Dad’s brave new world, Band of Heathens and Hamilton Loomis

by Chris Aaland

Children’s author Todd Parr has written such classics as “Otto Goes to the Beach,” “Otto Has a Birthday,” “Otto Goes to Bed” and “Otto Goes to School.” For obvious reasons, our family has inundated us with these.

In Parr’s fictional world, Otto is a dog. In our reality, Otto is a 3½-year-old boy, mostly a darling little angel but sometimes that guy. If I could draw cute little cartoons, I’d author “Otto Goes to the Zoo” and “Otto Goes to the Ballpark.”

The first episode happened last Saturday. Aunt Steph and Cousin Emma, who is 5 months Otto’s junior, met us at the Denver Zoo at 10 a.m. After dropping what seemed like a night out on sushi for admission, we were greeted by the lion exhibit. A feline that makes our cougars look like house pets was snoozing against the glass, just inches away from Otto’s hands. And so it went the next three hours: foul-smelling monkey houses; uncooperative hippos that spent minutes underwater and precious seconds coming up for air; and dozing mammals, birds, reptiles and other critters in a variety of landscapes. Fortunately for Mom and Dad, the penguins played nonstop, mountain goat kids and bighorn lambs ambled about rocky crags, and the zoo’s two parental lifesavers – the carousel and the train – succeeded in keeping Junior amused toward the end. We missed about half of the zoo’s creatures, but those can wait for another day.

The second volume occurred last Sunday: the Rockies vs. the Padres, with first place in the National League West at the All-Star Break on the line. Every father dreams of taking his son or daughter to his or her first Big League game. We arrived just in time for the Rockies to take the field, knowing that the 1:10 p.m. first pitch coincided with Otto’s regularly scheduled nap. It was a risk that didn’t pan out. Once we sat down, the mercury peaked in the high ’90s with no clouds in sight. Beer and water seemed to heat faster than boiling liquid on the stovetop. By the third inning, Otto had thrown M&M’s and spit water out on the backs of two young women sitting in front of us. He squirmed, he screamed and, eventually, squirreled his way into the first of three walks around the ballpark. We each took turns, estimating we caught about three or four innings of actual baseball. By mid-afternoon, clouds filled the sky. Then the rains came and it was all over except a routine pitcher-to-catcher toss for an out at home plate that turned into a two-run error and an eventual 9-7 loss for the Rockies.

Like Clark Griswold in the “Vacation” movies, I felt defeated. I realized that Chevy Chase’s character was a tortured soul, not unlike Willy Loman in “Death of a Salesman” or Dante in his “Divine Comedy.” I practically skipped into the Denver Zoo and Coors Field, probably more eager than Otto at what was behind the gates. Ultimately, Shelly and I trudged back to the Tundra just happy that our son hadn’t hurt himself, us or some innocent bystanders.

In the old days, I would have gone nuts over the music offered Saturday night in Denver. Different venues presented the David Grisman Bluegrass Experience, Joan Baez, the BoDeans and Slim Cessna’s Auto Club. But in Mom and Dad’s brave new world, I could only dream. A handful of can’t-miss picks highlight Durango’s schedule this week, too. Unfortunately, just like in Denver, they fall on the same night.

The Band of Heathens returns to the Abbey at 8 p.m. Wednesday. They’ve drawn comparisons to Little Feat, the Band, the Allman Brothers and the Black Crowes, which is high praise, indeed. I see more similarities with classic Texas Troubadours like Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark and Ray Wylie Hubbard, the latter of whom is one of the group’s biggest supporters. Sure, they have soul and can find their groove instrumentally. But the songwriting of Gordy Quist, Colin Brooks and Ed Jurdi is based on stories. I’m a bit bummed out, though, by their timing. Like many Durango music fans, I’ll be en route to Lyons for RockyGrass on Wednesday (the festival starts Friday, but the land rush for on-site camping is Thurs., July 22). Strangely, this is the second year in a row that the Band of Heathens treks into Durango on RockyGrass week.

One of blues music’s rising stars, Hamilton Loomis, plays the Purple Haze at 8 p.m. Wednesday. The Galveston-born guitarist is said to reside in the center of a triangle formed by blues, rock and soul. His chief mentor, Bo Diddley, lived in the same neighborhood. In fact, Diddley’s last recorded song is “You Got to Wait,” from Loomis’ 2007 Blind Pig release, “Ain’t Just Temporary.” Lone Star bluesmen like Johnny Copeland, Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown and Albert Collins also schooled the youngster when he was just starting out. Fans can expect plenty of funky rhythms, booming horns, powerful harmonica and soulful vocals at Loomis’ live show.

The Summit hosts a Rock & Rollers Ball on Friday, including The Formless, History Of, Benjamin K and Peter Robot.

Also happening this week: Black Velvet (Nina Sasaki & Larry Carver) at the St. Clair Winery & Bistro in Farmington at 6 p.m. tonight; DJ Treazon at the Summit tonight; Black Velvet at Rylee Mac’s at 5 p.m. Friday; Jonezy spinning vinyl at the Cosmopolitan on Friday and Saturday; Pete Giuliani at the Durango Farmers Market Saturday; and Telluride’s Joint Point at the Summit at 9:30 p.m. Saturday.

This week’s Top Shelf list recounts other highlights from our Mile High vacation:

- Otto getting quality time with cousins Joanna, Mollie and Emma.

-Thousands packing the intersection of 21st and Stout for a World Cup street party. Several Skyhawk soccer alumni were among them.

- Having a rare date night that included dinner and drinks at the Wynkoop.

- Scanning the radio in a futile effort to find a station that rivaled KDUR and KSUT.

- Realizing that we’ll never be caught in a traffic jam in Durango that rivaled the one at Speer and I-25 on Saturday.

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