Sunday, March 17, 2019

#755 Hadron Supercollider of Oklahoma

Forty years ago in June 1979 with a newly printed computer science degree in hand, I landed in Oklahoma.

It's odd to think about it now but Oklahoma had only been a state for seven decades at that time and it was a hadron supercollider of a place.

According to Boom Town: The Fantastical Saga of Oklahoma City, its Chaotic Founding... its Purloined Basketball Team, and the Dream of Becoming a World-class Metropolis, “Oklahoma was a hadron supercollider of a place. People and creatures were thrown together from distant points and at unpredictable angles, again and again and again and again.  Despite its relative material poverty, its lack of obvious treasure, Oklahoma always had this unusual talent for improvised community.”

That improvised community is what I discovered upon my arrival in Bartlesville.  Many holding brand new bachelors, masters, and doctoral degrees, all kinds of cool people came together from distant points in order to support the growing technical and research needs of Phillips Petroleum Company.

What an exciting time!  Somewhat like the folks that collided during the land rush of 1889, we software developers and such collided a century later in the 1980s and became involved members of the Phillips and Bartlesville community.  We started our careers; we played at something every night of the week; and we developed lifelong friendships. 

In addition to people collisions, the air was also known to collide with the ground.  Once during my seven years in Bartlesville, the town was hit by a tornado on Monday evening, March 15, 1982. (Beware the ides of March!)  The tornado was an F2 (strong) twister based on estimated wind speeds of 113 to 157 miles per hour but I escaped unharmed from the safe confines of my bathtub.
Tornado in 1982 worst in past 50 years

A family member of mine has also come to love Bartlesville for reasons completely different from my own.  The architectural gems by Bruce Goff went unnoticed by me all those years ago but these creative collisions of glass and stone now get lots of my attention.

Looking back on my first adult home, Bartlesville was the ideal spot to begin my post-college adulthood and that's because Bartlesville was a hadron supercollider of a place.

Yours in gratitude for the 46th state,

Thursday, February 14, 2019

#754 Elton Times Ten

I dreamed I was riding home with Sir Elton John in a car.  I asked if he was pleased with the Songs from the West Coast album and he said he wasn't too happy about it. When Elton asked if I could sing, I replied that I could play the piano better than I could sing and invited him in to hear me play Carla Etude when we got back to the house.  He seemed pleased with the suggestion of that little-known song.  When we arrived home, I ran ahead, organized my piano music, and put Elton’s music on top, so he would know how much I loved him.

And Elton loves me too.  For 40 years, he has followed me around the country.

When I lived in...
And while he was in my neighborhood, I attended each of those ten concerts.  It would have been rude of me not to go after he had traveled all that way.

Each of the concerts was fantastic whether I was sitting in third row seats in Charlottesville or sitting near the top of the arena in my usual cheap seats.  No matter my proximity to the stage, I usually cry a couple of times during an Elton concert. Many of his soulful songs evoke such strong emotion: Candle in the Wind, Your Song, Tiny Dancer.  My least favorite is Bennie and the Jets and my most favorite are Levon and Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting.  I also love Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters and wish he'd play that more often. 

It was the Goodbye Yellow Brick Road double album that rocked my world in 1973.  Since then, I've loved his albums, his concerts, his movies, and his musicals.  And just last year, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’s first season ended with Curtains (1975).  So now I love his television music too.

Last night in Kansas City, ten friends from Charlottesville, Colorado Springs, Kansas City, Loveland, and Sparks, NV came together to celebrate Elton's musical genius during his Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour.   
To properly celebrate Elton's farewell and the reunion of our friends, something flashy was required.  So we stopped by the US Toy Company to get the one thing we need for an Elton farewell concert: feather boas. 

And when we picked up our friends at the airport, it was not too difficult to distinguish between us and the other drivers waiting at the gate.

Elton and his fans have been a constant throughout my life. Just as six of Elton's albums are included on the Rolling Stones' list of 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, all of these friends are on the Johnston list of Greatest Friends of All Time.

Last night, the Kansas City crowd was beyond enthusiastic.  Elton and the band seemed so happy to be on stage.  They were having fun and we were having fun.  Elton rocked Levon better than ever.  For three hours, he made me dance, he made me laugh, and he made me cry.  We were even interviewed for the Kansas City news!

