Category Archives: Old friends

Make-It Monday: Bob Waldmire mural

I was so busy battling headaches when I got home from vacation this summer, I completely forgot to post my pictures from the trip — including the ones I took of the mural I traveled to Tucumcari to paint in one of the garages at the Blue Swallow Motel.

I’ll remedy that with some photos of the mural in progress on this Make-It Monday.

I think this was a couple of hours in. I'm not sure why I did the headlights first, but they kind of set the bar for the rest of the project.
I think this was a couple of hours in. I’m not sure why I did the headlights first, but they kind of set the bar for the rest of the project.
The license-plate frame made me want to cry, for reasons I can't explain.
The license-plate frame made me want to cry, for reasons I can’t explain.
It's hard to keep everything in proportion and lined up properly while working in close proximity to a large image. I don't always succeed.
It’s hard to keep everything in proportion and lined up properly while working in close proximity to a large image. I don’t always succeed.
After realizing the area around the headlights was completely wonky, I painted over it and tried again.
After realizing the area around the headlights was completely wonky, I painted over it and tried again.
It took several tries to get his face right, but I think I finally got it.
It took several tries to get his face right, but I think I finally got it.

This was the most challenging mural I’ve painted up to this point. Portraits are always tricky, but in this case, I was painting a portrait of two old friends, one of whom was an artist whose work influenced my style.

The first old friend is the late Bob Waldmire, the artist behind the wheel of the VW Westfalia. The second old friend is the Westfalia herself. She had almost as much personality as Bob did, and I adored her for it.

My fondness for Bob and my respect for him and his work made it imperative that I get a good likeness, and it took either four or five tries (I eventually lost count) before I was finally satisfied with it.

Getting the Westfalia right was a matter of proportion and symmetry, which are difficult to render at that scale. Compounding the challenge was the fact I’d tried to set things up relative to the ground, which — as you can see — is gravel and not really level itself.

I wound up repainting several parts of the Westfalia, and they still didn’t end up perfectly symmetrical, although both Ron and Kevin, the Blue Swallow’s owner, were quick to note that old Volkswagens are rarely 100 percent symmetrical, either.

It has its flaws, but I think it looks like Bob, and I really like the way the headlights and reflectors on the Westfalia turned out.

Emily

Loss

One day about 14 years ago, the then-president of the Oklahoma Route 66 Association asked me to interview a fellow Route 66 enthusiast who had just moved from Darien, Connecticut, to Afton, Oklahoma, to restore an old D-X gas station and turn it into a sort of mini-museum and Route 66 visitors’ center.

During the interview, the station owner mentioned she’d procured the old condom machine that used to hang in the restroom at the late, great Buffalo Ranch in Afton, and she was contemplating whether to install it in the restroom at her gas-station-turned-Packard-and-postcard-museum.

I laughed, because at the time, I was in the middle of redecorating my bathroom in a gas-station theme, and among the many decorations I’d hung on the wall was a glow-in-the-dark-condom dispenser.

She was delighted and asked what else I’d put in there. I mentioned the dashboard-hula-girl shower curtain and the Texaco “Registered Rest Room” sign and told her I was planning to order a set of pink plastic Cadillac fins from Archie McPhee to install on the toilet tank.

“Oh, don’t buy those yet,” she said. “I think I’ve got a spare set in one of these boxes I haven’t unpacked yet.”

A spare set.

Not just a set. A SPARE set.

In that moment, I knew Laurel Kane and I would be friends forever.

Over the years, Laurel and I bonded over our shared fondness for good margaritas, bad kitsch and outrageously inappropriate jokes. Every time we got together, we found another strange little quirk we had in common.

We both loved sushi, papasan chairs, and mild spring evenings spent sitting on wide front porches with cold drinks in hand. She lived in a cute Craftsman bungalow in a quiet neighborhood a block off a busy street in Tulsa; when we left Tulsa, I wound up living in a cute Craftsman bungalow in a quiet neighborhood a block off a busy street in Cape. This house felt safe and familiar the minute I walked in — perhaps because, at some subconscious level, the wide front porch and hardwood floors reminded me of Laurel’s house.

