Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Day 19 - Glorious corn fields and the odd Kentuck Knob


Feeling better today. I hardly ate anything the past couple of days so as not to aggravate the squigglies in my stomach. My sour outlook was sugared by this kind motel lady I called to reserve a room. She said she loved me and her name was Lilyanne. Couldn't wait to meet her. I sped through Lancaster County and enjoyed watching real Amish folk doing their business at highway pace. No more photographs this time. My improved health made me curious again...the point of this trip. I noticed the lush corn, the wide blue sky, the blue flowers on the roadside, and I realized...there are hardly any trees in the county. Open space and fields of crops. It was great to be alive.

I made it to Markleysburg, a puny highway town. I had to stay in the vicinity because I have reservations for tomorrow to see Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater. I passed Lilyanne's "Inn" and kept on driving. Traveler's Inn consisted of two white trailers and a small house next to them. I just couldn't do it so I fled like a cowardly chicken. I found another inn but I think they're mostly cabins owned by Menonites. The best room I've had so far on this trip.

I headed on over to the "other" FLW house in the area, Kentuck Knob. Very nice little house, famous for its hexagonal skylights and triangular patterns. To be honest, my regard for the architect dropped a notch. Granted he was 86 when he worked on this house, but some of his ideas didn't make sense. You have to sidle sideways into the narrow hallways as he believed hallways are places you walk through and are unimportant. The closets were almost to the door because he didn't believe in attics and basements for they create cesspool for junk. I can understand...I hate junk...but I think he could've done a better job designing the interiors. I mean, there's no way an obese guest could through the hall. Just because genius architect was puny...

Anyway, Fallingwater, his masterpiece, is in the pipeline for tomorrow. Maybe the greatest architect of his he dubbed himself...will reclaim Notch 1.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

My two bits...

I can't wait for the Two Bits Market to open up. Tenant improvements are still underway in an Alexandria Hotel suite that opens up to 6th Street. Sure, I know I could pick up fresh produce at one of the local farmers' markets, but I'm never close by during their limited daytime hours.

So my message to Two Bits...when you're up and running, please wait for me before you close.

Day 18 - Ominous trees and Lego Mark Twain


Oddly enough for such a fantastic trip, I'm kinda down. Perhaps it's because the sashimi I ate last night poisoned my system. Lovely meal until two o’clock in the dead of night found my insides spinning on hyperdrive. I slept not at all.

Mark Twain’s home perked me up a bit in Farmington, Connecticut. Since we couldn’t take pictures I took pains to memorize the layout, contents, and details of his quirky house. The guide said that Twain had a habit of writing down notes on the margin of the books he’d read. A Jane Austen margin said, “If she weren’t already dead underground, I’d beat her with her shin bone.”

I like Twain. He’s funny, simple, yet complex and subversive. When I studied at Oxford a professor asked who the best author that ever lived was. Everybody said Milton, Shakespeare, or another usual heavy hitter. I said, “Mark Twain,” for which I heard sniffs, guffaws, laughter, and eventually, "Plebe.” Whatever...I liked and still like old Sam. I stopped by the Noah Webster House and a couple of other places I can’t remember right now, but I hurried off to Bridgeport to check the Barnum & Bailey Museum. While there I began calling for motel prices because I was losing steam. I was eating cheese puffs in lieu of non-existent crackers. Connecticut is a pretty wealthy town, and I couldn’t afford to stay.

I drove onward through New York and finally to Pennsylvania's Amish country. By then I was really ill, and the address I'd set on my GPS turned out to be the wrong one. I was sent to a famous Amish barn in the middle of nowhere. I called a motel called Lucky 7. A South Asian guy answered and said a room was $50. Even in my state I balked and replied, “$50? We’re in the middle of nowhere!” So I hung up.

No motels in sight until I spotted Relax Inn. The front desk clerk quoted $50 rates. I said, “Are you kidding me? That’s a bit too much for this place don’t you think?” He smiled. “You called before?” he asked. Then it hit me. I was arguing with the same guy twice. “Hey, this is Lucky 7 isn’t it?” "Not anymore. That would be $50 plus tax.”

