My Conversation with Larry

Have you ever wandered into a shop and ended up having a 2+ hour long conversation with the owner, whom you've never met before? It may sound like an SNL skit, but it was more like Lord of the Rings. I was talking to a legend and didn't even know it.

After my plan to attend an event in Downtown Denver was foiled by nonexistent parking, I proceeded to kill some time before I had to go to work in a quaint neighborhood nearby - Wash Park. There are a slew of restaurants and small shops on Gaylord St. between Mississippi and Tennessee Ave. - with enough street parking to accommodate a Toyota Camry on a random Tuesday afternoon. I wandered down the street with my full purse and laptop tote bag hoping to pop into an art gallery I had discovered last summer. Unfortunately, the space is now available for lease. I crossed the street to find a stationary shop that was more of the owner's workspace. There were cards for all occasions and random gifts everywhere. After about 5 minutes when no one appeared to tend the shop, I left. Two doors down I saw art in the window. It was not a gallery, and most of the pieces were photographs. Even though there were sculptures, prints, and fancy acrylic paintings for sale - it was a framing shop.    

The owner came up from the basement shortly after I entered. He asked if I needed anything and I replied, "just looking." The pottery and sculptures were in the middle of the room. Two female figures seemed to beg me to be happy. I would look off at a painting on the wall but kept returning my eyes to the sculptures. Eventually, I worked my way to the back of the shop. Three feet in front of the check out counter was a blue-white abstract mixed media piece. "What do you think?" the owner asked me. The piece was 3-D. I thought the artist had used plaster, it turned out to be wood chips. I was talking to the artist himself, who then started to talk about the shop and the pieces he had - how he knew or had mentored the photographers in some way.

Originally from Ohio, Larry was a concert pianist in his youth and went on to study art. I had no idea that the preservation and framing of art could be so nuanced. As it stands today, Larry is the official go-to man for historical maps. I believe this should be announced via plaque or badge in the window. He chuckled at my wide-eyed excitement. He told me that his status and various commissioned projects have occasionally led to conflicts with his peers in the field who refuse to keep up with the times. Larry is an older fellow, who loves Hitchcock movies, but he is anything but stale. I complimented him on just that - his warm shop, painted in just the right shade of uplifting yellow - was very nice to be in. He talked about his former tenant neighbor who was the complete opposite. She offended her neighbors and employees on a regular basis - including smoking in the basement, which she denied.

Larry and I talked about Denver traffic, the growth of the city, and how he loved his house technically in an unincorporated county. He shared more about his college days, which led to some unfortunate stories about his siblings and their children. We talked about his heart surgery and how people don't realize why it takes so long to recover after being split open. He was happy to be in a much better place than he was before. They took veins from his lower leg and put it in his chest to make a new artery. I looked at him with my mouth open. He just shook his head yeah. #Science

I didn't talk too much about myself. I usually never do. I like to share a really animated story or two and exit stage left. On this occasion, as we were talking about restaurants and old movies, there is a scene in a movie about a man who pretends to be insane so he can postpone divorce hearings and keep his wife from leaving where he goes into the coat room of a party tells the attendant he just set him free and that he has to liberate all the hats because he's Abraham Lincoln. That scene made me howl. My retelling and something of a reenactment, made Larry laugh. We began to talk about politics. I asked Larry if it was true that former Colorado Gov. Hickenlooper is being tapped to run for President. I told him I read it in the Glendale Chronicle.

Larry is well connected. When people recall the history of a town or place, shops like his are woven into the narrative - unassuming, yet proud. He's seen and experienced a lot in his life, some of which he shared with me. I had only planned to stop in and be inspired by a few pictures - wonder out-loud in my car if I should take up painting or find a way to finance a business of my own. I wasn't expecting my conversation with Larry, but it was exactly what I needed.


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