Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Hollywood House Hunting: Pee-Wee's Big Adventure

In the great scheme of things, an adventure to find one of our favorite houses from one of our favorite films seems positively puny when compared with the BIG adventure of the film's hero.  It might also seem highly unreasonable for a grown man to consider said house as holy ground.  When one considers that the house' primary, if fictional, resident was one Pee-Wee Herman (the original "eccentric man-child"), it all starts to make more sense.

Pee-Wee's House from Pee-Wee's Big Adventure (1985)
There are many subliminal (or overt) style cues/taste preferences I picked up from both Pee-Wee Herman and art director,
David L. Snyder - cowboys & indians, holiday decor, lawn art, space age travel, and symmetrical homes
of the 1920s.

Built in 1922, this delightfully-symmetrical house made Mr. Tiny jump for joy.
Even without its fire-engine-red paint job, yard full of statuary, and Water
Wiggle sprinkler system, this home would suit this eccentric man-child to a T!

Nestled between quite sizable Craftsman-style homes, the scale and current color of Mr. Herman's house make it a real standout in its lovely, South Pasadena neighborhood.  Having made no secret of the fact that my very favorite houses are those that resemble either a child's drawing or the sweet simplicity of a Mary Blair illustration, I could easily see myself feathering this particular nest.  I have never even seen the inside but I know that living in Pee-Wee Herman's house would make me feel like "the luckiest boy in the world."

With its red-tinted roof, picket fence, and twin peaks, Pee-Wee's house is a passable,
real-life stand-in for The Little House - even without the gingerbread trim.  

In taking this picture, I assured Mary that I was Pee-Wee and she was definitely Francis.
The neighbors, including Mr. Crowtray (I always thought he said "Crabtree"), were not buying it either.
Incidentally, this shot includes the window from which Mr. Crowtray communicated with Pee-Wee.

I am such a die-hard fan of everything Pee-Wee related that someone might be liable to call me "crazy," "a nerd," "an idiot."  To that person, I have only one thing to say, "I know you are but what am I?"

 Pee-Wee's house in action

Pee-Wee Herman's House
1848 Oxley St
South Pasadena, CA


Mr. Tiny

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Holy Rollin': Calvary Chapel of the Canyons

Even the most pious among us will acknowledge that every religion works some kind of angle - faith, charity, karma, guilt.  Are you a church-going type?  If so, what angle are they working at your church?   Well, if you're a parishioner of Calvary Chapel of the Canyons in Silverado, CA, then you know that the angle working overtime at your place of worship is the TRI-angle.
Calvary Chapel of the Canyons (1961) - Silverado, CA

Cleaving into the foothills of the Santa Ana Mountains like a modernist's interpretation of Abraham's sacrificial knife, this mid-Century church takes religious symbolism to a new level.  It does not, however, take the genius of Benjamin Franklin Gates, Nicolas Cage's inimitable symbologist, relic hunter, code-breaker, mechanical engineer, history nerd, unwitting criminal-turned-savior-of-the-world's-most-valuable-antiquities in the National Treasure franchise, to interpret said symbolism.  To we wacky tacky laymen, it was clear that the Holy Trinity could be found in the endless series of triangles that make up Calvary Chapel of the Canyons.  Narrowly escaping the destructive flames of wildfires in 2013, the church's survival is sometimes credited to its resemblance to "a pair of praying hands."  Perhaps I'm too literal, but I don't see it.  Don't go by me though; I was never able to see the hidden image in those 3D Stereogram kiosks so prevalent in late '90s malls either.  Triangles, on the other hand, I can see.

Alright, so maybe from this angle I can kind of see it...
But approached from any angle, angelical Christians and architectural enthusiasts
alike are greeted by a veritable tessellation of triangles.  The silhouette is a triangle.
The buttress is a triangle.  The three arms of the church's triangular combination bell-
tower and steeple are braced by graduated triangles.  While marked by some rec-
tangular panes, even the stained-glass windows form a triangle.  It seems that the
only thing not triangular in nature at this church is the cross!

