August 1, 2009

The Beeswax preview is up on trailers!  I guess I can add "Supporting Actress" to my long, strange list of freelance credentials.  

Speaking of which, two of the new case studies I wrote for LISC/Met Life Community Safety Awards are up on LISC's website.  One of the case studies covers a graffiti removal program in Los Angeles, and the other looks at Dwa Fanm, an organization focused on improving the lives of Caribbean and African women immigrants in Brooklyn, with a particular focus on domestic violence and working effectively with law enforcement.  Both case studies focus on collaborations between non-profits and law enforcement, and ideally both will have some insights into what made these two partnerships work.  

July 8, 2009

New photos up at!  It's taken me a couple of weeks to get my desk set up and feel like I can get back to work on the motels, but finally, I've gotten a little something done.  The new photos are of the Munger Moss, an institution in Lebanon, MO, that happens to sit right across the road from the Forest Manor (which, incidentally, has my favorite sign of all time).  I got the feeling that the owners of the two motels - two couples of the same generation - weren't particularly chummy.  Once the Forest Manor interview is transcribed, you can read more about this.  The Boese's seemed put out by the MM's total identification with Route 66, and in response they have more or less opted out of the nostalgia/biker/roadie market, instead creating a "country" vibe at their place, with decor that is heavy with reproduction primitive Americana - unfinished wooden beams, Uncle Sam whirligigs and the like.  That is, until you go inside and see the fantastic technicolor murals painted on by Ms. Boese, who I must say has a real eye for color.

But this too you'll have to check out on the other site - this one's getting too heavy with photos, and every day I get a notification from my hosting service that I'm over my storage limit.  Not by much - not enough for me to fix it right away - but enough that it's clear that the project needs to migrate fully over to the other site.  And from there, into exhibit?  A book of some kind?  A proposal for a documentary in a different format?  The thing is, I really don't know.  Everything seems equally feasible/impossible. 

June 29, 2009

Now that the dust has settled on the move to Chicago, I have a few things I've been meaning to post.  First, I had only been here two days when I heard from Croc and Jim, the publishers of the Route 66 Pulse, that they were in town and were meeting up at a place in Chicago called Del Ray's Chicken Basket.  Actually, it's Dell Rhea's, and it's in Willowbrook, Illinois, and it took me several minutes of active googling to figure this out.  It helps that their website is the pithy


Thanks to Elaine Stonich for the great photo - perhaps the only time that award-winning author Michele Barker, the infamoous Crocodile Lile, and Route 66 Ambassador Jim Conkle will ever be photographed together.  Oh, and Michele's husband, Joe, and I were there, too.

What else is going on?  Well, Chicago is pretty great.  From our sublet on the 31st floor, Gordo and I can see the people in the high-rise adjacent to ours running on their treadmill and having dinner (not at the same time - YET!)  We can also see the Sears Tower, aka the Willis Tower, Lake Michigan, and lots of other fantastic highrises and decks and greened roofs.  It's a whole new kind of theater - street theater, but up high.  Roof-deck theater.  Treadmill theater.  It's awesome.  

And I almost forgot - on the drive here with my friend Caitlin, I drove through Niagara Falls, New York, and had another discovery of cultural convergence around mid-century American icons - in this case, Indian-Americans and Niagara Falls, NY.  The Canadian side of the falls was a lot like modern Vegas, with upscale hotels, Planet Hollywoods, a LOT of wax museums, overpriced Starbucks outlets - the usual infrastructure of a major American tourism destination (well, Canadian, in this case.)  But on the New York side, it was Desi-tastic!  It looked like half of the restaurants were Indian restaurants, populated with lots of Indians as well as locals and tourists of all stripes.  

What's going on in Niagara Falls, NY?  What's going on w/mid-century American tourist traps and their present-day Desi curators?  Someone needs to get the story, and the one person really well-positioned to do this will be the new Buffalo-area field rep for the National Trust.  Whoever you are, you lucky dog, go find out what's going out there at Niagara Falls - how did it end up with such a large Indian-American population, and what's this community doing to promote the falls?   What's the community doing around preservation?  Then call and tell me what you've found out!  I wish I had had more time to hang out there and talk to people, but I had to move on to Chicago.  

