John Kenneth Galbraith once published a lively book on macroeconomics titled The Liberal Hour. He explained the title in a brief preface.
“Adlai Stevenson once referred to the moment just before presidential elections when even the most obsolete men become reconciled, if briefly and expediently, to the machine age,” Galbraith wrote. “He thought that this pause in normal conservative occupation might be called ‘the liberal hour.’”
Even our conservative city has its liberal hour — a time when years fall away, the past meets the present, and darkness lifts. 5 p.m., summer, downtown, First Friday.
The business day is over, and the clubs have yet to open. The feral 20-somethings who will soon throng the sidewalks have yet to converge on Tejon Street. No skydivers darken the skies and no roaring packs of Harleys shatter the evening quiet.
Want to pretend that you’re a fin de siècle boulevardier in the Paris of your great-grandparents? Want to hang out with old friends, and make new ones? Welcome to our own unheralded holiday — downtown for grownups.
4:59 p.m. — Goodbye, computer. I can’t say that I much enjoy our days together. You’re slow to load, your software is cantankerous, your speakers don’t work, and your flickering cursor reminds me that I haven’t finished my work.
5:01 — Heading south on Tejon Street. It’s a crystalline afternoon, cool and sunny, the kind of day that used to define Colorado Springs, until global warming moved us to Phoenix.
5:03 — Stop by Wayne and Sylvia Jennings’ storefront real estate brokerage, which occupies the space tenanted for a half-century by Hathaway’s, a newspaper/magazine/cigar store. I ask Wayne whether he has anything for a buyer with no cash, no credit and marginal income.
“You’re about five years too late!” he answers cheerfully.
5:15 — Pause at Zerbe’s display window, featuring an array of estate jewelry. A 1920s diamond and platinum brooch … my spouse would love it! My wallet wouldn’t.
5:20 — Bijou & Tejon. The usual beggars cluster on the corner. I give ‘em the stink-eye — like any cranky old white guy, I don’t like being panhandled. They ignore me, focusing on a couple of 40-something women approaching the corner. Easy marks? Nope, the light changes and the women stride swiftly by.
5:30 — Pikes Peak Chocolate and Ice Cream. Middle aged? Trying to maintain weight? Stay away — but chocolate ice cream? I slip furtively through the door, feeling just as I did 50 years before, when I used to sneak into Hathaway’s and look at the nudie mags.
5:35 — Gallery 113. The narrow space is full of art and cheerful people. Karen Standridge, one of the featured artists, welcomes a visitor to First Friday.
“Before, we were all having openings on different days,” she explained. “But now, it’s all First Friday. On a day like today, it’s perfect!”
5:45 — SPQR/Modbo. Gallery co-owner Brett Andrus’ paintings of confident, sloe-eyed young women are featured. Masked, lingerie-clad models form tableaux vivants in each gallery, echoing the show’s theme. Chat with Brett, try not to gape at the models.
6:30 — The Famous. All the regulars are at the bar, and I’m in the door before happy hour ends. I see a dozen familiar faces, take a seat at the bar … another flashback! After school in the ‘50s, we kids used to hang out at Barthel’s, a soda fountain on the southeast corner of Bijou & Tejon. We’d laugh gossip, and flirt — years later on the southeast corner of Kiowa and Tejon, not much has changed.
7:30 — GOCA 121 opening, Bright Young Things, a show featuring seven younger (i.e., under-40) artists. Nice work, interesting crowd. Chat with the two Daniels (Chacon and Cole), quarrel with someone I don’t know.
8:25 — Mining Exchange/Springs Orleans. Settle down in a comfortably ornate faux-Victorian couch in the northeast corner of the hotel’s magnificent lobby. Eighty-five years earlier, my father’s brokerage firm, Hazlehurst, Flannigan & Co. was located in this precise spot. He and his contemporaries are long gone, but the Mining Exchange Building endures. Thanks, Perry Sanders!
8:45 — Heading north on Tejon. The crowd’s changing — guys with too many muscles, women with too few clothes. The liberal hour is ending. Our time has passed. As I get in my car, I think of Howard Austen’s last words, as reported by Gore Vidal, his companion of 53 years.
“Didn’t it go by awfully fast?”