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Monday, March 29, 2010

mastication blues

It had been so long since Hamilton had had a date that the libido that once controlled his life had shriveled up and drifted to the soft flesh under his arm becoming a mole in the shape of a trumpet. He can't remember when all his shoes became slip on or all his pants elastic waisted. He just remembers the night he spent $200 on dinner and drinks for the "sure thing" only for her to get drunk and grope the crotch of a college boy who ended up taking her home. On the cold walk home, in stiff loafers and thin socks, he swore to his heart he would never subject it to that pain again. It was at this moment his libido took the cue and seperated from his id, beginning it's withered migration toward his armpit.

Hamilton's one room studio reflected his personal commitment to hygenie.

"Mother of God," said Hamilton looking at the pile of dishes in the sink. He opened the fridge only to find a smattering of condiments in the door and on the top shelf, a box of arm and hammer.

Pulling on sweatpants over frayed boxer briefs, Hamilton looked in his wallet. "Enough for a burrito," he said with a clip, and left the studio for the street below.

"Beautiful," he said as he exited his apartment building, watching a squatting great dane shed an enormous glistening dump. Hamilton closed one eye and gave the dog a thumbs up. "Nice."

Hamilton shook his head as the person holding the dog's leash continued to talk on the phone. "Real nice,"

Hamilton pulled open the door of the corner burrito joint. "One please," he informed the Mexican women who was in the middle of taking the order from three men in cheap suits with name placards pinned to their blazer lapels. She looked up and pointed to the patio.

Hamilton took a seat outside next to the low iron fence that was a few feet away from on coming traffic. He looked at the menu then opened up his wallet again.

"One bean and rice burrito please,"

"Smothered?," asked the waitress.

Again he looked in his wallet and did a quick calculation "Yes,"

"Red o Green chile?"

"Which is hotter?" He asked.

"The Green," she said.

"Than I would like the red."

The patio began to fill up as Hamilton waited for his burrito. He conversed with himself about the dog incident shaking his head, mouthing his disgust silently.

The oncoming traffic would stop at the light and people would look over momentarily at the diners and then drive on when the light turned green.

The burrito arrived and Hamilton shoveled a bite in his mouth. The bite was hot so Hamilton opened his mouth wide between chews. He blew on the next bite before putting it in his mouth. He chewed loudly pushing the food past his teeth with his tongue. The masticated food made brief appearances to the public as he opened and closed his mouth. After a few bites he picked up the conversation about the shitting dog where he left off. Chewing and pushing the food past his teeth he continued talking to himself shaking his head.

A line of cars stopped at the stop light. While Freddie was sitting in his car waiting for the light to turn he looked over and saw Hamilton chewing with his mouth open, the burrito all but falling from his mouth back to the plate.

As the light turned green Freddie shouted, "Man chew wif yo fuckin' mouf closed, damn!" As he drove off he was heard saying "nasty ass mufucka'".

Hamilton looked around to see who this loudmouth was talking about.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

liberated teen- a really, really short play

Two high school kids are setting up for a science experiment.

Liberated teen to lab partner:

-What's this about a clique?

Lab partner looks at liberated teen astonished.


Friday, March 26, 2010

There before my very eyes...

Henry and Ruby were oblivious to my presence. I raked up leaves as they ran past encapsulated in a world of their own creation
"I'm a cheetah," said one, "me too," said the other. As I watched, something happened. Ruby crouched a little lower, Henry opened up his gait. There before my very eyes I watched them transform into cheetahs.

On St. Patrick's day we went over to Pam and Mark's house. Mark has an old out building he turned into a bar, equipped with a wood burning stove, a drum set, a record player with hundreds of records and a few lamps that put off soft lighting. Around the stove is a semi circle of stumps used for seats.
Mark told me, "During the last big snow storm I was out here sitting around the fire with a few friends drinking beer, listening to old records. The fire was cranking so we opened up the doors and watched the snow come down. I went out to get more wood and when I walked back in it felt like I just walked into a little bar in Tibet or something."
There before my very eyes this old out building in West Lakewood transformed into a little bar in Tibet.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

what I think of life plans part II

This propensity many have to continually postulate and fret about the future, thus distracting them from the miraculous events unfolding before their very eyes belies a great insecurity and a desire to control that which is absolutely uncontrollable. People spend incredible amounts of energy worrying about what will happen next.

When my children were still very young my wife and I constantly defended our boy’s right to their natural and, thankfully, gradual process to maturity. When asked, and asked often, if they were walking yet, or talking yet, or eating solid foods yet, or out of diapers yet or reading yet my patent response was “Not yet, however, I’m fairly confident that Charley or Henry will not be the only child in the second grade who hasn’t learned to walk, or sports pull-ups under his big boy pants, or is still being feed rice meal, etc.” If I was less of an ass I could have simply responded “all in good time.” Alack.

