What do Tulsa, Tucumcari and Tombstone have in common?
So, I'm picking up my cross-country art capades story as I'm heading out of the Northwest region of Arkansas for the really long trip to Tulsa - 2 hours. I leave after lunch and, other than several scenic picture taking stops, it was smooth sailing and I arrive to my favorite Okie's brand new beautiful bungalow style home. I'm ecstatic to see Marcy and we both have tears of joy and adequate jumping up and down!
Several years ago we were colleagues in a design studio for an intimate apparel company in Bethlehem PA, and after about a year of sharing an office space, Marcy moved to the main manufacturing facility in Oklahoma, her home state. So much has happened in the time since those days! Among other things...Marcy traveled the world as a Fulbright Scholar, got married to a dashing man who's smart as all get out, AND has a new baby and a step-son in addition to a new house! So it was just great to reconnect after all these years with my favorite Okie.
In typical and efficient Marcy style, she has all the options of what we're doing for the next several hours laid out and almost like on a menu. OK, First - go to the biggest western store THIS side of the Mississippi (not to be confused with the tiny Eastern side) and let me tell ya. Boot world...you've never seen so many boots. Boots, boots, boots, boots, boots. Snake, alligator, kinky, cow, majenta, tassled, ball fringed, shit kicking boots for roughly about a quarter acre of real estate. Couldn't find any I liked personally though. Oh well, it was fun. Next stop, we're hungry- Tex Mex, oh yeah!
Downtown Tulsa: Wow, nice. I'm impressed. The city was quiet because it was a late Sunday afternoon, but that gave us some time to stroll a bit around the area and poke our heads into the stunning lobby of The Mayo Hotel.
Built in 1925, this historic building of Sullivanesque architecture, maybe Art Deco leaning interior, has hosted a long list of celebrities, diplomats and dignitaries to town. It is certainly impressive enough for the most particular of world travelers.
Note the 2 rounded seating banquettes with the illuminated lamps in the centers. So chic!
Marcy and I hop back in the car for what adventure now awaits. We drive to a parking spot along the Arkansas River. We are now in the Tulsa Riverwalk Park, where there are lots of moving objects on the paths that weave in and out. It is sort of a brightly colored, cartoonesque, faux landscape....not that it was tacky or distasteful at all...it was beautiful with it's rolling hills, trees and features along the way. I learned that, with the exception of a very small percentage of grassy areas in the park, the surfaces are entirely made with recycled materials and need no maintenance. This enables better sustainability and much less costs to operate. This is the future for some cities.
The park has several sections for various activities, and since it is so huge, you can rent scooters -- which we did!!! Another first for me folks! And I'm glad there were no pictures. By the end though, I was an old hat, literally. So sweaty my hat was stuck to my head. And I was good at scootering. Thanks Marcy!
I was somewhat fascinated by the white and sparkly rock deposits along the Arkansas. As I've been used to Pennsylvania rocks along the river, which are 50 shades of gray, these rocks are actually really colorful. As the sun was getting low, these chert and limestone deposits illuminated the radiant warm light and marbled minerals. I was mentally making notes about the color combinations and value scales that I was seeing....Indian yellow, perm. rose, mix a butter warm white, clear and dusty turquoise and indigo blues....
The colors I saw that night look very different than the photo below. So I have to make notes on the actual color I need to mix and memorize it so I can substitute it when making the painting in studio, if I ever do. I suppose I could also go into Photoshop and work it that way, but I'm less likely to do that because I'm more unplugged than I've ever been during this trip. I took very few photos that night because I had a low charge on my camera, but again, I could find lots of places here in Oklahoma to revisit and set up a plein air excursion for a few days.
Although too short, it was a wonderful evening filled with lots of laughs, shop talk, scootering, getting kicked out of the park by Security, and a perfect time together. Reconnecting with special people in your life truly does a soul good.
Tucumcari New Mexico
I've got to admit, I've not been looking forward to this portion of the trip. It involves going West in about 7 hours of driving time with not a whole heck of a lot going on in between in terms of food, gas, rest stops, museums, etc. From what I had heard, the drive is a snore. And, as I write this, I actually made the drive 3 weeks ago so I can't remember much other than driving through Oklahoma City, Amarillo TX (where I had a huge chicken fried steak 'n gravy dinner and brew for $14) and through to my destination of the Desert Inn in Tucumcari on the historic Route 66.
It was a partly cloudy afternoon as I approached into town with the view of the Tucumcari Mountain, or the mesa as it's called, for many miles. It was the first time I had ever seen anything like that from ground level in real life. As the sun danced with the clouds and faded again, the light and shadows disappeared and it became somewhat ominous looking. Again, light washed over the form again with an interesting texture and a rich color palette. In the few hours that I was observing the light on the mesa, I was astonished at the various colors and shapes that made this look so alive and vibrant. As far as rocks go, this one stands like the big fish in a small pond. It is distinguished in that it stands alone, not in the shadows of another mountain of greater size. It's secure in itself standing strong to all directions. An awesome rock indeed.
I got checked into my room at the Desert Inn with a one eighth scale Statue of Liberty out front..an ornament that I found to be an odd choice for the desert, but I suppose there is a reason. I was ecstatic that I had a view of the Mesa from my room, at least while the sun was up. I studied it in my notan sketchbook, and then drove to different points around the area to get some images for photo references before sunset.
