Posts filed under Space Oddities

Space Oddities - September: Oklahoma City

I decided that once a month in 2018, I’m going to take a quick trip to explore/see/do/hear something weird and unusual in the space around me. I’m calling these Space Oddities and this is September…

After making an appointment a few weeks ago to get my next tattoo in Oklahoma City, I decided to make the most of a quick day trip and fit in a few fun stops while I was there. And because September has proven to be a bit busy for me at work, I also decided it would be my monthly Space Oddity (so practical).


I left super early to make it to OKC in time for an amazing late breakfast at Cafe Kacao, a quietly trendy Guatemalan restaurant in, what I figured out later as I was waiting for my food, a renovated 1980s Wendy’s building. The coffee choices on the menu looked amazing, as did all the breakfast foods (my love language). I ordered what might have been the tastiest breakfast I’ve ever had: Tostones Eggs Benedict with carne asada and spicy Hollandaise. Dang.


After breakfast, I had just enough time before my tattoo appointment to stop by one of the most colorful spaces I’ve ever seen and loved: Womb Gallery. Well, what used to be the Womb Gallery - I’ve been trying to find out if it’s still open and it appears as if the gallery has closed. That’s not to say it isn’t worth stopping to marvel at its wild exterior, though.


Womb was a psychedelic arts center co-founded by Flaming Lips front-man Wayne Coyne and the building is drenched in colorful murals and shapes and patterns and if it doesn’t make you smile, you might be dead. I’d been there a few years ago on a day it just wasn’t open and this time around it was permanently closed, so I’m destined to have never seen the inside, but that’s okay. I derived enough happiness just walking around the outside and that’s kinda all I’m looking for in a Space Oddity adventure.


Compared to my last tattoo appointment (clocking in at over four hours), this time around was pretty quick. I had it done at Black Mint Collective in Oklahoma City and I love how it turned out!  Simple and stylistic and just enough of a Wes Anderson vibe for my taste. Here’s a recap of what each symbol represents: Monstera leaf // Golden Girls -- Apple // The Beatles (Apple Records) -- Record player // Moonrise Kingdom -- Tent // The Royal Tenenbaums -- Keychain // The Shining -- Rug // The Big Lebowski.


The only thing I didn’t think about ahead of time was having a three-hour drive home with my arm wrapped up in Saran Wrap from wrist to elbow… very limited mobility, so it was an interesting ride home. But I had Harry Potter to keep me company! Always (no pun intended) bring a good audio book on car journeys.

Posted on September 27, 2018 and filed under Space Oddities.

Space Oddities - August: Sweet Tooth Hotel

I decided that once a month in 2018, I’m going to take a quick trip to explore/see/do/hear something weird and unusual in the space around me. I’m calling these Space Oddities and this is August…

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Over the last few years, there’s been a pop-up art installation trend across the country. Heard of the Museum of Ice Cream? Or the Color Factory? These are full-on themed art experiences you’re encouraged to immerse yourself in… touch, smell, hear, see, sometimes even taste. Unfortunately, unless you want to fly out to California, New York, or Florida, there’s been no interactive fun in Dallas. Until this summer.

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The Sweet Tooth Hotel is a small storefront on Victory Park Lane in Dallas. It’s cute, but unassuming from the outside; once you check yourself in with a concierge, however, a sweet world awaits you.

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The hotel is a five-room art installation by Dallas artists Jeremy Biggers, Shamsy Roomiani, Jojo Chuang, Rob Wilson and Chelsea Delzell. There’s a Ring Pop cactus infinity room, a dreamy hallway with clouds that respond to sound, a donut diner bathroom (complete with furry tub - I do not recommend touching the fur after the thousands that have done so before), a candy crazy bedroom & kitchen, and a stuffed animal carnival fun house via a refrigerator portal (definitely my favorite room).

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My visit to the Sweet Tooth Hotel was only a few weeks after my visit to Meow Wolf, so it was hard not to compare the two experiences (I mean, they both have fridge portals!). Meow Wolf is vast and intricate compared to Sweet Tooth Hotel and there’s really no fair comparison, so I decided to enjoy my Sweet Tooth Hotel visit for what it was - a fun, 60-minute, selfie-indulgent escape from an otherwise stupidly hot Texas afternoon.  

