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February 23, 2019

Chasing Ghosts

"He's been here before."

Robert Pirsig - Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

My latest project started out with a fairly simple goal of organizing all of my old photos on my home server so that the photos weren't lost. Like, somehow, the photos weren't all where I'd assumed that they should be. And the further I went back in time, the less and less likely the photos were organized and dated correctly. So, I thought that, if I don't sort this out now, then I never will, and these photos will be lost to the sands of time.

So, I'm rooting through all of these old photos, scattered across multiple NAS servers, PC's, external drives, etc. and, as I'm rooting through all of these old images, it dawns on me that I have an opportunity to do something that, in the history of mankind, really hasn't ever been possible or practical before. Namely, I have the ability to track my movements over the last 20 years, or so.

All I have to do is, organize the photos, sort them by date, and figure out where I was in the photos. Through this fairly simple methodology, I should be able to document my peregrinations over the last 20 years or so, fairly easily.

So, this is what I've been working on lately. I sleep during the day, and then stay up all night, rooting through countless old photographs, trying to figure out where I was by studying the photos, as I bounced across the planet like a ping-pong ball in a dryer.

It's been very cathartic, as Jen's in school, and I don't have a whole lot going on. This gives me a chance to organize and preserve my photography collection, while reminiscing at the same time, which has been a lot of fun. Like, if your kid's off in a place where you can't see them, browsing through your old photo collections is the next best thing to having them in your house, I think.

Each night, I pick a year, and start rooting through the photos from that year. It's not unusual for me to shoot 20K - 40K photos a month. So, there's a lot to wade through. And what's funny is that, much of it I remember, but much of it I'd forgotten also.

I totally forgot that I conquered Red Cone Pass on my ATV. That I was in the 9th Ward in New Orleans shortly after Katrina hit. And that Jennifer was playing soccer on a soccer field with a large sign that read "Ellis Burks Baseball Field 2001".

I don't recall this soccer field at all. From my photos, it looks like she played soccer there, while I shot countless photos, at least 4 times in 2005. And always, there's this large sign on a fence which would be behind home plate (it's apparently a soccer field, and also a baseball field, apparently), and this huge sign clearly says "Ellis Burks Baseball Field 2001".

But googling doesn't indicate that a field with this name exists, or ever did exist, in the state of Colorado.

From studying the photos, I see that everyone is wearing YMCA shirts. The coaches are wearing YMCA shirts. The kids are wearing shirts that say "Junior Y Rapids Soccer League" with the Y indicating YMCA sponsorship.

Next door to the soccer field is a brown brick YMCA building with a prominent red awning and an American flag.

In the distant background, some mountains. Possibly Double Header mountain?

In the more immediate background, a tall brick building with the the words "WELLS FARGO" emblazoned across the top. Also, a big sign indicating the building is for lease: "NOW LEASING 303-989-7300". These photos are from the summer of 2005, roughly 14 years ago.

So, I've got some clues, but no real idea how to start looking for this soccer field. And, it's not that it really matters where the soccer field is, more, it's just sort of a morbid curiosity. Like...I was there, with my daughter, on these dates, watching her play soccer, shooting like a madman....where in the fuck were we?

Now, I go online and start just sort of randomly guessing where this could be. But one thing that really draws my attention is that all of the coaches seem to be very consistently wearing YMCA jerseys. So, I google YMCA soccer fields, and one that seems like a reasonable guess is on the corner of Highway 285 and Sheridan, at 5181 W Kenyon Ave. Now, I'm on Google maps, driving down the road through the magic of Google Street View. Everything looks good. I see a soccer field. A huge cemetery on the north side of the complex. There's no sign indicating "Ellis Burks Baseball Field 2001". But there is a soccer field, and a brown YMCA building next door.

The awning on the YMCA building has changed from red to blue. The U.S. flag is tattered and worn, but still hanging in there like a hair in a biscuit.

