Category Archives: Kitsch

Don’t panic …

… if you see otherwise ordinary-looking people carrying towels everywhere they go. They are simply celebrating Towel Day, a holiday created in 2001 to honor the life of the late Douglas Adams, author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

As Adams explains in his most famous book:

A towel … is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have. Partly it has great practical value. You can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta … wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (such a mind-bogglingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can’t see it, it can’t see you); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.

More importantly, a towel has immense psychological value. For some reason, if a strag (strag: non-hitch hiker) discovers that a hitchhiker has his towel with him, he will automatically assume that he is also in possession of a toothbrush, face flannel, soap, tin of biscuits, flask, compass, map, ball of string, gnat spray, wet weather gear, space suit etc., etc. Furthermore, the strag will then happily lend the hitchhiker any of these or a dozen other items that the hitchhiker might accidentally have ‘lost.’

I decorated a special towel just for the occasion:

At least one of my students will be utterly delighted. The rest will think I am crazy, but they think that anyway. I’m hoping to teach the Hitchhiker’s Guide next year if time allows. I have the books; I just have to make the time.


Dress for success

Do you think this was what Swayze had in mind when he told me to wear a college sweatshirt to school on Thursday?

I hope so, ‘cos I made one tonight with iron-on letters from Hobby Lobby. If anybody complains, I will simply point out that this shirt actually has a much closer connection to my alma mater than one might think: It actually originated on the Strip in Carbondale. Really. John Belushi was taking a theater course at SIU when he stopped in at Gusto’s one afternoon in 1971 to order a custom-designed sweatshirt with “COLLEGE” emblazoned across the front.

I think this goes well with my mandatory “college corner” bulletin board, which includes a photo of Old Main burning….


Grateful Gnome

Jerry as lawn gnome. Inspired by a bumper sticker I bought the other day.

For some reason, this particular gnome was a little deformed. I didn’t notice when I bought it, because it was painted a hideous shade of reddish bronze, with black shading that kind of masked the distortion, but when I started working on it, I discovered that it apparently had been jostled or squished while it was drying, because the torso was twisted, and the back was all caved in on the left side. Very strange. Now that I think about it, I probably should have turned it into Salvador Dali instead of Jerry Garcia. Oh, well. I think it looks pretty good like it is….

I have now run out of lawn gnomes to paint, which means I will have to do something more useful with my time. Perhaps today would be a good day to finish the rugrats’ ABC book, which I started before Jamie was born and still haven’t completed. (I got stuck on K, and by the time I decided that K stood for Karmann Ghia, I was too busy to break out the watercolors. I’ll remedy that this afternoon….)


Gollum in the garden?

This is Smeagol, the World’s Creepiest Lawn Ornament. I bought him tonight at Lowe’s because … well, because he’s the World’s Creepiest Lawn Ornament. How could I resist? The creepiest thing is that the little ridge on top of his head is actually part of a series of ridges that go all the way down his spine.

He bears a striking resemblance to the way I always pictured Gollum from the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Mind you, I hate the Lord of the Rings trilogy, having been forced to read it as a child … but as an English teacher, I simply couldn’t pass up the chance to buy my very own Gollum to tuck into an otherwise peaceful corner of a garden inhabited by a fire-breathing dragon.

Speaking of which …

… here are my fledgling dragon’s eyes. I like them a lot. I’m thinking of naming my dragon Jormungandr, a.k.a. The Midgard Serpent. It’s either that or Smaug….


Meddling in the affairs of dragons

“Do not meddle in the affairs of dragons, for thou art crunchy and taste good with ketchup.”
— Bumper sticker slogan

So I’m looking at my Green Man plaque, and I start thinking about garden sculptures. This leads me to yet another Google search for photos of that fabulous Green Man sculpture at the Lost Gardens of Heligan … which, in turn, gets me thinking about how I might fashion a similar sculpture for my own backyard.

As I plot my battle plan, I start thinking about those fun stepping stones that look like an alligator surfacing from your yard, which makes me think that perhaps a dragon’s head would look even cooler than the Green Man’s face emerging from my lawn.

I start making a sketch. Eyes and nose could be sculpted out of Sackrete easily enough — but what about horns and ears? I start to draw pointy horns and realize they look an awful lot like those cheap wire obelisks you get at the garden center.

It occurs to me that it would be much easier to stick four wire obelisks into the ground and add a couple of concrete eyes than it would be to sculpt a 27-cubic-foot Chia Pet out of Sackrete.

At this point, I remember that I am lazy, so the dragon starts to sound better than the Green Man.

Then I remember that dragons breathe fire. Simultaneously, I remember that I have some latent pyromaniacal tendencies that haven’t had a real outlet since I quit bending neon tubes.

