Friday, August 25, 2017

The Library! -- Nonfiction

"She's got a ticket to ride"

Now you have an ear worm! But aren't you glad it's the Beatles and not a Christmas commercial jingle?

A ticket for the light rail into Denver. I do love the light rail. Please note the $2.60 cost of a round trip ticket. That's cheaper than the cost of gas to get me into the city then home again -- not to mention $10 or $15 to park.

A friend from my walking group suggested that I visit the Denver Public Library, especially the floor that has maps, art, and genealogy. So last week, my daughter Grace and I went downtown.

I've lived here almost six years and had not yet visited the DPL. Grace went the first week she lived here, and there happened to be a book sale going on. Two bags full of books later and she was already helping support it. Yep, she was raised right.

We live in Jefferson County so I'm a regular at the Belmar Library, one of ten Jeffco library branches. The Denver Public Library has 25 branches. And, as a resident of the State of Colorado, I qualify for a library card there, too. So many places to get books and movies and music, oh my. And all for free.

We took the light rail down to Union Station which just happens to be across the street from Zoës Kitchen. Yes, lunch!
Where the food is good, the prices are right, and there's plenty of
indoor and outdoor dining space. Plus the wait staff are friendly and courteous.

Then a ride on the Free Mall Bus to the end of the line and a walk through Civic Center Park.

Food trucks and tables and chairs. We could have eaten in the park.
Oh well, maybe next time.
From this photo it's hard to tell how well-used Civic Center Park is.  
But there were lots of people of all ages. Some walking  and enjoying the green, 
some sleeping, some just hanging out. The umbrella was to protect this lady from the sun. 
There was no rain.

The Denver Public Library
The Denver Public Library began in 1884 as the Chamber of Commerce Library. The directors of the local Chamber of Commerce voted "that a room be set apart" in the Chamber of Commerce building. It was supported entirely by the Chamber of Commerce with an initial $15,000 for the purchase of books. Maintained without outside assistance until 1891, the Denver City Council then appropriated $5,000 to $8,000 per year for its support although it did not become a city institution until 1898.

John Cotton Dana was Denver's first Librarian. He directed the Denver Public Library from 1889 to 1898 He led the way for open stacks, allowing patrons to browse for themselves instead of library staff intervening for every request. Dana established the first-ever in the United States a collection devoted solely to children's literature.

The library went through several iterations and buildings including the standard Carnegie Greek Revival building from 1910 to 1955. Then to the Burnham Hoyt Building which was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1990. And finally with additions and redesigns by architect Michael Graves we have today's building.

Filled with books, music, movies, computer access, maps, research materials, artwork and peaceful places to read, hold meetings, and sleep, if that's what you need to do.

The art starts right out front with this demi-wall of tiles of books.

And a window of post-it art --  Anime's Totoro and the internet's Nyancat ("Nyan" is how cats say "meow" in Japanese. I don't think my Kočka is civilized enough to learn Japanese. I wonder how cats say "bite" in Japan....)                                                  

The library is so big, there was no reason to attempt a casual walk-through. We went straight up to the fifth floor.

The Fifth Floor lobby has a wonderful exhibit of black and white photos taken by Dana EchoHawk of the San Luis Valley in southern Colorado.

In the stacks are family genealogy books, alphabetical by family name, and plenty of computer stations where online research is available.

There are murals by artists commissioned by the The Federal Art Project (1935–43) of the Works Progress Administration, part of Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal. Artists were paid $23.60 a week by the government. Tax-supported patrons and institutions provided the artist's materials. They made it through the Great Depression and we benefit from it to this day.

Frank Mechau's Horses at Night 

In the smaller rooms opening off the Gates Reading Room there are maps on the walls and in flat files. There are tables where you can lay them out and look at them to your heart's content.

The Gates Reading Room is dominated by an odd construction, a stylized oil derrick. Art for Art's Sake, I suppose. The very pleasant byproduct of this piece of art is that the room is open and light.

And there is space to hang the current exhibit of quilts
 by members of the Colorado Quilting Council

Ending our very pleasant library visit we walked back along the mall and met Grace's fiancé, Bob for "refreshments." Refreshments is a low-calorie was to say brownies and tea.

Sixteenth Street Mall is an entertainment in itself. There are street musicians and, in fact, there are pianos there all the time so anybody can play. Some better than others, but all, safe-to-say, can play better than I. 

