Thursday, November 29, 2018

--- Social and language education at the library ---

The Denver Public Library is scattered all over the Denver area with 24 branch libraries in addition to the big, castle-like central library in downtown Denver. In addition to providing books, movies and educational materials to their patrons, they offer many educational experiences.

The end of the year is a transitional event for me because I am changing topics for my adventures, but it's more of a blending than a sharp change. I've been studying social sciences, but now I will turn my attention to language. Obviously, language is social.

When I visit Mi Pueblo Market, I wish I could talk to the checkout person in Spanish.

Unfortunately, the last two attempts to learn Spanish has been frustrating. I didn't have this much trouble learning German or AMSLAN. I realize that new languages are harder to pick up as a person gets older, but I can tell from my past attempts that Spanish should be an easy language, so next year will be one more (last?) attempt to learn Spanish.

The Denver Public Library offers many tools for learning new languages and I will be using it. Specific to Spanish, not only are there books, books on tape, and movies in Spanish, but they have bilingual events. Looking at their online calendar  for next year, I see weekly bilingual guitar lessons offered by the Valdez-Perry Branch and the Schlessman Family Branch offers weekly Spanish conversation groups. And there have been many single events in the past.

I will have to develop a basic conversational grasp of Spanish before I can make much use of these learning tools, but they're something to look forward to.

Does your local public library have a website? Check it out. You may be surprised about how much your library offers.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

--- A trip to Asia ---

There is a lot of Asian influence in Denver. I've visited the little Buddhist temple on Estes Street near Bear Creek and the Domo Japanese Restaurant between Auraria West station and 10th Street and Osage Station. I plan to check out Sakura Square when I visit the Union Station area early next year.

Many of the Vietnamese refuges, after the Vietnam War settled around Denver and, after the release of Japanese-Americans from internment camps, Governor Ralph Carr welcomed them to settle in Colorado. There are neighborhoods in Denver that have a decidedly Asian flavor. Some of the local branches of the Denver Public Library, like the Bear Creek Branch, have significant holdings in the Vietnamese language.

I took a trip Tuesday down Alameda to the area on Federal called "Little Saigon".

                                                               [Little Saigon sign]

I walked through the Denver University campus to University Station. I'm almost at 200 pounds and I'm avoiding bus rides as much as I can and the campus in always nice for a visit. A short train ride to Alameda Station and a bus ride to Bryant Street brought me to the Denver Buddhist Cultural Society. When I was planning my trip, I looked around the neighborhood and noticed this building across the street...

                                                                 [Justice for All]

It looked interesting so I decided to check it out. It's a large building with many legal organizations, pretty much independent of each other. Whereas it did look like it would be a useful place for someone looking for legal assistance, I would have had to knock on every door in the building to get an idea of what goes on there. If you need legal assistance, I would advise checking them out on the Internet before visiting.

So, to the cultural center...

                                                [Denver Buddhist Cultural Society]

...which was closed and posted, so I didn't learn much there.

So, on to Federal Boulevard. I had told Coryn that I would make a side trip to the Mi Pueblo Market on Knox Court. On the way I met a couple of nice ladies trying to ride herd on a covey of small pooches who were spreading out in all directions. I helped them get the dogs together and continued to the market. On the way back to Federal, I spotted this mural on the Casa Resource Center building on Alameda.

                                                 [Entrance to the Far East Shopping Center]

                                                                       [Foo dog]

                                                              [From the upper level]

The Far East Center is a shopping area in Little Saigon that has markets, gift stores, restaurants, jewelry stores, beauty shops, and other businesses. I visited the Truong An Far East Asian Gifts for a little shopping. The folks there were friendly and didn't mind talking. The shop is packed with all kinds of food items, clothes, and knickknacks. With my backpack, I felt like a very dangerous bull in a China shop. I managed to look around and get out without damaging anything.

Then I walked across to the China Jade Restaurant for a tasty plate of steamed dumplings. I've eaten here before with my family and have found their excellent reputation for dim sum to be completely deserved.

I have also visited the Little Saigon Supermarket next door. If you can figure out what you're looking at, this is a great place for finding exotic food items.

After what turned out to be a shopping expedition, I caught a bus back to Alameda Station, a train back to University Station, and a bus home.

Much Asian architecture in the United States has a pagoda look to it. Are there any Asian-style structures in your area? Even the small southern town of Selma, Alabama had seven Chinese Restaurants during the twenty years I lived there.

Japanese gardens have a minimalist style emphasizing rock, water, and sky. Are there any Asian gardens near you? Can you figure out the symbolism embodied in the landscaping before you research it?

Saturday, November 10, 2018

--- Auraria West to Osage ---

This was a very short hike. The light rail station is just at the very edge of Auraria campus near Colfax. The Domo is on the first block across Colfax, and the 10th Street and Osage Station is just a few blocks further. All in all, I doubt if Auraria West Station is two miles from 10th Street and Osage, but this hike is packed with interesting places.

