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Arizona Penny Presses

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The Lady of the House and I were on an epic road trip in Arizona and Utah. At the first two tourist attractions we visited—bam! bam!—penny presses!

Penny presses outside the Meteor Crater Natural Landmark gift shop.

The first two penny presses we saw were outside the gift shop at the Meteor Crater Natural Landmark. The gift

shop—and the presses—were deep in the complex, well past the entrance where folks pay the admission fee. If you don’t plunk down $18 for admission, you’re not getting anywhere near those penny presses.

We saw the presses at the beginning of our visit, but we spent the little-less-than-an-hour before our guided tour (included in the price of admission) picking out postcards and a t-shirt for The Boy after freshening up in the restroom. We didn’t have time for immediate penny pressing.

After the tour, we made a quick exploration of the Discovery Center, then looked at the bottom of the crater with the free telescopic viewer. Then it was time for the penny press.

Turns out, The Lady of the House enjoys pressed pennies. Before we left town, she mentioned she was saving her  quarters to use in penny press machines. She was pleased to see those penny presses outside the gift shop.

First she had to pick the design she wanted on her penny. Should I get the picture of the crater or the picture of the meteor about to crash into the earth? she asked me.

You saw the crater, I reminded her, but you didn’t see the meteor.

That’s what I was thinking! she said, then began the penny pressing process.

She lined up her design choice and put in her coins. Then she turned, turned, turned the crank. Soon her souvenir penny clanked into the dispenser cup.

The second penny press we found was in Winslow, Arizona. The Lady had never been there, and she wanted to see the Standin’ on the Corner Park. We pulled off the I-40, and I navigated the van through the town to the park. We found a free spot half a block away to leave the van, then walked over to the famous corner.

On the way, we passed a gift shop across Kinsley Avenue from the park. Right outside the shop’s door stood a penny press machine.

Penny press in Winslow, Arizona.

After we took our photos in the Standing on the Corner Park, The Lady stood in front of the machine to choose her design. She’d used up all her quarters at the Meteor Crater gift shop, so after she picked out which penny design she wanted, she went inside the gift shop to get four quarters for a dollar. The woman working the cash register offered her pennies too, but The Lady said she had some. The worker said her pennies were bright and shiny, so The Lady accepted a few. The bright and shiny pennies did make for a nice souvenir after The Lady turned, turned, turned the crank.

At that point I started wondering if I should start collecting pressed pennies.

Fifty-one cents is a good price for a souvenir, The Lady told me.

My main concern was what I would do with a bunch of pressed pennies. Would they just sit in a bowl or a drawer? Would I ever remember to look at them?

The morning after the Arizona double penny press experience, I was lying in my bed, looking up at the ceiling of my van. There are three wooden strips, each about two inches wide running across the width of my van. I could glue pressed pennies to those wooden strips, I realized. I could display my collection in my van!

It’s too late to get a pressed penny from Meteor Crater, but maybe someday I’ll pass through Winslow again. I also know where to get a pressed penny when I go through Quartzsite, AZ; Baker, CA; and Las Vegas, NV. I’m sure my collection will grow in time.

I took the photos in this post.

Our Lady

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During my years as a Catholic, the Blessed Virgin Mary was usually off to the side. She was the mother of Jesus, of course, but she only got attention during Christmas (happy) and Easter (sad) and in the story at the wedding where she tugged on her son’s robe and asked him to do something about the wine situation. Like most women in the Catholic Church, she was a helper who got second billing.

I hadn’t been in a Catholic church for years. It was the late 90s, and I was in a long-distance relationship with a Texan. The last time I’d been in a Catholic church had probably been six years earlier while on an art tour in Venice, Italy. The last mass I’d been to was probably the one for my cousin’s wedding a year or two before the trip to Europe. It had been a long time.

My Texan was an activist and during one of my infrequent visits, he was participating in a reenactment of a massacre of Zapatistas in Oaxaca, Mexico. I knew about the reenactment before my visit, but my Texan hadn’t told me it would take place on the grounds of a Catholic church, so the location was a surprise. Even more surprising was when the reenactment turned into a precession that proceeded into the church.