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If you’d like to visit the hotel, I’m sad to report you’re out of luck. It’s sold out entirely through August and that’s the end of its run. But! I did hear from a nearby shop owner after we left that there are already plans to revamp the space into another pop-up, this time space-themed… yes! I’d definitely go back and pay another $20 for that art voyage.

Posted on August 12, 2018 and filed under Space Oddities.

Space Oddities - July: Meow Wolf House of Eternal Return

I decided that once a month in 2018, I’m going to take a quick trip to explore/see/do/hear something weird and unusual in the space around me. I’m calling these Space Oddities and this is July…


Welp, this is the big one. The reason I started my Space Oddities odyssey back in January, the weirdo mecca in Santa Fe, New Mexico: Meow Wolf House of Eternal Return.

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What is Meow Wolf House of Eternal Return? Good question. It’s so hard to explain. It’s an immersive experience, an interactive art museum, a mystery, a portal to the multiverse, an overload on your senses (all of them) in the best possible way. This video does a good job explaining it, but as you’ll hear, there are so many different descriptions and yet it still can’t be conveyed with just words.

Meow Wolf is, first and foremost, an artist collective with over 200 artists from every discipline imaginable (and unimaginable). In 2016, the collective launched its first venture in Santa Fe: House of Eternal Return. Backed by George R.R. Martin (yep, that George R.R. Martin), Meow Wolf transformed an old bowling alley in the industrial district of Santa Fe into a choose-your-own-adventure experience with a dash of mystery. There are now plans to open new ventures in Denver and Las Vegas by 2020.

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Inside the bowling alley is a Victorian mansion with seemingly normal rooms, but upon closer inspection, you’ll find portals and secret entrances to things only Alice has seen through the looking glass. If you choose (and if it isn’t insanely crowded like it was at the start of my visit), you can track a mystery with clues sprinkled throughout the house, but just slipping through refrigerator doors and dryer shoots to surreal, interactive realms of story and imagination was more than memorable enough for me.

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From start to finish, my friends and I explored for almost three hours and I’m positive there were rooms and things I didn’t see or touch or hear. Each room is designed by a different artist and makes use of completely unique materials, some playing on technology (there’s a rad 80s-themed free play arcade) and others on sensory overload (or deprivation). It’s such a non-linear trek in wild surroundings, you tend to lose track of time and your sense of direction. And it’s fantastic!

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The already extraordinary visit was topped off with getting to see Wayne Coyne’s King’s Mouth on exhibit in the cafe lobby. You climb into the silicon mouth and just chill under a cascading LED light show synchronized to music composed by The Flaming Lips.

If you want to hop in your car to drive to Meow Wolf right meow (I had to), here are my suggestions:

1) Early is not necessarily better. House of Eternal Return is for all ages and those at the younger end of the age spectrum run rampant until about 4:30 when things clear out a bit. They’re open until at least 8 most nights, so you’ll have plenty of time to explore.

2) Buy your tickets in advance to avoid entry lines. We were lucky enough to get there when there wasn’t much of a line, but I’ve heard it can run outside the building.

3) Check Meow Wolf’s event & workshop calendar. You can catch bands playing in the crazy black light village, take a workshop on lantern making, or attend a puppet lab.

4) If you get there before 5-ish, have a drink at the Float Cafe & Bar in the lobby while the kids clear out. We got drinks at the end and then sat in the King’s Mouth, but drinks before House of Eternal Return would just add another wonderful layer of wacky to the whole thing. The cocktails are inventive (and strong!) -- don’t be afraid to try the absinthe.

5) Interact with the characters walking around! And boy are there some weird ones. They encourage dancing, question-asking, and jibberish conversation. Note that you can touch the art, but not the characters.

6) This is a duh, but go in with a fully charged phone or camera. I went with 100% battery power and came out with less than 20%. You’ll want to take a lot of pictures.

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My experience at Meow Wolf House of Eternal Return was worth every mile driven from Dallas to Santa Fe and back. The creativity that is cultivated and the weirdness that is celebrated is so inventive and inspiring. If you go to the bar, they’ll inevitably ask you what your favorite room was. I honestly had no answer at the time because I was still taking everything in, trying to remember all the colorful details and effects and affects, but I think the one thing that mesmerized me the longest was being able to play red lasers coming down from the ceiling like a harp. I hope you find your one thing at Meow Wolf.


Posted on July 22, 2018 and filed under Space Oddities.

