Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Day Eleven - Tuesday, 1 July

The RV was to stay in Oklahoma City a few days, so the Road Book was put aside.

I was all packed up and ready; laundered my sheets and towels; filled Rita’s car with gas at the 7-11. I thought I would be joining Bill at the RV, but it turned out that he planned to come stay with me after all. Again, completely typical of how well we don't communicate.

For the day’s tours, the youngsters and the oldsters split up. Jane reckoned that Simon had had enough of being the ‘kid’ and being instructed by the grown-ups. I got picked up about 9 am and we drove through Nichols Hills to look at the houses (the link I found does OKC proud!). Chris had wanted to see the Overholser Mansion, which we found quite by accident – having seen Mesta Park and Heritage Hills as well by now. The Mansion was shut for some reason I didn’t quite catch. Maybe they were looking for more ghosts.

So we went to the main thing planned for that day, the Memorial Museum. This commemorates the bombing of the Federal Building in April 1995. Bill and I had been before and so were perhaps better prepared for the emotional impact this place makes. It begins by using pictures and a sound recording from a nearby official hearing to help visitors very nearly experience being near the actual explosion and the unfolding of events on the day. Then it carries through day by day describing the rescue, recovery and reconstruction phases from the point of view of family members, the news media, local community groups and the emergency response workers. I'm always pleased to read about how Oklahomans supported the emergency response teams throughout their work on the site: food, supplies, shelter, phone service, massages even haircuts were provided (for free, unlike elsewhere) to the FEMA teams that gathered from around the country to work in Oklahoma City.

The survivors and the family members are recorded explaining their experience of the bombing.There is a room in which each of the people who died is memorialised with a photo and some little momento provided by their family to represent what was important to them. It is a very difficult room to tour. The chairs outside are arranged in rows to represent the floor of the building each victim was located, including smaller chairs for the children who were in the daycare center there. The Museum and the gardens are beautifully and tastefully done, but I'm not sure I will want to visit every time I go back to Oklahoma city. It's exhausting.

Thank you, Bob, for these pictures from the Memorial Museum.

Apparently the youngsters had toured only the outside and the gardens. Simon said after he saw the outside chain link fence covered with messages he decided he couldn’t cope with the inside. After our tour we ate lunch at a Markies Deli, a cafe with too many staff and not enough brains: they were all standing around chatting, but somehow lost our order. I was not impressed.

If walking all over the Memorial Museum wasn't enough, we apparently also toured the Myriad Gardens (as I have pictures that follow on from there). First of all we passed this amazing fountain outside the library. I don't know how or why, but somehow the water looked as though it was jumping. Something technical about the trajectory and timing that I'll never be able to understand, along with probably a computer program. It wasn't just us, lots of people had to stand and watch it.

Then there was the Myriad Gardens themselves --

in the middle of downtown OKC -- with all sorts of exotic plants

and waterfalls

and a sort of gangway... I guess that's what they call the Crystal Bridge.

It's pretty cool, but I was glad to sit down.

For dinner that evening, we decided to eat in Bricktown and I requested Mexican so we had dinner at Abuelo’s. Bricktown used to be the old brick warehouses by the railway line near the older downtown area of OKC. Maybe about 20 years ago, someone converted one to a big, fun restaurant, Spaghetti Warehouse, and the area started being re-developed. More recently the Canadian River has been channeled into a canal and this has added to othe attractions of Bricktown. When I was growing up in OKC, I thought it was a fairly dull place. It's got a lot more sophisticated in recent years than I ever remember it being.

Our waitress was a tall, bulky young woman. She asked where we were from and then told us she was from the Ukraine, but had lived in Isreal a while before coming to OKC. I asked what brought her to OKC and she said a basketball scholarship. Apparently she’d finished college, but now as working as a waitress (?)

After dinner, Simon dropped Bill and me off at Jack's. I dont' know if I didn't sleep well because the air mattress was too hard with two people's weight or whether it was that my stomach was too full...

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Day Ten - Monday, 30 June

Bill's Road Book

Day 8, 30 June: 550 Miles, 10 hours, Note 3

I-40: 60 miles to Clines Corner, 55 miles Pecos River, 60 miles to Tucumcari, 40 miles Texas border (change to Central Time, one hour back); 70 miles to Amarillo, 92 miles to Shamrock, 15 miles to Oklahoma border, 20 miles to Sayre, 50 miles to Clinton, 40 miles Canadian River, 20 miles to ElReno, 30 miles to Oklahoma City. Council Road RV park, see map. Leave I-40 at exit 142, turn right into Council Road.

