Roller coaster

What a roller coaster of a day.

I started the morning with a really fun interview for a story I am working on at the office. I got some decent photos and had a lot of fun talking to my sources and playing reporter again. (After they promoted me to assistant editor for my office last summer, my reporting duties ended, but one of the other zones is a bit short-handed at the moment, so I’m throwing together an extra story to help the editor over there.)

Somebody from Sapulpa called and wanted a couple of copies of a back issue of our section. I was in the mood for a stuffed tomato from Al’s Route 66 Cafe anyway, and I hadn’t poked my head in on that part of our coverage area lately, so I just took the papers over there on my lunch hour.

On the way back, I was coming down old 66 when I saw a bluebird alight on a fencepost. It was stunning — intense blue feathers on its back and wings, with bright coral feathers on its underside. Just breathtaking.

After lunch, I went to do another interview, which started off a little slow but ended up being a lot of fun once the source settled in and got comfortable with me.

Everything was great until this source divulged to me that one of my all-time favorite Route 66 businesses, the Country Store on 11th Street, was about to close.

I was just heartbroken. Once I finished my interview, I headed over there to see what was going on. I posted something about it on Ron’s blog; the upshot is that the store could close at any moment, and if you want to have the slightest chance of saving it, you’d better get in there NOW and buy as much stuff as you can afford. Take cash or your checkbook, because they’ve disconnected the phone line, so they can’t take credit cards any more.

I blew $188 in the span of about 15 minutes. I’ve spent more money in a shorter amount of time, but only once, and that incident involved a cantankerous but utterly adorable Arabian gelding.

If there is good news in of all this, it’s that I now have just about all the seeds I need for this year’s garden, enough flower bulbs to turn my back yard into a wild profusion of color (eight different kinds of tulips, two kinds of daffodils, four kinds of crocus, grape hyacinth, and allium), and I picked up a beautiful birdfeeder to put at the center of my labyrinth. I also bought out the rest of Bill’s black striped sunflower seeds, which I will feed to the cardinals (I have seen several pairs in my yard in the past couple of weeks), and I got a bar of lye soap and a pretty metal hook for hanging baskets of plants.

If the Country Store closes, I’ll have to figure out where to buy all the odds and ends that I’m going to need for my garden. I can probably find a lot of it at the Farmer’s Feed Store in Sapulpa, and the Tomato Man and Li’l Sprouts should have the rest. But it just won’t feel like spring in Tulsa without a trip to see Bill and Kathey.

One more reason to shop indie while you can.


New project

As alluded to the other day, I am starting yet another project.

I’ve been an avid supporter of mom-and-pop businesses since I got involved with Route 66 a few years ago and started to see the impact of the big-box mentality on American culture — and on people’s livelihoods.

Two films I’ve watched recently — Shut Up and Sing and Independent America — have reinforced for me the importance of keeping the little guys alive and breaking the throttlehold that corporations seem to have on this country.

Almost a year ago, I spent a month trying to shop exclusively at mom-and-pop stores. In Tulsa, we’re blessed with a great many such stores of every imaginable type, so it’s possible to find just about anything you need without ever setting foot in a big box. While there were a few inconveniences involved in the all-indie-all-the-time approach, I found I could get by quite comfortably without the big guys. In a lot of towns, such an endeavor would be impossible, because the chains have killed all the mom-and-pops.

I’ve wandered back into the chains since last year’s experiment, but I do find that I’m more aware of the little stores and more inclined to shop there after spending a month familiarizing myself with their products and their hours.

My new goal is to expand that awareness — for myself and others.

To that end, I am starting a separate blog, called Indie Tulsa, for the express purpose of reviewing independent businesses in Tulsa. My initial goal is to review one business per week. Depending on how successful this project turns out to be and how much time I have to work on it, I may authorize additional users to post their own reviews, and I may do more than one review per week.

The first review will go online sometime in the next few hours, so stay tuned. The site may not look pretty right off the bat (I need to shoot some photos and put together a header, blogroll, about page, etc., etc., etc.), but I expect it to grow and improve quickly over the next few weeks.


Free the sprinkles!

I wanted to get silver dragees — referred to in munchkin parlance as “BBs” — to put on our cookies, but I couldn’t find any. This article explains why.