Space Oddities - June: Takashi Murakami

I decided that once a month in 2018, I’m going to take a quick trip to explore/see/do/hear something weird and unusual in the space around me. I’m calling these Space Oddities and this is June…


As soon as I saw the previews for Takashi Murakami’s exhibit at the Modern Art Museum of Ft. Worth, I knew it would be one of my Space Oddities for the year. Entitled The Octopus Eats Its Own Leg, the exhibit features 50 works that cover 3 decades of the artist’s life. To say the exhibit is varied in technique, style, subject matter, or scale would be an understatement. Each turn of the corner, each turn of the room even, revealed new and interesting works that were alternatively sweet and sinister, small and large, traditional and modern. It was very cool.


Takashi Muramaki, born in Japan, is probably best known for his pop culture collaborations with Kanye West and Louis Vuitton (remember Graduation?). He is also credited with creating the postmodern art movement known as Superflat, which refers to the lack of depth in the composition, as well as the content, of works in that style. His art is often a visual juxtaposition of ancient Japan and the modern world - Buddhist monks in swirling, psychedelic colors and mythical beasts atop platforms reminiscent of retro gaming consoles.


There’s no escaping the manga and anime references in this exhibit. From bubbly and cute to sexually suggestive, you’ll see everything… literally everything.


My favorite aspect of the exhibit was getting lost in the sensory overload of cheerful, vibrant, all-consuming flowers, who appear to be the mascot of Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd., an art production and artist management company founded by Muramaki. Is it just me or do they remind you of the talking flowers from Pee-Wee’s Playhouse?


If you’re looking for something fun to do on a hot Texas summer day, I can’t recommend this exhibit enough. It’s worth the time to watch the short film at the beginning of the exhibit (downstairs) as Takashi Muramaki talks about his inspiration in creating the works, as well as how the art (some of it quite large-scale) is produced by his team of artists. If you’re a planner, note that admission is free on Fridays and half-price on Sundays. And make sure to keep your eyes peeled for Mr. DOB, Muramaki’s alter ego, in the art!


Stay tuned for July’s Space Oddities - it’s the sole reason I started this project!

Posted on July 8, 2018 and filed under Space Oddities.

Space Oddities - May: Thai Culture & Food Festival 2018

I decided that once a month in 2018, I’m going to take a quick trip to explore/see/do/hear something weird and unusual in the space around me. I’m calling these Space Oddities and this is May…


For this month’s cultural adventure, I really stuck the cultural aspect. For the second time, I attended the Thai Culture & Food Festival, which was held at the Buddhist Center of Dallas. This free festival, going on its third year, is put on by the Thai Community Center of North Texas, a non-profit established in 1998 whose mission is to preserve Thai culture, religion, and tradition.


In line with the organizer’s mission, the festival offers temple tours, a marketplace of Thai goods, cultural exhibitions, and, most importantly in my opinion, food. So much food. 

My friends and I arrived in the sweltering heat of a late May afternoon and ducked inside the temple to cool down. We got to observe a traditional Buddhist ceremony in the beautiful, gold-gilded temple. It was amazing to see such a culturally diverse group of people gathered in silent observation. 


After the service, we walked around the festival grounds and caught a few exhibitions of traditional Thai culture, including dancing, sword handling, and Muay Thai demonstrations. 


The marketplace was filled with clothing, packaged foods, toys & games, and jewelry. I got my fortune (cookie) told - at $20 per session, I’m too cheap (and a little scared?) for the real thing. That, and I wanted to spend my money on...


But really, let’s talk about the food. I love Thai food and was not disappointed. The festival featured foods from all four Thai regions, from teas & coffee (Thai coffee drool…) and fresh coconuts to chicken satay and papaya salads. And also fried bananas and mango sticky rice and bean paste buns. And Pad Thai and noodle soups and several types of Thai pancakes (the lady above is preparing one of the most insanely delicious things I tried at the fest: Sweet egg yolk pancakes… what? A sweet pancake batter cooked and folded like a taco shell with a coconut cream filling and shredded egg yolk. I was dubious, but man. So dang good).


Needless to say, I didn’t eat dinner that night. If you feel like you missed out on the food, the Buddhist Center of Dallas has mini food fests every Sunday from about 10am - 2pm. Authentic Thai street food is sold from permanent food stalls behind the temple and proceeds benefit the Buddhist Center. Check it out! 

