A tribute

I was saddened yesterday to learn of the untimely passing of Bob Cassilly, who has long been one of my artistic heroes.

I never got to meet Cassilly. That’s a shame, because I expect we would have gotten along famously. His glorious masterwork — the St. Louis City Museum — is what I very much want to believe you’d get if I had an unlimited budget; a seven-story, 600,000-square-foot classroom; and way too much time on my hands. When Ron and I lived in the Metro-East, we spent a lot of time prowling through the corridors and caverns at the City Museum and climbing around on the sculptures at Turtle Park.

The first time I set foot in the City Museum, I fell in love with the ceiling and promised myself I’d install something like that in my home someday. This is the City Museum’s ceiling:

When Bob Waldmire passed away, his life and artwork became the inspiration for the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcar.

Last night, as Ron read me the news about Bob Cassilly, my mind went wandering back to Turtle Park and the City Museum, and I sensed a massive creative outburst bearing down on me at about 400 mph.

This is what I did this evening:

Plastic poultry netting: $6.50.
Upcycled plastic shopping bags: free.
This is what you get when you cut 10 plastic shopping bags into strips and weave them, homecoming-float-style, through cheap plastic poultry netting.
This is what an hour and a half looks like.

Based on the dimensions of the room and the time I’ve already invested, I’m estimating that this project will keep me occupied for a month or so, assuming I don’t get distracted by too many shiny objects along the way. It reminds me vaguely of the latch-hook pillow I made when I was 9. It’s not exactly like the City Museum’s ceiling, but the effect is similar, and I think Cassilly — with his penchant for upcycled art made from found objects and castoffs — would approve.


Not-Exactly-Folk Thursday: Senior Year

Between a school newspaper deadline and a scholar bowl meet, I’m having a serious memories-of-senior-year kind of day. Which got me to thinking: If I made an iTunes playlist a mix tape for 1993, what would be on it?

(Videos below the fold to keep from slowing down the front page on my blog.)

Continue reading Not-Exactly-Folk Thursday: Senior Year


I’ve posted this before, but as I organize materials for upcoming lesson plans, this song has — as usual — become lodged in my head and staunchly refuses to leave. I have no compunction about infecting readers with earworms if the earworms in question are pretty, and this one definitely is:

Vienna Teng is great. I wonder if she ever shows up for SXSW? She’d sound fantastic in that little theater in Bee Cave where we heard Judy Collins a few years ago.



Daybook for Sept. 19

Haven’t done one of these in a long time:

For today…

Outside my window… summer quietly giving way to autumn on a cool September evening.
I am thinking… about baseball and an old Paul Simon song and the cobalt shade of the sky this morning as I was walking across campus.
From the classroom… stress, anticipation, and an unexpected reunion with an old, old friend.
I am thankful for… two decades spent chasing stories.
From the kitchen… nothing tonight, but I’m thinking about chili tomorrow.
I am wearing… khakis and a Route 66 tiki shirt because I was too busy to change into jeans after school.
I am reading… The Wailing Wind by Tony Hillerman.
I am hoping… tomorrow’s journalism lesson goes well.
I am creating… a newsroom.
I am praying… to express the “unlabored motion of the divine energy” and the “vigor, freshness, and promise” of youth that carried me through the demands of a senior year that included projects very similar to those I have undertaken lately.
Around the house… a random assortment of small objects meant to remind me of New Mexico.
One of my favorite things… watching the dogs leap into the air to take the cookies Ron holds up for them.
few plans for the rest of the week… grading, planning, editing, and maybe an hour or two in a comfortable chair tucked into the corner of a coffeehouse somewhere.

Here is a picture thought I am sharing with you…

We watched this little bee work the sunflowers along 66 west of Glenrio during our trip to New Mexico a couple of weeks ago.


Hope and joy

Today was one of the best days I’ve had in a long time.

I spent the morning at a great little coffeehouse called Brews and Bytes, which opened this summer about half a block off Route 66 in Sapulpa. While I was there, I scored myself a fun new project: In the not-too-distant future, I will begin painting a series of placemat-sized Route 66 postcards all over the bathroom walls. This is an excellent deal for everyone concerned, as the coffeehouse will get a one-of-a-kind paint job, while I will get all the free coffee and Italian cream sodas I care to suck down. In the immortal words of Charlie Sheen: Winning!

I came back to Tulsa to put in a few hours at the annual neighborhood block party at school. Swayze asked all the teachers to show up and promote the activities we sponsor, so I enlisted Ron to help me set up a booth for our new GSA (Gay-Straight Alliance), which was the product of a former student’s activism project last semester. We had a great turnout, and the kids were very impressed with Ron’s willingness to spend the entire afternoon hanging out, joking with them, running errands, and keeping track of various and sundry backpacks, papers, purses, keys, water bottles, half-finished sandwiches, and whatever else proved too inconvenient for a busy teenager to carry around while dashing from one activity to another.

