Thursday, September 8, 2011

Vacation!! 2011 (Part Two)

And now....for part two! Return of the Revenge of the Secret of the Vacation.

When we left off, I'd just had my heart broken by a set of retro-styled large scale kitchen appliances in a place of business whose name escapes me. The warehouse sized store looked a little like Louisville's The Concrete Lady from the outside, boasting a cement-sculpted menagerie of animals both exotic and more domestic. I must admit, it was the six foot tall King Kong statuary on the roof that truly drew me into the store and out of the rain. Upon stepping inside, the joint was a little more like the now defunct Expo Center stores. Ah, well. Functioning on the Southern serial shopper's attitude that it's rude (and sometime premature in judgement) to walk into a store, see that the merchandise isn't what you'd expect, and walk directly back out, Bab and I meandered down the aisles, whereupon we caught sight of the aforementioned, astronomically priced, but oh-so-perfect appliances. Two aisles down, past a glass tile cornucopia for all your backsplash glass tiling needs, we came across these lovely girls.

I borrowed this image, but this is pretty much EXACTLY what the box of cast iron mermaid wall hooks looked like when I saw them and my eyes popped out a little. What bombshells! Only two unpainted, rustic looking mer-ladies were left among some that were lacquered pink or white, so I bought them both. Though a topless lady being included in the design actually dissuaded me from buying a Danzig lunchbox this weekend (he was displayed in the case showing only the awesome Danzig logo side, not the naked, kind of lame looking Gothic Rockabilly nymph which would preclude said lunchbox's use in my work environment, which...was...the...point...), I think these are kind of cutie. Or, as the folks at Brokelyn pithily put it, "the nester's equivalent of mudflaps". Too true. Too true.

We made a hairpin U-turn on leaving the unnamed home decor place to hit a Salvation Army across the street. In my youth, the Salvation Army on Gallatin Road was far and away the best place to go for gauzy, 1940's librarian blouses with rhinestone buttons, or seventies' plaid buttonup shirts that were both physically and metaphorically hard on the eyes (ie, staples of my wardrobe from 1997 to the present). In the early millenium, that location and several across Davidson County closed, and the one that remains on Charlotte is a poor substitute for what was a GOLDMINE of vintage opportunity. Showing either my best sportsmanship or my actual inability to resist thrift store shopping opportunities in strange cities, we visited the tiny store under the red badge in spite of its Tennessee reputation as being bereft of the GOOD "goods".

And what did I find, folks. What DID I find.

On a shelf in the back near several sets of dun-spined encyclopedias, I found EIGHT high school and college yearbooks, spanning consecutive years from 1940-1947. Price tag?

Eighty-nine cents apiece.

Now, fellow vintage-o-philes, please correct me if I'm way off base here, but have you EVER in your LIFE seen a sixty-plus year old yearbook in a retail setting (ie not a swap meet or yard sale) for less than, oh, $15? It's unheard of. Forties' yearbooks of any kind in any antique store in Nashville would be priced at STARTING at twenty bucks, and often running exorbitantly high for no apparent reason (if it was at Southern Thrift, the price tag would probably be a nonsensical $79.99 or some such). I was GIDDY with the true "thrift" of my purchase.

There was a ton of great late 1970's/early 1980's beach house furniture, but how would one transport self same Miami Vice/Scarface-esque furniture several hours North without cancelling out the reasonability of the price tag? Sad. Upon checkout, a fifty-percent-off sale bin near the register produced these last minute purchases:

A Basic Instinct keychain for a quarter (you can get your own on ebay), and large green plastic frog. Vacation essentials, folks, for sure.

All this shopping had our appetites worked up, so we stopped at Lambert's Cafe, "Home of the Throwed Rolls". Not only does it remind you of this practice on the sign, it spells it out for you visually.

