Archive for the Places Category


Posted in Observations, Places on November 2, 2018 by Vince.Puzick

When I was growing up, we had a joke in our house and, later, among backpacking friends to not ever take Pikes Peak for “granite.”  We made the play on words because of the pinkish-hued rock that comprises the Peak and, by extension, much of the surrounding area.  My childhood home on north Cascade Avenue had a big bay window on the west side that opened up a wide vista of the mountain. We could observe the Peak’s changes throughout the year – when it was snow-capped in the winter, to the pink granite rock above timberline in the summer time.


It was there, everyday: steady, secure, visible.  If we set our bearings by telling people to “head toward the mountains,” or “if the mountains are on your left, you’re heading north,” then Pikes Peak became the heart of the GPS system that was the front range.

As I grew, though, I did come to take the mountain view for granted.  It was just there, everyday.  When I moved away for a short while in the 1980’s, though, that pink beacon stayed with me.  It was part of me.  I always felt just a little disoriented without it as I navigated streets of my new homes.


Since returning to my hometown, I have renewed those vows to not take Pikes Peak for granted.  I look at it every day.  I love it in different light.  The early morning sun hitting the summit first, then, as the sun rises, the light spreading down the mountain.  The granite lights up pink, then the hues of green at tree-line, then the entire mountain is lit up and the day is well underway.

I love it at dusk, too, when the backlit mountain reveals the orange and blues of sunset.  When the light filters through the valleys and foothills of the front range.  Each day seems to be brand new from sunrise to sunset depending on season.

I was recently in New York City and had a view of the Statute of Liberty from the office in which I was working.  I’ve seen the Statue of Liberty before, a couple of times.  From Battery Park, then up-close as a tourist, a visitor to the area. Walked around the perimeter of its base. I came to appreciate the massiveness of Lady Liberty, the enormity of the torch she holds.


But the view from the office was different. It was from a different angle, up higher, with a long stretch of the Hudson River framing the Statue.  It wasn’t a tourist’s view.  It was more-or-less an every day view.  One that could be easy to get used to.  From this distance, I couldn’t read the inscription about huddled masses. About tired and poor. Couldn’t read the words, “yearning to be free.”


But those words are there. And while they don’t form the basis of policy, they shape the spirit of the country. Or they should. Lest we take them for granted.


The Paseo House

Posted in People, Places on October 30, 2017 by Vince.Puzick

An Open Letter to Any Prospective Buyer,

Welcome to The Paseo House.  Look around.  Make yourself comfortable.  We certainly did for the last thirteen and a half years.

Enjoy the view out of the south-facing window, the one that looks over the Patty Jewett golf course (country club living on a teacher salary), while I tell you a little about our history with the house.


I bought the house in May of 2004 just as my daughter was heading out of 5th Grade from Stratton Elementary and into the 6th Grade at Mann Middle School the following fall.  Part of the motivation for buying the home was to enable my daughter to continue on with her friends into middle school (it’s a long story – about single parenting, her mother’s move to Florida to pursue her master’s degree, etc.). The motivation was to be in a cool neighborhood near her childhood friends as we began a single-dad household.


Hopefully  you can envision the fullness of the life lived here.  A pre-adolescent girl growing into a confident and outspoken young woman.  A middle-aged dad trying to guide her through that growth.  At one point, when she was around 16, I was washing dishes, she was standing in the doorway between the kitchen and the dining room.  Our conversation (was it about driving? about boys?) was tiptoeing up on becoming an argument.  I looked at her with my hands dripping soapy water, and said “Jess, I am learning how to be a parent to a 16-year old.”  She looked across the expanse of the kitchen and said “And I’m learning how to be 16.”  That’s what happened here:  we learned to live a rich life.

We had movie marathons downstairs in the big room in the basement.  What a great home theater that was – it’s even shaped like a theater!  From The Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Minority Report, Jeremiah Johnson, to Juno  and X – we watched our favorites, argued over the quality of each other’s choices, cheered on Seabiscuit, cringed at shared bad choices like Stepbrothers.  Wrapped in blankets, we ate popcorn in the glow of a good movie from our big screen.