You hear parents of babies say “I can’t wait until, fill in the name, be it Wayne, Charlotte, or Esmerelda, is, fill in the activity, be it walking, talking, or out of a car seat. I find those sentiments of anticipation unfortunate because in a very short time Esmerelda will be out of diapers, will stop nursing, will walk and then, in true fretful parent form, they pine for the days when Esmerelda was a baby. As parents of miracles what disagreeable circumstances to find yourself; constantly anxious for the future of your children and antithetically nostalgic for their past.

Oh well...

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

what I think of life plans

I did not, in my early adolescence, have the clarity to answer the question often posed by adults “what do you want to be when you grow up?” with an answer that suited me. The question felt premature, as if somebody asking shortly after I jump into the pool “what do you want to do when you get out?” This line of questioning, “when you are not doing what you are presently doing what are you going to do?” is distracting and belies a selfishness on the part of the questioner. They are not so much interested in your plans as they are interested in you paying attention to them.

A subconscious motivation of the questioner is to cause a sense of anxiety in you similar to one they are currently feeling because they themselves are worried about what they will do when not doing what they are currently doing and thus think you should be too. Anxiety is infectious. A quick response to the posit in the pool analogy could be “I have no idea but, if you’ll excuse me, there are pressing aquatic matters that need my immediate and undivided attention." And then swim away from the questioner with great haste and continue to enjoy your treasured time in the pool.

Monday, March 22, 2010

perspective is easy to lose.

When reading historical accounts on a page in a book with neat black print on a clean white page, about the trail of tears, or the cramped conditions on slave ships, or the underground railroad it's easy to forget these events happened to actual people. People who had headaches, bladder infections, colicky babies and blisters. The events themselves are horrific, the physical hardships that were forced upon these people is way beyond my comprehension. What amazes me is they had to deal with all this on top of the brutality of simply being human.

Sometimes I wake up, after a full night's sleep, in a comfortable bed, next to the women I love, in a warm house with a full fridge in a terrible mood. Sometimes after a long days work in an environment filled with friends and food I come home petulant and cranky. Sometimes I get sick and stay in bed all day. Sometimes my lower back goes out, my muscles ache and my stomach is sour. I am not alone in this malaise, everyone feels it. Every refugee in a every tent city feels the same at times, but, they also have to deal with being a refugee in a tent city. They have to deal with every aspect of being human and deal with it hungry.

Seeing the images of the Haitian people wandering through their city of rubble is hard to watch. Understanding that one may have just ruptured an ovarian cyst, or is dealing with fibromyalgia, or the child on screen may be asthmatic is a whole other level of reality, a reality that the images on TV, or the words on a page don't convey. To gain perspective for a life that has been turned upside down by war or natural disaster is to first remember how hard it is at times for you to get through your day, even after a good night's sleep, breakfast, a shower, coffee, etc. and then imagine your day without those amenities and having to deal with the trauma of war or the aftermath of disaster.

I write about this because, quite frankly, it's hard to hear some people bitch. Not that everyone's hardships need to be relative to another's, but it is good to keep perceptive on how good most of us have it and how much worse it could get.

Muddy's Cafe on 22nd and California. Summer of '92

Awash in self-doubt, I was not unlike many twenty-year-olds: misanthropic, disheartened and sardonic, perhaps I was just slightly better read. I was post-Kerouac's Dharma Bums but pre-Bukowski's Ham on Rye when I ambled into Muddy'slooking for work. With desired results I filled out the application in what I thought divinely inspired spontaneous prose.

On my first shift the cook who was scheduled to train me had been arrested for breaking into a warehouse and throwing what was one of the first raves in Denver. I ran the kitchen solo on my first night. I was assured by waitstaff I could handle it, the menu was not too complicated, and being a Tuesday night, it was notoriously slow. Once a prediction of a slow night is issued aloud in a restaurant, the curse is already at play to pack the place in the most unsynchronistic way. When the show let out from the Mercury Cafe at 2 a.m., I got my ass handed to me.

Somehow I managed to get the food out faster and with less mistakes than previous cooks, so I was welcomed into the underbelly of the Muddy's staff in the summer of 1992. Little did I know that summer I would find my calling, see my future wife and have quantum physics explained by a vampire.

Downtown Denver was being revamped by short-sighted development and uncreative entrepreneurship, leaving Muddy's as a true bastion for the malcontent, the nocturnal, the macabre princesses, the role-playing-game occultist, the opportunistic drug dealers and others who sought refuge from the sporty new look of downtown. Muddy's was the Moulin Rouge of the Queen City. Tables filled with subjective tarot-card readers, maudlin writers and young theater enthusiasts all mixing under a cloud of clove smoke bopping to the sound of live improv jazz. Being far too pragmatic to purely "hang out" at Muddy's, I enjoyed the utilitarian purpose of my participation in this underworld, feeding people. So fulfilling did I find this that I continue doing it today as the owner of WaterCourse Foods, City, O’ City, WaterCourse Bakery and Osa Mariposa.

Denver remained somewhat pure back then. The coastal influences were diluted by distance and open to manipulation by Midwestern boredom. Country music had never sounded more gothic, punk rock never played so loud. Early-evening thunderstorms washed the grime from the day down the drains, leaving a cool, fresh start for the evening.

