Sunday, November 22, 2015


Tiny & Mary take Texas (or at least the State Fair of Texas)!!!

I'm not sure if it is embarrassing to admit, but State Fair (1945) is one of my favorite movies.  Furthermore, it is far and away my favorite Rogers & Hammerstein musical.  Don't get me wrong; I think Dick and Oscar wrote some of the 20th Century's greatest love songs (see: "Something Good") but somehow their works, bogged down by far too many a dreary dream ballet for my liking, are overwrought and ultimately depressing.  State Fair, unique in its purely-cinematic origins, is a masterpiece of mid-'40s optimism.  The joyful whirl of dirndl dresses and "rousing, cornfed ditties," encourages my perennial delusion that this is what all fairs will be like.  Not so much.

State Fair (1945)

Remade in 1962 with an unlikely roster including Alice Faye, Ann-Margaret, Bobby Darin, and Pat Boone, State Fair's geography changed dramatically from the corn fields of Iowa to the wide, open prairies of Texas.  Filmed on location, State Fair (1962) made the most of the enormous fairgrounds.  

"Isn't It Kinda Fun?" - Ann-Margaret in State Fair (1962)

My birthday trip to Texas resulted in a self-guided tour of those very fairgrounds that was more than "kinda fun;" it was the highlight of our day in Dallas.  The only things "kinda fun" about the 1962 movie reboot are Ann-Maragret at the height of her powers and matching the fairgrounds captured in our photos to the images presented in the film.

State Fair of Texas, 1962

State Fair of Texas, 2015

Opened in 1936 for the centennial celebration of Texas statehood, Fair Park is a marvel of Art Deco architecture.  Open to the public year-round, the sprawling fair grounds define the phrase, "They just don't make them like they used to."  To ensure that we were able to see everything, we rented bikes that we thought would allow us to cover more ground.

It was our lucky day as there were only two functioning bicycles left in the bike rack!
Mine, of course, was cursed with gear issues and left me pedaling triple duty...

The main entrance into the State Fair of Texas was appropriately large but slightly unprepossessing, with only a solitary statue honoring the dedicated men and women who designed and built the fair.

"To perpetuate the memory of the builders of the State Fair of Texas."

Just past this garden, however, an entire world of stately beauty is revealed.  Flanked by a pair of pegasus (pegasi? pegasuses?), an almost endless reflecting pool becomes the centerpiece to a grand concourse of exhibition halls and pavilions.  In front of each porticoed hall towers a powerful statue representing Texas' famous six flags (Spain, Mexico, France, The Confederacy, The Republic of Texas, and The United States).

State Fair (1962)

The fountains weren't operating but that didn't diminish the majesty of Fair Park's main esplanade.

Many of the exhibition halls are adorned with larger-than-life murals.

Mary said that this is how she pictures her romantic life - a blonde angel swooping
down to rescue some poor guy from the endless miseries of bachelorhood. 

State Fair (1962)

It is our understanding that the fairgrounds suffered from some questionable "make-
unders" over the years.  Thankfully, everything has been restored to full, glorious color. 

State Fair (1962)

This is not the same statue as the one pictured above, but you get the idea.

Mary wondered why this particular statue wasn't included in the final cut of State Fair.
I could only think of a couple reasons...

State Fair (1962)

The Hall of State is not featured prominently in the film but you can clearly make out
the golden god in front of the building...and just past him you can see that Tejas warrior statue.

One of the pavilions was left open so we took the opportunity to do some exploring.
It was quite dark inside and nothing was going on but we did get the chance to marvel 
at the Art Deco motifs that continued on inside the buildings. 

State Fair (1962)

As much as we loved the State Fair of Texas, it was certainly not without its disappointments.
A chairlift/gondola ride might be fun but it is no substitution for the long-gone '50s-era monorail!

State Fair (1962)

And don't get me started on Big Tex!!!  I was more than a little miffed to learn that
Big Tex is only on site when the fair is running.  But I was quickly distracted by this
shiny, gold, skyscraper (the base of which can be seen next to Big Tex in the above
still from the film). 

State Fair (1962)

As the world's largest carnival barker, Big Tex beckons fairgoers into the midway.  I
had to settle for "Big Mare" or "Midway Mary" as she's known around the fairgrounds...
Even still, I was thrilled to see the same neon-clad midway arch that is featured in the movie! 

The original star of the midway was the Triple Racing 
Roller Coaster, seen in this footage from 1936.

Fair Park extends far beyond the grandeur of the exhibition halls and the thrills of the midway.  Home to museums, an aquarium, and a manmade lake, one could happily spend an entire day roaming the grounds - even without the promise of caveman-sized turkey legs, deep-fried Oreos, and milk-chocolate bacon on a stick.

