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On The Road Summer ’08 pt 1 – Texas and Washington

Summer Blog-O-Rama – Part One, Memorial Day – Mid June: Texas and Washington

This is the first blog in a long series.  Most of what is to come are reports from some of the silliest places in the country, along with encounters I have had with freedom fighting artists, small town museums, and thousands of miles of interstate interrupted by glorious minutes of appreciation of ‘world’s largest things’.  From coast to coast and from far north to deep south, this is the continuing story of what happens when a lone juggler hits the road for the summer.  We’ll start slow, and pick up speed as time goes on…
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“So,” the question is asked aloud in my imagination, “What would it look like if the Knights of Columbus threw a rave?”
Two words.  Polka and Fest.  It’s in Ennis, Texas every year, and this is where I shall begin in my “Summer Blog-O-Rama”.This is how my summer began.  A few days before the Memorial Day weekend, I got a call from Jeremy.  This is the very Jeremy whom first stepped foot on the sacred Mt. Caramel grounds of the Branch Davidians with me, several months ago.  Jeremy and I have also travelled to Cambodia together and he is the perfect mischief partner.  Jeremy is one of those special friends who, at first glance, has all the social characteristics of a normal human being, yet has one glaring and entertaining personality flaw.  He is powerless against the forces of The DareDare Jeremy to do something, anything, and his eyes turn steely, his hand is steadied, his breathing slows.  “You DARE me?” He will always calmly reply, turning his head slowly to make absolute eye contact and raising a single eyebrow waiting, just waiting, for a second and absolute confirmation that someone thinks he won’t remove his pants in the middle of the lunch buffet at Luby’s.  “Yeah, I *dare* you.”  This second confirmation is Jeremy’s kryptonite.  He cannot refuse it.  It is this power that his peers have over him that requires great responsibility.  We must trust ourselves to not flippantly complete the second confirmation that a dare is in place.  This confirmation weakens Jeremy’s judgment and could easily cause him to behave like a criminal or permanently injure himself.  It is the knowledge that this trigger is somehow biochemically engineered into Jeremy’s psychological make-up that makes him such an entertaining friend.   However, my summer adventures, while not yet over, do not so far include testing Jeremy’s “dare-o-meter.”I had nearly forgotten about Polka Fest this year when Jeremy called me to invite me to come visit him in Ennis for a BBQ.  After the feast he planned for us to drive over to one of the fraternal lodge dance halls in town that promised to host the most rocking of all polka bands in the nation.  We arrived a little late to Jeremy’s home, feasted on burgers and hotdogs, assembled a small group of adventurers and headed out to one of the three polka dance halls in town, just in time to see the Grammy award winning polka band “Brave Combo” in full swing.

The “concert” wasn’t like it was so many years ago, when I first visited, but it was close.  Rosie was there again.  Rosie is an ancient and yet incredibly cute old woman, whose curly eyes and laughing hair are as vibrant now as they were during the Taft administration.  Just before the third intermission Rosie was invited on stage to sing a few numbers with the band.

An old photo from my first encounter with Rosie some years ago.

This was the fourth time I had attended Polkafest since moving to Texas.  In previous visits, the old dancehall was a bit more packed, and the walls could barely contain the sheer numbers and bursting unanimous enthusiasm of the small town crowd.  This year was more subdued than years past.Nonetheless, Czechs know how to boogie, and we danced and people watched into the wee hours.  I crooned to the Wooden Heart Polka.  We danced the chicken dance and participated in the jazz-polka-fusion-funk electric accordion version of the hokey pokey.

It was good times, and on Memorial Day weekend it was the perfect kick-off to a full summer of ‘America at it’s Silliest’.  I mean, where else in America do young high school jocks, elderly couples in eastern European traditional clothes, dolled up young lasses, and wee children all get together and sing polka, loudly, very loudly, and dance all night together?

I actually heard a 5 year old kid walk up to the bartender and ask for a shot of rootbeer.  He had no supervision.  No coaxing.  He just sauntered up into line, waited his turn, and beckoned for a ‘shot’ of rootbeer.  Ennis is in a dry county too, which means we had to sign our names to a clipboard before we could order a drink.  This does two things.  It allows automatic entry into the local “club” which is authorized to sell alcohol to its members. Secondly, it reminds you that Polkafest is catholic, not Baptist.  Hooray catholics!  You are a shining beacon of light in our dry county. Yup, I live in Ellis County, home to Ennis.

So this began my summer.  I would return to Ennis several times this summer for more Americana, but not just yet.

10 days later I was on my way Washington to spend some time with my folks and watch my niece graduate from my old High School.   If you haven’t been to small town America to see a High School graduation you are missing out on what basically amounts to the kind of folly you are exactly imagining in your head right now.  Microphone feedback.  Awkward silences. Irreverent attendees.  It is a real life comedy of errors and a real clash of social mores.  The administration puts on their fancy robes from the schools they went to, with all the swashes of color representing whatever degree they earned decades ago.  They sit ceremoniously on the stage as the graduating class enters.  They attempt to act dignified.  The working class students and the families of those students do just about everything possible to destroy any dignity the administration attempts to display.   In other words: It’s great!

What is most interesting to me, is the diversity among the families in attendance.  Some are wearing suit jackets with slacks.  Others are in shorts and sandals.  Some have dressed up, some are wearing work clothes.  Some of the tribal families from the reservation are there. Millworkers, law enforcement, lawyers, doctors, pastors, etc.  But what really compels me is the deeper seeded differences that play out during the ceremony.   It seems comical and light-hearted and silly albiet very loud and obvious. But these differences are not silly or trite.

There is almost a feeling of resentment in the air.  Natural born working class Washingtonians vs. the educated Californian transplants and their hoity toity ways.   Port Angeles is dynamic in that there are two distinct and powerful forces at work.  And while it might appear to be at first glance a conservative vs. liberal tug of war, my experience at this graduation made me second guess this notion.

You see, Port Angeles is home to perhaps the most conservative and evangelical Christian persons you would find anywhere in our country.  These people could point accusatory fingers at the Southern Baptists of the Bible Belt for ‘not being Christian enough.’  *And they do. When it comes to religion, Port Angeles is home to some of the most astoundingly conservative manifestations you can expect to find anywhere on our continent, while still living in and amongst a traditional community.  (In other words, I’m not counting the Yoders.)