Oh yeah, my Texan’s comrade said to me with a shrug, there’s a mass.

A mass? I wasn’t prepared for a mass.

The comrade thought we should go inside and join the mass. Not knowing what else to do, I followed him in.

The priest was already in front of the congregation when we walked in. Someone was already doing the day’s first reading from the missal. Instead of slipping into the back pew as I would have done left to my own devices, the comrade walked all the way up the aisle to the very first pew. I could have ducked into a pew anywhere along the way, but for some reason that must have made sense at the time, I followed him all the way to the front.

He grew up Catholic, I reasoned. He knows what he’s doing.

He hadn’t grown up Catholic, I found out later. Sure, he’d grown up in Central America, but contrary to my assumptions, that didn’t mean he came from a family of practicing Catholics.

In my Catholic family, we did not show up late to mass. If we stood to arrive even a few minutes after the ceremony started, our plans would change abruptly to include a later mass. Had my mother ever arrived late for mass and been forced to enter the church, she would have scurried into the first available pew. Nothing could have made her walk all the way to the front, flaunting her tardiness in front of God and everyone.

I remember a few other things about the mass that day in Texas in addition to bringing shame on my mother by advertising my late arrival. I remember the priest (an ostensibly white man with white hair) speaking a mixture of English and Spanish to the congregation of predominately Mexican descent. I remember my Texan’s Irish comrade chastising me and the comrade I followed in for sitting when everyone else knelt, and I remember the Blessed Virgin Mary.

In every (and I mean every) other Catholic church I’ve been in, Jesus on the cross was front and center. Maybe Mary was on one side or the other, but often enough, she was in some little alcove in the back. In this church, Mary was up front, in the middle, larger than life and looking serenely on us all. Jesus on the cross was relegated to a supporting role presiding over where the choir usually sat.

I made this devotional called “Our Lady.” I can’t guarantee it will glow like this once you get it home.

I was shocked and pleased. I wondered what it would mean to attend a church where the Mother stood peacefully over the congregation week after week, where folks didn’t have to stare at bloody Jesus for an hour every weekend. How different my Catholicism might have been had I belonged to a church where the feminine was in the forefront.

Interior of “Our Lady of the Tiny Box”

Even though I haven’t been a practicing Catholic for decades, I still have a soft spot for the Blessed Virgin Mary. She is the Catholic representation of the Mother after all. She loves us and takes our petitions to Jesus. There are no stories of Mary being wrathful, only stories of her being loving and kind and concerned.

Exterior of “Our Lady of the Tiny Box”

Recently, I made some art featuring the BVM. I guess I’m getting back to my roots. “Our Lady of the Tiny Box” was spoken for almost as soon as I posted a photo of it on Facebook, but “Our Lady,” a tribute to Our Lady of Guadalupe made from an Altoids tin, is still available for purchase for only $18, including shipping. With this little devotional, you can bring the peace of the Mother into your life.

 

Last Days in Quartzsite

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The Rubber Tramp Rendezvous has come and gone.

All of my friends have left Quartzsite, save for the new one, the one with whom I am planning on embarking on an epic adventure road trip. Or at least a several hundred mile ride in the van.

Imagine my delight to meet another traveler of my ilk, someone who knows and holds dear dumpster diving, gas jugging, and sign flying. Imagine my delight in meeting another seeker, a fellow believer in magic and signs and the machinations of the Universe.

So we’re still in Quarzsite, but not for long. As soon as the i’s are dotted and the t’s are crossed, we’re blowing this popscicle stand. Leaving right now would be fine with me, although I’m resigned to the fact that we won’t be out of here that soon.

The traffic’s gotten bad. The library parking lot was packed this morning when I arrived at 11am. There was nowhere to leave the van anywhere near the scratch and dent grocery store. The internet connection is slow and frustrating. (Thank goodness I had two weeks of blog posts scheduled. I’d be a wreck if I’d been dealing with the frustrating internet all this time.)

