Tuesday, January 24, 2006

fashionably historic

I like history. My wife likes fashion. Sometimes that results in a skirmish over the remote control that sends both cats scurrying for cover resembling the expulsion of the French Acadians from Nova Scotia after the British captured Fort Beauséjour.

Now and again, movies and television programs come along that appeal to us both. Most recently, I discovered a true gem entitled Fashion Horizons- a 20-minute film that documents a trip of four trendy Hollywood starlets as they tour 1940s Albuquerque, New Mexico and Phoenix, Arizona.

The movie includes some interesting footage shot at the original Albuquerque airport and the luxurious Alvarado Hotel where the jet-setting hipsters freshen up before bopping over to Isleta Casino only to be disappointed to discover that Indian gaming had yet to gain a foothold in the Rio Grande Valley. Viewers should be cautioned to not allow the political incorrectness of the early 1940s present in the film to take away from the tender moment shared between Margaret Hayes and child author Louise Albieta (I am a Pueblo Indian Girl).

Other (long-deceased) Paramont Pictures beauties in the film include Virginia Dale, Esther Fernandez, Mary Martin and Martha O’Driscoll. Also noteworthy is a flyover of Acoma Pueblo in a TWA Stratoliner as the gals make their way to the Valley of the Sun. I was impressed how the director managed to cram the feel of an entire lazy Phoenix afternoon into the second half of the short. Admittedly missing the significance of the fashion show at the Camelback Inn, all I learned from that portion of the movie is that “Smoking is cool.”

The trip concludes with a flyover of the Grand Canyon when it becomes obvious that narrator Wendell Niles has assumed full control over the plane’s liquor cart.

Not convinced? DOWNLOAD Fashion Horizons and see for yourself.

Monday, January 23, 2006

eye in the sky

Don’t worry; this entry isn’t about the Alan Parson’s Project (although that I Robot is a damned fine album).

Following up on a blog entry by my friend Chantal at the Duke City Fix, I entered my address in a beta version of the Windows Live Local website- mostly just to see how it compares to Google Earth. For one, the name is noticeably less catchy. Other than that, it is currently only useful if you live in one of a dozen large US cities. Both are fun to mess around with.

While checking out the various views of the property, I wondered when the images were gathered. Then I was dumbfounded when I realized that the views to the west and east had captured me in the process of loading two truckloads of weeds and garden waste into my pickup truck so I could haul it to a city dump in a single trip. Strangely enough, today marks the 10-month anniversary of the date (March 23, 2005) when I actually completed that chore. Luckily big brother managed to document me in the process of actually doing something constructive instead of hanging around in the garden searching for praying mantids or hanging out at the racetrack.

I have only a rough idea when the other two images were captured. The view to the south was obviously taken very early on a Thursday morning (based on the shadows being cast from the trash containers lining the street). All I can tell about the view from to the north is that it was taken not long after March 14th.

Also, in order to prevent any number of readers from emailing and inquiring about the image included here, it is a Photoshop-altered compilation of screen captures I made using a trial version of SnagIt software. (As always, don’t forget to “click” on the photo to see the full-size image!)

Saturday, January 21, 2006

where have you gone miss nellie bly?

I find it difficult to believe that 116 years have passed since Nellie Bly (born Elizabeth Jane Cochran), a 23-year-old reporter for the New York World visited Albuquerque on January 22, 1890 during her record-breaking trip around the world. Given that she completed her trip a full seven days quicker than the fictional Phineas Fogg in Jules Verne's Around the World in 80 Days, one would think that Miss Bly could have spent more than TWO MINUTES in the Duke City. As it was, she didn't even have enough time to disembark from the Atlantic & Pacific train in order to purchase a burrito from a vendor outside the Alvarado Depot.

I uncovered this historical tidbit recently while conducting research for a special project that I look forward to sharing with you in the not-too-distant-future. I also discovered an intriguing Nellie Bly website that contains images of a handful of Victorian trade cards that used Nellie’s globe-trotting image to promote canned goods, clothing, and (my favorite) Dr. Morse’s Indian Root Pills. Mostly, I was astounded to learn that the New York World actually published a parlor game called "Around the World with Nellie Bly.” (Good luck finding that on eBay!)

