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Got a chance to crawl around inside the type of bomber my grandfather flew, a B-24 Liberator, today as several Collings Foundation aircraft visited our town. America’s most-produced plane of World War II, these heavy bombers typically dropped 5,000-pound loads of explosives deep behind enemy lines across Europe and in every theater. B-24s were harder to fly but carried heavier payloads farther and faster than the B-17. There are only two operational B-24s left in the U.S., and it was a great opportunity to look around and into this aircraft on a beautiful day. My dad and I are repairing a model B-24 and I can tell you, those distinctive oval tail fin pieces look a lot smaller in plastic.

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Visitors get to step up a little ladder into the tail and go through the airplane up towards the cockpit. The B-24J would typically have had a crew of 10, including gunners at the nose, turrets, waist and tail. This particular plane is painted to represent the Witchcraft, which flew 130 missions, the most in the Mighty Eighth Air Force: http://electraforge.com/brooke/flightsims/b24_flights/witchcraftHistorical.html

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Seen in the background here is Collings’ restored B-17 Flying Fortress, which we also got to see in the air a few times as it passed over.

In a 2006 CBS interview, a flight engineer from the original Witchcraft tells how he came up with and painted her nose art: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/witchcraft-flies-again-for-vets/

Climbing through the B-24 (I did get to sight and aim the waist guns):

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The planes will be here Sunday as well, and visiting them costs $12 adults/$6 kids. Taking a half-hour flight in one is also possible, for $450. Till you get that saved up, here’s the video version 🙂

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A year kicked off with loved ones in Fort Worth is a year that’s gonna go well. I grew up near here, love the city and was tickled to hear the Metroplex referred to on the radio as “FW-D.”

Sundance Square decked out for the holidays. It was barely above freezing, so nobody’s loitering in the outdoor seats 🙂 But the restaurants and bars were doing good business and have nice views of the square!

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Beautiful Bass Hall, where crowds were arriving for the New Year’s Eve concert by Robert Earl Keen:

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Joe T Garcia’s turns 80 this year – the sign says “Since 1935!” Cannot count the number of great afternoons and evenings I’ve had at Joe T’s. If you go eat there on a pretty afternoon, not a freezing cold night, you can have your “family dinner” in the rambling, maze-like patio gardens out back of the old house.

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First time ever to go in Billy Bob’s Texas. Bewilderingly huge and comic place, with what seemed like half of North Texas there with their New Year’s Eve dates.

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But even at a distance (and this was one of the closer tables!) the Turnpike Troubadours were great. Wonderful way to ring in the year.

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James-Dean-room-keyMarfa’s Hotel Paisano famously housed the stars of “Giant” during filming in 1955, and you can, if you like, throw rooftop terrace parties in the Rock Hudson Suite; the Elizabeth Taylor Suite has a kitchen and sitting room. Up-and-coming actor James Dean got a single room with its own bath, not a given in hotels of the day. Most of the hotel has been redone – Dean’s room is clean-lined, simple, with a pretty iron desk – but the 1920s bathroom fixtures are unchanged since the Paisano opened.

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westtexasiceSo, before we headed out to a fancy restaurant that night, I got to hop into James Dean’s shower. The vicarious movie-star feeling, though, really set in while I was getting ready to go out: If you want to feel like Elizabeth Taylor, then swanning around James Dean’s hotel room in a full slip while you put on your eye makeup will do the trick. You feel like he’s about to come back in with ice for the drinks.

 

 

Pics are mine except for Dean outside West Texas Ice by Richard Miller.

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Hey, Venus

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Got lucky with the light out at my folks’ place the other evening.

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Back in 2007, Michael Winterbottom filmed parts of a movie in and around Austin. The film was “A Mighty Heart,” in which Angelina Jolie plays the wife of kidnapped journalist Daniel Pearl, and the Austin American-Statesman co-stars as a Wall Street Journal bureau.

Us Statesfolk were reminiscing about this last week, and I thought y’all might like to see the pics too. No Jolie — she wasn’t part of the very quick scene filmed here.

