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Disclaimer: Before you get your knickers in a twist, this is neither a pro-HRG nor an anti-DJT post.

Vote!!!

Vote!!!

With only 12 days left until the end of this election season, we’ll be hearing a lot more talk (from both parties) about how happy they are that it’s almost over. And while I definitely agree, the question that keeps me up at night is, then what?

To know me is to know where my allegiances are. But I woke up this morning thinking about what, actually, will change—regardless of who wins the election? Whether it’s HRC or DJT, their presidency will be plagued by discontent, malcontents, and Bill Maher. And this is why I’m concerned about what the next four years will bring with either of these candidates as POTUS.

I still have a civic duty, however. I firmly believe that if you don’t vote (regardless of who you vote for) then you can seriously STFU. Me? I will be honored to cast my vote for the first female president of the United States. (Okay, only a little bit of a pro-HRG post.)

So while there’s still 12 days of mudslinging to go, let’s think about what the next four years have in store for us. Hang on to your hats. I think it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

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Zachary playing the drums

At the 1st Annual Littleton Drum Studio’s Halloween Showcase, Z premiered “Soul Vaccination.” The audience was not immune to his stellar performance.

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The old drive-up window, at what used to be Valente's Italian Restaurant.

I read today that Ray Valente Senior (or “Senior” as everyone called him), died this week. This news got me strolling down memory lane, as his restaurant, Valente’s was my first job, at 14. The restaurant, and a lot of the people who I worked with, made positive lifelong impressions on me and influenced the course of my life over the years to come. These are some of my fond memories, in more of a lucid-stream-of-consciousness telling, than any chronological–or logical–order.

When I was a kid, my mom and her best friend worked at Valente’s for years. It’s where my mom met my brother’s father, a local musician. Because of my mother’s ‘fondness’ for musicians, it’s where I learned to truly appreciate live music and the talented Denver music scene. Dave Kimball, Ronnie Berg, Jolly Demus, Lannie Garrett–I’m thinking of you!

At 14, Valente’s was my first job. I was paid in cash (Senior was willing to try me out) until I was 15 and legal. It’s how I saved for my first cheerleading uniform, as an 8th grader at Wheat Ridge Junior High. My mom’s best friend bought my uniform, and I gave her my earnings every week until I paid her back.

This used to be Valente's

This used to be Valente’s

When it was slow on the weekends I would have to dust and clean every celebrity picture in both dining rooms, as well as the upstairs lounge. If you’ve been to Valente’s you know just how many pictures that was! This is where I learned that:

  • Hard work pays off.
  • Honesty and integrity will earn you respect.
  • Being kind and having a good attitude will get you a long, long way (especially when you come to the table, pardon the pun, with little to no experience).

Senior was tough–but fair. Junior was a little less tough, but just as fair. I never worked for Marc, across the street. But I spent many an hour at Marc’s, hanging out with adults who did. Marc’s is where I used to daydream about fancy, romantic restaurants. Ah, the 80s!

Valente’s was the best Italian restaurant, ever. In 30+ years I’ve never found a better plate of homemade spaghetti. And the ravioli! And the homemade cannoli! When Madeline (the hostess with the mostest) couldn’t find me, she would simply look in the cooler–inevitably I’d be sneaking in there, spooning out and eating cannoli mix.

Andes mints, sill my favorite

Andes mints, sill my favorite

Speaking of Madeline, she was the coolest old cat lady ever. With her horn-rimmed glasses, her sharp tongue, and her quick wit, she taught me that age is just a number. She went to Vegas every year and loved Elvis, her cats, and her son (in that order, I think). Sometimes on weekend days, when it was just us and two waitstaff, she’d turn off the cheesy Italian music and turn on the King. And at the end of each of my weekend shifts, she always gave me three Andes mints, which, to this day are still my favorite.

Sometimes when it was slow, Madeline and I would order an old-fashioned pizza, then ‘call back’ a little later and cancel. Once it was in the oven, it had to be finished. We could order a regular pizza for our shift meal, but not the old-fashioned. This was our way of treating ourself to that delicious pie once in awhile. (Did I mention how cool Madeline was?)

Valente’s is also where my musical life was changed forever. Scott Valente worked the take-out window (he was a great nephew, or grandson, or great something, to Senior). He was several years older, and always patient. Even to annoying young teenage girls. Scott introduced me to Oingo Boingo and INXS, and I can never thank him enough. Sure, Madonna was my idol, but to learn there was more out there than sugary pop music? Priceless!

Rich Karlis, the cutest Bronco ever

The cutest Bronco ever

And don’t forget about the football! It wasn’t unusual to have Broncos players stopping in for a meal or a drink in the upstairs lounge. For my birthday one year, I was even treated to a Valente’s dinner with Rich Karlis, who I had terrible crush on. I still think he’s the cutest Bronco ever.

Valente’s was my life in the mid-80s. I knew Junior the best of the ‘adult’ Valente’s, but I did know, and I do remember, Senior. Without his restaurant, I’d probably be listening to Drake (OMG Hotline Bling is the worst song ever), eating what I thought was authentic Italian food at Macaroni Grill, and wouldn’t understand the value of hard work, generosity, and a good attitude.

I often have dreams about working at Valente’s. I remember each dining room, the old framed newspapers (where I learned the story of John Dillinger), the celebrity headshots, the server’s area that took up the back wall, and the in-and-out doors. I remember the placement of every table, and every booth. I remember the vintage, copper espresso machine in the upstairs lounge, and I remember hanging out by the service bar, waiting for Nancy to get off so she could take me home. I remember it all.