As any 6-year-old can tell you, sprinkles are a whole food group unto themselves … and silver dragees are, like, the Kobe beef of sprinkles. The best classroom birthday party EVER was the one we had in first grade, when Mike Gourley turned 7 and his mom made us a batch of cupcakes that were completely covered in silver dragees. The boys all filled their mouths with them and then used them to impersonate Kalashnikovs, but I ate all of mine, holding them in my mouth and savoring the moment when the metallic coating gave way to the pure, unadulterated sugar in the center.

A whole generation of kids in California is missing out on that simple joy, just because one overzealous lawyer decided to spoil everybody’s fun.

I bet he isn’t worried about children’s safety at all. I bet he’s just bitter because the bully who sat behind him in third grade tortured him by spitting dragees down his neck at every class party, and he didn’t have the nerve to turn around and nail the kid with a faceful of saliva-coated silver-and-sugar birdshot. He probably ended up being the class nerd, and he’s never gotten over it, so he’s decided to exact vengeance on the guys who kicked sand in his face by ruining everybody else’s fun.

Nice work, Poindexter. Next year, why don’t you see if you can convince the court to ban the Easter bunny? I hear he hasn’t had his tularemia shots. And he’s hiding those eggs at temperatures well above accepted standards for food safety. Better get on the ball and make sure you protect those hapless children.

I feel as though I should organize some sort of underground free-the-sprinkles movement to smuggle as many silver dragees as possible into California. I find myself daydreaming an army of dragee mules out there, all slipping across the border, all armed with official Red Ryder carbine-action, 200-shot, range-model air rifles with compasses in the stock and these things which tell time, filled with sugary ammo — bold guerrilla room mothers and 6-year-old dragee freedom fighters, all wearing hand-stenciled FREE THE SPRINKLES T-shirts, and all staring coolly at the bored bureaucrats manning the agricultural checkpoints: “No, ma’am. No fruit in this car,” never letting on that in a secret compartment under the backseat are stashed thousands upon thousands of the dreaded cupcake sprinkles. No fruit here — only fodder for frivolous lawsuits by spoilsport lawyers who got picked on one too many times in the third grade.

Take THAT, Black Bart!

And people can’t figure out why I live in Oklahoma instead of California. Criminy.


Wild Things in Red Fork


My office … where the Wild Things wielded paintbrushes this morning.



We got most of the large, munchkin-level areas of color filled in today. I am in the process of painting the high parts by myself. I’ll give everything a second coat later, and then I can break out the paintmarkers and start adding detail. Photos forthcoming when I finish.


In case you’re wondering what Wild Things eat, the answer is: chocolate-chip cookies with frosting and lots of sprinkles. We stirred up the cookie dough, but it didn’t want to stick together very well, so I finally dumped it out on the table and let them knead it like playdough until it was a workable consistency. Cookies are more fun if you stir them with your fingers. Especially if you’re Jaiden, who found it convenient to use her tongue to clean the dough off her hands afterward.


Ron helped the kids drop spoonfuls of dough onto baking trays while I took some photos for posterity. Ron always claims he’s no good with kids, but I think Jaiden and Corbin would argue otherwise.



And a few of the finished cookies. The rest were packed into old Cool Whip tubs and sent home with Terriann. She can afford the extra sprinkles better than I can, ‘cos she’s supposed to be carbo-loading for her next marathon. 😉


This is the happiest moment of Songdog’s life. He’s got the couch to lie on and a kid to pet him. What more could a collie mutt want?


Look at those smiles. I think Song would follow Corbin to the ends of the earth. Jaiden has her foot on Song’s hindquarters because she is trying to make him stop wagging his tail, which kept hitting her in the face. I think Jaiden learned the meaning of the phrase “exercise in futility” today. That dog’s tail didn’t stop wagging the entire time the kids were here. He was just a walking, wagging, beaming expression of joy.

Scout thought the kids were OK, but she was more interested in eating the leftover crusts off their PBJs and the sprinkles and cookie crumbs they dropped under the table. Anybody who dispenses food is fine with Scout.