Thanks, Elton, for all of it.  And thanks, friends, for sharing it all with us.  I'm emotional, sappy, and grateful.  And from now on, I promise to wear more feather boas.

Yours in loving Elton and his fans,

Saturday, December 15, 2018

#753 Carpentry Tools Museum

My dad was a carpenter and he taught me about the tools of his trade.

I've put those tools to work in every house where I've lived. So the carpentry tools museum in Kobe, Japan is a must visit.

The "wow" entrance makes it clear this is part carpentry museum and part Japanese garden, all mindfully organized.

The English language brochure and unusual tickets made a good first impression.

This full set of carpentry tools consumes an entire wall.

Some tools, like this wooden 'open-air' chalk line are new to me.

Some tools, like this massive 'smoothing plane' and its resultant perfectly peeled translucent shaving are almost beyond belief.

Carpenters use these tools to create impressive joinery.

Carpenters care about matching the best wood species to a project, so the museum displays the real trees and encourages touching and smelling their shavings.

The scale model tea house (I'm not really a giant) shows off the craftsmanship involved in joining round framing members.

If my dad were still with us, I'd buy him a ticket to Kobe today.

Yours in appreciating carpenters and their tools,

Friday, December 14, 2018

#752 Wright's Imperial Hotel

Frank Lloyd Wright's Imperial Hotel in Tokyo famously survived an earthquake when brand new and welcomed customers for more than fifty years but it couldn't survive a developer's bulldozer in the 1960s when a new high rise hotel took its place.
Wright's Imperial Hotel on its original site in Tokyo
But not all was lost. The hotel entrance and lobby were spared, then disassembled and moved over 200 miles to be restored and reassembled on the grounds of Meiji-Mura, an outdoor museum with 59 other rescued structures.

As part of the reconstruction, some of the weathered original Oya stone was replaced with newly quarried Oya stone to match the original.

On the day of our Meiji-Mura visit, light flooded the multi-story lobby.

The Imperial Hotel is among Wright's more ornamented and visually complex work.

But the stained glass (Wright's "light screens") is relatively simple.

The one-person window seat follows the rectilinear theme.

But if you look closely you'll find curved elements in the design as well.

Thank you, Frank Lloyd Wright. Thank you, Meiji-Mura.  Well done!

Yours in Japan's "Architectural Disneyland,"

Thursday, December 13, 2018

#751 Tea House Concert

Every Monday afternoon on the top floor of perhaps the most famous tea house in China, musicians gather to play traditional Chinese music. We joined them, thanks to Michael and Sheila.

We drank tea and ate exotic food.

For two delightful hours, we listened, enjoyed, and applauded their dedication and skill.

Yours in music appreciation,

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

#750 The Friends Cafe

If you're a fan of the TV show 'Friends', then you know the coffee shop called Central Perk. We found this Central Perk duplicate in Shanghai.

It's called The Friends Cafe.

Ross and Rachel could walk through the door any minute and plop down on that big orange couch, it seemed.

We drank our coffee and reminisced about old Friends story lines. The Chinese baristas were intently focused on the endless Friends loop playing on the TV. They laughed at all the jokes. So did we!

As we were leaving, we found Monica's apartment door too.

Yours in remembering Friends,

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

#749 Visiting a Chinese Slaughterhouse

Everywhere we go we find architecture. In Shanghai, we found slaughterhouse architecture.

In 1933, the Shanghai Municipal Council built the largest slaughterhouse in Shanghai.

A brutalist concrete building with Art Deco elements, the design included 26 "air bridges" connecting a rectangular outer building with a circular inner building.

The gap between outer and inner is open to the sky.

The bridges were designed with varying angles and widths to ease the movement of livestock.

Once the slaughterhouse closed, the building was abandoned, but has now been renovated for mixed use including among others a Starbucks, dance studio, doggie day care, drone store, restaurant, furniture store, and a rooftop garden shop.

The raw concrete, stark lighting, and Escher-like quality make the renovated building a magnet for architecture buffs and photographers. But the vision to see these possibilities beyond the filth and stench of an abandoned slaughterhouse is a miracle.

Yours in appreciating an architectural lemon turned into lemonade,