Note 3 Albuquerque - This will be a long hard day on the road in the RV. It is 565 miles to OKC. Bob and I will be off on the road by 7:30 as it could take us up to 10 hours. New arrivals might want to think about staying in a motel. The cars should make it in about 7 hours plus stops. We also lose an hour today with the change to Central time at the Texas Border

Bill and Bob set off first; Simon & Rhiannon went to fetch Jane & Chris; Martin and Helen were in the 2nd car. The plan was that all would meet at the Cadillac Ranch at Amarillo, but B&B got tired of waiting for the others so they plowed on. They jogged along at 75-80 mph and arrived at the fair City of OKC (Bill's words) in due course and of course they rang me up.

Along the way B&B were amused by a very foolish driver of a Volvo estate car (AKA station wagon). Apparently this tried driving across the central grassed area which included a nice muddy ditch after the rain storms across the area. This in spite of a sign that says not to drive on the central reservation – such signs of course don’t apply to Volvo drivers, that’s universal. But of course he got well and truly stuck. The girlfriend got out of the car and went for help and this must have been quick in coming as the car was gone by the time the Tourists arrived. Bill enjoyed capturing the whole stupid thing on film.

They pulled over at the famous Cadillac Ranch.

A group of kids on an organized school trip were just arriving with their keepers.

After the Old Gits left, these school kids were just leaving about the time the Tourists arrived. Some of them gave Simon the remainder of their spray cans so he could make his contribution.

Now, I believe Simon is in a band of some kind called Drone. I forget if they do grunge or garage or what. It's all noise to me even if his 94 year old Grandmother thinks it's brilliant (sorry, Simon). The reference to Helium, well it just floats over my head...(couldn't resist).

I think whoever came up with sinking old Cads into the mud out in the middle of nowhere was a genius. I've not seen it and Simon's pictures had my mouth hanging open. This reminds me of the Graffiti Bridge in OKC, which seemed to get a new coat of paint every single weekend and provided an outlet for kids from all over OKC on a Sat night. Even I helped paint the thing once. It's been torn down for a long time now.

Oklahoma City

(this looks like the drive into Oklahoma City to me...)

I was watching the clock from about 2:30 on. Bill rang about 6pm and gave me some directions to the RV site on Council Road just off I-40, which took me a while to find. Bill and I had each assumed the other would be staying with them; typical of us to be confused like that. I didn't bring my things to stay with him at the RV and he wanted to show Bob a cool place to run the next morning.

Everyone was ready for dinner and since OKC is my hometown one might assume that I knew my way around it, which isn’t necessarily true! It’s been 17 years since I left there and a few things have changed, my capacity for remembering among them. I faithfully carried the Yellow Pages for the maps and the address listings in Rita's car with me. Everyone thought that was funny, but I couldn't have survived the week without it.

Bill wanted to do chicken fried steaks at Del Rancho but I couldn’t find one listed in a neighbourhood I was happy to go to at night. Bill’s next choice was the Outback Steakhouse but it wasn’t listed in the phone book and I wasn’t happy with his guessing the location (when we passed it later, it was now a sushi house).

I had the Tourists following me, Bill was getting quite goofy and grouchy -- which I choose to attribute to low blood sugar and I'm sometimes right. Bob was quieter and quieter and I decided any food was a priority. When I spotted the Cimarron Steak House I whipped the car into the parking lot. This turned out well: it had interesting décor, good service and food (but I was the only one who had a chicken fried steak). Jane was absolutely enthralled at seeing an older man at the next table with a long white moustache wearing a black cowboy hat. I thought about taking his picture but decided, even if I asked him, he might not feel it was very polite.

Helen & Martin were staying a nearby motel. S&R slept over the cab, Bill on the dining table, Bob was on the couch and C&J in the back bedroom.

I drove home across town down Pennsylvania Ave, as the entrance to I-44 from I-40 was closed for works. I enjoyed the drive, though I was quite tired and not altogether happy driving in the dark – not sure my contact prescription is as up-to-date as it should be for driving. Because of the high price of gas I’d not spent a great deal of time just exploring OKC and so this trip did show me part of the city, including the place where Grandma and Grandpa’s house used to be. I’m pleased to say that the developer who forced me to sell to him has yet to find a buyer for the block he bought up.

I got home about 11pm. This wasn’t the way I had envisioned things going, but it was what it was…

Monday, 28 July 2008

Day Nine - Sunday, 29 June

Bill’s Road Book
Day 7, 29 June: 257 Miles, 5 hours
I-40: 26 miles to Painted Desert, Jct 325 turn right onto R66
R66: 60 miles via Navajo Chambers to Sanders; 20 miles to New Mexico border, turn left onto I-40 East
R66: 25 miles via Defiance to Gallup; 10 miles via Red Rock
I-40: 10 miles to Continental Divide, turn left on I-40 East
R66: 71 miles to Correo, turn off onto R66
I-40: 35 miles to Albuquerque, follow old highway to Albuquerque Central KOA

Well, you know they went back the next morning for more liquefied margarine, this time on pancakes, with maple syrup and coffee (on the side). The KOA people were very happy for the RV to be left in the campsite while they all we went off in the car to see the Painted Desert and the Petrified Forest. I've been to both many years ago and was well impressed by them, more the painted than the petrified parts. Looking at Simon's pictures I'm remembering how amazing it does look.

