“I am a bachelor but I prefer to live in my own home. My enthusiasms include golf, travel, horse-racing and the spoken drama. My antipathies are social show-offs, bigots on religion, fanatics on total abstinence and all persons who take themselves seriously. I love to put on big parties or celebrations and see a throng of people having a good time.” -George Ade Tomorrow, Feb. 9, is the 152nd anniversary of the birth of George Ade, an American author, humorist and newspaperman. Journalists — and newspaper readers — everywhere ought to remember and honor him.
During 1890, Ade joined the staff of the Chicago Morning News. After a few years as a reporter, Ade began a column, “Stories of the Streets and of the Town.” Ade did something that no one had ever done before. He simply walked out of the office, into the hustle and bustle of 19th century Chicago and wrote about what he saw.
He captured the city’s essence, writing about characters such as Artie the office boy, Doc Horne (a country fabulist) and Pink Marsh (a black shoeshine boy).
Within a few months, his column was the most popular newspaper feature in the city, in an era when half a dozen dailies fought for readers. Ade had created the metro column, a peculiarly American institution that endures and thrives to this day.
Chicago’s Mike Royko, New York’s Jimmie Breslin, San Francisco’s Herb Caen and Denver’s Gene Amole owe George Ade — as do all of us who write newspaper columns, blogs or send letters to the editor.
Ade’s columns were graceful, personal, literate and merry. Not satisfied to create the metro column, he created the columnist persona. He was cynical, but not pessimistic, fond of parties, of strong drink, of good company and of the continuing circus of life.
So how can we honor George, who died during 1944, at the ripe old age of 88? By following his model — going out the door and seeing what there is to see.
Platte Avenue and Tejon Street, 11:05 a.m.
Through the windows of ListenUp, impossibly bright and sharp images on impossibly thin TV screens. Then the Albany, warm lobby with shabby furniture, the last SRO (single room occupancy) apartment house in the city. A sign in the window: $325 per month, utilities included.
Decades ago, there were half a dozen such establishments downtown, the kind of places immortalized in Roger Miller’s “King of the Road” — “… rooms to let, 50 cents.”
In those days, homeless men could buy some measure of dignity and privacy for a few bucks, regardless of their internal demons. Then, we called them winos, alkies, derelicts or drifters. Now we’re a little more polite — they’re simply called homeless, but their lives are no better, maybe even worse.
In the alley behind Jose Muldoon’s, a man in a dirty parka fishes through garbage bags, looking for something he can use, sell, or drink. As I pass, he’s holding up an empty soda can. I pretend he isn’t there.
Now, Mountain Chalet, still holding on after 40 years at the same location. On opening day during 1968, my schoolmate Andy Hero blundered in, made a small purchase and became the store’s first customer.
Andy’s retired in Houston, and Mountain Chalet has gone from new kid on the block to senior retailer. The stores which once lined the block — the Whickerbill, Hathaway’s, the Chinook Bookstore — are gone.
Lulu’s, Idoru and Terra Verde cater to a different clientele — young (or young-ish), slender, affluent. A woman leaves Terra Verde, fashionably dressed even in the cold, clicks her car remote and jumps into an Audi coupe.
Bijou Street and Tejon, 11:20 a.m.
Palmer High School kids streaming into Starbucks & Bruegger’s Bagels. It’s 17 degrees, with a brisk north wind, and the kids are dressed as if it’s a spring day.
Adolescent chatter — “…and I’m like” “… Omigod!” — some happy faces, some shadowed.
I remember the pain and the joy, walking these streets as a Palmer senior, decades ago. I cross the street, walk south.
Medina Imports, which opened a few months ago, has already closed — slowing economy, bad product mix or lack of capital? Maybe all three, but someone will take its place — hopefully. Stop in to see my friend, the beautiful business owner, who’s doing just fine. We gossip — our friend C. is pregnant. Make a note: congratulate her dad.
Tejon and Kiowa Street, 11:35 a.m.
Past the former Vue nightclub, which abruptly shut its doors after a well-publicized brawl at closing time a few weeks ago. Peered inside — its lavish interior, which Sam and Kathy Guadagnoli so proudly showed the press on opening day a couple of years ago, has been completely gutted.
What’s next? Country & Western bar? Minimum security prison, to accommodate all those drunken revelers?
Pikes Peak Avenue and Tejon, 11:40 a.m.
Caught on the center median by the light change. Notice that the bronze statue of Spencer Penrose looks as if the distinguished gentleman had made a quick trip into the alley to relieve himself.
Consider the bronze bouquet of flowers placed there in memory of Norm Palermo “an ideal citizen of this city, state and country.” That he was; rest in peace, Norm.
Then into Starbucks south (not to be confused with Starbucks north, up by Bruegger’s). Take a seat gratefully with my geezer homies — Ralph, Jim, Greg and Paul. They’re at the usual table.
Realize that I’ve left my wallet at the office — no money, no coffee. Should I mooch a latte? Decide not to — the payback, in caustic jokes, would be too great. Talk politics. As usual, I’m outvoted.
Kiowa & Tejon, 12:10 p.m.
Duck into Rutledge’s to talk politics with Jerry, for many years a University of Colorado regent. Jerry is perfectly dressed, as always.
Bruce Benson as C.U. Prez??!! Jerry says it’s great, he’ll be good for the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. I’m doubtful — but then it occurs to me that this is a Democratic plot.
Remove Colorado’s premier Republican fundraiser/campaign contributor from the political landscape during an election year — pretty slick, Gov. Ritter!
Suggest that to Jerry, who laughs, claps me on the shoulder, shakes my hand and ushers me out the door. “Good to see you, John!”
Tejon Street, 12:30 p.m.
A cold north wind. I walk past Jose Muldoon’s and realize, for the first time in 20 years, that Ruth’s Oven used to be there. It was an old-fashioned family restaurant, to which my mother would occasionally take me as a child. When did it close? Where did the years go? I remember, in fragments, the great elegiac lines from “Snowbound,” a poem that my mother memorized as a child growing up on Cascade Avenue.
O Time and Change! — with hair as gray
As was my sire’s that winter day,
How strange it seems, with so much gone
Of life and love, to still live on!John Hazlehurst can be reached at John.Hazlehurst@csbj.com or 227-5861.