PLEASE NOTE: These photographs were taken on private property. While efforts are under way to restore and reopen the property to the general public, the site is currently rather fragile, and it’s littered with various hazards that make exploration unwise. Should you decide to visit, please — for your own safety, and for the protection of a historic landmark — respect the rules, obey the posted signs, and refrain from trespassing on areas that are not yet open to the public. Trust me: There’s a reason some of this stuff is fenced off.

Picture yourself in a familiar location. It’s a location you’ve been visiting on a regular basis for at least a decade. You know its history well. You’ve taken out-of-town friends to see it at every imaginable time of day or night, under all sorts of weather conditions, and at all different times of year. You’ve photographed it in the snow, wandered its grounds in the summer, and helped clean it up after an ice storm.

You think you know it well.

And then, one afternoon, you open your e-mail to find a photograph showing a part of the property you’ve never seen. You can’t believe what you’re seeing, so the next day, you go out, camera in hand, to see it for yourself. As you come around a corner, you look up, and you are met with this sight:

That’s right. Mushrooms. Over a dozen of them, ranging in height from three to five feet, arranged in a sort of fairy ring around a dried-up pond obscured by 10-foot-tall rushes, thorny brambles, and little scrub trees.

It’s not that it really surprises me to find out that there are giant concrete-and-fiberglass mushrooms behind the Ark at the Blue Whale. It’s just that they’re so … well, so perfect.

As Ron correctly points out, mushrooms are often found amid decay — and there’s plenty of decay on the grounds surrounding the Blue Whale.

The rickety, half-collapsed dock.

The weather-ravaged Ark.

The bottomless boat with the strange Cthulhu figurehead.

Given the decay, the dampness, and the vaguely hallucinogenic vibe surrounding the entire property, the mushrooms just seem perfectly matched to their setting.

I was half-disapponted to find the old snakepit empty. Somehow I was expecting to find it occupied by an outsized caterpillar … and if a striped cat had spoken to me from the branches of a nearby tree, I wouldn’t have been at all surprised.

Ron will have more about the mushrooms — and the efforts to restore the Ark and surrounding area — on his blog later today. I’ll try to find out where you can send donations, too. The Blue Whale is rapidly becoming my favorite Tulsa-area cause.


A little story

Yesterday, I found out that there is a giant slide rule mounted to the wall in an unused classroom at school. This thing is a foot and a half high and probably five or six feet long. Enormous. Kind of like this one.

As you might expect, I think it is totally bitchin’.

I had kind of a crappy day today.

At the end of my crappy day, I asked Swayze if I could have the giant slide rule for my classroom.

He said yes.

My day stopped being crappy.

The end.



Twenty years ago this week, I met a man who doesn’t exist.

Let me explain.

On Martin Luther King Day in 1991, I was a bored high-school sophomore. For reasons I don’t recall (but which probably involved either icy roads or another abysmal performance on an Algebra III test), I was stuck at home for the entire day. Casting about for something to do, I went rummaging through a closet and liberated a few records from my mother’s vinyl collection.

While I was listening to one of those records, I closed my eyes and conjured up a vision of a depressed has-been singer-songwriter wandering along a lonely beach, delivering an existential tirade to no one in particular, while a pretty young fan stood just out of sight, waiting for an appropriate moment to make her presence (and admiration for the singer) known — a revelation that would, of course, effectively end the man’s apparent midlife crisis.

I wrote my daydream up as a short play. It was pretty much crap — start with some Norma Desmond-style denial, mix in a double helping of angsty 15-year-old naivete, and express the whole thing in dialogue so hackneyed it would make Anne “Oh, oh, Louis, my dark prince” Rice cringe, and you’ve got the idea — but it didn’t stop me from falling in love with the main character.

I’ve been writing about him, in one form or another, ever since.

Happy anniversary, Morgan. Thanks for tolerating my poor attempts to commit you to paper — and thanks for refusing to cooperate until I had enough life under my belt to do you justice. I think we’re getting close to that moment, and I can’t wait to see what our next 20 years together will bring.


How cool is this?

Craftster Best of 2010 Winner
I’m a Craftster Best of 2010 Winner!

One of my classroom projects actuallly made Craftster.org’s “Best of 2010” list!

Remember the chalkboard number lines I made out of yardsticks and blackboard paint to help my kids get the hang of graphing inequalities? I posted them — and the little robot chalkboards that went with them — on Craftster, mostly to offer a little inspiration to other teachers who might be lurking around there. I’m not sure how they beat out so many awesome projects in the “Miscellaneous” category, but there they were on the list!

