The Denizens of Route 66

In previous posts, I talked about the Route 66 festival I attended this past weekend, but I didn’t really talk about the people I saw except for a brief mention of the beauty pageant entrants.  And I saw a wide variety of folks.

Some came alone and acted very strange, as if they were alien residents from another planet, but that is typical of the high desert, or so I’ve been told.

Others came in groups, such as the red hat ladies. I wonder what Jenny Joseph thinks of that society. She is the author of the poem “Warning” (When I am an old woman I shall wear purple/With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me) which inspired the group. A society of women who all dress alike seems the antithesis of the spirit of the poem, which extols the virtue of shucking convention and striving for personal eccentricity. But then, I’ve never been a joiner and don’t much see the point of dressing like everyone else. (I’ve never owned a pair of jeans, so that tells you more about me than you would ever wish to know.) Still, it was interesting seeing a whole slew of purple-pant-suited women in red hats. Added a bit of color to the otherwise drab room.

I met a few writers, though that is nothing new — writers seem to be everywhere, especially writers who are looking for a publisher though they have not written a single word. It’s a good thing not many people showed up, otherwise you’d probably have heard my screams resounding around the word if I had to listen to one more stale and trite plot. (This is the real reason would-be writers are cautioned to read. If they’d been readers, they would know how typical their “brilliant” idea is.)

I sound a bit caustic, don’t I? Being around people does that to me. I did meet a few intriguing people — a couple of artists and a woman who reads Agatha Christie in Chinese for the fun and challenge of it. (I hope she doesn’t get upset with my revealing that, but she was such a fascinating woman, I’d hate to leave off any mention of her.)

One artist (Pete Morris) and I had a delightful conversation about truth in art and writing. He believes that if there is no truth, you have a pretty picture, but not art. The truth may be in the eye of the beholder, the truth might be the artist’s personal truth, or the truth might be a different perspective on a common theme, but there needs to be truth. It’s this lack of truth that bothers me so much about books today. Writers insist they write to entertain, which is fine, but I don’t read to be entertained. I read for truth — the writer’s truth, a different perspective on my truth, or some other facet of truth. I used to find truth even in genre fiction, though now I don’t see much even in literary fiction. (But maybe that’s more because of the vast numbers of books I’ve read than an actual dearth of truth in novels.)

A friend came to keep me company on Saturday, which made the day go by fast, and Pete painted a picture of us. I don’t know what’s the truth of the painting, but the artist did it to preserve a good memory. (Later, he kindly offered the picture to me, but I am not one to have pictures of myself hanging on the wall, so I asked if I could take a photo instead. That way we were both happy.)

Here is the painting Pete did of me. I was so oblivious, I didn’t even know he did it until he showed it to me. If you’d like to see more of Pete Morris’s work, you can see a whole gallery of paintings on his website. (Click here and use the gallery controller to the left of the images to see his pictures.)

Beauty Pageants, Route 66, Old Cars . . . and Me

I went to a Route 66 festival this weekend, and though it had its disappointments — relatively few people showed up and I sold only a few books — it also had a few highpoints — I met some old friends, I made some new ones, and . . . I sold a few books!

The beauty pageant that took place in the center of the artists’ and authors’ pavilion was too surreal to be a lowpoint and too bizarre to be a highpoint. The first pageant event seemed more of a bitty pageant then a beauty pageant since it featured babies barely able to walk (one needed her mother to hold her upright). I couldn’t help wonder how that crown would affect the rest of the winner’s life. Will it be the highpoint of her life even though she’ll never remember winning it? Or will it be the first of many wins, giving her an inflated sense of her worth?

It seemed to me that the older girls and women who entered did have an inflated sense of worth. (The preschoolers and girls in the early grades just seemed sad with their make-up, mincing walks, practiced smiles, and regal waves. And the 11-year-old winner looked terrified as if the responsibility of being a queen weighed heavy on her skinny little shoulders.) During the speech portion of the event, one of the older girls (a young women, actually), vowed that if she were to win, she’d uphold the integrity of Route 66. Typical budding politician, she never explained how she would achieve this grandiose and absurd goal. For cripes sake, most of the road no longer exists. (The longest parts of the road still extant are in San Bernardino County, probably because that section of Route 66 meanders through undeveloped desert.)