And, it's a whole new world here.  It's a lot...taller.  Lots more going on upstairs, like up in the air, parallel to the 31st floor.  I apologize to my neighbors that I can't help spying on you, but I've never had this much scenery outside my window!  Can you blame me?  And yes, I realize you are spying on me too.  Thanks.  I'll go get dressed now.   

May 30, 2009

Now I have the problem/opportunity of figuring out what this blog is supposed to do, since the 66 Motels project now has a new home over at For good measure, I want to post here a link that I just posted there, to Sepia Mutiny, another blog which magically heard about the 66 Motels project (from the National Trust posting?) and put up their own posting about it.  Thanks, guys!  

Now I'm pretty sure that I want to start using "desi", as in "Desi Curators of Americana," but I think I need some practice first.  I'm not exactly fluent in my use of homeboy, paesano, or boricua (all parallels, according to the experts), so I'm going to start slowly and embrace the fact that it will always sound stilted, coming from someone who obviously isn't part of the south Asian diaspora.   Like, "Hey, I love the desi component of this research project!", etc.  

Thoughts?  Peter Crowley?  

May 11, 2009

I'm getting ready to move to Chicago, as probably anyone who's reading this already knows, which will probably only benefit the motel project.  Chicago is, after all, the start/end of Route 66.  The problem is that moving takes so much time and energy (as does looking for a new job, friends, apartment...), that I'm worried that it will be another two months before I post anything here or have anything to add to the site. 

But the good news is, is up and running!  It's not exactly the magical perfect interface I've always dreamed of, but for now I've traded design magic for efficiency and am working with an existing Sandvox template to get the photos up and organized by site/owner.  The next step is to not only finish up Missouri's photos and interview transcripts, but to start posting bits of text and transcript from the interviewees - probably on the Owners page, so that you can read something from each owner when you click on his or her picture.  Also, I have a ton of great stuff from the April trip to Arizona that I'm really excited to dig into, but probably not for at least a month.  I think the focus needs to be on getting more text/interview content onto the new site.   

Also, having nothing to do with motels, I have point out Elizabeth Dodge's starmaking turn on NPR's Marketplace today - how amazing was her reading of "One Art"?  She read the poem so naturally, as if she read poetry out loud to a national audience every day, which I imagine is a lot harder to do than it seems.  That's my sister, people!  And since I'm linking today, I hear that one of Boston's best Forrest yoga teachers now has his own website.  Peter Crowley, you know your web stats are going to be spiking after this!  No, no, no commission for me (but aren't you nice to offer it!)  Just seeing your business take off is its own reward.   

April 21, 2009

Just got back from a six-day trip to northern Arizona, covering motels from Holbrook to Truxton. The two bookends of Arizona 66, which to me are Gallup, NM and Kingman AZ, where just out of my range this trip. Logistically, these interview trips have a couple of limitations – namely, that you have to fly in and out of a major airport, and in this case the airport was due south about 2 hours from flagstaff, in the center of the state.  Meaning I couldn’t go too far from Phoenix, either east or west, if I wanted to keep the trip manageable.  As it was I still logged around 800 miles in my best friend, my pal, my constant companion of the road – a gray Pontiac 2-door featuring a free upgrade to satellite radio.  XM Sirius Satellite Radio, by the way, was the best thing that ever happened to me.  It wasn’t just the crisp, clear, constant selection of music (although that’s great in the middle of the desert) as the feeling of never being very far from mass culture, which for better or worse, is where I feel at home.  Which is weird, because isn’t that what I love about this project and this fieldwork?  Getting away from the familiar? 


