SIXTY DAYS ON THE ROAD
WITH ED & LULU SCUMWAFFLE:
AN INTELLECTUAL-CORNBALL TRAVEL JOURNEY!
(aka Logan R.R. Perkins)
[Editor's Note: Ed and Lulu went on a big adventure. On the way they recorded some of their conversations. When they finally arrived back home, they looked at their notes and relived each day. What follows are the combined transcripts from the road tapes and from the tapes they made soon after they returned from their odyssey.]
Friday, September 25, 1998.
Lulu: On this day we landed at Denver's outlying tent airport, DIA, and took the most expensive cab ride I've ever taken, to the Bowell's house in Golden, Colorado. Days before we were contacted by an estate attorney who indicated there was a sizable inheritance coming to us...and an old pick-up truck.
Clank, clank, clank, crink. Urnck...[sounds of old truck]
"This beast doesn't want to start, Ed."
"It better start...this beast was built Ford tuff in 1966."
"Hi Ed, hi Lulu. Sounds like you may need a jump, aye."
"Thanks Duke, good to see you. Harvey told us you took care of this old Ford."
"Well, I start it up now and then, and we used it last year to clear the contents out of Henry's old Buffalo Creek lodge after he died."
"Did you empty the lodge?"
"Oh no, just Henry's personals, clothes, letters, not the pool table, piano, guns or fishing gear."
"What's going to happen with the lodge?"
"Henry left it to Harvey. I don't know what Harvey wants to do with it. He's on the road so much with work that I bet he hasn't been there in two years."
"Duke, how's the fishing up there?"
"Bad news on that front. Some disease has wiped out 90 percent of trout stocks in the past year. I don't even fish anymore."
Lulu: Henry & Hillary Bowells were seasonal customers of our Boogie Woogie Bar and Dew-Drop Inn, near Boone, North Carolina, in beautiful Watauga county. Harvey is their 42-year old son who also visited us on occasion. Anyway, Henry died of a ruptured brain aneurysm last spring. Now his beloved wife, Hillary, has also passed away.
Ed: Hillary's death was abominable. First she had severe swelling and breakage of blood cells as a result of using diluted albumin, a drug to increase blood proteins. The doctors should have known this drug has risks for the elderly. Later, they give her a new drug to lower her blood pressure, she had a nervous reaction and died. Just like that. The doctors called the death the result of an allergic reaction to prescribed medications. This is bogus.
Lulu: Chill Ed.
Ed: The faulty law says that hospitals and doctors aren't required to inform patients of the dangers of drugs. Around 100,000 patients have adverse reactions to drugs and die each year.
Harvey should file a malpractice suit. This death was preventable.
Lulu: Anyway, Duke, the estate manager for Hillary Bowells, gave us a jump and the beast started right up. Duke inquired as to whether I knew how to drive a two-on-the-column shift. Duke looked worried. Men with serious balding strike me as the worried, nervous types. Both Duke and Ed have serious balding.
Without so much as a grind, I slid the truck into first and zipped passed the men and crowds on the estate lawn and out to the gravel driveway where I proceeded to spin the big back wheels to create a little dust storm. I yelled "yee-haa" from the window.
When I came back, proud as a peacock, Ed scolded me for my antics. He reminded me that this was a sad occasion, that our close friends Henry, and now Hillary, were dead. He said that the people gathered here were offended by my liveliness. I couldn't tell. I reminded Ed and Duke that Hillary and Henry would want people to be happy, just as they were throughout their lives. The reality is that Henry was wild as a Fishercat.
Ed: No one knows what a Fishercat is Lulu.
Lulu: Some will, and those that don't will be told when we reach Maine. Anyway, we missed the funeral and were now at the sorting of the booty, so to speak. The Bowells owned a 5 bedroom home with guest house over the garage on many acres. While impressive in size the area struck me as barren, devoid of trees.
Ed: Lulu, Golden is in the foothills of Colorado, the end of the plains. The trees are in the mountains and along creeks.
