A large part of me wishes I could finish this book already. I'm currently 6 weeks behind schedule and I have two chapters left to complete. I've been working on this thing for a year and a half and it feels like it will never end. The traveling is one thing, but this sitting in a chair and writing several months straight takes its toll.

But another part of me wishes I could keep working on it. I'm still discovering attractions I didn't know about and I feel bad that I can't add them to the outline at this point. Not long ago, I found out about a race of lizard people that allegedly lives beneath the Superstition Mountains. I also recently learned of Charles Schmid Jr., "the Pied Piper of Tucson," an Eddie Munster-looking seducer of women who killed three girls, including his sister, and garnered a teen following by bragging about it.

And, just today, I found out about a guy named Richard Wizardry, master of "pyrophonics." He's built a collection of junk sculptures that shoot fire from their genitals as he pounds out chords on his flame organ. (There's a joke about flame organs here somewhere, but I just can't seem to find it right now.) ... Continued

I just came across a mention that the remaining structures of Sea-Arama Marineworld, the long-defunct marine park in Galveston, Texas, were torn down in September-October. As I never got a chance to visit the remains up-close, I'm really disappointed to hear they're no longer standing.

I wrote about Sea-Arama for Weird Texas (p.271, where the title was inexplicably changed to Sea-Arama Marineland) after I discovered the park's ruins by accident while investigating the mysterious Kettle House (p.152). And when I found out what the unusual buildings were, I was informed by my parents that I had actually been there when it was open. I had visited with them back in the '70s, along with my grandparents and my older brother, when I was a baby.

Evidently, this was my first road trip, which of course makes Sea-Arama my first official roadside attraction. Since learning this, I've taken to researching the park's history and collecting old Sea-Arama souvenirs. Even though I don't remember the original trip, I've developed a special fondness for the place. ... Continued

Got an e-mail yesterday from the U.S. Park Ranger in charge of Saguaro National Park West. I had contacted him at the end of Weird Arizona Trip 3 concerning the odd little woman I caught illegally collecting rocks from the Signal Hill area and he was providing me an update on the case. Using the Maxwell Smart-like surveillance photographs and the license-plate number I had sent him, he had been able to track the woman down. She was cited for swiping natural resources.

A friend of mine gave me a hard time for turning the woman in just for collecting a few rocks. But let's face it, she was stealing from a national park. It's theft, punishable under federal law. Not to mention she was robbing an area distinguished by its irreplaceable petroglyphs.

I don't want to sound like somebody's stodgy old grandpa, but if I have to, I will: It's my park, too. And when I go there, I want to see all of it, including the rocks. I mean, what's a national park made of, anyway? ... Continued

I received some sad news today. Louis Lee, creator of the Lee Oriental Rock Garden, one of Arizona's most intriguing attractions, has passed away.

I was very lucky to have met Mr. Lee and his wife Esther on my first research trip to Arizona back in September. The Lees sat with me in the shade of their patio and talked with me about how their extraordinary rock garden came to be. Mr. Lee started it in 1958 with just a retaining wall, after which the elaborate assemblage of arches, partitions, shelves and walkways grew out of control over the course of nearly 50 years.

The Lees were very welcoming upon my arrival and were gracious enough to let me wander around the garden by myself for an hour taking photos. Although I've seen dozens of Arizona oddities since, my visit to the Lee home was one of the most enjoyable. It's strange to think now that the portraits I shot during that visit may well have been the last to be taken of Mr. Lee.

Louis Lee died on Tuesday, the 15th. He was 92 years old. Mr. Lee had lived a long and obviously productive life.

You know you've made it to local quasi-celeb status when you're the subject of a car-dealership promotion.

Starting today, Teape (pronounced "tape") Subaru in Hurst and Arlington, Texas, will be offering a free copy of Weird Texas, signed by me, with the purchase of a vehicle. Really, what better way to break in your new car than by visiting Cadillac Ranch or the Beer Can House?

What's more — get this — between now and Sept. 4, you can enter to win a date with yours truly! (No purchase necessary.) OK, it's technically just dinner for two, plus me, so it's not really a date. But who knows? We'll see how things go.