The truth is, what I love about this project is pretty similar to what I (now) love about satellite radio – namely, that it’s something that seems to be pretty generic and pre-produced on the surface, but that reveals more and more unexpected stories the more time you spend with it.  Not every Sirius XM Radio station bears up to this, but a couple of stations played great stuff that I’d never heard, with dj’s who actually demonstrated some kind of meaningful relationship with the music they were playing and were occasionally hilarious on top of it.   But anyway, with Route 66, it’s the same thing. It’s easy to lose yourself in the bland, warm nostalgia bath that’s crystallized in t-shirt form every fifty miles or so along the road – particularly in Arizona, where the high level of tourism bolsters the market for 66-related tchotchkes.  But once you start really listening to the people on the road, like you would to the radio, you can hear all kinds of things.   Stories of entrepreneurialism, of fresh starts in a new country, of mutli-generational family businesses – and also stories of poverty, of fires, drugs, abandonment, of owners barely hanging on, and everywhere a sense of shock fading into acceptance about The Economy, which has directly affected the income stream for local motels.


This trip, the standout motels and owners, for different reasons, were the Wigwam Motel in Holbrook and John, the Supai Motel in Seligman and the Shettys, and the Frontier Motel in Truxton and longtime owner and dustbowl survivor, Mildred. These three businesses together demonstrated just how connected these motel owners can be to their properties and to Route 66 in general.  But I saw again on this trip that none of these owners is really interested in the question of, Why do people come to Route 66?  Mostly, the owners I interviewed just didn’t answer the question, or said something that made it clear that the answer doesn’t matter to them.  Which makes me think it might not be a very good question, because the answer, for these owners at least, seems to be both totally irrelevant and embarrassingly obvious. But I’m still interested, even though I realize now that it’s the type of question only a tourist would ask.



March 13, 2008

Friday the 13th!  A great day to post some creepy photos.  See new photos of some abandoned properties in Missouri (I wish I knew where, but I didn't take notes on where exactly, since these were all places that were not in any town that I could recognize - next time I'm buying a camera that captures GPS coordinates somewhere in the image file).  

Also I've posted some other creepy photos (creepy in a different way) from the Wishing Well and the Rest Haven Court in Springfield, MO.  I distinctly remember feeling like it wasn't a smart thing for me to be wandering around the Wishing Well alone, talking to the guys that lived there, however briefly.  They all seemed nice enough, but traveling alone, you get nervous.  Plus I had been on the receiving end of some obnoxious whistling earlier from some of the men staying at the Rest Haven Court - something I normally associate with downtown construction workers harassing me in a vaguely flirtatious manner while I'm walking to the drugstore on the crowded streets of Cambridge, not predatory construction workers renting a room next to me in a flimsy motel with doors and walls as thin as paper. 

On safety - when I'm traveling for this project and staying at cheap motels by myself, I do get a little jittery, even on everyone's favorite historic highway.  I don't think violent crime is less likely there than anywhere else; I'm not sure that it's not more likely.  In the daytime, I usually feel safe on Route 66 - like my car could break down and some friendly local would pull over and help me out.  But at night, at the motels, it's a different story.  Yes, I have been known to push a dresser in front of the door to my room.  I know this is kind of crazy, and not a little dangerous itself, since a fire is more likely than a break-in, but it also helps me sleep.

February 22, 2009

New photos - some abandoned places in northeastern Oklahoma as well as some revamped photos from Jack Patel's Desert Hills.  This is the motel and the owner that made me want to do this project.  Although you would never know it from the photos.  When I started, I was using a point and shoot camera.  After realizing how much I actually enjoyed taking these photos and doing this project, I invested in a better camera (a Canon XSi) and just generally started taking the project more seriously.  All other photos on this site were taken with the nice camera, so I've been putting off posting these older photos, mostly because I was a bit ashamed of having had to ease my way into this project.  It's gotten more serious as I've gone along, so it hurts to look back at last April when I started and was so much more timid about the work.


