11 June 2010

No Political Correctness Here

Back in May of 2002, I had the good fortune to be among the earliest visitors to, what was at the time, The National D-Day Museum. A dream of renowned author, historian and educator Stephen Ambrose. (Band of Brothers, Citizen Soldiers, Undaunted Courage among his myriad of works).

In the following years, the popularity of this shrine grew immeasurably, thanks to Mr. Ambrose's continued works (note...Mr. Ambrose has come under a lot of posthumous scrutiny and concern about plagiarism and fabriction recently......that's a topic for somewhere else) as well as the notoriety of Tom Brokaw's popular book "The Greatest Generation". So much so that this one-time factory where New Orleans' native Andrew Higgins mass produced the landing craft that carried millions of GI's and Marines to distant beaches, was greatly expanded to cover the entire effort of WWII, and eventually the name of the museum was changed to reflect it's all encompassing coverage of the War of Our Parents.

So it was with great anticipation that I returned to that museum while passing through New Orleans this week. Not only did I want to see the memorial brick that I purchased for my Father back in 2002, (very 1st section....AA, on the corner or Camp and Andrew Higgins Drive), but I was looking forward to seeing the expanded tribute to the millions of Americans who participated in the War.

Little did I realize how pleasantly surprised I would be. Not because there was any earth shattering information for me to glean perusing these old factory hallways, I have been a voracious reader of all things WWII since Dick and Jane primers. (1st book? Guadalcanal Diary by Richard Tregaskis in 2nd grade).

But there was one small section of the museum about the Pacific War that stood out to me. Only because in this day and age of overblown Political Correctness, I was somewhat surprised that the Curators allowed it.

There is a good 4-5 minute walk within the museum dedicated to Japanese atrocities during WWII. And the pictures, monuments, and stories are horrifying. So much so, that there is a parental warning at the beginning of it, as well a a side route to avoid it.

I think this section of the exhibit is a GOOD thing. Cuz we must never overlook or sugarcoat the horrible brutality of war. And in fairness, there is some (not a lot) mention of the reciprocal treatment that was given to the Japanese by our own soldiers.

But, the silver lining here in all of this is that I think by showcasing this politically incorrect aspect of the Pacific War (The Japanese Brutality), a different kind of "political correctness" will be unintentionally enforced.

Many ears ago, in the 70's and early 80's, I spent many a weekend carousing Kalakaua Blvd. in Waikiki. This was during a period when Japanese Tourism to the Hawaiian Islands was peaking. Nothing wrong with that.....they're good people and spend lots of money. But one thing always bothered me. And that was seeing Japanese men, especially older men, fresh off of a tour of Pearl Harbor, wearing USS Arizona baseball caps and T-shirts. Call me jingoistic, but I found that offensive. The same way I would feel in 2010 if Islamic Fundamentalists dressed their women in burkhas featuring images of the World Trade Center. And probably no different than how a Japanese citizen would feel if I walked around downtown Hiroshima in a T-shirt featuring a mushroom cloud with a "Made in America, Tested in Japan" caption. (indeed, I admit it....I DID get a T-shirt like that made to wear on Kalakaua in response to the Japanese wearing Arizona hats and tees).

But thanks to this one particular new section in the WWII Museum, I doubt very much that Japanese tourists will visit our WWII Museum. And more importantly, very little chance that we will ever see Japanese tourists walking down Canal Street in N'Orleans with souvenir baseball caps or T-Shirts from the WWII Museum.

All of us from all nations can and should honor our fallen warriors in proper ways.

Without wearing "souvenirs" from former opponent's hallowed grounds. 
Just my opinion.

07 June 2010

After All......It's A Small, Small World


Welcome to San Antonio, Texas. 
Leave it to The Lone Star State to steal what is arguably the most annoying ride in Disneyland and create a larger tourist trap around it, and line it's banks with a Who's Who list of every monolithic, publicly held corporate restaurant, retail outlet and theme bar on the S+P 500. Pardon my negativity here, but San Antonio and it's Riverwalk area may well be the most overrated entertainment district in America. Walked, ate and drank my way around the entire length of it yesterday afternoon/evening and while I can't/won't deny that I throroughly enjoyed myself, (cuz no one has more fun than I do) there was something about this attempt at recreating Pleasure Island that left a plastic taste in my mouth.