Then back on the train and home in time for dinner.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

ACK! FLEAS!!! -- Nonfiction


Isn't it enough that I live in my beautiful United States while the White House is infested? Now my beautiful Colorado is infested. FLEAS!!!!

It'll be six years this Christmas that I've lived here. Never until today have I seen a tick or a flea. We've had dogs here. We've had cats. We've had fish and a snake. So, okay. Fish and snakes don't get fleas. But none of our other animals have either. Until today.

The dogs didn't have fleas last night. I'm sure. I held them. I brushed them. I did not see fleas.

This evening as we watched BBC America with its sort-of-good-news that North Korea isn't going to bomb Guam today. And its really bad news that *rump has had oral diarrhea yet again telling us that there were "fine" people carrying those Nazi swastika flags and those Army of Northern Virginia battle flags in Charlottesville, Virginia. Let me think. The former was disbanded forcibly May 8, 1945, and the latter disbanded equally forcibly April 9, 1865. I have to remind myself that this is August 15, 2017.

And my dogs have fleas. I discovered them first on Lily. Scott checked. Yes, they were fleas. He checked Cooper. Cooper had fleas, too. Then he snatched up Kočka. Kočka, who does not like to be held or petted or touched by humans, did NOT have fleas. Kočka immediately fled the area. We found him in the office taking refuge behind my chair. (See photo above.)

Where did they get fleas? From the little pocket mice who live in the roots of the pine tree at the edge of the patio? Bubonic Plague is endemic to Colorado. Yes, that Bubonic Plague that killed millions of humans during the Middle Ages. It's carried by rodent fleas. Scott does not believe our dogs have rodent fleas. He thinks the dogs have the most common kind of flea -- the cat flea. Which our cat does not have. Trust a veterinarian to recognize the subtle differences in fleas.

The Good Doctor thinks it likely that neighborhood dogs are to blame. Who knows where those other dogs have been? Kočka's never been outside. But he'll get those fleas from our dogs. 

This is not to make light of the world's problems or my country's problems. It's just the straw....

This is, however, a straw I can do something about. I jumped in the car and headed to Pet Smart. Yes, my beautiful Colorado has fleas and rush hour traffic. Those other drivers are crazy. I wasn't even on any freeways. It was like a NASCAR race -- cars dodging in and out, hurrying through yellow/red lights. Heaven forfend that anyone should get ahead of anyone else.

Then and then and then, it was home finally, with the preferred flea treatment.

Cooper, normally the more docile of the two dogs, struggled mightily, but I held on tight as Scott applied the premeasured dose for dogs five to twenty-two pounds. Thank goodness, he doesn't weigh the full twenty-two pounds yet.

Lily was a good deal easier. And Kočka? 

Kočka was at the back of the top shelf of the tall book shelves in the office. I could barely reach him. Kočka bites. It was only yesterday that he brought the blood on me because I wouldn't let him play with the tie on my robe, I told the Doc to have the little vial open and ready to apply when I got the cat down.

Kočka was a perfect gentleman. He did not fight me. He did not bite me. He didn't call me ugly cat-names.

Now, if the rest of the world would behave so well as Kočka did on this one occasion, perhaps we'd have fewer infestations of unwanted pests.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Crown Hill Walk -- nonfiction

Here I am on the trail again. 

This time the walking group visited Crown Hill Park, a Jefferson County Open Space. The 242 acre park is fifteen minutes from my house. It has 9.5 miles of natural surface and paved trails, including 1.2 miles of paved trail around Crown Hill Lake. In the northwest corner of the park is Kestrel Pond, a certified National Urban Wildlife Refuge.

This truly is an urban wildlife refuge. The park sits on the border between Lakewood and Wheat Ridge, Colorado, in the midst of a human population estimated at almost 156,000.

Wheat Ridge High School is just beyond the northern limits of the park. In the background you can see the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. The haze is from wild fires in the Pacific Northwest, some more than a thousand miles away. The jet stream (one of several upper air currents around the Earth) flowing from west to east carries the smoke across the mountains. The smoke then settles south along the east side of the Rockies compromising our mountain views and our air quality.

A gentleman just coming out of the wildlife part of the park, alerted us to the presence of a deer and her twin fawns ahead. The Mule Deer doe calmly grazed in the meadow as we walked past. In the background you can see electric lines, and just beyond the trees is Wheat Ridge High School and the rest of the city.