Now, on the other hand, being a entry zone into the national park, and a stones throw away from Canada, and being a generally outdoorsy sort of place, in addition to being a retirement community for Californians, there is also a very artistic and liberal population that is less comfortable in a pew as they are comfortable with folk music, metaphysical psychobabble, long hairs, pot smoking and long walks in the woods.To illustrate this, I am reminded of a time when I worked for my junior high art teacher. She also owned, and to my knowledge still does, a medium sized restaurant on the pier adjacent to the dock where the CoHo ferry to Victoria, British Colombia is moored.

The green awning on the salmon colored building provides shade on the single sunny afternoon in which guests can dine outdoors.

She not only had the audacity to bring an astrologer into our 7th grade class, but then expected us to ask him questions and learn about his practice.  She in no way endorsed him, only expected us to learn.  I heartily disbelieved in astrology, even at that age, but delighted in doing an oral report on the subject.  If I recall, I managed to weave a video of ALF into my report.  Interestingly, I remember being deeply saddened that another Christian student in the class, had her mother write her a note, opting out of class on the day I was to give my report, citing religious differences in the subject matter.  I told the girl that I was Christian too, and that I didn’t believe in the subject, I was merely doing a report so I could learn about it. This held no water with her.  This may have been the first of several hundred more similar incidents in my life that would later come.

Anyway, Mrs. Hartman was a terrific teacher, but also the target for many an angry evangelical letter to the editor to our local small town newspaper.  She also owned Enya CDs at her restaurant.  When I turned 16 and was looking for a job, I turned to her, who quickly employed me as a busboy.  And while I might agree that Enya and digestion aren’t a perfect fit, I was surprised one day when a man accosted me as I toiled away cleaning waffle fries from the floor of a recently emptied booth.

The man and his family had been seated at a booth near the windows looking out at the ferry dock and in mere minutes had decided the music was of bad taste or worse, downright evil.  I was emptying the dustpan when a tap on my shoulder was accompanied by a request.  “Can you put something else on?  We prefer not to listen to that…new age music.”  He had a sneer. A very specific condescending tone, and a tremble in his voice that suggested seriousness to this issue that was other-worldly in its consequence.I knew this type well.  Somehow in the last decade or two it had come to the attention of the Christians of the peninsula of Washington State that pan flutes and electronic keyboards were inspired by satan himself. And while “We’re Not Gonna Take It!” was clearly and obviously Dee Snider’s ploy to assist satan in the corruption of our youth, it was “New Age” music that had a more devious and subtle method of corrupting our collective faith.

I put on Gloria Estefan and his wife thanked me when I passed by their table later on when their stomachs were properly full of fish and chips and the aptly named “I can’t beleive I ate the whole thing burger”.You must understand this wasn’t an uneducated man.  He, like so many others, was probably another transplant from the liberal coastal cities of the west, who moved north to avoid the sin and temptation and lawlessness of places like Oregon and California.

This is in direct opposition to the learned liberal know-it-alls who take their forward thinking and “new ideas” to small towns.  Carpet baggers. In the small towns they can be a big shot, they can make changes, they can create their own world.  And oh the whales!  The beautiful whales!  The owls!  How they love the owls!  They didn’t have these things in New Jersey, so they moved to Port Angeles to show off their education and coexist with nature.Belly Dancers vs. Those Who Don’t Dance, Art Gallery Sponsors vs. Members of the Choir.  The list can go on and on, until you realize these two groups also have a lot in common.  They both come from somewhere else.  They both came here in order to seek an environment they could control.  They both ‘aren’t native.’  But both groups relish the home school.  They both join the Symphony, they both want to Kill Your TV, and they both are so clearly right.

Yet despite being political adversaries, together they form the ‘who’s who’ of business, government and education in our small industrial, coastal town.  Now, the common man, the workers, the fisherman, the loggers, the laborers; they shake their heads.  These people aren’t overly religious, they don’t care to argue politics, and they probably don’t care or even notice the endless debates between the newcomers to their corner of the world.

If the common guy in town had a rallying cry it might include the words “religious nutjobs” or “liberal wackos” but more likely it would be the less judgmental and much more direct, simple and all encompassing: “Go back to California.”So when do all these people get together in one room?  High School graduation.

While the left wing hippie knowitalls and the conservative Christian fingerpointers all sit in abject piety smiling gayily in their seats…oh how they love gatherings!  The regular normal, average folk of the community find themselves at a real live meeting.  An indoor meeting, no less.  This is rare.  Generally speaking if it isn’t the presentation of the winners of the fishing derby or a fourth of July parade, these people don’t gather.  And why would they?

But they are here.  The one time they gather with the “who’s who.” They get it.  They have to come.  They need to support the kid.  Fine.  The kid finally made it through the hell that is 12 years of mandatory schooling.  For these hardworking people it isn’t a huge accomplishment.  Sure it is worthy of attending, but finishing 12 grades is just what you are supposed to do.  No need to coddle the 18 year old. But on the same token, there is no need to apply pressure for the 18 year old to go to University.  Luckily, there was also no need to forget the airhorn or a concealed flask.  That makes for a much more entertaining event.  These people don’t take this stuff too serious, and thank the God of our 6,000 year old earth for that.

These blue collar families, sitting restlessly in the bleachers of the high school gym, are not attending a solemn occasion.  They behave as if they arrived at the gym to watch a basketball game, but to their dismay, a graduation ceremony broke out.  And I would be lying if I didn’t think they relished the opportunity to thumb their noses at the piety in attendance.  And here is how THAT played out:

The students, basking in the melting pot of youth, had a plan.  By the end of the ceremony over 2 dozen beach balls were pulled out of their collective asses and tossed into the air.  The tossing, mind you, would occur at the most inappropriate moments.  It was glorious and awful all at once, as entire sections of the blue collar ADULTS would “boo” as an administrator would run onto the floor and embarrassingly attempt to snatch away another prop from a “clear eyes” commercial.

I just sat there in awe watching the families loudly take the side of the “bad” students who disrupted the ceremony.  “Boooo!”  “Awwww” they would shout when another ball was taken away.  They would laugh loudly when a female administrator armed only with a walkie talkie and a brown pantsuit would shuffle across the floor and reach her short little arms up into the air only to fail to grasp the beach ball in full view of over a thousand amused spectators.

Most of us were there to scream as our own family member walked by during the procession, or their name was spoken from the platform, or if they simply shifted in an interesting way in his or her seat.  But those of you little smartasses who took the time during the ceremony to put your head between your legs and blow up a beach ball, and toss it into the air while the superintendent and his gaggle of more or less talentless speakers droned on….well you gave us much more to enjoy.  Entire working class families reveled in the display of complete disruption and derailment of the ceremony order!