Now then, who needs me to host some TV commercials for their discount electronics?

I've found a new hobby: patent searches! Riveting stuff, I admit. Sure, I could spend more time memorizing basketball stats so I could hold a conversation with normal people, but why do that when I can find buildings shaped like corn?

I was working on a story about Wigwam Village Motel No. 6 for Weird Arizona and I thought I'd take a stab at finding Frank Redford's original patent — not an easy task, seeing as all patents prior to 1976 are in image form only and I didn't even know the exact year (I had read both 1936 and 1937).

When my second result was a building shaped like a teacup, though, I believed I was on the right track. Unfortunately, the next 45 minutes were spent wading through patent after patent for shingles, glass blocks and linoleum composition flooring material. But I finally found it! Keep in mind this was before WWII, so the swastika painted on its side had not yet taken on the stigma it suffers today.

Other items I tripped over in the process:

... Continued

Just a few weeks ago I was talking about that strange, torturous device from the '70s known as the Willy Water Bug. At least half a dozen Fun Fountains have come and gone at eBay, but for the life of me, I couldn't find evidence that Willy was anything but a manufactured memory.

Well, look what I found! It looks like he does exist, after all. I didn't want to say anything until the auction ended, of course. No reason to give myself more competition.

Unfortunately, it still went for $49.00 + shipping, which was at the moment a little too steep for something I'd probably just display on a shelf. I guess I need to start having kids so I'll have a better excuse to buy these things.

Thirty-two. Not a birthday that calls for much celebration. When you're a kid, they all count. Six, seven, eight, nine: every one of them is a big deal. But at this age, it's just the denary numbers anymore: 40, 50, 60 ... Unless you reach a hundred, then everyone starts counting all the single digits again.

For most of us, though, there are really only a handful of watershed birthdays. Thirteen is the first one, when you're officially a teenager, or for our Jewish friends, an adult. Then comes 16, when you're allowed to drive. Fifteen, from what I recall, meant you could get a learner's permit, but that just meant you could drive around the neighborhood with your dad.

Next up is 18, which seems to be a milestone beyond the fact you get to vote, though I never really figured out why. I think it may have something to do with consensual sex, but that was hardly an issue for me in high school. Or most of college, for that matter. Was it cigarettes? I don't know, I wasn't cool enough for those, either. ... Continued

When I started running a saved search over at eBay for a Fun Fountain, I never expected to see one pop up every 2 weeks or so. I'm surprised so many of these guys survived the '80s. If you don't remember what a Fun Fountain is, that's no surprise given the sadly generic name. Remember the sprinkler toy shaped like a clown's head that would shoot a stream of water into the air, levitating the clown's hat until you ran through it, thereby giving yourself an enema and often knocking the hat off-balance so it would fall eight feet and konk you in the head? There you go ... the Fun Fountain!

Unfortunately, people with more money than I can spend on nostalgia are running the bids up a little too high for these things. So I keep having to let them go. ... Continued

I actually stuck with my new rule this weekend and checked off one of my long-procrastinated locations. The old Twin Drive-In Theater in Fort Worth has been glaring at me for years now, and considering the likelihood that one more good spring storm could carry it off like the sides of the Bank One Tower 6 years ago, I figured this was a good place to start.

Of course, I got a little distracted on the way. But who among us can ignore the bright-yellow swoop of an abandoned Googie sign? Who, I ask!

This one marked the former location of the Boardwalk, an establishment apparently specializing in the "cocktail," though I doubt either of those syllables were ever used in this neighborhood to refer to alcohol. And yet, although the only thing left of this bar is its foundation, that hasn't stopped anyone from drinking on this corner.

I suppose that's why I've avoided shooting the Twin for so long — the condition of the neighborhood. I mean, it didn't take 3 minutes of standing on the roadside before my assistant was propositioned by a man in a windowless minivan. Really, whose pimp carries a 20D? And what sort of girl hooks next to a Corolla? ... Continued