Before I explain this peculiar way of serving dinner rolls, let me show you what the side of the building where we parked looked like:


After waiting for less than ten minutes for a table, a hostess led us through the (absolutely full) restaurant to a rough hewn booth in one corner. As the call of "Hot rolls! Who wants a hot roll?" was answered by many a "Right here!", baseball sized hot rolls, I kid you not, were flung with the precision and sometimes speed of a major league pitcher towards outstretched palms across the dining room. ACROSS. THE. DINING ROOM. I understood the concept when I came in, but I can't begin to tell you how jovial the atmosphere was simply by dint of this gimmick. "Did you see that guy catch it?" was something either of us kept repeating like children, amazed that hardly any rolls hit the floor. The food was of prodigious and super delicious (if not necessarily Atkins-sound... I kept having to tell myself "You never get to eat like this! It's vacation! Go ahead!")... as employees came by with servings of black eyed peas, macaroni and tomato, fried okra, and even apple butter to put on your hard-earned roll, we ALSO had our main courses of, in my case, a full pound hamburger steak, collard greens, and a full sized baked sweet potato. LAND. SAKES.

Here's what the dining room looked like when I was so full it actually affected my vision:

Note the gentleman with the creased neck. He did not know he was being photographed. I apologize.

Later, we came across this wholly bizarre sign outside of a fresh seafood supplier. I submit it without additional commentary:

Did I mention I am still, even in part two, confused by the availability of wine in any and all grocery settings? Aisle 12 is like my favorite aisle. AND pizza? Well, shut my mouth.

Weird chip varieties were everywhere... maybe we have these in Nashville, but I certainly wasn't aware of them. Below, the flavors include "Spicy Cajun Crawtators", "Spicy Creole Tomato spiked with Tabasco", "Molten Hot Wing", and "Loaded Chili and Cheese". Maybe this is a non-believer speaking, but I prefer my food flavors separate-- e.g., chili cheese fries OR potato chips, but not both. I might just be too picky.

When we had sunned our selves silly, and eaten all the food in the coastal region, it was time to head back north to Tennessee. What did we see on the way? We saw this:

Sakes alive! The very "spear chunker" museum I'd been foretold of on the Roadside America website!

Which. It Turns out. IS CLOSED. On Mondays. Can you see Bab's face in the lefthand picture as he reads the "FERME" written unapologetically across the day's date? To the right, can you see the yawning jaws of an alligator waiting to be seen by such as we? Sad, sad day.

From his website:
Has he, at age 77, reached the end of his rope? The end of changes in his hunting career? Hell, NO, he has not! For some years now, he has developed the techniques of throwing two spears at the same time by throwing one spear with his left hand and one spear with his right hand-- both at the same time. His quest? To take two animals at the same time.

Go, Gene Morris, go!!

We are DEFINITELY going back next time.

Is it just me, or is the entire purpose of having a McDonald franchise to provide as far from "unique" an experience as possible? You want your McDonald's experience to be of a high quality and standard, but definitely not "unique". I was handed my supersized coffee while pondering this misuse of the word.

While listening to hour five of "Horns" (which Bab's finished, post-trip, and I have not, for shame), we passed a brown, historical highway marker for Georgiana, Alabama reading "Hank William's Boyhood Home". And of course, we stopped.

About three miles off the highway, past a discount store seeming plopped in the middle of a forest and a small subdivision of houses, were a smattering of 1910's houses and what was left of a small town center. Here's a youtube video of a drive through the middle part of what would be a town square, were it not actually bisected by a railroad track (which prevented us from getting back to the other side of it for about fifteen minutes once a line of railroad cars pulled up):

I didn't see any businesses that were actually open on this Monday morning-- most of the stores were boarded up, though at one time, I have no doubt the place looked like a regular Norman Rockwell painting. Very the-beginning-of-Fried-Green-Tomatoes in terms of wistful abandonment.

The museum, like a town, was a small affair itself. A snow-haired lady, improbably thought elegantly dressed in a long, spotless sixties'-era neon orange and yellow Hawaiian maxi-dress, slim as a bird and tanned, greeted us in dulcet Southern tones and gave a short introduction, taking our admission fares (I think it was $3 apiece) and encouraging us to take all the pictures we wanted. What I really wanted to do was take a picture of her, but I was too shy. And darned if I couldn't oblige myself TO all the photographs I wanted of the house due to my crum-bug equipment! But here's some of the stuff we saw:

Most of the artifacts were fan-submitted... oil paintings of Hank Williams, cancelled checks, sixty year old flyers from long ago concerts, photographs of familiar (to Hank Williams and fans, I guess) haunts, and newspaper clippings from his life and death.

*I* was most impressed by this hand stitched story quilt of Hank Williams life. Each square tells a different segment of his life. Could you just die?