But anyway, they're up now and they don't look so bad.  On the plus side, seeing them again and seeing how much the project has developed (in my mind) reminds me of how much I actually do care about this project.  And how sometimes you don't realize how much you care about something until you look back at the amount of time you've put into it.  As the first motel I stayed at since I decided to pursue the documentation project, and as the place that in 2005 first got me interested in Route 66, the Desert Hills means a lot to me - a lot more, I'm afraid, than is being conveyed by these snapshots.  But they're a start.  

February 12, 2009

A few more new photos up - the Blue Swallow (as if there aren't already enough photos of this place!  Check out the ephemera....) as well as two abandoned motels, formerly the Plains Motel and the Country Court, both in Oklahoma.  The Country Court photos are pretty depressing, because it's clear that there was a fire there recently and all the furniture and possessions of the inhabitants were cleared out and thrown into a big pile in front of the property.  This seems to have happened a while ago, and a quick google search doesn't pull up any articles about what happened. 

It looks like the kind of place where there could have been meth use or production, or it's just as likely that there was an electrical or kitchen fire, because who knows what kind of shape the place was in before it happened?  Anyway, it's sad not only because of what looks like the permanent loss of a historic property, but also because of the signs of regular life that are left behind - an old chair, a makeup compact, blankets, appliances, one laceless boot.  It makes me wonder who's going to "clean" the site, but really, what would that mean?  Moving these things from one lot to another?  So much waste.  Believe me, I buy more than I need and sometimes even spend more than I make, but it still kills me to see so many objects rendered useless.  

January 31, 2009

New photos up!  The Americana Motel - American owned, naturally - as well as the Historic Route 66 Motel and the Tucumcari Inn.  These last two are neighbors on 66 in Tucumcari, New Mexico.

Meanwhile the Amazon Mechanical Turks - thanks, Turks! - are working hard to transcribe all forty or so hours of interviews I've done so far.  At the moment, my plan is to edit the interviews into short audio pieces - five minutes or so - that I can load onto this site along with slideshows of the images you can already see under Photos, so you can listen to interviews while looking at the photos of the places.  Longer interviews will be available to download as your personal Rt66 travel playlist, so you can get to know more about the folks you'll be staying with. 

And then I'm hoping to actually open the slide show up to other contributors, so that anyone who has a relevant image can submit it and add it to the show.  I'm thinking about it as kind of a simple, community-created documentary project.  Maybe there's already a better (i.e. shorter) term for this....if you know it or can think of a better one, please send it to me.  

January 16, 2009

I wrote this for the Preservation Massachusetts newslettter that went out today, and since I spent so much time on it, I thought I would post it here too.  I really tried to make it clear that the issue of relevancy and the issue of diversity are pretty well tied up with one another in the preservation field:


In my job as a Circuit Rider, I get to work with a wide range of historic properties all over eastern Massachusetts. However, although the properties can be very different from one another, the people who call the Circuit Riders tend to have a lot in common.   But every once in a while, a property’s fate hinges on the participation of a racially and culturally diverse population.  The Wollaston Theater is one of those properties.

The Wollaston Theater is a single-screen, classical revival-style building on a bustling commercial street near downtown Quincy. Known locally as “The Wolly”, the theater operated as a first-run movie theater until the 1990’s, when it began to fall into disrepair.  The Boston Globe reports that a group of individuals in the arts have entered into a purchase and sale agreement with the estate that owns the building; reportedly, the new owners intend to keep the theater in use as some type of performance or cultural center. 

Since the 1980’s, the Wollaston’s North Quincy neighborhood has also been home to many Chinese and other Asian immigrants.  According to The Next American City, Quincy’s Asian-American population stands at around 14,000, or around 17% of the town’s total population.  When I was contacted by a concerned local citizen about the theater’s recent sale, we spent much of our meeting talking not only about the theater, but about the community around it.  My client worried that it would be difficult to form a collaborative, diverse coalition of advocates – not because the theater didn’t matter to all of the neighborhood’s residents, but because she had no knowledge of any Chinese-Americans in Quincy who worked in preservation.  And unfortunately, neither did I, and neither did my coworkers, although the city has no shortage of knowledgeable preservation professionals. 

