To my texture-obsessed eye — honed by too many years behind a 35mm camera loaded with black-and-white film — Miss Belvedere is quite possibly the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.

More importantly, like any public art installation worth displaying, she nudged me to think.


I thought about all that had happened in the world since that old Plymouth went into the ground 50 years ago: the JFK assassination, Vietnam, the moon landing, the first Earth Day, Watergate, my own birth, the decommissioning of Route 66, the space shuttle explosions, the first Gulf War, the rise of the Internet, the Sept. 11 attacks, the second Gulf War, and a thousand changes that haven’t crossed my mind.

I thought about lonely old men and women, forgotten by their families and neglected by society, wasting away in dark places unseen by the world.

I thought about prisoners of conscience, trapped in dank cells and subjected to inhumane conditions for years on end.

I thought about the transient nature of beauty as society sees it, and the fact that the most beautiful people I know are all older than Miss Belvedere, whose graceful lines are unbroken by the rust and debris that coat her body.

I thought about the people who came back to the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina to find their homes looking exactly like that car, their interiors rotted by stagnant water and their exteriors corroded by rust, debris, and the strange organisms that grow in soggy, dismal places where most life won’t.

I thought about John’s Modern Cabins and Larry Baggett’s Trail of Tears monument, quietly decaying along the shoulders of the Mother Road in rural Missouri.

I thought.

I thought….


P.S.: Click here to view the slideshow I put together with images I shot today at Tulsarama, and see what comes to your thought when you look at what 50 years in a vault will do to a classy lady … and what time and water can’t touch.

Bean check

Anybody in Tulsa who hasn’t been under a rock for the past week is aware that Friday was the day the city unearthed the 1957 Plymouth Belvedere that was buried under the courthouse lawn 50 years ago.

We found out a couple of days ago that water had infiltrated the concrete vault that contained the car. That should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with the plight of historic gas stations, many of which have been orphaned by the insurmountable costs associated with removing leaking underground gas tanks from the property. Many of the tanks in question are — you guessed it — about 50 years old.

Several people have made comments online, suggesting that the water in the vault was somehow a reflection on the people who buried the car or on Tulsa itself — as if it is the organizers’ fault that 1957 technology wasn’t quite sufficient to protect a car from the ravages of 50 years’ worth of weather, jarring from traffic on the nearby street, and the innate permeability of concrete.

The upshot of the naysayers’ comments is that the organizers of the first Tulsarama! were stupid to bury the car and that the layer of rust covering the Belvedere when it was finally unveiled makes the entire idea an abject failure.

The organizers were stupid, all right: stupid like a fox. All 7,000 seats for the unveiling sold out weeks ago, and I’m told that the line of people waiting to see the car come out of the ground Friday afternoon stretched for blocks. I personally talked to people from as far away as Norway who had come to town for the express purpose of seeing the Belvedere. It seems like everybody I talked to Friday night was from out of town, out of state, or even out of the country. I have no idea how much money is flowing into Tulsa’s economy this weekend, but I suspect the number is going to end up in the millions.

Bury a golden car, dig up a gold mine. If that’s failure, I don’t want to succeed.

Besides all that, I get the impression that the whole buried-car idea was done largely on a lark, and I don’t think anybody who was around back then had any real belief that the car was going to come out of that vault looking like it just rolled off the showroom floor. I’ve always suspected the whole thing was done more along the lines of the infamous Herrin High School 1992-93 Art IV Bean Check.

When I was a senior in high school, four guys in my art class decided — for no apparent reason — to wrap a clump of cold baked beans in a paper napkin and hide them in a seldom-used drawer.

Every few weeks thereafter, when the teacher was out of the room, one of the guys would yell, “BEAN CHECK!” and the four of them would scramble to extract the beans from the drawer, examine their condition, wrap them back up, and put them away before the teacher had time to come back and see what they were up to. If you can imagine a cross between a science-fair project and a Chinese fire drill, that’s basically what it was.

I have a pretty strong hunch that the decision to bury the car and dig it up again 50 years later was motivated by something close to whatever insane whim got hold of my classmates 15 years ago. I really think that what we have here is, in essence, a Bean Check on a grand scale.

For my classmates, the joy in the Bean Check was not some ridiculous belief that the beans would survive in pristine condition. The joy was in doing something utterly silly — and in satisfying their curiosity about what would happen to the beans if they were stored in a wildly inappropriate location for an extended period of time. Same thing goes for the Belvedere: Tulsa got to do something utterly silly, and then 50 years later, it got to satisfy its collective curiosity about what would happen to a car if it were stored in a wildly inappropriate location for an extended period of time.