Auraria West Station is my last station-to-station hike for a while. Next month, I start exploring the light rail termini. Alameda is the last station to transfer to other lines to the north and east. Alameda West is on the line that continues to Union Station and it is also where the W Line, which heads west to Golden, splits off.

As mentioned above, it is right on the border of the Auraria campus, which is shared by three colleges: Community College of Denver, Metropolitan State University of Denver, and the University of Colorado - Denver.

                                                              [Auraria West Station]

I've been through Auraria West Station several times. It's on the way to the Human Services offices in the Castro Building and the W Line serves the Golden area.

Frankly, the area isn't that impressive from the station, but there are some suggestive sights. I've heard of and seen the back of the Domo Restaurant from the light rail. It doesn't look like much from the back of the building but it has a good reputation. I can also see this building from the station - it looks like an old Spanish mission.

                                                      [Saint Cajetan's from the station]

As I walk around the parking area, I realize that it is on the Auraria Campus. Reaching Colfax, I saw a trail heading back onto the campus and I took that and am almost immediately at the Ninth Street Historic Park.

When the early settlers moved up stream from the short lived Montana City, they established a settlement called "Auraria". The name made plain the people's interest - gold.  It was founded in 1858, three weeks before William Larimer staked out the future Denver City across Cherry Creek. The settlers, lead by William Greeneberry Russell, was a group from Georgia, and the town was named after Auraria, Georgia.

I keep finding ties back to my homeland. Before I retired, I had left the Southeastern United States exactly four time, once on a construction ministry trip to Great Falls, Montana, and three times to Denver. I guess it was only natural that I would end up in Denver, and I keep finding all these links back to Georgia and Alabama.

The Ninth Street Historic Park has preserved a section of old Auraria - a row of houses that now serve as administrative buildings and museums for the Auraria Campus. The buildings display a variety of styles from the late 1800s and early 1900s and each has a plaque out front that provides a little of the history. Here are pictures of some of the buildings.

                                                        [Ninth Street Historic Park]

After wandering around the park a while, I made a beeline for the big Spanish style building and found that it was, indeed, an old church, built in 1920, which is now a part of the college campus. On the day I visited, they were having a blood drive but the registration crew told me quite a lot about the building. There are some interesting stained glass windows there.

                                                              [Saint Cajetan's]

They also told me a little about the chapel across the way, which was my next stop.

                                                            [Emmanuel Gallery]

The oldest religious structure still standing in Denver, the Emmanuel Chapel was built in 1876. First an Episcopal chapel, the building later became a Jewish synagogue, as indicated by the inscription now over the door, and is now an art gallery. It was hosting an exhibition by the German artist Aram Bartholl on the day of my visit.

His work is very modernistic and strikingly "clean". The gallery was spacious, white, and neon. He's worth looking up (hint: there's a Wikipedia article.)

Locals make great tour guides if you know how to talk to them. The folks at the art gallery directed me toward the student union building, an old, massive brewery called "Tivoli". The Tivoli Brewing Company, still in operation, was founded in 1859 in this huge brick building that looks like something right out of a Charles Dickens novel.

                                                           [Tivoli Brewing Company]

After another pass through the Ninth Street Historic Park, I left the campus, crossed Colfax, and walked to the Domo Japanese Restaurant, which is a reconstruction of a Japanese farmhouse. Restaurant, museum, gardens, and cultural center, it was an experience meal. The authentic Japanese food was served in an authentic manner in an authentic setting complete with tree stumps for seats. It made me happy.

                                                   [The Domo Japanese Restaurant]

After a big bowl of ramen and three sides (I don't know what they were, and I didn't ask. They were tasty.), I looked around the gardens, made a donation for the Myamar refuges, and headed down Osage toward Lincoln Park, a large green with a water park (closed for the winter) and a mural by Emanuel Martinez, that contains both modern and ancient symbols. It's called "La Alma" (The Soul, painted in 1978.

                                                                         [La Alma]

10th Street and Osage Station was close by. On the way back to University Station, I took the opportunity of taking pictures of the light rail reflected in upper stories of buildings as it passed on the elevated track just south of Broadway Station.

                                                               [Reflected train]

Does your town have any old buildings open to the public? One of my past hometowns, Selma, Alabama, had over 1000 antebellum structures. Old homes are great places to get in touch with past cultures.

I'll probably be making more trips to old Auraria. College campuses have always attracted me - they're like sprawling indoor-outdoor museums providing exhibitions in just about every field of interest, events, and many peoplewatching opportunities.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

--- Pride of Place: Living Memorials ---

We have just celebrated All Saints' Day and Dia de los muertos - the day of the dead. Almost every culture has had some kind of recognition of the dead - of ancestors and powerful figures of the past. Why?

Why not let "auld acquaintance be forgot?"

The last two sections of Pride of Place: Huwerl Thornton, Junior's "Living Memorials: Honoring Your Family" and Kristin Wetmore's "The Amistad Story: Commemorating a Local Narrative" are explorations of co-memoration - the remembering together of past peoples and events.

I am first a sociologist. My primary trainings and interests are peoples and cultures and you will see in this blog many pointers to events and peoples that are important and salient to whatever culture I encounter.