The live music was below average (an ENGLISH bloke playing Clancy Brothers Revolutionary songs in an Irish Pub?, a jazz quartet that played Dave Brubeck's "Take 5" three times in the same 45 minute set?), the food was weak (ordered a "Tex-Mex" Conqueso appetizer to see how it compared to New Mexican fire engine standards and received what can best be described as a bowl of melted Velveeta and Kraft American Singles littered with a few morsels of Vidalia onions), and with a few exceptions (the bartender in the Irish Pub and my waitress in the English Pub), the employee staff generally gave me the impression that they would rather be home watching 60 Minutes. Especially the manager of the English Pub (Mad Dogs) who saw no humor in what I considered "the question of the day". The entrance to Mad Dogs is appointed with the requisite hostess stand and a very lifelike English Bulldog statue/doll right next to it. Let's just say that I was lucky to be seated after I asked the manager if I could Kiss the Bulldog and Pet the Waitress.

Topping things off, there's some kind of Sleep Apnea Convention in town. As I write this, eight thousand pseudo doctors are walking around San Antonio in some kind of Kreskin-like trance, each one trying to put a colleague/competitor down for a nap with their banter.

Thank God New Orleans is my next stop (If I can get there tonight).

Road Sign/Billboard of the Day. (kinda)
Remember the episode of Undercover CEO when the head of Hooter's busted the sexist store manager who was treating his waitstaff like shit? Well, that guy better get down to San Antonio. While walking past the Riverwalk Hooter's, I (and those around me) couldn't help but notice the lone waitress who was working the outside section of the restaraunt, by herself, on this 100 degree day. Visualize a young woman in a standard Hooter's skimpy next to nothing outfit.....and she's about 8 months pregnant....and sweating like a Sumo Wrestler in a Norwegian Sauna. Now don't get me wrong here, I have long held the belief that the most attractive woman in the world is a pregnant one, because within that image is a beauty that defines the essence of life. BUT....couldn't Hooter's be a tad more progressive here and allow the woman to wear something a little more complimentary to her condition? Couldn't Heidi Klum be consulted on some appropriate Hooter's wear for pregnant women? Just my opinion.

Quote of the Day...(besides mine)
Stopped for gas in a tiny little hamlet (Kerr Village) about 80 miles outside of San Antonio yesterday morning. The storefront of this tiny convenience store looked like it was built in the 1800's and had been converted from a saloon or some such. The woman working in it could have been a decent replacement for Ceil ("The Upper 48") from the Bore Tide in Alaska. She was a chatterbox with the 3-4 people standing in line ahead of me. I walked up, handed her $30.00 for gas on pump 2. She thanked me and told me to have a nice day and a safe trip. Since I planned on purchasing water and ciggies as well, I said to her "Oh no, not yet....I'm not finished with you Ma'am". She gave a wry smile and one of those looks that said "hmmm....apparently she's not done with me, either".
So, I filled up my tank and returned to the store. I entered and quipped to her "Told you I'd be back", and headed down an aisle, eyeing other sundries. At that point she yelled out at me from behind the counter:
"Just for you, our shopping hours are extended until 11PM this evening". 

But I guess you had to be there.

06 June 2010


Photo stolen from the copyrighted photographer in the lower right
(Problem? contact Ben Dover at Dewey, Cheatham and Howe LLP...AKA lower and lower principles)

Day One point five of 505's "Go East Old Mahon" escape from the Dusted Bowl of New Mexico.

One of the more enjoyable drives in the Rocky Mountain West is US Highway 285, a road constructed well before Dwight Eisenhower's ambitious Interstate Highway Program shifted a high volume of north/south traffic to I-25. During my 24 years in the 505, I have had the pleasure of traveling US 285 through all of Northern New Mexico and most of Colorado. But only yesterday, on my way outta town, did I venture into southeastern New Mexico via that one time main artery. 

Bits and pieces from that star studded trek down UFO Alley to Roswell and beyond:

There is pretty much nothing from Clines Corners (60 miles east of Albuquerque) to Roswell except for overgrazed grassland freely littered with cattle and antelope. (Saw two herds of antelope, one herd had 17 members, the other 12....how do I know? Count all the legs and divide by 4 silly).