And that basement, partially finished but totally funky, became the home of a third bedroom, became the site of a pottery studio, became the venue for a Super Bowl party and a Halloween gathering.  My daughter’s friends bobbed for apples in a plastic tub in the utility room. The bathroom glowed red from the decorative bulb. The basement may look a little tired — thirteen years can take its toll.


While the basement was sort of the raucous part of the house, upstairs was quieter.  Winters called for a fire in the fireplace, chili cooking on the stove, potitza rolled out on the table at Christmas, and snow-filled views out the window.  We’d watch foxes against the white snow on winter mornings.  Occasionally a deer or two would leap the fence separating the tee box on Hole #5 from our yard. From the same window and the back deck, we’d watch the golfers, wince at their missed putts, rejoice at their solid drives. cringe at their colorful language.


We had pets here, too.  Two dogs, two cats.  They slid across the wood floors.  They sat in the sun streaming through the windows.



Family members — sisters and brothers and nephews — stayed here.  They stayed on vacations and on relocations.  They recovered here and regained their footing.  There was no place to comment on the realtor’s listing documents as we put the house on the  market, but this house has healing powers.


The other day as my daughter and I were reminiscing about The Paseo House, she mentioned that she lived here for over half her life.  In all my busy-ness to get the house ready to sell, the move had not fully hit until then.  She had lived in other homes over her 24 years, but this was the longest she had lived in one residence.  That night, I made a little timeline of the houses I have lived in.  The Paseo House is #24 (this includes the various dorms and college apartments I called home for 6- or 10-month periods).  By the time I graduated from high school, I had lived in five houses, three of them with solely with my single mother.  My daughter was right in slowing us down to reminisce about this transition from one home, one life, to another.  It’s not a small thing, this.

You may be wondering why sell the house now?  Well, that pottery studio housed in the basement was the home of JK’s Creative Disasters Pottery.  And JK moved from being my friend, to my best friend, and now to my fiancée.  I found love at the Paseo House (and wooed her with Durango Chicken and Green Chile Rice cooked in a funky 60’s-style turquoise oven along the way).


My daughter and I lived a great life here, and we shared that life with family and friends for over thirteen years.  Paseo means “a slow walk” or “leisurely stroll.”  While it wasn’t always leisurely, we walked together as father and daughter, each growing in our own individual ways, our lives unfolding in wonderful ways.

As Tom Stoppard writes in his play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, “Look on every exit as being an entrance somewhere else.”  So while we are exiting The Paseo House, it is to enter a new life, new experiences, and share our lives with loves that were born here. I’d like to think that our life here set the foundation for life’s next offerings.


We hope, as you enter, that you have love and health, and enjoy a joyful walk of your own, here in The Paseo House, with the warm morning light from the southern sun streaming in.


To-do List: Things I Have Never Written About (but maybe should)

