Saturday, July 10, 2021

Weekend Post


Now that most smart people have vaccinated they can again travel.  I'm going to assume that's you.  Still don’t know where to go yet? Allow me to help while shamelessly pushing my book, WHERE THE HELL AM I? TRIPS I HAVE SURVIVED (only $2.99 in all ebook formats and $6.99 paperback. Order yours here!!!)

WTHAI?TISH (as most people refer to it) is a ten year collection of my humorous travelogues. Here are a few excerpts to help you decide where to go this summer. The book was written several years ago, but many of these attractions like the Gateway Arch and Haleakala. 

DALLAS – (most people’s first choice for August travel) On every corner there’s either a steakhouse or a church. One place called “Holy Cow” could be either or both.

LAS VEGAS -- We hit the beach. Yes, Mandalay Bay has its own beach. Unfortunately, the ocean was turned off. No waves. But I took a long walk along the grid that serves as the shore and gazed out at the horizon to see the Lance Burton Magician billboard on Las Vegas Avenue.

MAUI – Did not see the sunrise at Haleakala. But did get a report from someone who did. A bus picks you up 2:30 in the morning. You drive an hour and a half to the top of this massive shield volcano. By top I mean 10,023 feet. You get out in your shorts, flip flops, and aloha shirt -- it’s pitch black, and 22 degrees (literally). When the sun comes up (two hours later) it will rise to 37. Finally the dawn. It’s breathtaking, awesome, and your teeth are chattering like castanets. You don’t want to even think about the possibility that there’s a YouTube video of this. You get on the bus and either go home or into shock.

For more fun you can bike down the outside of the volcano… like a rocket on a two-lane winding road that hugs a cliff that’s steeper than those in Road Runner cartoons. Bikers must also negotiate tour buses, vans, and tourists in unfamiliar rental cars. In 2007 there were three biker fatalities. Bike tours (when they’re not suspended) are $100 - $150 dollars. Bring a parachute.

But we did visit quaint Lahaina. Strolled past the charming Crazy-T-Shirt and souvenir soap stores. This bawdy whaling port has not changed in a hundred years.

For all the hoopla of Lahaina, we found quite a few other smaller, lesser-known little towns that were far more charming and KFC-free. Paia, for one. It’s advertised as a throwback “hippie” village. And I must say it took me right back to the ‘60s when hippies supported their drug habits by selling gelato.

Makawao is another quaint attraction. Up country, it’s a little cowboy town, specializing in glass blowing – just like Wyatt Earp and Billy the Kid used to do. I kept looking for the jail and saloon but alas they’ve given way to art galleries and a market that makes fresh donuts. But get there early. They go fast. There’s usually a shoot-out in the town square for the last cruller.

PHOENIX -- This is a sprawling city of giant shopping malls broken up by sports complexes. Oh, and numerous aircraft bone yards. From rusted out WWII planes to 747s that haven’t flown since Braniff went under, they’re all here. Was hoping to swing by and pick up an L1011 fuselage but time got away.

To get anywhere in Phoenix – to work, a restaurant, the rental car outpost from the airport – you just get on the freeway and go 13.2 miles. Everything is 13.2 miles away. Except Circle K’s. There are two on every corner. How much beef jerky can this town chew?

DENVER -- Denver is the most sexually active city in America. Contraceptive sales are 189% higher within the city limits than the national average (sales of female contraceptives are a whopping 278% higher). Coincidentally, Denver also has the world’s largest brewery (Coors).

Things not to miss: The Butterfly Pavilion insect zoo, the “Mind Eraser” rollercoaster at Elitch Gardens, the giant cement slide at Bear Valley Park that looks like a vagina, the Buckhorn Exchange restaurant with 500 stuffed animals (it’s how I imagine Elizabeth Hasselbeck’s bedroom), the stone marker that claims to be the birthplace of the cheeseburger, and any CVS pharmacy for contraceptives.

ST. LOUIS -- St. Loo is famous of course for the Anheuser-Busch brewery. Although, locals insist it’s not the same now that the Busch family has sold it to Germans. They claim the beer tastes different. I couldn’t tell, but I did notice the Clydesdales goose-stepping in a recent parade.

PHILADELPHIA -- Meant to get out to the Mutter Museum, founded originally to educate doctors of the 19th Century and current HMO’s. Big attractions include conjoined twins and a catalog of foreign objects removed from bodies. Bring the kids!

This is the birthplace of two major revolutions – the American and shopping. It is in nearby Westchester that QVC is located, which is why I thought I saw Marie Osmond at baggage claim waiting at the carousel for 42,000 dolls to come down the chute.

SAN FRANCISCO -- Fisherman's Wharf is filled with colorful street performers: mimes and jugglers, etc. Most unique was the “Shrub Guy.” He hides behind a shrub in camouflage and when unsuspecting tourists stroll by he leaps out scaring the shit out of them. Meanwhile, other people observe nearby, laugh, and give him money. On a grander scale this is how Liza Minnelli now makes her living.