Incidentally, Craftster is a terrific site. The creativity over there makes my occasional outbursts look downright tame by comparison. A few examples from the “best of” list:

Homemade deodorant. Based on the ingredients, this looks as if it would actually work very well.
Video game-themed manicure. I’ve got some fake nails in the bathroom that I’ve been thinking about attacking with paintmarkers. Hmmm….
Crockpot granola. Also known as “what Emily is making for breakfast tomorrow.”
Adorable eyepatches. Mad props to this little girl’s mama for thinking up a cool way to turn something potentially traumatic into something fun: Little kids sometimes freak out over eyepatches, but the other kids all thought this little girl was cool, because her kittycat eyepatch made her look like a kick-ass pirate with excellent fashion sense. Bonus that her cat-with-an-eyepatch design reminds me of the illustration one of my students drew while we were reading Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Black Cat” during class one afternoon. ,|..|
Stained-glass window. Dazzling.
I think I just figured out what to do about my ugly-kitchen-light-fixture problem. I just need to round up about two million LED Christmas lights.
How adorable is this?
Love this. I’ve been plotting something similar, in a different color scheme, for my kitchen chairs.
This one is definitely on my to-do list for next weekend.
Love this.
Clever Shrinky Dink ring. I think Princess Wiggly and I need to get together soon, because this looks like a perfect project for her.
Craziest spice jars ever. I’m totally stealing this idea.
Coolest purse ever. The Green Woman motif has me contemplating the possibilities of a soft-sculpture sheela for my vaguely-Irish-but-mostly-just-garden-themed kitchen….

There’s plenty more on the list. Go take a look. Just don’t blame me if you end up in the throes of an overwhelming creative outburst by the time you get done looking through all the cool stuff other people thought up.


Is it wrong …

… that I think the Jack Chick tract I found on my windshield this evening is the funniest thing I have seen all week?

I probably shouldn’t laugh at it. It’s unconscionably homophobic, and I absolutely hate it when people use the Bible to justify bigotry. But this thing is so far over the top that it really borders on self-parody. No, I take that back. It doesn’t border on anything. It crossed that border a long time ago and is already deep into the interior of the Land of Irony.

Seriously: This thing looks like what you’d get if The Onion started printing religious tracts.


This was a misprint. It was actually supposed to say: “Whatever is required to get national attention is valid. If that includes lying out of your arse in the name of Jesus to garner support for your own bigoted world view, so be it.”

“It’s that time again!”
“No, Daddy! Noooooo! For the love of everything that’s holy, don’t drag me to the Keane-Eyes Gallery again! I promise I’ll be good this time!”

Check out that perpetrator’s back hair and Cro-Magnon build. And you thought fundamentalists didn’t believe in evolution. Shows what you know.

“Dude, Lot just said his parents are out of town until Thursday.”
Bitchin’, Dude! We’ll stay in your home tonight, Lot.”

Is it just me, or does that guy on the left look like a cross between Leonard Nimoy and Ziggy Stardust? I knew the Teletubbies were gay, and Bert and Ernie have raised suspicions, but is there something I don’t know about Lamb Chop? Because that certainly looks like her on Tonight We Party’s right arm.

Speaking of Tonight We Party, what’s up with that outfit? How does a dress like that even happen? I can just imagine the conversation that led to that:

“Hey, Wally, what do you want to do tonight?”
“I dunno, Beav — what do you want to do?”
“Well, Donna Summer’s in town. We could try to score tickets to her show. Or we could head over to the toga party at Lot’s place. Rumor has it Otis Day and the Knights are going to show up again.”
“I know — let’s do both!”
“Swell idea, Wally! But what shall I wear?”

Something tells me Chick had waaaaaaay too much fun drawing some of these frames.

I’m dying to know who left this gift on my windshield. Was it an earnest would-be missionary blanketing Red Fork with tracts to save our heathen river-rat souls from damnation? A neoconservative operative who mistook the tie-dyed rainbow pattern on my car for a political statement? A wiseacre student playing a good prank on his hippie English teacher? A gay friend with a marvelously wry sense of humor? A secret pal who knows of my fondness for kitschy subcultural ephemera? Who knows?

Ah, the mysteries of life in a red state….



Finally done

At long last, here is my finished kitchen:

We won’t talk about the condition of these cabinets. The paint freshened them up a bit, but they are in sad, sad shape. I’m glad I took on this project, because otherwise, I probably wouldn’t have noticed an impending disaster until it was too late: The top shelf in one of my cabinets — where I was storing all of my china, right above the shelf where I store all my glassware — has a foot-long crack in it that’s so wide you can see daylight through it. I shudder to think about how much damage that would have done if I hadn’t caught it in time to take all the heavy stuff off the shelf, which I plan to replace next weekend.

Detail shots of the cabinet doors are below the fold.

Continue reading Finally done