One such summer evening the Rok Tots, an ungodly loud band played the Lion's Lair, a spontaneous and unrefined hero for the local music scene. Unbeknownst to me, the bartender was the lovely Michelle McManus, whom I would marry six years later. Muddy's, the Mercury Cafe, the Lion's Lair and Calvin's made up an incongruous setting for the comings and goings of a small underground scene.

Like mourning a cup of coffee that has been consumed, I would be a fool to lament the good old days of Denver. Denver's heyday was many, many years ago, when the grand valley flooded every century and the occupants traveled through in moccasins. By the 1990s we were well on our way to compromising our independent integrity to be a second-rate "real" city. Muddy's was a last bastion of the independent semi-urban west.

I read the man who put in a discotheque where Muddy's once stood decided to leave up a few walls for artistic or sentimental value. Bullshit. I am sure there are zoning and permit benefits to leaving them up. The building, as Tim Fink put it, was a piece of shit. That building is just a sarcophagus that entombed a memory of a time in Denver's history when reading, music, poetry and strong-ass coffee were important to our culture. The building is not worth eulogizing, the culture is.
Rest in peace.

The business of pre business

There is the idea of something and then there is the reality.
There is the idea of opening your own business and then there is the reality.

WaterCourse Foods, and City, O' City were at one point ideas that swam in my head like colorful fish. I would pay attention to them as they floated by, think about how fantastic it would be to own my own restaurant or open a great bar. I would manipulate the concepts (my first concept for WaterCourse was to serve veggie comfort food in bowls), and then change them. As ideas these changes were easy and cheap to make. This gestation period for the businesses was vital to their future success.

In 1996, as I sat on a train leaving Denver for NYC taking me to the Natural Gourmet Cookery School in Mid-town, I jotted down the name WaterCourse Foods in a notebook. The name was influenced by reading the Tao de Ching while I hiked the Colorado Trail. I was 24 at the time and searching for a some sort of guide. I recognized the Tao as a useful text immediately. The Tao is like water...

In 1994 I took trains through Europe for 4 months, sleeping in parks and trying to live on less than $10 per day. I ended up seeing most of the big cities in France, Italy, Czech Republic, etc. Like all extended travel it was at times depressing and others exhilarating. I spent most of my time nursing beers in bars reading anything and everything I could find from used bookstores or the book exchange shelf at the random youth hostel. There was James Baldwin, Henry Miller, Nabokov, Dostoevsky, D.H. Lawerence, Frank Herbert. It was in these bistros, bars, pubs, and cafes that I conceptualized City, O' City, an ode or a lament to the city, it was to be a comfortable joint for people to gather that tries it's best not to insult the intelligence of the customer.

Hiking for hundreds of miles along trails in Colorado and walking the cobblestone steets of old cities in Europe provided unique inspiration for my restaurants. The important thing, and the reason I think these places have become successful, is they are inspired.

The business of pre business is to find inspiration where ever it may be. This may take getting lost, or sleeping in parks but find it!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Prison Industrial Complex

I am concerned about men and women who spend years behind bars. To me the idea of being imprisoned is tantamount to being buried alive (if,god forbid, given a choice between the two, I would choose imprisonment... enthusiastically).

Things we can all agree upon:

A multi-year sentence in prison is life changing, for the better or the worse is up to the statistics you site.

Long periods of incarceration is a severe punishment and should be doled out with the utmost jurisprudence.

The goal for such sentences of incarceration should be to deter the original act of the crime, the duration of the sentence should reflect the severity of the crime, and the outcome should be to reintroduce the incarcerated as a person who operates within the accepted social norms of society.

The system which deliberates upon the process of the crime/punishment equation should treat all sects of society with the same objectivity and have no financial interest in the outcome.


The big problem is our present economy depends on people breaking the law. There are literally hundreds of thousands of people employed to investigate, arrest, prosecute, try, transport, process, incarcerate, feed, clean up after, people who break laws in this country.

Prisons are for profit
Empty beds = books in the red
Keep 'em comin' back
Keep the books in the black

Prison Industrial Complex

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Invincible (the modern traveler)

fearlessly pass by the last gas station

without looking at the gauge.

you have a cell phone and a credit card,

you are invincible.

even the cautious left caution at the turn of the century.

drink with abandon in a strange city
drunk with confidence stride down the sidewalk
preach love to the homeless
break out a beatbox with the homies on the corner
they'll love you because you're cute

but eat street tacos
from a cart that no one else does
and you'll shit yourself for sure.

soul compost

I think I found the lime wedge
in the compost I was turning
from the gin and tonic I was drinking
on the night I really fucked up

I am what I buy

I am what I buy
I am identified by what I identify with
This is power of the brand
So choose who and what you associate with wisely.

When people ask "how does it feel to own some of the most successful restaurants in Denver?"
I have a pat answer.
"In this day and age I am just glad to be a part of something that doesn't suck."