The last picture show

June 24, 2019

A matinee at the Roxy

I’d managed to book us into yet another disappointing accommodation for our last stop on our Wild West adventure. To top it off, I’d booked us in for two days. Two days in a place that when Carol looked up what there was  to do there as we were driving towards it, reported to me, “There’s no there there.”

Nature’s ceramics class

I’d booked us into Holbrook for two days on the belief we’d use one day to visit the Petrified Forest and the other day to view the Painted Desert. What we learned the afternoon we arrived was that both – intriguing and stunningly beautiful as both attractions were – could be easily wedged into an afternoon, with plenty of time to be back in Holbrook for Happy Hour. Which would still occur, even when an inadvertent GPS instruction had us lost,  vulnerably exposed in the manner of the plot of every snuff flick ever written.

I think I did a paint-by-numbers of this when I was a kid

I’m not sure what my expectations were for a forest made of stone, but the national park that surrounds it seemed organized in the pmanner of an auto junkyard. The history of how these trees were turned into ceramics is interesting enough: an inland sea buried a wood forest, and it’s receding left a mineral rich sediment floor onto which the fallen trees were entombed. The minerals crystallized the wood, changing it the way a kiln transforms clay. The result is wood with an  exquisite glaze of color worthy of the greatest Egyptian or Greek pottery. Strewn about the park in slabs and pieces, it resembles someone or something running amok in a pottery barn.

The Painted Desert featured a rainbow of rich color, but since it was part of the national park, we were finished with both reasons for coming to Holbrook by the time dollar-off well drinks rolled around that late afternoon. We couldn’t cancel our second night’s reservation, so we searched for something to do that wouldn’t involve watching Live P.D. in the room all day. It was Carol who discovered the Roxy Theater.

$70 per night is more than I’ve been paying for rooms that are still scaring Carol

The single-screen movie house opened in 1954, and bills itself as the only one still operating along Route 66 in Arizona. After closing in 1994, it was renovated and reopened in 2003. Richard and Stacey Nowell bought it in 2014, and are now the major impresarios for the biggest night out Holbrook can offer.

We attended the Sunday matinee (the only showing of the day) of Aladdin, the Will Smith remake of the Robin Williams classic. We were entertained, and more importantly, emerged into the squinting daylight with another Happy Hour underway. We observed our fellow patrons stepping out into the sunshine. It was with a strong feeling of empathy for them that we acknowledged that these citizens had just had all the entertainment they were to experience in Holbrook until the marquee changed. Carol noted that when she had Googled “shopping” in Holbrook, the only thing that came up was the Holbrook Mercantile. It reminded me of the only-stop shopping at Oleson‘s Mercantile in Little House on the Prairie. (Holbrook is also home to one of two remaining “Wigwam Motels” in the country.)

It may still be true that what unites us is greater than what divides us, but the sheer geography of this country makes for quite a collection of bedfellows.


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