Obviously, Albuquerque is a very different place today that it was when Miss Bly breezed through. I can’t think of a better way to illustrate the changes than to point you toward this very cool map of Albuquerque that was hand-drawn by artist Augustus Koch in 1886. The map has been reprinted a number of times, and was even reproduced as a 12” by 16” image for the 1973 calendar distributed by the Ackerman-Grant Realty Company.

If you wish, you may purchase a print from Photos to Go in various sizes and paper stock starting at $15.95. I’m definitely going to have to pick one up since the map includes the location where our house was constructed two decades later.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

how lucky can one get?

When asked, “What’s a good way to spend a three-day weekend?” I’ll either ignore the person, or reply, “Hunting for decent dive bars.” Ever since I first noticed the wonderful sign advertising the Yucca Lounge at 114 Wyoming NE just north of Central Avenue, I thought it might be a tavern worthy of dropping a few bucks. Unfortunately, by the time I got around to checking the place out, it was too late.

The Yucca Lounge might still be a great place to hang out with friends and enjoy a few drinks and laughs, but you should know up front that the place is now decidedly BYOE(verything)… beers, stools, neon lights, jukebox, walls, roof, etc. I have no idea when this place was demolished, or even when/if anyone plans on returning to the location and hauling off the remaining debris.

I would definitely like to install the existing sign in my garden to inspire future agricultural projects, so I thought I’d better begin drafting a proposal to submit to Albuquerque's Landmarks and Urban Conservation Commission to find out what objections they might have to possible relocation.

One might be temped to ask, “Where’s a good place to write such a proposal?” Of course I would ignore such a question and head directly to the lounge at the Lucky 66 Bowl (6132 4th St NW), where I could clear my mind and begin scrawling a few words onto paper.

Dewars Pub offers a sort of crow’s nest lounge that overlooks some 40 lanes of humanity. You sort of feel like you are located in the pilothouse of a large boat- a paddlewheel riverboat in search of the mysterious island of video poker machines, if you must. One can look down over the starboard side and watch people playing ridiculous dancing-themed arcade games while their friends look on with amazed faces. There is no visible jukebox at Dewars Pub, but that isn’t a problem as long as you are in the mood for 80s rock ballads that are pumped out of the sound system. Dewars Pub does feature live music every so often, and karaoke even more frequently.

Service was friendly. Two bottles of beer will run you $4.50 (plus tip). Rum is available for pirates. Smoking is encouraged, and mullets are embraced.

A portion of the floor is covered with fantastic Route 66-themed carpet featuring a tribute to Old Town Albuquerque complete with an image of flamenco dancers. All expenses were spared when the restrooms were being furnished. The low-flow Mansfield urinals are pretty much what you would expect to find in a non-descript "customer's only" public restroom.

All said, Dewars Pub is a decent-enough place to drink a few beers. If you bowl, then you should add Lucky 66 Bowl to your “Must Visit” list.

Friday, January 13, 2006

lindy's diner

While walking to the main library downtown this afternoon, I noticed another movie in production. With winds gusting in 35 mile per hour range, I didn’t bother to nose around and try to figure out what was being filmed inside Lindy’s Diner. Considering the high volume of trucks, equipment and people milling about, I believe it is safe to assume that it was a movie and not a commercial.

I would be willing to wager that the scene will be “explosive,” if not completely gut-wrenching. The anticipation is killing me.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

get lost and found

I recently undertook what I’m sure will prove to be a long and difficult project, but will ultimately make servicing our 98-year-old home a less challenging task. When we bought the house, a ton of construction debris was observed in the crawlspace including bricks, lumber, shingles, various types of pipe and lord only knows what else. It was recommended that someone should remove this stuff from under the house. As it turns out, I’ve already managed to put off this task for over a year.

So far I have removed ten 5-gallon buckets of sediment and three 5-gallon buckets of bricks and lumber fragments. Boy, is it ever a dirty job! Unlike an archaeological excavation conducted outdoors, it is proving nearly impossible to avoid getting dust everywhere in the house.

