Saturday, July 27, 2013

Sew What?! What's Black and White and WILD All Over?

There are two kinds of people in this world, Wanda Jackson fans and Janis Martin fans.  Although, perhaps it is too strong to characterize it as an issue of mutually-exclusive preferences.  Speaking in generalities, however, most folks familiar with the music of both artists fall firmly into one category or the other.

Wanda vs. Janis
Whose side are you on?
(clink on images for a link to the source)

In all honesty, I happen to enjoy the music of both performers but if I had to choose, without question, the choice would easily be Janis Martin, "The Female Elvis."   I just prefer her mellow, smooth, country-tinged voice to Ms. "Queen of Rockabilly" Jackson's well-known, raw, box-grater-in-a-blender vocal stylings.  

The disappointment I experience over never having seen Janis Martin perform while she was alive is only assuaged by the fact that musicians, like Mary, are carrying on her musical tradition.  In keeping with the style and tone of Janis Martin, I made Mary a dress that is, to coin a new phrase, a little bit country and a little bit rock 'n roll. 

To call this the "latest" from Mr. Tiny's workshop would be an out-and-out lie.
This dress has been in the back of Mary's closet for nearly a year waiting to
make its debut.  Luckily, the opportunity arose last weekend in the form
of Wild Records' Young & Wild Weekender.

Very much channeling the young Janis Martin

Don't you think?

More often than not, I stay away from a black and white color scheme.  For one thing, it becomes a trite and hackneyed story amongst a sub-culture dominated by an obsession with the pre-color-television world.  For another, I just prefer sewing in interesting and vivid colors and, in general, Mary prefers wearing them.  Though when we found this fabric, we new it had major possibilities.

Made from a screen-printed, brushstroke, border print cotton that I picked up
for only $0.99 per yard, Mary said the dress was a hit!  I turned the black border
 to the top of the skirt and the bottom of the bodice so that the brushstrokes
radiated from the waistline.

Wearing black, baby doll pumps and black & white bangles,
Mary added the black, cowhide belt for western flair.

The Fujiyama Mama & Mary
Wait a cotton-pickin' minute...

Okay, okay, so as usual, I may have overstated my case just a tad.  Maybe it isn't such a black & white issue; there might be room in this world for folks who truly are fans of both of these legendary performers...even though legend has it that Wanda and Janis were pretty bitter rivals.

Putting rivalries aside, this dress is a kind of hybrid of the sweet, rockabilly darling (demure, tea-length full skirt) and the raging, rock 'n roll wild child (stark color story and brushstrokes printed with apparent abandon).  It bridges the gap between the "Female Elvis" and the female Elvis took out on the town.  

The very same guitar with which Mary is pictured above (one on
 which she played a couple of Janis Martin covers) is signed by
none other than Wanda Jackson.

Well, what do you say?  Between Wanda and Janis do you have a favorite?  Is there another female, roots rock 'n roller that strikes your fancy?  Do you create such elaborate and/or polarizing interpretations of the clothes you make and/or wear?


Mr. Tiny

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Ten Ways to Lose Friends and Negatively Influence People (But I Hope Not)

I have done a few "Getting to Know You" style posts on this blog.  Mostly because, when the blog award craze was at its zenith, those accompanying questionnaires were invariably part of the chain-letter equation.  In answering those questionnaires, my tendency of course, is to put my best face forward so it looks like my life is just one giant whirl of glamorous parties and intrepid roadside adventure.  (I know, you're thinking, "That's his BEST face?!?!")  Therefore, there are a few things that are still unknown to the general public and, more than probably, should remain thus.  When the charismatic Jenny, from the lovely and inspirational Everyday is a Holiday, tagged wacky tacky in a recent post, I threw caution, and my better judgment, to the wind and decided to play along in the "10 Things You Didn't Know About Me," game.

Highly flattered to be included in Jenny's post (somebody wants to know more about me?), I remembered the best advice I have ever received when it comes to blogging/social media - "Keep things light, bright, and polite."  Because I do my best to focus on the positive where this blog is concerned, I quickly realized that most of the things about myself that were un/lesser known were gravitating towards the negative (hence, the "anti-Carnegian" title of this post).  I also saw that most of my list was directly or indirectly food-related (very telling).  I hope that after reading this we can still be friends.  Here goes nothin'!