I don’t feel well and I don’t know why I came to Amish country. Most of the gag shows are probably Menonites in Amish duds. Reminds me of when Chief Joseph had to don his ceremonial outfit just to be chased around by Wild Bill Hickok in front of a paying crowd. But I perked up when I took a drive and suddenly saw a horse and buggy racing a Geo Metro.

And yes, I will admit to my shame…When I was in the middle of nowhere looking for that barn, there emerged an Amish man riding a team of horses with his family. They looked so authentic and magnificent that I reached for my camera and clicked a shot. I immediately felt like puking. Poor people. I really don’t know what I’ll do tomorrow. See the sideshow and be a heel or drive somewhere else altogether.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Day 17 - Holiday holiday

Newtonville, Massachusetts:

This is the most laid back day I've had in over two weeks. My brother Ray took the day off to spend my last day in the Boston area with me. Between him and Dan, they'd fixed my car, arranged my junk in the car, fed me like the mayor of hungrytown, got me some dry ice, penny squished with me, and took me out for ice cream. I love those guys!

I watched Neil Jordan's new film, Ondine, at Dedham. I usually can't stand Colin Farrell...especially when he plays an American and his Irish brogue surfaces like swamp bubbles. He was pretty decent in this movie - because he was playing an Irish man. I won't kill it for other folks who might/should watch this film; I'm just going to say that it's an adult version of The Secret of Roan Inish.

My plan had been to go to Pennsylvania tomorrow from Boston, but Frank Lloyd Wright screwed me up. Fallingwater in southwestern Pennsylvania is closed Wednesdays of all days. Ah well. Plan B...I'm headed for Connecticut bright and early to see Mark Twain's house, and I'll stay overnight in the Land of Steady Habits.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Day 16 - Courtesy driving in MA & Museum of Bad Art


With already two needless stops on this trip, you can understand that these days cops give me the creeps. They're always at the back of my mind like food when my stomach's empty...but in this case, dog food. I'm not knocking all cops. Of course there are many good officers out there. I just haven't encountered them in the last two weeks on the road. I've always appreciated the Bostonian way of flashing headlights to warn oncoming traffic of a speed trap coming up. Class. We should have something like that in L.A. We should have each others' back.

Boston's always a pleasure to visit. My brothers are here and there are always lots of things to do. We did lobster and kitsch this time. I'm going to dedicate this post to the MOBA (Museum of Bad Art) and let the pictures do the talking.

Today's day...

+ Raleigh Flea Market
+ Fenuil Hall
+ Auto Show
+ Flat Penny Hunting
+ Giant Hood Milk Bottle
+ Building Sighting
+ Lobster Fest
+ Lots More...

Stonewall Jackson

I thought the shouting had to do with the USA vs. Ghana World Cup game this afternoon, but it was actually Michael Jackson fans yelling, "Justice for Michael!" as they marched the streets of Downtown Los Angeles.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Day 15 - Three toll roads add up and it ain't purty


Cleveland wasn't part of the plan. After all, Ohio isn't even in the south, but what can I do? Superman. Gehry. I'd say it was worth visiting a city I could see myself living in...for a while at least. I was going to hang west and head to Chicago but BaddicuFinch put his foot down. Chicago was OUR future trip so keep out!

I arranged my music, water, and cheese puffs on the passenger seat for easy access. I knew the drive to Massachusetts would be grueling, and there was no way I was going to stop at food joints and waste time. Ten and a half hours, boooyyyyeeee. I took the I-90 passing through Pennsylvania and New York. I was charged three times for tolls totaling $28 - my precious motel money. Good thing I'm crashing at Ray and Dan's for a couple of days.

I could've made the trip quicker but for the speed traps every twenty miles or so. Just go over five miles and they snag you. A movie played in my head during the trip. This time my original was a western with a young Tommy Lee Jones. Great mental-movie moments. I've always thought Jones should've starred in more films in his youth.

With the movie waning and Modest Mouse thudding too loudly in my ears, I started scanning the road for deer, squirrels, and whatever creatures had been squished on the road. I must have seen over forty poor animals on the highway. The worse were the baby fawns. They looked like they were sleeping. I prayed that I wouldn't hit anything - not one creature - because I wouldn't be able to live with myself.