We I should have known better than to think the Calvary Chapel website would include a page dedicated to the church's architectural history.  With much more weighty matters on their minds (and souls), it makes me wonder if the architectural significance of this splendid church ever crosses the minds of the squares attending this jazzy triangle!

"A Jazzy Triangle Meets A Square" from Sesame Street (1969)

Sadly, Calvary Chapel of the Canyons was closed for business when we were taking our most recent joyride through "the canyons."  So spectacular is the church that I wouldn't put it past these wacky tacky "holy rollers" to take another joyride out to Silverado on a Sunday morning, if only to catch a glimpse of the interior in person (pictures found online indicate that the interior architecture is also dominated by geometry's holy trinity).  Until then we can only pray that we'll find more opportunities for some wacky tacky holy rollin'.

Calvary Chapel of the Canyons
8002 Silverado Canyon Rd
Silverado, CA


Mr. Tiny

Monday, February 9, 2015

Kitsch-en Kounter: The Love Shack!

One word that I make a conscious effort to use as infrequently as possible is "obsessed."  Hosting exchange students in our house quite regularly, most of them Japanese, I learned how bizarre it was to them when we we would so freely express our love - of bagels, of TV shows, of shoes, of songs, of weather, of hair products, of sunglasses, of almost anything except one another.  It is my understanding that the word for love in Japanese is reserved exclusively for only its most romantic definition; it therefore must have seemed particularly odd when I would jubilantly proclaim, "I LOVE hamburgers!"  Some romances never die.  

These days, it isn't enough to like something.  It isn't even enough to love something.  To prove the fervor of our 21st-Century commitment to trends, movements, and inanimate objects, we must say that we're OBSESSED!!!  Well, occasionally, I fall victim to the vernacular and find myself obsessed with something, in this case, Betty Crocker's New Boys and Girls Cook Book.

vintage betty crocker
Betty Crocker's New Boys and Girls Cookbook

Originally published in 1957 and printed many times since, Betty Crocker's Boys and Girls Cookbook was among the first to acknowledge the interest of a burgeoning youth population to participate in the kitchen.  The edition that I grew up with, the new edition, was published in 1965 with edits, updates, and a new crop of "home-testers."  When my grandmother would pull this book from the uppermost kitchen cabinet, we knew that we were in for a self-styled treat - mostly because she was probably so sick of looking after four rambunctious kids that she knew the only way to take a break was to sacrifice her freshly Pine-Sol'ed linoleum and unleash us on her immaculate kitchen of lime-green formica.

For what seemed like hours, my brothers and sister and I would pore over the images of party-cut sandwiches, Hawaiian Luau Loaf, clown-faced hamburgers, and - my favorite - the soda fountain drinks served in all manner of old-timey glassware.  We spent so much time deciding what to make that I honestly can't recall if we ever actually made anything (crafty Grandma).  Year after year, I have returned to this book for inspiration, for nostalgia, and for a gateway to my grandparents.  The book makes frequent cameos in conversations with my siblings, mostly as we wax nostalgic and wonder who the keeper of the book is (I guess I'm letting the cat out of the bag).  At this point in its fifty-year history, the book's pages are spattered, dog-eared, and torn.  The back cover is missing and the rusty spiral binding could more accurately be described as barbed wire.  Well worn and well loved, it is a physical manifestation of the kitschy culinary obsessions that blossomed in Mr. Tiny's earliest years.  Way beyond both the limits of our food-styling abilities and the limits of Grandma's patience, one particular recipe in the book very tragically went ever unmade.  Having dreamt of the Enchanted Castle Cake since childhood is proof that an unmade recipe can become the fodder for a lifelong obsession.

wacky tacky castle cake
Enchanted Castle Cake

"My father took a picture of me with my cake."
Oh, Joan, it was probably because he wanted to capture that lovely
asymmetrical haircut you received at the Braille Beauty College.