1.  In my early twenties I took a tap dance class with a Japanese exchange student who was living with us.  I figured it was essential to becoming a well-rounded star of stage and screen.  As in most dance studios, one wall was made entirely of mirrors.  I always took my place in the back of the room but being the tallest person in a class populated by senior citizens, young women, and a Japanese exchange student, I could always see my bright-red face's glistening reflection bobbing above the crowd.  Hoping that I would at least come away with the time step, I was disheartened to learn that ours was a "rhythm tap" class and we were to learn "street style" rather than traditional tap steps.  I didn't dance out of there as the next Gene Kelly, but I will say that I was pretty darn good for a beginner.  Some might even call me  "a natural"...okay, one lady...just one old lady.

I've still got 'em!

2.  I hate waste of any kind - time, talent, food, perfectly-good tap shoes, etc.  I have a few friends who always take their leftovers from restaurants home (knowing that they will never eat them) because they are afraid of the withering glance I will give them for wasting so much food.  Then I think about the wasted products used to wrap the food that they're only taking home to throw away when they know I'm not looking, and I get more upset.  At least give the food to someone in need, right?  I particularly hate wasting time and, in a neurotic exercise of guilt, I end almost every day by reviewing all the things I should have accomplished in my waking hours.  As a result, I get an unnatural amount of satisfaction out of checking items off the to-do lists that I make for myself.

1. Eat everyone's leftovers

3.  I am not a vegetarian but I love vegetarian food.  I have a brother who has been vegetarian/vegan for most of his life.  The result is many experiences with vegetarian - particularly ethnic vegetarian - cuisine.  I have never been especially fond of meat products (too many chewy bits, gristle, and blood), I'm lactose intolerant, and my policy is to never be afraid of trying new fruits/vegetables, so most veggie food is a good fit for me.  I also think vegan cakes are often times superior to their non-vegan counterparts.

Mmmmmm, caaaake!!!
(This one wasn't vegan)

4.  My international travel experiences are very limited but given the opportunity, I would move to Australia today.  It is so awesome!  The people are friendly, the food is delicious, and the pace is very laid back.  When I was there several years ago with my sister, we were on a rather choppy ferry ride across Sydney Harbor.  As the waves crested and the boat bounced, a little girl kept coyly scurrying around and shyly peering at us as we chatted.  Finally, after a little encouragement from her father, she approached us and meekly asked, "Are you from Hollywood?" (imagine that in the cutest Australian accent ever).  Taken aback, I asked her, "Why? Do we look like movie stars?" (HA! HA!)  She replied in a dreamy, wistful manner, "No, but you talk just like they do in the movies."  If that wasn't enough incentive to move to Australia, I don't know what is.  We were instant celebrities!!

My bags are packed and I'm ready to go!

5.  I have a weird affinity for bowls and chairs (not necessarily in tandem).  I could be partial to a good sofa but chairs are so dynamic, capable of creating an interesting silhouette without the bulk and broad expanses of upholstery offered by a sofa.  I love slipper chairs, wingbacks, club chairs, cigar chairs, butterfly chairs - you name it!  Bowls hold things - fruit, keys, matchbooks, dairy-free ice cream.  There is something so wholesome about a nice bowl of soup.  There is something so exciting about the anticipatory moments before a bowl is filled.  There is something so gracious about a full bowl.  There is something so rewarding about joyfully emptying one.  Perhaps I, as I am like to do, am over thinking the whole bowl situation, but I do love them - cut glass, anodized aluminum, jadite, Pyrex, stainless mixing, wooden, drabware, etc.

A gorgeous, two-tone, mohair, club chair with wood trim.
If it wasn't in a dang-blasted museum in West Virginia, I
definitely would have tried to fit it in my carry on.

6.  Raw wood (popsicle sticks, tongue depressors, the flat, little, poor-imitation-for-a-spoon sticks that come with those individual ice cream cups sold at the school cafeteria) makes my skin crawl.  Talking about it, thinking about it, even writing about it makes me anxious.  I don't have a lot of hang ups, but YECH, I can't stand those things!  They make me gag.