I reached Newtonville, just outside Boston, at 4pm as predicted, and Ray and Dan were pulling up as I arrived. Happy times. Dan, a caraholic, checked out my Clive, unhappy about the number the New Mexico cops did on the hubcaps and bumper. Eventually we went to a couple of thrift stores and ended up having dinner with Adrienne, Dan's mom. Met Dan's cousin, Marilyn. Very nice woman. Anyhoo, I'm super tired so I'm going to stop my ramblings. Good night!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Day 14 - Ode to Siegel and Shuster + Little Ralphie

Cleveland, Ohio:

Drove through Cincinnati, Columbus, then to my destination, Cleveland, OH. I suppose I've taken liberties and strayed from my 'Southern' route. Since I'd already planned to visit my sister (who leapfrogged to California for a week) in Maryland and my brothers in Boston, I thought I might as well visit the Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster sites. They're the creators of Superman and we can thank them for ratcheting up forgetable comic books into something out of this world. Jerry Siegel's house was intact, but unfortunalely Schuster’s home had been demolished. Man, if it were up to me, every single toilet stand and phone booth they ever used would be on the National Register of Historic Places.

I went down to a public clock tower dedicated to the pioneers of the Golden Age of Comic Books. The tower turned out to be a hangout for the down and out. A man asked me, “Do you want music CDs or movies?” I couldn’t hear so I asked him twice to repeat himself. “No thanks. I’m here for Superman,” I informed him.

He gave me a blank look, and I pointed at a bronze plaque commemorating the creative partners. “Superman was created here…in your city!” I said. He followed me while I snapped some pictures. An old man sitting on a bench and missing at least five teeth said, “Ain’t you never seen that thing there about Superman?” My friend shook his head, still amazed.

He turned to me and said, “You know, I’ve lived here all my life and I never knew that.” “You should be proud. We don’t have anything like this where I come from,” I said sadly.

Another worthy venture today was the A Christmas Story House Museum. The owner/curator bought the original house from eBay and restored it to all its glory. We toured the house, which accurately recreates the interior shots that had been filmed on a sound stage. And as a surprise, Ralphie’s little brother was on hand, looking like a man now.

Long drive ahead tomorrow, so I'm cutting this short...

Today's Hits...

+ Jerry Siegel’s house
+ Superman Clock Tower
+ Peter B. Lewis Building by Frank Gehry at the Case Western Reserve campus
+ Drove around downtown Cleveland – awesome
+ A Christmas Story House Museum
+ Terminal Tower

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Day 13 - Muhammad, tell us more...

If you know me you know that I'm an Ali fanatic. I read, watch, and listen to anything even remotely related to the Greatest, so it's only right that I make my pilgrimage to his birth city. What a superb site for the Muhammad Ali Center, which aims to teach children to dream big and pursue their goals to the finish line. Very noble indeed.

The exhibits, mostly fight interviews and such, were a treat overall, but they withheld his bad underpants. I'm may be a big fan, but I believe the unfiltered truth should be told about Ali. Although the museum disclosed that Ali didn't throw away his Olympic metal in the Ohio River after getting ejected from a dinner liked he'd claimed for years, but other exagerations and blemishes were left unspoken.

What I mean to say is that some of his most famous quotes like, "I ain't got no quarrel with them Viet Cong. They never called me a 'nigger'," were spoon fed to him by Elijah Mohammad's people. He also turned his back on Malcolm X, a good friend, when X began talking about Elija's transgressions.

Muhammad Ali preached a lot about the uniqueness of women and how respect was owned to each and every one of them yet he flouted mistresses many times with several of his wives. I could go on and on but I won't. I'll just mention Joe Frazier. The man was so ill treated by Ali that even I shudder. Ali called him Uncle Tom, made fun of his dark complexion & his nose, and mockingly bandied about a rubber gorilla. While Ali later admitted that he went too far with his taunts, he never formally apologized to Frazier.

A frank discussion of these issues would make kids realize what not to do. A little openness would also humanize Muhammad Ali, who is a legend - but a flawed one.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Day 12 - Squatter dilemma

Louisville, Kentucky:

Just had my first meal of the day at the Waffle House adjacent to my motel. I can't tell you if the food was good because my eyes were too busy drinking the inhabitants of the restaurant. There was the haggard waitress, shirt and apron stained like my windshield after a rain of insects. The cook could stand to eat himself with his emaciated body and curved back. Then there was me, non-white with pustules on my face after breaking out in recent days, and a woman who trudged in five minutes after I did. The customer was bleached blonde but bordering on the yellow on some parts. The left side of her face was an angry purple, blue, and pink. She'd been beaten.

