When will I learn my lesson? As soon as I discover a subject to photograph, I should go straight out and shoot it.

A few months ago, while getting myself lost trying to find who knows what, I drove right by the old Circle Inn in Dallas. I guess I had just never driven that particular block before, because it was the first time I had ever seen the old motel.

It was one of the most magnificent Googie signs I had ever come across — big, colorful, with a profusion of neon circles and a swooping, yellow arrow. I have a thing for old motel signs and this particular find was a real jewel. The place was obviously abandoned, so I took note of its location and recorded a reminder in my phone to return soon.

Thinking I might finally get around to shooting it tomorrow, I looked up the Circle Inn in the online newspaper archives for a bit of history. Turns out the whole thing was demolished at the beginning of January!

I couldn't believe it. I didn't even realize it had been that long since I first drove by the place. Was that really before Christmas?! ... Continued

Went out to Aurora today. Aurora's the little town northwest of Fort Worth where legend says there's an extraterrestrial buried in the local cemetery. This probably makes my 12th visit in the last five years or so.

I'm not sure what keeps drawing me out there. It's not like they have a UFO museum or a flying-saucer parade or anything. There was an alien gift shop at one time, but it didn't last long. Now it's just an ATV repair shop painted in an unusually bright green.

Today, though, I had an excuse. TV's Mike Castellucci, otherwise known as News 8's Why Guy, invited me out to shoot a new intro for the package we shot back in October. He was kind enough to help me plug Weird Texas, so I figured I could spare a couple of hours to help him tape a quick transition for the story's second broadcast. He plans to include it as part of his upcoming "Why TV" special airing in a few weeks. ... Continued

I just found out one of my favorite stops in L.A. shut its buns late last year and vanished. If you've never heard of Tail o' the Pup, it's a hot-dog stand shaped like a giant hot dog, which has been around since 1946. I wrote about it a few years ago over at The Big Waste of Space. Back when I was living in Simi Valley for a couple of years, I'd try to hit this place whenever I could, especially when family was in town.

At the time, I think I liked Pink's better, but in retrospect I remember the Pup more fondly. The dogs were great and it didn't take 45 minutes to shuffle through a disorganized mob to place your order. Oh, and it was shaped like a giant hot dog!

Word got out about the closure from someone who overheard the owner talking to one of the Pup's patrons. The story hit the papers from there. Apparently, the Pup was on a month-to-month lease and the landlord gave the Blake family, who owns Tail o' the Pup, only 30 days' notice to vacate. The big frank was put in storage in late December. ... Continued

Reminiscing about childhood toys, I thought I'd check to see how the classic Lincoln Log was faring these days.

Personally, I can't remember an age when I wasn't able to figure these things out, or at least have some sort of fun with them. But now — get this — we have "Beginner" sets.

Behold My First Lincoln Logs.

My parents finally sold their old house today. The call came this afternoon when my older brother and I were helping my dad move out the last few items. The big move was several months ago, but there were still some scattered things to be collected.

This is the same house I grew up in. I wasn't born there, but we moved in shortly thereafter, perhaps just to complicate the paperwork for that year. You know, to aid in the obfuscation of my adoption. In any event, most of my pre-college memories, and a few from the agonizingly slow couple of months following my stint in California, are associated with the place.

Regardless, I haven't really felt much of a connection with the house for some time. I moved out more than a decade ago, my bedroom no longer looks the way I remember it and the den where I watched all my important TV was repurposed as a guest room years ago. Even the surrounding neighborhood has become, let's say, disenchanting. The house I lived in seems to exist only in a technical sense. The address is the same, but my bunk beds and Dr. Who posters are long gone. ... Continued

I really am getting old. All I wanted to do for St. Patrick's Day this year was stay at home and watch Battlestar Galactica DVDs.

I'm still drinking beer, of course. Went to the store to pick some up. I decided I should do something in the spirit of the holiday, so I grabbed some dye, too.

Can you believe people had rummaged through the $2 food-coloring boxes and stolen most of the greens? Really, guys? Stealing the greens?

Come on, people. If you want to turn your beer green for St. Patrick's Day, you steal the blues.

A text message flashed on my cell phone this evening at about 6:45:

"Look at the moon! xoxo"

I do as my gadgets tell me, especially when there are x's and o's involved, so I stepped over to my window and peeked through the blinds. "Ah yes," I said, suddenly reminded that there was a full moon tonight, "There's a full moon tonight."

I hesitated before grabbing my camera bag, since I knew the moon wouldn't be nearly as spectacular by the time I got anywhere. But I figured I'd run out anyway and hit a recently abandoned factory I've been meaning to shoot.

After about half an hour trying to make the building's midcentury entryway appear as interesting on film as it was in person, a white van pulled up next to my car. Security, I figured. I expected someone eventually.

Now, I've been in this situation enough times to know what to do:

  1. Smile. It throws them off. Especially if you wave and say hi.
  2. Introduce yourself and tell them what you're doing. Those were going to be their first two questions, anyway, and they won't know where to go next.
... Continued
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For those who weren't aware, the world-renown Monty Python was first introduced to the United States in 1975 by my local PBS affiliate, KERA in Dallas. I had nothing to do with it, as I was only 1 year old at the time, but I'm proud nonetheless.

When I was about 13, my best friend introduced me to "The Holy Grail." Again, this ran on KERA. They used to show it fairly often, in fact. As I remember, they also used to run "Flying Circus" every weekend. My friend and I would stay up many late nights keeping my parents awake with our badly stifled laughter. Unfortunately, I haven't seen them run it for several years now.

Anyway, shortly after KERA starting airing "Flying Circus," they invited four members of Monty Python into the studio for an interview. A portion of that interview, saved by an engineer, was recently uncovered. It hadn't been seen in more than 30 years.

I was informed just yesterday that Trader Vic's in Dallas, which opened in 1966 and closed in 1989, will soon be reopening!

Reportedly, the original tiki decor has remained in place since its closing. The developer was quoted last May saying that it will all be restored to its original luster and replaced exactly the way it was found.

The rumor is that everything's now complete; they're just waiting for the rest of the Hotel Palomar development to be finished.

I drove by there today and it looks like they've got a long way to go. Let's hope they still hit their target to open in June.

I discovered today that the legendary Don Knotts has passed away. I was lucky enough to meet Mr. Knotts about six years ago at a book signing while I was working in the Los Angeles area. I'm saddened by his passing both because he was an American television icon and because he was a very friendly, warm-hearted man.

Also, in reading about the loss of Don Knotts, I discovered that the very funny Darren McGavin, probably most famous as the father in "A Christmas Story," also passed away. I mimic his excitement at uncrating his lamp every time I open a package marked FRAGILE.

"Ra-jee-lay ... Must be Italian!"

(And before anyone says it, I too once thought he said "Fra-gee-lay" with an F. But one day I realized what prompted his misunderstanding: on the crate, the stenciled F got cut off, resulting in RAGILE. Hence, his momentary and humorous confusion. I listened more closely and realized he was indeed saying "Ragilé!")