Ahhh, Home

We’re back in Los Angeles.

Both flights were uneventful, and both actually left on time, and arrived at their destinations early. Kudos to US Airways; I haven’t seen this behavour from Untied.

Of course, our highlight of the day was our visit with otaku_tetsuko and kuni_izumi at the PHL airport between our flights. Sitting in the baggage area, we had a delightful lunch of GF crackers and cheese, hearing about the planning for kuni_izumi‘s upcoming marriage to corronerbob (where “upcoming” == 3 years), all the details of otaku_tetsuko‘s new house, and bringing them up to date on what is happening to us. By the way, wbwilkin, we have some keys of yours. Call us to learn the ransom to get them back :-).

Today is the usual post-vacation recovery. I’m going through the mail and paying the bills, unpacking the luggage. Laundry will wait, as the package with our dirty clothes hasn’t arrived yet. We’re also picking up our new recliner.


Y’All Come Back Now, Y’Hear?

Today we leave Tennessee. Our flight out of Nashville is a little after 11 AM. After a layover in PHL where we’ll see otaku_tetsuko and her family, we’ll continue on to Los Angeles. This vacation was just the right length, we’re all ready to go home.

Nashville is a lovely city: the people, the size. But we’re LA-folks — we’re craving our ethnic food, our dry air. We miss our unique LA institutions, such as Zankou chicken. We’ll be glad to be home.

So, catch y’all on the flip side, and keep your fingers crossed that USAirways stays on schedule!


The Mississippi Delta was shining, but I never thought I’d ever leave Butcher Holler

Yesterday, I wrote that we planned to go to Graceland today… but events conspired against us. First, we didn’t get out of the hotel until around 10:00 AM, and still had to go eat breakfast. Second, the travel time to Graceland was about 90 minutes… each way! Thirdly, have you priced tickets to Graceland of late? That place is expensive — you’re talking between $25 and $68 for tickets… to see a mansion that doesn’t really tell the story of Elvis.

So, after dropping off two packages to ship back home via FedEd, and getting breakfast, we decided to explore southwestern Tennessee. Our first adventure was heading up US 641 to US 70 Business to TN 191. As an aside, why is there no good Tennessee Highways site — and by that I mean a site that explains the numbering systems, gives the history and the routing for every highway in the state. It just isn’t there. starowl, are you listening? This one is up your alley!

In any case, we were traversing TN 191 in order to find the only site in America that produces cultured pearls — the Tennessee River Freshwater Pearl Museum in Camden TN. This was a small, locally run venture that was very interesting. We learned how cultured pearls are made, and why there is a bit of Tennessee at the heart of most cultured pearls. Very, very interesting.

After leaving the Pearl Museum, we continued to explore. We returned to TN 191 and took it to US 70. Heading East, it was just beautiful driving through Tennessee fields and forests while listening to Ray Charles sing “America the Beautiful”. Just the scenery, including the view of the farmer on the tractor working on his field, created a perfect picture in the mind. Rural America is simply beautiful.

We departed off US 70 at TN 13, explored Waverly TN, and then continued along TN 13 to the Loretta Lynn Dude Ranch. You thought Graceland was a memorial to excess? The LL ranch is, but in a different way. This is an extremely large complex and enterprise. We toured the “Coal Miners Daughter” museum. Growing up as she did, I don’t think this women through anything away. The museum displayed (or appeared to display) every car she had, every dress she wore, every piece of paper or proclamation she received, every award she received, every family picture. Additionally, she was a fan girl, and she wrote all of her country music and industry friends and collected more stuff. She needed this museum to hold all her stuff. Plus, there was no interpretation–it failed to tell a story, you had to infer it from what was presented. Yes, there were signs in the museum… all handwritten, in poor handwriting with misspellings, by Loretta. In the attached gift shop, everything (and I mean everything) was signed by Loretta. You get the idea. And it is too bad, as her life is interesting, including being married at 13 and having four children by age 17.

But wait, there’s more. There’s also Lynn’s Westerntown, which has a doll museum displaying everything sent to her by her fans. There are western stores, T-shirt stores, clothing stores, random stuff stores. Plus (although we didn’t go in it) there is a tour of her plantation home and the simulated Butcher Holler Coal Mine. I don’t know if they sold canaries, but if they did, I’m sure Loretta Lynn would sign them. On the plus side, I guess this enterprise not only enriches Ms. Lynn and her family, but provides significant employment in a depressed area. But still, it does teach one not to be a packrat.