It was a long ceremony.  And with all the enthusiasm of Ben Stien, another ‘educated’ community member would remind us to “reach for the stars” and anything else he so obviously culled from his ‘quote of the day’ calendar.  The Superintendent literally told the students to “reach for the stars.”  In monotone.  It was perfect.

I was reminded of my teenage tour guide at Natural Bridge caverns in Roanoke, Virginia back in 1997 as she monotoned what was clearly written as a humorous anecdote “And as we move into the next cavern, don’t hit your head on headache rock.”

A message to the administration:  With this kind of clever writing and pitch perfect delivery, its no wonder that with even all those pretty flowing robes that symbolize your higher education, you still ended up in middle management in the public school system in a town whose claim to fame is that it has regular ferry service to a more interesting place.

And really, all I am saying is that for all the resources, you’d think the presentation could be a little more slick.  But then, it wouldn’t be as funny.  I should give the town itself more credit, our community has a fantastic game farm with a drive-thru animal park.  I cherish every memory of that place.

My childhood home is located in about the exact midde of this photo.

In fact, if I may digress, Port Angeles is perhaps one of the greatest little places in our country.  It sits on the edge of the Olympic Mountains and the Olympic National Park, it has one of the deepest ports on the west coast, it has excellent fishing, hiking, biking, and all kinds of outdoorsy things.  It sits right up next to dungeoness where the best darn crab in the country is found.  It is home to the Western Hemisphere’s only Temperate Rain Forest. You can see Victoria BC, from here, and it does not have one, but TWO ferry services out to Victoria and it is where  I was born and raised.

Nevermind that it rains 366 days a year and never gets warmer than 52 degrees and that loggers removed my childhood with a chainsaw.

A typical forest view in our little corner of the world. (assuming you are in an old growth forest as opposed to the more frequent 2nd, or third growth forests closer to town.)
It’s a great place, and during high school graduation on June 13th  of 2008 I saw a grown woman throw a paper airplane from the top bleachers, out of sheer boredom.  That paper airplane hit another woman, 40 feet away, inthe side of the head, causing much emotional stress and a seriously funny series of facial expressions.And to add one more brushstroke to an already maddeningly un-Rockwell portrait… During the moment of silence for a student who had passed away during the school year, a lone, and presumably tipsy, parent broke the solemn quiet with a loud yell: “Turn up the mic, we can’t hear you!”.Thank you, sir.  Thank you. I am sure the parents of the deceased thank you as well.And speaking of the dead.  I got to throw knives with dear old Dad during my trip.  Pop brought out a mannequin and was doing an incredible job throwing all around the guy.  So, just before the last knife toss of one particular practice session I asked Dad to stop, and allow me to stand in front of the mannequin. And, as I stood there, my own flesh and blood actually threw a knife, and it stuck merely a few inches away from my own literal flesh and blood.  I love my Dad.  That was totally, and incredibly, and most perfectly…rad.  Mom said I flinched.  I told her to try it.  She refused.

I too threw knives at and around the mannequin, though I decided to stop after I threw this one:

I only had a few days in Port Angeles. I visited some old friends.I spent time with my beautiful sister and her husband (whom I am enjoying more and more as I slowly get to know him.)  We laughed together for hours with my nephews, playing scrabble with my own house rules. (You get 10 extra points if everyone agrees you have laid down a ‘dirty’ word.  For the record, I don’t think “booty” qualified.)  Laura came up with “taint” which was totally worth 10 points extra.We also did as all good friends do, and watched a few hours of youtube videos.  Laughing, the whole time.  What made it more special to me, is that although I have already clocked 6,000 miles on my car this summer, nothing can compare to laughing with family in a house with three decades of memories around every corner.  My sister and brother-in-law also own a gym in Port Angeles.  We had a pre-graduation grilling session with steaks and hot dogs and fruit salad in the parking lot before we headed to the ceremony.So a few more memories were tucked away, and the next day I flew home to Waxahachie to spend the next few days preparing for my first road trip.

Now things start getting REALLY wacky.

 

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travel

On The Road Summer ’08 pt. 2 – North Carolina

In our United States there exist three roadside attractions that are in a league of their own.  From west to east, these are: The Thing, Wall Drug, and South of the Border. 

What binds these three wonders of the world of interstate kitsch together is probably the advertising.  Each have put up billboards that not only start at impossible distances away, but each also have an impossible number of billboards.  You simply will not be able to count them, as they are on multiple interstates, teasing even the travelers who will never pass by, deprived of even the opportunity to stop and enjoy these sights.  The billboards are also old.  They are also specifically designed to wear you out.  They are designed to create a sense of wonder in the passengers of the vehicle, so that by the time you get to the exit where this mecca (of what is sure to be pure crap), is located, you have been beaten down.  Beaten down so hard that against your better judgment, you find yourself actually curious, and more importantly, willing to stop.

 “I wonder what that is?”  “Hmmm, looks like a tourist trap.”  “We don’t have time to stop.” “Another bill board?”  “It’s still 389 miles away, we’ll see.”  “No, our last potty stop took too long, we aren’t stopping.”  “Look, its just gonna be a bunch of postcards and overpriced crap.”  “Ok, if we need gas when we get close, then I’ll think about it.”  “No.”  “I said no.” “We don’t need to stop.”  “I am not stopping.”  “Oh alright.”

 

 

If you aren’t familiar with any of these three locations then what exactly are you doing with your life?

 

The Thing is located on I-10 in Arizona.  It is probably the most enigmatic of them all, as most of the bright yellow billboards are simply a series of non-questions posed to the merry traveler about the mysterious contents of this stop off.  “The Thing?”  Clearly, the only way to find out what The Thing is, is to stop and pay roughly one dollar and tour the museum to find yourself staring open jawed and drooling at the audacity of The Thing itself.  It truly is a sight to behold, and generally speaking, if you haven’t seen it yourself then you will be hard pressed to pump any information out of those who have indeed paid to see The Thing.  I ain’t telling.  You can be on your death bed, and I will tell you to get in the nearest hearse and go there your own darn self.  I didn’t burn with curiosity for hundreds of miles, exit, buy crappy souvenirs and spend an hour I couldn’t afford just so I could spout off to the next guy what all the hubbub was about.

 

Wall Drug, on the other hand, in South Dakota, is arguably the originator in the art of compelling the traveler to stop.  It all began some 77 years ago with the simple proclamation “Free Ice Water.”  It has grown since then, and while I must admit I haven’ been there since I was a youngster, it’s memories of giant jack-a-lopes and scale models of Mount Rushmore and coonskin hats and taffy taffy taffy is still crystal clear in my mind.