In a corner, a painted wooden silhouette of Williams that I thought was particularly good, and the artifact I found second most-impressive, the curtains. THE CURTAINS. Which read out the lyrics and music to "Your Cheating Heart." How do I not already have a set of these in my home?

Hoping not to squander my last vacation meal of excess at a fast food joint, yet burning with hunger, I read in the Hank Williams Trail brochure about a hot dog stand in Montgomery, Alabama. Hank Sr. used to frequent as a denizen of that city in the 1940's, it had been in operation since the 'teens, and it was still family owned, after all those years! A winning combination, in my book. Chris's Hot Dogs, we're comin' for ya!

Could it have a cuter entrance? The stone plus the awning reminded me of some sixties' hole in the wall cocktail lounge.

The front of the store had 1920's grocery style shelving, packed with convenience store items like candy bars and potato chips, which you could buy at the counter along with your chili items.

The dine-in area was a skinny sliver of booths along a wall lined with Chris's memorabilia-- news clippings, family photos, old menus. From a framed article above where we were seated, Bab and I learned that our waitress had been with the business since the early 70's. Talk about job security!

I meant to take a picture of the dogs we ate, but I ended up having to swipe this one from their website. They were so good, and we were so hungry, I not only forgot to take pictures, but essentially forgot how to do anything but murmur "Mmmmm!" and chew. Not realizing the size of the portions, and having gobbled up our first servings, we put in a second order for a chili burger, which was extremely good, but I think I'd stick with the hot dogs next time. D-E-L-I-C-I-O-U-S.

Me sans eyeliner, sans up do, sans earrings-- only on vacation.

An annexed sort of game room just to the right of entrance boasted the Aerosmith arcade video game Revolution X (whose picture didn't turn out, but please be aware that such a thing exists) and this pinball machine, which I love. "Bad Cats" for the world.

On the wall, what I can only assume was a Hank-era, maybe later, posting of the menu and prices. I love the listing "All Kind of Beverages". Just ask! We have all kinds!

Here's a sign from the side of the road that I saw on the way down, and tried to make double sure I caught on the way home. And I did! Take a look:

Wait, what does that sign say?

"Go to Church, or the Devil Will Get You". And in case you can't tell the little sign holder guys are claws. Note his human-sized sickle! And the emphasis on his name! The lack of a sponsoring organization mentioned on the board! A perfect 10 of roadside America.

Hurray! We made it back!

As we had to stop off for food provisions before getting ALL the way home, let me show you what greeted us back as we stepped in the door of our neighborhood Kroger:

Cease and desist? Anybody? Anybody? I love his erlenmeyer flask of milk. Nice touch.

So, anyway, that wraps up this far-too-epic retelling of our summer vacation 2011. I hope if you're ever headed down Alabama-ways, the knowledge of the existence of these attractions will be of help to you. Did you go anywhere awesome this summer? Any kitsch must-see's from the vacation slides? Do let a girl know.


  1. Oh my, I just about burst with joy when I saw that Hank Williams story quilt. Like, I want to track down the artist and commission them to make me one. And then, the curtains! Wow!! All in all, looks like you had a really wonderful vacation.

  2. Holy stars and garters! Those curtains! We must find a source! Or get someone to screenprint some fabric. My god, glorious. That seafood head guy is beautiful and creepy all at once. And I'm glad that you got a shot of Cookie Monster! I keep forgetting when I go in there. He's the best. I've about decided to never go into that Kroger without a camera. The goods in the bakery dept. alone are usually photo worthy.

  3. I love your vacation, thanks for taking us with! If I had to point out everything I like about it, this would become a really long comment, so let's just say: everything! Except maybe the roll flinging, as I am scared of objects moving towards me at high speed... Have a great weekend!

  4. My goodness! You gave such a thorough and entertaining ride-along to your vacation that I feel like I was a stowaway in your trunk. I am absolutely in love with the "seafood" sign. It is now my computer's wallpaper. I may have to make some stickers of Mr. Business Fish head guy to post around my town. It is too good not to share! I am so endeared by the crayfish hanging off of head and his big fish head. Gosh! You do such a wonderful job retelling your adventures. Thanks so much for taking us along for the ride :-)

  5. I had no idea! that's neat to hear! thanks for telling me! it's such a unique piece... i just love it! :) I just became your newest follower, dear!

    love, polly :D

  6. that sounds like my kind of vacation! that "go to church" sign is the best thing i've ever seen :)



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