Wednesday, April 30, 2014


Graceland 11

Next stops on the tour of Graceland: places where Elvis could let his hair down. He had a lot of it.

For want of a better term, I guess you would call the space in the top picture a media room. It's visually unbearable. Yes, the ceiling is mirrored. It had three televisions because then-President Lyndon Johnson was said to have watched all three network evening news shows at the same time. Elvis' stereo and some of his LPs are on the left.

It that's too intense for your eyeballs, you could go to the adjacent billiard room. I don't know how many yards of fabric were used for this effect but It made the room awfully claustrophobic.

Last, we have two views of the notorious Jungle Room, an add-on at the back of the house. What's the deal here, Elvis as Tarzan?

We'll do at least two more days here, one on the car collection and one on the airplanes.          

Graceland 12

Graceland 13

Graceland 14

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Chow Down With The Hound Dog

Graceland 9

The tour of Graceland continues.

Elvis' dining room isn't particularly large for an upper middle class American home. The furnishings and decor are, well, not in my budget and probably didn't make the food taste better. I wonder how often the family actually used it. Don't drop any pizza on that carpet.

The kitchen is remarkable for being so ordinary. It's spacious but not exceptional for a suburban home of a prosperous family. The color scheme would cause people to swoon today but it was common in the 60s.

One of the takeaways from visiting Graceland is that the scale of the house is nothing unusual. Some decorator got to spend a ton of money but the results - so far - are not surprising. But wait until tomorrow when we get to the casual rooms.                               

Graceland 8

Graceland 10

Monday, April 28, 2014

Welcome To Graceland

Graceland 2

Let's begin the tour.

People line up at this sign to take one another's pictures as they leave the parking lot to reach the ticket building. The home itself is across the street and you have to take a shuttle bus through the gates decorated with musical notes. The entrance to the house has a classical portico in front of what might otherwise be a biggish suburban home.

The first room on your right as you enter is the formal living room. This is an architectural feature common in larger American houses of the last few decades. No one ever uses the space unless, maybe, the vicar stops by for tea. Elvis' wife and mother probably didn't want him smoking cigars and sipping Jack Daniels on all that white. You can't see in in the picture I selected but the sofa on the right is 15 feet long. What could you use this room for?

An unusual feature is the pair of peacock windows at the end of the room, dividing it from a music alcove. I'm not sure if Elvis played the piano (a comment on the Web says he did). I find it interesting that there is a television next to the piano. There are TVs everywhere around Graceland.

There are also portraits, busts and icons of him around every turn. Note the little bust on the left in the music alcove shot. I wonder if the household cult of personality was as strong during his lifetime, before they started selling tickets to tourists.                                         

Graceland 3

Graceland 4

Graceland 5

Graceland 6

Graceland 7

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Yes, Definitely Left The Building

Elvis' Grave 1

Okay, what all the hokum was about the last couple of days was that I visited Graceland, Elvis Presley's home. It was disappointing. I was expecting something like Neuschwanstein with orange shag carpeting. It's a spacious house but no mansion, decorated in 50s-60s style by someone with more money than art history classes.

But it's a shrine. Geez, the guy's been dead 36 years and people still traipse through with awe and admiration, the way other tourists do at St. Peter's. I wonder how long it will be before the younger people don't recognize what it's about and forget him, sort of like my generation and, oh, Tommy Dorsey. Graceland may have a limited shelf live.

People leave things at the grave site, although I suspect they are carefully pruned by the staff after hours. But did Elvis go to Japan to view the cherry blossoms?

The anthropology expedition will continue.                          

 Elvis' Grave 3

Elvis' Grave 2

Graceland 1

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Away Down South In Dixie

Welcome To Arkansas

Welcome To Tennessee

Welcome To Mississippi

We have a big country. As of Thursday, I had set foot in in 48 of our 50 states. Yesterday afternoon I checked off one of the last two, Mississippi. All that's left is North Dakota. If I get there, I get there. But, hey, I actually know someone from North Dakota and he's pretty cool. Maybe I should make the effort.

Mrs. C is attending a conference in the Mississippi suburbs of Memphis, Tennessee, and I drove down yesterday to join her. Long ride, arriving in rush hour traffic. Need refreshment! I asked the hotel desk clerk if you could buy beer in supermarkets in Mississippi (we have weird alcohol laws from state to state). He said no, but you could at the pharmacy. Makes sense to me. Ah, relaxation.