Kestrel Pond is fenced so that it can be closed to humans during nesting season. This spring  it was closed for the early days of these two fawns' lives.

More a wetlands, than a pond, Kestrel Pond is home to migratory water birds and shore birds.

In addition to the Canada Geese on the bigger lake, we saw these on Kestrel Pond. The bird in the upper left is a Killdeer. The two larger birds are American Avocets and the little brown bird is a Sandpiper.

Not to be outdone by the fauna in the wildlife refuge, the flora is abundant this time of year including a plant I did not recognize.

This is the Arrowhead plant, also known as Indian potato. According to the United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service the Indian potato or Wapato (Sagittaria cuneata) is common and widespread from eastern Alaska east to Newfoundland and south to Texas. The tubers have a potato-like texture but more the flavor of water chestnuts when boiled or roasted to remove their slightly bitter taste when raw. Arrowhead tubers grow in muddy soil underwater and were harvested by Indians using sticks or with their bare feet (once freed, the tubers float to the surface to be gathered).

None of us knew of their special properties, though I doubt any of us were inclined to squish around barefoot in the mud to harvest them.

Another plant new to me is the Red Smartweed -- apparently an invasive species that's hard to kill out, but very pretty with its bright fuchsia colored flowers.

I love living here. Here I am in the midst of suburbia complete with decent public transportation, excellent medical facilities, ample shopping, and world-class entertainment venues and still have the natural world practically outside my front door.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Help -- Flash Fiction

"Mister?" she called.

He didn't answer.

He couldn't hear her. Too many cars sped past her on the bridge. The noise drowned out her voice and the wind dragged her hair in its wake. Why didn't they stop? Couldn't they see? He needed help.

She'd been there herself. Once. Three years ago. Or was it last year? Or yesterday? Someone had stopped then. To help.

"Please." She leaned out over the railing. "Don't jump!"

They were so high. Her stomach felt hollow. She could feel herself falling. She clutched the railing. All she could see was the top of his head. He seemed intent on the rapids far below them. She had to do something.

"Hey, Mister?" She climbed up on the bottom rung of the railing. She hated heights.

She saw him let go with one hand and lean away from the rigging.

"Mister," She willed him to look up.

He didn't.

The rapids. "Oh, God." Three, maybe four stories below them. She had to get to him. She crawled over the rail keeping her body against it, its chill seeping through her shirt and jeans, her belt buckle scraping against the metal. With her right foot she reached for the narrow ledge. Too narrow for her whole foot. It would have to do.

"Mister. Don't." She moved down to a beam. First her left foot. Then her right. She wrapped both arms around the slanted metal brace. The rumble of traffic and the roar of her own blood filled her ears, pounded through her body. She had to get to him.

"Hey!" she yelled.

He looked up. Squatting there, on the second beam down, he looked up. Thank God, he looked up.

His eyes wide with surprise, he spoke, but she couldn't hear him.

"What?" she shouted.

"What the hell are you doing?"

"Please, don't jump."

His brows arched high above his eyes, then furrowed deep into a vee. His eyes narrowed to little more than slits.

"Dammit, Lady. You think I'm a suicide?" He put something into his shirt pocket. "You be still. I'm gonna climb up to you."

She couldn't breathe. She pressed her face against the metal brace and waited.

He hunkered on the beam behind the brace she clung to and touched her shoulder. She was afraid to move her face away from the metal. Afraid to move. Afraid to look at him.

"Aw, Lady." He brushed her hair away from her face. "This wasn't suicide." He pulled something from his pocket. A tiny gold locket on the finest of chains. "This was my wife's. I meant to throw it in the river, but it got hung up." He put it back in his pocket and waited.

"I'm sorry," she said.

"Sorry about that woman I married? Sorry, you came to help? Or sorry you're dangling out here over the river, shaking like a leaf?"

He helped her let go. "You're gonna climb back up now."

He grasped her belt as she reached up the brace toward the ledge. "I've got you. You won't fall."

He put his face next to hers and said just loud enough to be heard over the river and the traffic, "I do appreciate the help."

This story was inspired by the 2017 NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Competition. We writers were each placed in one of eighty groups and assigned to write a story of 1,000 or fewer words in a genre, a location, and including an object. I have previously posted my submission. This assignment was for a group not my own -- genre, romance; location, a bridge; the object, a locket. This story comes in at 537 words.