The stuff of nightmares.
I guess I am not alone on this one.  I found this picture on
the blog of someone who  shares my contempt for them.

7.  Speaking of things that make me gag...EVERYTHING!!!  Every time I go to the dentist one or both of us ends up in hysterics because the x-rays make me gag, the gauze makes me gag, the gloved fingers make me gag.  It's a nightmare!  Mary makes fun of me because chewing gum makes me gag.  Every once in awhile, in a panicky desire to freshen my breath, I'll forget my troubles and pop in a piece of gum.  Invariably, it ends in full, dry-heave gagging.  Too much information???

Double the enemy!!!

8.  I had to borrow one from Jenny's list and that is that I do not like talking on the phone.  It sounds terrible to say this but it seems like such a waste of time.  Using the phone to catch up with an old friend is great but for as good a multi-tasker as I think I am, I just can't talk on the phone and do something else at the same time.  That's why I never talk and drive.  I also find it disturbing when people talk on the phone whilst using the bathroom.  Finding that I can best express myself in the written word (letters, notes, and blogging), I much prefer writing or sitting around and chatting with friends face to face.

Can you hear me now?

9.  I am a worry wart.  I do my best to not let it overcome my thoughts and actions but I have a preternatural tendency towards anxiety.  I worry about the state of our society.  I worry about being late.  I worry about the kind of impression I make on people.  I worry about how much I worry.  If a friend or loved one isn't at a designated location at an appointed time, I immediately think about all the terrible things that could have gone wrong.  I have made some self-guided progress recently by just telling myself to let go of all the things over which I have no control (but I worry that I'm not listening to myself).

I like this guy's style.

10.  I have always been relatively flexible for a large person.  Many years ago, following a performance that included me dancing, singing, and dying on stage, a little old lady walked up to me and said, "I didn't know someone who looked like you could move like that."  Well, as the saying goes, "The proof is in the pudding," ladies and gentlemen; standing on one foot, I can touch the toes of my other foot to my nose (using both hands and hunching over, of course).  I think in yoga parlance it is called a "Full Moon Rising" or "A Fool's Moon Rising" or something like that.  You can probably do it too, but I have so little; won't you please just throw me a bone?

Are you more impressed with my pathetic attempt at contortion
or how quickly I was able to recreate "Worry Warts'" outfit.  

If there was a #11 on this list, it would obviously be that I have little to no shame.  
I pulled this monkeyshine in full view of the whole neighborhood.

Well, I hope I didn't over share here.  Are you totally turned off?  Do we have much in common?  Are you inspired to share ten of your dirty, little secrets lesser-known qualities?  Please fill me in on the things that I don't know about you.

Thanks to Jenny & Aaron at Everyday is a Holiday for this introspective opportunity.  Please be sure to check out their blog, Facebook page, Instagram, and every other outlet where one might share in their joy and creative spirit; you'll be glad that you did!


Mr. Tiny

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

"Holler" at Your Boy: The Country Roads of West Virginia

Is it weird to bid farewell to my West Virginia adventures by saying, "Hello?"  This final installment of the series is meant to recognize the bounteous beauty found along all of West Virginia's country roads.

My first thoughts upon seeing West Virginia from the vantage of the airplane's window seat strayed to Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn.  Yes, I know West Virginia and Mark Twain's Missouri are hundreds of miles apart (geographically and culturally), but film contrivances and my imagination are all I have to go on and that's where I went.  Just look at that river!

Before my travels, it never occurred to me that Southern California was such an arid clime.  I live in a neighborhood full of lawns and trees and growing things but, to pose it West Virginia parlance, we ain't got nothin' on Appalachia.  The depth and variety of green made me feel like I could see color for the very first time.  The air hangs heavy with a humidity for which I have never held a great affinity but somehow felt oddly comforting.  Honestly, the humidity explains both the verdant landscape and the slower pace at which West Virginians tend to operate because every motion is met with resistance; walking down the street is like wading through a pool.

New River Gorge National River Lookout

Everywhere we went we saw rivers, lakes, streams, hills, waterfalls, forests, and wildlife.  It all felt so strange and inviting that we were tempted to dive headlong into serious exploration.  Seeing our enthusiasm, locals felt obligated to give us one piece of advice, "Stay out of them hollers!"