Scoring a fun volunteer project and then spending a pretty afternoon outside with my kids and my husband would have been reason enough to smile, but the icing on the cake was the overwhelmingly positive response we got from the public. I’d been braced for some raised eyebrows and an ugly comment or two, but I didn’t hear a single negative comment all afternoon, and several people stopped to tell us how happy they were to see us out there and to find out that our school had started a GSA.

I could not be more proud of my kids, my husband, or my neighborhood. All of them give me immense hope for the future.

Hope your Saturday was as beautiful as mine.



So this evening, my best friend from college — who is obviously male — asked me an earnest question about the connection between weight gain and women’s bustlines.

I replied with a mathematical function. But I would like the record to show that I did not calculate the first derivative of that function based on my own measurements, because that would have been tacky.

Maybe I should just start having my paycheck direct-deposited in Thinkgeek’s account.


A joyful anniversary

While the rest of the world is rewarding the nastiest publicity stunt in recorded history with continued press coverage ten years after the fact (seriously, y’all: Didn’t your mama ever tell you that if you pick at it, it’ll never heal?) I am reliving a more pleasant anniversary: One year ago today, I was on a scaffold in front of the Lincoln Motel in Chandler, feeding my addiction to historic preservation by helping scrape and repaint the old neon sign that advertises the property.

Photos are here and here if you’re interested in looking back with me.

Appropriately enough, Ron and I spent the anniversary of this project touring the historic Boots Motel in Carthage, Mo., which is under new ownership and is undergoing restoration work as we speak. Neon junkie that I am, I immediately offered to repaint the sign and make patterns for replacement tubes to relight it. I hope the owners will take me up on that. The Boots has particular significance for me, partly because it’s where I began my love affair with mom-and-pop motels on Route 66 (it was the first historic motel I ever slept in on the Mother Road), and partly because it was the site of one of the first preservation battles I was involved in (a successful letter-writing campaign that scared off Walgreen’s after a developer bought the property in 2003 with the intent of flipping it to the drugstore giant at a ridiculous profit).

If the Boots sign project happens, it will be one of six historic preservation projects I’m trying to line up at three properties in two states over the next eight to ten months. I can’t go into a lot of detail just yet, but suffice it to say I am hoping to end fall break, spring break, and the first part of my summer tired, filthy, sunburned, and spattered with paint — just the way I like it. 😀

Speaking of Route 66 preservation, I have to give a shout-out to the Bill Haynes Company, which gave the Blue Whale a free makeover last week, repairing cracks in the concrete, priming it, sealing it, and brightening it up with an elaborate ceramic paint job that should last a long time. Go out there and take a look if you get the chance; it looks terrific.



For various and sundry reasons both practical and metaphysical, I am in the process of performing an informal cost-benefit analysis on my day-to-day activities and prioritizing them accordingly.

This basically means I intend to spend more time blogging and reading Tony Hillerman novels (shhhh … don’t tell Ron, but I think I’m secretly in love with Lt. Joe Leaphorn of the Navajo Tribal Police) and less time playing Angry Birds and Facebooking about overpriced decaf.

I doubt I’ll blog every day — I’m not sure I can swing it, and daily blogging tends to produce a lot of useless filler — but I do intend to post more regularly than I have in the past few months, and I hope what I post will be worth the bandwidth it takes to load the page.

With that in mind, here’s another photo from our recent trip to New Mexico. I think photos from New Mexico are always worth the bandwidth. 🙂

Remember that novel I was working on last year? I finished the first draft in February and am now in the process of rewriting it. One of my goals on this trip was to soak up inspiration for that project. I got more than I bargained for when life imitated art: One scene in my novel has the narrator, Sierra, sitting in the lobby of an old motel on Route 66 in New Mexico, watching a thunderstorm blow in — so you can imagine my delight when I found myself standing in front of the long-shuttered Western Motel in San Jon, watching a storm blow in and realizing that every single detail was exactly as I’d described it in the novel.

Suffice it to say that “finish second draft” moved from the bottom of my to-do list to a spot near the top, right under planning next week’s lessons and cleaning the bathroom (which is starting to resemble a Superfund site). If all goes according to plan, I’ll be able to rewrite a few chapters Monday night, as the IronPigs’ playoff series against Columbus doesn’t start until Tuesday.


Let there be light

Instead of posting all of them at once, I’m going to post my photos from our trip to New Mexico in batches. This is the neon batch:

There is nothing like the Blue Swallow after a rain. The light is amazing.
Neon reflections at Circa, the new coffeehouse at the Route 66 Motel in Tucumcari.
Raindrops catch the light after a rare desert rain.

Do you recognize this sign?

This one has been dimmed for many years.
No paint left; just rust and a few broken tubes.
I liked the color and the light.

Highlight of the trip: Lining up a fabulous historic preservation project for next summer. I’m not at liberty to discuss the details just yet, except to note that I am now shopping for a gym and possibly a personal trainer to whip myself into shape for this one, because it’s going to be the most physically demanding project I’ve been involved in since the Texas Old Route 66 Association cleaned out the Triangle Motel five years ago.