Detail of "The Wrath" by Tristan Eaton
I had chosen to stay in Tucson overnight so I could get up the next morning and catch the early tour of a place called the Boneyard. The Boneyard is part of the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base and is the largest aircraft storage and preservation facility in the entire world. The nearby Pima Air and Space Museum (which is also one of the largest of its kind in the world) offers guided bus tours down the rows and rows and rows of airplane mummies (they're coated in a plastic-like shroud) that dot literally miles of Arizona desert.
I had driven by the Boneyard years ago and been mesmerized by the sight of so many distant planes, all parked in neat little squadrons of like individuals. Interestingly (to me anyway) after spending a little over an hour touring the facility up close, I can honestly say that the idea is more romantic from afar. The plastic wrap made the planes seem abstract and toy-like, like a movie set of an old western town where none of the buildings have backs.. Even in the abstract, though, it was mighty impressive to see all those tax dollars at work. Man we've sure made a lot of stuff to threaten people over the years.
Below is what passes for a sense of humor in the Army - a stop along celebrity row where dozens of notorious planes are parked yields this sight in the space placarded for the Stealth Bomber. It's invisible, get it?
After my tour concluded, I spent some time strolling through the museum where I discovered several marvelous surprises. First and foremost, there was a brilliant art exhibit on display, modestly inserted between plane fuselages and bomb casings. Eric Firestone (scion of tire moguls, I'm sure) has gathered a large group of graffiti artists and arranged for them to paint various parts from the Boneyard. Several artists even completed entire airplanes! Rather than me spending a bunch of time trying to describe it, here's a link if you're interested in more information and pictures of this exciting project:
I found the pieces to be sophisticated, witty, daring and beautiful. I've included a few of my favorites below:
"Enos" by Randy Slack
"The Wrath" by Tristan Eaton
Finial detail from "Cherubs of Justice" by Hector Ruiz
Can't have a graffiti show without Shephard Fairey. This piece is entitled OBEY Megaphone.
This is the inside of the megaphone. Beautiful and amazing.
There were many other cool surprises at the museum. I particularly loved the sea planes (there was one that was as large as 4 city buses stacked one on top of each other!), but the one that pretty much stopped me dead in my tracks was the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird. I try and keep up on cool things and somehow I had remained completely ignorant on the topic of this amazing piece of aerospace. It was designed for the CIA to replace the U-2 spy plane and to stand near it feels like being on a movie set. It is immense and mysterious and blackly ominous.
I was planed out and starving by the time I left the Pima, so I headed to the 'hood to indulge in a regional specialty know as Sonoran hot dogs. I had done some research and signs pointed to a tiny food truck known as Ruiz Hot Dogs as being one of the best purveyors in town.
I ordered two dogs in my best Spanglish, and was soon wolfing down the contents of my little paper boats with abandon. Homemade horchata topped off the meal and the entire repast set me back a mere $5.50.
I headed off to Yuma with a belly full of real food and a rose put in my check from eating al fresco.