Arts and Culture

Neighborhoods: Tennyson Street/Berkeley

It was damn hot on Saturday, but it felt like a good day to wander, so my friend Cathy and I moseyed over to Tennyson Street to see what we could see. More than just about any other neighborhood shopping district in Denver, Tennyson seems to retain that sleepy, retro ambiance of a bygone storybook era when folks had a neat little house, a boy and a girl, a sturdy Ford in the garage and a chicken in every pot. Right. Okay, so Tennyson's reality is maybe different from that model -- it still feels like a place where daydreaming is allowed. We started with lunch at the Comfort Café, Tennyson's new pay-what-you-can eatery, at 3945 Tennyson Street. The volunteer staff is friendly and the food is nice - simple, fresh and homemade - and, of course, the price was right. Cathy and I tried various dishes, including a lemon-splashed peach and blueberry salad, a Thai-flavored slaw of carrots and corn, gazpacho, cheese-flecked biscuits and homemade plum jelly on the patio in back, where a faint breeze cooled, in spite of the heat. It was just enough to push us up and down the street, in search of this and that. We found both at Shack Man Glass Studio and Gallery, 3918 Tennyson Street, which leads a double life, both as a shop filled with beautiful blown and lampworked glass jewelry and objects and as a fully equipped glass studio, where glass artists can ply their craft and the curious can take classes. During the First Friday Artwalks on Tennyson, folks can also get a peep at a live glass-working demonstration. In the meantime, we were transfixed by dangling lampworked fish, glass shells, marbles embedded with tiny jellyfish and Simon Bender's blown-glass Dunnys.

We were slowly working our way up Tennyson to the Clotheshorse Consignment Boutique, 4232 Tennyson Street, one of the city's premier resale shops, where the staff is bend-over-backwards helpful and a semi-annual clearance sale had begun the day before with the promise of discounts up to 75 percent. But we were sidetracked by a one-weekend garage sale for charity and the beckoning mid-century zoo that is David Estrada's Mid, Mod & More antique shop at 4234 Tennyson. Estrada, an extrovert with a contagious thing for kitsch, clearly loves -- and understands -- the era he hawks, and is able to see past the ugly and into the soul of a furry-shaded lamp with a stand that lights up from inside. Inner beauty: It's everywhere.

And then it was a one-door backtrack to Clotheshorse, where the air-conditioning was on the blink and the deals were hot, hot, hot. We found a relatively unshopworn small red leather bag for a few coins plus 7 bucks, two identical Territory Ahead jackets in different colors for about $11 each and a sexy, slinky Max Edition black-and-white print dress that wasn't totally on sale, but still cheap enough to be a deal. Sometimes, you know, love gets in the way of common sense, and this was one of those times. Plus, I have to thank those gals who run the place for pointing a big fan into the dressing room area for the comfort of sweaty customers. The clearance continues through August 31, with new items being put out daily. Onward past the Bookery Nook, 4383 Tennyson Street, where I'd normally stop in just out of a sense of duty: It's one of Denver's few real neighborhood book stores, a dying breed that deserves all the support it can get. In this case, it's also a great little store, and they're eager to help you get the book you need, in spite of the shop's small size.

Thing is, I was intently on my way to visit ceramic artist Marie Gibbons, whose small EvB Studio sidles up to the Oriental Theatre at 4343 W. 44th Avenue. Marie is also having a unique sale, which continues for two more Saturdays, August 28 and September 4, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.: The deal with the curiously titled YENstudioSALE is that everything will go for .85 on the dollar - the going rate of exchange for the Japanese yen. You see, Marie is headed off to Japan in a few weeks to visit her son. And what can you get? OMG: Marie's strange signature molded babies, organic bas-relief tiles, a roost of itty-bitty clay birds, elegant ceramic shoes and anatomically correct human hearts to mount on a wall -- even if you're not buying, looking is a pleasure. What can't you get?

Refreshment. After too many stops and not enough air conditioning, we stopped around the corner at Tenn Street Coffee and Books, 4418 Tennyson Street, for a couple of iced coffees to go. Tenn Street has a tiny used book store tucked into its other half that's always worth a browse, and the Daz Bog java is dark and good.

The pick-me-up gave us the strength to peruse Red Door Antiques & Art Gallery, 4369 Stuart Street, a small but potent antique mall that, like Mid, Mod & More, has a focus on mid-century. It was the perfect place to get in the mood for this coming weekend's Denver Modernism Show, while drooling over all that molded blonde wood and Danish Modern.

And then, well, how did it get to be 5 o'clock? No worries. We'll be back.