Posted in Observations, People, Places, Teaching, Writing on September 28, 2016 by Vince.Puzick
  1. Colorado Springs. I have written about places before – different houses we’ve lived in, places I have hiked or fished. Mesa Verde. Lost Creek Wilderness Area. But I have never written about my hometown with any real focus or commitment. I was born and raised here, have seen the changes that time and people have brought to the city, and have observed how things have stayed the same, too. I’ve wondered about the identify of the place – home of Fort Carson, the Air Force Academy, NORAD, Focus on the Family (a transplant from California). I’ve pondered Penrose Hospital – the first building to rise up over ten stories, my mother’s employer for 40 years, my birthplace. I’ve thought about the neighborhoods – Wood Avenue, Tejon Street with tree-lined homes of doctors, lawyers, and Colorado College professors. Of Roswell, the homes of blue-collar workers from the assembly line who worked with my dad. How Colorado Springs sits at the base of Pikes Peak, America’s mountain, the Colorado 14er furthest to the east. It’s not a mountain town or a town on the prairie. Military town? College town? Tourist destination? Olympic City (I heard that on the TV)?
  2. Baseball. America’s pastime. My boyhood passion. I played in little league baseball starting when I was eight years old and played through high school. I was on the Red Sox, the A’s, the Orioles. We played “homerun derby,” 500, wiffle ball at Bonny Park. We mimicked our heroes – Reggie Jackson, Clemente, Bob Gibson. Me mocked our foes – Pete Rose, Yaz, Wilbur Wood. I played epic one-on-one pitch-and-hit battles with my older, southpaw brother. He struck me out way more often than I got hits off of him. I chased him through the fields surrounding our house, me waving the bat above my head. I was never a good loser. Ten summers of organized ball. Family vacations postponed until August and built around little league schedules – Saturday morning games, afternoon practices. Championships were celebrated. Losses were mourned. Friendships made.
  3. My Mother. I have written relentlessly, filled up reams, about my father. I have only rarely written about my mother. Short bursts of an image of her, a recollection of a conversation, or her devotion to a nursing career. I wrote a poem about her once, “Sestina for the Nuns,” about her work at Penrose Hospital, run by the Sisters of Charity. I have down some notes, and I have certainly pondered her life, but I have not written about her with the same sustained energy and focus that I have about my father. Maybe it is the same as poetry; we are motivated by the pain of the human experience to write poetry more than we are motivated from that place of beauty and peace. Maybe it has been easier to write about the dysfunction of my dad than the strength and consistency of my mother. I have not written about our evening conversation at Penrose Hospital, her first bout with lung cancer, when the loudspeaker said “Visiting hours end in 15 minutes” and I stayed another 45. The staff, her colleagues, understood.
  4. Reluctant Readers. I was a reluctant reader throughout high school. A typical high school boy (some may argue that it doesn’t have to be typical), I was more interested in baseball, backpacking, and eventually beer than in books. I was, still am, a strong reader, but in school I would make my way through the assigned reading and basically call it good. I’d devour Sports Illustrated. Outdoor Life. Field and Stream. It wasn’t until I worked in a factory, White Automotive, after dropping out of college, that I became interested in the written word. And my interest was borne from the impulse to write while working on the assembly line at Whitco. And it wasn’t until I declared myself an English major – due to that interest in writing rather than reading – that I turned the corner as a reader. I was naïve, in fact, when I declared as an English major and came to realize, you know, how much actual reading that academic major required. Add on a minor in history and my nights were spent in Morgan Library on the CSU campus.
  5. Fatherhood. I was 36 years old when my daughter was born. I have written some things about her – poems, mainly, and occasional observances of her life – but I have not written about my own observations about and experiences as a father. For a long part of that time, I was a single father. Jessica’s mother and I were divorced when Jess was about a year old, so I experienced being a parent with shared custody. When Jess entered middle school, she lived with me for all but her 8th grade year. I haven’t written about the joy of watching her mature. I haven’t written about the conversation in the kitchen that gradually grew heated as it headed to an argument and then, in a memorable moment, turned to provide such a lesson. So here it is: I was standing at the kitchen sink, rinsing that night’s dinner dishes. Jessica was leaning against the doorframe between the kitchen and the dining room. I don’t recall the topic of our conversation, but it was escalating. I finally said to her, “Jess, I am learning what it is like to parent a 16-year old.” She looked across the kitchen at me and said “And I’m learning what it’s like to be 16.” But I haven’t written about that.
  6. Teaching. For nearly 30 years, I have pursued my career in education. The first 15 of those years were in the classroom. I have written a brief article or two about specific strategies or instructional practices, but I have not explored my own philosophies, perspectives, or experiences in the classroom or in my roles outside of the classroom. I haven’t written about the moments that evoked great pride in my students: the student journalists on the Palmer newspaper (The Lever); the scores on the IB exams; the conversations about Song of Solomon, Mary Oliver and Eavan Boland poetry, the narratives we wrote. Mike and Ian emphatically pointing at the book and yelling “Let’s go back to the text! Where’s the evidence?” I haven’t written about those less-than-stellar moments of my teaching – the sarcastic response, the dropped f-bomb, the poorly planned lesson. I haven’t written about the tears shed at the loss of a student due to a heart problem, the ache in my heart hearing about a student suicide, the collective grief over Columbine.
  7. On Keeping a Notebook. Or this one could be called Regrets. I have had maybe two dozen attempts at keeping some sort of a writer’s notebook for a long, long time. Only in the last 5-7 years, though, have I routinely written in one. I have had some great starts in the past, but I could never really settle on what the notebook should “look like” – what should be written, how should that writing sound. None of that matters. Not the way entries look on the page. Not the way they sound. Dated or undated entries. Should it read like a diary or like Lewis and Clark’s journals? Visuals and drawings like da Vinci? None of that matters. Just get stuff down. Instead, I only have memory and recall to draw from. So I should write about writing … I should write about keeping a writer’s notebook to those who are reluctant to do so or not sure why or what or what it should look like. Just show up. Lined or unlined? College-ruled or narrow? It. Does. Not. Matter. Writing does.