As usual, Simon managed to snap some of the wildlife

And a few people (Bill, Chris, Bob, Jane). I started to say a few Old Gits, but then I'd need to apologise to Jane.

Simon seemed really taken with this bird and given the number of pictures and the proximity it allowed, I'm thinking the poor thing wasn't very well. Either that or he expected a little payment in return for his patience. Bob tells me it was posing!

There were apparently some interesting rocks,

the latter of which inspired someone to a little creative effort of their own.

They drove to Albuquerque in the rain. I don’t know how much it rains in NM, but it always rains when Bill is there – sheets of rain. I think some of the electrical storms I’ve been in on the flat desert at night are among the most beautiful and frightening things I’ve ever seen. Bill says the whole place was awash and there was a major traffic jam on the way to the airport.
The purpose of going to Albuquerque was to meet the next additions to the group: Helen and her fiancée, Martin, and Simon’s girlfriend, Rhiannon. This meant getting another vehicle, one which Martin and Chris could drive. Also that the RV was now full to capacity, which meant it was no longer going to be that comfortable, so Chris & Jane went off to stay in a motel. Helen & Martin stayed in the motel as well, which they did most of the time. We all agreed they were having their pre-wedding honeymoon.
Anyhow, the motel was handy as it was around the corner from the RV park where they could go straight out and up onto I-40, which all three vehicles did the next morning, eventually.
Oklahoma City
I spent some time weighing all the stuff’ I had acquired and looking at the US Airways website and calculating whether 2 bags weighing less than 50 pounds would be cheaper than posting some stuff home or having one bag that weighed up to but not over 100 pounds, then again how much might I be able to stash into Bill or Bob’s suitcases and what should I carry in my backpack that I kept with me… I had 115 # of stuff, not counting me.
A large part of the stuff was Rita's collection of jewellery. As Rita had mentioned once that she'd wanted me to have it, Jack showed me the 4' tall piece of furniture that was her jewellry box and said to take what I wanted. At first I only took what I thought I would likely wear. Rita was taller, bigger-boned and had darker colouring that suited ethnic styled pieces. I told Jack I had passed over the large rings with the genuine stones, thinking they were too valuable. He said to do what I thought best. As I was dropping off to sleep, the thought came into my mind: That's the stuff she was talking about, silly, not just the costume jewellery. So the next day I went back and collected those. I thought about some of the ethnic pieces and considered I might take them apart and make them into smaller ones; or, they might be sold on Ebay intact. So I took those. Finally there were many sets of earrings, numerous bracelets and the odd craft bead collection. I realised that whatever I left would leave Jack more decisions to make, so I cleared out all but a couple of things that related very specifically to Jack's previous career. This is the stuff that weighed the most.
One thing I noticed was that the Village is more integrated now and that the black people I encountered there were quite friendly and approachable, not like when I lived here 17 years ago. I was at 7-11 getting gas and as I was going back to the pump an older black man came around the corner and just addressed me in passing, “Do you think I could get a tan in this (weather/sunshine)?” I had to smile. I was pleased that things had moved on and seemed to be so much easier for everyone.
I drew out more cash in order to have the money I owed Bill for my part of the RV and to pay towards gas and food for the rest of the trip. By now I had a stack of $20 bills. I put it in a drawer of Rita’s sewing cabinet and later got an envelope from Jack to carry it. I told Jack that I felt certain I must being going to do something illicit, carrying that wad of cash in a brown envelope. For the rest of the trip I referred to this stash as my ‘drug money’ - but I was careful in whose presence I made this reference!

Sunday, 27 July 2008

Day Eight - Saturday 28 June

Oklahoma City

I went shopping at Jo-ann’s fabrics. When all the bolts stacked up in the shopping cart fell off onto the floor, it did cross my mind that I was going a bit nuts, but $167 is only about £85 after all, and it was probably going to be used to make Christmas presents... I can see why sewists (sewer is an awkward word, isn’t it?) have such enormous stashes of fabric. I think I felt closer to Rita, being in a fabric shop again.

It rained several of the days I was in OKC; the great, dark -grey-sky-bucket-sized raindrops kind, with ground-shaking cracks of thunder and brilliantly spread out bolts of lightening. I stepped out on the back porch and inhaled the scent of my childhood. Funny how smells bring back memories. The other smell that grabbed me, oddly enough, was the dusty laundry room smell of Rita’s garage. I don’t know if that is unique to her garage but I identify it with being at her house.