Of course, it doesn’t stop when you leave the ranch, because you see Cissy Lynn’s Restaurant & Store as you leave, as well as the Lynn Flea Market run by Loretta Lynn’s oldest daughter, Betty Sue. It’s just too much.

After leaving the ranch, we returned to I-40, where we drove back to Nashville and our hotel. Shortly, it is http://www.bobevans.com/, and then bed. Tomorrow we return to Los Angeles, with a brief stop in PHL to see some friends we have dearly missed.


We Shall Overcome… We Shall Overcome Someday!

Today, we left Nashville and headed west to Memphis, Tennessee… our goal: the National Civil Rights Museum.

The National Civil Rights Museum is housed in the Lorraine Hotel, the hotel where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. As such, the museum purports to tell the story of the American Civil Rights Movement. I say “purports” because, in the eyes of the museum, the “Civil Rights Movement” is the movement for African-American equality. Although this is important and key to equality in America, it doesn’t address all civil rights issues. More on that later.

The museum tells the history of the movement for equal rights for African-Americans. It looks at the roots of the inequality, how the laws changed after the Civil War, how people fought the equality movement, and how non-violent resistance and the power of conviction made significant changes in society. One is able to see how our society is changed through the museum, to learn about the people involved with the movement. One can see where Dr. King was killed, and one can look out the window where James Earl Ray shot him. One can learn what more needs to be done. It is a very moving experience, especially for those that had relatives that lived it.

But I found the exhibit lacking.

What bothered me was what wasn’t told. First, the relationship between Blacks and Jews was never told. Some of the first award programs for black social rights was established by a Jew, and the roles of Jews were significant in the 1963 March on Washington (as demonstrated by the presence of two Rabbis on the program). There were shared struggles, and shared animosity (witness the KKK). This was never mentioned. (nor did they mention the role of Folk Music, and folk artists such as Peter, Paul, and Mary, Pete Seeger, or The Weavers in the struggle).

But what bothered me more was the implicit assumption that civil rights is the black struggle alone. There has been a long struggle for equal rights and equal treatment in America for all ethnic groups: the Irish, the Italians, the Chinese, the Japanese, and the Jews. Rights are right, and we must fight for equal rights on either race or national origin. There is also the struggle for equal rights for women, a struggle that continues to this day. Most importantly, there is the struggle for equal rights based on sexual orientation. For just like race, national origin, or gender, there is absolutely no reason for there to be differences in rights based on one’s sexual orientation. None whatsover. But was this mentioned? No.

I think the reason why relates to the audience disparity I’ve noted before in audiences at the Pasadena Playhouse. They are gearing the museum towards the intended audience. When we were there, caucasians were in the minority of attendance. The African-American audience, and the King family, want the focus on the African American struggle. This is an important struggle, yes, but when one is talking national civil rights, the law doesn’t make that distinction. Certainly, the struggle of the gay community wouldn’t be mentioned because of the power of the church.

We weren’t the only ones disturbed by the museum. There is an organized protest at the museum that argues that the NCRM should be boycotted, as the funds should be spent as Dr. King would have wanted them: to help the community and further the dream, not to make a museum for tourists. It is a compelling argument, and added to the thought provocing nature of the day.

Right now, we’re at our hotel in Jackson, Tennessee. Lots of commercial stores here, as well as the Casey Jones Museum. I’m not sure we’ll see that, as folks (that is, nsshere) is agitating to go to Graceland! Tomorrow night, it is back to Nashville… and returning to Los Angeles on Saturday (with a stop to see otaku_tetsuko and kuni_izumi along the way.


Observations on Nashville

Some additional observations on Nashville, on our eve of departing it for Memphis.

The city is lovely. Lots of beautiful houses on large green lots. In fact, if there was a color that characterizes this city, it is green. Green fields, green trees… and the warmth that comes with nature. I like this city; it feels like home. Perhaps it is genetic, based on old old family roots. Perhaps it is just the area. However, it is far too humid 🙂

The people of Nashville are delightful. When you hear about “Southern Hospitality”, it is true. The people here are extremely friendly, outgoing, and delightful to be around. They project that glow of caring about others. It is something I’ll miss back in Southern California; I think we’ve lost the Southwestern hospitality that Los Angeles once had; we’ve become a cold cold city. Los Angeles is not New York; we need to reclaim California Friendliness.

Now it is off to Memphis. We’ll see how they differ out there in the west. I wonder if the difference is as vast as the Los Angeles/San Francisco difference, or the Kansas City/St. Louis difference?


So How Did You Celebrate the Fourth?

