Sunday, March 29, 2009

Red, White and Blue, Blue, Blue and Leaning to the Left

Okay, if you don't think that November 4th was one of the greatest days in American history -- or if you still have your W sticker on your car, skip this post entirely. I rarely get partisan on this site but I'm about to, so be warned.

On my recent trip to Brenham, one of the stops on the schedule was at the George Herbert Walker Bush Presidential Library and Museum. Let's see, which would I rather do -- go there or have root canal? Well, I didn't have a choice. So I went and I behaved -- mostly.
I did almost lose it when I saw the sign forbidding photography in the replica Oval Office. I went to the visitors' desk and asked about permission and was sent to the front desk to a young man who was about as interested in my problem as I was in the museum. I explained that I was with the group of writers and usually we were allowed to photograph whatever we wanted. He said he was pretty sure I couldn't. I asked for the p.r. person and he told me he/she had just left. He added that in the two years he'd been there, they'd never made an exception that he knew of. Which just shows what he knows!

I have to insert here that for only $9, the docent would take my picture in the Oval Office, so there was a profit motive going on -- exactly like getting your picture with Air Force One at the Reagan Museum.

I went back to the group, my feathers as ruffled as any righteously indignant hen, and was passing on the news when the museum director walked by. We grabbed him and asked him -- and got permission.

I had Teddy, my SATW traveling teddy, with me and I took lots of pictures to send back to Mrs. Kysar's class. And, trust me, Teddy will be respectful when he blogs about the visit.
On the way out. someone asked me how I enjoyed the museum. We try not to talk politics on press trips -- but usually you know where people stand. (Oh, yeah, "liberal" media, I hear some of my r.w. friends saying -- I prefer to think of it as "educated and intelligent" media. )
I ducked the question but replied that Teddy enjoyed it a lot and went on to describe all the places Teddy had his picture taken -- sitting on GHWB's knee (okay, it was just a statue), in front of the White House play house, reading a book in the children's library, in front of a piece of the Berlin Wall. A voice from the back of the group intoned, "Tonight we must burn Teddy!"

I thought it was pretty funny. Almost as funny as the group member who wore an Obama 08 ball cap and put it on the GHWB statue for a photo!

I really don't dislike President Bush -- he served his country well in many ways. I just wish he and Barbara had been more careful with their birth control!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Bluebonnet Bounty

I just got back from a marvelous trip to Brenham, Texas, one of the country's coolest towns. It's charming, laid-back, off-the-beaten-track and altogether nifty. And this time of year, surrounded by fields of bluebonnets, Indian paintbrush, evening primroses and wild verbena.
We did a lot of neat things -- and I'll be blogging more about them in the future -- but maybe my favorite was driving the backroads and taking photos.
The only thing I could have asked for was a blue sky. It was mostly overcast -- with an absolute downpour last night. But they really need the rain there so I won't complain too much. I hope you enjoy the photos.

This photo was taken right before an old lady drove up and told us to get off her private road! Our guide from the CVB, Lu, apologized to us and made soothing noises about how she might have had bad experiences with people coming on her property, etc. Frankly, I think she was just a cranky old lady whose clip on earrings pinched and furthermore, I'm pretty sure she's not a native Texan because they are unfailingly friendly and hospitable.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

One-armed Paper Hanger

Accckkkkk!!!!!! I am having a terrible time finding time to blog! I have great intentions but this book project is eating my lunch. I spent three days in Tulsa this week -- more checking out restaurants (still lost a pound this week, YEA ME!), hotels, shops, you name it. I did manage to get to the zoo and took Teddy, the SATW traveling bear with me. Teddy managed to blog to Mrs. Kysar's classroom. So if you want to keep up with me, check I'm leaving in the morning for five days in Texas. I can't really afford the time, but I made the commitment before I got the book deal. Hopefully, I'll catch up with you a bit when I get back. I'm looking forward to seeing the bluebonnets.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Taste of Tulsa

One of the nights I spent in Tulsa I stayed at the Hotel Ambassador -- a renovated beauty, now Tulsa's premier boutique hotel. And I'd put it up against ANY hotel in Tulsa. It's one of my all-time faves. It's also home to the Chalkboard Restaurant, a bijou of a bistro. As I've mentioned, I'm a Weight Watcher and checking out the eateries in T-Town is tough. I've eaten at the Chalkboard in the past -- even tried its signature Beef Wellington -- so, knowing it's excellent, I thought I could get by with just an appetizer and a salad. I figured without Manager Tracy and Chef Paul. They brought me an extra appetizer and two desserts! There were four young women at the next table and I brazenly barged in and asked if they'd like to try some of the goodies. (I tried to be kind of sneaky -- I didn't want Tracy and Paul to think I didn't appreciate their consideration. I got caught but they were cool with it.) And I did taste some of everything. I ate one of the two crabcakes I'd ordered and I knew after I finished the first that if I didn't do something drastic, the second one was going to follow the first. The other appetizer was a giant sea scallop on a bed of marinated lentils, garnished with a bit of seaweed salad. The desserts were a bread pudding with white chocolate sauce and strawberries and an apricot mocha cake. Be careful when you look at the pictures. I think you can gain weight just from looking at them!

Saturday, March 07, 2009


I'm learning so much about Tulsa and meeting so many nice people! I spent some time with Alice Froeschle, owner of Bandana Tours, the other afternoon. She gave me a taste of her Art Deco walking tour (plus an extra favorite off the beaten path). Tulsa is noted for a wealth of Art Deco buildings and I saw several amazing examples. First she took me by the 1934 Fire Alarm Building. A Frederick Kershner design, the building has a Mayan Temple theme with an iconic combination of mythic and industrial motifs. This is the place where all the fire alarms in Tulsa were reported -- a state of the art system at the time. A Greek-god-type figure holds alarm tape. Now cut of from the downtown area by Highway 75, the building stands,renovated but out of the limelight it deserves.

It's hard to pick a favorite building, but the Boston Avenue Methodist Church has got to be close to the top. Designed by Adah Robinson who founded the art program at the University of Tulsa, its soaring tower punctuates the SoBo (South Boston) landscape. The stained glass windows are as delicate as dragonfly wings and everything directs visitors toward heaven.

Waite Phillips twin downtown towers, the Philtower and the Philcade, are also of prime importance. The Philtower was built first and while it has definite deco touches, it tends to Gothic extravagance. Notice the elaborate fan vaulting.

The Philcade glows like a Midas treasure. The ceiling of the ground floor arcade is covered with gold leaf.

We stuck our heads in the Atlas Building, cut through the Mid-Continent Building and ended with the 320 Boston Building -- originally the National Bank of Tulsa. The first ten floors were built in 1917 but the building was added on to later.

Alice's tours generally cover a larger area; there were several important buildings we didn't see. I simply ran out of time and energy. But, fortunately, I will be back many times and I plan to see lots more of Tulsa's architectural treasures.