Bill’s Road Book
Day 6, 28 June: 160 Miles, 4 hours, Note 2
US180: 28 miles to Valle, turn left onto I-80; 50 miles to
Flagstaff, turn left onto I-40 East
I-40: 80 miles via Winslow
(stand on corner) to Holbrook KOA Campground?

Note 2 Painted Desert - I do not intend to book up anywhere to stay tonight from the UK. We can decide what time we want to leave Grand Canyon and follow it from there. We have 2 days to cover 425 miles from the Grand Canyon to Albuquerque

The group left the Grand Canyon RV park and headed towards Holbrook. Bill and Bob went along to the Watch Tower, the stone tower on the far end of GC Park, and then down to Cameron.

Bill says there are drawings on the wall inside but no one appears to have taken any pictures. Bill said he was taken with a steel handrail with leather binding that looked really old with beautiful textures, but there are no pictures of that either, so it must not have been that great. Either that or Simon didn't go in the building.

He did manage to get some cool pictures of this snake. I've not figured out yet what it was; it would be disappointing to find that it was a garter snake and not a boa or a Kingsnake. Simon didn't mention the snake that I know, so I'm guessing it didn't rattle at him.

From there Bob needed to go through Flagstaff to Winslow AZ to stand on a corner. The Tourists decried the two old men doing this, but turns out they came along shortly after to do the same thing. Someone has parked a flat-bed Ford on the corner and they sell t-shirts and hats. Of course they do. I wonder if the Eagles share in any of the profits?

They stayed the night at Holbrook. Bill says it was a really cruddy, nasty place, so don’t be putting it in your travel plans. Well, maybe it wasn’t nasty, it was just stuck up against I-40 along flat desert, nothing attractive to look at (which describes a great deal of that area to me, but never mind). He said to be fair the people were nice, but all the KOA people are nice and Holbrook did this cowboy cookout in the corner with an open air dining shelter. They were serving BBQ’d meat and potato salad and baked potatoes. They were happy for the foreigners to bring along a bottle of wine, so they went along to the nearest Von’s.

Everyone tells me the culinary highlight of that meal was ‘Petrified Toast’. Texas toast (very thick sliced sour-dough bread) dipped in liquefied margarine, coated with Parmesan cheese and grilled – went down wonderfully with crude red wine in the heat of the evening, I’m told. Sounds like a heart attack in the making to me…