So you’re a native!  So what …

Posted in Observations, People, Places on February 4, 2015 by Vince.Puzick

I was having breakfast a few weeks ago with a new friend who recently moved to Colorado Springs, and during the conversation I said “I’m a native.”

“You’re the second or third person I’ve talked with in the last few weeks that pretty quickly points out that you’re a native of Colorado Springs.  Why is that?”

It’s an interesting question.  In our very mobile population, it is almost expected that people will move to different parts of the country or, living in a city with five military bases such as Colorado Springs, different parts of the world.  When I ask, I’m usually expecting the answer to “where are you from” to be something other than Colorado Springs.

So from my friend’s response, my blurting out that “I’m a native” must seem, what, a little prideful?  Does it come across as creating difference – “you’re new, I’m a native”?  — and therefore maybe a little arrogant?

I have pondered why it is important to express, blurt out even, that I am a native of Colorado Springs.


Perhaps it is out of nostalgia.  I remember when … the north end was not even “The Old North End.”  The north end of Colorado Springs was basically north of Uintah Street, or maybe even north of Fillmore.  The north end ended where Nevada Avenue merges onto I-25.  Rockrimmon was simply the site of the old Pikeview coal mine and, more when I was growing up, high school woodsies and keggers.

Penrose Main on Cascade Avenue was simply Penrose.  The 13-story red and white building was the only Penrose Hospital in town.  And Penrose was a visible and meaningful landmark in the town.  Until the Holly Sugar building was built in the early 1960’s, Penrose rose up out of the tree-lined streets of the north end like a beacon.  One could always orient one’s self by finding where he was in relation to Penrose Hospital.  And when it is your place of birth, it grounds one in familiarity, foundation, reassurance.  Coupled with the fact that I was born there, Penrose was also where my mother was trained and as a nurse and then employed for some 40+ years.

The Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo breakfast was a small town event.  So was the 4th of July gathering in Memorial Park.  The population throughout the 1960’s was only around 90,000 residents.  Today, the 4th of July event draws more people than that to the Park.

I remember when the Manitou Incline actually had a train car that pulled people the mile up.  Those were saner, simpler times.  And Jones Park was a hiking and backpacking experience where you would not see another hiker (and mountain bikes were not even invented) for the entire weekend.

Does it just come down to nostalgia?  Maybe it is just due to the fact that I am getting older faster and reminiscing more often and more deeply.  The old and familiar of Colorado Springs still serves as my anchor despite the changes.  I love walking down Tejon Street despite the loss of Michelle’s ice cream, Lorig’s cowboy boots and hats, Hibbard’s pneumatic tubes where your payments zoomed out of sight and where the elevator was tended by an elevator man.  I love the presence of the Fine Arts Center even though I do not take advantage of the richness of it as often as I should.  Despite my own liberal leanings, I think NORAD is awesome, the Academy is beautiful, and Fort Carson (where my uncle worked) is pretty cool.

But maybe my blurting out “I’m a native” is also about roots and place, about the rootedness in where you “grew up.”  When I told my friends in California, after living there for all of the 1980’s, that I was moving back to Colorado Springs, they thought I was crazy.  (I’m sure it was, ironically, native Californians who mostly responded with this disbelief.)

But there is something about waking up with the sun-reddened granite of the Pikes Peak summit greeting you on fall mornings that lingers bone deep.  (It is also knowing “Pikes Peak” has no possessive apostrophe and being OK with that despite being an English teacher.)  It’s knowing the effect of the chinook winds, that today’s snow may be gone by sunset tomorrow.  Or even later today.