About 15 miles north of Roswell, I noticed (well, I couldn't miss it) a Mayflower moving van steaming north like a Flying Dutchman billowing smoke out of the rear of the cab that was thick enough to make me come to a near complete stop, as the foaming 300 foot long fog obliterated the southbound lanes to near zero visibility. Was very thankful that southbound traffic behind me was 1/100th the volume of the Jersey Turnpike and California's I-5 during heavy ocean borne fog and no one plowed into my rear, nor did I destroy anyone (no one) in front of me.

Roswell may well be considered and known as the "UFO Capital of the World" and the "Dairy Farm of NM" but the real story of Roswell is it's cemetery. And it's not just an an average cemetery.

About 5 miles south of town, just off of 285,  is the Roswell Airport and "Air Center". Over 250 mostly widebodied aircraft from the "Glory Years" of the Airline Industry are buried above ground upon that air frame mausoleum. Not the least of which, as I spied, were a couple of old Northwest DC-10's. And if it wasn't for the fact that it was 109 degrees in the shade outside of my air conditioned 95 Sonoma, I might have stopped at the airpark to see if either of those DC-10's still had the checkbook Jim Snow stole from me one well lubricated night/early morning on a redeye from Anchorage-Seattle aboard NW028. In the seat pocket of 2D if I'm not mistaken. (and you won't find any capless miniatures next to it....those were the days when Northwest flight attendants free poured from fifths).

It's about 40 miles from Roswell to the next bustling metropolis along US 285....Artesia.

The stretch of road between Roswell and Artesia should forever be known as the "The Ole Factory Highway". Accessorized with roadside signs that read, "This section of the road sponsored by....." and are licensed  to Lysol Air Cleaner (aerosol and spray) and Renuzit Car Freshener. For the first 30 miles or so, US 285 south of Roswell, is rimmed by one of the world's largest and continuous dairy cow plantations...with 10's of thousands of bovines feasting upon all of natures finest synthetic vitamin laced natural ingredients. Waking up on the floor of a locker room the morning after a Deviled Egg Eating Competition (sponsored by Budweiser) would be a distant Silver Medalist in this Olympic Aromatic Showdown.

Not to be outdone, the last ten miles into Artesia has it's own sensory claim to fame. The skyline of Artesia, visible from 10 miles away, can best be described as a 1950's Hasbro Erector Set Christmas present that was hijacked by 1960's MIT freshman overdosed on hallucinogenic drugs. Mile upon mile of 3-4 story natural gas drilling and refinery apparatus highlighted by a continuous and overwhelming noxious, gaseous stench. An odor that would put the most insomniac among us into a long and comfortable death engaging snooze. I kept looking for signs that read "No Smoking Within 10 Miles Of Artesia", fearful that if I fired up a ciggie within the confines of this government sanctioned environmental disaster zone, I would go down in history as the two-legged equivalent of Mrs. O'Leary's cow.

And...that's not even the highlight of a drive through Artesia....Nope... not even close....
Ten miles from Artesia is the customary "Welcome to Artesia" sign that is a requisite in rural American approach arteries.

Just within a street walker's operating radius from that welcome sign, and MILES from anything else, was one of the finest looking, cleanest, largest, most modern Barnes and Noble equivalent of an Adult Video Store known to humanity.
Go figure.

Roadside Sign/Billboard of the Day.
Ever been on a rural highway approaching a town in the middle of nowhere and see billboards/wallboards spaced about 100 yards aparts encouraging road warriors to visit a gas station/curio shop in the approaching town?

Carlsbad New Mexico (remember in the 60's how every cool dad had a bumper sticker that read "I visited Carlsbad Caverns NM"?

Yesterday......final descent into Carlsbad there were about 6 short and spiffy roadside signs spaced about 100 yards apart along 285 promoting a Curio/Souvenir Shop in Carlsbad. One of the signs read...

WHAT?? ...........Anachronism? Twilight Zone? or a Brilliant Flashback to days gone by?
(I wonder if they sell Kodak flash bulbs with blue dots on them?)

Just my opinion.