Tag Archives: Blue Swallow Motel

Sunday Self-Care: On procrastination

I will never understand why I procrastinate. Putting off a difficult task makes sense. Dreading a challenge makes sense. But altogether too often, I put off projects I really want to do, jobs that will make a big impact when they’re completed, or simple tasks that are likely to take half an hour or less.

Sometimes it’s inadvertent: I make a to-do list for my day off, prioritize it, and then get tired or run out of time and carry the lower-priority jobs over to the next week. If they don’t have deadlines, they end up at the bottom of the next week’s list, too, and the cycle starts all over.

After a few weeks of seeing the same unfinished job on my to-do list, I start to feel overwhelmed. The longer it’s on the list, the more Herculean it starts to look.

If there is an up side to this phenomenon, it’s the exquisite sense of relief I feel when I finally finish the project I’ve been delaying.

I had that feeling this weekend.

About 15 years ago, Ron commissioned a replica of one of the neon swallows that hang above the garages at the Blue Swallow Motel. When we moved here, I had to keep it in storage, because I didn’t have a good way to keep Walter from knocking it down.

Several months ago, I found a vinyl channel that would mount to the wall and keep the cord from dangling and turning my beautiful swallow into a cat toy. All I needed to do was paint it, install it, and hang up the sign.

As usual, one thing led to another, and the neon installation drifted to the bottom of the to-do list until Friday, when I finally got a hand free and forced myself to do the job.

Hello, old friend. I've missed you terribly.
Hello, old friend. I’ve missed you terribly.

It took longer to unpack the swallow than it did to install it.

This piece was the literal light of my life in Belleville, where I’d turn it on and look at its soft argon glow whenever I was depressed and needed a break but couldn’t quite manage a 14-hour road trip to Tucumcari. I denied myself access to that soothing blue light for three months longer than necessary, and I have no idea why.

Lighting the darkness.
Lighting the darkness.

If you’re feeling out of sorts, try turning your to-do list upside-down just long enough to complete that task you’ve been deferring for weeks. I suspect you’ll find the sense of relief and accomplishment that follows will lighten your mood as surely as a neon sign lights up a dark wall.

Emily

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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

Another recent project

Following up on yesterday’s post, here’s another little project I did recently. The Blue Swallow Motel on Route 66 in Tucumcari, New Mexico — which we have long since established is my favorite place in the known universe — has a set of black cardboard information boards under the glass on the front counter. The boards have been in existence for as long as anybody can remember and provide information about other local businesses and services that might be of use to guests.

I’m not sure what was used to make the white letters on the boards, but it doesn’t respond well to spills, and despite the glass over them, moisture occasionally reaches the signs and smears the lettering. I’ll be in New Mexico soon to lead a motorcoach tour, do a few projects at the Swallow and spend a couple of days signing books at a festival.

The owner asked whether I could include restoration or replacement of the information boards among my projects. Based on the historic nature of the originals, we decided the best course of action would be to leave them as-is, remove them from harm’s way, and replace them with a set of updated boards featuring current businesses. Using paintmarkers and black poster board, I created these modern versions, designed to approximate the style and dimensions of the originals. The originals will preserved in some manner that maintains their historic integrity and protects them from further damage. I had the new ones laminated. Hopefully they’ll last as long as their predecessors.

The originals advertised a package-liquor store and a restaurant, both of which have since closed.
The originals advertised a package-liquor store and a restaurant, both of which have since closed.
A funeral home seems an odd thing to promote to travelers, but at the time the originals were created, there was no 911, and the local funeral home also ran the ambulance service, so it was good for guests to have ready access to the phone number in case of a medical emergency.
A funeral home seems an odd thing to promote to travelers, but at the time the originals were created, there was no 911, and the local funeral home also ran the ambulance service, so it was good for guests to have ready access to the phone number in case of a medical emergency.
The original version of the top featured a local car dealership, with stylized logos for the brands they sold. The bottom was just like this, except it had the original owners' names.
The original version of the top featured a local car dealership, with stylized logos for the brands they sold. The bottom was just like this, except it had the original owners’ names.
The original featured the Odeon and a long-closed drive-in movie theater.
The original featured the Odeon and a long-closed drive-in movie theater.

