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A Texas-Sized Blog Post

Texas is much, much, much bigger than it appears to be on the familiar Rand McNally Robinson projection maps that are thumbtacked on school bulletin boards. In the last two days, Mariah and I have driven from Dallas to Austin to Abilene. With speed limits up to 75 mph (thoughtfully slowed down to a leisurely 60 mph when there’s construction for the safety of the workers) we have been in the car for what seems like forever each day. Texas feels in a tangible way as if it is a nation unto itself. A bold, confident, proud, brash, Ford-truck driving, cattle-raising, state-flag-flying, line-dancing, God-fearing, barbeque-eating, much-bigger-than-you-think-it-is, boot-wearing, bilingual, tractor-repairing, gorgeous nation. It is a good thing we like it here, because it is a one helluva challenge to get across this oversized state. Before we left Dallas we visited The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza (the Texas School Book Depository Building). The site has been transformed into a remarkable and reverential museum. Exhibits, eyewitness accounts, and video footage highlight John F. Kennedy’s life, depict the circumstances of his assassination, and describe the official findings and the ongoing questions and theories questioning those findings. Visitors have the opportunity to look out the sixth floor window and see what Lee Harvey Oswald would have seen in the plaza as Kennedy’s motorcade drove by below.  The feeling that I had looking out the window was similar to the one I had when […]

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Dallas Without The Theme Song

When Harry and I were newlyweds we rarely turned on our television with one weekly exception. DALLAS. Inexplicably, we were both hardcore fans of the show and arranged our work and social commitments to ensure that we would rarely miss an episode.  As Mariah and I drove into Dallas today, I anticipated seeing something, anything, that would let me know that we had arrived in the land of Southfork, the home of the Ewings. It did not happen. I am trying to remain strong for Mariah, but I am experiencing this dissapointment as a solid punch to the gut. In an effort to keep my spirits up, Mariah and I visited the Nasher Sculpture Center. I have wanted to see their permanent collection since their opening in 2003 (after they refused entreaties by several of the most prestigious museums in the country and founded their own museum to keep their collection in Dallas). Time spent with the sculptures of Picasso, De Kooning, Gauguin, Moore, Calder, Matisse, Oldenburg, Giacometti, Rodin and Noguchi is prime time. Unfortunately, a number of their other marquee pieces recently were removed from view in a highly unusual move by their senior curatorial staff to make room for an installation of contemporary work. Dallas. Dallas. Dallas. I have driven my youngest daughter a couple of thousand miles to get here and I just want to hear your theme song rise to a crescendo, see JR and Sue […]

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Not in Kansas anymore (allegorically)

Yesterday we stopped for lunch at a town that looked as if it had remained stagnant since the 1960s. The shop windows were dusty and framed by peeling paint awnings, and a sign outside one door read that they were selling TV antennas, which are obsolete last I checked. You could even see grain silos in the distance, and the few cars that did pass by looked like they had come along only shortly after horse and buggy. It was eerie and reminded me of Western films, of which I’m already not very fond. We ventured to this off-road hamlet to get lunch and were pleasantly surprised by the quaint café waiting behind the peeled paint and antiquated signage. We split a super yummy sandwich and looked around to see what resembled a tea shop, save the decorations on the left wall. There, hanging near doilies and cutesy signs for overzealous moms and grandmas, were a series of rifles hanging on the wall. Just to reaffirm –  this was a tea shop. As this is a 21st-century odyssey, we felt the need to take a selfie in front of said guns.   The presence of firearms so near our delectable, charming southern lunch was somewhat offputting. However, things got weirder. While mom went down to get the car after lunch, I stood on the sidewalk, and it took me a minute to realize how terribly out of place I seemed. […]

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No Vacancy at the Joy Motel

First an update: it turns out that the white pride radio billboard Mariah and I photographed and posted yesterday had already attracted quite a bit of national attention. The website address provided on the billboard links viewers to a KKK website as they are the billboard’s acknowledged sponsor. Enough said. Last night, we stopped for dinner at a restaurant and then slept in a hotel which were both marketed heavily to bikers. This was a new experience for both of us. (Mariah read a flyer in our hotel room which announced that hotel guests could bring their bikes out back for a free wash and towel dry. She asked me how many people I thought would be traveling with bicycles and need the amenity. She was serious; which is one of an infinite number of reasons why I love her). The teachable moment for us, other than the lesson about the flyer’s intended audience, was that everyone was genuinely nice to us despite our looking as if we were extras from a recent Woody Allen film accidentally sent back in time to the 1953 closed set of Marlon Brando’s, The Wild One. Ultimately, on balance, Arkansas didn’t appeal to either one of us very much. From the confines of our car, we were turned-off  by the billboards and stores which lined the roadways selling everything from confederate flags, rice bran and night crawlers, fireworks, firearms, lingerie night at the local […]