I think the Belvedere is great. It’s a history lesson that gives you a little insight into the sort of crazy things that captured the public’s imagination in 1957. It gives a bit of insight into the technology of the day — which is exactly what a good time capsule ought to do. It’s a bit of a science lesson — if we didn’t know it before, we are all now well aware that concrete is permeable. It even strikes me as being a sort of public art display, vaguely reminiscent of Prada Marfa.

And on a more practical note: While there are a few shortsighted individuals who think the winner of the car is getting a raw deal, I think the vehicle’s fame makes it a prime candidate for eBay; if the winner is unhappy with his prize, he should be able to get enough for it at auction to buy his own ’57 Belvedere in showroom condition, if that’s what floats his boat.

Personally, though, I would do no such thing. If that car were mine, I wouldn’t sell her, I wouldn’t put her in a museum, and I wouldn’t try to restore her to mint condition. If she were mine, I’d call up the best bunch of gearheads I could find and set them to work replacing her guts, installing hydraulics, and turning her into the sweetest rat rod you ever saw.

And then I would spend the next 50 years kicking butt and taking names at every car show in the United States. 🙂


UPDATE: The Tulsa World has video of the unveiling here. Something I consider even more precious and beautiful than the Belvedere was unveiled this weekend, too — and is in immaculate condition — but I’d rather show you what it is than tell you. Stay tuned; I hope to return with photos in a few hours.

Rainbow connection


“Not being known doesn’t stop the truth from being true.”
— Richard Bach

Something came to me the other day as my little brother and I were discussing a beautiful rainbow we’d seen on a Route 66 trip to Tucumcari a few years ago.

Oliver and I were just coming out of the Big Texan Steak Ranch in Amarillo when the sky turned black and began pelting us with fat raindrops. By the time I pulled out of the parking lot, we were in the middle of a heavy downpour, and a spectacular electrical storm was flashing across the Panhandle sky, each lightning bolt striking the flat land with a kind of terrifying beauty.

I could see a hint of light near the western horizon, and I knew the storm wouldn’t last long. We drove out from under it somewhere near Vega, and a dazzling sunset emerged from behind the clouds.

Somewhere between Vega and Adrian, Oliver gasped: “Oh, my God. Look behind us.”

I looked in the rearview mirror and saw … nothing. I looked in the driver’s side mirror. Nothing. I looked in the passenger’s side mirror. Nothing.

I stopped the car and turned to look out the window behind us. Stretching across that early evening sky was the biggest, most intense rainbow I’d ever seen. It was so vast that my rearview mirrors, with their limited viewpoint, simply couldn’t pick it up. The image was truly stunning, and of course I couldn’t resist taking advantage of the striking backdrop and the gentle golden light to snap what has become my favorite portrait of my little brother.

Oliver and I were telling his wife about that rainbow the other day when Oliver mentioned that it was unusual to see both ends of a rainbow touching the horizon, and especially unusual to see both ends of a double rainbow.

I said I’d read somewhere that every rainbow is a double, and that a rainbow accompanies every rain, but whether you see it depends entirely on where you are standing relative to the light, the water, and whatever trees or buildings might obscure the view.

It came to me that God tends to be the same way: Divine Truth is always there, but whether we see it through our storms depends entirely on our point of view.

Sometimes we’re standing in a quiet, open space with a completely unobstructed view of the light shining through the rain and projecting its many colors onto the clouds for us to see. Other times, we’re on the wrong side of the storm, or there’s too much clutter on the horizon, or our view is just too narrow to pick it up. But whether we see it or not, Truth — God, divine Love — is, like the rainbow, always there through all our storms.

“Truth never destroys God’s idea. Truth is spiritual, eternal substance, which cannot destroy the right reflection. Corporeal sense, or error, may seem to hide Truth, health, harmony, and Science, as the mist obscures the sun or the mountain; but Science, the sunshine of Truth, will melt away the shadow and reveal the celestial peaks.”

— Mary Baker Eddy

66 with the Sheriff

After using the Soundslides program to create a cool slideshow at work, I decided to spring for the $40 to download a copy for my personal computer.

I gave it a test-drive on Route 66 this evening. My first project — featuring a collection of images from my trip to Kansas with Michael Wallis this past weekend, accompanied by a great Chuck Berry song — is online here. I think it looks pretty professional. Can’t take much credit for it, as the software did most of the work for me, but based on the end product and the ease of use, I highly recommend Soundslides to anybody interested in creating something cool-looking for the Web.


Images of 66

Oliver and Ashley joined me for dinner Sunday evening at the Rock Cafe on Route 66 in Stroud. After dinner, we got out our cameras, wandered west a bit, and made the most of the fading light.