Meanwhile, Jason got so excited at one point that he just spazzed out and did this weird little dance, with his front feet pawing the ground and his back feet hopping up and down, propelling him around in a circle while his tail whipped around like a helicopter. I’m not sure what that was about. I’ve never seen him do it before. He loves kids, so we’re assuming his mysterious performance was some kind of secret greyhound happy dance.

Hope you had a crazy-happy-dance-with-frosting-and-sprinkles-on-top kind of day, too. 🙂


Almost playtime!


This is the outline for the mural my little friends Jaiden and Corbin are going to help me paint tomorrow morning. It’s based on the cover of the book Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. I outlined each area in the color it’s supposed to be so the kids can figure out where to paint. I used that method on the murals we did with the local kids in Depew a couple of summers ago, and it worked very well.

Jaiden and Corbin and I are having a whole “Wild Things” party tomorrow. We are going to fill in the mural, make wild cookies (chocolate chip, with two kinds of frosting, mini-M&Ms, mini-chocolate chips, and six different kinds of sprinkles to put on top), play with wild-colored playdough, and create our own wild things out of animal-print pompoms and googly eyes. We will probably play fetch with Scout and Song and Jason (who are wild things in their own right), and I anticipate a lot of dancing around and acting silly and making messes.

I think Ron is going to be in charge of rustling up some wild Happy Meals for us for lunch.

If everything goes according to plan, I should have hilarious pictures to post by this time tomorrow.


Why indie is important

I finally got around to watching Independent America this evening. It’s the third documentary I’ve watched in the past week, and it’s the third time I’ve been motivated to DO something.

In the film, married couple Hanson Hosein and Heather Hughes — both successful broadcast journalists — set out on a 13,000-mile, 55-day road trip to find out what’s behind the recent backlash against big-box stores. Taking only secondary roads and spending money only at mom-and-pop businesses, they travel cross-country, interviewing everybody from a professional Wal-Mart shill to a couple of kids who organized a campaign to try to keep Hollywood Video from putting their local mom-and-pop video store out of business.

While Wal-Mart’s P.R. flack makes a valiant attempt to spin the story in her company’s favor, her efforts ring hollow in the face of outrages such as the company’s expensive push for a referendum on a Flagstaff ordinance that would have been detrimental to Wal-Mart’s growth in that city (the campaign — which ultimately succeeded — included a tasteless ad comparing city leaders to Nazis and claiming the proposed ordinance was anti-American) and Wal-Mart’s chilling effect on city leaders in Yelm, Wash., who banned the words “Wal-Mart” and “big box” from regular meetings, effectively silencing protesters who spoke out against a proposed Wal-Mart. City leaders cited fear of litigation as the motivating factor behind their decision to revoke citizens’ First Amendment rights during public meetings. (Apparently Wal-Mart only supports your freedom when it’s good for business.)

Wal-Mart isn’t the only villain in the film, but it comes across as one of the more egregious symptoms of a parasitic corporate mentality that seems to be infecting communities and killing its hosts all over the country.

Ultimately, though, Hosein and Hughes remind us that if we don’t like what big chains are doing to our communities, there’s a simple solution: Don’t fund them. Think about what you’re buying, where you’re buying it, and who’s going to benefit from your purchase. Take some responsibility for your purchases, and figure out what you’re underwriting when you shop.

It’s a simple solution, but it’s one a lot of people won’t take, because it’s easier to sit around wringing their hands and grumbling about how somebody should do something.

I value my freedom far too much to place control of what I see, hear, eat, drink, and enjoy in the hands of a few monopolistic corporations.

To that end, I am working up a new project, which I will unveil in the next couple of days. Stay tuned….


Shut up and love.

The readings from the desk at church tonight included this passage from I Kings about the prophet Elijah’s experience on the mountain:

11 And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord. And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake:
12 And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.

Different people read that different ways, but the way I understood it was like this: People are big on referring to storms, earthquakes, fires, and other disasters as “acts of God.” But — as Elijah found out — that’s not how God expresses Himself. Rather, God is the still, small voice of Love, whispering instructions to His children to keep them safe and guide them through difficult situations.

