Sunday, May 20, 2012

Alleged paranormal activity, and the importance of hydration at high elevations

One of my favorite things about living in Colorado (other than the fact that it is, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful places in the world-- and I have been around the block, folks) is that there are so many intriguing things to do within an hour or two of Denver.

This weekend, we did the Estes Park tourist thing. We ate and drank, we hiked, and we tried to get spooked.

Ever heard of the Stanley Hotel? Stephen King got his inspiration for The Shining there, in the famous room 217, and Jim Carrey checked out of the same room at 3am while filming Dumb & Dumber, for reasons he wouldn't state. It has a pretty cool historical background (which John likes) and also is supposed to be seriously haunted (which really tickles my fancy).

The Stanley Hotel- making guests soil themselves with fear since 1907. 
A bit menacing...
is it not?

I think the creepiest thing about the Stanley is a slight state of dis-repair. It's a beautiful hotel that is a bit older, and the rooms are nothing luxurious-- but ours DID have a closet, and this is important because it is reputed that the ghost of Lord Dunraven, who was one of the founders of Estes Park (and also a former Scottish pimp), likes to grope the asses of ladies who venture into the closet. Naturally, both myself and our friend Martha (who lives in Estes Park and knows all the hot spots) had to try this out after spending our evening at the bar, and also sipping some whiskey on the rocks in our room. I didn't feel anybody grabbing my caboose, but I did experience a pretty hefty sense of claustrophia from being shut into a tiny hotel closet, with a few sets of clean sheets and a small rotating fan.

The stairs leading up to the second floor of the Stanley Hotel is filled
with numerous creepy portraits and mirrors upon mirrors. Apparently
Lord Dunraven is also known to chill here, when not molesting hotel 
guests in confined spaces.

The Stanley really capitalizes on The Shining, and the fact that the Stephen King novel was inspired by his stay there. They play the movie 24/7 on one of the hotel channels, and if you've just re-read the book, your boyfriend has fallen asleep, and you've just spent 5 minutes in the closet waiting to be groped by Lord Dunraven, it WILL make you toss and turn all night and also think that you hear a tap-tap-tapping on your window.

Other than my over-active imagination and the fact that I fell asleep watching The Shining, and then had to switch to Seinfeld in the middle of the night to quell my fears, we didn't have any supernatural experiences. John did, however, snap this rather ghost-like photo of me going down one of the Stanley staircases, which just so happen to be known as "supernatural vortexes".

Redrum. Don't see it? Let me blow it up for you.

I'm sure some hooligan climbed up there and wrote it, or 
maybe it was a gimmick added by the hotel, but still, creepy. 
I picture Danny wiggling his little finger and saying it in his throaty
frog voice... barf.

On Saturday, Martha, good soul that she is to put up with us for the entire weekend and show us the Estes ropes, drove us up to Rocky Mountain National Park in the freezing rain and sleet. Like a real local, she took us around hair-pin turns with severe drop-offs at a moderate speed. At a certain point, Trail Ridge Road (which leads over the Great Divide) was closed due to weather, but that didn't stop us, because we are true adventurers. We parked and continued on foot.

Here I am, uncertain about hiking up a mountain road
in fog and hail balls, but not wanting to be the lame ass who
doesn't want to do fun things and have new experiences.
So, I put on a brave face.

The entire atmosphere was very strange... first of all, we were one of very few groups of people daring to hike in these elements, and one of the only other couples we passed were apparent hooligans who squatted on the side of the road and eyed us in an eerie manner. Also, they had weird hair. Secondly, the fog was so dense that you could look over the side of the road to a normally sheer drop-off, and see nothing but swirling whiteness, with occasionally a hint of another world out there. For some strange reason, it reminded me of a Lisa Frank folder I had in middle school, of dolphins splashing in a filmy ocean with a hazy picture of the earth in the background. I tried to Google an image of this folder to provide the appropriate visual aid, but apparently Ms. Frank is only producing kitten pieces now. What a shame that she has limited herself as an artist.

I've never wanted to kick kittens before. 

Here we are, rocking that sh*t.

...and here is me showing that even though it's been shorts weather
in Denver for months, you don't need to shave your legs yet in the mountains.

Now, something that is very important to remember while hiking and vacationing at high altitudes, is that hydration is very important.

Have you ever heard that while hiking and vacationing at high altitudes, HYDRATION IS VERY IMPORTANT?

Well, it is. And I found this out the hard way.. for the second time, I got altitude poisoning, and it feels like death. I experienced one of the worse headaches I've had in my entire life (it felt like Lord Dunraven was hammering a spike into my skull), and also vomited in an exorcism-like manner. You know how it goes, you just start puking and you can't stop, as if you're releasing a demon. And no, drinking $2 Dale's Pale Ales at Cooper's and several glasses of wine at the Stanley bar do not count as "hydrating". Apparently I am not very intelligent when it comes to learning from my own mistakes. Hopefully third time's a charm. 