With its red/white/pink color story, this recipe made like Cupid, drawing back its bow and shooting straight to this cake lover's heart.  With cake in our hearts and hearts in our eyes, the Enchanted Castle became our Valentine's Day Kitsch-en Kounter project for 2015.  I, of course, terribly bored with the tedium of printed instructions, immediately went rogue.  Even at my advanced age, an entire castle seemed rather daunting; we would take our cake in the direction of something more romantic, more intimate, and more cost-conscious.  Something that, if you saw a faded sign by the side of the road, you'd be more than willing to drive fifteen miles to share in its sweet delight. 

wacky tacky kitsch-en kounter
Humble of both address and architecture (cake-itecture?),
the Love Shack is just a little old place where we can get together.

Starting with a tried-and-true, basic cake recipe, I figured it would be easy to adapt
 into a heart-shaped cake that was also colored in an appropriately-thematic fashion.

I had never before made a red velvet cake and, as it happens, I still haven't.
By the third heaping tablespoon of red gel food coloring, I just couldn't
stomach anymore.  "Maybe it will magically turn red in the oven..."  It didn't.
Incidentally, I just watched someone make a red-velvet cake on TV today
and they used two whole bottles of liquid food coloring!!!  No thanks.

Taking style cues from the Enchanted Castle Cake, I added iced ice-cream-cone spires; swirled in pink confection, they were topped with heart-spangled banners waving from heart-shaped picks.  A polka-dot red carpet welcomes lovers under an awning supported by paper straws.  The edifice is paneled in candy-stripe sticks and studded in pink, candy buttons.  Surrounded by coconut grass and a blue velvet sky, the sweetly-scaled Love Shack is to the Enchanted Castle Cake as Marie Antoinette's little Hamlet is to the Palace of Versailles.  The Love Shack became the perfect finishing touch to our humble Valentine's Day tablescape.

As a child, my favorite part of the book was the possibility, the dream that artfully playing with my food could one day become a legitimate avocation.  As an adult, with easy access to a car/grocery store/kitchen, my favorite parts of Betty Crocker's New Boys and Girls Cook Book are the juvenile "home-testers'" reactions to helping with the book and testing the recipes (see Joan above) accompanied by the lovely, sometimes-flattering charcoal portraits.

"Being a home-tester was the most exciting thing I've ever done." - Randee (What a pity to peak so young)
"I learned how to use a sharp knife - without cutting myself." - Sandra (A recurring theme at Sandra's therapy sessions)
"We learned what words like baste and fold and beat meant." - Peter (Definitely the words of a serial killer)
Betty Crocker is like a real friend to me now." - Carol (You said it, Carol.  Imaginary friends are the best friends)

So, what are your obsessions?  Are you obsessed with making a Love Shack of your own?  Don't let Mr. Shakespeare fool you into thinking that "music be the food of love."  It's cake.  Yes, definitely cake.  So, if you're heading down the Atlanta highway and see our heart-shaped shack, just "Bang, bang, bang on the door, baby."  We'll let you in and save you a piece!

"Love Shack" - The B-52's

Happy Valentine's Day, you wacky tacky turkey necks!!!


Mr. Tiny

Friday, February 6, 2015

Collecting: The Best Vintage Valentine Ever!

Sometimes I question how deeply rooted my understanding of the human condition is in the scripted television programs of the late 20th Century.  I was fortunate never to have experienced the grade-school humiliation associated with an empty mailbox come time for the yearly valentine exchange.  Frankly, it never even seemed like an option; twenty-eight kids in the class meant twenty-eight cards given and twenty-eight cards received (granted, I was in the first wave of Project Self-Esteem, better known as Project EVERYONE is a winner).  Nevertheless, many television shows presented the now-hackneyed construct of the well-intentioned but hopelessly-geeky kid, forlorn at the absence of valentine cards in his construction-paper inbox (see: Raph Wiggum, et al.).

Hopelessly geeky myself, I always found it hard to reconcile the bevy of Valentine's goodies I received first through fifth grade - even harder still as an adult when exchanging valentines is anything but compulsory.  Imagine my surprise when I opened my actual mailbox and found the best vintage valentine ever!  Sent from my pal, and major wacky tacky booster, Charlotte (via a mutual friend's yard sale), I found Günthers Karneval Fasching, a mid-Century, German booklet of fancy-dress fashions.