Posted on June 3, 2018 and filed under Space Oddities.

Space Oddities - April: Webb Gallery

I decided that once a month in 2018, I’m going to take a quick trip to explore/see/do/hear something weird and unusual in the space around me. I’m calling these Space Oddities and this is April…


At the beginning of the year when I decided to undertake this Space Oddities project, I spent a few hours on Atlas Obscura making a list of places that would fulfill my mission to see some weird stuff. It was there I came across the Webb Gallery in Waxahachie, Texas, and it immediately made my list: Purveyors of fun, culture, and creativity who collect the mysterious, the unusual, and the striking? Sold.


I drove down this past Sunday (they’re only open Saturdays & Sundays from 1-5 pm) and it was such a nice day to get out and explore. The gallery is located just off the main historic square on W. Franklin. There was no sign, but I knew I had arrived from the colorful woodwork facade, the amazing toothpick structures on display in the front windows, and the mannequin-manned ticket booth near the entrance (but does it dispense fortunes like Zoltar?).


The curators of the Webb Gallery, Bruce and Julie Webb, are a husband-and-wife team who have scoured the country over the past few decades in search of oddball art and “just plain kickass stuff.” Some of their speciality collections include carnival banners:


Fraternal order objects and architecture:


Folk art:


And general oddities:


The galley also hosts special exhibits. I happened to show up on the last day of the Drifting Door to Door exhibit, which showcased some pretty amazing vintage tattoo flash and the works of artist Max Kuhn.


I browsed the collections for a good hour, soaking up the weirdo vibe and visual stimulation. If you’re in search of a quick day-trip in the DFW area, I highly recommend checking out the Webb Gallery. The owners are super knowledgeable, interesting, and have great stories.
And they have two Boston Terriers who greet you at the door.


Or they stay asleep on the couch. Either way, dogs and weird stuff. It was a great visit.

Have any recommendations for future Space Oddities in the DFW area? Let me know!

Posted on April 26, 2018 and filed under Space Oddities.

Space Oddities - March: Texas Pinball Festival

I decided that once a month in 2018, I’m going to take a quick trip to explore/see/do/hear something weird and unusual in the space around me. I’m calling these Space Oddities and this is March...


This past weekend, I hit up the Texas Pinball Festival in Frisco, Texas, with my sister, my niece, and my niece’s boyfriend. We met my brother-in-law Stephen up there and had the best night wandering around what amounted to a 40,000 sq. ft. free play arcade. Leave your quarters at home, kiddos.

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In organized rows up and down the convention center ballroom were 400 pinball machines, along with a handful of other classic video games, simultaneously dinging and whirring and clacking and glowing. It was sensory overload and it was fantastic. Some of the machines were for sale and some were just for exhibition, but they’re all available to play. In addition to the game room, the festival hosts a swap meet, vendors, speakers, tournaments, and even celebrity guests – Lou Ferrigno was set up next to an Incredible Hulk pinball and was available for some mean selfies.

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Though my brother-in- law has been restoring pinball machines and exhibiting them at the festival for several years, I had never been and he knew exactly where to point me first: Dolly Parton. My sister and I have a thing for Dolly. I mean, forget the Leg Lamp. This machine by Bally epitomizes the soft glow of electric sex. Well, maybe that was the Playboy pinball, but this is a close second.


I really enjoyed the juxtaposition of vintage-era machines and more modern pop culture references as we walked up and down the aisles. The older machines drew me in with their stylistic art, interesting shapes, and amazing analog (for lack of a better word) playfields. The craftsmanship of these machines was undeniable and something to appreciate.

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But, man, the pop culture machines were fun to play, too. The lines were usually longer for these pinballs, but worth the wait. We stopped at The Wizard of Oz, The Big Lebowski, Game of Thrones, The Simpsons, and a few others for a chance to beat high scores (which totally did not happen).

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My favorite machine of the night had to be the Zissou Life Aquatic pinball. It was an older, re-themed machine – a vintage body with a pop culture makeover – and the Adidas and Campari just finished it off perfectly. If only I had been wearing my red beanie! #teamzissou

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I highly recommend attending the Texas Pinball Festival next year if you get the chance. Go with a group of friends and make a day of it. It’s worth the price of admission for even a few short hours, but, really, there’s so much to explore and see and do and hear, you’ll need a full day.

Posted on March 19, 2018 and filed under Space Oddities.