Sometimes we look at a bad situation and think we’re overpowered. The problem is too big for us to fix. We’re too little to deal with it. But God isn’t in the problem. God — divine Love — is in the still, small voice. And it’s that voice that will guide us out of trouble, if we’ll just listen to it. It’s when we listen to human sense or rely on conventional wisdom (which is usually anything but) that we get into trouble. We jump to conclusions and react out of fear instead of getting quiet and listening for Love’s guidance.

We don’t have to wait for a major disaster to hear Love directing our steps, either.

I remember one morning when I was getting ready to go to lunch, and the thought came to me to call a friend and invite her to join me.

That idea seemed very silly. I knew my friend was terribly busy and didn’t have time to grab a burger at the drive-through, let alone sit down to a nice lunch with a friend and linger over dessert. But I couldn’t shake the feeling that I should call her, so I dialed her number and asked if she had time for a quick lunch at a restaurant near her office.

Even as I dialed, I was thinking, This is stupid. She doesn’t have time for this. I shouldn’t be interrupting her in the middle of the day for this. But I have learned not to ignore those thoughts that get hold of me and won’t let go. Mary Baker Eddy refers to those little bits of divine direction that nudge us through our day as “angels … pure thoughts from God, winged with Truth and Love.”

I probably shouldn’t have been surprised when my friend accepted my invitation without hesitation and said she really needed a break.

When we got to the restaurant, we settled into a booth with our food, and my friend started telling me about the rough day she was having. She was under a lot of pressure, and some of her colleagues had treated her unkindly. She was in tears just telling me about it.

I had never seen her cry, and I desperately wanted to say something that would make her feel better. God, I prayed silently, Give me the words. Tell me what to say.

And the answer came to thought immediately: Just love her. Don’t say anything. Just shut up and love her.

So that’s what I did. I just shut up and thought about how much I love her and why I feel blessed by her friendship.

By the time we finished dessert, she was laughing, and she thanked me for calling her just when she needed me. Her whole day turned around after that.

Why? Because there was no power in the stormy relationship with her colleagues, the quarrel that left her shaking with disappointment and frustration, or the heated words someone had flung her way. Love wasn’t in any of that.

Love was in the angel-message that told me to call her. Love was in the still, small voice that spoke for me in the silence as I held her hand and let her cry over a couple of brownies. And Love was in the quiet strength that carried her through the rest of that afternoon.

Bad situations are not insurmountable. Love, on the other hand, is.

Sometimes the best solution to a bad situation is just to shut up and love.




The ice is almost gone. One glance at my kitchen floor should tell you what was under the ice. I’ve got to find a variety of grass thick enough and hardy enough to withstand Oklahoma drought, shade from the tree in the next-door neighbor’s yard, and the constant trampling of twelve fast-moving little paws. Maybe I can rustle up some of that shade-tolerant zoysia somebody told me about last year. Or maybe I’ll just surrender the fantasy. I’ve always said that the day you adopt a dog is the day you relinquish your right to a clean house. I just tell people that my living-room carpet is covered with little white hair because it’s an interesting new type of shag.

I wonder if they make linoleum in a muddy pawprint pattern?

I forgot to mention this at the time, but before the ice melted Saturday, I threw some sunflower seed out for the birds. We got quite a flock — lots of sparrows, a female cardinal, a mockingbird, and two or three gorgeous little black-eyed juncos. I didn’t get a picture of them because they were too skittish, but they were cute.


I finally got a hand free to hang up the lights I bought on sale at Target at the end of summer. They’re regular Christmas lights with little metal dragonflies attached to them. I hung them from the shelf above my desk. I like the soft, warm light they produce. I need to clear some of the junk off the shelf so it will look better.

That’s all. I should be sketching a mural on my wall, redesigning a Web site, and catching up on some studying I need to do, but what I am probably going to do in a minute is take a nap. This will prove to be a mistake, as I will go into the bedroom with the intention of sleeping for an hour or two, and then I will wake up at 8 a.m. when my cell phone alarm starts going off. But right now, I just want to sleep, and I just can’t seem to muster the energy to do anything constructive.


Do you hear the people sing?