Günthers Karneval Fasching
After looking at this cover one too many times, all I can see is a sexy Jane Pauley!

While technically not a valentine (Karneval/Fasching is essentially Deutschland's answer to Mardi Gras), and sent with intentions entirely platonic, I can't help but view the timing and the cover girl's heart-bedecked top hat as a happy holiday greeting.  At only fourteen pages, this booklet is filled with the most colorful cornucopia of carnival costumes I have ever seen.  Get ready to have your socks knocked off!

I love the arrow and handwriting on this one; "dieses oberteil" means "this top/bodice."
I suppose we'll always be left to wonder what the bottom half looked like - if there was
a bottom half.  Flashing at Fasching; it is Karneval!

Aren't these incredible?!?!!  Often self-critical, I've been known to deride my own designs as being far too "costume-y."  I guess I'm not so off base considering that, with a few minor tweaks/edits, I would find it exciting if people wore the designs featured in Günthers Karneval Fasching as everyday clothing.  Even more exciting is that the pamphlet included the complete pattern to each and every costume.  And, if my high school German still serves, I understand that "each style comes in two sizes" very clearly printed and labeled on a two-sided pattern sheet...

Oh boy...
I've heard of vintage patterns printed in such a fashion but I've never been
confronted by such a mess!  Instead of going permanently cross-eyed, I might
just have to settle for drooling over the technicolor images. 

Thank you, thank you, Charlotte, for "Choo-Choo-Choosing" me as the recipient of your thoughtful gift (and for mailing it to me).  Any mail that isn't a bill, a ticket, or a jury summons is good mail.  Any mail that I can consider a valentine when my construction paper mailbox went dry more than twenty years ago is great mail.  Any mail that is a 1950s, German, Mardi Gras-fashion booklet is the best vintage Valentine ever!  Ich liebe meinen antiker Valentinsgruß!!!

"Sei Mein Valentin"

Happy Valentine's Day, you wacky tacky turkey necks!


Mr. Tiny

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Signs of the Times: Cupid's Burgers & Tacos

As this will be my 35th consecutive Valentine's Day without a valentine, I suppose I should be bitter.  I should be resentful.  I should be resigned to the fact that my heart was meant solely for utility, for the pitiful, life-sustaining function of pumping oxygenated blood through the veins and auxiliary vessels of this overgrown carcass.  And yet, I'm not...not yet anyway.

Nothing gives this lonely (not to mention enlarged) heart secondary reason for beating like a beautiful, big, blue sky playing backdrop to a novelty neon sign.  In this season of love, I'm practically palpitating at the charm of Cupid's Burgers & Tacos' chubby cherub taking careful aim at the hearts of generations of Corona, CA's most ardent burger-and-taco lovers.

Cupid's Burgers & Tacos - Corona, CA

Both the building and the sign have undergone makeovers since the
'60s - if only to keep up with inflation (24¢ hamburgers??? I'll take two
dozen!).  But we give much credit to the current owners for maintaining
the spirit and integrity of a sign that continues to brilliantly light up the
California night sky.

Given all that we know about saturated fats and high-caloric intake, it seems easy to interpret Cupid's aim at our hearts all too literally.  As the poet laureate of New Jersey so eloquently stated, "Shot through the heart and you're to blame.  Darlin', you give love a bad name."  However "darlin'" it may be, Cupid's Burgers & Tacos is probably not the most heart-friendly where anatomy and physiology are concerned.  It is enough to have nay-saying heart surgeons everywhere shouting, "Stupid Cupid!"

But at wacky tacky, we know better, don't we?  In the very heart of town, the sign at Cupid's Burgers & Tacos has weathered the changing times, the changing attitudes, and the changing health fads.  We hope that when no one remembers what it meant to be "gluten free," those golden arrows will have sign lovers everywhere singing with one accord, "Stupid Cupid, START picking on me!"

"Stupid Cupid" - Connie Francis

Here's wishing you wacky tacky lovers a Happy Valentine's Day!!!

Cupid's Burger & Tacos
623 E 6th St
Corona, CA


Mr. Tiny