I’m looking forward to getting to Tucumcari and starting work on the mural I’ve got planned, which will be something of a tribute to Bob Waldmire. I haven’t had a good dose of New Mexico since October, and I really need one. While I’m out there, I’ll be signing copies of Greetings from Coldwater and the new print edition of Route 66 for Kids, which has been updated for 2016. (There’s also a Kindle version of the guidebook, but it’s the 2015 edition. I haven’t had time to figure out how to update it and link it to the print version yet. The information is mostly the same, but a few places have raised their prices or changed their hours in the past year.)

Emily

Vegetarian Friday: Pesto pasta

From the “faster and better than McDonald’s” files: I swiped this idea from the late, great Piatto in Tulsa.

This isn’t as nice as Piatto’s version, because they made their pesto from scratch, but as usual, I’m giving you the 15-minute version. If somebody will remind me in June, when I’ve got fresh basil taking over the garden, I’ll make a batch of homemade pesto and post the recipe. In the meantime, the kind you buy in little jars at the grocery store will work just fine for a quick dinner that still tastes better and costs less than whatever you were going to buy from a drive-through.

Ingredients
Box of linguine
Small jar of pesto
Carton of gorgonzola or bleu cheese crumbles

Cook linguine according to package instructions. The big challenge with linguine is to stop cooking it before it turns to mush. I find al dente linguine a bit tricky, as it tends to cook very slowly compared to other pastas, but the line between “not done” and “overcooked” comes down to a matter of seconds, and there’s so much variance from one brand to the next, you really have to start tasting it about 8 minutes in and keep tasting every 30 to 60 seconds until it’s done. (I’ll own the possibility that this is simply lack of experience on my part; if I made linguine as often as I make capellini, I’d probably find it as easy to work with.)

Drain pasta, toss with pesto immediately, divide into bowls and top with cheese. Makes four hefty servings.

In unrelated news, here’s Day 3 of my giving-things-up-for-Lent project:

lent3

I love the Blue Swallow. And I love most of my Blue Swallow-themed merchandise. But this particular shirt — which I got several years ago — doesn’t fit quite right, so into the giveaway bin it goes. (I’m always happy to release Swallow merchandise into the world so other people can see it and find out about the coolest motel on Route 66.)

Emily

Projects on the horizon

So I now officially have two mural-painting projects lined up for this spring on Route 66.

For the first, I’ll be spending about a week painting a mural in one of the garages at the Blue Swallow Motel in Tucumcari, N.M. The owners and I haven’t settled on a design yet, but they’re getting me some measurements and looking for some historic photographs I can use as the basis for a rough sketch.

For the second project, I’m spending a couple of weekends painting a mural on the side of a privately owned tourism center in Staunton, Illinois. Depending on the weather this spring, I may do that one first. We’ll see.

I’m pretty amped about both projects. The one in Staunton will have kind of a rainbow theme, which means I’ll be carrying on a tradition of sorts: I was obsessed with rainbows when I was 9, so in addition to icing a rainbow on my birthday cake, Mom painted a rainbow and clouds on my bedroom wall.

Where my DIY streak started.
In case you were wondering where I got my DIY streak: Mom painted the rainbow mural and made the quilt on the bed, which my dad refinished, and for which he also built a canopy (not pictured, obviously). I believe Dad refinished that nightstand, too.

It’s been a couple of years since I worked on a mural, and this one in Staunton will be my biggest yet — 60 feet long and 10 feet high, which is at least twice the size of anything I’ve done up to this point. We’ll see how it goes.

We went up to Staunton this afternoon so I could take some detailed measurements and put my hands on the surface I’ll be painting. After doing murals on smooth interior walls, waferboard, textured Masonite, two kinds of siding, and a late-model car with its factory finish intact, I’ve come to appreciate the value of handling the surface and looking for potential obstacles before I start the mural instead of jumping right in and then realizing — after I’ve already invested several hours in the project — that the wall is resisting (or worse yet, drinking) the paint, or there’s an electrical outlet right smack in the middle of my design, or something else that would have been good to know in advance.

On the way back, we stopped at the Michael’s store in Edwardsville, where I picked up some materials for staging nicer food photos. While we were there, I caught a sale on canvas and stocked up. Stay tuned for whatever creative outburst that inspires.

Emily