Saturday, April 25, 2009

Get Out and See the Weird

Latest newspaper column:

Let's step away from things political for a moment and celebrate the fact that, as comedian Nipsey Russell famously (if ungrammatically ) said, "Spring is sprung, the grass is riz, gone is the winter when it snew and friz!"

Now that the weather's not so beastly, people are thinking vacation. Okay, I'll admit I've been thinking of vacation since the day after the last one ended, but that's just me. So it's time once again for our annual feature on America's most offbeat, off-the-wall, and occasionally off-their-rocker-vacation spots.

We begin with a couple of destinations suggested by my legion of fans. After last year's column, loyal reader Celine pointed me to the Iowa town of Riverside, which claims to be the "future birthplace" of Captain James T. Kirk from Star Trek. As all good Trekkies know, the brawling, love-the-green-alien-women-and-leave-'em commander of the Starship Enterprise mentioned on a couple of occasions that he was from Iowa, but never specified which town. The town of Riverside contacted series creator Gene Roddenberry and said, in effect "hey, why not us?" Roddenberry agreed. So Riverside holds a birthday party for the Captain every March 22d, which is coincidentally the birthday of William Shatner, the Canadian actor whose overblown, scenery-chewing acting style launched not only his career, but a thousand parodies. You've missed Kirk's birthday, of course, but there's always Trekfest June 26 and 27th, featuring supporting players Walter Koenig (Chekov), Nichelle Nichols (Uhura) and George Takei (Sulu).

Another pair of TV-themed attractions comes to us courtesy of reader Stephen Blackmoore. There are actually two theme parks in these United States devoted to the memory of The Flintstones, Hanna-Barbera's paean to the joys of domestic life in prehistoric times. The one in Custer, South Dakota appears to be thriving. And why not? It has everything: replicas of Fred and Wilma's house, the Bronto Burger Drive-in (where presumably an order of ribs is not actually huge enough to capsize your car when placed in a tray on the window), and Mt. Rockmore, "a mini Mt. Rushmore with the heads of Fred, Barney, Dino, and Mr. Granitebilt, who founded Bedrock." The place looks like it's doing quite well. This may be due to the recent resurgence of creationists who think The Flinstones was a documentary.

Unfortunately, Stephen reports, the other Flintstones park, located in Arizona, isn't doing as well: "The buildings are run down. The insides are covered in a fine layer of desert dust. It's as if there had been a massive Bedrock evacuation from some horrific disaster. Flintstones meets The Andromeda Strain." Sad, really.

Regular readers of this feature know about my fondness for everyday objects blown up to absurd proportions. Right down the road in the furniture Meccas of North Carolina's Triad region are some real doozies. Take, for example the 85-foot-tall chest of drawers that graces High Point's Furnitureland South . Or the smaller (but free-standing) 38 footer that once served as the area's Bureau of Information (Bureau. Get it?) The smaller chest of drawers also features a pair of socks dangling out of one drawer, to memorialize the area's textile industry, or what's left of it. Or maybe what they're trying to insinuate is High Pointers are slobs. I'm not saying I think they are, mind you, but those dangling socks, as they say, "raise questions."

One sad note: it appears that New Jersey's famous kitsch emporium Fountains of Wayne is no more. The Garden State's monument to questionable taste, which was featured in episodes of the TV drama The Sopranos and whose name lives on as the name of one of my favorite power-pop bands, auctioned off its last cement fountains, concrete angels, and dioramas of poker playing dolls this past week. No more shall New Jerseyites and visitors alike thrill to the store's quirky Christmas displays, which featured a tropical Santa (with mermaids and sharks), a Harley riding Santa, and Santa battling a giant snake in the Amazon.

The moral to this story is: things change. Get out there and see the weird before it's too late.


charlie stella said...

Cape Fear Annual Blues Festival in Wilmington, North Carolina ... me and the boss (wife) will be there end of July ... my old guitarist (actually I was his drummer--he's 2-3 years old than me) has something to do with running the thing. I think it's July 24-27 (or something like that).

If we can convince our old bass player to go down at the same time, Durso Wolfe & Stella may get to play a little something.

I'm gonna take a look-see for how far Carthage is from Wilmington ... if it's close enough, I'll bring down a dozen or so Ralph Nader for President t-shirts for you, JD

JD Rhoades said...

Dude! I used to live in Wilmington. My son was born there.

It's about 2 1/2 hours, but I get down there as much as I can. Remind me when it gets closer and we'll see if we can do a meet-up. Maybe I can persuade David T. to come along.

charlie stella said...

I just saw it on the map ... cool beans, brother.

How old is the boyo (and what size t-shirt)? I can shrink one of my 3X's a hundred times or so ...

We can have someone film us smoking a peace (or crack) pipe ... whatever it takes ... just to show anything is possible!

Graham Powell said...

Everyone knows the green woman was dancing for Captain Christopher Pike. Sheesh.

JD Rhoades said...

I bow to Graham's superior geekiness.

Nick's 17 now, Charlie, and tall, so a 2x may do the trick...

David Terrenoire said...

Hey, I'm so in. Charlie, can you use a harp player?

charlie stella said...

Davey 3x's ... the question is (remains) can you use a drummer? I'm sure if our old band (we're talking high school days when I had shoulder length hair and thought CREAM was Beethoven) gets together, we'd love having a harp player involved. Absolutely, brother!

Celine said...

*ears perk* Yo, David! Concert, Irish, or mouth harp?

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