 

You can easily kill over an hour at either of these places.

 

But this summer I went to the easternmost mecca of pure and unadulterated roadside crap.  From Exit One in North Carolina, yet curiously located in South Carolina is “South Of The Border.”

 

South of the Border is not humble.  Much to my enjoyment, the pure classlessness of this place is evident from hundreds upon hundreds of miles away.  And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

South of the Border is a Mexican themed gift shop extravaganza.  And, why the hell not? 
After all, Mexican themed food places are everywhere.  And while, as a general rule, one should not eat Mexican food in any location that does not border Mexico, apparently this rule hasn’t been explained to all the places that do not border Mexico.

 

Washington state has Taco Time restaurants.  Kansas is home to Taco Tico, Nebraska and Iowa hold dear to their Taco John’s.  (For the life of me I can’t understand why they just don’t call it ‘Taco Juan’s’.)  And each of these places purports some degree of Mexican authenticity.  And while many of us would scoff at the notion, those of us who have had the displeasure of intentionally ingesting anything from Chico’s in El Paso know that just because it border’s Mexico and is owned and operated by real live Mexicans, doesn’t mean it tastes any good at all.

 

Chico’s is a gross injustice to anyone who likes to define “food” as something edible, or likes to have the word “taco” fall into a completely separate category from anything called “soup.”  Although the very fact that El Paso is literally a stones throw away from the actual country of Mexico is testimony to the authenticity of the diarrhea one will enjoy after eating at Chico’s.  Clearly they are sharing the same water supply, something that the patrons at Taco John’s need not ever worry about.  (Quick Tip: If you find yourself at a stalemate during a conversation with anyone from El Paso, simply mention “Chico’s” and sit back and be regaled with tales of drunken nights, frequent bathroom trips, and all kinds of negative stories spoken with all the positive, life affirming enthusiasm of Tony Robbins. El Pasoans hate to love their “Chico’s” and relish the opportunity to talk about it.)

 

However, I once had “Mexican” food in Cambodia.  And while it didn’t exactly feature the same taste sensations as the Mexican food I have had within the actual border of Mexico, it did however have some authentic experiences to offer.  The food was impossibly inexpensive.  The kitchen was limited and simply couldn’t offer everything on the menu at all times.  (Which is the hallmark of a REAL resturaunt if you ask me. Honestly, should there be an endless supply of shrimp pasta in Idaho?  The Boise Olive Garden would have you think so, and wrongly, in my opinion.)  Furthermore, it was run by a family, and had terrible amateur murals all over the walls, and had the inexplicable Mexican attribute of 365 day Christmas lights on its exterior.

 

All this to say, just because one is far from the border does not automatically mean one cannot have an experience that is in concert with an experience one might also have in Mexico.  South of the Border however, is NOT one of those experiences.  No, South of the Border is ridiculous in ways that defy measurement.

 

 

The mascot, a very un-pc looking gap-toothed little Mexican dude, is named Pedro.  He, apparently, is the curator of the place, and welcomes you from outside glances from your windshield with such clever phrases as “You’re always a wiener at Pedro’s!”  Pedro will pass up no opportunity to make English words sound like they are spoken with a less articulate accent than Cheech and Speedy Gonzales combined. 

 

You might think that a giant 3-d pork link attached to a billboard stating “You never sausage a place” is as unsophisticated as the humor will get.  But you would be wrong. Dozens and dozens of billboards are inviting the traveler to stop at this one of a kind gift shop extravaganza.

 

 

This gift shop is big.  Very big.  It has multiple buildings.  Remember, this place has no reason.  It doesn’t need to be here.  It is merely a place to stop when traveling the east coast.  But aside from purchasing gasoline and some souvenirs, you might also think to pick up a map of the grounds, because you will need one.


I didn’t find one I could keep for my self, but I did spot some handy-dandy “you are here” style maps affixed to the entrance halls of various buildings on the property.

 

 

Now before I show you the photos of all these buildings you must know something.  South of the Border is dying.  Motorists clearly aren’t stopping anymore.  There is probably a finite number of vacationers who still drive the distance to Florida or Myrtle Beach who have not already stopped at SOB once.  And, though I find SOB to be enthralling, I recognize I am in the minority and I must admit that to average Joe Traveler, once is really enough. 

 

It’s kind of a sad place.  There are entire buildings of hotel rooms that haven’t seen a guest in years.  There is a ferris wheel that doesn’t turn, there is a 165 foot tall, giant sombrero who’s elevator seems to never rise.  Various actual humans who live nearby have confirmed that in the last few years, SOB is seeing a lot less action, and many folks cannot remember seeing it during a time when it was bustling.  Maybe the heyday of SOB has gone the way of the buffalo.  Of course, this actually makes it all kinds of special to me. 


While I might love to see this place shiny and new and full of fresh faced families enjoying the times of their lives, there is something to be said for half-death.  There is a period when an attraction of any man-made kind, is no longer current, hip, modern, or functional… but still hangs around.  Maybe it’s just nostalgia, but I really like that time period.

 

For instance, there was a time when Captain EO was still located at Tomorrowland in Disneyland.  Once it was the epitome of ‘amazing’ and ‘hip’, but after a decade it slowly became a parody of itself in the face of newer, better visual effects, and the realization that our hero had no longer the same face, skin tone, or gender as when the attraction was new.  In my opinion, this is exactly when it Totally Rules.


When something REMINDS me of a time when the world was more technologically innocent, when humanity was more easily stimulated, and when a giant stone parody of a Mexican with a ridiculous grin and oversized hat was a reason to pull your car off the interstate and stay a while, I love it.  *To ironically enjoy something might be one of the best ways to enjoy something.*  I mean, when was the last time you paid to ride a carousel and caught the brass ring with an outstretched arm and enjoyed it because it was just purely enjoyable?  Not since childhood.  But if you have been to Muskegon, MI and done that on a real wooden horse, on a classic carousel, as an adult, you may experience ironical enjoyment.  And that means this.  You CHOSE to enjoy yourself.  You recognized you are not a child, and decided to remove the chains of disbelief in childish pleasures, and took it upon yourself to enjoy something for its rarity and for its intentions. 


When you actively decide to take in amusement not as yourself, but as what you want to be, if even for a moment, well that, Danny Boy, is an experience not to be diminished. 