MILWAUKEE – (on the road with the Dodgers) stayed at the historic Pfister. The Pfister is pfirst class. It’s an old regal downtown hotel that just happens to be haunted. Some ballplayers are so freaked they stay elsewhere, or sleep holding a bat for protection. Carlos Gomez of the Twins was getting out of the shower and his iPod suddenly went haywire, so instead of calling AppleCare (or Ghostbusters?), he raced out to the lobby without his pants. I shared a room with the Ghost of Christmas Future. He told me that “UFC Undisputed” will sell out quick this season so shop early.

One thing I’ve discovered about Milwaukee – it’s in a time warp. The buildings, the cars, the people – it’s 1956. Friday night’s postgame concert featured newcomers Buddy Holly and the Crickets. In an attempt to blend in I wore an “Adlai Stevenson for President” button.

FLORIDA – (business trip with my writing partner, David) If a studio was paying for this trip we would have stayed in Naples. But since it was our own dime, Bonita Beach was our Gateway to the Gulf home. In the ‘20s there was this cult, the Koreshans, who believed that Bonita Beach was the center of the world. It was a celibate tribe so unfortunately it no longer exists. (Darwin works!) There’s just a state park in their honor. And if I’m not mistaken, the Hampton Inn we were staying at is at the center of Bonita Beach, and room 229, just to our left, is the absolute DEAD center of the world.

No wonder the Holiday Inn across the street is proud. Their marquee proclaims “Number one guest rated shower heads.”

Favorite store name (maybe ever): “Master Bait & Tackle Shop” on Bonita Beach Road. Yes, I purchased t-shirts.


ventucky said...

Kaelin's in Louisville claims to be where the cheeseburger was invented. It is also where some guy named Harlan used to sell fried chicken outside from a stand before he got a brick and mortar. Both sound like potential myths, but they are repeated in local print over and over.

Mike Barer said...

what a fun little journal. That made my morning.

Mike Chimeri said...

Dallas has also been home to various tech companies. Michael Dell founded PC's Limited, which he eventually named after himself.

And let's not forget PAMS and JAM.

Andrew said...

I visited Maui years ago, and saw the sunrise at Haleakala. It was beautiful and otherworldly. But unfortunately, despite being warned ahead of time, I was not adequately dressed for the cold. I just assumed everywhere in Hawaii was tropical. It was bitter cold on the mountain, and the wind was blowing strong. So my main memory of Haleakala is, "Nice, but can we get the hell out of here?"

I didn't go into the crater. I'd love to to back and be better prepared, and spend the day there. Since you're a writer, Ken, it might interest you to know that both Mark Twain and Jack London wrote about their visits to Haleakala:

Michael said...

I worked at a newspaper where our sports columnist covered a fishing tournament ONLY so he could write that the winner was a "master baiter."

Wendy M. Grossman said...

Re the Mutter Museum in Philadelphia: you forgot the star attraction, the world's largest human colon.


Colin Stratton said...

Off topic, but just saw Applebee's using the theme for Cheers. Another sign of the Apocalypse.

Philly Cinephile said...

The Mutter Museum is a very popular choice for weddings. The first time I heard of someone having their wedding there, I had visions of hipsters reveling among the grotesque exhibits, but it's actually a beautiful space, with a private garden, ballroom, and grand staircase. The specimens are housed in one section of the building, and are easily bypassed by the squeamish, which I did happily when I attended a friend's wedding.

ScottyB said...

Howdy @kenlevine. I noticed 'The Golden Girls' on the Hallmark Channel this weekend. I remember watching it during the mid 1980s, and seeing it these days, it holds up really well. The thing that struck me, tho, is that it was a quality comedy that fought against the idea that the "old" demographic was basically dead people relegated to the old-folk trash heap of 'Murder She Wrote' and Dick Van Dyke as a doctor-sleuth. Other than 'All In The Family', were there any other sitcoms you can think of that challenged the way we -- or TV execs -- were thinking back then?

And yeah, 'The Golden Girls' is still pretty damn funny. Estelle Getty was a damn hoot.

SummitCityScribe said...

While I've never visited the aircraft boneyard in Phoenix, I did once tour the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group in Tucson, AZ,and found the marvelous old aircraft there free of rust, as the bone-dry climate of the Sonoran desert keeps them all in great shape, despite their age. I recommended anyone visiting the Old Pueblo to give it a look!

Brian Phillips said...

In a rare, "Hey-I-did-this-too" moment, my Mother's last trip was to Maui, which was special, as she had loved all things Hawaiian for many years. Lahaina may indeed be commercialized. I didn't care for the one greeting card that I saw in a rack that basically implied that the native population were a bunch of happy time-wasters who "talked story" all day. As we took Mom around, folks couldn't do enough for her. She was not in the best of health, but they treated her like a queen.
My fave personal moment came when I was looking for records and a native "haole" and I got in a conversation. I asked if he had any Martin Denny records and he said, "What? Were you, like, born here or something?"

Brian Phillips said...

In Denver, The air is thinner and if your lungs hold out here, you're good to go most anywhere. That is why many athletes train here.

I'm not entirely sure what event the happy and responsible consumers you mentioned are training for, but at least they are doing it on an Olympic level.

Necco said...

Do people really say, "St. Loo"? That seems akin to saying "San Antone." (Lived in SA a long time - major mistake to say that.)