Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Mayor John "Mister Greenjeans" Hickenlooper and His Fantastic Tree Initiative AND the even MORE FANTASTIC Sales Tax Increase for Pre-Schoolers

I love trees and the shade they bring and the creatures who inhabit them or just land on them for a moment of look-see to determine where the worm or the seed or the field mouse might be. (Partial to field mice, too. But, it's a Darwinian thing that I can't do a whole lot about.) I love trees. I understand the worth of trees in cooling the planet and absorbing carbon dioxide. (Incidentally, I understand Mister Greenjeans took hold of this million tree thing after someone with the Denver Museum of Science and Technology happened to mention the worth of trees as a weapon against global warming. One wonders, then, where the hell Hick has been for, well, the last twenty, thirty years or more during which the worth of trees, as described, has been universally known even by old guys like myself.) I mourn the passing of so many giant and ancient trees that have been cut down (or fallen down in a high wind) due to old age and disease in our West Highlands neighborhood. (The old Silver Maple that fronts our 1893 Victorian was trimmed last year. The foreman of the crew told us that our tree probably has another four or five years left in it.)

A letter to the editor in yesterday's Rocky Mountain News caught my eye. It's from a fellow by the name of Isaac Smith out of Thornton. Mr. Smith has done the math on Mr. Greenjeans', excuse me, Mayor Hickenlooper's proposal to plant a million new trees in Denver over the next twenty years. Now, here's what Mr. Smith says: "1 million trees divided by 20 years equals 50,000 trees per year. So, the city of Denver plans to plant about 137 trees per day for the next 20 years? ...Maybe a brilliant reporter should ask Mayor John Hickenlooper where the water is going to come from for 50,000 new trees per year."

Let me take Isaac's math a step further.

If Denver is going to plant 137 trees per day for the next twenty years, then--after recently planting a red maple in my back yard--I figure it takes about an hour to dig the whole, prep the whole, prep the tree, set the tree, engorge the whole with enriched soil, cover the whole with dirt, water the tree, spread mulch in the depression around the trunk. So, we're talking about 137 hours per day, seven days a week. Given an eight hour day for city workers (with a half-hour lunch and two fifteen minute breaks, resulting actually in a seven hour day of productive work) then one person could probably plant seven trees per day. With me, here? Okay. 137 divided by 7 is, rounded off, about 20. So, twenty guys/gals a day, seven days a week will be needed to achieve Mister Greenjeans's dream.

Now, the mid-range pay for a Parks Seasonal Laborer is $10.76 per hour. Forgetting the 30+ percent required for FICA and other ancillary costs for these employees, and figuring that you can probably plant trees for about, oh, maybe six months per year, let's see what we come up with. Shall we?

Since Mister Greenjeans wants a million trees planted in twenty years, then we're going to have to double the number of employees for the planting because we've got only six months to do it. So, that's 40 people per day for six months. Given that (I think?) an FTE (Full Time Employee) works at least 2,080 hours per year, it is reasonable to expect the tree planters to work 1,040 hours during their six months of service. Still with me? So, let's see what the cost of these folks might be.

40 employees X 1,040 hours for six months of work at an average of $10.76 per hour= $447,616.08 X 20 years = $8,952,320.00. This, of course--as I said--doesn't account for FICA and workmans' comp costs and overtime for weekends, etc., etc., etc.

Now, we haven't considered the cost of trees. My new Red Maple cost about $90.00. You can do that math yourself.

Some of my prior posts have characterized Hizzonner, John Hickenlooper, Mister Greenjeans, the Hick, as a "snake oil" salesman. "Snake oil," is defined as poppycock, bunkum. So, the seller of snake oil is a purveyor of poppycock and/or bunkum. Agreed? Unfortunately and incredibly the Hick's popularity remains in the stratosphere. Left-leaning folks (majority of Denverites) buy the Hick's fantastical concoctions, hook, line and sinker, including, of course, the fantastic tree initiative.

Quite aside from Isaac's worry about where the water is going to come from to water all these wonderful trees, might I wonder where the hell the money is going to come from to remediate the disgustingly irresponsible deferment of park infrastructure repair/maintenance that has infested this city for so many years? While the Hick has discovered his Mister Greenjeans personae, can I suggest that part of that personae should be a concern about the disgraceful lack of interest in the rehabilitation of Denver's parks?