Now be careful to note, that ironical enjoyment often borders on condescension if approached incorrectly.  Yes, you and your high falootin’ ways may act like you are enjoying crappy entertainment while mocking those who earnestly ARE enjoying it. Shame on you.  I am telling you your joy should be equal, which means the other people at The Worlds Largest Ten Commandments who is there for spiritual reasons are not to be mocked.  Wait until you get into your car. 

 

More SOB tomorrow…

 

Categories
travel

On The Road Summer 2008 pt 3 – North Carolina/South of the Border

South of the Border, continued

 

So, during my first stop through South of Border this summer, I didn’t actually get out of the car.  I was heading to Fayetteville after staying at a Sleep Inn just south of AtlantaGeorgia.  I needed to arrive at the camp for some meetings and to get settled in at about3pm, so my arrival at South of the Border at shortly after lunchtime meant that I wouldn’t be able to really explore.
I have stopped there several times in the past, and it appeared that not much had changed.  I snapped several photos from inside the car.  Luckily for me, South of the Border is synonymous with “concrete” and every inch of the place is paved.  It’s actually a little sad that the lush landscape of the Carolina’s wasn’t showcased at least a little, but clearly South of the Border isn’t about the Carolinas.  Its about selling cheap crap.   No need to pay a gardener, the guy who paints the concrete is charging enough already. The irony of building a place dedicated to Mexico that doesn’t require a landscaper is not lost on me.

 

 

 

The skies were gray that afternoon, and the whole place seemed desolate through the bug splattered windows of my car.  The Ice Cream fiesta looked empty.  Pedro’s Coffee Shop boasted “HATS from Around The World” but had only two cars in it’s parking lot. The “World’s 1 Miniature Golf” and “Pedro Land Park” both were void of patrons despite a giant golf ball mounted several stories high on a concrete golf tee with the words “Golf of Mexico” advertising their location within the sprawling grounds.

Several “Caution: Train Crossing” signs are posted around the property, but most of the tracks are overgrown with weeds, and laughing families are no longer transported from the arcade to the motel playground.  After all, the playground is abandoned as well.  I did see a teenage engineer roll on by on one of the tracks in another part of the compound, but his main passenger car was several blocks away, unhitched and sitting alone on some raised tracks near an unkempt parking lot near the highway.

 

 

 

As the minutes wore on, I drove up and down the catacombs of interconnected parking lots.  There are a lot of buildings.  The only outside business, (even the gas station is part of the Pedro empire) within the property is the First Citizens Bank.  Wise is the man who made it impossible for anyone to not have quick access to cash at what should be honored as the World’s Largest Giftshop.

Las Vegas claims to hold the title to the official World’s Largest Giftshop, but this is self proclaimed and clearly is not even in the running when compared to the sheer volume of buildings at South of the Border.  Square footage be damned, we are talking about acres here.

 

Considering the current political debate about immigration from south of our nation’s actual border, one might be tempted to crack a smile at the giant concrete statue of Pedro welcoming patrons at the “First Citizen’s” National Bank.

 

 

One week later I returned to South of the Border during my 18 hour drive back to Texas. This time I was dedicating an hour.  I was determined to buy some crap and see the interior of as many of these buildings as I could.

 

I can’t begin to describe how desolate this monstrosity is.  I was even a little conflicted.  I wanted this awful place of cheap commerce to succeed.   Every building is a gift shop with a slightly different theme.  But each building contained at least 40% of the same crap as the next one.


To lift my spirits and give myself a task to psychologically aid my wanderings, I sought out a Flattened Penny Machine.  Ever since 2002 when I purchased my first Penny Passport I have desired to flatten a penny in commemoration of every tourist trap I visit.

 

I remember that day well.  Billy and Jesse and I were hired to teach puppetry in Hawaii that year.  All expenses paid.  During the several days off we had, we went to various kitschy places along the inappropriately named “interstate” highway.  Notably, we went to the Dole Plantation and spent the early afternoon trying to escape from “The Worlds Largest Maze”.  Billy and Jesse, two of the best travelling partners I have ever had the pleasure of working with, made it out in record time.  I never made it out, fairly, finally opting to squeeze through the fence rather than retrace my frustrated steps for untold more hours.

 

To ease the agony of defeat, I traded my mental agony for actual pain and purchased everything offered at the gift shop restaurant.  You see, this was the Dole Pineapple Plantation and I they served buttloads of pineapple delights.  We ate chocolate covered pineapple, with pineapple muffins, pineapple cotton candy, pineapple chili, and pineapple relish on a burger, with a side of pineapple, and chased it down with pineapple juice.  I think I am forgetting something else made from pineapple.  We grabbed some pineapple taffy to go, and collectively hated ourselves for the rest of the afternoon.

 

Just before closing, in the cool of the late afternoon we arrived at the Waimea Valley, which brochures boasted to be home of Waimea Falls Park.  A little tourist locale that would amuse and delight families with its historic reproductions of Hawaiian life and Hawaiian themed fun and games.

 

The second best monotone scripted line I have ever heard was uttered at this place. Upon our completion of some vaguely lawn dart slash arrow shooting sort of “traditional” “game” that we played at the behest of a badly costumed twenty something Hawaiian man, he turned away from us and as he turned, and without a spec of sincerity, managed to perfectly monotone the phrase “Mahalo for playing.”

 

I was so inspired by this, that I not only purchased my first flattened penny of my adult life, I bought a penny passport which holds 36 flattened pennies.  It’s 2008, and sadly, I still have two more slots open.

 

As I wandered out of a gift shop, satisfied that I found a flattened penny machine, I headed towards the hotel.  I had already seen two buildings across the street that used to house guests, but was clearly abandoned at this point.  However, the lobby looked alive and in working order, so despite the parking lot being empty, I headed over to the glass doors with some confidence.  I walked inside and smelled the musty smell of a lobby that is too easily accessible from the pool area, and has been for decades.  I have to admit that I enjoy that stale smell.  I liked the wood paneling.  I liked the shape of the front desk. I liked that when I inquired about room rates, I was asked, with sincerity, if I was looking for a room “with cable or without?”

This is the America that I haven’t spent enough time in.  The aged motor inn. Magic fingers anyone?

Too many of us road warriors have been spending too much time in the low budget offerings of the Hilton, Wyndam, or Choice Hotel chains.  I really shouldn’t digress again, but I think the desire to hit the road is severely diminished by overwhelming ‘sameness’ that has grown up around all of the exit ramps on our interstates.