Sunday, May 13, 2012

On urban gardening 15 stories up, and how best to prepare for the zombie apocalypse

Do you have someone in your life who is obsessed with preparing for the zombie apocalypse? Do they constantly talk about what you will do, what you will eat, and what the best plan of action is to survive? If you live in a 15-story high rise, do they discuss the proper protocol for creating an "escape zipline" to the nearest building? Perhaps over a nice dinner and wine, you will discuss whether or not zombies are smart enough to utilize a zipline... are they able to use the "hand over hand" method? During the zombie apocolypse, is it wrong to forage through the empty apartments of your former neighbors for leftover Chef Boyardee and canned peas? If so, can you take their cute clothing and maybe designer shoes as well? Also, what is the zombie threshhold for climbing 15 flights of stairs at a reasonably high altitude?

I have someone in my life like this. He is my boyfriend, and we live together. We watched "The Walking Dead" together (both seasons so far), although it didn't seem to have the same effect on me, as I have continued living in a normal manner. If you also suffer from living with or in close proximity to someone who is preparing for humankind as we know it to end, this post is for you.

My boyfriend, John, has determined that we are in extreme danger in the event of the zombie apocalypse, which is certainly a "when", not an "if" affair, if you broach the subject with him. I believe the reason he came to this conclusion is because he stumbled upon the "Map of the Dead", a website in which you can put in your current address, and you will find out if you are in a "danger zone". I entered our address in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Denver. It shows a stick figure holding an automatic rifle, which is me. It's a sea of red, which signifies a "danger zone", all around me. Yikes.

 One of the best features of using "map of the dead" for your apocalypse needs is the 
ability to search for gun stores, convenience stores, hardware stores, gas stations, 
and liquor stores in your area. Prepare yourself for the demise of 
mankind at

Lest you think I am dating some sort of a freak, I don't believe that John is actually expecting the zombie apocalypse, but it certainly got him thinking about being more self-sustainable and less reliant on outside sources to survive. He heard a session on NPR in regards to "urban foraging", and it just so happens that a local organization called "Denver Urban Homesteading" offers classes on the subject. Apparently you spend two hours of your evening "walking along alleys and yards learning which weeds you can eat. Hint: many of the weeds that you see every day can be eaten!". You later reconvene with your classmates to make an "edible weed salad" that everyone enjoys.

It was John's birthday this past weekend. Naturally, this was the perfect 28th birthday gift. By the way, you can also take classes at Denver Urban Homesteading on "dairy goat-keeping in your backyard", "backyard bee-keeping", and "sharpening your own knives (and learn how to make your own!)" ( Holy crap, I can't wait to blog about this.

As part of our own self-sustainability effort, and also in an attempt to eat healthier and depend less on the local King Soopers (why do all grocery stores have such strange names? A prime example: Piggly Wiggly, a Midwestern grocery store chain in which the symbol is a piglet wearing a butcher's cap), we decided to utilize the bit of outdoors space we have and start urban gardening. Our balcony is roughly 10" x 12", I would say. It's 15 stories up.

A couple of weeks ago, John planted a few tomatoes from seeds and some herbs. Unfortunately he left for a few days on tour, and in an attempt to prove to him that I am not incompetant, I killed them by being too zealous in my watering. Today we took the opportunity of a lazy Sunday to get some more, which I will probably not be trusted to take care of.

Take a look-see at our bad-ass balcony garden. In two to four months, we will be fat, happy, and self-sufficiant, and my mouth will be stained with the berries from our new Indian Summer Red Raspberry plant.

 We will have no shortage of green beans during the zombie apocalypse.
My favorite thing: they are going to climb the trellis outside of our patio
window, and it will look like we live in a jungle.

 A wide variety of herbs will be at our beck and call to 
season the canned spaghettios we forage from the empty 
and echoing apartments of our former neighbors.

We'll have both fresh red raspberries and crisp lettuce during 
the zombie apocalypse. Don't worry, lettuce is easy to grow 
from seeds-- even for me. In the background you can see our compost 
container, which I'm afraid John is planning on urinating in.

 We will have both an abundance of fresh Roma tomatoes and an 
awesome view of downtown when s**t hits the fan.

I sit on my balcony now, surrounded by our new greenery and enjoying a Strongbow cider, while tap-tap-tapping on my antiquated computer which is missing the j, k, p, and also the 2 keys. Life is good. I hear the murmur of traffic down below and the conversation of some undoubtedly drunken hoodlums on their way back from the park. A fire engine screams by. I lean back and close my eyes in the sun, and I think to myself...

..dammit, it's going to be so much quieter during the zombie apocalypse.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

On seeing red, the Great Divide, & the proper way to select a petty cab driver

I had two of my best friends visiting from Wisconsin this weekend. I love having people in from out of town, but I knew it was going to be a weekend of drinking, eating, and being merry, and I had a couple of commissioned pieces to work on and a piece for a juried exhibition that needed to be completed before the weekend. Nothing like a deadline to create a healthy panic, I always say.