Laurel and I have both been known to decorate with tumbleweeds collected from barbed-wire fences somewhere on Route 66. We’ve both tried our hand at vermicomposting and fungiculture at various points in our lives. We were both raised by Christian Scientists. And Laurel held the distinction of being one of the only three people Scout ever befriended at first sight.

We got word yesterday that Laurel had died a few hours earlier as the result of a fall. When Ron texted to tell me, the first thing that popped in my mind was an exuberant rat terrier barreling toward a golden gate, stubby tail wagging furiously, warbling an excited greeting to her old friend.

That thought has stuck with me all day.

I miss you already, Laurel. Save me a margarita, and don’t let Scout eat all the eel rolls before I catch up.

Love,
Emily

P.S.: The picture above was shot at Afton Station during the 2003 Hampton Inns Save-A-Landmark Caravan. The penguin is Tripper, a Route 66-themed entry in the Penguins on Parade fundraiser for the Tulsa Zoo, which Laurel ended up buying to use as a sort of mascot for Afton Station. Tripper is flanked by Laurel on the left and our friend Guy Randall on the right.

Decorating with a memory

I spent most of my childhood looking at the gorgeous George Nelson Fan clock you see above. It hung in the children’s room at the Herrin City Library, where I spent a lot of time monitoring it to see how many minutes I had left to browse before I had to check out the books I wanted to read and run home.

The library expanded and redecorated several years ago. At some point recently, Mom either bought or was given this clock (I’m not sure of the details). Dad replaced the power cord in it, and Mom and Dad gave it to me. I picked it up last weekend, came straight home and happily took a hole saw to my freshly painted bedroom wall so I could run the cord between the studs and allow the clock to hang flush with the wall like it should.

It makes me happy every time I look up and see this piece of my childhood hanging on my bedroom wall. The library is the entire reason for my immense fondness for mid-century furniture. Like many public spaces of its era, it was decorated entirely with designs by Charles and Ray Eames, George Nelson and their contemporaries. Mid-century furniture makes me feel safe and happy, the way I did when I was a little kid curled up on an Eames couch at the library with a book in my lap, and my biggest concern was keeping an eye on that Nelson clock so I wouldn’t get home late and be in trouble for making Mom worry.

When I build that tiny house in a few years, you can bet most of the furniture is going to be mid-century.

Emily

Reminiscing

I had occasion to call a former employer today and chat with one of my favorite editors ever. Long story, but a homicide investigation involving a victim from my area resulted in a couple of arrests in my old paper’s coverage area. I was having trouble sorting out some conflicting reports and putting my hands on a document I needed, so I called my old newsroom to see what I could rustle up.

Some things never change — like the fact that you absolutely cannot trust a St. Louis television station to get even the most basic information correct in a story about anything that happens on the east side of the Mississippi River. The fact that the public information officers in Illinois State Police District 11 are more helpful than the PIOs pretty much anywhere else in the state. And most of all, the fact that the editor who taught me to cover crime stories back in 1999 is still my favorite person to hear on the other end of the line when I’m chasing down details and trying to wrangle information out of reluctant sources.

I don’t miss that town’s ridiculous city ordinances. I don’t miss the corruption of its local government. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss the incredibly talented people who populate the newsroom of its daily paper. That newsroom isn’t big, but the amount of talent it harbors is truly spectacular, and I’m awfully glad I got to spend my first few years as a full-time journalist there.

Emily

Story time

I have, like, a thousand things I need to be doing right now that do not involve dinking around on the Internet, so obviously this is the optimal time to tell a story.

My best friend in high school was a quiet, unassuming Muslim girl who made good grades; said “yes, ma’am” and “no, sir” at appropriate times; and basically did whatever she wanted, because adults always assumed that whatever Saadia was doing at any given moment was precisely what Saadia was supposed to be doing at that moment.