 

I grabbed a map and a brochure from the desk clerk and made my way back out into the concrete Mexican concrete village.  Cable was $10 extra.

 


Every building is spacious inside.  Even the “pharmacy” sells tourist trap memorabilia, and dedicates a single 20 foot wide sales rack to feminine hygiene products (3 shelves) and South of the Border place mats and coasters. (2 shelves)

 


The Africa Shop had gift items from Africa, and showcased cement safari animals outside it’s doors.  Another gift shop attached to the El Toro arcade had various “humorous” signs hanging from the ceiling, making puns on famous brand names and shopping districts throughout the world of fashion and design, in addition to some non-sequitor that might possibly manage to amuse exactly zero visitors.

 


I bought an ashtray.  I picked up some postcards for .05 cents.  I grabbed an over-sized coffee mug as well.  I walked into just about every building during my slow saunter that afternoon, and after about an hour I just got weary and gave up.

 


I never even found the entrance to the Dirty Old Man shop, which I desperately wanted a photo of.  But, geez, it had been over an hour and I suffered from the fatigue of sad gift shopping.  I was done, and I never even set foot in Fort Pedro or Rocket City.

 

So I hit the road, back to Texas.

 

Between my two trips to South of the Border, however, I managed to stop at one of my favorite little finds of all my travels so far.  In the quaint little town of Southern Pines, North Carolina…

Categories
Uncategorized

On The Road Summer ’08 pt 4 – NC Taxidermy/Creation/Tool Museum

It was my fourth day in North Carolina and I was getting antsy.  I hadn’t explored my surroundings, and what a waste.  North Carolina has a lot going for it, and though I had been to the Fayetteville area at least a half a dozen times in the last decade, this truism had never been realized in my mind.  Each time I had been there I had stayed in hotels just off the interstate, in non-descript parts of town, that just as well could be anywhere.

Don’t get me wrong, Fayetteville sucks.  But the area has a lot to offer.  I don’t know what causes it, but I think towns that rest on the edge of Military Bases always seem kind of depressed and sad.  Maybe its like a college town, minus the fun and creativity and arts. Tons of young people, but only halves of families as the men are away.  Also, unlike college towns, everyone seems to be lower income class.  As a result, despite being down to earth, it’s a series of transplant families that don’t even attempt to put down roots, and also don’t invest in some of the things that more financial diverse communities might offer.  It’s always just kinda gloomy around military bases.  However, notable exceptions exist all around the outskirts of Fayetteville.

So I headed out highway 20 to Southern Pines.  When I have time on my hands I try to take the downtown routes through small towns, always enjoying the chance to drive a complete circle though the town square, or if there is no square, then taking the slow route through main street to see what condition it is in.  Generally speaking, Main Street USA is a sad place, but there are plenty of towns where main street is converted to antique shopping and the occasional insurance agency or law office.  Gone are the barber shops, grocers, and pharmacy’s complete with a soda fountain.

I have heard it argued that Main Street USA never existed.  And that the Disney creation is just an approximation of the potential of Main Street USA given a perfect economy.  A bustling main street where every store front is open for business and people are doing their daily business all in one spot probably doesn’t exist.   Most towns favor the outskirts for new business, due to the space allowed for large new buildings and cheaper real estate.  So daily business is spread out towards more recently converted farmlands, which have now become boring strip malls.  Abandoning downtowns altogether.

However, on this trip I rode through a town called Reaford at the junction of 401 and 20, and after personally driving hundreds of thousands of miles through all but a handful of states, and visiting at least 400 cities, I saw my first thriving grocery store in the middle of small town main street.  This is something you see in New York City, of course, but in the three tiny blocks that made up downtown, people were actually buying groceries out of a typical windowed store front of a brick downtown building in small town USA.  This town had no Wal-Mart.

I didn’t stop.  But the novelty of a bustling main street that was not merely dedicated to yesteryear, but was bustling in a current sort of way was not lost on me.

I continued on, determined to find something interesting, despite only having rudimentary directions to my sight seeing locales of the day.

Southern Pines was a perfect southern town.  The main street here was divided into two one way streets, separated not by buildings but by the train tracks that led through the middle of town.  A train station sat on an island between the two streets.  A pedestrian on one sidewalk would have no trouble waving to someone on the sidewalk on the other side, had it not been for the foliage planted along the tracks.  It was a sunny and warm day, and people were out and about.

The bustling portion of this downtown probably spanned about 4 blocks.  I arrived at about noon, and immediately went to walk down the street.  I noticed that some shop keepers were locking their doors and placing the “out to lunch” sign in the window. Perfect.  18 year old soldiers in dress uniform were milling about on the lawn of a fraternal building of sorts.  The greenery throughout the area was perfect and the hanging flowers framed the sidewalks.  The downtown just begged pedestrians to walk every square inch. There was a lot of white paint.  Unlike the town squares of Texas, this was less brick, and more of that classic white facades that you always picture when imagining the deep south.

Ice cream parlors, curiosity shops, toy stores, real estate offices, café’s, boutique shopping….and beneath the sign inviting me in to try some free fudge was a chainsaw carving bear holding a sign that says “Creation Museum & Antique Tool Museum.”   But that isn’t the half of it.  Its also a Taxidermy Museum.  The first of many I would explore on this trip. I had arrived.

 

I love museums that are made by one person.  This means the museum is a pet project or at least a little bit of pure crazy.  It is one thing to collect things, it is entirely another to collect enough things to build a museum.  It is yet another, grand thing, to believe that the general public should have access to your crazy.

I entered what looked to be a typical small town Bible Book Store.  But one look to the rear of the store proved that more that this place would hold much more than merely bookmarks and study guides.  A quick turn to the left proved that it is also going to be mighty wacky.  In the back of the store stood 18 inch tall letters proclaiming that I had arrived at the Taxidermy Museum.  To the left…

Above the staircase leading into the basement was a giant suit of armor.  It has a story. The lady who ran the bible purchasing counter/free fudge sample counter told me how the curator drove this monstrosity several hundred miles in the back of his pickup truck, in hopes that he could fit it in his display.

I descended into the belly of the beast.  Equal parts “Creation Science”, Taxidermy, and Antique tools, this museum was immediately exciting.

Halfway down the staircase and to the right there was a display of dead animals, mounted against the wall in a very cramped space.  Dark wood paneling.  The slight smell of old. Every space was filled.