Back into the city this morning on my own and that rendezvous with Elvis. More tomorrow, I hope. The WiFi at the hotel isn't working and I'm writing this Friday night at a Mexican restaurant down the street. Necessity is the mother of invention and buyer of tacos.          

Friday, April 25, 2014

What Day Of The Week Is It, Again?

Arch 2014-04-19 1

In town, out of town, back in town, work work work work post post post edit edit edit. Becoming disoriented about time is one of the screening question for a disorder upside the head. I took this one last weekend and then forgot when was when. I'm gonna have it printed onto postcards and sell it to tourists around downtown. Oh, and have it silkscreened on sheets of black velvet and put that on my little pushcart, too.

To complicate matters further, there's a medium-long road trip today. I got an meeting with Elvis tomorrow. Really. Details to follow.          

Thursday, April 24, 2014

3 PM: Fire To The North, Water To The East

Fire North Of The Dome

Gateway Geyser

I was going to post some more spring flowers today but, you know, more flowers. So I was sitting at my desk at 3 o'clock yesterday afternoon in my usual torpor when I glanced out my window to the north (I'm in a northeast corner). High, billowing black smoke was rising from somewhere behind the football stadium. I looked at a couple of local news sites and found nothing. 

Then a glance to east across the Mississippi: the Gateway Geyser was having its mid-afternoon blow. This is directly across the river from the Arch. From my angle it's behind a grain elevator. It goes off at noon, 3 and 6 during the warm months, rising as high as the Arch itself when the wind is calm, like yesterday. The only one in the world that's higher is in Saudi Arabia.

Now if they could only direct that water canon back to the Missouri side.                       

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Whose Art?

Forest Park 2014-04-19 4

The St. Louis Art Museum sits on its hill, looking down at the flowering trees below. Mrs. C isn't sure what this one is so I won't hazard a guess. The colors of this view won't last long but this morning, when I went out to get the paper at the front door, the Post-Dispatch looked like it was lying in pink snow.            

Tuesday, April 22, 2014


Forest Park 2014-04-19 1

Cue it up, Ludwig.

Back in The Lou, where it's spring and it rains and there are flowers all over the place. This is the Jewel Box in Forest Park, an Art Deco conservatory. It's full of and surrounded by flowers at this time of year.

The city is in bloom and we will see more of it this week. Then on the road again over the weekend.


Monday, April 21, 2014

Frank Lloyd Wright Slept (And Took A Shower) Here

Taliesin West 6

The photo above is of the great room at Taliesin West, mentioned in yesterday's post. The chairs are based on origami. As Dave mentioned in a comment yesterday, when high power lines were built nearby to the west in the direction of Phoenix, Wright angrily revised the house to face east toward the McDowell Mountains. Note that the roof line to the right slopes so sharply that guests were forced to sit down, facing the host's preferred view.

Wright and his third and last wife, Olga, had separate bedrooms. Some think that's the only way someone could stay married to him. The bed in the foreground was only for lounging during the day. There's another one behind the divider for sleep. Who knows why. He also had his own tiny bathroom. Nothing like those in today's big American homes, so large you could play badminton. 

Olga Ivanovna Lazovich became a sculptor of some note. Some of her work is seen at the bottom.                        

Taliesin West 7

Taliesin West 8

Taliesin West 9

Taliesin West 10 

Madeleine Monday

Madeleine 2014-04-20 1

Gotta start 'em while they're young. (Bib found at the International Photography Hall of Fame in STL.)

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Taliesin West

Taliesen West 4

My favorite thing to do in Phoenix, a visit to Taliesin West, Frank Lloyd Wright's winter home. Wright, a cantankerous genius, was one of the greatest architects of the 20th Century. His most famous work is probably the Guggenheim Museum in New York.

The building sits on the eastern outskirts of the Phoenix area, with nothing beyond but desert and mountain. He and his wife entertained the greats of the artistic and political worlds, holding grand salons that make make you think of a dessicated version of Gertrude Stein's.

The house is full of rectangles but also triangles, some quite subtle. Look for them in today's and tomorrow's posts. And, yes, I gotta do one more, featuring interior space and artwork.

It's hard to give an impression of the place without being there. Someone once said that writing about music is like dancing about architecture. And I can't dance to save my life.                         