Lulu: Well, what about all those big trees in Denver?
Ed: Most were planted by the earliest settlers after gold was reported along the Platte River.
Lulu: Well, maybe they should plant some more trees up around Golden so the big box houses don't stand out like sore thumbs.
We departed Golden, driving towards downtown Denver to Harvey Bowells loft. Like his father, Harvey is making money from the job placement industry: corporate headhunters. He wasn't at this booty dividing event because of a day trip to Detroit to place some bigwig CFO. The funeral was over and for Harvey it was time to get on with the life of headhunting. Ironic, isn't it? His daddy dies and he's out headhunting! He planned to fly in that evening and meet us at his loft.
Ed insisted on driving though he has little experience with any standard shifting, and this 1966 Ford F-100 with its 352 engine requires experience to be handled smoothly.
Ed: Lulu, I have far more driving experience than you do.
Lulu: Yeah, with limos on highways, not with manual shifters on dirt roads.
Ed: While Ford tuff I'll agree it is a beast. First, the truck sputters when traveling over 40 mph. Second, there's one headlight aimed directly at oncoming drivers. Also, the radio is useless.
From Golden we immediately got on the gazillion-lane interstate 70 where everyone is passing us at 70 mph. On Friday nights people have agendas. Lulu and I were slowing progress. Mind you, I know what its like to need to get places on time. Among other positions, I was a chauffeur for a Congressman for years.
We followed the exit towards Coors Stadium. The truck shakes when shifting from first to second gear. We make it to the specified neighborhood and there's no free parking. The streets are wide but the one-ways and cowboy driving mentality were getting me irritated. Lulu gets real hot in traffic and reached over me to honk the horn at some lost soul. Duke gave us a key and instructions on how to get in Harvey's loft, but no information on where to park. Wow...talk about a hassle. We find a meter, but it runs till midnight, and restarts at 8am, meaning I had to wake up early Saturday morning to feed a meter.
We get to this loft building entrance but the instructions tell us to use the back entrance for vehicles. We walk to the back and there's this pole coming out the ground in front of the gate with a little security entry pad..
Cars are to pull up, enter the magic numbers 5767, and the pound key, and the gate should swing open. I try twice but I don't hear a beep after pressing the pound key as I do with the numbers. Lulu tries, gets angry, and tells me to get on her shoulders and climb over the 6' chain-link fence. I refuse, at first, but succumb after five minutes of trying to enter the number code. I let her give me a leg lift. Now picture this: Here's Lulu, 5'10 ½", long bright orange hair with Pipi Longstockings style pigtails. She's lifting me, a 52-year old, 5'4 ½", portly, significantly balding, gentleman in a business suit, over this fence when a utility truck drives up to the entry pole.
I make it over the fence with little grace, nearly ripping my leg and pants on the top of the fence as this truck's headlights shine on me. Lulu simply stares at the headlights. I see two bewildered men in the front seat, speechless, gazing from Lulu to me. The lights shine off Lulu's glasses and her mouth was open with dropped jaw as the men stared back, entered some numbers, and got the gate to open. I wanted this moment to go by quickly but the gate opened ever so slowly.
Lulu: That's nothing. We go into this building that used to be an old sugar beet machinery factory, pretty cool with artwork in the atrium, and we go to this loft door and go inside. There's this little dog, I still can't remember what type it is, and it runs up to me. Immediately I kick it away as it stands up and puts it's little cold paws on my leg. It's shaking like a vibrator with teeth. I t runs to Ed, who encourages it to visit. Big mistake!
"Here poochie, poochie," says Ed in some baby talk fashion. "You're all lonely haw? Good to see some warm bodies, haw?"
Well, then it happens, the mutt pees right on Ed's nice wool pants and on his black shoes and socks. I could'a busted a rib laughing so hard.
Ed: When Harvey gets home he finds me in the bathroom, hand washing my clothes. Lulu is on the couch nursing a bottle of 1993 Domaine de Trevallon red wine. I told her not to open it, to wait for Harvey, but she wouldn't wait.