I hope to sit somewhere in the next couple of days and schedule the posts I’ve been writing down in my notenbook.

In hope all my readers will stay tuned.

Hands Full

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It was the Friday evening of the Independence Day weekend. Seven of my nine campsites were reserved for the night, and I was busy checking-in my campers.

I was greeting the ladies who’d just arrived on site #5 when a big pickup truck pulled into the campground. The truck stopped at site #1, and I planned to head over there next. Before I could even head in that direction, and older man marched from site #1 to the middle of the campground where there is a capped water spigot. I didn’t understand what he was looking for until he bellowed (at me in particular or at the Universe in general, I was unsure) Where’s the water? Where’s the WATER?

There’s no water, sir, I called out.

We expected there would be water, he bellowed.

In the distance, I heard another man on site #1 say, Dad, I have water.

Great, I thought. The folks on site #1 have been here three minutes, and already someone is disgruntled.

When I finished with the ladies on site #5, I headed over to site #1. I spoke to the younger man since he’d made the reservation. He stood with his back to his campsite. As I told him about quiet hours and check-out time, I had a perfect view of site #1 and his dad.

The tent was already assembled, as was an easy-up shade shelter emblazoned with USC. Around the campsite were several old-school lanterns, the kind that run on liquid fuel. I wondered if such lanterns were a good idea and if there were any rule prohibiting them. I decided that even though they seemed like a bad idea to me, without a written rule saying they were forbidden, there wasn’t much I could do.

As I watched, the dad tried to light yet another of these 20th century light sources.

I’d just asked the son if they were expecting anyone else. (I wanted to explain the extra-vehicle fee as soon as possible if it were going to be an issue.) As I watched, the entire lantern the dad was working on was engulfed in flames. The dad said something like Oh boy! I said something like Oh dear! The son looked over at his dad fiddling with the flaming lantern and said to me, No, we’re not expecting anyone else. I’ve already got my hands full.

Night of the Lepus

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As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, this mural is painted on the side of the building housing Roadrunner Java in Ajo, Arizona. (Roadrunner Java is located at 932 North 2nd Avenue.  North 2nd Avenue is the same thing as Highway 85, so this cafe is on the main drag, on the east side of the street.) I was told the mural was painted by Ajo muralist Mike “DaWolf” Baker.

According to the mural Night of the Lepus was filmed in Ajo.

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What in the world is Night of the Lepus? you may ask. You may also wonder, Why do those rabbits look so mean?

According to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Night_of_the_Lepus,

Night of the Lepus (also known as Rabbits) is a 1972 American science fiction horror film based on the 1964 science fiction novel The Year of the Angry Rabbit.

Released theatrically on July 26, 1972, it focuses on members of a small Arizona town who battle thousands of mutated, carnivorous killer rabbits. The film was the first science fiction work for producer A. C. Lyles and for director William F. Claxton, both of whom came from Western film backgrounds. Character actors from Westerns the pair had worked on were brought in to star in the Night of the Lepus, including Stuart Whitman, Janet Leigh, Rory Calhoun, and DeForest Kelley.

Shot in Arizona, Night of the Lepus used domestic rabbits filmed against miniature models and actors dressed in rabbit costumes for the attack scenes.

Ok, wait. Could we read the last part of that last sentence again?

Night of the Lepus used domestic rabbits filmed against miniature models and actors dressed in rabbit costumes for the attack scenes.

The aforementioned Wikipedia page explains in a bit more detail:

To depict the rabbit attacks, a combination of techniques were used. For some scenes, the rabbits were filmed in close-up stomping on miniature structures in slow motion.[6] For attack scenes, they had ketchup smeared on their faces.[1] For other scenes, human actors were shown wearing rabbit costumes.[1][2][6]

So this movie tried to scare people with regular pet bunnies moving among (and probably knocking over) miniature models? And to make them scarier, the bunnies were filmed with ketchup smeared on their faces! (Oh, that’s scary!) And then when they needed the bunnies to be really, really scary, they put human people in rabbit costumes? I haven’t seen one minute of this movie, but I’m already laughing.

