Sunday, May 31, 2015

Our Fearless Summer Vacation Guide

The Pilot Newspaper: Opinion

Summertime again, and the livin’, as the song tells us, is easy. Let’s just run down the checklist. Fish? Jumping. Cotton? High. And so on.

With summertime comes vacation time, and with vacation time comes our sort-of-annual guide to the wonderful and weird destinations for travelers. Check out some of these attractions:
— About 15 years ago, a fellow named Otis Eldridge in Rogersville, Tenn., went to buy an old antique coffee grinder from an old country store. He ended up leaving with two flatbed truckloads of goods and equipment. So what else is a guy like that to do but build a replica of that old country store on his farm? And once you do something like that, why, you need to have a town around it, right?
And thus was born “Memory Lane,” a replica of a 1950s-era small Southern town, complete with town hall/police department/jail, car dealership, movie theater, diner, filling station, etc. It’s all authentic, right down to the restored cheesy ’50s-era signage. Think of it as a kind of Colonial Williamsburg for Andy Griffith fans.

Alas, we missed it this year. Memory Lane is open to the public only once a year, on Memorial Day weekend, when Mr. Eldridge hosts a classic car show on the property. So mark your calendar.
— Who among us does not love possums? Well, me, for one. But apparently, the little town of Wausau, Fla., self-proclaimed “Possum Capital of the World,” is quite fond of the weird little beasts. They even have a “Possum Monument” right downtown on the edge of the swamp.
The true possum fan, however, will want to be there the first Saturday in August, when they hold the annual Possum Festival. The event is widely regarded as a “must-attend” event by Florida politicians and other dignitaries, because, lets’ face it, Florida’s kind of bonkers. Be sure to have a heaping helping of their signature dish, possum hash. Mmmm-mmm-good!
— Famously eccentric actor Nicolas Cage may not actually be dead, yet it’s still possible to visit his tomb. It seems that in 2010, Mr. Cage bought the last two unclaimed plots in New Orleans’ famous and crowded St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, final resting place of such historical figures as “Voodoo Queen” Marie Laveau and Etienne de BorĂ©, the city’s first mayor.
Cage, apparently not wanting to get caught unprepared for his eventual demise, scandalized New Orleans traditionalists by constructing his mausoleum in the form of a nine-foot cement pyramid bearing the inscription “Omnia ab Uno.” This means, “All From One,” and not, as you might expect, “I Have More Money Than Sense and Soon Will Have Neither If I Keep Up With This Nonsense.”
If you want to observe some wretched rich-person excess and don’t have ready access to a Kardashian, check this one out.

— South of the border, down Mexico way, you’ll find the Isla de las Munecas, or “Island of the Dolls,” which has to be, bar none, the creepiest thing that I have ever seen described as a “tourist attraction.”
All over the tiny island south of Mexico City, the trees are adorned by dolls and doll parts. Arms. Legs. And of course disembodied doll heads, with those cold dead eyes that seem to follow you as you walk by and oh my God I think I saw that one move, run run run GET TO DA CHOPPAH!

Sorry. But we really are talking El Creepo Grande here. It seems that the old and possibly deranged fellow who once served as the islands caretaker was distraught at finding a young girl drowned on the beach. With the kind of logic that can only be achieved by living alone on a deserted island for many years, he decided to pay a tribute to the dead girl’s spirit by hanging a doll in a tree. Then a few more. Then a lot more. After the old man’s death, locals, then tourists, began bringing their own additions.
Did I mention it was creepy? If I ever find myself paying a visit to this place, I am definitely finding a new travel agent.
“The world is so full of a number of things,” wrote Robert Louis Stevenson, “I’m sure we should all be as happy as kings.” Whatever things your travels may lead you to see this summer, I hope all your trails are happy ones.