Phases Two and Three

A $4 vase from the VW dealership, a $3 silk flower, and less than $2 worth of hardware brightened up a cold winter day.

But wait … there’s more:

I didn’t take any pictures of the back, because I didn’t do anything to the back. I didn’t want to interfere with my rapidly expanding bumper sticker collection.

It’s not perfect, and there’s a lot more work to be done, but I think it looks pretty good, considering I’m just an amateur with a few cans of spraypaint. Dunno how it will wear, but it was easy enough to apply, so if it starts to wear off, I can always touch it up later. The important thing is that I am now officially the owner of an art car. I still have to do more with the interior, but some of that will have to wait until I catch Tie-Dyes of Tulsa open….

Trippy, non?


Phase One

I couldn’t talk Ron into buying me the 1963 Karmann Ghia I found on The Samba the other day, but as an alternative, he has agreed to let me do something even better:

I am turning the Fit into an art car.

I have wanted an art car for years, but I have been hampered by the unwritten rule that requires a car to be at least 10 years old before you start decorating it with anything more permanent than bumper stickers and seatcovers.

This week, I am breaking that rule. As of today, the Fit has begun its (hopefully rapid) transition from ordinary, practical, utilitarian commuter vehicle to psychedelic fantasymobile.

Phase One was pretty modest: patchwork curtains made from colorful fabric featuring peace signs, flowers, flames, VW Beetles, and — of course — honeybees. Simple, yes, but I think they’re cute, and they make the car feel less like an ordinary vehicle and more like a vintage VW. Nobody’s likely to mistake me for the ghost of Bob Waldmire (who is, truth be told, the main inspiration behind this project), but still … I’ve always wanted curtains in my car, and now I have them.

Next up: a set of peace-sign-print sun visor covers with built-in pockets for stashing maps and whatnot; a gearshift-knob cozy; and some new seatcovers. I tried to find monster fur to cover the dashboard today, but nobody had any. If I can find some chenille fabric in the right colors, I’m going to make the front seats look like the yip-yip Martians from Sesame Street. I’ll probably velcro a Rolodex to the dashboard and take out after all the flat surfaces with a paintmarker, too.

Once the interior is finished, I’ll get to work on the exterior, which will be getting a paint job worthy of Janis Joplin’s Porsche, John Lennon’s Rolls, or Kelly Killion’s Vanagon.

Stay tuned. I am beyond excited about this….


White Christmas

Sorry I was incommunicado this week; I’ve been traveling, and Facebook updates were about all I could manage. I went to Illinois on the 21st to see my new nephew, Oliver, and the rest of my family, and we just got back this evening. I think we avoided the worst of the snow, but our street is still pretty slick, and I wound up shoveling snow off our sidewalk and driveway tonight so Ron could back his car out easily in the morning.

I’ll post pictures of the rugrats as soon as I get a hand free. I’m still trying to unpack and unwind right now, and I’m starting a pretty exciting project tomorrow, which I hope to unveil in the near future. Watch this space….



I’ve been playing with the idea of making a Bob Waldmire-style postcard of Bob Waldmire for a couple of days, but I didn’t have time to fool with it until this morning.

Pen and ink isn’t really my medium, but somehow it just didn’t seem right to render Bob in pencil, so I muddled through as best I could. I’ll probably dink with this a little bit more, but I’m letting it rest for the moment, because the big challenge with pen and ink is knowing when to quit: One stroke too few, and something’s missing; one stroke too many, and you’ve ruined the whole project.

This probably would have been easier if Walter hadn’t been trying to help the whole time, but somehow I managed to get it done without any spilled ink or kitty footprints all over my office.

Michael suggested I post the finished product online. Once I’m happy with it (or simply resigned to the fact that my perfectionist self is never going to be completely happy with anything I’ve drawn), I’ll probably design a back for it and have a few copies printed up to mail out to deserving roadies.

Next up today: Christmas cards. Still haven’t done those. *Sigh*


There came a man of fortune …

Several weeks ago, I built a lesson plan around Carole King’s “Tapestry” in which my sophomores listened to the song and then went through the lyrics, searching for examples of metaphor and alliteration as part of their study of figurative language and sound devices.

The night before I was to teach the lesson — which I’d planned a week or two in advance — we got word that an old friend had been diagnosed with a serious illness and was not expected to survive more than a few weeks.

The verse about the “man of fortune, a drifter passing by” who “wore a torn and tattered cloth around his leathered hide” took my breath away as I listened to it during second hour and thought of my friend Bob, whose Volkswagen Microbus allowed him to live the life of a drifter up and down the Mother Road for 30-odd years, and whose own hide was “leathered” by years spent exploring the desert Southwest and documenting its magic through intricate pen-and-ink drawings.

Bob Waldmire — artist, hippie, ethical vegetarian, VW owner, animal lover, diehard Route 66 supporter, and inspiration for the character Fillmore in the movie Cars — slipped away from us yesterday morning.