In the forecourt of the aquarium sits an incredible seahorse water feature.
I'm not sure that I've ever mentioned it here, but I am fascinated by
seahorses and love seeing them represented in art and architecture.

This fella was loitering outside the Natural History Museum.

Creating a fairyland atmosphere, one section of the lagoon features a beautiful, interactive
sculpture garden, where serpentine footpaths meander through the water and around the trees.

The joke's on you, Texas.  This troll is on top of the bridge!!!

A fair full of people might have lent some vitality and atmosphere to our visit but Mary and I agreed that that we preferred having the entire park to ourselves.  It is a treat to experience the art and architecture without shoving past hordes of hungry fair folk (oddly enough, one of the few people that we did see was someone with whom Mary is acquainted from Southern California; we met him as we entered a warehouse sale that was being held on the fairgrounds - Mary has a friends in every airline hub).

A panoramic view of the wonderfully-desolate State Fair of Texas

The State Fair of Texas did much to restore my faith in the possibility of fairs.  If you ever find yourself deep in the heart of Texas, it is a most worthwhile use of your time.  And as everyone in Texas is a Texan, even a couple of no good city slickers, we feel perfectly comfortable declaring that "Our state fair is a great state fair!"  Don't miss it!  Don't even be late!

"Our State Fair is a Great State Fair" - State Fair (1962)

State Fair of Texas
3921 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd
Dallas, TX


Mr. Tiny

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Signs of the Times: DFW in Lights!!!

On our recent jaunt to the great state of Texas, I had to remind myself that every adventure need not necessarily be a wacky tacky fact-finding mission.  It's okay, I told myself, to to put down the camera and simply enjoy my surroundings.  It's perfectly reasonable, I concluded, to abstain from researching bowling alleys, bakeries, and beauty shops.  It is good etiquette, so I'd read, to connect on a personal level with local residents (particularly if those locals happen to be your awesome extended family members).  But sometimes it is also acceptable to acknowledge that the heart wants what it wants.  And this heart of mine, enlarged by too many trayfuls of good, old-fashioned, Texas barbecue, wants signage - crackling, glowing, neon signage! 

Blue Bonnet Bakery - Fort Worth, TX

The first sign we encountered was in the historic Crescent Heights neighborhood of
Fort Worth; the 80-year-old Blue Bonnet Bakery's new-ish sign added some roadside
whimsy to the 1922 Christian Science Church from which the bakery now operates.  

With a couple of exceptions, signs in the greater Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex defy the stereotype that everything is bigger in Texas.  In fact, most of the signs are relatively modest compared to, not just the businesses they advertise, but also the vast prairie country they inhabit.  Thank goodness that we at wacky tacky are not size snobs; new or old, meek or bold, we are of the opinion that when it comes to signs, even modest can be hottest.

Messina's Shoe Repair - Grapevine, TX

It doesn't get much more simple than Messina's sheet-metal & neon shoe.  And yet, there is nothing
so quaint and old-timey as hanging your shingle in the shape of the services/wares that are offered.

Coburn's Cafeteria & Catering - Fort Worth, TX

Unfortunately, the cafeteria inside Coburn's is long gone but they
continue to offer some of North-Central Texas' best catering.

Rose - Fort Worth, TX

I'm not sure what they're advertising but whatever they're sellling, I'm buying.

Leddy's Boots & Saddlery - Fort Worth, TX

You can keep your football; this is my kind of Friday Night lights!!!

Riscky's Steakhouse - Fort Worth, TX

Cool sign - no bull.

Theo's Drive-In - Grand Prairie, TX

Theo's Drive-In - Grand Prairie, TX

Don't you all of the sudden have a serious craving for Cre-Mel Root Beer...whatever that is.

Texas Liquor - Dallas, TX

Buck & Ruck - Dallas, TX

Stop n' Save Liquors - Dallas, TX

The reverse of Stop n' Save Liquors - Dallas, TX

Standard Spring & Brakes - Dallas, TX

Deep Ellum - Dallas, TX

Rollin' deep!

Joe T. Garcia's Mexican Dishes - Grand Prairie, TX

Deep Ellum - Dallas, TX

Adam Hats - Dallas, TX

Twisted Root Burgers - Dallas, TX

Even though this is the one and only time Pee-Wee has ever led us astray (the promise that every Texan we encountered would clap along with us given the appropriate prompting was left unfulfilled after many, many attempts), we still adore Mr. Herman and the signs of DFW.  Although we didn't stick around long enough past sundown to see any of these beauties in their full glory, that didn't dim the twinkle they left in our eyes.  To coin a new phrase, "the signs at night are small but bright, deep in the heart of Texas!!!"

