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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

 

Denver Musings

Six nights in Denver was about enough, thank you, though I had mixed feelings by the end of a journey that admittedly got off to a shaky start. Landing in a snow storm around 8 PM, the plane sat outside the terminal for about 45 minutes waiting for a gate to be vacated (and probably shoveled), then it was another hour before my checked bag somehow found its way to me. Never did get an explanation for that, so we'll just say that when there are less than favorable conditions, this huge airport is not staffed for its level of traffic. This shortfall was again in evidence on the return trip when it took well over an hour to navigate the lines for the boarding pass kiosks and then security. Barely made the plane home.

Anyway, to conclude the inbound adventure, with bag in hand, I made my way to the taxi cab line only to find it to be considerably more than lengthy, with an empty cab pulling up reliably about every 15 minutes or so. Realizing that was a hopeless cause, I accepted the invitation of one of the shuttle bus drivers looking for passengers heading downtown, breaking one of my cardinal travel rules (always take a cab, NEVER share a van). Since we stopped at nearly every hotel in Denver before getting to mine (the last stop of course) and since we were creeping through the snow at no more than 15 miles per hour, it was about midnight when I finally checked in. Of course, neither the restaurant nor room service was available at that hour, so I staggered to the hotel bar (usually, staggering is in the direction away from the bar!) for a refreshing vodka (I usually avoid alcohol on flights) and some trail mix, the nearest thing to food in the hotel. There wasn't much open outside the hotel either, and I sure wasn't in the mood to go walking in the snow. The bartender was really looking to close too, so bed became the best (and only) option.

So, I was not in a mental state to fall in love with Denver after that initial impression, but I have to admit it has its charms, though you need to know where to look. One interesting thing is that you really can't see the mountains from downtown unless you go up to some sky bar or hospitality suite. At least in Salt Lake City, the mountains are a constant presence. So lining up Denver's negatives versus positives, I would have to say:

Negatives:

The airport
The moribund convention center
Too much of downtown is also downright moribund
The trolleys are a mortal danger to pedestrians, running almost silently, and very close to the curb
The so-called 16th street mall is basically a collection of every franchise and chain pub bar/restaurant there is
Prices of food, drink, and necessities in the hotels would make you believe you are in NY, SF or Chicago. Believe me, you're not.
Friendly service is spotty at best. Many of the servers and bartenders were as surly as New York's or worse.
Like a lot of mountain areas, the weather is somewhat unpredictable. Two days after it snowed, it was sunny and 70.

Positives:

Pretty good steakhouses, especially Ellway's (yes, John's)
Pretty good ales on tap in most places
El Chapultepec, a true dive where the jazz is quite good. We saw a quintet led by veteran Freddie Gonzales that featured an excellent bassist, Mark Diamond. Legend has it that this was a favorite haunt of Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady. It is right by Coors Field.
The scantily clad young waitresses at The Tilted Kilt.
Coyote Ugly at the mall. A little too young for me, but a fun bar, with some very competitive beer pong.
The air. It really is fresh. I never felt oxygen deprived. In fact, given the lack of smog, we probably enjoyed more of the life sustaining gas than usual.
The downtown area off 14th St. As attractive as the rest of downtown is repulsive.

So, when I revisit, I will simply have to review this post and I'll know better what to do and what to avoid.
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Most amusing item at the meeting was the state Insurance Commissioners' belated comprehension that Health Reform (which many had boosted) presents an existential threat to their authority (and their budgets). Just imagine, the feds in power grab mode and assigning unfunded mandates to the states! Gee, who would have thought it?
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That 400 share block of Newpark Resources we sold on St. Patrick's Day for 5.61 had been purchased on 8/2/04 for 6.12. On March 22nd, we bought 400 shares of AWC @ 6.05 a value buy. The next day, we sold another 600 share piece of FSI International (FSII) at 3.64. These were purchased on 9/12/07 for 2.50. Today, we sold 100 shares of Standex International (SXI) at 26.45, bought on 5/18/09 for 10.30. We have taken a few small losses this year, buy basically are piling up gains in accordance with the belief that tax rates will only go up from here until Republicans are back in charge.

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