This was no white washed museum with shadow box displays well lit with information cards laminated and placed neatly adjacent to each exhibit.  No, this was perfect in the other way.  And endless series of display cases filled the basement.  Jewelry cases, rotating dimestore counter displays probably once used to showcase wristwatches, sliding glass door cases, even panels from the ceiling were replaced with acrylic ‘windows’ to mount creatures above the visitor’s heads.  This was a mishmash of display types, each filled to capacity.  It was quite possible to stand in one place for minutes and never see everything there is to see, before taking the next single step.

What made it enjoyable was the mixture.  For in one case you could see every antique level ever manufactured in north America since early settlers began making levels, each meticulously labeled, sometimes with photos of whatever manufacturers model information that might have been to small to read, blown up for easy viewing.  But also in the case would be a buncha dead marmots.

 

 

A kangaroo, stuffed, with joey peeking out of her pouch, would be neatly displayed next to an impressive collection of hammers.

Even more fun was the completely logic impaired Creation Science information and displays.  Upon reaching the third level, on the second floor of the building, I encountered what was clearly a promotional giant sized Converse shoe mounted on the wall.  Though it was 3 feet long, which is fantastic enough, it was accompanied by a philosophical inquiry, designed to make the observer pause and reflect on the origins of life.  It read along the lines of “if you found this object in the desert, all alone, would you assume it came to be, all on its own?  Surely it had a creator, and did not simply evolve on its own accord.”  This was the gist of it.  And, actually, more or less the gist of the whole place. Wacky objects juxtaposed with 4th grade philosophy.  It was great!

 

 

One of my favorite pieces was interesting to me because of the sheer amount of real estate used up to display this mammoth collection.  Clearly, every space was used.  Yet, deep in the bowels of this trove was a single near empty, and large, case. Lit by a single florescent bulb it contained only a small statue of a green snake, coiled around a red apple.  Above the case rests a wooden sign, with beveled lettering stating “In this case is displayed all the credible evidence of evolution.”

A plastic snake with an apple in its coil. Rad!

 

On and on and on it went.  Southwest dioramas with snakes and desert critters set upon a sand floor.  Swamp creatures and wood working tools.  Monkey-Man heads, scripture verses.  Bumper stickers proclaiming Jesus is Lord, stuck neatly near stuffed rare squirrels.  And of course there was the taxidermy humor.  Roadkill Beaver might be my favorite.

No, squirrel in cammo.  No, squirrel in boat!

One case, filled only with incredible taxidermy, was set opposite of a giant mirror with letters spelling out this fun fact:

“THE EVOLUTIONISTS CLAIMS

YOU

ARE AN ANIMAL – AN ACCIDENT OF NATURE!”

 

Of course nothing was as interesting as the case inset into the wall in one dark culdesac on the basement floor.

 

“False God’s Worshipped In Place of The Creator”.  It was the empty burlap bag labeled “California Marijuana” that caught my eye.  The rest of the case was filled with wooden statues of native gods from exotic locales.  There was a small display of prescription drugs labeled “legal drug addiction”.  Clearly this was also an abstract display.  A TV rested near a placard stating that it was a tool of the devil, and stating the claim that it existed in more homes that indoor plumbing.  Harry Potter audio books, rested near Salman Rushdie’s “Satanic Verses.”  This gave me pause.

I don’t wanna judge, but this made me think our curator isn’t bangin’ on all cylinders.  (Do not assume this was the first or only time I came to that conclusion.)

No matter, for my favorite part of the display, among the wooden tiki’s and university textbooks on psychology, was a rack of CDs.  Ozzy.  Of course.  Metallica.  Naturally. Megadeath.  Sure. King Diamond.  Does this guy have a private ‘metal history’ tutor? Among the thirty or forty CDs was a special section dedicated to Country Music Worshippers.  And then it just got loopy.  The Batman Forever Sountrack?  Billy Joel? Bryan Adams?

Yes.  There we can agree.  There is a special place in hell reserved for anyone with a Bryan Adams CD.

Of course, the display also had a poignant message, designed again to give one pause. A mirror.  This time, with a handsomely lettered sign.

I struck up conversation with the fudge dealer upstairs before I left, and asked about the collection and how I could learn more about who created it.  She was happy to give me a brochure about the man, a retired minister.  Unfortunately it is misplaced or perhaps gone, but rest assured it also included information on becoming a Christian.  It didn’t have the information I wanted.

If you are a taxidermy or oddball museum fan, this is one of the best displays in our country.  I highly recommend stopping by, at least to enjoy the Rockwell-esque downtown of Southern Pines, NC.  This was, quite literally, one of my favorite stops I have ever made along our nation’s interstates.  I have kept my descriptions short, in hopes to not spoil the wonders that live inside that building.

I then made my way to the World’s Largest Strawberry.  This was a bit of a farce.  It was merely an octagonal-ish building painted to look like a Strawberry.  Regardless, they served ice cream and sold fresh fruit grown from local farms, and advertised that the strawberries were picked fresh daily.  I bought enough to give me diarrhea and ate them during my highway trek to the gravesite of “Spaghetti” the Carney Mummy.  This was a total let down, as the storied history of the mummy far exceeds the gravesite memorial.

Nonetheless I snapped a photo and made my way back to my cabin at the camp.

I got a little hungry on my trip, and being a celiac I have to be choosy as to where I eat. Lucky for me, Wendy’s is always a safe place.  Luckier for me, Wendy was washing the windows when I arrived.

Altogether I probably drove 200 miles that day.  And let me take a moment to remind my readers…

Driving 200 miles to see something you have never seen before, whether an interesting grave marker, a wacky museum, or an ice cream stand that is merely photo-worthy, is always a good idea.  At age 30, I am only wishing I lived in an RV and could stay on the road throughout the entire year.

This summer I was reminded of a phenomenon that occurred to me during my second year of non-stop touring of the USA.  I was so accustomed to travel, that at some point I became more comfortable, content and happy in a place where I had never been, than I was in a familiar place.  Comfort was re-defined as a place I had never been, as opposed to my own bed, my own home, or any place I knew well.  That, my friends, is a lonely, yet amazingly wonderful place to be.  Comfortable and content in strange surroundings is a sensation I recommend as worthy of pursuing.  Try it. You might just like it.

Hopefully, one day, that can be my entire life.

But that merely brings us to Late June.  There are many more, and much more interactive and interesting adventures to be had.

 

PS: Before I left Southern Pines I stopped by the train station.  Inside the train station, where tickets were sold on the north/south Amtrak that stopped twice a day, was also a visitors center.  I struck up conversation with a women who seemed delighted to speak to a real live visitor.  She asked me what brought me to town.  I mentioned the creation/taxidermy/tool museum and the wonders it held.  Her response was candid.  She had never heard of such a place.  It was approximately 200 yards from the ticket window of the very train station we stood at.