Saturday, 26 July 2008

Day Seven - Friday, 27 June

Oklahoma City
In the morning I had an appointment to meet the woman from the property management company at my rental house. It is the house I grew up in that I inherited and never sold. I never set out to become a landlady. I’m not sure whether it’s a smart move or not, but it has been just easier to keep than to sell the house.
I went over to their office to pick up a copy of the bills they’d sent me over the last 2 years for a vast amount of work. The receptionist greeted me as though I were a celebrity of sorts, just because I live in England. She insisted on introducing me to each of the people in the various offices, gushing as we went. It was all rather amusing until I sat down in the reception area to look through the papers.
She was so excited about England that out of courtesy I asked if she had plans to visit. She did not. She was hesitant to travel in these troubled times. Her son is in Iraq, you know, and there are so many terrorists in London. I said I wasn’t aware there were so many terrorists in London, though there were some poor young men who were perhaps easily influenced. She thought I put that very well. Then she went on to talk about the fact that the ACLU was a communist organization. When I expressed surprise, she assured me this was true – it was on the Internet. I forget now what she said about the growth of the terrorist, anti-Christ regime that was attacking morality in America, but I decided to look over the paperwork in the car. This very nicely dressed, friendly lady had obviously forgotten to take her tablets. I was amazed she had a job that put in her contact with the clients.
Anyhow I drove over to the house, met the woman in charge of maintenance, Pat joined us shortly and we toured the house. I was really grateful that he took the time – and spent the gas money – to come down and do this, as I was wanting to assure myself that the work they said had be done actually had.
I thought I might be upset that it didn’t look like when Mom lived there, but I instead I was pleased with the way it looked. It was a much nicer house than when I lived there! The walls and carpet were a cream colour, the kitchen had new counters and cabinets and flooring. There were quite a few ceiling fans and all new mini-blinds. The tenant had nice furnishings and décor and a reasonable standard of housekeeping, and though she was one to find small things to report and demand repaired, this was after all bringing the state of the house back up from the dump that the last tenants left.
We found a few things that needed addressing, particularly the tree trimming that I’d paid for that hadn’t occurred, something I feel strongly about as it damages the roof which then needs replaced or mended.
(picture) Also, I felt a couple of the jobs inside the house could have been done better and asked that those contractors not be used on my house again. It was a very productive visit and well worth doing. I learned that the management company almost never checks the work of their contractors, as they simply don’t have sufficient staff to do so. I shall be giving an opinion to the owner of the company about this situation and possibly about his receptionist’s tablets.
From there Pat and I made our way over to Al and “Ruby”’s. Ruby is her middle name, but her first name, the one she uses, starts with a Z and is so unusual that you would find her easily on the internet. She worked full time until very recently at a call centre. She said customers would often ask her about her name and where it came from. She would need to steer the conversation back as her employer was unhappy about the digressions from the business of the call centre. Z is also cousin to Belmont and to Mom and is in her late 80’s. Al is her oldest son and she now lives with him, not far from Rita’s house.
For all that, they lived near by, the cousins have never spent time together, so it wasn’t just Mom who was out of touch with local family, though according to her letters to Daddy they were all in an out of each others' houses during the war. I saw Al at Rita’s funeral and before that I probably I never said more than half a dozen words to him in total. Al and his brothers spent time around Grandmother’s 4 teens occasionally when they were growing up, but although they all live in Oklahoma City, they don’t stay in touch. I guess that’s just how our family is. Pat pointed out that even the 4 people who were raised together all had different social groups when they were at school and went their separate ways as teenagers.
I was amazed to find that Z looked almost exactly as she did when I last saw her, at a BBQ at John’s house shortly after Grandmother’s death, nearly 20 years ago. She reminds me a lot of Mom, being about 5’4” and thin, with high cheekbones, but with a pointier chin. I thought she looked lovely, though she has been ill lately, having been diagnosed with cancer. In fact, I thought she looked great all things considered. She got out of bed and came to sit with us in the living room. Pat and Al had their own interests to talk about, but I managed to talk a little with Z about family history.
I knew that father, Atmer – also a very distinctive name - had been an electrical engineer. What I hadn't known was that he was responsible for the maintenance of the old Huckins Hotel. Z worked there as well for a while. Mom talked about the Huckins Hotel a lot; I think it was the place to go for an evening’s dinner and perhaps dancing. Grandma and Grandpa, her in-laws, had a nice screened back porch on their house on Pennsylvania; that porch had ceiling fans that had come from the old Huckins Hotel when it was torn down. Another thing I learned was that Z and her husband had lived two doors down from Mom and Daddy when they first built their house in The Village. We stayed for over an hour and I really enjoyed our visit, but I did worry about wearing Z out. Also, I was getting quite hungry.
Pat and I had lunch at Johnnie’s, just about my favourite restaurant in OKC. I always eat there when I’m in town; Rita and I went there often when I was younger. I enjoyed my time there with Pat. It was a good visit with Pat – not ‘Larry’ the actor / politician – just Pat. Anyone who has been around my Uncle will know just what I mean.
Later we went back to Jack’s and Pat headed home to Lamont. I made notes about what we’d seen at the house and made some salad to accompany the huge steaks Jack was going to grill on the BBQ outside. I’m pretty sure I ate 2 or 3 times as many calories that day as I should have, but then that’s what always happens when I go back home to Oklahoma.
Back on the Road…
There is no road book for this day as they stayed a second night there at the Grand Canyon. Everyone basically spent the next day independently (Jane & Chris), (Bob and Bill) and Simon exploring around the Grand Canyon rim, which is of course fairly awesome.

They met back up at the RV, but made a special trip back to the rim to watch the sunset. And so another day.

As always, a big thanks to Simon for his pictures at the Grand Canyon.

Friday, 25 July 2008

Happy Birthday Bernard!

37 Things about My Uncle Bernard

1. He was born on the 25th of July 1920 and was named Bernard Adelbert, after his Dad.

2. He was 2 years younger than his sister, my Mom.

3. Mom always said she was 5 years old before she lived in a house, so Bernard will have been at least 3 before he did. Their father was a road contractor and that job caused him to travel with his work force and his family, literally on the road.

4. Bernard looked a lot like his father, being of slight build, maybe about 5’6” and 120 or 130 pounds at most.

5. Also like his Dad, he had dark brown hair, swimming pool blue eyes, high cheekbones and a hawkish beaked nose.

6. The 1930 Census shows that he lived with his Grandmother in West Monroe, Louisiana, along with Mom and the youngest of his maternal aunts. I’m guessing Mom and Bernard needed to be in school by then, rather than travelling with their parents, but as their parents divorced sometime in the next decade, this may also have contributed to why they were living in their Grandmother’s household.

7. When they were very young – late teens or early twenties, Bernard and Mom did exhibition ballroom dancing together. They occasionally danced together later on, if I asked nicely to see it.

