory Park, and a futuristic one high atop Mount Evans – both associated with astronomy at the University of Denver.

In Observatory Park, at the heart of the University of Denver’s historic Chamberlin Observatory lies the telescope, a 20-inch aperture Clark-Saegmuller refractor. The telescope first saw light in July of 1894, and is still used by scientists, students and visitors today. It is the fifth largest of its kind in the United States. The observatory is named after its patron, Humphrey B. Chamberlin, who pledged $50,000 in 1888 to see it built and equipped. Professor Herbert A. Howe, the astronomer at the University of Denver since 1880, was responsible for overall design and instrument specification. Alvan Clark and Sons of Cambridge, Mass., the foremost opticians of the day, crafted the lenses for the telescope. When it was made, the primary lens was priced at $11,000. Today, it is considered priceless. The mechanical mounting for the telescope was built by George N. Saegmuller, who owned and operated Fauth and Company in Washington DC.

Humphrey Chamberlin was active in the Denver real estate business at the time, so Saegmuller and Clark both accepted land holdings as part of their payment. However, when the great Silver Panic of 1893 caused the bottom to drop out of the landowning business, Mr. Chamberlin went bankrupt and the properties offered to Saegmuller and Clark rapidly declined in value. Professor Howe paid Clark with his own cash and compensated Saegmuller by delaying delivery of his finished telescope for a time, personally assisting with its display at the Chicago Columbian Exposition of 1893. The telescope components and lenses were finally shipped to Denver by June 1894. Howe was concerned for the safety of the 150-pound lenses, so he personally transported it from Chicago to Denver in a private train car.

Howe performed final assembly of the telescope at Chamberlin Observatory, in addition to his duties as Dean and professor at DU. The University assisted as much as it could in paying Clark and Saegmuller, but Howe had to pay some of the fees out of his own pocket. Trial observations began in July of 1894, with “first light” on the 14th. This initial use of the telescope by Howe included observations of stars in the famed cluster M13 in Hercules and Earth’s moon. The first public use of the telescope occurred on August 1st of the same year, when Howe entertained the Swedish Methodist Christian Endeavor Society with a look at Saturn. The telescope began its professional use in late fall. Observations of Mercury’s passage across the face of the Sun (called a transit) were recorded on November 10th and 11th. These observations were the first published results from the Chamberlin Observatory, printed in the Astronomical Journal in the spring of 1895.

B50 Note: Dr. Robert Stencel is Professor of Astronomy at the University of Denver, where he splits his time between the Chamberlin Observatory in Denver and the Meyer-Womble Observatory, located atop 14,268 ft Mt. Evans. The university still offers astronomy classes and frequent public access. For information call the hotline at 303-871-5172 or visit Professor Stencel’s website. All photos are courtesy of the University of Denver Archives.

thoughts on the retail economy, 2008

Store With Sign, by Bill Amundson
Store With Sign, by Bill Amundson

This holiday message brought to you by Bill Amundson. It’s called “Store With Sign,” and is part of his “Hard Times” series.

Bill’s 8th annual Holiday Drawing Sale is this weekend, December 12, 13, and 14, offering hundreds of drawings, many styles, many sizes, at recession holiday prices.

“I’ve got drawings starting at $30…and a lot are in bad taste…”

Email amundart@earthlink.net for information and directions.

Rogue Bench

In the fall of 2007, in celebration of the opening of the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver and the new Libeskind Building at the Denver Art Museum, the entrepreneurial designers at Double Butter generously installed two of their roadrunner benches in very public locations in front of these cultural institutions. They had not been invited to do so. The benches have since been removed from these spots: the bench at the DAM was inducted into their permanent collection (we’re not sure where it went) and the MCAD bench was re-acquisitioned.

The Roadrunner bench is currently on view in front of the new 400 store at 1535 Platte Street. Double Butter designed and built everything in the 400, floor to ceiling. Across the street you can more of their design work at Disrespectacles as well as the most progressive eyewear to be found in Denver.

If you are interested in checking it out (or maybe doing some shopping), on Thursday December 11th from 6-9 pm the Platte Street businesses will be open late for libations and a sales stroll.

Double Butter is Better!