It’s knowing that despite living in the most conservative of all counties in Colorado, we weathered Proposition 2 twenty years ago. It means we can enjoy a rich arts community even if it feels tiny at times.  It means despite our growth, we can enjoy nature experiences within our city limits and wilderness experiences within an hour’s drive.

So, yeah, I blurt out that I am a Colorado Springs native.  It’s a statement that says welcome to what I have known for many years, and it serves as the segue into the near-apology of “I know, things could be better here.”  Maybe it’s a bit protective of a life that once was and is not the reality today.  Maybe it is an invitation that says let’s continue to create a space together that has all the closeness of a small town but the richness that 400,000 people may bring.

Untold Tales at the Tailwaters

Posted in Fishing, Observations, People, Places on January 20, 2013 by Vince.Puzick

Five of us headed to the Arkansas River, to the tailwaters below the dam on Lake Pueblo.  Usually we head toward the Nature Center or Valco Ponds.  This day, we went further downstream instead, more into the city of Pueblo.  Fishing in an urban setting is a different experience than being in the Canyon, or wading at Deckers, or stalking brookies in a small stream.

Oh the people we met.

As we were getting ourselves ready, a Hispanic man pulled into the dirt parking lot in a dark red sedan and began to get ready.  He said hello as he began to get his waders on and get his rod set up.  In a few minutes, he was offering some recommendations.  Obviously a local, he certainly knew the river.  If we were heading upstream, he said, pointing with his rod, fish at a hole just a little ways up. Another hole is by the rocks, further, just around the bend.  He offered the suggestions freely, as if he were talking to a couple of long-time friends.  We thanked him as we headed upstream where we fished for the next couple of hours.

Back at the car having lunch, an old Chevy blazer pulled in: grey, dark windows, hip hop pouring out of the open windows.  Another older model SUV pulled in next to them.  Both cars were packed with Latino and Latina teens and young adults in their early 20s.  Each one had a bottle of beer.  A few got out of the cars and passed around the joint somebody offered.

Before long, one by one they each had put on a light blue t-shirt.  Some of the guys had draped the shirt over their shoulder as they laughed, drank, smoked.

It was amazing how many young people were there so quickly.  One guy came over toward my car where I was sitting.  He had a beer in one hand and cradled a Crown Royal purple box in the other.

“You had any luck?” he asked, his baseball cap pulled down to eyebrow level.

”Caught two,” I said.

”I usually come down for night fishing.  I work ‘til 7, come down at 9 and fish under that bridge until about 11.  I’ve just been having this craving for trout…you know how that goes?  But I haven’t had much luck since Christmas!”

I wondered why he was down there now, with his group of friends.  I don’t know if I asked what was happening or not.  Somehow he told me:  they were there honoring a friend, 19, who had died in the last week.  Had left a party drunk to go get a deck of playing cards.  Took a corner over by Irving School, “you know where that’s at” he asked, pointing east.  I shrugged.  ”Not really.”  ”Yeah, he took a corner down there.  At about 90.  Rolled it.  Killed himself.”  I wondered to myself if he saw the sad irony happening in that dirt parking lot.  ”These are his friends.  So we came down to honor him.”  Now I could see that the blue shirts were a tribute with images of their deceased friend silk-screened on them.

Maybe his need to tell somebody was relieved.  Maybe it was just time to go back to his friends at the grey Blazer.  We shook hands.  I told him to be careful today.  He nodded.  ”We will.”

A few minutes later, my nephew and I were heading upstream again.  An older married couple was behind us, out walking their two dogs.  The man called out “where are you guys going to fish?”  We told him we didn’t know, we’d just pick a spot.  He was a local, too, having moved there from “the Midwest” five years prior.  He told us of some holes and stretches, under the railroad bridge, or down by the culvert feeding the river, and then further up by the spillway.  Conor asked what had brought them to Pueblo.  ”That’s a good question,” the man said. His wife offered, “we visited some friends here and decided to move. Like anyplace, it has its pros and cons.”  We turned off the path and headed down to the river with a “thanks for talking” and a return “good luck.”