Raindrops magnify the color of the leaves and blossoms as a golden sunset illuminates a honeysuckle vine at the east edge of Chandler.

Traveling with Ashley and Oliver is a joy, because they have the right sensibilities: They understand things like why it’s worth ignoring a bank of storm clouds to drive down an unpaved road and lie belly-down on wet grass to get a shot of a graffiti-covered highway marker that slipped into obolescence more than half a century ago, or how a pair of ordinary storage towers become art just at sunset.

Plains coreopsis and a wonky view of the Ozark Trail obelisk between Stroud and Davenport.

A storm looms over Route 66 Ventures — and a good-looking Mercury — in Davenport:

Ominous clouds make Davenport seem just a bit less welcoming.

Sunset on the outskirts of Chandler, above and below.

Clouds gather behind this church steeple as the sun sets over Route 66 in Chandler.

I’m still working up those Kansas 66 photos from Saturday. I’ll post them when I get them done. Hope your weekend was full of beauty and light.


Interesting juxtaposition

Oklahoma, like most states, has its own unique brand of weirdness. One of the weirdest is this cemetery, located smack in the middle of the parking lot at a shopping center over in Sand Springs. I was out puttering around, pursuing the perfect sunset photo on Thursday evening, when I found myself in Sand Springs and decided to pop something artsy through the cemetery fence. Below is a less artistic shot that gives you a better sense of location:

Here’s an interesting low-angle shot of our bottle tree:

Ron has been working hard to get the trim on the house painted. We still have to climb up and paint the chimney and the sides of the house, but the front is looking pretty good, I think:

And, of course, a quick garden update:



Pineapple mint.


Pond. The newly planted irises are from my mom.

Honeysuckle growing along the neighbor’s fence … an invasive plant, but the bees love it.

And, of course, a picture of Pushy and Elektra.

Oliver and Ashley are in town for a couple of days. We went to Chandler this evening and shot some pictures along Route 66, which I’ll try to get Photoshopped and online as soon as I get a hand free. I’m still trying to sort the half-kajillion images I got yesterday; I’ll have photos and stories from that ASAP. In the meantime, here’s a quick shot I got during a chance meeting with Ace Jackalope, who made a surprise appearance yesterday during the festivities on Route 66 in Kansas:

Stay tuned … more photos and stories to come.


It’s the ghost light!

I was headed to bed, but this is so funny that I just had to stop and post it before I forget:

Ron went to lunch at Napoli’s with some of the Tulsa Now folks today and came home with a present for me: A friend of his, who works with Tulsa’s awesome Metropolitan Environmental Trust, had given him a cool flashlight/radio/emergency siren/cell phone charger that works off a dynamo. You wind it up, and it charges the built-in batteries. It works a lot like a Freeplay.

Anyway, I have been talking about using an LED headlamp at night to save power, so it seemed worthwhile to carry this LED flashlight/radio contraption around this evening and see if it was bright enough to get me from computer to refrigerator and back without tripping over any dogs.

It worked just fine and is, I think, a marvelous renewable-energy alternative to keeping umpteen power-sucking lights on all night. (Yes, we use CFLs, but a 13-watt spiral bulb still can’t compare to a zero-energy flashlight.)

As far as I can tell, it has just one down side:

Songdog is terrified of it.

I have no idea what he thinks it is going to do to him, but he runs away from it every time I turn it on.

At first, I thought maybe the light was hurting his eyes, but even when I stand behind him and shine the light out ahead of us, so it just illuminates our path, he runs and hides in another room. The first time I turned the flashlight on, he ran and hid in his crate and refused to come out until I sat on the floor and invited him onto my lap, which is his favorite place in the whole world. He came out of his crate and immediately buried his face in my chest, trying to hide from the bad, scary flashlight. If I so much as touched it, he would look away and hang his head.

I shouldn’t laugh at him — the poor dog is obviously terribly frightened of this light — but honestly, his reaction was one of the funniest things I have ever seen. Very few things scare Song, but that flashlight has him totally cowed.


I haven’t had time to post much in the past few days, as I’ve been snowed under (I had a meeting Tuesday evening, church Wednesday evening, dinner with a friend Thursday evening, hung out with another friend in Stroud on Friday evening, and am headed to a Route 66 event in Kansas with yet another friend in a few hours), but I did spend some time taking photographs after dinner Thursday and am working on a special project that will probably take a couple of weeks to complete.