Taliesen West 2

Taliesen West 3

Taliesen West 1

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Tucson To Phoenix

Saguaro National Park West 4

I'll get back out on the streets of The Lou this weekend but I want to finish up some Arizona stuff. Saguaro National Park, which we saw just over a week ago, has another branch northwest of Tucson. It's a perfect stop on the way back to Phoenix.

This is typical landscape for middle and southern Arizona. My feelings about it seem to change over time. I used to view this as beautiful country, very spare and clear. This trip my reaction was that it is more harsh and unforgiving, unsuitable for cities without great manipulation of the environment. It felt good to come back to the pastel softness of Midwestern spring. I dunno, maybe I'm just getting old and cranky.

The bottom photo has some of that manipulation, a strip of irrigated emerald alfalfa between desert dirt in the foreground and sand-blown mountains in the back. I'm a climate pessimist. Your opinion may be different.

One last Arizona post tomorrow, probably. Simon and Garfunkel wrote a song ages ago about the owner of the place.                        

Saguaro National Park West 2

Desert Irrigation

Friday, April 18, 2014

Scary Snake

Desert Botanical Garden 5

We saw this just beside a trail at the Desert Botanical Garden. I don't run away screaming from snakes (with the possible exception of a deadly pit viper) but I keep my distance. Locals told me that this was a king snake and not poisonous. Not for me to do any tests.

Below, the raison d'ĂȘtre for all of this.                                     

Desert Botanical Garden 3

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Random Acts Of Cactus

Desert Botanical Garden 2

I got bombed back at work yesterday so just time for a quick shot of the Arizona icon. We did not stay up to watch the red moon.                     

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Butterflies Aren't Free. They Cost $3.50.

DBG Butterfly House 8

The Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix is a special place.  I think of the lush Missouri Botanical Garden back home. This one shows you how beautiful plant life can be on a trickle of water. The big draw was the Chihuly glass exhibition. (Our garden had one two or three years ago. Everybody in the U.S. had had one, probably. Dale is making out like a bandit.) But there is something else worth going through on your way onto the grounds.

The DBG has a butterfly house. Not so unusual but always a pleasure. We got into the DBG gratis because most major American gardens have reciprocal admission privileges for members. But the butterflies aren’t free, if anyone is old enough to remember that movie. We had to pay $3.50 each extra, and no senior discount (harrump). It was worth it.

DBG Butterfly House 7

DBG Butterfly House 4

Tuesday, April 15, 2014


Blog-o-Rama Phoenix

Bloggers in the desert: Sharon Anck of Phoenix Daily Photo, Julie Pace of Scottsdale Daily Photo, Dave Selden of Tamarindo Daily Photo and an interloper from Missouri on a beautiful spring night in Arizona. One of the reasons CDP is so very worth while.

Time to head back to reality today ( it worthy of being called real?) but lots more AZ pictures to come.                         

Monday, April 14, 2014

After Forty Years

Chihuly In The DBG 1

Today is the fortieth anniversary of Carolyn and my marriage, the excuse for the trip out here. Dinner tonight with friends and colleagues Dave Selden and Julie Pace. The photo above is from the Dale Chihuly show at Phoenix's Desert Botanical Garden, much more about which later. I think of it as a candle for us.

Our two children have grown up to be good people. One of them has given us the most delightful granddaughter imaginable. We've seen lots of our own country and the wide world together, from our origins in Kansas and Queens to far, far beyond. We have supported one another through sickness and injury; times when the money was good and times when there wasn't much; long, long drives and instants of beauty. I wouldn't want to have done it with anyone else.

We're still friends after four decades. I really like living with her.

There's a full moon tonight.              

Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Arizona Inn

Croquet At The Arizona Inn

We've been to Tucson once or twice over the years but really don't know the area. We asked our colleague Dave of Tamarindo DP, who lives in the Phoenix area, for advice about where to stay. He recommended the gorgeous Arizona Inn, a landmark since 1930. It oozes charm and style.

You can play croquet in a pink seersucker suit and bare feet after breakfast. Wander the gardens. Dine on the patio. Watch the moonrise. It was heavenly, and fairly priced for all the beauty. It's a place we would like to return to one day.                      

The Arizona Inn 1

Breakfast At The Arizona Inn

The Arizona Inn 3

The Arizona Inn 2

Dusk At The Arizona Inn 1