Here’s more from the Wikipedia page:

Originally titled Rabbits, production company MGM renamed the film, using the Latin name for “rabbit” in hopes of keeping the audience from presuming the animals would be non-menacing. To further prevent the audience from thinking of cuddly bunnies in relation to the film, the theatrical posters featured no rabbits, instead displaying only eyes and referencing unnamed “creatures”. The trailers showed no critters, and the press releases only mentioned that the film had “mutants.” The only clue given to the audience was the required acknowledgment on the poster to Braddon’s novel. However, some Night of the Lepus promoters gave away the secret by sending out souvenirs decorated with rabbit’s foot designs.[2]

I was not surprised to learn that this film received a lot of criticism. It seems like John Kenneth Muir summed it up pretty well in Horror Films of the 1970s. He

felt Night of the Lepus was one of the “most ridiculous horror film[s] ever conceived”, with a poor blend of horror and environmentalism that resulted in it being more of a comedy. He criticized the “primitive special effects”, badly done editing and laughable dialogue, and noted that while the rabbits and actors are rarely seen on screen together, the filmmakers used obviously fake rabbit paws and people in rabbit suits for the few scenes calling for human/rabbit interactions. Like most critics, he pointed out that the rabbits were “cute bunnies” rather than “fanged, disease-ridden mutated creatures”, but he felt the actors did the best they could with the material, and praised them for “[keeping] straight faces as they heroically stand against the onslaught of the bunnies”.[16]

Sounds like the mural in Ajo is more artistic and more entertaining than the movie that inspired it.

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I do wish someone would remove the bush blocking the view of the mural. The bush is distracting and makes the building seem abandoned.

I took all of the photos in this post.

Cosanti

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My friend asked me if I wanted to visit Cosanti. I wasn’t even sure what Cosanti was, but when she said free, I was in.

According to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cosanti,

Cosanti is the gallery and studio of Italian-American architect Paolo Soleri and was his residence until his death in 2013. Located in Paradise Valley, Arizona, USA, it is open to the public. Cosanti is marked by terraced landscaping, experimental earth-formed concrete structures, and its sculptural wind-bells.

Paolo Soleri invented the word Cosanti…[by] fus[ing] two Italian words, cosa (meaning “things”, “property”, “matter”, “business”) and anti (“against”).

The structures at Cosanti include the original “Earth House” (which is partially underground), student dormitories, outdoor studios, performance space, swimming pool, gift shop, and Soleri’s residence. All are set amidst courtyards, terraces, and garden paths.

Location and orientation of the buildings is significant. Many structures have been placed under ground level and are surrounded by mounds of earth so as to be insulated naturally, year round, for moderation of their interior temperatures. Soleri also designed south-facing apses (partial domes) situated as passive energy collectors, accepting light and heat in the lower winter sun, deflecting it and creating shade in the higher summer sun.

Cosanti (and the related Arcosanti project) are famous for bells which help fund them. (The Arcosanti website [https://arcosanti.org/cosanti] describes them as bronze Windbells.) My friend had been to Cosanti before, but IMG_4959had never seen the pouring of the bells. We went on a bell-pouring day. (Some days bells are poured at Cosanti, and some days no bells are poured. If you want to see the bells being poured, call ahead [(480) 948-6145] and get the schedule.)

We knew bells would be poured during certain hours (9am to noon, I think), but no particular time was promised for a pouring event. We arrived at approximately 10am and walked around the grounds.

There were no informational signs on the grounds of Cosanti. When we arrived, we knew we were in the right place thanks to the welcome sign near the driveway (pictured at the top of this post). After that we were on our own. There were no signs explaining the function of any of the buildings or how those buildings were constructed. There were no docents milling about answering questions.

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This is the foundry where the bells are poured. While we watched, a half dozen men scurried around making preparations. The boxes on the ground hold the molds.