"Well, glad to see you made it in Ed, Lulu. Looks like you found some good wine, Lulu."
"It tastes good Harvey, hope you didn't mind me opening it."
"No, not at all, make yourselves at home. What's going on Ed?"
Lulu proceeds to relate the story of both the dog and the fence climb.
"Yeah, you have to press the pound key really hard."
"Harvey, I'm real sorry about your mother."
"You know Ed, she went relatively quickly." Harvey pauses. "In fact, it seemed like a really minor blood flow issue till Duke took her to the hospital, then it all went downhill, quickly."
Lulu: Ed carried on with Harvey about hospital malpractice, etc., while I scanned the cable channels. The news is talking about sending old man Glenn back to space.
"I hope I'm in half as good a shape as John Glenn when I'm seventy-something," says Harvey. "You folks are about to embark on a hellova big journey. You must have enormous confidence in your staff."
"Hardly," refutes Lulu. "Lydia will probably walk out as soon as we fly to Europe, but before then she will most likely cut Agatha's or Ernestine's throat."
"Oh Lulu," Ed retorts. "Things will work out fine."
"You had some fine employees a few years ago," comments Harvey. "Are there new ones now?"
"Oh yeah," Ed responds. "We hire and fire every year or so. For many in the hospitality businesses weekly turnovers are common. We try to treat the staff with compassion and respect to keep them a little longer. Some have been with us for years."
"How are your new employees?"
"Well..." starts Ed. "Lydia, our chief cook, is a bit high strung, and Ernestine, the assistant cook and waitress, is a bit timid. Elizabeth is our bartender, Sunday brunch waitstaff, and does the paperwork and banking when we're not around or Johnson is off. You've probably met her. Additionally, she is sometimes supplemented by a dizzy blond named Agatha. Our staff manager and sometime bartender, Johnson, does a fair job at keeping everything under control. He's been with us for nine months. Two ladies from El Salvador clean the hotel rooms and the restaurant in the morning hours."
"Johnson is a spineless imph," comments Lulu. "And Lydia has already threatened to sock him if he gives her any grief, which he undoubtedly will. Additionally, he forgot to place an advance order for the Christmas kegs, and if we miss getting some Bluegrass Brewing Company Bearded Pat's Barley Wine, from Louisville, I'm gonna clobber him, as will various customers."
"Did you see I have some Coors' Winterfest in the fridge," remarks Harvey.
"Lulu doesn't do Coors, Buttwiper , Miller, or any major domestic brewery's products."
"I'll drink some Sam Adams brews, or Pete's Winter Warmer," Lulu retorts.
"Oh lord, Harvey. The other day she brought home a bottle of this Samuel Adams' Triple Bock. I think it's the strongest beer in the world. I had two sips and that was enough."
"It's a cask conditioned, 14-18% alcohol, strong bock, to be sipped at the end of an evening."
"Lulu, you were drinking it at noon!"
"It was a sample from the rep to see if we wanted to carry it."
"I hope you said no."
"Hell no, I ordered a case. We can sell it at $7 a bottle, little bottles mind you. People like specialty ales you know. It has a cork. Plus, tis' the season to get jolly."
"Lulu, you're jolly year round."
"Yeah, I am, but some of our customers need a little extra mind liberator."
Ed: Lulu and I went on for quite some time with no regard to Harvey's presence. Finally I apologized for our rambling, but he claimed to be quite amused and enjoyed it. After his mother's death Harvey needed folks like Lulu and I to cheer him up.
Harvey had come out to our Bar and Inn a few times over the years with his dad, most recently two years ago. Daddy Henry was ill these last few years and hadn't been out to see us. They used to rent a cabin near Seven Devils, NC, or they would stay at the Inn. We didn't know Henry's wealth, nor did we have a clue that we would be included in his will. He has lots of relatives and organizations he's associated with, giving money to us was quite unexpected, especially the amount.