And for all of this, I thank you Senior. I hope the El Camino is getting even more miles now. Rest in Peace.

The front of the old Italian restaurant, Valentes

The front of the old Italian restaurant, Valentes

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Do it now. Before ‘later’ becomes ‘never.’

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I’m loving the hunt for special LP’s. I have a huge MP3 collection–and don’t get me wrong, I love my MP3’s. But since getting a new record player for Christmas I’ve been on the hunt for special albums.

Remember the Seinfeld “sponge-worthy” episode? I’m into “vinyl-worthy.” I’m having a decidedly wonderful time scouting out the few local places that still sell vinyl, looking for albums based on a completely random and emotional criteria.

This means that I’m slowly buying every LP offered from some my most special artists, including (in correct alphabetical order):

  • Jimmy Buffett
  • Depeche Mode
  • Neil Diamond
  • Duran Duran
  • Gordon Lightfoot
  • Sting
  • Jack White
  • The White Stripes

And that’s just off the top of my head.

What I’ve discovered on my LP hunt are the wonderful gems you can only hear if you listen to the record. Revisiting Carol King’s “Tapestry” the other day, I was re-introduced to songs I hadn’t heard since I was probably 5 (the album actually came out the year I was born–like many great things).

But I digress. This post was prompted by an album that I just purchased for the unbelievable price of .99–which could make it possibly the best bargain I’ve every had, because Gordon Lightfoot’s album, “Summer Side of Life” is my favorite of his albums. Also released in 1971 (I told you a lot of great stuff came out that year), not only does it have my favorite childhood song, “Cotton Jenny,” it’s chock full of most of my favorite Gordon Lightfoot songs, period. Many of these songs you won’t hear if you limit your collection to “Gord’s Gold.” (Which is a great compilation, and if that’s all you have, well, at least you have some Gordon Lightfoot.)

Listening to this album tonight, for the first time in its entirety in probably 20 years, made me think back on some great childhood memories.

So I’ll leave you with a track you’ve probably not heard, off of “Summer Side of Life.” It was hard to pick just one.

“Love and maple syrup go together like the sticky winds of winter when they meet.”

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There have been a lot of different stories going around lately about the carrot, the egg, and the coffee. Instead of telling a story of questionable origin, I’ll cut to the chase. Imagine you have some very trying circumstances (like a pot of boiling water). You have a few options on how you’ll come out of those circumstances.

You can, like a carrot, go into the water hard and rigid, only to have the water (those difficult circumstances) make you soft and squishy. (Personally, I don’t relate to the before or the after.)

Or you can, like the egg with its hard, exterior shell, come out of the the water (those difficult circumstances) hard on the inside as well as the outside. (I might, just a little bit, relate to the hard exterior shell.)

Or you can be the coffee. Instead of letting the boiling water (or difficult circumstances) change you, you can be the coffee–changing the water instead. I don’t know about you.

But I am the coffee.

I am the coffee

I am the coffee

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Being a kid is hard. Being a parent is harder.

Zachary is learning a valuable lesson–that sometimes mom knows best. Had he listened to me and put his brand new $100 bill away when I told him to, it wouldn’t have fallen out of his pocket. And he wouldn’t have mowed over it. What makes it heartbreaking for me is that this is $100 he earned himself, mowing lawns. As much as I want to simply replace it, I know that I would be doing him a disservice if I did. If I dropped a hundred dollar bill on the street and walked away, no one’s going to give me another one. Hopefully, my bank will take pity on him and swap the pieces of his shredded bill for a new one (I think we’re close to 50%). Otherwise, my heart will hurt because he’s upset. But I bet that next time I tell him to do something important, he listens to me.

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running shoes

…and then it depends on what’s chasing me. This has been my running joke for years. (Ha, see what I did there?) Truth be told, I’ve never been a runner. Even back in the day, when I was actually in shape, I didn’t run. I rollerbladed; I biked; I walked; I did aerobics–but I didn’t run. To say that I “run like a girl” is insulting to girls (and women) everywhere. I don’t run like a girl. I run like a beached seal trying to get back to water–slowly, ugly and determined.

Which brings me to another reason why I’ve never been a runner–running looks painful. People swear they’re having fun, but they look like they’d rather be at the dentist. I can’t ever recall a time that I watched someone running, and thought, “hey, they look like they’re having a good time!” Runners just look miserable. They also look like they know something I don’t. Honestly, I’ve always felt runners were kind of elitists. Which is stupid, I know. Running is the one thing anyone can do, not just rich and beautiful people. But my perception of runners, as I drive by them, or see them pass me while I’m sitting around the park, has always been tainted by my disdain of running. As I watch them, and judge them, I’m being elitist in my own way.

running

So where am I going with all of this? Well, I am attempting to join the elitist group I’ve spent years silently judging. You see, I’ve become lazy and complacent since moving back to Denver, and I need to get my ass in gear. And the easiest, simplest, most direct way to do this, is to run. I just spent an ungodly amount of money on a pair or running ‘shoes’, downloaded a trendy app called Couch to 5K, and am actually considering entering a 5K at the end of 9 weeks. On Saturday I did a trial run and survived (I didn’t even puke), but I didn’t go the entire 30 minutes. Today, determined, slow and ugly (remember the beached seal?) I went the full 30 minutes, and every time that bitch said “Ok, time to run,” I ran. It wasn’t pretty, but I did it. And I’m determined to keep doing it.

Day 1 down. I feel like a fraud–like the other runners I saw today are looking at me and laughing. But that’s okay. I’ve spent years judging them. I guess it’s their turn.

running shoes

my snazzy new running ‘shoes’

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