8. When he was 22 and Mom was 24, their step-father moved the family from Oklahoma City to New Orleans. I still have my Mom’s Vargas diary from that year (1942).

9. Bernard’s Social Security card was issued in Louisiana.

10. When Bernard was about 26, his mother and step-father adopted 4 children from Catholic Charities, a fairly remarkable thing to do. I remember once asking Mom if she hadn’t been jealous in anyway and she said no, but she thought it had taken Bernard a while to get used to having younger siblings.

11. He worked as a dance choreographer and a dance teacher, on an ad hoc basis as far as I can tell. He taught classes and developed routines, occasionally going to dance conferences. I remember once meeting Yvonne Choteau at my Grandmother’s house on 31st Street, a big occasion for us all. Talking with my Uncle Pat the other day, he reminded me that Bernard had also worked with Miguel Terekhov.

12. Bernard was gay. This wasn’t openly discussed in our family, but Grandmother had a bit of a mean streak and liked to tease him, calling him “an old maid”. I always knew he wasn’t allowed to bring men friends to the house, but didn’t understand why. When Grandmother adopted the 4 children, she initially got 3 (Rita, Linda and Pat), but soon after got another little boy. One story was that they got John so that Pat wouldn’t grow up to be a “sissy”, an only boy with 2 sisters. It seems unlikely that Pat was ever in any danger of being a “sissy”, though as an actor he does seem to choose some interesting roles (just kidding, Pat).

13. Bernard drank red wine and smoked cigarettes. I think he smoked the same filter-less brand that my Dad liked, Pall Malls.

14. Bernard lived at home, with Grandmother, for most of his life, particularly after his 40’s, when I remember him best.

15. I remember Bernard as gentle and patient, but he was exacting -- a real perfectionist.

16. He was an excellent teacher as well as a great dancer. He had a very smooth style. He taught me some of the most intricate tap routines I’ve ever seen. I still remember parts of them and tap dance while I’m waiting for the kettle to boil or for the elevator to reach my floor (if I’m alone, of course). I know that other dance teachers found his routines challenging. He also taught ballet and modern jazz, but I think he preferred tap dancing.

17. When she didn’t have customers booked, we used the big room of Grandmother’s beauty shop on 31st Street for our lessons, which we both really enjoyed. Each lesson ended with a curtsey and a bow. Mom didn't pay him do give me these lessons, he just did it for fun.

18. Bernard was responsible for my dancing debut, on stage, at the age of 3. We made the local newspapers.

19. Bernard taught all his younger siblings, and me, to drive a car. It's one of the things we all remember, his taking it upon himself to ensure that we all got our driving license. I'm fairly certain I wouldn't have passed the test without his help. The summer I turned 16 he came over every morning in his 1964 Dodge and drilled me in preparation for my driving test. No one asked him to do this, he just saw it as his role.

20. He made his bed every day. I still have his bedspread. It's not a great bedspread, but it's the only thing I have of his.

21. He paid rent to Grandmother and kept her company. After Bernard was gone, Grandmother only lived alone for a couple of years before she moved in with Mom.

22. Bernard ran errands for Grandmother when she was busy working in her beauty shop and sometimes he provided a taxi service for her elderly customers who didn’t drive. He also did the yard work.

23. I never heard Bernard swear.

24. One year while my Dad went to school down in Dallas, Mom and I went to live with Grandmother across town from our house. Bernard won't have had much money but that year he paid for me to have piano lessons from Mrs. Campbell and he chauffeured me to my dance lessons over by our house each week.

25. He also gave up his bedroom to Mom. I don’t remember where he slept then. I slept mainly with either Mom or my Aunt Rita.

26. Though Bernard wasn’t allowed to have men friends at Grandmother’s house – and I never recall ever hearing of any – he did have interesting women friends who came over. In particular I remember two nurses who went by their surnames – L and C. I always understood them to be a couple, but didn’t think too much about it. I was beginning to understand that our whole family was a bit unorthodox. L was a large woman with very short, sparse hair and a deep melodious voice. C was tall and slim with well styled auburn hair. She was very quiet, though I seem to remember she had a foreign accent, German perhaps. I always had the impression neither was entirely sober. Grandmother liked L & C – we all did. L told amazing stories about the Ob-GYN department she worked in, and the stories usually embarrassed me.

28. After Grandmother moved from 31st Street to 34th, Bernard didn’t dance much anymore. He eventually went to work for a very wealthy, eccentric brother and sister, J & L.

29. His job was caring for their animals: walking their many rescued dogs. The job developed into being a caretaker for a large house in the country where they housed the dogs and stray cats – on separate floors. I understand the attic windows were opened for the birds to access the food.