"So," Harvey chuckles, " Henry left you the old Ford."
"Yeah," says Lulu, "but I'm not so sure we're gonna be able to make the trip with it. It's a beast!"
"Lulu, don't say that..."
"When Ed drives the truck shakes at 35 mph, it shutters when switching gears, and there's only a bad AM radio, no cassette deck or nuthin."
"Lulu and Ed," Harvey calmly responds, "I understand you were planning to take 'the beast' from here back to Boone via Maine! Is that right?"
"Yes," responds Ed. "We're going to see the fall colors. And after we drive the truck back to Boone. Then we will catch a lift with our senior employee, Larry, to New Orleans, then fly to Europe."
"Oh yeah, you mentioned that. A whole Month?"
"Yes, And then fly back from Europe to New Orleans and catch a lift with Lindy and Merle Jenkins in their RV back to Denver to catch the return leg of our flight back home by Christmas."
"Ed, you're insane."
"Well, this all may change. We may have to skedaddle back home way before then to tend shop. Lydia is a real worry. When she's PMSing, I don't even go into the kitchen. She uses large knives back there to chop meat. It could be a bad scene."
Saturday, Sept. 26.
Ed: Harvey has a nice loft, nearly 2,000 sq. ft., on the edge of LoDo (Lower Downtown, Denver). He has been single since a divorce many years ago. He's been pretty dedicated to making money all his life and only fantasizes about the life Lulu and I live. He once commented about buying our business, but then he argued to himself that he would get antsy, cabin fever, irritated with the local hillbillies.
Lulu: The fact is his personality doesn't lend itself to Appalachian hickfolk mannerisms. In the hicks there's weary little conversation about how stocks and international oil markets are doing.
Ed: Harvey suggested we all go to breakfast so we headed out to the parking lot. After driving through the gate in Harvey's Lexus we noticed 'the beast' had a flat. Before Lulu had a chance to vent her opinion of the travel worthiness of the truck, Harvey made us a most gracious offer. He mentioned that two years ago Henry had bought Hillary a Subaru Forester for local errands. Harvey inherited this vehicle and it was temporarily parked at his work. Harvey said that he had no need for the Subaru and was having difficulty deciding where to park it. Parking spaces in LoDo cost big bucks. Additionally, after two years, it had less than 3,000 miles on it, so few that it's bad for the engine. "It needs to be driven...why don't you take it?" insisted Harvey. Well, we could hardly say no.
After a nice breakfast at Racine's restaurant, Lulu and I put the spare tire on and drove to the upscale Cherry Creek neighborhood to a Sears auto repair place. From here I knew I could look for some clothes. Lulu wanted to go to the only blue collar bar in the neighborhood, the Cherry Cricket.
Lulu: The Cricket has many good beers on tap, including some west coast micro breweries.
Ed: The Sears man said he could repair the flat in about two hours. They were overloaded with work. I said fine and dragged Lulu to the fancy mall. Lulu starts to spazz.
Lulu: Look, malls suck. I didn't move to the boonies of North Carolina to be near traffic and fussy shops. These malls all look the same, same shops, same lighting, same happy-faced drone workers.
Ed: The Cherry Creek Mall is very upscale, well maintained, nice accents with brass railings, marble floors, a grocery on the edge, and it borders a creek with a bike path. The streets nearby are filled with small shops and galleries, restaurants and coffeehouses.
Lulu: It's yuppieville. When Ed headed for Needless Markup [Neiman Marcus], I headed for the Cricket and some Octoberfest. After two hours Ed appears with a large package. He bought a so-called traveller's backpack from some mall chain. I was embarrassed when he pulled it out at the Cricket, interrupting my conversation with two young men about the specific gravity of pale ales.
Ed: I tried to tell her how important it is to have luggage that is transportable on planes, trains, and up narrow stairways in Europe.
"It's ugly and unbecoming for you, Ed, especially since you always wear a grey business suit. I'm taking ol' Smiley," Lulu insists.
