Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Hopper Tales


I love art museums. Sometimes the art that I see inspires me to write. Here are some stories that were inspired by three paintings created by Edward Hopper that I found at Yale Art Gallery.  

Inspired by Sunlight in a Cafeteria

She loved her table. In a corner by the window, she had lunch here every day. At noon, the sun came in at the perfect angle, and it kept her warm all winter long.

It was a place to escape. She could sit, without being cat-called by construction workers. She was away from the men in the office, who could be too free with there words and their hands. No papers to file or letters to type. Just tume to sit and think.

She thought about her dad, who was living back in Indiana. He was alone on the farm since her mother died last year. He wrote a letter every week, “checking in.” But the subtext was always “when are you moving back home?” He couldn’t accept that the city was now her home. A place where she could be herself, and be by herself. Nobody was in her business, unless she invited them in. He couldn’t accept that she was not going to leave. So every day she came to the cafeteria, sat in her seat and enjoyed the sun and her freedom.

He saw here every day. He loved watching her, lost in her thoughts, enjoying the sun. Where was she from? She didn’t carry herself like someone born in the city. She looked outward, and didn’t seem guarded at all.

At 12:45, like clockwork, she arrived. She always orders the special, and then had a coffee. She watched people passing on the street, but never looked at him. The cafeteria had been an escape for him. Somewhere he could spend his time thinking about his world. Since she started coming, all he could think about was her. Now what could he do?


Inspired by Western Motel

It was a long ride. Driving from Chicago to Los Angeles, back in the days before the Interstate. We took Route 66, you know, like that song by Nat King Cole. But really, that song was a lot more interesting than the actual drive. And much shorter.

The thing is, it was hot. I mean, once you got past Oklahoma, it was all desert, so it was HOT! Mom piled us into the car, three kids and no father. She put a couple of buckets of ice on the floor of the back seat and wrapped them blankets. Eating the ice kept us cool, and as it melted we had water to drink. One less thing to buy as we drove.

We trekked across the deserts of the southwest, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona. Finally we got to the California line. One last night in a motel, one last day in the hot, hot car. Then we would finally arrive in LA, well Pasadena, okay. All I could think about was hitting that beach. I had a lot to learn.


Inspired by Rooms for Tourists

They had never been more than twenty miles away from town, well not since they got marries. He had served in the army after the war ended, but that is a different tale. The point is, they had never been tourists.

When he retired, she was surprised by his plan. “We have this huge house, and no children to visit us,” he said. “We have never wanted to see the world, but I would love to meet it at my front door.” He carried his share of the burden. He got up early to get the breakfast pastries, and did the shopping for dinner. She cleaned the rooms, but he washed the linens.

Together, they invited the world into their home. True, it was mostly people from the city. They came to get back to nature, especially in the fall, when the leaves were changing. They were nice enough. Always polite. Curious about country life, but often condescending to the people who lived in a small town. They acted as if their hosts were “less then.” More importantly, these visitors rarely brought anything interesting to the table. Nothing new to share over breakfast.
About once every month or so, the world would open up to them. Sometimes it was France at their doorstep. Then he would search out croissants for breakfast, and they would get stories about Paris, or vineyards, or Arles. If England showed up she would call the butcher and ask for “whole bacon” for breakfast. Their guests would spend breakfast telling them tales of The Tube, Stonehenge, or Jane Austin’s house. Italians, Germans, even the occasional Japanese, all visited, and they brought the world with them.

Their breakfast table took them further than their wallets ever could. And every night they left the light on. “You never know who might be driving by, looking for a place to spend lay their head.”

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

PEZ Visitors Center

Small quirky museums and roadside attractions are some of my favorite places to visit. Yes, The Met and the Louvre have the big-name art pieces, but I love stopping to see the ways that ordinary people have devised to entertain themselves and each other. Driving back to New York from New Haven gave me the chance to explore such a place.

Everyone remembers PEZ candy and their wonderful dispensers. What you might not know is that they are manufactured in the town of Orange CT, just west of New Haven. They are still producing those little pills and keeping their selection of characters up to date.

Early Pez Dispensers

PEZ were first manufactured and sold in Austria by Eduard Haas III, and the HAAS family still controls 67% of the company today. The name PEZ came from the word PfeffErminZ, German for peppermint, which was the original flavor. The mints were sold in tins, similar to the way Altoids are today. In the 1930’s the HAAS company began to sell dispensers that were similar in size and shape to cigarette lighters. In 1955 HAAS started selling new dispensers with the head of cartoon characters on top, and a collectable fad was started. Santa Claus and Mickey Mouse have been among the first available, and they are the best-selling characters of all time. Since the 1950’s over 1500 different characters have been produced and sold, and they remain up to date, with the newest offereings from Star Wars and Marvel, including the new Captain Marvel.     

Wall of PEZ

The first character PEZ dispensers

Baseball Dispensers

Cartoon Dispensers

Thanos and Captain Marvel
The PEZ Visitor Center is located at its Orange CT factory. The walls are lined with all things PEZ. In the lobby you are greeted with a wall displaying one copy of every PEZ dispenser ever created. As you walk through the center you will find a collection that takes you through the history of the candy. In one case are the many iterations of the Santa Claus dispensers, in another all of the Disney princesses. Keep looking and you will find every Batman, Joker and Catwoman. You will even find a fully working PEZ motorcycle created by the guys at Orange County Choppers, known for their custom bikes and Discovery TV show. You can also take some time to look in one the factory floor, and on some days even have the opportunity to make some candies yourself.

Factory Floor

PEZ Girl Costume

PEZ vending machines

So, stop by the PEZ Visitors Center. It is a trip down memory lane. Find your favorite classic dispenser, and maybe a new one for you to take home.

Admission (price includes a $2 credit in the gift shop):
Adults $5
Children and seniors $4