Where the Soul Leaves the Road

Traditionally marking out the place of an accidental death on the road as a special kind of sacred space, the Roadside Memorial or Descanso can still be seen on the streets of the Phoenix area. While some classic wrought iron ones can be found, there is a real variety of materials and approaches to creating the memorials. This element of roadside culture may be as ephemeral as the classic period motel; their significance and presence is more likely to be resented rather that respected today. Roadside Memorials in the Southwest stem from very old cultural roots: namely the old Spanish custom of marking roadsides with little crosses in favorite places where pallbearers paused to rest along the road while carrying a casket to the cemetery. People passing by such places might pause to reflect, or stop to pray for a moment.

In contemporary practice, the place where someone dies on the street, where the soul leaves the road, can be seen as a kind of ‘thin place.’ I always treat such sites with respect, and prayer when photographing them. It is especially sad to come across a vandalized memorial site; and not unusual to see them removed. In the outskirts, where most of the extant classic motels tend to exist, the survival rate of the memorials seems longer than ones closer to the city center. But that might just be my anecdotal observation.

The increasing presence of stuffed animals in addition to the customary candles, flowers, letters, pictures, or stones is kind of a forlorn element for memorials in urban settings. There is a stuffed animal subculture within our American contemporary social environment that adds a woebegone presence to the memorial – especially after a rain or two, and some sun damage has set in…

At the bottom of this page, I have added a photo gallery of memorials photographed mostly in the West Valley of the Phoenix area. For those interested in the topic, there is a Facebook page called Phoenix Roadside Memorials that you may want to visit. It’s a challenge sometimes to safely photograph the memorials, they have come to define areas of the Valley and have become personal navigational markers for the last few years. Haven’t seen one with a toy cel phone yet, but that’s probably on the horizon.

Air Traffic Controllers Part 2: How Many Souls, How Much Fuel?

It was a fine, fine morning. As usual, had managed to get paint on myself within the first 30 seconds after touching the supply cart. Have gradually learned to chuckle at this ritual ‘anointing’ before the day’s painting can begin. In short order somehow I lost track of a tool that I’d put in my pants – so many pockets and loops… Sometimes mornings are a series of collisions instead of first steps. Eventually the scaffold was outfitted with all the supplies carefully placed just so, to address the day’s work: paint, various brushes, water bucket, trash bucket to hang down the side, towels, tape, tool satchel, ipad (tuned in to the KPHX ATC crew of course) and for today, Debussy. Was contentedly in The Zone painting away on the upper register of the East Nave wall when a pilot’s request for an emergency landing broke over a lyrical Arabesque that was keeping my hands happy. The immediate response from the Sky Harbor approach controller was a profoundly simple question: “How many souls? How much fuel?”

”6 souls, 3 hours.”  Indeed, anything said beyond that becomes extraneous.

It shocked me, to hear of the crew and/or passengers referred to as ’souls’ because we don’t speak of people in that way anymore. This directness, this clarity made that absence very palpable. And the nature of that question in it’s larger sense, really covers all we need to know. While the controller calmly redirected incoming traffic away from Runway 8 to clear the way for the disabled aircraft, I was reminded that we are waayyyy too full of distractions to remember who and what we really are. And even though I’ve been painting on the Church interior for years with the controllers and pilots as invisible companions, this is only the second emergency landing to cross my ears with that instant hard focus. Thankfully, I’ve not had the ’opportunity’ to become jaded about the circumstance. How many souls? How much fuel?

Of course it didn’t take very long for them to redirect traffic with so few flights in the air. Down here at ground level, there hasn’t been much traffic anywhere after the Big Virus Thingy Shutdown took hold. This contingency presented a surprise gift of time, precious time, newly available to paint… That first morning after the stay-at-home order became official, I gleefully set off in the Golden Time of Morning, the Time of Long Shadows where the shade of my truck stretches out hundreds of feet in front of me – touching the street long before I would get there. (This is one of the reasons why I admire people who can fly: they can stay focused. I’d get lost in the beauty opening out before me and probably crash into the side of mountain or follow a really spectacular cloud into some kind of trouble.) As it was, I was intent on blending into the “essential” working men in their trucks to hide from the police with the theme song of Secret Agent on replay in my head. Oddly, no one was speeding that first cool desert morning – probably trying to avoid attracting LE attention. Getting down out of the truck in the Church parking lot was a treat; for there were at least half a dozen balloons aloft to the North in open defiance of the lock-down and social distancing restrictions. “Anchors aweigh mateys!” spooked the bunnies and mourning doves out of the empty parking lot. I love this country – it has Americans in it.

47 Painting Days later, patience and prayer for this disabled aircraft was in order while I applied level blue and light gold lines around a load-bearing support and waited to hear how the landing would go down. By 10 AM the controllers were directing traffic back to Runway 8 after a successful landing. Apparently the problem was hydraulic difficulties with a tanker.

It’s been interesting to note the effect of the reduction in air traffic on the controllers. On the second day after a long period of silence, I heard an almost plaintive “Hello………..?” And “Just checking to see if anyone was there.” With more time between flights, they have been able to grant preferred runway requests and eventually offered them proactively. While they have always been polite and very professional, I can sometimes detect a difference in their tone. Lighter notes creep in; when calling out approach path directions one of them used the word ‘tawdry’ instead of the usual ‘tango.’ The pilot receiving the directions repeated them drawing out the word ‘tawdry’ in pitch-perfect comedic timing and tone.

