Longform

Denver's Own Royal Tenenbaums

Page 5 of 8

"There was a tremendous, infectious curiosity that emanated from my dad and went through everyone in my family about how the world worked, whether it was on a mechanical level or a political level," says Tomicah. "My dad, I think, used his creative talents and his administrative talents to direct my mom's energy and the energy of the rest of us in ways that allowed us to make good on talents and abilities that might otherwise just have gotten lost in the chaos."

And he would have loved it here at the Little League game. Surely he would have dropped a few of his signature zingers, terrible puns involving bats and balls. Plus, he could have helped keep everything a little more organized, the whirligigs of the kids' lives a little more under control.

As Zenith dashes off the field and recounts his exploits in colorful hyperbole, Kimber directs the others to tidy up. Everything seems on track, until Gloriana makes a face and clutches her stomach. "I have a tummyache!"

She should have known better than to choose Twinkies over Nietzsche.


The Tillemann-Dick International Emporium, which is what the kids call the big white house on their answering machine message, is hardly ever tranquil.

There's usually a Great Pyrenees getting its tail stuck in a French door or a foreign exchange student stumbling around in bewilderment, or a child sullying an Oriental rug with residue from the annual "Mud Day" festivities in the back yard.

The home's colonnaded white facade and Mediterranean-style crimson tiled roof encapsulates a world that seems to exist in another era. Classical statuary mingle with billowing plants, stained-glass windows disperse rainbows over geisha dolls. The house has come a long way since its dilapidated state in 1992, when Timber and Annette decided their cozy Victorian on Zenobia Street could no longer sustain their continually expanding brood, despite the bunk beds Timber had installed in the walk-in closet and the load-bearing walls he'd expanded using obscure mining techniques.

The big white house was the perfect place for their family, they decided, and negotiated a byzantine arrangement of mortgage payments and credit-card loans to get it. Now the refurbished chandeliers and polished walnut columns seem perennially poised for a masquerade ball, or at least the Christmas party thrown every year for the neighbors and mailmen and bank tellers and strangers in the grocery store with whom Annette struck up conversations that never seemed to end.

All about are signs of Timber. In the kitchen, the pantry doors fold in on one another like a wooden origami puzzle of dry goods. In the basement, walls conveniently slide away and bookshelves swing open into hidden rooms. There's a gargantuan swing set in the back yard, with steel-girder braces and thirty-foot oscillating swings and a veneer of painted vines and sunflowers and black-eyed Susans. The grass is kept tidy with a lawn mower modified with two wheelchair wheels. The driveway holds a big blue school bus whose seats are interspersed with double beds and whose luggage rack doubles as a tent platform. And, of course, there's Timber's office, where towers of blueprints and papers, adorned with bits of frayed wire and pieces of PVC pipe, now sit untouched.

Somewhere around here is a Sit'n'Stroll, a baby car seat that, with the press of a button, sprouts a handle and wheels, transforming itself into a stroller. Timber's idea for the apparatus came in the 1980s when, frustrated by continually having to wake up her babies to transport them from house to automobile to shopping cart, Annette asked him to make her a car seat that was also a stroller. It was the perfect assignment for Timber, allowing him to produce something that, because of the cost concerns and safety issues involved, would have to be elegant, even beautiful, in its simplicity. The fact that it involved automobiles, one of Timber's favorite things, probably didn't hurt, either.

And so the Sit'n'Stroll was born, along with a corresponding company, Safeline Children's Products Company, which Timber ran with his brother, Justin. It was the perfect job, better than his synthetic-fuel research at the Exxon-Tosco Colony Shale Oil Project in Colorado, better than selling passenger train systems after that, even better than the political campaigns he helped run for his mother and, later, his father-in-law, who appointed him campaign manager despite their rocky relationship. Safeline would be focused on ways to improve the unruly lives of busy families, something at which Timber was an expert. In the future, he could see all sorts of gadgets selling alongside the Sit'n'Stroll, like pneumatic-powered high chairs and baby swing sets that slipped away into briefcases.

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Joel Warner is a former staff writer for Westword and International Business Times. He's also written for WIRED, Men's Journal, Men's Health, Bloomberg Businessweek, Popular Science, Slate, Grantland and many other publications. He's co-author of the 2014 book The Humor Code: A Global Search for What Makes Things Funny, published by Simon & Schuster.
Contact: Joel Warner