Saadia and I were pretty good kids, but by November of our senior year, we figured we had some comp time coming for all the extra hours we’d put in writing papers for honors classes and doing extracurricular activities while the cool kids were out getting drunk and pregnant and stuff, so we started cutting class and going out for coffee whenever we could think up an excuse. We always took the backroads to the coffeehouse, and if we hit a pothole too hard on the way, the glovebox in my 1985 Nissan Pulsar would pop open, and a box of Dramamine would fly out and land in Saadia’s lap. Which in no way should be construed as a reflection on my driving skills. But I digress.

This story isn’t about Dramamine or our senior year or the many ways one can traverse Southern Illinois on county roads to avoid being busted for truancy. It’s about our sophomore year, when we hadn’t yet figured out we could get away with cutting class, so we settled for blasting the Phantom of the Opera soundtrack on my parents’ stereo and making outrageously inappropriate sexual innuendoes about Michael Crawford while we did our homework. As one does.

We had biology together that year, and let me tell you: We were amazing at dissecting things. And by “amazing,” I mean we sucked. Which may or may not have been* my fault, because the day we dissected a shark, I inadvertently disconnected every vein and artery in its body with one ill-advised swipe of the scalpel.

Oops.

We obviously performed very well on the practical exam for that unit.

We squeaked through the next unit by the skin of our teeth, and by the time we got to the final project in the cutting-up-dead-animals series — a fetal pig — I was starting to worry. I was on a field trip the day our irascible but hilarious biology teacher handed out the pigs, but when I returned, Saadia knew everything there was to know about porcine anatomy.

I later learned the following exchange had occurred in my absence:

COLLINS: (Puts pig in front of Saadia)
SAADIA: (Stares at pig)
COLLINS: What’s the matter with you?
SAADIA: That’s a pig.
COLLINS: So?
SAADIA: I’m Muslim.
COLLINS: So?
SAADIA: That’s a pig. I can’t touch it.
COLLINS: Your brother touched one. He didn’t have any problem with it.
SAADIA: (Shrugs) Yeah, well, he’s probably going to hell.**

So Collins ended up dissecting the pig for Saadia and showing her what all the parts were, which she then showed me.

And that, kids, is the story of how Saadia and Emily passed sophomore biology.

Emily

*Was.
**Last I knew, Saadia’s brother was a neurosurgeon at Cedars-Sinai. In retrospect, I probably should have been more careful with that shark.

I saw her again last night

judyjeff1

The only thing better than watching Judy Collins from the front row is watching an old friend watch Judy Collins from the front row. Especially if the friend in question loves her as much as you do, and doubly especially if you’ve owed said friend a favor since 1998.

judyjeff3

Of course, the mark of true friendship is the ability to one-up each other’s personal favors, so naturally, after I rustled up a pair of front-row tickets for us, Jeff had to use his longtime entertainment writing gig to score a phone interview with Ms. Collins, which led to a couple of passes to meet her in person during intermission.

judyjeff4

This meant I got to see not only the look on Jeff’s face when she smiled at him from the stage during “Open the Door,” but also the look on his face when she gave him a hug and autographed his copy of Colors of the Day.

Pure joy.

Now, you know this would not be an Emily Priddy moment if it did not involve some sort of circular plotline.

I said I owed Jeff a favor from 1998. That was the year the principal at my first teaching gig called me into her office and told me she couldn’t renew my contract because I was a lousy teacher. Dear, sweet, unfailingly loyal Jeff handled this situation by taking me out, buying me all the whiskey sours I could suck down, and telling me I was beautiful and brilliant until I was just schnockered enough to believe him.

Every girl ought to have a Jeff in her life.

Earlier that same school year, the district’s PR flack had given me an occasional writing fix by letting me put together press releases for him. I think he knew how miserable I was, and he went out of his way to make me feel better.

I hadn’t seen him in 15 years, but he was one of the four people invited backstage during intermission last night.

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Heart of Gold. We are now cruising at at a level of two to the power of twenty-five thousand to one against and falling, and we will be restoring normality just as soon as we are sure of what is normal anyway….

Emily

P.S.: Please ignore the craptastic photo quality. My iPhone was having serious depth-of-field issues last night. Apparently iOS 7 needs bifocals.