Hollows (pronounced "hollers"): n. the sloping valley areas between hills that can be dangerous
 as they are often home to an unsavory populous pursuing less-than-lawful activities.  

Deliverance is probably more cautionary tale than anyone could possibly need, but the best delivery of this counsel was spoken thusly, "Y'all don't wanna end up like in one o' them wrong turn movies."

This naturally-occurring, roadside waterfall sits right alongside the two-lane highway.
The hose/spout contraption allows local residents to exploit the falls as a fresh water resource.

Not wanting to end up like the victims of a "Wrong turn" movie, we stuck mostly to paved roads and the numerous national and state parks that abound throughout West Virginia's countryside.  Speaking of country, this city slicker had, of course, heard the term "Country mile" before, but it took flying a few thousand miles to understand exactly what that term meant.

West Virginia's state flower is the Rhododendron.  Is it any wonder?

The New River Gorge National River Bridge

Mr. Tiny at Cathedral Falls

These dolls have very little to do with nature and country roads but I
saw them in almost every second-hand/thrift/antique store that I entered.
Their primitive, soft-bodied forms and plastic faces (I already have a few 
in the stash) make them the perfect wacky tacky craft project; stay tuned!

The caboose of a coal train as it cuts around hills

Anybody with a camera could have captured the beauty here.  Nevertheless, I was pretty proud of this shot.
Normally, I get pretty excited over taxidermy but this was a real, live deer!

Often times I silently refuse to step out of my comfort zone.  Going to West Virginia (a huge leap outside of California comfort) emboldened me.  Embracing small town mentality didn't always feel comfortable but it felt necessary and exciting.

What better way to celebrate small-town living
than by going to the VFW for a hot dog sale?

The hot dog sale is more than a West Virginia-style fundraiser, it is a way of
life.  It seemed that every day on every corner some organization was selling
 hot dogs (WV's favorite domestic product).  By far, we were the youngest
people at the VFW - always a good sign in my book!

Forget the hot dog sale, I could just eat this kid up!

Milligan Creek Covered Bridge

My sister thought it was weird that I was kind of hoping our drive through this historic,
 covered bridge would culminate in a full-blown Beetlejuice extravaganza.  Maybe I just
wanted to read the Handbook for the Recently Deceased.

The aerial tram at Pipestem National Park

Mr. Tiny goes back to nature

Rowing at Plum Orchard State Park

It wouldn't be West Virginia unless somebody was burning trash on the lawn.
This is something that the southwestern United States, a veritable tinder box, could never fathom.

I found the mouse in the swiss cheese at West Virginia's famed folk art/primitives showcase, Tamarack.

The Tamarack's iconic roofline
Glade Creek Grist Mill

Dusk at Lake Stephens
Watch out for them skeeters!!!

The best part about traversing the country roads of West Virginia was the opportunity to fulfill a lifelong fantasy.  Normally, I am extremely grateful that Southern California is lacking so many of the insect species that make their homes in more humid climes.  On this occasion, I was beyond excited to encounter BUGS!

More specifically, Lightning Bugs
We caught fireflies and it was a dream come true!

Lightning Bugs, Fireflies - call them what you will, there is something so
quintessentially American about capturing these incredible bugs and
putting them in a jar...or a plastic juice bottle...whatever you've got handy.

Not to worry; we operated on the catch-and-release system.
No bugs were harmed in the making of this blog.

I must regularly rebuke myself for speaking too often in sweeping generalities and broad pronouncements.  That being said, I can almost guarantee with near 100% surety that I will NEVER again employ a John Denver song to underscore a wacky tacky post.  However, there simply isn't another song that so clearly demonstrates the feeling of those winding Appalachian roads.

"Take Me Home, Country Roads" - John Denver

I will freely admit that I sang the refrain to this song at least three times a day while I was within state lines.

I will also freely admit that I think I am becoming one of them....
I need help!

A HUGE thank you to my sister, brother-in-law, and the cutest nephew in the entire world for hosting me so graciously and making it an unforgettable trip.  I miss you guys!!

I can't tell you how much I love, love, love traveling and finding the beauty and the wacky tacky that the world has to offer.  I'm already itching to go on the next adventure and so I'll pose the question to you.  Where should I go next?  Do you have any recommendations for a "wild and wonderful" adventure to satiate my wacky tacky wanderlust?