Everyone I can identify in this shot is a Statesman staffer except the guy standing up, who’s an actor (which you can tell because he’s wearing a TIE!). Colleagues observed that the film crew could have straightened our blinds, but probably thought they looked authentically sloppy. In fact nothing here was staged; this is exactly how it looks, except of course the trees outside are usually leafy. Coworkers also noticed that the cryptic sign on the column in back made it into the film — if you squint you can see it says “WHO-GAS,” the slogan of a former editor reminding us to focus on what’s important to our readers, aka WHO Gives A … toss. As an indicator of how often we clean and redecorate the newsroom, the sign is still taped to that column right now.

And the chair underneath the word “Journal” is where I sit! It is not, alas, where I sat in 2007, although I was in the newsroom during the shoot, over in Features — which is the backdrop for this shot:

Those are also real Statesbeings behind him. My desk, with me sitting at it, is approximately behind his right ear 🙂  We all got paid something like $28.62 after taxes, so that was kind of exciting. Should you happen to still be reading (hi! and thank you!), you’ve now spent more time looking at these photos than the Statesman spends onscreen in the film. Fame, how it fleets.

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[EDIT May 2012: Todd told me a dress shop has been named after this artwork! Turquoise Firefly has not only the good taste to choose this inspiration but the good sense to be located in Denton County – it’s in Celina.]

Todd Sanders of Roadhouse Relics creates modern neon signs with the look of antiques, and he has kindly given permission for me to post this little clip of his piece called “Fireflies”:

The animated twinkling of the fireflies, the cool blue-green of the jar (just like an old Ball jar) — I loved this piece instantly when I drove past it the other day at dusk. The sign is five feet tall!  And dusk is the perfect time to see it, just like real fireflies.

And it turns out the piece has a pretty cool back-story, too: Sanders said he made this artwork and its twin for the wedding reception of country music stars Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton, who got hitched May 14 at a ranch near Boerne. You can see one of the “Fireflies” signs glowing on the back left wall in this photo of the extremely funky-cool reception area, created by Junk Gypsy, designers based in Round Top. (And Aggies, whoop!)

The Junk Gypsy blog (which has many more gorgeous photos of the wedding setup) says the designers settled on a theme of “moonshine and mason jars, fireflies and pink guitars” to represent the couple. Sanders said the inspiration came from a Lambert song about treating love like fireflies in a jar — I think it must be her 2004 hit “Me and Charlie Talking”:

So you treat your love like a firefly,
like it only gets to shine for a little while
Catch it in a mason jar with holes in the top,
and run like hell to show it off

Junk Gypsy commissioned the neon works from him, then returned the pieces to him after the wedding, Sanders said. And thank goodness he put one up in his window for us to enjoy.

“I love them too,” Sanders said. “When I was a kid, we called them lightning bugs.”

Each of these two pieces is priced at $3,000, and even at that, I want to hang it in my living room where I could see it every day. Thank you, Mr. Sanders, for telling me about your artwork and letting me post the video, so others can see it twinkling too.

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My illustration for Memorial Day is a cross-stitch done, we are 90% sure, by my grandmother (known to me as “Mamma”). We know she did needlework, and I’ve seen other items she stitched on linen. This seems to me like it’s a kit or at least a pattern, and it resembles a kit from Bucilla, though lettering, layout, etc. differ. That kit, I’m guessing from Bucilla’s history, probably came out in the late ’60s or perhaps around the 1976 Bicentennial. I’d love to find out.

But as far as my own Mamma is concerned, she had plenty of reason to stitch it in the 1940s or 1950s, too, because her husband — my Pappa — was among the millions of Americans who fought in World War II, and she was among the millions more who waited nervously at home for news. My Pappa came home, to a long life, love and family, so he is not numbered among those for whom today is specifically set aside.

So I post this in memory of his friends who did not come home, and their fellow service members, men and women, who did not come home in all our wars and actions, in peacetime, in training for combat, from jungles and beaches and motor pools and hospitals and dirt roads and blown-out towns, in ships and planes and helicopters and trucks, in the air, on land and sea.

thank you all.

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