30. Bernard told me the part of the job he really disliked was feeding the rats in the basement. He talked about how they ran towards him when they heard the food rattling in the tin plates. Bernard said J and L had provided for the animals in their wills – the rats included. All were to be neutered (if not already) and allowed to live out their natural lives. Grandmother liked J and L.

31. Bernard wore reading glasses when he read the paper. I think I remember seeing him do the crossword puzzle.

32. I don’t remember seeing Bernard read, but he did use the dictionary a lot, Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary. He like words and pronouncing them correctly. He corrected other people’s pronunciation when they got it wrong.

33. Bernard and I had a ‘party piece’ when I was 6 or 7 years old. He taught me that the proper response to, “Shelley, what are the names of the remaining active volcanoes in Mexico?” was
Popocatepetl (po-po-kaw-TAY-petal & ix-tox-i-WAT-al). Everyone thought we were adorable – but then they’d all had a few drinks by then.

34. Pat told me Bernard lived for a while in New York, something I’m not sure I ever knew. I mentioned finding a painting of Bernard in Rita’s garage that used to hang in his bedroom on 34th Street. Pat said someone did that of him when he was in New York.

35. I don’t think Bernard was particularly happy in his latter years. He stayed in his room and drank a lot. He and Grandmother argued quite a bit. This was probably in part because Grandmother always enjoyed a good fight, but I think she also worried about Bernard.

36. It can’t have been very easy being a gay man in a Christian family in conservative Oklahoma during the 1950s and 60s. I’m sure he knew that he was loved by his family, but still I wish Bernard could have had a happier life than he did. Whatever his shortcomings were, Bernard was never anything but kind to me.

37. Bernard was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma and died very soon after, in February 1977, at the age of 56.

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Day Six - Thursday, 26 June

I met my cousin (her Dad, Belmont, is my mother's cousin) Joanne and her husband Gene and their granddaughter Leesie (no idea how it's spelled, but that's how it sounds) for lunch at Souper!Salad. It's not the most exciting place to eat but at least it has lots of healthy options. I had lots of healthy options - lots.

They were telling me about their upcoming church mission to Peru. It wasn't going to be the touristy part and a lot of what they knew they would be doing sounded kind of scary to me. For example, eating bread made with some ingredient that if it's made wrong, it's poisonous. I asked who got to test the bread first... Riding in a canoe on a river through the jungle, staying in a village where the water source is a stream. I wished them luck.

Then we went over to Belmont and Mona's for a visit. Mona had just got out of the hospital and Belmont had stayed with her most of the time, so I was amazed to find them looking as well as they did - they are both over 90 years old. I didn't intend to stay very long, particularly after Joanne and Gene left, but every time I got up to go, another strand of the conversation started and I was there for over 3 hours. I don't know what we talked about - family stuff, reminiscences, we just talked. And I thoroughly enjoyed myself. Everytime I see them I am conscious it might be the last time. I did finally have to go as I'd agreed to meet up with Doris and Don across town.
I managed to get on the right highway for a change and so the trip to the Southside went smoothly. Rita's Acura was a dream to drive and I really enjoyed listening to the music stations she had set - classic rock, light rock, western, etc. At one point towards the end of that journey, came on and I just cranked it up and cruised down the road, remembering why it was so great to drive a car in the US.
Doris and I met up with a handful of other old friends of ours, LaQuita, Oneta and Jackie. I really enjoyed that. Afterwards I had intended to take Don and Doris out for a meal, but Don and Doris' brother had already made spaghetti and meatballs for dinner and so we ate in. Doris's 5-year old great-grandaughter, Brooklyn was there. She insisted on showing me her dance repertoire. I stayed at Doris's visiting until about 10 or so -- Donald P was already asleep in his chair... It was a lovely day, but I was glad to hit the air mattress back at Jack's.
Bill Road Book:
Day 4, 26 June, 200 Miles; 5 hours.
R 66: 5 miles to Kingman, Cross I-40 at Jct 53; 100 miles via Hackberry, Valentine, Truxton, Peach Spring, Grand Canyon Caverns to Seligman. Keep on R66, do not join I-40 (see Map); 15 miles to I40 junction 139; turn left onto I-40 East.
I-40: 25 miles to Jct 161. See Map. I-40 business through Williams onto 64 North
Hwy 64: 30 miles to Valle. Straight on
US 180: 28 miles to Mather. RV Village
The guys abandoned the RV in a Wal-Mart car park and went in the cars out over the desert again through Seligman Pass to Oatman, Arizona, an old mining town.
They were impressed with the wild donkeys (or burros, according to the website)
(picture from website linked below)
and maybe they have another name.
Classy cars, too.

Bill says Clark Gable and Carole Lombard spent their honeymoon here in the Oatman hotel in 1930-something. I had to look this up for myself - they say the Gables couldn't get enough of the place.

