Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Tourist traps ... all the stuff

Fake jumping beans

Ash tray in the shape of South Carolina

For many years we lived in the North and my brother Nevin lived in the South. As a preacher I had more vacation time than money, so just about every summer we would travel south to mooch off of Nevin for a week or two. He was a great host. 

I don’t know when the signs would begin, maybe in Virginia. Two hundred miles to South of the Border ... 190 miles to South of the Border ... 180 miles to South of the Border ... 175 miles to South of the Border. Until everyone in the car was obsessed with South of the Border, which turned out to be a place to spend money on things you absolutely didn’t need and didn’t really want but, for some reason, at the moment, had to have. You bought Mexican jumping beans and South Carolina state ash trays out of the strange mixture of excitement and boredom that comes with a road trip.

  A photo of the original Waffle House, located in Decatur, which opened Labor Day 1955.
On the journey south, starting maybe in southern Virginia, in every town we passed, we would begin to see signs for a Waffle House. There were no Waffle Houses in Philadelphia. In the South there seemed to be more Waffle Houses than Baptist churches. So we would eventually end up eating at a Waffle House during the trip to Nevin’s house. 

I hope I don’t offend anyone but I had never eaten a meal at a Waffle House that I did not regret afterwards until two years ago. Jane and I spent a long weekend in Richmond to see a Tiffany glass exhibit at the museum and a live Prairie Home Companion radio show. Next to our hotel was a Waffle House. We went there for lunch one day and the Waffle House had a salad on the menu.  I ordered it and they brought me a mountain of raw vegetables and a plastic jar of Kraft Salad Dressing (they had only one flavor) and I had a healthy lunch at a Waffle house. The salad costs 50 cents. This is the only meal at a Waffle House that I remember not regretting afterwards.

Jewelery boxes from the Visitors' Center in Petra, Jordan.

 Or perhaps you have the opportunity to travel more broadly in your life. Every tour you take includes a stop at an authentic local handicraft store where you can buy authentic replicas of whatever the region was known for from pottery to rugs to tapestries. In the midst of your vacation, you suddenly find yourself needing a full 16th century replica set of Roman dishware. Or Turkish rugs. Or Middle Eastern mosaics. 

Eventually you find yourself living in a house full of things that you can no longer remember where you got them or why.  And it is time to downsize.  Your kids have their own stuff and don’t want yours, and you just hope that you are the first one to go so that the other person has to deal somehow with all of the stuff.

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