I think of the mix here along the banks of the Arkansas.  The friendliness of the locals sharing fishing information.  A steady stream of folks walking and biking along the trails that parallel the river. An incredibly large group of teens — tattooed, stoned, drunk and getting more loaded — sharing their loss, their pain.  A married couple, retired, enjoying their walk along a river bank in a town which somehow became part of their destiny.

At the end of the day, the five of us stripped off our waders, each with our own story, each with our own path that somehow got us here today, our stories converging once again and yet still, here at the Tailwaters.

Lost and Found

Posted in Observations, People, Places on February 7, 2012 by Vince.Puzick

I met her at a small bar down the street from CBGB’s, and if I could remember the name of the bar, I’d write it here.  If I could remember her name, I’d write that, too.  I think, though, that I was on my  way to CBGBs when I realized that I didn’t particularly like punk rock nor did I have a punk rock look or attitude.  I just wanted to check it out.   In April of 1983,  CBGB’s was a legendary place, of course, and I wanted to see it.  Sad thing is…it may have been CBGB’s that I entered.  It would have been a Thursday, probably.  Not much happens on a Thursday night.  Why do I think we heard Dr. John that night?

What I do remember is this.  The venue was long and narrow — like a bowling lane.   Not a bowling alley … like one lane.  Long and narrow and crowded.  What I do remember is this:   ordering a drink at the bar that ran much of the length of the wall.   She stopped at the bar on her way back to her table and asked for a glass of water.  We exchanged some small talk.  I told her I was visiting from California but originally from Colorado.  She gave me her phone number and then said that she needed to get back to her group.   She went and sat back down at a table with five guys.  A few minutes later, they got up and took the stage that was set up in the corner toward the front of the building.  I left after their first set, back into the New York night.

When I got back to California, I rolled that night around in my head as I took the scrap of paper out of my wallet and stared at the numbers.  A few weeks later, I had the opportunity to go back to NYC and I called her up to let her know.  Her dad answered.  He wanted to know who was calling his daughter, his 30 year old daughter, I might add. When she and I talked on the phone, we agreed that when I got back to the City, we’d get together.

She barked instructions to the cab driver as we headed out to get a drink.  She didn’t like the fact that he headed over to 5th Avenue right away — “it’s too slow.  Take some of the side-streets.  We don’t need to hit every light on 5th.”  He checked the rear view mirror and turned at the next street.

“So would you be interested in going to Church?  I think you would like the people.”  She handed me back the joint as she posed the question.

My mind went back a few years when I was baptized into the Presbyterian Church in downtown Colorado Springs, not motivated to take Jesus as my Savior, but instead to have a chance at dating Lisa who belonged to that church.   Lisa went her own way after my baptism and I was left with neither a girlfriend nor a sense of being born again.

“What church?”

“The Unification Church?”

“You’re a Moonie?”  they had been in the newspapers so much I had some familiarity with them.

“We don’t really like that term.  Yes, we follow the Reverend Moon.  I think you would like going.”

So this is how it is.  I had all the markings of somebody who could be recruited into the Church.  With enough drinks, with the details I had shared with her, she saw a small town guy from Colorado spiritually lost on the streets of New York City.  Who cares that I was employed by a law firm?  Who cares that I was living in a small apartment in the Village?  Those were outward signs of a stable life.  I didn’t have to be homeless or jobless to be in need of a spiritual path and a sense of belonging.  Through the smoky haze in the back of  a cab, over the loud din at the bar, in the gin-tainted breath of my words, she saw a lost soul searching for a deeper answer.

A popular bumper sticker for free-spirited souls says “All who wander are not lost.”  For me in that summer of 1983, the more accurate bumper sticker would have been “all who are lost do not wander.”  By appearances, things were fine.  I was fine.  Not lost.  Yet needing to be found.


People and Places

Posted in Observations, Places on January 9, 2012 by Vince.Puzick

I grew up in a small house — a log cabin, actually — that my father built.  When I reflect on that childhood lived on the outskirts of town, I realize I am shaped as much by place as I am by person.   Those two raw acres that served as the landscape of my childhood, the perpetual view of Pikes Peak through all seasons of the year, influenced who I am in ways that make me think that place as much as people shape us.  “Where are you from?” is as equally important of a question as “Are you Eli’s son?”

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