I was at the saddest place on earth. You know the famous image of Elvis, Monroe, Dean, etc. hanging out at a diner. Well there we were, the polar opposite of the poster. I've taken pains not to photograph scenes of poverty and distress in my Southern journey. I don't want to present them like Depression pictures so people can say, "Oooh! Check out how the other half lives."

I'd surely like to. I'd taken enough of that kind of pictures in the countries I'd been to and felt ashamed afterward. The farthest thing from my mind is to depict certain people as pathetic, poor, ill, whathaveyou. I'm not a photojournalist. I'm nothing. We all know how inequality razes our country. We all know that blacks and Latinos get the worse end of it. But for me to take their picture just to have something controversial later to talk about with friends, then traveling through the South would leave me guilty.

I'd like for people to show their bruises on their own terms.

Day 11 - Monkey trial's still bringing up bananas

Dayton, Tennessee:

Folks might say I made a bad decision in driving 287 miles to a little town close to no one has heard of to check out a brick courthouse. I began to think the same as I came across mustached men smoking and looking soused in the neighboring towns, but maybe that’s just me falling back on my preconceived notions. But on Tuesday I continued the drive to Dayton, the site of the infamous 1925 Tennessee vs. Scopes court case sometimes called the Scopes Monkey Trial.

To refresh your memory, it was about a high school teacher indicted for teaching Darwin's theory of natural selection in defiance of a Tennessee ban on teaching evolution. William Jennings Bryan, a three-time Democratic presidential nominee, joined the prosecution, and his earnest knowledge of the Bible frequently ended in soliloquies in court. Then there was my hero, Clarence Darrow, a man for humanitarian causes, women's rights, and civil liberties, and the attorney for controversial defendants such as strikers and even accused killers.

When I saw a statue of Bryan outside the courthouse while a similar monument to Darrow was conspicuously absent, I laughed. Of course they wouldn’t erect a statue of the man who, point by point, blew up the prosecution's attacks by using scientific method and reason. Anyway, I can’t say enough about Darrow. I’d drive anywhere to see where the great man debated in the courtroom still much preserved. I’m hoping in the next couple days to find his birth home somewhere in Ohio. And someday I'll go to Chicago and visit his museum/home that's supposedly haunted. That would be icing on the Beard Papas.

On a frustrating note, I was stopped by the police Tuesday when a sleek black SUV flashed me over to the shoulder with the blue lights. I swear, this city has the neatest cop cars. Anyway, same old same old. He had nothing on me. The officer just went straight to the point. "Do you have firearms...cocaine...marijuana...meth, etc." He let me go not even five minutes later. The combination of my milk truck Scion and California license plates is going to get me in trouble deep before this trip is over.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

This whiskey is 60 years old

EzraPounded is gearing up for some quality Kentucky time tomorrow. She called to tell me that her motel's Wi-Fi connection is down, and the management claims it will be fixed "shortly." How long and how many times do you think they've made that promise?

I came across this bottle of Biltmore Bourbon ("Made Exclusively for the Biltmore Hotel, Los Angeles, California") when I wandered the lobby of the Pacific Center after a late night run through Downtown Los Angeles. It's displayed behind glass along with metal doodads from the past.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Day 10 - Historical markers


I took in lots of things today that I won't bore you with. I'll just list them in a second. I just want to say that Memphis has so many historic sites bursting in their scope. A good share of them are music-related, of course. Blues...and later, white blues...dominate this city. Their histories are all kept in excellent condition with the exception of Slave Haven, a stockyard once owned by Jacob Burkle, who secretly protected runaway slaves on course with the underground railroad.

I expected something glorious. The marker on the streets had nice arrows pointing to the house. When I got there, I had to do a double take. The house was in disarray, there were metal bars on the doors and windows, and their sign was a bad fit for such a weighty subject. If anything, this historic home surpasses the historic importance of Graceland, but the dollars just aren't there.

My Today List...