As anyone who has looked at the calendar knows, today is the 4th of July. What better way to celebrate the 4th than to visit a president’s home? So that’s what we did!

The Hermitage was the home of Andrew Jackson, the 7th president of the United States. Jackson is an interesting fellow: he was “the people’s president”, being known for opening the White House to the public after his inauguration. He was self-taught, a hero of the War of 1812. He had his share of scandals, having to remarry his wife after it turns out the first marriage wasn’t legal because her divorce wasn’t final yet. He was accused of being “King Jackson” because of his kitchen cabinet (not chosen by Congress), his revocation of the charter of the Bank of the United States, and other perceived abuses of power. He was the first president born in a log cabin. In short, a very interesting fellow, with many parallels to today’s “King George”.

The Hermitage consists of a museum, the mansion itself, wonderful gardens, and more. It was interesting to compare the mansion itself to similar plantations we have seen (Belle Meade, Carnton) — there were similar aspects, such as faux wood and marble, but no real Civil War aspects. The museum provided a good history, but left out many of the facts about Jackson (the Tennessee State Museum, in many ways, had a better exhibit). The gardens were beautiful, with many herbs and vegetables, as well as the tomb of Jackson and his wife. The grounds also featured a Jackson-lookalike, which was quite interesting.

In short, it was a wonderful way to celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence. One can only hope that the cherished ideals of liberty, freedom, and individual rights that our founders fought for remain in our country, for they are potentially in danger of being lost in the name of “security”. Hopefully, we all remember what Benjamin Franklin said, “Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.” We need to remind our “King George” of this, and that no one is above the laws and the constitution, and that we all must be vigilent in protecting our rights.

On the way back from The Hermitage, we stopped by The Game Keep, a FLGS (Friendly Local Game Store) for Nashville. This was a wonderful store. K picked up a Cheapass Game, and I picked up a wonderfully cute T-shirt that I couldn’t resist.

Tomorrow we go on the road to Memphis, Tennessee, spending the night in Jackson, Tennessee. There are two things we want to see in Memphis: the National Civil Rights Museum (which we’ll hopefully see tomorrow, as Memphis is only a 3-hour drive), and Graceland (which we’ll see Friday before driving back to Nashville).

P.S. Today was a headache day, because I really didn’t sleep well. I finally got it knocked down by around 2:30 PM.


A Day in the Fields and in the Gardens

Today’s touring started out at the Belle Meade Plantation. This was a very interesting visit, especially with the ability to compare and contrast it to Carnton Planatation yesterday. All plantations are not created equal! Belle Meade Plantation was started by John Harding around 1807, and then passed on to his son CSA Gen. W.G. Harding, and later to CSA Gen. W.H Jackson. Whereas Carnton specialized in raising pigs and other stock (Tennesse was not home to King Cotton), Belle Meade was known for their horses. In particular, there were two famous horses: Bonnie Scotland, who was in the sire line for most famous thoroughbred horses today including Seabiscuit and Seattle Slew, as well as Barbaro, and Iroguois, the first American horse to win the English Darby. So Belle Meade was a wealthier plantation, and it showed in the layout of the main house and the furnishings. They were also decorated for different periods: Belle Meade was decorated for the Jackson period, around 1880; Carnton was decorated for the Civil War period, about 1860. What a difference 20-30 years makes in the styles. In short, we felt that both plantations were worth seeing.

After the plantation visit, we had a yummy lunch at Martha’s at the Plantation, the restaurant at the Belle Meade. Very, very good.

After Belle Meade, we next went to Cheekwood Art Gardens. This is an over 55 acre property once owned by Leslie Cheek, who made his fortune through Maxwell House Coffee. Unlike the Huntington, the Cheekwood features a large expanse of open fields, wooded areas, and small gardens, and a few buildings with specialized exhibits. Outdoors, the main exhibit was an installation called “Once Upon A Garden“. This exhibit featured “fairy tale” themes installations that whimsically told their various stories. We had quite a bit of fun walking around those. gf_guruilla, however, enjoyed the Faberge exhibit even more, and those items were extremely beautiful.

I should note that driving to Belle Meade we saw our first actual synagogues since we got to Nashville. West End Synagogue, which is the local Conservative syngague, and The Temple, also known as Congregation Ohabai Sholom, which was the first Reform synagogue in Nashville… and one that the Weinbaum family was extremely involved in during its formative days.

Tonight, we’ll probably hit Shoney’s for dinner. After all, we are in the south. Tomorrow, it is off to The Hermitage, the home of President Andrew Jackson. In the evening, we’ll likely pack, for Thursday it is off to Memphis TN!