It's clear that Denver's parks are going to languish in disrepair unless the Mayor and the City Council place appropriate bond issues on the ballot. But, what have they chosen to place on the ballot this November! Nothing for parks. No, they've chosen to place on the ballot a proposal to raise Denver's sales tax by .0012 cents (1.2 cents for every ten dollars) to fund a pre-school program that would raise about $12Million to be exclusively devoted to a pre-school education program.

Not enough that Denver property owners are paying out the kazoo in property taxes for the Denver Public School system that keeps asking for more money and keeps failing at educating Denver's spite of all that money. No, now Hick is--in my humble opinion--severely overstepping/shirking his responsibilities to the citizens of Denver in suggesting that sales tax monies (the main source of Denver's operational revenue) be utilized to fund schooling programs. Now, if you can show me where in Denver's Charter or its Revised Municipal Code the Mayor has the responsibility for the education of Denver's children I'd be real interested to see it.

I'm thinkin' that $12Million Hick wants to spend on schooling programs would be a Godsend for Denver's parks. Indeed, most of the parks on my side of town have irrigation systems that are so compromised they either don't work at all or are so inefficient and damaged that they waste hundreds of thousands of gallons of water.

Consider this: Part of that $12Million could go to before and after school and summertime recreation programs for Denver's kids IN THE PARKS. You want to give Denver's kids a meaningful, life-nurturing experience? Get them outside. Get them in the swimming pool or the basketball court. Get them in the weight room. Get them into pottery and painting and sculpting and tennis and baseball and softball and golf. Get them into music programs and boating programs and, hell, get them into cleaning up the parks. Let those kids help plant those trees!

Just a last thought here. David and I don't have children of the two-legged variety. Our children have been exclusively of the four-legged variety and they have been as precious to us as I'm sure the two-legged variety are to our neighbors who have them. David and I understand the worth of educating the young in Denver. That's the responsibility of the Denver School Board and Hick's ol' buddy Michael Bennett, the superintendent of Schools. It's not the responsibility of the Mayor of Denver or the Denver City Council.

Let me suggest that this pre-school program has been in the works for quite a number of years and has been/is being pushed by Carol Boigon (God bless her good intentions) who has worked for a couple Denver mayors and is now on the Denver City Council. Mayor Wellington Webb, the Hick's predecessor, put the damn thing on the ballot and it lost. Now, here we are again and folks are just giddy with the prospect of the Hick pushing the thing over the top, slick salesman of the oil of snakes that he is.

Tapping into the city's main source of operational revenue to fund a program that has nothing to do with the sworn responsibilities of either the mayor or the city council is just simply wrong. If the Denver School Board wants to go to the people once again and ask for more money to enhance pre-school programs, then let them do it.

Let's fix this city's crumbling infrastructure. It can't wait much longer.

Oh, and by the way, it was Mayor Robert W. Speer--first elected in 1904, reelected in 1908 and 1916--who initiated an annual spring "Tree Day," where up to 20,000 trees were given out to Denver's citizens free of charge. Given Denver's population now, those 20,000 trees would surely today equate to, oh, say 50,000 or more trees.

I've got it. Mister Greenjeans can, at the city's nurseries and at secure locations in the parks, begin a tree growing program--from little acorns, mightly oaks....--that in a few years would surely provide those 50,000 trees that Hizzonner could give away to citizens to plant all over the city. Let's start up some tree farms. Whadaya think?

Ah, a solution for Mister Greenjeans following Mayor Speer's example, who (Mayor Speer) said (again, by the way): "We have had too much tinkering, running after false gods, and not enough common sense in our city affairs..."


P.S. That's Mister Greenjeans at the upper right. Striking resemblance to... Nah. Never mind.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Letters to Melissa - Piney Lake (Part 1)

Dear Sweet Melissa:

David and I went camping last weekend. Camping is when you load up the car with food and shelter and blow-up mattresses (and the pump to blow them up) and toilet paper and snacks and booze (lots of booze) and flashlights and bug spray and seven layers of clothing and sunscreen and zip-up bags to sleep in and pillows and coolers filled with ice and a shovel (to bury you know what!) and a saw and a hatchet and fold-up camping chairs and hats and ten pairs of socks (they get wet!) and hiking boots and running shoes (for me, at least) and trail shoes and underwear (if you happen to do underwear) and cameras and feelings of adventure and good tidings 'cause you're going to be in the wilderness and might see Bambi and, well, lots of gas in the tank and air in the tires. But, sweetheart, that's just the beginning.