I guess I don’t get the mystique of any of it — beauty pageants, route 66, old cars (some of which are remade beyond any semblance of authenticity) — but I seem to be in a minority. The economic impact of Route 66 is huge — according to a recent study by The National Parks Service, Route 66 generates over $132 million per year in the communities through which it passes. The economic impact of beauty pageants is astronomical — over $5 billion!!!

By selling a few books at the festival, I added to that gross revenue, even if my income from those books was in the low two digits. Don’t know whether to be proud of that or not.

More California Dreaming on Route 66

One of the oddest places I visited on Route 66 was the bottle farm outside of Victorville. All the sculptures were created from bottles and other artifacts found in the Mojave Desert.

I wish you could have visited this fascinating place with me, but maybe we’ll meet on Route 66 some other time when we are dreaming of the Mother Road and days gone by.

California Dreaming on Route 66

I am in Victorville. California at the San Bernardino County Fairgrounds, signing books at the Route 66 International Festival. Route 66 enthusiasts from all over the world are here to celebrate the Mother Road and a world gone by.

Ruins along Route 66 in California near Bagdad

The road that fueled dreams of a better life is mostly absorbed into the modern world of interstate travel, but there are still some remembrances of those nostalgic times.

Bagdad Cafe from the movie of the same name

The original Bagdad Cafe is long gone. This structure was the Sidewinder Cafe, renamed for use in the movie, and is located 50 miles west of where Bagdad once stood. Odd to see the screen come to life in this dusty, out of the way place.

Roy’s Motel and Cafe in Amboy on Route 66

Roy’s Hotel and Cafe in Amboy, California, is being restored to it’s former glory (if such an elemental structure can be considered glorious.) The route beer I got at the small store at the gas station was glorious, or perhaps I was simply thirsty. I’m sure you’ve seen similar photos before, but I took this one. Well, I took all of them.

Route Beer. What writer could resist such a pun?

Getting My Kicks on Route 66

Each year,  the California Historic Route 66 Association selects one of the eight states through which Route 66 runs to host the Route 66 International Festival. This year, the festival will be held from August 9-12, 2012 at the San Bernardino County Fairgrounds in Victorville, CA. Making it an even more historic event, the fairgrounds are on old Route 66!  With the theme “California Dreamin’ on Route 66”, the Route 66 International Festival 2012 will attract thousands of Route 66 enthusiasts, historians, fans and custodians of the “Mother Road” from across the country; including international visitors from 17 different countries, as well as local residents. And me.

I’ve been accepted as a participant in the festival, and I’ll be there signing my books on August 10th and 11th. Except for Daughter Am I, the story of a road trip from Colorado to Chicago, my books don’t have anything to do with Route 66, but I’ve had little luck with writer’s conferences and library presentations, so I’m going to try something completely different. It should be interesting. I’ll have to stay for the two days rather than do what I normally do at festivals — walk around for a few minutes then leave. (I never did know how to have fun. At least not what other people consider fun.)

So, if you’re going to be in Victorville on August 10 and 11th, be sure to stop by the fairgrounds and look me up. I’m at the Alaska Pavilion, table 10. I’ll be waiting for you.

Getting My Kicks on Route 66

Each year,  the California Historic Route 66 Association selects one of the eight states through which Route 66 runs to host the Route 66 International Festival. This year, the festival will be held from August 9-12, 2012 at the San Bernardino County Fairgrounds in Victorville, CA. Making it an even more historic event, the fairgrounds are on old Route 66!  With the theme “California Dreamin’ on Route 66”, the Route 66 International Festival 2012 will attract thousands of Route 66 enthusiasts, historians, fans and custodians of the “Mother Road” from across the country; including international visitors from 17 different countries, as well as local residents. And me.

I’ve been accepted as a participant in the festival, and I’ll be there signing my books on August 10th and 11th. Except for Daughter Am I, the story of a road trip from Colorado to Chicago, my books don’t have anything to do with Route 66, but I’ve had little luck with writer’s conferences and library presentations, so I’m going to try something completely different. It should be interesting. I’ll have to stay for the two days rather than do what I normally do at festivals — walk around for a few minutes then leave. (I never did know how to have fun. At least not what other people consider fun.)

So, if you’re going to be in Victorville on August 10 and 11th, be sure to stop by the fairgrounds and look me up. I’ll be waiting for you.

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