I have uncovered a couple of interesting artifacts already. The first is a plastic Hot Wheels “watch-style” game that features a picture of a school bus on the face. It has two BBs inside that you try to maneuver into two tiny holes. The game is mesmerizing. I briefly attempted to find out more information about the toy on the Internet, but my Google efforts came up empty.

Another interesting artifact is a weight/fortune ticket from one of those old penny scales at F.W. Woolworth that was in operation at 317-319 Central Avenue SW from 1915 to the 1980s (?). The ticket was produced by the International Ticket Scale Corporation in New York (Pat. No. 1610893). Unfortunately, there is no date on the ticket itself, but it is clear that it belonged to a small person as they weighed in at 112 pounds. I would hazard a guess that a penny for a fortune would be an expenditure too frivolous for Lettie Watson-Mize, so possibly the ticket represents the disposable income of her daughter, Henrietta.

I’m also left wondering how many Albuquerqueans weighed themselves following a meal at the Woolworth’s lunch counter, then tucked their fortune behind the infamous Hilda Schrader Whitcher sample Social Security card in their new E.H. Ferree wallet. (You can bet I will let you know if I locate one of those!)

Although the Internet has failed to yield much useful diagnostic information, my searches have unearthed a few clues. One interesting tidbit is an image of a 1927 model International Ticket Scale Corporation Scale Height and Weight Meter on exhibit at Dallas Museum of Art. Neat, huh?

I also discovered an interesting website for the International Arcade Museum. They don’t have much info on their International Ticket Scale page, so I think I will submit this image of my found ticket in hopes that it will result in future information sharing from some knowledgeable old-timer.

The fortune reads, “You are very shrewd in business and are thoroughly capable of managing any large enterprise.” Having pondered this discovery, I have decided to consider it an omen indicating that I will be successful in my quest to clean up the crawlspace, and excavate trenches that will allow better access to the plumbing and electrical elements. Best-case scenario, I discover an old tobacco tin containing a 1909 American Tobacco Company T-206 Honus Wagner baseball card.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

only the shadow (of I-40) knows

Sometimes even the most organized people get so caught up in the blur of holiday parties, travels, card sending and gift wrapping that they lose track of time and space- only to discover themselves wondering how they are to know exactly when the Christmas season is truly over. I would have to say when you find yourself sitting at the bar in the Silver Fox Lounge on a Monday afternoon watching a waitress leisurely taking down stands of twinkle lights, tinsel, and assorted ornaments, it is probably time to admit that you have survived yet another holiday season.

You claim you’ve never been to the Silver Fox Lounge? Then you are missing out on one of the Duke City’s finest drinking establishments. Although “they” say that you should avoid judging books by their covers, this is one bar that should be judged by its wonderful signage at the corner of Haines and 4th St NW. Inside, patrons are treated to fast and friendly service, and new customers (or “irregulars”) receive hearty handshakes from the owner.

Located along the pre-1929 alignment of historic Route 66, the Silver Fox Lounge is in all likelihood the best place in Albuquerque to listen to “Love Hangover” spilling from a jukebox and reflecting off a small disco ball before being absorbed by a larger than life-sized painting of a nude woman (who reminds me of Elly Mae Clampett). Walls are sparsely decorated with framed photographs of Elvis, collages of saloon regulars and posters announcing unfathomable happy hour deals.

A small, low stage stands at the ready for live performances by local bands and the low-density of television sets elevates the Silver Fox Lounge above the numerous downtown sports bars. Restrooms are bright and clean by all standards, and the men’s room contains a state-of-the-art 3.8-liter Toto urinal. Large round booths afford great views of the tavern’s billiards tables. The floor is covered with a combination of new tile and festive “Stinko de Mayo” carpeting.

The Silver Fox Lounge also offers a full bar menu from 7:30 am to 9:00 pm for customers desiring more nutrition than just beer. What I’m saying is, the next time you find yourself driving by the Silver Fox Lounge, do not hesitate to dive in. Entrance is on the side. Don’t be surprised if you spot a bumper sticker in the parking lot around back that reads “What Would Scooby Do?