July 30, 2010

In search of Route 66 (the wasteland)

Last time on "In search of Route 66"....

Carrizozo, New Mexico
Vaughn, New Mexico
Santa Rosa, New Mexico
Tucumcari, New Mexico

San Jon, New Mexico/Adrian, Texas/Vega, Texas

In San Jon, New Mexico, there was the type of thing I expected to find all along the historic route, an old Texaco station. I'm sure many folks were relieved to find this place:
abandoned service station in san jon, new mexico
abandoned service station in san jon, new mexico

Adrian, Texas
midpoint café neon sign
Inspiration for Flo’s V8 Café in the Cars, located at the mid-point of Route 66, the MidPoint Café was built in the late 30’s. The café has changed hands and appearances several times over the years. By the way, it didn't look like Flo’s V8 Café (did it ever?), or I'd have photographed the heck out of it(!).

If you were motoring east (as I was) and missed the one forty miles away in San Jon, this place (another Texaco, probably) might have saved your butt:
abandoned service station, adrian, texas

fabulous 40 motel

silo in adrian
Note I-40 signage

phillips 66 on route 66
If you were going east, here was your last chance to fuel up before getting to Vega, Texas, what could have been a long twenty minute drive (14.2 miles) if you needed to and didn't.

phillips 66 in adrian
phillips 66 in adrian
phillips 66 pumps in adrian
rusty coca-cola machine in adrian

Vega, Texas

After you
vega motel

restored magnolia gas station
Restored Magnolia Gas Station



Coming up (like a flower) on "In search of Route 66":
Carrizozo, New Mexico
Vaughn, New Mexico
Santa Rosa, New Mexico
Tucumcari, New Mexico
San Jon, New Mexico/Adrian, Texas/Vega, Texas

Amarillo, Texas
McLean, Texas
Shamrock, Texas

Coming up:

July 29, 2010

"Stormy Weather"

Yep, just squirmed and squinted my way through the otherwise excellent A Single Man. I can see why Colin Firth was nominated for an Academy Award. He's really good in this. I'm hesitant to use the term "transcendent," but his performance is somewhere in that neighborhood. You'd never know it was the same guy who was Lord Wessex in Shakespeare in Love or the dude in that Amanda Bynes movie.

Now the film was "all right," but I'm a music guy, so it's all about the music. I've always loved the 1933 Harold Arlen tune "Stormy Weather." And of all the recorded versions, I'm rather partial to Frank Sinatra's version, specifically his Columbia Records recording from the 1940s:

One thing you learn about Sinatra and Sinatra's singing style is that he pretty much stuck to the notes of the melody of whatever song he was singing. Or as he was like to say during sessions in the studio: "If it ain't on the page, don't play it." He rarely diverted from this philosophy, occasionally bending notes, especially during his later, jazzier, Reprise era recording career. So, knowing well every nuance of Frank's, it was cool hearing (for the very first time) Etta James' version from her legendary 1961 At Last! album make a crucial appearance on the movie's soundtrack. Wow! It's as if they applied an "At Last" template to the song or something:

July 27, 2010

In search of Route 66 (getting kicks)

Previously on "In search of Route 66"....

Carrizozo, New Mexico
Vaughn, New Mexico
Santa Rosa, New Mexico

Tucumcari, New Mexico

exit to old route 66, heading east towards tucumcari, new mexico
The popularity of Route 66 contributed to its demise. As speeds and traffic loads increased, the numbers of accidents grew. Between 1953 and 1958, one in every five highway fatalities statewide (New Mexico) was on Route 66.

In the late 1960s, there were so many crashes on Route 66 between Glenrio and Tucumcari that it became known as "Slaughter Lane."

old route 66 heading east towards tucumcari, new mexico
Interstate 40 is to the right in this picture, with the traffic zipping by. I could have stopped my car and gotten out to take this picture, me being the only traveler on the old road at this particular time on that particular day. As it was, I took this as I drove. The lanes were very narrow and close together, and there wasn't any shoulder, on either side. Think about how big and heavy cars were back during Route 66's heyday.

the paradise motel neon sign
So after driving your huge, shiny Lincoln or Ford down a narrow lane of Route 66 all day, one could stop and spend the night at the Paradise Motel, located near the city limits of Tucumcari since 1950. Back in the day, the swimmer on that sign would have been animated to appear to be diving into the water, which would have also been animated to look like a splash.

the buckaroo motel neon sign
c. 1952

gas station along old route 66 in tucumcari, new mexico
Possibly an old Texaco along the old route

ranch house café
The Ranch House Café opened in 1952 with one of the first drive-up-style curb service.

little building along old route 66 in tucumcari, new mexico
little building along old route 66 in tucumcari, new mexico
thunderbird lounge neon sign
odeon theater
The Odeon Theater, c. 1936, Art Deco

the odeon

the princess theater
The Princess Theater, built in the 1930s, Art Deco makeover sometime during the early 1950s

la cita entrance la cita neon sign
la cita restaurant
La Cita opened in 1940, and the new building with the sombrero-shaped entrance opened right across Route 66 in 1961. It closed in 2004 but reopened in 2006.

the americana motel neon sign
Originally called the Desert Air Motel, opened in 1935. The Googie-style sign had a cactus on top where the AAA logo is now.

the wash lady neon sign atop boulevard cleaners & laundromat on route 66
the wash lady neon sign atop boulevard cleaners & laundromat on route 66

trails west lounge neon sign
trails west lounge neon sign

the blue swallow motel
the blue swallow motel neon sign
I nearly fell to my knees and crawled towards this one when I saw it - one of the Holy Grails of neon signs. The motel was constructed in 1939, the current, larger sign added in 1960. The motel (and I would assume the neon sign) was restored in 1998. I believe the swallow's wings were animated to flap, as well as having a musical note animate from its beak.