 Laying down the foundation for this piece on our balcony, enjoying
a glass of wine and the Denver skyline at sunset.

I started this piece on Tuesday evening, and finished it up Wednesday morning at 7AM before I headed off to work. It's for the "Red" juried show at Tenn St. Art; all works must be 50% or more in shades of you guessed it-- red.

"Brick" - Sofia, Bulgaria; Acrylic on canvas 2012;
22" x 30"

Here it is, finished up. I worked from a photograph I took while in Sofia, Bulgaria, a couple of years ago. Piece submitted and I'll hear next week if it was accepted. Check that off of my "to do" list.

The ladies arrived on Thursday afternoon and were leaving Sunday, so we had only a few short days to fit in the ultimate Denver experience. My friend Jamie has visited me twice in Denver so far, but it was Jesse's first time in the mile-high city, and I wanted to make sure she had a fantastic time and would want to return in the near future. Therefore, it was necessary to set up a very strong foundation of fun for this first Denver trip. As the kind of person who likes to remain extremely organized, I felt that the first step in "fun" was creating a very detailed itinerary to maximize the most of our time. Some people may disagree on this approach, and that is also fine.

I work downtown on the 16th St. Mall, which affords me excellent people-watching on a daily basis, and also some of the best street dogs in the world. Biker Jim's is an excellent 'dog stand that parks its temporary shop a short jaunt from my office door, and I've had many pleasant experiences there thus far. Some days I just can't stand my sad little sack lunch of a turkey sandwich and string cheese. I've heard word on the street that Biker Jim's has an actual brick and mortar restaurant, as well, and I was barking to try it out. So we did.

Rattlesnake/pheasant dog, mac 'n cheese bites, and an Oscar
Blue's beer. Dammit, that's good.

 Biker Jim's is know for it's adventurous hot dog combinations. I usually go with the elk jalapeno, but this time I decided to really spice it up with the rattlesnake and pheasant dog. I also added a side of fried mac 'n cheese bites, and a Mama's Lil Yella Pills to top it off. Biker Jim's is at 2148 Larimer St., if you're wondering. I highly recommend it for fellow 'dog lovers.

We were disgustingly full, and I didn't even finish my entire meal, so I was pretty disappointed in myself. We then headed a few blocks down to the Great Divide brewery, to show the ladies a bit about the brewing process, and prove to them how amazing Colorado beer really is.

Oh, the possibilities!

I've tried my fair share of Great Divide beers, but had never been to the brewery before. I will say that the tour was a bit disappointing, as the brewery tours I've partaken in before have provided both a wealth of information, and generous portions of beer samples. This one was only about 10 minutes long, and there weren't any samples... but we were allowed to take our beers with us. The BEST thing is that G.D. does 3-beer flights for only 3 bucks, so you can try a taste of any (and every) beer available, if you've got the time and the tolerance. My new favorite Great Divide beer has to be "Collette" or "Hoss".

 Jamie enjoys a G.D. Wild Raspberry Ale on this fine 
Denver afternoon. 

 I will have six, please.

Somehow the afternoon and the evening got away from us, mostly to blame on the beer and the good company. Before we knew it, it was time to head home, and none of us wanted to take on the nearly 2-mile walk back to my apartment in Capitol Hill. Therefore, we decided that the best idea would be to hail a petty cab. I'm not sure how this came to fruition, as petty cab is neither the fastest nor most cost-effective method of transportation. The ride back to Cap Hill is completely uphill from downtown, so we knew we would require a petty cab driver with strong thighs and a steel heart valve. We set about the task of selecting the best cabby for the job, and eventually settled on one that we deemed to have what Jamie called "grade A loins".

We were very pleased with our choice of Declan as our petty cab driver. 
He was worth every penny.

Here he is, in all of his glory. His name was Declan, and he was a fine choice. I give him total props for biking two miles uphill, while pulling a cart with three girls that had just gorged themselves on Mellow Mushroom 'za. We were certainly not at our lightest after a day of drinking beers and stuffing our faces.

We cruised down 16th St. Mall with the wind in our hair.

The rest of the weekend was filled with hiking, more eating, more drinking, and two rattlesnake experiences, but I won't bore you with the gory details.

 Hiking up South Table Mountain to the mesa above Golden, CO, is the best way to work off a hangover.

It was an amazing weekend with two of my best friends, and I truly valued our q-time together, and also want to thank them for opening my eyes to new methods of transportation. I've been rather depressed all afternoon that the weekend is already over and I have to return to real life tomorrow.

 Horse butt! Rooster butt! Pig butt! 
Bull butt! Cow butt! Sheep butt!

I also thank them for the best gift any girl could ask for-- farm animal butt magnets. Nothing like a bull butt to hold up the wedding announcements, grocery lists and coupons on your refrigerator.