This is the second year we've gone camping (to Piney Lake north of Vail) with our friends John and Fred and Clayton and Richard and Bob (this year's "newbie") and Clayton's and Richard's two beautiful blond retrievers, Sydney and Roo (Kangaroo, if you were wondering). Honey, let me tell you that Clayton offered to leave Sydney and Roo home this time if we wanted to take you with us and we said, no, you just wouldn't enjoy such a thing and, well, you went to heaven before we went camping anyway. But, it was kind of Clayton to think of you. (I know honey. You would have gone to the ends of the earth for us. Even camping. But, your old hips just weren't up to it.)

The second part to camping is driving to the hills. We experienced (or, at least I did) a little trepidation about taking the Lincoln because once you take the turn off at Vail there's ten miles of dirt road that requires navigation and, yes, the Lincoln's air suspension aside, the possibility of bottoming out (like a boat on a sandbar) is something one does have to think about when driving a Lincoln on a dirt road in the Colorado Rockies. I'm happy to tell you that this second leg of the camping adventure was fairly uneventful; there were no incidents of bottoming out, as the dirt road had obviously been graded recently.

The third part of camping involves unloading, setting-up, erecting all the shit (sorry, but that's probably the most descriptive and universally understood word I can think of right now) from the car that you packed before you left home in Denver, some one-hundred and twenty odd miles to the east, on the other side of the Continental Divide.

David and I sat up our tent first after we sprayed OFF all over our bodies. You can see our pretty tent next to the Lincoln in the picture above. The erection of tents is a little more difficult than when I was a kid. I mean, today you've got all these fiberglass rods and metal and plastic rings and nylon sleeves and three pages of erection instructions sewn right into the tent itself that, if not followed explicitly might spell your demise from biting flies or biting bears (I'm not sure which is worse!). But, let me tell you that it took David and me only about three tries to get the damned thing set-up correctly as the picture above irrefutably proves.

Now, still on the third part of the camping experience, the next thing in the protocol is to unpack the rest of the shit: the food, the booze, the chairs, the sleeping bags, the clothes, etc., etc., etc.

Part four of the camping protocol is to join the rest of the group around the late afternoon campfire, dig out your favorite alcoholic beverage, settle yourself into your camp chair (canvas and aluminum fold-up, fold-out things that have a netted sock on the arm where you put your cup or glass or bottle) and then stare into the campfire.
The picture above does not really represent the impressiveness of the fire we usually kept going in the substantial firepit that had been left there by previous temporary residents of the campsite. But, it gives you some idea of the potential of the kind of magnificent burning we accomplished that weekend.

Not wanting to bore you, Sweet Melissa, I'll leave this missive at this point and take it up again later with tales of horses and flies and tattoos and flies and booze and flies and campfire trashtalk and flies and Bambi and flies.

Good-night, Sweetheart

P.S. One more picture. That's Piney Lake with the Gore Range in the background. This is where I would have liked to have let you run free. But, it was just too late, sweetheart. I suspect you've got even more majectic fields to explore, without my silly banter; without my maudlin missive that, by the way, is helping me to get through the ache of your loss. I know that ache will never completely go away; that it will just gradually taper off a bit day by day, year by year.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Stem Cell Presentation on Floor of US Senate - Topeka's Sam Brownback

This video (click on above title) provides one, if not the most absurd presentations I've ever seen on the U.S. Senate floor by, who else, Senator Sam Brownback from, where else, Kansas.

It's instructive to note that all the so-called "snowflake" babies who were carted into the White House for Dubya's veto of the DeGette bill on stem cell research, were white babies, the wanted babies, as Brownback points out.

There are so, so many unwanted babies, already born, yearning for a family. But, well, they ain't "snowflakes;" they're babies of color or babies with maladies, crack babies, AIDS babies; all waiting for a loving family to take them in. But, nope, Brownback doesn't even mention them. It's the frozen embryos that produce them cuddly "sknowflakes" that play to the base; that tug at all those lily-white, flatlander, Christian fundamentalistic wingnuts who, of course, will never have to deal with a family member coming down with Parkinsons or Alzheimer's. (Or, if they do, I can hear it now: "Well, yes, grandpa has Alzheimer's, but--praise Jesus!--we ask him if he wanted us to kill one of them little 'snowflakes' in the hope that it might make him better. And you know what he said! Well, he said, 'No.' Not only no, but 'hell no.' Oh, can I hear an Amen!)