“How many souls? How much fuel?” Reflecting on the damage done during these days to disable so many people, so many businesses, schools – not to mention the insanity of directing infected people INTO nursing homes where the most vulnerable part of our population resides is infuriating. Science + politics = politics. All the time. Every time. The Left sure got what it wanted: empty Churches, small business closures and economic devastation, panic buying and needless shortages, people passively accepting life under house arrest for a seasonal disease with a 99% survival rate, deaths of the elderly, (who know what things were like before the Leftist regression) huge increases in government debt, a “plausible excuse” to let criminals loose on the public while arresting and jailing Christian pastors or Little People who disobeyed, abortion facilities given “essential” status, more people enrolled in the Free Shit Army and, maybe most importantly, no Trump rallies. The sky-is-falling leftie academics sure had a different approach to serious seasonal diseases when Democrats were in office. Just sayin’. The political activists disguised as journalists, these Wormtongues, did a very, very good job of getting people all fuzzed-up over something this country would have taken in stride without mass panic not so very long ago. Encouraging people to terrorize themselves with faulty computer models is a very successful strategy isn’t it? How many needless suicides has this politicized monster generated? Never did see any activity in the big intake tents set up in front of local hospitals – they have remained empty throughout the “pandemic”… Worst of all, has been the see-saw approach of politicians interfering with successful medical practice to push expensive wonder vaccines for a seasonal disease and tracking mechanisms and snitch-lines that will become acceptable as ‘the new normal.’ But I see signs that the patience of the people is wearing very thin with the illegal restrictions and lock-downs. Whether the general public learns to see the Marxists Behind the Curtain from this experience is an open question.

I pray that we have a safe landing. One that we can get up, dust off, and walk away from wiser as a nation. There have been acts of heroism and compassion and sacrifice in all of this, usually by people we’ll never hear anything about. They are a gift to us – bless them all. To anyone who has lost someone to the virus, my sincere condolences to you for your loss of a unique and irreplaceable loved one. You have my prayers that they rest in the hands of the Lord. To those of you who have lost your livelihoods, I pray that your future will be bright. To the “essential guys” in their trucks, the people who actually do things and solve problems, may you succeed for we all benefit from the fruits of your labor.

Looks like some paint has dried on my brushes. It’s time to climb down and clean them and get back to work. I don’t know how long this bubble of time will last for me to paint, am trying hard not to waste a single day doing this ‘non-essential’ work. Can only say that I am thankful for the time and will do my best not to waste a single day before the window closes. Can only say that beauty is essential in that it is a manifestation of the mercy of God on a level that we can understand. Can only say: “How many souls? How much fuel?”

Remembering the normies today

Remembering the 9/11 boatlift today by watching this video that always uplifts my heart. The goodness of the ‘regular guys’ or normies (or whatever they are called today when lefties make fun of them) is a powerful thing to witness. God bless them and keep them.

And still, 18 years later, most of our government and the media of course, seem ready to help the fanatics finish the job they started. The despicable effort to eliminate medical benefits for our 9/11 First Responders parallels the reduction of government support for the brave Chernobyl Liquidators who are fighting cancers decades after that disaster.

I think of guys like these every time I see some screaming nutball in a pink pussy hat – and know that they’d rescue the nutball without hesitation.

Air Traffic Controllers…

Painting in the Church today, listening to the tower chatter of pilots and air traffic controllers. While I focus on navigating the ups and downs in the surface of an orange peel wall, the pilots overhead are navigating their approach vectors and a bit of turbulence here and there. It’s a joy to listen to the song of competent people at work. And, as a bonus, I can say a little prayer for the flight numbers they call out while I paint. And ‘above’ all that, God holds us all in the palm of His hand.


Facebook Ad Executive Rob Goldman Apologizes for having “Uncleared Thoughts”… | The Last Refuge

Good grief, I doubt there is a more apropos example of how liberal echo-chambers generate a sketchy group-think compliance mindset. After President Trump re-tweeted a discussion thread from Facebook VP of Ads Rob Goldman, which cited analysis done last year of Russian ad purchases/engagement, the liberal hive instantly attacked the executive. According to Wired.Com Rob…
— Read on theconservativetreehouse.com/2018/02/20/facebook-ad-executive-rob-goldman-apologizes-for-having-uncleared-thoughts/

Anniversary: Moon Landing Day

Painting the Church interior was an interesting contrast on this date. The national moon landing effort, undertaken with so much bravery into a risky and unknown environment has always seemed like a high water mark for this country. Surrounded by a world today that descends into darkness, willful ignorance and/or the frenzy of busy distraction  – the opportunity to come here and ascend into the peace of focused, beautiful work feels wonderful. What a joy! Putting flowers in the paint water up here on the scaffold is a small journey upward.

The words of Elder (now Saint) Piasios of Mount Athos come to mind:

“It is good to have the intellectual powers that take man to the moon costing billions of dollars in fuel expenses and so on, but it is better to have the spiritual powers that raise man to God, his ultimate destination, with only a bit of fuel, a mere dried piece of bread” — Elder Paisios

And to stay awake, I have a Detachable Command Module along for the ride: a “Paris” tea sachet. Can’t do numbers without caffeine anymore – am too old. The ‘interesting facts‘ website has some good offerings on the moon landing. Hope that you had a good Moon Landing Day out there in cyberspace.