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White Pride Radio

The New York Times does not have the market penetration in the South that it enjoys in the North. This is a shame. As a result, it fell to the local newspaper that was placed by our hotel room door yesterday to inform us that Graceland was just voted the top musical attraction in the country. Thus proving yet again – that there is no accounting for taste. Our first stop in Little Rock this morning was Little Rock Central High School, the storied site of the Little Rock Nine. It astounded us that students Mariah’s age and younger, received such unconscionable treatment after the Brown vs. The Board of Education decision. We then traveled to the The Clinton Presidential Library because it was the second most interesting thing we thought we could see in Little Rock. As anticipated, Al Gore received only a courteous but brief mention from time to time, and Hillary was credited with having contributed significantly to the administration’s accomplishments over the years. Naturally, the well-designed, LEED certified Library fulfills its purpose by presenting the Clinton years in the very best possible light. What surprised and impressed me most, however, was the matter-off-fact inclusion of the unsuccessful impeachment hearings and the events concerning Ken Starr and Monica Lewinsky. The presence of these embarrassing matters compared favorably to Graceland where Elvis was depicted as never having divorced Priscilla or having gained a pound from the day he […]

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Expectation vs. Reality

As an avid fan of music and all things pop culture, the notion of Graceland was pretty darn magical. The king of Rock and Roll’s epic home seemed like something that was worth the hype, but it sadly was not so. Plastic covers and velvet ropes barred any real entry, no mention was made of his later years, and the house itself was unremarkable. It was beautiful, but just not quite beautiful enough, considering the amount of time and money invested by all the investors and tourists visiting. Nonetheless, I was provided with an in depth education on Elvis’ filmography, awards, and outfits, which I absolutely adored. Additionally, I liked hearing more of his music, as I hadn’t heard much before. The advent of the notion of superstardom marked a turning point in how fame is acquired and perceived by both those who possess it and those who witness it. As a monumental fan of Lady Gaga, I find all this very intriguing, for the notion of celebrity is forever evolving, and fame can bring on a meteoric rise or a plummeting downfall, often both.        Another instance of a disconnect between that which is expected and that which occurs was dinner the other night, which was highly rated online and then resembled leftovers from a 1980’s meal in real life. Alas, these things happen. Similarly, lunch today was met with eagerness and left with stomach growls and mild dejected […]

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Value Propositions 

If you ever find yourself in Memphis you’re going to go to Graceland. Just as Mariah and I did today, you will undoubtedly play a classic Elvis song and Paul Simon’s Graceland en route. Just know that from the moment you pull up to the gate and incur the ten dollar expense to park your car in the designated parking area (followed soon thereafter by the payment of an exorbitant admission fee); your return on your investment will decline steadily. The anticipation of your visit will far exceed the actual experience. The best of Elvis has most certainly left the building. It has also left the minimally maintained grounds, the tired exhibits, the long guest lines, the overpriced mediocre food, the revisionist presentation of his life and the inefficiently managed and indifferent staff. Time spent with any of the multitude of Elvis biographies or retrospectives readily available on Amazon would have been a better investment. Memphis is also home to The National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Hotel. I am certain that at any time, this museum would take your breath away. Visiting while the media reports 24/7 on the recent carnage in a Charleston, South Carolina church and describes yet another in an endless stream of horrific racially motivated attacks was sickening. The museum presents the United States history of discrimination in a clear, factual, well-documented, interactive and profound manner. For example, visitors may board a bus and […]

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A Very Memphis Birthday 

We slept in and started our day by running several blocks through sheets and sheets of drenching rain to watch a few ordinary mallards waddle ten yards on a red carpet in a hotel lobby. This twice a day “march of the ducks” has been a tradition at The Peabody Hotel since 1933. Motorcoaches from far and wide show up and crowd their lobby to give their passengers a glimpse. Major credit to The Peabody for effective and wildly innovative tourism marketing. We followed that penetrating glimpse into the absurd with barbecued ribs and beans & rice for breakfast at the legendary Charles Vargo’s Rendezvous Charcoal Ribs Restaurant. Despite the sound of of it, they were a perfect start to Mariah’s Memphis Birthday.   Our next stop was a behind-the-scenes tour of the Gibson Guitar Factory. This sort of thing totally floats my boat. While wearing safety goggles we were invited to observe close-up the processes and the artisans who create these fine instruments using predominantly old school methodology (think string, glue, razor blades, sand paper and rubber bands). It was fascinating. Mariah plays an aqua and white Fender Stratocaster which she will undoubtedly value even more as a result of learning about the nearly one hundred hours of workmanship that is required to create a similar product.   We then visited Sun Studios to continue our immersion into all things musical. Their tour provided a fascinating perspective on both early […]

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