We stopped at the foundry to see what was happening there. The foundry is where the metal is melted and the bells are poured.

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This is the red-hot hole in the floor of the foundry.

In the floor of the foundry, there is a red-hot hole. Solid chunks of metal were being fed into the red-hot hole to melt.

While the metal was melting, half a dozen men were moving around the foundry, preparing the molds. The molds are made from sand contained in boxes before, during, and after the pour (until the molten metal hardens).

My friend and I had some questions, so we went into the gift shop, looking for free information. There was no free brochures or pamphlets telling the history of Cosanti or discussing its current function. There was a Cosanti guidebook in the gift shop, but the price on it was $10. IMG_4952

 

 

 

 

No way was I going to spend $10 on something I was probably only going to look at once. I understand selling a book with lots of information about the project and its founder, but it seems like the more casual visitor might just need one page explaining the basics. (My friend flipped through the display copy of the $10 guide until she found the answers to her questions.)

The gift shop was filled with bells for sale. We looked around, but neither of us bought anything. (My friend’s family has two Arcosanti bells, both of which were gifts. I don’t have anywhere to hang a bell, even if the $32+ price tag were in my budget.)

My friend and I walked around the grounds some more and looked at buildings for which we had no context. When IMG_4987we made it back to the foundry, we found life there was getting exciting. Two men had donned protective jackets and protective chaps with covered the fronts of their pants. They’d also put on helmets with protective plastic shields. They looked serious.

Working together, the two men removed the crucible filled with molten metal from the red-hot hole. They carried the crucible between them, each holding a long pole on either side of the extremely hot pot. They brought the crucible over to the line of sand molds and carefully poured molten metal into each mold.

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After the pouring ended, one of the workers answered questions from the onlookers. Then it was all over until the next pour.

I did enjoy my visit to Cosanti, although I wish there had been more educating happening. It was neat to see the bells being poured. (Who’s not impressed by a red-hot hole, a glowing crucible, and molten metal?) I would go back, but only because it’s free. IMG_4961

Cosanti is located at 6433 E Doubletree Ranch Road, Paradise Valley, Arizona.

I took all of the photos in this post.

 

 

 

Collage Book

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My latest collage project was decorating a book for a friend. I found a small notebook with hard covers for a good price at a thrift store. The images on the covers were ugly, so I decided to collage and decoupage.

This is the front of the collaged book.

This is the front of the collaged book. The mirror, key, peace sign, and coin are actual objects, so this is a mixed media piece.

This is the back cover of the collaged book.

This is the back cover of the collaged book.

This is what the front and back covers look like side by side.

This is what the front and back covers look like side by side.

My friend is going to use this book to log her travels in her Dolphin motor home.

Working Man Statue

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When I passed through Mesa, Arizona, I saw a statue that is obviously the fellow worker of the Toilet Paper Hero of Hoover Dam.

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IMG_4349According to the Waymarking website, this man is John W. “Pete” Peters. The statue was sculpted by Russell W. Bowers and stands on Main Street, near Morris Street. The statue was donated to Mesa’s permanent sculpture collection by Western Block Company, a company Pete owned. It was dedicated in January 2003.

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IMG_4350 I like the way this statue seems dynamic, as if Pete is about to actually lay down that cinder block and spread mortar on it. Most statues seem static, so this one really stood out for me.

I took all of the photos in this post.

Declaration of Independence

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I was cleaning my vanhome recently and I found a fat envelope I thought contained old letters a friend had written to me. When I looked closely, I realized the handwriting on the paper was mine. On some of the pages I’d copied texts I’d written to friends soon after leaving my not-very-nice boyfriend. On another page was a poem I’d composed less than one month after leaving that guy. I want to share the poem today.

Declaration of Independence

I want to

sport hot pink bandanas,

sleep when the sun set,

and awaken at dawn.

 

I want to

laugh at my own jokes,

dance among raindrops,

then sit in silence and calm.

 

I want to

read paperback novels,

eat yogurt and apples,

wear pants and be strong.