In looking back at my week, I’m starting to realize just how richly blessed I am to have so many dear friends, with such diverse ideas and ways of thinking about things. I have some thoughts on that bouncing around my head, but it’s getting late, I’ve got an early morning ahead of me, and I’m just too tired to put my thoughts together in any sort of coherent fashion right now. Stay tuned … I’ll try to say something profound before the weekend is out. 😉

In the meantime, I will just report that today was a beautiful day, the chickens are healthy and happy (but still have not yet started laying eggs), the bees are loving the weather (not to mention the proliferation of honeysuckle, blackberry, and assorted other blossoms all over my yard), the zinnias and daisies and echinacea I planted the other day are thriving, the tomato and cucumber vines are covered with blossoms, and the irises I finally planted next to the pond the other day seem to be doing well. Film at 11….


Fabulous prize

You had to know this was coming:


This is the fabulous prize for the trivia contest.

Actually, this is the prototype for the fabulous prize. I am making a sturdier, more neatly constructed sock monkey to be the fabulous prize.

I would have announced the prize when I announced the contest, but I wanted to wait until my socks came in and I’d confirmed that I could, in fact, make a monkey out of them and would not have to resort to Plan B (which involved a duct-tape wallet — a cool prize, to be sure, but much stickier and messier to make).

I think the socks arrived yesterday afternoon, but the mailman set them on a chair next to the porch, and I didn’t notice them until late last night. I am now busy making a monkey for the contest winner (or, more likely, for his toddler, who — if he is like most toddlers — will probably grab it and take off with it as soon as it comes in the house), along with a CD containing both the songs from the trivia contest and several other songs by those artists.

Sock monkeys are fun to make. I think they are also very cute. I intend to make a lot of them in the future. I will probably give away more of them on this blog, so watch this space if you would like to have one of your own. I might eventually make a duct-tape wallet and use it as a prize, too. Stay tuned.

Oh, and for those of you who missed it: Here are the answers to the trivia contest.

The question was: Two songs begin with the line “It was the third of June….” Finish the line for both songs, and name the songs and the artists who wrote and performed them.

The answer:

1. “It was the third of June, another sleepy, dusty Delta day.” From “Ode to Billie Joe,” by Bobbie Gentry, recorded in 1967.

2. “It was the third of June on that summer’s day when I became a man at the hands of a girl almost twice my age.” From “Desiree,” by Neil Diamond, recorded in 1977.

“Desiree” is not my favorite Neil Diamond song, but it’s one of my favorite songs to hear him sing in concert. It’s from the album I’m Glad You’re Here With Me Tonight, and I’d heard it — and largely ignored it — at least a dozen times before I attended my first Neil Diamond concert, where I stood in the front row and watched him do a killer live version that pretty much knocked my socks off.

The greatness of “Ode to Billie Joe” is pretty much a given. If you haven’t heard it, go straight to iTunes and download it, because it’s maybe the greatest ballad ever. The backing music — guitar and some creepy-sounding strings — is very eerie, and Bobbie Gentry’s voice is just sublime. Plus it’s loads of fun to sing at karaoke shindigs, because most people my age have never heard it, plus it’s weird and sad and written across a part of my range that sounds better after I’ve spent a few hours talking to friends in a smoke-filled room. 🙂

Science fair revisited

Part of the reason I became a hippie has to do with my junior-high science fair projects. My best friend, Amy, and I did a project about desertification — the process by which deserts are formed — in seventh grade. I think my mom came up with the topic while she was watching some TV special about starving children in Africa or something. It was a pretty interesting project that lent itself well to little dioramas and elaborate posters, which was good for us, because we were way more interested in art than in science.

We won a first superior with our desert project. Of course, to our way of thinking, this meant that anything short of a first superior the next year would constitute abject failure. Amy wisely decided that since we’d demonstrated ourselves to be capable of wrapping our heads around climatology, we should stick with this proven formula for success and do a similar topic the next year.

She found a Newsweek cover story about the greenhouse effect — better known today as global warming — and suggested we focus our efforts in that direction.

We brought home another pair of superior plaques and first-place ribbons for our efforts, but more importantly, we came out of the eighth grade with a social conscience driven by our forays into environmental science. We understood how man impacted his environment, and how that environment impacted man. The lessons must have sunk in, because we’ve both been jumping on and off the veggie wagon, shopping organic, and buying each other socially conscious Christmas presents (Heifer International, anyone?) for the better end of 20 years.

I thought of our science fair days the other day when I stumbled across a link to a downloadable book called Sunshine to Dollars. I downloaded a free sample — instructions for making a solar air heater out of a sheet of black plastic and a curtain rod — and went ahead and bought the whole book this evening for $9.95.

It’s a fun read (I’m about a third of the way through) that reminds me a lot of Mother’s Book of Homemade Power, which is one of my favorite books.

I get the feeling that the author’s house is one giant science-fair project. I highly recommend it if you are interested in either science, the environment, or both.

You can buy it here.