+ Sun Studios
+ Pyramid Bldg
+ Orpheum Theater
+ Slave Haven
+ Giant Dog
+ Graceland (eeesh! expensive, too!)
+ Riverboat ride
+ Confederate Park (I just had to see this one)
+ Dinner at Beale Street (Like 3rd Street Promenade but with really good musicians)

I'm exhausted so I'm going to shut up. Bright and early I'm driving to the other end of Tennessee to the old courtroom from the Scopes Trial, in which Clarence Darrow defended the high school biology teacher who taught evolution in school. I'm a Clarence Darrow fan, so I'd better get some rest to properly get my admirin' on.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Day 9 - Neck is hoo


What an exhausting day. The welts on my arms convinced Motel 6 of the error of their ways, and the front desk chief offered a two-night refund. I kinda felt bad, but I sure don't want anyone else getting eaten by bugs. I also wrote corporate and let them know that if they'd like to see pix of bugs near the toilet and angry bites on limbs, just let me know.

Around nine I made it to the Crater of Diamonds State Park that Ray had told me about. Would've gotten there sooner if the GPS hadn't sent me to the heart of the woods for my second off-roading adventure. The drive from Little Rock took two hours and the temperature was already pushing 100 degrees. On the field it spiked to 107. I rented my gear and watched the ranger explain how to find diamonds and to spot fakes. I toiled and sweated for hours but found nothing but pebble. Sorry, Ramon. You don't get your 10 carat.

Drove five hours to Nashville after my sweat bath and arrived at the Civil Rights Museum just before closing. The museum occupies the old Lorraine Motel where Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, and a wreath had been placed on the guard rail in front of Room 306. For such a sad subject, this was an excellent memorial - especially since the MLK Memorial Foundation converted the building across the motel where the shooter was positioned into an extension of the museum.

I loved Witness, the film they showed about Reverend Abernathy's firsthand account of MLK's last moments. Abernathy felt he had been with King for a purpose - to be a witness to his death so no lies could be a lover murdered him or his allies plotted against him. Very powerful. I'm super tired though so I'm going to stop. Tomorrow, Nashville. Exciting...

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Day 8 - Complaint day...I'm allowed, right?

Little Rock:

Woke up with itchy bumps on my thighs and arms. I wanted to cry, and I still have one more night in this dunghole that won't refund my money. Just think of India, I told myself. At least there's no resident rat in the bathroom, and I'm awfully grateful I brought flip flops. I dabbed acetone on every nook and crook.

Before heading out to explore the city, I stopped by the motel office and complained again and showed them my arm bumpies. I told the front desk manager that serious health violations had been breached and I wouldn't have skin if I stayed another night. The manager capitulated and moved me to a room with wood floors. Springs are popping out of the bed, but the room is clean. Later I told my brother about my ailments, and he said I can't visit him in Boston until I go to a laundromat and wash every last article of clothing.

The city was a ghost town this Saturday. I went to Little Rock Central High School, site of the desegregation showdown, and nobody was there to bother me. I thought of the Little Rock Nine walking the gauntlet, and the 'throat hurt' came over me. Went to the capitol and walked slowly up the steps of the capitol building afraid that if I went any slower, my sweat glands would burst and splash the steps like the senator from X-Men. James, my GPS, was annoying me so I switched him off and cruised the city from boulevard to boulevard. I stumbled upon the Governor's Mansion and explored an ancient agreeable place with a calming vibe.

At this point I was really shaking - I mean New Mexico State Police no-no shaking. I spotted Kanpai, a Japanese restaurant. I sat down, excited about eating rice, when I noticed other customers glancing at me with sadness in their eyes, like they wanted me to join their table. Geez, I have no problem eating alone. The server interrupted my thoughts as he handed over my bento box. He let me know that he's Chinese Indonesian. "They can't tell the difference." The rice was a bit hard and the food was no Japanese grub, but it was manna.

My skin bumps were itching hard. On the way back to the motel, I saw a girl with a nice smile dangling a sign: Free Car Wash!!! My car was filthy and the tires were white from the other day's off-roading. Her dad, brother, and sister were waiting for me with their trash can barbecue hissing from rib fat. No, I didn't try the baby backs. Free, by the way, was ten dollars in the end.

So tomorrow before I head out to Tennessee, I'm taking my brother Ray's advice and going diamond mining at Crater of Diamonds State Park in Mufreesboro, AR. Hope I find me some diamonds. Our agreement...Ray gets to keep my loot since it was his idea.