"Deep in the Heart of Texas" - The Ranch Party Gang (1957)
(It should be noted that Town Hall Ranch Party 
was broadcast from Compton, CA - woot woot!)


Mr. Tiny

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Kitsch-en Kounter: Laura Petrie's Famous Avocado-Peanut Butter Dip

After innumerable viewings of The Dick Van Dyke Show, what once seemed bizarre and mildly-repulsive has started to sound vaguely appetizing.  In an episode entitled "All About Eavesdropping," the Petries engage in a one-way battle with their best friends and neighbors, the Helpers, after unintentionally overhearing a private conversation conveyed via a child's intercom.  Feelings are hurt when Millie considers the possibility that Laura left out the secret ingredient (mustard) when sharing  her prized recipe for avocado-peanut butter dip.  Wait a minute - AVOCADO-PEANUT BUTTER DIP?!?!!

We would tell you how good it is but our tongues
are permanently stuck to the roofs of our mouths.

What was certainly no more than a writers-room spoof on mid-century foodstuffs has become a years-long source of fascination and dialogue for the members of my family.  Finally deciding to research such recipes, we discovered that the only thing yielded by Google was other inquisitive DVD Show enthusiasts searching for the "real" avocado-peanut butter dip recipe.  So, in answer to their queries and to my own, I decided to write an original recipe for Laura Petrie's Famous Avocado-Peanut Butter Dip.  After all, I like peanut butter and I LOVE avocado; this was going to be a home-run!  I mean, how hard could it be; the key ingredients are listed right there in the title!

Living smack-dab in the middle of avocado country, we believe that nature's miracle fruit goes with/on everything!

I started by mashing the avocado and blending in a small amount of peanut butter but it was obvious that there was more to this gastronomic delight.  The only real clue to additional ingredients offered by the show is that mustard is key to the dip's success; thinking about the rich, velvety texture of avocado and the stodgy, fatty nature of peanut butter, it only makes sense that something acidic, like mustard, would be needed to lighten the heavy load.

It also occurred to me that lemon juice might brighten things up, balanced by the sweetness of a little
honey.  To add some drama, I sprinkled in a dash of cayenne pepper along with some salt and pepper.

If the ingredient list to Laura Petrie's Famous Avocado Peanut-Butter Dip isn't enough to turn your stomach, then the color must be.

Somewhere between the yellow mustard and the cayenne pepper, the dip's
resemblance to infant excrement was advancing at much too alarming a rate.

I had even considered adding some pressed garlic to the mix but good sense got the better of me.  In every Kitsch-en Kounter experiment, there is a time when the chef must be honest with himself; nothing was going to make this better.  Although I hate wasting food, it felt good to answer the question, "Is Avocado Peanut Butter Dip real?"  Yes, Virginia, Laura Petrie's Famous Avocado Peanut-Butter Dip is real - really disgusting.  Nevertheless, I feel compelled to share the recipe, one that might be better referred to as "schlock-amole," with my Kitsch-en Kounter Kulinary Kadets.

Laura Petrie's Famous Avocado-Peanut Butter Dip
We even found "Corn Curlies" with which to serve the dip - never mind that they're nacho-cheese flavor.

Laura Petrie's Famous Avocado-Peanut Butter Dip
(this can be made in quantities, but I wouldn't recommend it)

1 Large Avocado (pitted and mashed)
1 Tablespoon of Creamy Peanut Butter
1/4 teaspoon Yellow Mustard
1 Dash of Cayenne Pepper (this recipe is bordering on a health cleanse)
1 teaspoon Honey
Juice of 1 Lemon
Salt & Pepper to taste (although the taste is not going to get any better, trust me)

Blend all ingredients until smooth.  Serve with Corn Curlies, Wheat Whippies, Peanut Pippies, and/or Potato Poopies.  You are more than welcome to adjust the amounts and play with other ingredients but, as I said, it's never going to be good.  Believe me, "if you see it in the [wacky tacky], it is so."

This was a true Kitsch-en Kounter adventure that actually found success in its failure.  We learned (to our chagrin) that avocado doesn't always improve the taste of everything.  We also learned, for the benefit of all who wondered, that Laura Petrie's Famous Avocado Peanut-Butter Dip was indeed just a writers-room joke - and the joke is squarely on us.  "Oh, Roooooob!"

The Dick Van Dyke Show - "All About Eavesdropping" pt. I

The Dick Van Dyke Show - "All About Eavesdropping" pt. II

As we head into potluck season, instead of loading down the buffet table with yet another cheese ball or nonchalantly setting down the seventh store-bought platter of lifeless crudités, why not thrill partygoers by making Laura Patrie's Famous Avocado-Peanut Butter Dip?  Even if it tastes terrible, it is bound to keep everyone's coats nice and glossy - and they'll thank you for that!


Mr. Tiny