Funny thing is, lots of gay couples tend to turn away from the "snowflakes" and take on the hardest parenting of all: those babies of color, those sick babies, those precious little souls who, otherwise--if it were left up to Sam Brownback--would sit at the back of the adoption bus forever. Now, with Dubya's "faith-based" funding of entities/institutions like Catholic Charities (which adopts out babies/children) and the concomitant flimsy line that's been established between church and state, even gay folk are beginning to be denied the opportunity to give good homes to otherwise "unwanted" children.

Ain't them "snowflakes" precious, though.

Some things just don't make a lot of sense, buckaroos.

DOGS - Great Shots (Click for Video)

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Letters to Melissa

Sweet Melissa:

As I'm sure you know, we received your ashes from the vet several days ago. They came in a small pewter container that, Marilyn--the vet's wife--told us was skulpted by the gentleman who does the cremations for them. The top of the container was, indeed, skulpted: there were shapes of flowers and leaves dug into the metal. Not really beautiful, but a good effort. You would have taken a quick look and stuck your nose up in the air. You were so...discerning.

I had decided, when we let you go, that I wanted to plant a tree in the back yard where we would place your ashes. I wanted a red maple. What John--you remember John, you loved John who remodeled three-quarters of our house and also landscaped the yard--came up with was a maple that is green in the spring and summer, but turns a brilliant, deep red in the fall. He delivered it yesterday. I thought it would be the absolute perfect tree for you, given that you also, like the seasons, changed physically when the imminent threat of winter approached. Your coat became so full, so luxuirous when the season changed.

I had already begun digging the hole for the tree and, yesterday, when David and I carried it into the back yard, it was clear the hole needed to be enlarged. The tree was very mature, large. And, after dinner, David went to Target and picked up several bags of planting soil while I stayed home and enlarged the hole, assuring that I would have--as the tag on the tree indicated--between six and twelve inches of clearance between the side of the hole and the root ball. The root ball was in a fifteen gallon container. So, as you might guess, I had to make the hole quite large.

Yes, I know you know all of this already. But, believe me, it helps me to write about it.

Anyway, I went upstairs while David was at the store, and I wrote a little good-bye note to you and also printed one of my favorite pictures of you. When David got home, we put the pewter container of your ashes, the good-bye note and the picture into a plastic bag. We sealed the bag with duct tape and then placed the package into the bottom of the hole I had dug for the tree.

David and I sobbed a bit. We embraced. You were, after all, our child, our precious child who had given us so much joy over twelve years and ten months or our and your life.

We then placed the maple on top of your ashes and filled the hole first with the Miracle Grow David had brought home from Target and then topped it off with the suprisingly rich soil I had dug up from the planting spot.

Ah, we miss you so much, Sweet Melissa. But, you know that. You know that as you find that little pleasure in, once again, the domination of every move Calvin E. Rowe and Nikolai Blue Buck take up there as you did down here. Yes, somewhere beyond the rainbow, I've got a feeling Calvin and Nikolai just smile with your typical, controling antics. They love you, too.

I'll be writing to you in the future about other things: politics and parks and birds and camping and other stuff that David and I and I alone experience as we continue this odbyssey called life back here in the old house and amongst this mortal baggage that, at times, weighs so heavy.

Kisses, honey. We love you. We always will.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Monday, July 17, 2006

Piney Lake, Colorado

Piney Lake, Colorado, originally uploaded by George In Denver.

Piney Lake, Colorado (about ten miles north of Vail) is a wonderful, somewhat pristine area in the White River National Forest (Eagle's Nest Wildlife Reserve) where, yes, Colorado Columbines are prolific.

Piney Lake, Colorado

Piney Lake, Colorado, originally uploaded by George In Denver.

Camping this weekend at Piney Lake, Colorado. This--what I believe to be a--mule deer let me get within about fifty yards. He's a young'un. Note his antlers just beginning to grow.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Sweet Melissa

Sweet Melissa, originally uploaded by George In Denver.

Sweet Melissa went to heaven this morning. We'll miss you, sweetheart. Godspeed.