We went to the Circle Cinema tonight to watch an indie documentary called Shut Up and Sing, about the way a handful of thoughtless reactionaries manipulated country radio (which was all too willing to be manipulated) in an attempt to torpedo the Dixie Chicks’ career after Natalie Maines made a comment that 72 percent of the American population apparently agrees with today.

The Circle is great. It’s an old movie theater that’s undergoing restoration. It has a gorgeous neon marquee out front and an artsy, countercultural vibe that reminds me of U. City’s wonderful Tivoli. It’s a great centerpiece for the Kendall-Whittier neighborhood, which is undergoing a revitalization effort kind of like the one they’re hoping to pull off here in Red Fork.

Regardless of your opinion of the war in Iraq, the current occupant of the White House, or the Dixie Chicks themselves, the film we watched tonight is alarming for one very important reason:

It demonstrates the enormous power of corporate America to control our access to information.

A handful of executives control the music that is played on the radio. In the film, the station owners claim their decision not to air the Chicks’ music was simply financial — they were supposedly being inundated with phone calls from angry listeners threatening to boycott the station if they played the band’s songs — but if you’ll recall, at the time, many of those stations’ DJs went to great lengths to trash the Chicks on-air, and some even went so far as to organize parties at which fans were encouraged to bring their Dixie Chicks CDs to be destroyed, either by burning or (in one notorious example) being backed over with a tractor.

Think about that a minute: Radio stations organized CD-crushing parties. That’s like a library hosting a book burning. The stations claimed they were simply responding to public demand. Nice try, but I don’t buy it. Quietly taking the Chicks off the playlist would have been a response to public demand. Holding a party at which guests were invited to participate in the most offensive form of censorship known to humanity is not responding to public demand. It is pandering to the lowest common denominator in a tasteless attempt to milk free publicity out of another’s misfortune. And I won’t even bother to comment on the subtext involved in taking a tool of the hardworking, resourceful American farmer and using it as the centerpiece of a tasteless display of ignorance and hate, except to note that the phrase “beating plowshares into swords” comes to mind.

In an odd coincidence, I came home from work this evening to find Ron watching a DVD called Independent America. It’s a documentary about a couple who spent 55 days on the road, visiting mom-and-pop businesses and researching the impact of corporations on the American culture and economy. I watched a few minutes of the film with Ron. What I saw was sobering and left me grateful for my experiment of a year ago — in which I spent an entire month shunning big-box stores (and didn’t miss them much) — and eager to turn it from an experiment to a permanent lifestyle choice.

I intend to watch the entire film in the next couple of days and will probably have a full review when I finish.

In the meantime, I’m sitting here listening to KDHX online and enjoying fond memories of afternoons spent in my neon instructor’s shop, listening to Fred Friction’s show above the purr of the blower and the occasional shrieks of the bombarder.

I think maybe I’ll send them a donation in honor of Ron’s birthday in a couple of months.


Ask the Hippie, Vol. 2, Issue 2

From a search term used to find this blog today:

Q. Where are the best places to take st louis snow photos?

A. Tower Grove Park. It looks like something out of a postcard. Especially the Shakespeare statue. I took some stunning snow photos out there about eight or nine years ago.

Also, I would suggest a quartet of snow-covered concrete animals:
1. The Turtle Playground (on Oakland, just off I-64, across from a little Irish pub in Dogtown; I want to say you take the Kingshighway exit south and then hang a right on Oakland)
2. The Bevo Fox (at the A-B brewery; I think it’s on Arsenal, but if not, Arsenal will get you to the brewery, and you can wander around from there — or just go take the tour, which will also get you close to the Clydesdales and several other photogenic parts of the complex)
3. The bears in front of Kiel Opera House (just down Market Street from Union Station, as I recall … and while you’re at it, the Mermaid Fountain in front of Union Station would make a cool snow photo)
4. The sea serpent at the City Museum (the museum is on Washington Avenue; I forget the cross-street you turn on to get to the parking lot surrounded by the serpent fence, but there are usually banners all over Washington Avenue to let you know when you’re getting warm)

A trip up the Arch would give you a nice vantage point for an aerial view of the city during a snowfall (or any other time), and City Hall (on Tucker, I think) would be gorgeous in the snow, as would those water intake towers that are visible from the middle of the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge in North St. Louis County.