the motel safari
The Motel Safari opened in 1960. Originally, the sign was topped with a Best Western logo, which was replaced by a camel in 1962. The motel was renovated in 1998, and the sign was being worked on the day I was there.

apache motel neon sign
the apache motel
From Route 66 in New Mexico (Images of America) (p. 15):

The 25-unit Apache Motel opened in 1964. The sign and exterior featured images of Kokopelli, the Hopi symbol of fertility, music, and mischief. Tepees were painted in the stairwells. The motel closed in 2005, but it has been renovated and is back in business. Unfortunately, the new owner chose to paint the background of the sign white (instead of black, the original color).

del's restaurant
Del Akin opened Del's Restaurant in the late 1940s. In 1956, it was moved west to expand and take better advantage of the Route 66 traffic.

palomino motel sign
The Palomino Motel opened in 1953. They advertised "Why pay more? Please inspect our rooms. You will stay." The 30-unit Palomino is still in business today at 1215 East Highway 66. The smaller original sign is on display at Neonopolis in Las Vegas.

lasso motel neon sign

chris' auto repair

Carrizozo, New Mexico
Vaughn, New Mexico
Santa Rosa, New Mexico
Tucumcari, New Mexico

San Jon, New Mexico/Adrian, Texas/Vega, Texas

July 22, 2010

Local Hero

Let me repost something from January 2006 as a way of recognizing the 5th anniversary of EBiN.

Local Hero was released in U.S. theaters in February of 1983. Typically, when movie studios open movies in January-March, there's a reason (embarrassment, shame, etc.). But Local Hero is not one of those types of films. It must not have ever found its audience; the soundtrack (by Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits) made more money. That's not saying much, because I think the soundtrack was considered a bit obscure at the time. Viewing it as an adult, it now reminds me of when I first discovered it at the age of 16, which in turn, now reminds me of the place where I grew up.

"Freeway Flyer"

Peter Riegert (Boon from Animal House) plays Mac, a small fish trying to make it in a big pond. He works for Knox Oil & Gas, located in Houston, Texas. His is the fast-paced life of a suit climbing the corporate ladder. He's recently divorced, and he has a Porsche he carries a picture of in his wallet. His life is shallow and empty. Empty as a pocket with nothing to lose.

The company wants to purchase several miles of pristine beachfront property near Ferness, Scotland, due to its potential for high-yield oil drilling. Mac is sent to close the deal, because the CEO mistakenly thinks he is Scottish.

Our and Mac's first glimpse of the tiny fishing village about to invaded by the Yankee silver dollar is in the form of a model at Knox's research and development, Scotland branch. The model is small, generic, artificial, nothing like the real thing:

"Wild Theme"

The quiet village has one main road, rarely used by four-wheeled vehicles. Two-wheeled? Well, that's another story.

Mac is sent to negotiate a price for purchase of the entire village from Gordon Urquhart.

The actor might look familiar. It's Denis Lawson, who played Wedge Antilles in Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi. He just so happens to also be the uncle of Ewan McGregor.

Mac and his Scottish counterpart might as well be back in the office, walking past endless rows of cubicles. They are inexplicably unaware of the natural beauty surrounding them.

As they discuss all the miracle products oil and petroleum provide mankind, they turn to look at the village and marvel at how similar it is to the model.

Yet, Mac is beginning to fall under its spell.
"The Rocks and the Water"

The village's one phone (don't you love how the advent and proliferation of cell phones has made so many movie and book plot points obsolete?) becomes a vital link back to Houston and "civilization".

Another day at the office.

The village seen in the movie was not near the beach that the characters walk on, they were on opposite sides of Scotland. To make the connection, a cardboard church was built at the end of the beach to match the church in the village.

Slowly, but surely, the big city oil men are seduced.

Mac discovers an old hermit, who lives in a ramshackle structure on the beach, owns the entire beach, according to an ancient deed. The man's name is Ben Knox. He could be a major impediment to the deal. Mac and Urquhart must treat him with kid gloves and basically kiss his ass.

Mac sees his first meteor shower during the initial meeting with the old hermit, Ben.

The smallness of man.

As Mac comes increasingly under the area's spell, he begins to shed his corporate uniform, first, losing the sacred symbol of business--the necktie.

Houston time seems far, far away.

The CEO of Knox Oil & Gas, back in Houston, has asked Mac to keep him advised--not of the deal, but of the skies. You see, the CEO, Happer, is an avid, amateur astronomer.

Happer, portrayed by Burt Lancaster, is keen to discover a comet, and to name it Happer's Comet.

"The Ceilidh and the Northern Lights"

CEO Happer, based on Mac's descriptions of events in the sky, concludes there is something special about Aberdeen. He decides to make a personal appearance.

Happer meets with old hermit Ben, the final barrier to closing the sale of the beach and village. Ben and Happer share a love of astronomy.

The plans for tearing down the village and turning it into an oil refinery change, and now it will become part of a marine life research center. The villagers will still get paid, and yet retain their way of life. CEO Happer sends Mac back to Houston to make the necessary changes. Everyone wins. But why does Mac feel so blue? Has he fallen in love with the place?

Is it goodbye?.......

Back in Houston, Mac's overcoat pockets are stuffed full of seashells, and they still smell like Ferness.

So beautiful:

The pollution, police sirens, traffic sounds, and other noise of Houston (circa 1983) reach the lofty heights of Mac's high-rise condo's balcony.

The film's final shot of the village and the lone phone booth leaves us guessing:

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