From my perspective as a Circuit Rider and someone relatively new to the field of preservation, the Wollaston Theater is not only a building to be saved, but an opportunity to start a conversation about the issues of diversity, relevancy, and communication that characterize the historic preservation field.  The field has worked hard in recent years to broaden both its participants and the types of resources it celebrates, but there is definitely more work to be done. Riding the “Circuit” around eastern Massachusetts has shown me how few new Americans are engaged with historic preservation.  And I don’t believe that this is primarily because the buildings often represent Anglo-American history or because historic preservation is a luxury business, but because preservation organizations have failed to create sustained and meaningful relationships with new American individuals, groups, and organizations.

It also seems to me that historic preservation may be in a bit of an identity crisis, which makes this a great time to start talking about relevancy, diversity, and the future of this field.  In its struggle to explain itself (and support itself financially), the field is looking to the environmental movement, to modernism, and to financial incentives, to name just a few, in order to make its case to the world.  But at its core, the field is about remembering, demystifying, celebrating, and criticizing our past.  It’s a field of memory, and as this country’s collective memory changes to embrace the narratives of a broader population, so must the participants in the work of preservation. I believe that the Wollaston Theater and cases like it are a golden opportunity for Preservation Massachusetts, since they give us a chance to listen to new voices and engage new partners in the act of remembering and interpreting this country’s history.  More importantly, I also hope that these kinds of partnerships will reenergize the field of preservation - a field that means so much to me, but can feel so remote to many - and help it forge a more modern, inclusive identity that reflects the critical importance of this work, now and in the future.

January 8, 2009

Hello dear readers, all four of you (+/- Peter Crowley),

Since the point of this blog is to track the progress of the motel project, don't blame me for not updating it.  I haven't even looked at any of the motel stuff for about six weeks.  Maybe I'm a little bit ashamed at having a blog that I could only maintain for about a month, too...but anyway, out with the shame and on with the project, right?  

Looking over my last entry, I realize that in my excitement about Ruby Tuesday's, I forgot to mention the mechanical turks.  I read about the turks at, and in late November I actually had the turks do some of my interview transcriptions.  Once you figure out the process, it's cheaper than hiring someone, and easier, and way, way faster.  Once I had the interviews posted online, it only took about a half hour for them to be transcribed by god knows whomever, but they did a great job and I love the idea that a bunch of strangers are now aware of  

In other news, I've exchanged a few emails with Richard Talley, the owner of the Motel Safari.  Our correspondence made me think that what the motels really need is an online forum where owners of historic Rt66 properties can actually share resources, ideas, complaints, whatever.  The site could also offer technical assistance about preservation funds, economic development programs, corridor-wide events and other marketing tools.   So far, most of the resources out there about Rt66 are for tourists and aficionados.  And the listserv/yahoo group, which gets a lot of traffic, is geared for the general enthusiast.  There just isn't a lot of technical assistance out there for business owners.  And the NPS program, should it be renewed, is not mandated to provide business or economic development services.  

This may be a project for another person, since I'm trying to stay focused on the narrative and documentary aspects of my own work, but if anyone has any thoughts about funding or developing such a site, please let me know.  

November 22, 2008

This week, thanks to a lot of down time while traveling, I've had a chance to organize a bunch of new photos: Motel Safari, El Don, La Loma, and La Mesa.  I still haven't done much with the audio, though.  

What else...oh right, I wanted to post something about Ruby Tuesday's.  And what I wanted to say was, I've built an entire system of guilt and penance around the restaurant chain Ruby Tuesdays, and there's something about it that reminds me of Route 66.  What happened was, in April I drove from Dallas to Boston with a friend, and on our third day, we found ourselves in Martinsburg, West Virginia, looking for a place to have dinner.  Of course we wanted to eat at a locally-owned place, but we looked and looked and flagged down a pedestrian and still couldn't find one, so we ended up, a first for both of us, at Ruby Tuesdays.