It’s too bad that some of the most interesting places in our country are secrets even to the people who live among them.

Categories
friends

Remembering My Friend Mickey

Dec 1999, Mickey and Me.

3.24.2009

I think I am supposed to feel, or know, or understand that death is natural. Clearly, it is part of life, and I will lose people, continually, for the rest of my own life. Apparently it is natural.

But this is my first experience in losing a friend. Let alone a friend who was also a mentor and like a big brother. A guy whom I would not hesitate to call a hero.

He stretched the elastic of pure goodness so far, and the scope at which his goodness pulled was so deep and penetrating into my life (our lives!) that his absence feels like an UN-natural release of tension. A snapping away from the world, so extreme, that the sting is acutely painful.

I hurt so badly from his sudden absence and I resent the fact that he is now regulated to the part of my brain that holds memories. I don’t get to see him, I don’t get to learn from him, I don’t get to share him with the rest of my family, I don’t get to include him in my future plans. If you have met him, you know why this seems like such a big deal. The dude is goodness personified. That simply isn’t something I want ripped away from my life.

I don’t want him to be a memory. But for all my crying, I am able to smile, now, at the incredible goodness of my memories of him.

When I was a child, and into my late teens, I lived on the edge of a forest in a large valley amidst the foothills of the Olympic Mountains. There, I played alone in the woods almost exclusively. I knew the forest well. I had a very distinct stomping ground. I kept my exploration to a very specific area of the forest. I knew that area as well as any person could. As you can imagine, my fondness for the trees, the gulley, the stream, and the many forts I had built up in that space was immense. So was my knowledge of the area.

I clocked in many, many hours, exploring and playing and enjoying the space. I made plans. “One day, I will camp on that mossy spot.” “One day I will show my wife this great patch of wild flowers that bloom and grow in that sunny spot each year.” I always wanted to show people my rope swings, my footbridge, the old fallen down log that crossed the ravine and was covered in moss. There was an old stump I always used to shoot bottles with my pellet gun. My plans for the area were as rich as my knowledge and memory of its space. It was a big space. And it was mine.

When I left home to work for the puppet company in Texas in 1997, I left my forest. I was 19 years old. During that first year away, the State leased some land to a logging company. While I was away from that place I know and love so well, each and every tree I was familiar with, every location, everything, was logged entirely in one sweeping clear-cut.

To this day, I wake up from time to time with a quickly diminishing smile as I realize that I was only dreaming when I was walking through my woods again. I really, really, really, want to go back to that place. But it simply isn’t possible. To make it sting even worse, the logging company only logged EXACTLY in the space that was my stomping ground. Nothing else was touched, by sheer coincidence, the land lease was a specific, direct, and precise ripping away of only that space that I held dear on that mountain. 19 years of knowing it well, and now I must live the remainder of my life never knowing it again.

I went back there last year. My older sister purchased our old house. I went for a walk. It wasn’t easy. The clear cut process leaves a huge mess. The new saplings are all deciduous and much more intrusive on the landscape than the old tall evergreens. The paths, trails, and routes I used to take are gone. Tractors and trucks have dug up the landscape, and uprooted stumps and eratic underbrush litter the landscape. There is no shade, and erosion has destroyed whatever charm might have been left. It’s a sad ugly place now.

Oddly enough though, one part of my forest does remain. You see, you cannot legally log around the banks of the mountain streams. The flow of water cannot be obstructed. And indeed, the only thing I could recognize in the wake of that destruction was the small, steady stream that flows all year long. The water was still rushing, just as it ever did. Out from inside my old forest, into the valley, through the pastures, and down the mountain into the Pacific Ocean. The water is still there.

Losing Mickey feels very much like losing my forest. I grit my teeth and furrow my brow at the frustration of knowing he, like my forest, is something I will never experience again.

And so far, in this week since his death, I have wrestled with this feeling of loss. However, I was given a very significant tidbit of inspiration from a friend. He used two sentences to say it. In regards to Mickey’s death and its impact on my life he said: “Now you get to (have to!) be Mickey’s legacy. That’s how it works.”

It’s just a fact. And it is true for everyone else who knew him too.

The water is still flowing folks. It’s not going to stop. Mickey and my forest are now memories, but when you go to Cambodia to try to relive Mickey’s memory, or if you stop by where my old forest is, what you will still find is water. And while I have no idea how to carry on the legacy of my old forest, I do know that to carry on Mickey’s legacy we only need to look at what his life’s work was. Providing WATER OF LIFE to as many people as he possibly could. Selflessly, diligently, and creatively. And with enthusiasm, kindness, and an unstoppable sense of purpose. Mickey’s death, to me, is an ugly, awful, and destructive act of violence. But, it is simply a fact that his legacy will continue to flow. How sublime is it that someone who touched us so much, someone who has so completely earned our trust and someone who has inspired us to desire to continue his legacy, spent his life providing pure water to those who need it most?

I guess a lot of parallels or metaphors or whatever can be drawn, and writing this is more or less a kind of therapy for my own self. But I will say a few more things.

He loved his family, he loved his Cambodia, and he loved people.

He was a joy to work with, a joy to work for, and will always be a joy to remember.

He is the one person in my life whom I honestly can say I wanted EVERYONE I know to meet. He was such an inspiration that if you do NOT know him, you have to know this:. No one is exaggerating. He was really that much of an amazing person. As a result, the sting of his absence is sure to be a nearly unbearable pain to those who were near to him, his wonderful wife, his warm and kindhearted family in Kentucky, his terrific and hilarious kids, his Cambodian family, the village he lived in, and on and on and on it flows.

So I will be unable to make it to the memorial service in Cambodia this weekend, but I would like to propose a toast. Grab a cup of clean water, and drink to the unstoppable legacy we have inherited. To life, and an abundant one at that!

Thank you for being my friend, Mickey.

–darren

PS: But, “to be honest with you” , Mickey, I’m getting a little weary of my eyes watering and my throat tightening every time I see crap from the Russian Market around my house.

I have a lot more writing to do, and I have already written a lot more of my memories down. Another kind friend told me “This is the sort of thing you work through, not around.” And then told me to start writing memories. It’s been nice.

Links to other memorials and Mickey’s work:
www.RDIC.org – I used to be the webmaster for his web site.
Mickey on NPR – Karaoke Video Project
Tribute To Mickey Sampson 
 – Great Article