“We need another and wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals. Remote from universal nature, and living by complicated artifice, man in civilization surveys the creature through the glass of his knowledge and sees thereby a feather magnified and the whole image in distortion. We patronize them for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate of having taken form so far below ourselves. And therein we err, and greatly err. For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours they move finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings; they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the earth.”

Henry Beston, The Outmost House

Friday, July 07, 2006

Sweet Melissa - II

Sweet Melissa is having a fairly good day. At least she's no worse. She's getting the hang of how she must maneuver herself (sans the use of her left front leg, the limitations of her right hind leg and her bad hips) in order to sit and stand and lie down. The 1,000mg of coated aspirin a day appears to be working as well or even better than the Rimadyl or the liquid NSAID (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), Metacam. Unfortunately, she's lost her appetite for all but the most tasty of her treats. She continues to drink sufficient water.

We brought Melissa home from the breeder when she was eight weeks old. This was near the end of October, 1993. At that time, we had only one dog, a Siberian Husky named Nikolai (Rimsky-Korsakov) Blue Buck. Nikolai was a gentle soul who also came from a breeder. But, it was our decision not to place little Melissa in the back yard with Nikolai. As gentle and good-hearted as he was, our fear was that Sweet Melissa--even at eight weeks of age--would try to assert herself and Nikolai would react naturally. So, Melissa spent several months in our house and confined to our kitchen during the night. Suffice it to say, generally at 3a.m., Sweet Melissa would awaken and fill the house with her pitiful cries. Either David or I would climb downstairs, give the little princess a goody and, always, toss her little ball across the floor for her to fetch...over and over again until she would collapse and fall asleep. Either David or I would then climb back upstairs and sleep until about 6a.m. when, yes, the little darling would, once again, wail into the dark of the morning.

Here are some shots from those early days.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Sweet Melissa - I

Sweet Melissa is the offspring of champions. We purchased her from a very, very discriminating breeder who required David and I to submit to an intensive interview before she would even consider the possibility of allowing us to purchase a pup.

We--David and I--were "approved" by the breeder and the beginning of this joyous journey with Sweet Melissa commenced, at the age of only four days, when I was allowed by the breeder to hold Sweet Melissa. She fit in the palm of one hand. Her tongue was unusually long, and, as she slept the sleep of the innocent, that pink appendage (her tongue) lazily extended beyond her mouth at least a half inch. She was a beautiful baby. And, as I held her that day--when she was only four days old--I knew she was special; I knew the joy she would bring to our--David's and my--life would be immense.

She did not dissapoint.

Sweet Melissa

There is a bittersweet joy in this passage--inevitable and unwelcome as it is, as they all have been--that conjures those moments, those precious moments that otherwise have settled themselves quietly, unobtrusively in the back of the brain, in that primordial soup that is memory; 'til now almost forgotten images, sounds, smells, touches that were, are the twelve years and ten months of her life.

Sweet Melissa.

We've understood that our Alaskan Malamute, Melissa Marie (Adaka's Autumn Amber II), has, for about the past year, begun the painful path to the eventual debilitating effects of osteoarthritis. Her left front leg and her right rear leg, as well as her hips, are the main culprits. Her spirit, her independence, her...majesty remain her strengths; the essence of who Sweet Melissa is and has been for all these short, short years.

Ah, today, at least for today, nothing really matters: not Iraq or North Korea or Dubya or Rove. No, not for today. What matters today and for, perhaps, the next few weeks or, God willing, the next month or two months; what matters is Sweet Melissa.

When Melissa stopped running with me because of the beginnings of a limp, we--David and I--began a modest aspirin therapy to ease what clearly was the development of osteoarthritis. That was over a year ago. Now, we've lived the history of ever increasing dosages of aspirin, the ineffectual results of Rimadyl, the worthlessness of the latest, greatest liquid "wonder," Metacam. And, now, we've gone back to aspirin: 1,000 mg. a day, that seems to be easing the pain somewhat which, incidentally, is more than the "wonder" drugs have ever been able to do.

So, if my posts to this site are seldom or maudlin or, indeed, boring, so be it. Sweet Melissa, David and I are struggling through another passage, another transition, another...grief.

Bear with us as those precious moments, those memories come as a flood tide. This, then, begins Sweet Melissa's story.

It's Okay

Sweet Melissa for This Week

Sweet Melissa, originally uploaded by George In Denver.