And as soon as we walked in, I could have cried with gratitude.  We hadn't seen a fresh vegetable in days and - look, an amazing salad bar with beets and sprouts and is that edamame?  And wine.  And fish.  And both of us knew that we could never again turn up our noses at Ruby Tuesdays or anything like it, because if you live in Martinsburg, this is by far the best food you're going to find within a ten minute drive. 

But it would be a cop-out to say that it was just because of the context.  That's the point - it was well-prepared, moderately priced, simple food served in an innocuous space with a generic/modern decor that didn't bother me at all, and I would have felt the same almost anywhere.  Maybe I've lost something - become less refined or less perceptive or my standards for what constitutes an authentic experience have slipped outside the realm of the defensible.  But I can't afford to knock Ruby Tuesday's anymore.  I'm not ready to say this about every chain restaurant out by the interstate, but I would be a real jerk if I pretended that I didn't have a kind of an awakening that has blossomed into true love at Ruby Tuesdays. 

So I'm not going to hide the fact that I've been back twice in the last two months -  once in Springfield, MO and then on Wednesday in Champaign, IL.  The Champaign RT interior still had the "old" design - none the soft-edged beiges of the "new" Ruby T's, but faux-historic stuff like a Chili's on steriods.  Stained glass light shades in the booths, oversized black-and-white prints of 1920's football teams, billiard triangles mounted up on the wall.  And inexplicably, some Ren fair-y things like iron helmets and chain-mail gloves hung up over the door to the kitchen.  Not what I've come to love about my RT experience.  But our waitress said that maybe because of the economy, that particular branch hasn't been redesigned yet.  Even Ruby Tuesday's is feeling the pinch.  Maybe they need a bail-out.  I would support it.  

November 17, 2008

Absolutely no work done on the Rt66 project this week.  Other projects, yes, but this one, not so much.  

And in other news, Peter Crowley was NOT present at Saturday's karaoke gathering.  What what?  

November 9, 2008

This is going out to all three fans of - that includes myself, of course.  And my husband.  So you know I'm talking to you, Peter Crowley.  You live for my RSS feed, don't you?  When will I be able to hyperlink to from 

Other than finding out that Peter Crowley has been to my website, not much else has happened with the project this week.  I'm still desperate to get the rest of the grant funding from MIT that came with the original award that funded this project.  A few days ago, I left a message with MIT's Department of Architecture and Planning to try to procure the second half of the grant.  When I won the grant, I learned that you only get the second half of the grant once you've finished the project.  But in this case, I actually need the money to get out there and finish the project.  And since the full grant amount was split between two winners, it seems a bit shortsighted of the Department to withhold the rest of the funding until...what, I submit a half-finished project?  We'll have to see.  I draw the line at five unreturned phone calls.

The other exciting thing that happened is that one of my photos - a picture of the exterior of the Monterey Non-Smokers Motel - was chosen by an online travelguide in Albuquerque for their website magazine....or something.  I'm not quite sure what it is, but they found my photos on flickr and asked for permission to enter one into their contest for their guide.  I could probably figure out what I just consented to if I really tried, but it was easier to say yes and not worry about it.  It's nice knowing that someone out there is looking at my flickr photostream.  Hey, Peter?  Since you've clearly got time to read this, you should check it out. 

Lastly...I created a new photopage on this website where I'm going to be organizing my souped-up motel photos.  It's not linked to any sound or interviews yet - I'm still thinking about how to best connect the sound and the images - but the photos will be organized by motel/owner, and maybe again by state or region.  I'm also toying with this weird transcript service where someone in an English-speaking country (let's hope) downloads your audio and transcribes it for your dirt cheap... 