Until next time, West Virginia!


Mr. Tiny

Monday, July 22, 2013

Chow Time: Hillbilly Hot Dogs

Do you ever go someplace entirely new to you only to get the feeling that somehow you're home?  Where the accumulation of generations' worth of junk is immediately off-putting and comfortably familiar?  Where the jokes are inappropriate, immature, unappetizing, AND entirely hilarious?   Where the food is nothing like "Mama used to make," and that is a good thing?  Hillbilly Hot Dogs in Lesage, WV is the home for which I'd never dared to dream!

I have never posted two "Chow Time" posts in a row, but I am winding up my wild and wonderful West Virginia wingding and I didn't quite plan the sequence as carefully as I might have. 

I told you that I found my home.
Like "A Town Called Odd," I'm unsure if I should be flattered or
offended by the offer of mayorship of Teenie Weenie Land.

Opened in the waning days of the 20th Century, Hillbilly Hot Dogs' appearance belies its mere adolescence; aged outbuildings, rusty farmyard equipment, and weathered vehicles give the facilities the time worn look of a much older hillbilly holler.  While technically it is a restaurant, Hillbilly Hot Dogs is at its core a giant junkyard.  Except for the unctuous aroma of hot dog and french fry oils heavily perfuming the air, a traveler might mistake HHD for the Appalachian interpretation of Sanford and Son.  Not shy of that fact, the management has made the "Junkyard Dog" one of the premiere menu items.  

Just one of the many outbuildings on the premises of Hillbilly Hot Dogs.
I know I have a serious problem when I review this photo and see more than a
 few items that I wish I would have brought home as souvenirs from my trip.

With its tongue firmly entrenched in the hollow of its cheek (parts of the anatomy one really shouldn't think about when eating mystery-meat hot dogs), HHD takes all of the hillbilly stereotypes, embraces them, and makes them digestible for an outsider audience.  

Multiple buses are "dry docked" and repurposed as dining rooms.

At least it's two-ply.

This tree is going places!

We found our seats (in the way back where all the cool kids sit)
but not before picking up a few permanent black markers. 

Every available surface from trash cans, to windows, to weather-beaten
toys is covered in names, dates, quotes, quips, and expressions of love.
We would have gotten in serious trouble writing on the walls when we were kids.
Nevertheless, I will say that I wasn't shy about leaving my mark at HHD.

Do you ever see these plates when you're out and about?
I am always drawn to them but when it comes time to buy
them, for some reason choose to exhibit my most elusive
virtue - restraint.  I figured that signing the plate would
alleviate some of my non-buyer's remorse.

After surveying the premises and making a lasting impression on the walls and windows of a school bus, we made our way to the counter to order our hillbilly grub.  The menu, like the sprawling yard, is extensive and took some time to peruse.  The big challenge is the "Home Wrecker," a fifteen-inch hot dog with everything (and I mean everything) on it.  If a single guest can finish this big dog in under twelve minutes, the Home Wrecker and a prize T-shirt are free (stomach pump NOT included).  We toyed with the idea of ordering one and splitting it amongst our party of four but the last thing I wanted to do was waste time being sick!

At least we were assured that the food would be healthy...

Some crazy french fry concoction
I'm more of a purist.

The Hillbilly Hot Dog
(Mustard, chili, and onions)

The West Virginia Dog
(Chili, onions, and coleslaw)

The Strictly Business Dog
As I've mentioned before, my brother-in-law hails from the great state of Hawaii.
Not wanting to shame the people of his home state, he indulged in a hot dog
topped with that most-misunderstood delicacy, Spam (fried Spam at that).

A corn dog.

Refueling of all varieties takes place at HHD.

Lewd, crude, and disgustingly rude...why didn't I think of that?

It would have been entirely possible, necessary even, to have spent hours combing the grounds of Hillbilly Hot Dogs inspecting all of the accumulated treasures, dilapidated vehicles, and silly signage.  Unfortunately, we had to keep our visit brief as this was my very last stop before winging my way home.

Hillbilly Hot Dogs (Flagship Location)
6951 Ohio River Rd
Lesage, WV


Mr. Tiny