"Lulu, that suitcase is unpractical, out-of-style, round, and, well..."
"You cannot tell me a happy smile is out-of-style. This suitcase accompanied me to Maine and New Orleans. It has little wheels and a tow leash. I'll be fashionable in Paris!"
Ed: After 2 ½ hours we head to Sears and see a man drive the truck into the garage. I assure Lulu that it will only take 15 more minutes. It actually takes another 1 ½ hours, costs $15, and they don't secure the spare tire back in its appropriate place. There are 10 other upset customers in front of the counter. Of the many problems with automobiles, dealing with repairmen must be one of the most excruciating on the nerves. Lulu asked the cashier if he got his customer service skills in a locker room.
Sunday, Sept. 27.
Ed: This was our last full day in Colorado. We drove to Colorado Springs to see family members of my former employer whom I'll call Congressman X. I worked for X for almost 14 years. I can't tell his real name for various reasons, including because events with him would be too embarrassing to his family if made public. We went through great times and hell. Most of the time with X I monitored current events with respect to upcoming bills, and in later years, I was his personal assistant and chauffeur. After years on Capital Hill I couldn't stand the power trips, superficiality, lack of moral fortitude, and power of special interest groups.
During the 14 years with X I became close with many of his relatives, especially with his wife and children. His brother managed a telemarketing firm and his sister-in-law worked as a tax assessor. They are in their sixties now, retired, and in their own words, 'living the good life.'
Lulu: I knew I shouldn't be going to these folks house 10 miles outside of Colorado Springs. I'm fooling around with the Subaru Forester's FM radio, searching the lower end of the dial, where the community radio stations are always found.
There was a station playing some Don Byron, hip-hop political jazz-funk stuff. Pretty cool, but the reception was bad, so I turn slightly and found some Friends of the Baby Jesus station ranting about our sins. A little further down there was another Christian radio station playing heavy metal songs dedicated to the Virgin Mary. There was the usual classical station and then a second cool signal from a college station playing the Dead.
So I'm saying to myself: 'Self, there's an underground scene in Colorado Springs, probably downtown.' I also know of at least two brewpubs worth visiting, including the Phantom Canyon which I hear makes a great hefe-weizen and beer and gouda cheese soup. But noooo, Ed has to drag us to another suburban mansion to sip Chianti and nibble on crackers and salmon with soft cheese and olives.
Ed: You loved those olives.
Lulu: The Chianti wasn't bad either. Well, we stayed and the boys chatted Washington politics while this prissy wife tried to find something to interest me.
"Would you like to tour the house, Lulu," she asks.
"Not really, I'm waiting for one of these men to blatantly call Clinton a sleezebomb."
"Lulu, take a walk," Ed encourages.
Lulu: Mrs. Prissy shows me her living room and little decorated Russian egg collection. Then she shows me the paintings that once hung in Congressman X's office in Washington. Then we go to the basement where there is a large collection of gym equipment, toy trains, and an alter with a wax statue of Jesus hanging from a cross.
"So," I ask, "Are you ever gonna light this candle? Looks like it could burn for a looong time!"
Lulu: Well, Mrs. Prissy, whom I thereafter thought of as Mrs. Prissy-Bitch, was aghast at my comment. Her mouth and jaw dropped. She looked even smaller and older and dreader than her 5'2" frame did as I greeted her at the door. I felt she looked down at me then, and now she was appalled. Didn't bother me, I asked for the rest of the tour, and some more Chianti.
Monday, Sept. 28.
Ed: We finally get on the road. I'm driving, heading due east for Kansas City. Lulu starts complaining within 15 minutes of leaving the furthest Denver suburb.
"It can't be that far to Kansas, right? And Kansas will offer something more than these endless plain rolling hills, right?"