Now, I look across the street using Google Street View and, lo and behold, across the street, I see the Wells Fargo building with a sign that says "NOW LEASING 303-989-7300". Bingo!

So, I've found my soccer field. This is just the motivation that I need to make me get out of bed. We got another foot of snow yesterday, but now I'm dressing up for the cold weather with heavy winter jacket and thinsulate boots. Out into the BMW X3 and rolling down the hill. This is quite the adventure. I'm actually outside! Taaadaa!

Jennifer is in college, and swinging for the fences. She's got a heavy workload, studying like crazy every day just to keep her head above water. And pink eye in each eye. And she needs new glasses.

She's got no time for me, and she's not to blame for this. This is as it should be. We all knew this was coming. Children grow up and leave home. Somehow, I've got to find my own way now.

I exit from 285 onto Sheridan. This is the only part that I really remember. This odd exit. I might remember this part. Now, I see the cemetery on the south side of the YMCA. The combination soccer field / baseball field, minus the sign that once proclaimed "Ellis Burks Baseball Field 2001".

I park in the parking lot, and, seeing other tracks through the soccer field, decide that I'll investigate it more closely. Only once I'm in the middle of the field do I realize that the other tracks are deer tracks, not human footprints.

Looking north, across 285, I see the Wells Fargo building with the same battered "NOW LEASING 303-989-7300" sign. Like...seriously, people? In 14 years, you couldn't lease your building? Ever considering lowering your prices?

It's sort of crazy, in a way, that I'm able to do this....to go back in time, and play detective to find out where we played soccer for 4 days in 2005, nearly 14 years ago. And, it's not like it matters, really. But I don't really know what else to do with myself. It's not like watching TV is any better, really.

Now, I go into the YMCA to confront the scoundrels. Why did the park get renamed? Why is it no longer called "Ellis Burks Baseball Field"? So, I go inside and start interrogating one of the youngsters behind the counter.

"Did this park used to be named the "Ellis Burks Baseball Field"?

"Not since I worked here. I've been here 3 years," one of the teenagers proudly replies.

"I'm talking more like...say....15 years ago."

"Here...take her card. She's been here close to 20 years. She would know."

"Many thanks."

And, with that, I go outside and hop in the Tahoe. Now, I start searching for the White Fence Farm. I haven't been there in so long that I can't even remember the name. Margie comes up with Red Fence Farm, which is close enough. Eventually, I find it at 6263 W Jewell Ave, between Wadsworth and Sheridan, only to discover that it's been closed for good. Apparently, after 45 years in business, the White Fence Farm closed for good in December last year (2018).

I stumbled across Gunther Toody's, at 8266 W Bowles Ave, Littleton, CO 80123. That was another place we used to frequent.

At Coal Mine and Wadsworth, I stumble onto Woodmar Square Park...this is definitely a park we used to play soccer in, although I couldn't say what year.

There's another park I'm missing where we used to play soccer...it was east of Wadsworth, and south of Bowles somewhere down there. It was a large field adjacent to a high school, as I recall. Also, there was a big sledding hill on the west side of Wadsworth, as I recall, in the same general vicinity. But we'll have to leave that for another day.

Update: OK...here's the soccer field I was thinking of, I'm fairly certain. Christensen Meadows Park.

And here's the sledding hill: Ken Caryl Sledding Hill

I was looking for these two locations off of Wads, but they are off of Kipling. Doh!

Posted by Rob Kiser on February 23, 2019 at 6:20 PM


"He's been here before."

Robert Pirsig - Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

"Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" available as audio for free from Archive.org at


"The book touched the zeitgeist of a whole generation in 1974 after being turned down by 121 publishers. It's the biggest selling philosophy book ever with more than 5 million copies sold worldwide, has a huge online following - and has never been dramatized. Writer Peter Flannery (Our Friends in the North, George Gently, The Devil's Whore) adapts his favourite book for radio, with James Purefoy (Rome, Injustice, Ironclad) playing the Dad/Narrator."

Posted by: anonymous on March 1, 2019 at 1:50 AM

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