After a little of my fascination faded, I went into the "town" of Tucumcari which - I'm not gonna lie- is just a place I wanted to visit because I love the song "Willin" sung by Little Feat (not Queen Linda's version because I really can't imagine her driving every kind of rig that's ever been made, ok?).
There were gosh, probably 40 motels, many crusted over with caked on dirt, cracked macadam gardens, and sufficiently graffitied. But there were the post pandemic hanger-on-ers like the famous Motel Safari, yes with a camel on the marqui and I'm sure many other desert themed critters on the property that one would find cute to merchandise in one's marketing scheme. A-hem, enough said.
So here's my take on this town. Go at night. It looks much better. Might want to have a couple of brews before you go sight seeing which will help with your whole experience of the "Schitt's Creek" feeling in a motel/mesa town such at this....on Route 66.
Here's the Rolling Stones version of "Get Your Kicks on Route 66"
As I'm packing up to leave early for my trip across New Mexico thru to Sedona Arizona, I check the weather and news on the cable TV in the room, something I haven't done in weeks I think because no one hardly has cable anymore. It's going to be another long drive, over 8 hours, so I'm getting an early start and making sure I know my route in case I don't have cell service at some point. I am glad that people nag me about using the old school methods as a back up since cell service is quite random. Well noted.
Wait, what? Fire between Flagstaff and Sedona? I can't believe this! OK, so there has to be another way to get to Sedona I tell myself, not to worry, so I leave not knowing where the heck I'm going. I start driving on my planned route but can't forget about the fire and the chances it may not be contained by the time I get close to Flagstaff, which I have to pass through to get to Sedona. I get too anxious and call my friend who I think is in front of a TV, who tells me that the fire is 6 miles from Sedona and that I need to detour completely. I'll have to now from Albuquerque go South on 25 to Las Cruces and then West on Rte 10 to head towards Phoenix. No way can I get to Sedona tonight. Dang, oh well. Gotta roll with it and turn up the tunes...Traveling Wilburys, Train, Steve Forbert stuff like that.
How I wound up in Tombstone I'll never know. Seemed like an entertaining idea at the time. And I guess it's better being in Tombstone than under one. But it was a long, long drive -about 12 hours in all- so I was exhausted by the time I got there and not much in the mood for a town that looks like a wild long horned cattle herd could be rumbling through at any moment.
After checking into my hotel, I explored a bit around the foot of the mesa mainly to find the last sunset pic as a souvenir. Now, I'm hungry, literally and psychologically and go on a search for, what else? Tombstone Pizza. Hmm, couldn't find it anywhere!
So, in all actuality this town makes Pioneertown look like an amateur toy town. Seems to be quite prosperous with lots of CLOSED places to eat and bars that don't serve green colored food. It has quadruple the number of very authentic Western facade buildings and all the accoutrements than Pi-town-rusted out lawn ornaments, place to park yer horse, large wooden spoke wheels laying around everywhere amongst the tiers of cacti, and all the tourist trappings (except for the effing official hot, fresh, Tombstone pizza place I can't believe this). So, Tex-Mex encore, which is, yuk, yuk, OK Corral with me!
I can now say I saw it. I could have watched the movie. No reason to revisit and I'm going to try to get my head around driving another long day tomorrow on another route that I had not planned.
Plan B-2 is going the Southern route across Arizona through Tuscon, Phoenix and over the Colorado River, into CA in the direction of Palm Springs. Ok, now this is opening up a whole new world that I didn't think I'd see this trip, since the original Plan A was to go to Flagstaff, Sedona and the Grand Dame of Canyons. I'll have to work that into the trip on the way back home.
Since the drive was going to take me over 10 hours, I didn't stop in the cities but I could sense them much better as viewed from the highways and seeing the skylines. They are more low profile skylines and obviously not as dense as Eastern cities, but I especially liked the pale color palette of many of the buildings and the sun's reflection on the tile roofs, making them look terracotta hot pink. I made an artist's note to remember that color, which I would try to mix with permanent rose, cad yellow light, tiny touch of transparent brown oxide, and white. I don't know...something like that.
Many artists, as I've come to discover, automatically and at the speed of light, think in terms of [seeing with direct observation] -to- [how do I execute that in 2D?] + [what colors am I seeing]+[what is the focal point]++...
My world has dramatically changed in how I observe Nature and my environments in the 8 years since I starting painting. I am seeing many things for the first time, yes, but having matured to appreciate that even having 2 good eyes and seeing at all is an enormous gift in life as a human. It's so important to just sit and take it all in. To also have the additional interest in creating- releasing that inner energy in artform- capturing a representation of life using my own filters, tools, and expression- it is beyond a gift. It is me. It's at my core and I guess it's always been. Applying what's always been there into painting has opened my perspective on everything. I am grateful for this amazing opportunity of self discovery, and to the folks who provided this trip. It's beyond my wildest dreams. Thank you!
I know I need to spend more time here in Arizona - there is certainly an allure that I can't quite explain, but I sense that the mountains and rock formations have a vibrational energy pull that some folks are able to resonate with, and I think I might be one of them. Hmm, I'll be back to New Mexico, too.
Thank you so much for following my blog and reading! I've never done blogging before, and it's just a way to update my family and friends to my travels, and perhaps inspire any artists who would maybe be planning a driving trip cross country. I very much appreciate your interest and any comments you would like to share. Please feel free to contact me if you would like information about my available paintings or commission work.
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