October 31, 2008

Not much time to work on the project this week, but I did get a crash course in photoshop levels and color balancing from Channing Johnson, our excellent wedding photographer.  I've been waiting to post my motel photos until I had a chance to do some adjustments for color and contrast, and maybe some cropping.  And it seems that I learned in grad school how to paste someone else's head on my face and how to create an amateurish photo montage of an imaginary streetscape, but I didn't actually learn how to make regular photos look better.  But thanks to Channing, I can know do some basic balancing for web images.  See below, an image of my video project at the MIT Wolk Gallery:

IMG_8525 800

That was after some retouching.  Below is the original:

IMG_8525 unretouched 800

Maybe it doesn't look better on your monitor, but it does on mine.

Thanks, Channing!  

October 24, 2008

Dateline: Tulsa

It’s the last night for me here at the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s annual conference.  I am here as an employee of the Trust, not as an independent researcher.  I have tried to leave that “hat” in my hotel room every day before I head out to learn more about preservation as it’s practiced across the country.  But I can’t help but see how the conversations I’ve been having here at this conference will affect this project as I move forward. 

Here at the Trust, it’s very much about architecture.  Preservation happens because buildings speak to people, and then people speak to people (about buildings).  But it’s rarely about usage - how buildings are used, and by whom.  That almost never comes up in discussions with preservationists about preservation, unless it’s framed as a component of saving a property (we have to find a use!)  But this is problematic for the Trust, since it’s clear that they want to make their work more about the public and what matters to a wider audience, and in my experience, what matters to a wider audience is often use, and not architecture.  Beauty, yes.  History, certainly.   But I’m not so sure about architecture.  Because it’s not quite synonymous with beauty, is it?  

October 14, 2008

Well...welcome!  To myself!  To blogging!  For lack of a better idea of what to write here, I'll stick to things related to American Owned.  

I’m back on the road in Tulsa, getting ready to head out and search for more motels and owners tomorrow in northeastern Oklahoma.  People in Tulsa are so chatty and soft around the edges in the way they interact with strangers, that it's kind of jarring.  The boundaries I'm used to having are completely not recognized. At dinner, in a restaurant where there were only two patrons, the other one, a 40-sth lady whose cell phone sang Fly Me To the Moon every time someone called, started up a conversation with me - from across the restaurant - about her Chinese herbalist and what *he* thinks of these green papaya salads.  "I'm not sure about them herself, but they're delicious, aren't they?  You know, I can't find green papayas myself, but when I do buy them ripe they have so many seeds in them I just don't believe it..."  Her friendliness left me feeling just a little guilty about my reflexive need to turn away from her every time her phone rang.  Another...well, not friendly, but southernly-nuanced moment, happened when I took a u-turn looking for the restaurant where I met the papaya lady.  The driver behind me, a grizzled white man in a battered maroon pickup, stuck his hand out the window and wagged his index finger at me.  Like a teacher!  Or a teacher in a movie!  For the record, there was no sign about this being illegal; I think he just didn't like my turning when he wanted to go straight.  But still, a finger-wag?  Is that what it looks like when road rage meets southern hospitality? 

I am not looking forward to the next five days.  This work is incredibly draining; not boring, just draining.  And this is mostly because there is no incentive for me to be doing it.  Incentive = audience, money, recognition, career….advancement. Whatever.  There’s nothing driving me to do this except for the unmistakable sense that it matters.  To whom, or why, I have no idea.  Certainly to me, but I have a recurring and wrenching feeling that I’m both audience and performer in some navel-gazing psychological drama (that I’m also writing, naturally).  But I can't start thinking about Why am I doing this project?, or I'll never actually do it.  There won't be an it.  There will just be regret.  At best, it's like E.L. Doctorow said about writing a novel, that it's like driving at night with the headlights on - you can just make out what's in front of you, but you can't see your destination.  But you'll probably get there, right?  You have to keep going.

So for now, I’m going to try to get good interviews with people who actually run these properties, and also get good photos.  And then, it’ll be a matter of wrangling with the material.  But that's later.  

Day One...

It will be great when I actually start doing this.  

Copyright Anne Dodge, 2009   •   Contact acdodge at gmail dot com