I realize abruptly that it would be easy to fashion dragon nostrils from half-buried flowerpots, into which I could insert smoke bombs and/or sparklers that would give the illusion that my dragon was actually alive and breathing fire at appropriate moments — say, the Fourth of July, or when friends come to visit.

Methinks it’s going to be a very entertaining afternoon….


Green men and groceries

Today was a good day — busy but fun, with a cappuccino and some cheese grits for breakfast; a ride in Gretchen; trips to the feed store, the hardware store, and an awesome new grocery store; a hive inspection that revealed a colony of happy, healthy, and intoxicatingly fragrant* bees; a pizza; a little garden work (I found some dried-up loofah gourds on a long-forgotten vine in the backyard and spent a few minutes peeling them and getting them ready for a good soak in bleachwater before I use them); a new Grateful Dead bumper sticker from Peace Frogs; a stroll through Southwood Nursery, where I picked up the irreverent Green Man you see above; a stop at Tie-Dyes of Tulsa to pick up a dress Kelly had custom-dyed for me; and two bowls of stir-fry from Genghis Grill.

Hope your Saturday was as full of fun as mine.


* You can tell a lot about the condition of a honeybee colony by its smell. If it smells off, something is probably amiss. If it smells good, all is well. This hive smelled wonderful — like beeswax and honey, of course, but with a distinctly botanical note, like freshly cut grass mixed with lemon blossoms or something. Heavenly.

Kitsch from beyond

Roadside America is always good for a Saturday afternoon drive. Today, after perusing the list of Oklahoma oddities, we headed to Okemah, where we found this:

I don’t know who Barbara Sue Manire was, but I wish I could have met her. According to the entry on Roadside America, she specifically requested that her family install an expired parking meter on her tombstone. The epitaph on the stone reads: “Her humor lives on.”

Anybody whose last wish is to make people laugh sounds like my kind of girl.



OK … so I need some items for my classroom, and I am shamelessly begging my readers for assistance in acquiring them. We are doing an activism theme second semester (which starts next Wednesday), and I intend to decorate my classroom in a hippie theme. I’ve got a blacklight poster with a big peace sign on it, a couple of seriously ’70s-looking postcards with political messages on them, and a couple of Hatch-style posters advertising Grateful Dead concerts and “be-ins” and that sort of thing. I have also ordered a lava lamp, which should be coming in any day now.

To continue this theme, I would like to have any or all of the following:

1. Desk lamp with flexible neck OR smallish blacklight fixture that does not need to be attached to a wall.
2. Retro posters depicting peace signs, flowers, Janis Joplin, Woodstock, the Strawberry Fields monument to John Lennon, folk festivals, the Beatles, etc. (No nudity, marijuana, or magic mushrooms, please.)
3. Additional lava lamps.
4. Batik sarongs/tapestries/flags/etc. (No drug references or religious emblems, please — the kids’ parents would have my head if I decorated my room with pentagrams or pot leaves.)
5. Bumper stickers, buttons, magnets or postcards promoting social causes (all political persuasions welcome, as I am trying to create a bulletin board showing as many different causes as possible). I cannot use anything that promotes illegal drugs or known hate/terror groups — e.g., KKK, Animal Liberation Front, etc. — but if you happen to have a spare sticker promoting legitimate organizations that are suitable for inclusion in a classroom, I would love to add it to the mix.

Please do not go out and purchase items for this project, as I may not be able to use everything, and I don’t want anybody shelling out money for this … but if you’ve got a spare lava lamp/psychedelic candle/blacklight poster/Grateful Dead sticker/Save the Whales decal/oversized batik scarf you never wear/bead curtain/whatever, please post a comment so I can make arrangements to get it from you ASAP.

I kind of let the semester get away from me, so this is very last-minute, but if you have something on hand and are willing to share, I will be most grateful.


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?


Santa’s Magical Mushrooms

Ron and I made a quick trip to Illinois this weekend to attend a special event organized by an old friend.

On our way back through Missouri last night, we noticed a spiderweb of Christmas lights twined through the branches of hundreds of trees along a road winding up the side of a mountain.

The lights were part of the elaborate “Santa’s Magical Kingdom” Christmas display at the Yogi Bear-themed Jellystone Park campground just west of Six Flags.

We’d passed the display in years past, but we never seemed to get there in time to drive through it. Although we were on a rather tight schedule last night, we couldn’t resist a stop.

I suspect some of Santa’s Magical Mushrooms may have been involved in planning this exhibit:

The exhibit even includes a faux fireworks display over a replica of the St. Louis Arch.

Dolphins leap in a pool of twinkling lights.


Is the giant water faucet a nod to the famous animated neon faucet that drips all night next to I-44 near St. James? You decide. (After you click the link, scroll down to the bottom of the page to see what I’m talking about.)

I personally think the whole thing looks like what you’d get if Clark Griswold were in charge of decorating Rock City’s Fairyland Caverns for the holidays. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.