I used to tease Ron, telling him that if he ever got tired of me, I would simply run off with Bob.

Truth be told, I think I was only half-joking; I’ve never really trusted people who could meet Bob and say, afterward, that they didn’t love him and didn’t envy him his freewheeling, gypsy-footed lifestyle at least a little bit. Kids adored him; animals worshipped him. Scout would have followed him off a cliff. I imagine she was among the first of the roadies to greet him yesterday morning, and I sincerely hope that she did not pee all over his sandals in her excitement at seeing him again.

I will miss running into Bob at Route 66 festivals and swapping stories with him at the Rock Cafe. But I know I’ll find him in the wind that blows across the top of Tucumcari Mountain; in the songs of coyotes on the old road between Glenrio and San Jon; and in every beep of every Volkswagen that passes me somewhere on the Mother Road.

Travel well, Bob … and thank you for being a colorful, joyful part of my tapestry for the better end of 10 years.


Picture of happiness

This picture is awesome because it represents the fusion of three things I spent many years trying to acquire:

1. I had the opportunity to buy a plushie like this in college as part of a gift package that included a stuffed Wild Thing (my favorite Wild Thing, in point of fact) and a copy of the book Where the Wild Things Are, but it was rather expensive, and I didn’t have the money at the time. I hadn’t seen one since, so I was pretty excited when I walked into a bookstore tonight and found this guy rolling his terrible eyes and gnashing his terrible teeth from an endcap near the door.

2. The little volumes of Beat poetry next to me came from City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco, which I dreamed of visiting from the time I was 16 until we finally made a trip out there this past summer.

3. Longtime RFSM readers will remember how excited I was to get my ball chair (a.k.a. the Fortress of Solitude) last year after spending the better end of 10 years lobbying Ron to buy one.

I think I have pretty much everything I want now. 🙂


Ready for her closeup

Have I mentioned how much I love the extension tube Ron bought me for the Rebel? I wasn’t even looking at the leaf — I was more interested in getting a tight shot of the bee’s little face — but the texture and the details are amazing. I never noticed the complexity of leaves before.

I wanted to pet the bee’s little fur collar, but I figured that probably wasn’t in anybody’s best interest.



Apologies for my recent silence; I’ve been busy blogging over at my sister’s awesome site, the Red Kitchen Project, because she was busy having a baby. Jamie is now the proud big brother of Oliver Jacob Ritter, who arrived this morning at 8:09, weighing in an ounce shy of nine pounds.

I will be paying him a visit during Christmas break; stay tuned for photos.

If I am quieter than usual for a while, it’s probably because I’m in the kitchen, cooking up blog entries for the Red Kitchen. Grace’s readers are accustomed to five posts a week, and she was concerned they might get bored and wander off if she disappeared for a while, so I’m trying to keep them entertained while she recuperates.


Orion redux

In late December of 2005, I made passing reference to a song called “Orion,” which I’d sung during music class in sixth grade. As soon as I mentioned the lyrics, traffic to my fledgling blog picked up, with most of the new readers surfing in via Google searches for the phrase “Orion is a-rising” — the first line of the song.

Like me, these readers remembered the song from childhood. Some just remembered a line or two and wanted to flesh out the rest of the lyrics; others were looking for sheet music or a recording of the song so they could teach it to their own kids.

At the time, no one was sure who wrote “Orion,” when it was recorded, or how one would go about finding either sheet music or a recording. But people kept coming and posting comments about the song and the memories they associated with it. One conversation led to another.

A guy involved in the second conversation mentioned it to his mom … who contacted his music teacher … who gave her the name of the music textbook publishing company … which provided the guy’s mom with the name of the composer … which the guy posted … which led to the composer himself stumbling across this blog while Googling his own name a couple of years ago.

Upon discovering that people remembered his song and were still interested in hearing it, the composer made a new recording of the song, which he sent to me, and which I posted here.

One thing led to another, and this fall, the composer, Jim Zimmerman, recorded an entire CD of his music as a fundraiser for the Nature Conservancy. I got my copy in late October and meant to post something about it at the time, but between trig class and school activities, I couldn’t seem to work a hand free.

The CD, Plugged, is a collection of 10 original songs, including (of course!) “Orion.” It sounds sort of like what you’d get if James Taylor were hired as the producer on a Grateful Dead album. In addition to being a nice treat for Deadheads and James Taylor fans, Plugged is an easy way to put a little piece of your childhood on your iPod.

To order a copy, either send a check or money order for $15 to Jim Zimmerman, 45 Knollwood Rd., Elmsford, NY, 10523, or order online by e-mailing You can submit payment through Paypal; the ID is “doczee.” All proceeds from the sale of the album benefit the Nature Conservancy and will be doubled through a corporate match.