This place was a mining town until the mines closed; since then it has survived as a Route 66 attraction.
Having done Oatman, the guys retrieved the RV at Wal-mart and carried on round the hilly bits on Rt 66 on a good modern road, which had been well maintained … until just before they got to I-40, apparently. Anyhow, they made it that night to the Grand Canyon.
And, as always, many thanks to Simon for sharing his pictures.

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Day Five - Wednesday, 25th June

Having made my usual list of things I wanted to accomplish, I sketched a calendar in my notebook of the week (AM, PM, EVE) and spent some time on the phone. I had to push myself to do anything at all, I felt so weighed down with sadness the lethargy was hard to fight. Eventlly, I filled in appointments with family and friends and the realtor who manages my rent house in OKC. I particularly wanted my Uncle Pat to come along with me to the rent house to help me verify that they had actually done the work they said they had.
Then I crawled up in Rita’s attic, over the garage. I’d never been up there before, but Jack reckoned there was stuff up there and sure enough there was. The loft space was only about a third of the width of the garage, which was probably fortunate. There was a variety of furniture, Christmas ornaments and stuff.... I made some notes, took a shower and picked up a few cookbooks to browse.
Rita had an interesting collection of really fattening cookbooks from touristy places they’d visited and from local fund-raising projects. Then there were the low-fat, Weight Watchers, Ultra-low fat cookbooks, which were of more interest to me. Rita apparently believed she was pre-diabetic and had a collection of diabetic cookbooks as well. I don’t know if she was right or not. She certainly seemed to have had virtually every other life threatening illness one could develop, so why not…
Bill's Road Book:
(do you know, I'm fed up fighting with the table in
Day 3, 25 June - 270 miles, 6 hours, Note 1
Hwy 138, 16 miles to Cajon Junction. Turn right on I-15 North
I-15, 10 miles to Victorville. Exit hwy 18, bear right onto 7th Street. Turn left at D Street (ca hwy 18)
R66, 30 miles via Helendale, Hodge and Lenwood to Barstow. Keep on E Main St. Do not join I-40. 7 miles to Daggett; cross I-40 to Newberry Springs. 12 miles to Junction 18, I-40. 23 miles, cross I-40, join National Old Trails Highway. 8 miles to Ludlow. 30 miles to Amboy. 30 miles to Essex, cross I-40 onto Mountain Springs Road. 5 miles to I-40 junction 107. 12 miles to Goffs. Turn Rt onto Goffs Road. 12 miles to Arrowhead Junction, turn left onto US-95. 5 miles Junction I-40, cross over and turn left onto I-40 East.
I-40, 13 miles to Needles. 12 miles to Colorado River, turn left at Jct 1, Topock (Map).
Rt 66/Hwy 95, 40 miles via Oatmen and Sitgreaves Pass to McConnico, cross I 40, Continue on old 66 on other side (Map). 4 miles to Kingman.
Note 1 Sitgreaves pass This is a switchback mountain road past Oatman. We have been recommended to go via I 40 with the RV and leave the hedonists to do Route 66 in the SUV

Again, Bill and Bob were up early to go for a run around the woods.

Bill said the drive down the valley on this day was almost as horrendous as the one the previous day. They bought only $50 worth of $5 gas then down to I-15 and then onto Route 66 proper. They stopped for breakfast in Victorfille at a place called Johnny Reb’s (Put some South in Your Mouth), which apparently was an adventure. Bill described it as a square box shaped sort of cafe with rough wood walls. All the windows were different and at odd angles -- no right angles to be found in the place. Also, they seemed to have lots of sound effects: pigs oinking in the bathroom; cows mooing in the kitchen, dogs barking in the yard. Sounds more Beverly Hillbillies than Southern Living. They also had a thing with peanuts. Each table had a bucket of peanuts and in return for those you were to make donations to their chosen charity. Part of that deal is that you throw the shells on the floor. Sounds like an interesting place… Of course everyone had a Pig-Out Pancake breakfast.
Continuing on Route 66, past a cement factory and through Barstow. On the other side of Barstow they discovered a Marine Corp depot where Rt 66 used to be, but was no longer. They had to go back onto I-40 to get around the depot and then off through the desert again.
They were struck by the interesting local architecture,
the long trains

the local wildlife
and a unique species of plant, the shoe tree.

At a place called Essex the road crossed over I-40 and became Spring Mountain Road. They guys took the RV off and and went on the motorway because a big sign said "This road is no longer maintained". But the Tourists went charging merrily along and enjoyed themselves tremendously. They all met up at Kingman, where they stayed the night.
I'm very grateful that Simon has taken and shared such wonderful photos; Bill had managed to misplace his camera early on in the trip; unfortunately this was also a recurring theme. I think he was so excited to finally be on his dream tour, he just sort of lost it all...