There are many elements of strong, healthy cultures and two are folkways and history. These things can be toxic. Remember (always remember) the character of Nazi Germany, endued in a pervasive and overwhelming folk tradition invented for political purposes - murderous in intent, and remember (always remember) that we have often allowed the same poison into the United State's psyche.

But cultures need anchors in the universe and the greatest anchors are the sense of belonging in time and place.

We remember our past in gravestones, statues, murals, street and place names, and buildings.

The Browns were intimately connected with Denver so when you see "The Unsinkable Molly Brown" or "Titanic" you can think about our Avoca and Brown Palace (even though the Brown palace was another Brown, Molly did stay there a week after the Titanic disaster.)

We remember our ancestors because they provide personal connections in time and place. We remember local and national heroes because they anchor us in the world. We remember events of the past, both good and bad, because they are the stuff that sews us into the fabric of the universe. Our existence may be the product of spirit or the Higgs field, but what we are is the product of our histories.

Can you reconstruct where you came from and where your community came from in the memorials that exist and are publicly visible in your community? Even if you and your family are not originally from where you now live, can you see traces of your culture in your new home?

My family has produced politicians, actors, directors, inventors, and ballerinas. I am connected through them to the churning washing machine (Nicholas Van Zandt invented it in 1809), Citizen Kane (Philip Van Zandt played Mr. Rawlston), and the opera Lakme (Leo Delibes composed it specifically for Marie Van Zandt). I am connected to VanZandt county Texas which once tried to secede from the state of Texas but decided to have a party instead, and I am connected by ancestry to the national hero of Germany, Arminius, who trashed a third of the Roman military machine with a few hundred German woodsmen and secured a lasting freedom for his people. Arguably, he's the reason that Martin Luther was able to escape the clutches of another world power, the Holy Roman Catholic Church. My mother's ancestors, the Forehands and Fordhams, were law men of renown and friends of the Younger gang, who were either lawless or heroes according to who you talk to. The Saint James Hotel, where I lived in Selma, was named after Jesse and was a reminder of this anchor I have in time and place. My great grandfather was a lawyer. He was known by his initials: J. J. Forehand. "J. J." of course, stood for "Jesse James".

You are established in the past by your own history. We hold our pasts in us. We are living memorials.

--- Pride of Place: My Maps. My Neighborhood ---

Sara E. Thomas' lesson plan "My Maps, My Neighborhood" ( suggests using Google's MyMaps utility as a tool for exploring the neighborhood. It is a modification of Google's Maps that lets a user annotate and draw figures on a map, and then save it. You can learn more about MyMaps from:

I use Google's mapping utilities a lot when planning adventures. I'm planning my last station-to-station hike (for a while) and here is a map of the area I plan to hike.

                                                             [Auraria West to Osage]

The map can be saved to Google Drive, the "cloud-based" storage area in Google. I prefer to use the Screen Print key to save a copy and open it in Windows Paint so I can further modify it.

Play around with MyMaps. You might create a map of your city or neighborhood. See what it looks like from a "bird's-eye" view.

Google Maps will show you things like attractions and parks, or you can switch to a topographic map or satellite image. You can also zoom down to street level views and take a tour of your neighborhood.

Friday, November 2, 2018

--- Pride of Place: Tools and Art in Homes ---

Laura M. Tarpill's section in "Pride of Place: New Haven Material and Visual Culture", "Tools and Art in Hispanic Homes of New Haven" emphasizes differences in material culture in the homes of people from diverse cultures, specifically Hispanic culture.

Denver is a great place for  learning about other cultures - there are so many represented in the city. One thing that I quickly noticed was that there were many more statues of Mary in sections of town with predominantly Hispanic culture. A Hispanic family is more likely to be Roman Catholic than a family from, say, a Germanic background. Protestants don't tend to have images of Mary around so much.

I've also noted that Hispanic homes tend to be more colorful with pastel facades and banners and such out front. They also seem to be more likely to have vegetable gardens in a very visible part of their yards. That's changing some as other cultures are catching on to the joys of sustainable gardens.

The Hispanic families recognize different holidays and celebrations than others. The Day of the Dead is coming up and there will be a flurry of activity in Denver. The same goes for the Fifth of May.

But it's not just Hispanic cultures. People from African or Caribbean areas might be just as flashy but I've noticed that the colors tend to be bolder with more primary colors like reds, blacks, and greens. People from the southwestern parts of the United States go for a lot of color also but they tend to be earth colors with lots of reds, yellows,  and browns.

These tendencies are just that. Noticing a "Hispanic appearance" in a house doesn't mean that a Hispanic family lives there. It's just that you begin noticing more color, statues of Mary, and vegetable gardens as you enter and travel into a part of Denver that has more Hispanic families.

Are there a variety of ethnic families in your town? As you walk through town, see if you can recognize differences of appearance in the houses in different neighborhoods. Are the differences related to cultures?

Are there holidays in your town that you aren't familiar with? Look into them. Often other people are welcome to participate. Sometimes museums and cultural centers will offer educational programs about them.