"Wrong on both counts, Lulu. It's nearly three hours to the Kansas border, and nearly six more to Kansas City. The terrain will vary only slightly from the rolling grass and wheat fields we see now. This is the land of struggling farmers providing the bread on our tables. As we drive by keep in mind that many farmers are getting the same wage, calculating for inflation, that they were paid in the early 1980's. Corn in September sold at less than $1.60 a bushel, a price not seen since the early 1970s. Sadly, it's the family farmer and migrant workers who suffer the most, not the consortiums that own the huge corporate farms. Did you know that 6 percent of farms produce 75 percent of all the vegetables and fruit in the US?"
"The sun is burning me on this side. WHY, are we going to Kansas City? Why do you know the price of corn? Should I start drinking now?"
"It's nine in the morning Lulu. If you start drinking I'll have to pull over for you to pee every half hour. Relax. Enjoy the peaceful surroundings. Be happy we've left the crazy Monday morning traffic. Read the paper for me please."
"This is last week's paper. It's talking about how moderate politicians need to get off the fence and become extremists to get re-elected. There's a former wrestler in Minnesota running for governor.
Here's an article saying the population will reach 8.9 billion by 2050, lower than previously projected by the UN because of deaths from AIDS. India will have more people than China, and the US will still be in 3rd place."
Lulu: Ed sat silently for a long time after my summations. After working for so long with Congressman X, I think he has learned to think before speaking. Sometimes he gets passionately worked up, especially if I say something really unexpected. But too often he stews on a thought before speaking. I think that takes away from the spontaneity of life...its like manipulating your feelings. I put on a tape and fell asleep to the 1962 hit by Kitty Wells, "Will your Lawyer Talk to God."
When I awoke Ed was pulling into a gas station in Burlington, Colorado, only 12 miles to the Kansas border. Further down the road I'm grasping to find a silver lining in traveling across Kansas. I get excited by billboards to see the world's largest prairie dog and a five legged cow. Ed refuses to stop. Nor would he drive to Cawker City to see the world's second largest twine ball.
We saw signs for Russell, Kansas, "Home of Bob Dole." We both gagged as we drove on. Ed informs me that Elizabeth Dole might run for President.
By time we hit Salina in central Kansas I demand we stop to stretch and eat pistachio ice cream. I've been melting by sitting on the south side of the car this whole trip, and I notice Ed still has his jacket and tie on.
Finally we hit a stretch with some varied vegetation, rocks, trees, semblances of civilization. And guess what? We have to pay a toll. It's like you have to pay to leave the dull, monotonous scenery of KS!
Ed: My perception of the drive is that it went smoothly. The Subaru works much nicer than the old Ford beast we had planned to take. As a former paid driver who has criss-crossed the eastern seaboard in a Lincoln Town Car, this stretch was actually relaxing. A good warmer-upper for things to come. It's a very peaceful drive. Except for some road construction, there were no stops. While rather plain, the terrain did allow me to see far ahead and therefore go 85 mph or so with no worries. Additionally, starting from when Lulu fell asleep, I slipped on some tapes of Archie Shepp, Horace Silver, Nina Simone, and other classic jazz stars. Lulu eventually woke up and started ranting.
"That Nina Simone is slow, and spooky. She needs to lighten up, go to Ft. Lauderdale for a Spring fling or something."
"In traveling, its good to adjust one's mind to enjoy the journey as much as the destination...to live in the here-and-now. Melodic jazz can help."
"Bloody Marys and microbrews help. Why are we going to Kansas City?"
"My purpose for visiting Kansas City is two-fold. First, I want to see the revitalization of the River front area. And second, I wanted to see the country's first outlying shopping mall, Country Club Plaza."
"I want a good beer and Bar-B-Q."
Ed: Neither of us had ventured beyond I-70 in Kansas City. Half of Kansas City is in Missouri, including the bulk of where we explored. We drove through the downtown past Crown Center, a nice example of City Council sponsored, mixed-use development. At American University in Washington, DC, I received my self-designed masters in Urban Social Affairs, and studied the effect that Hallmark Cards corporation had on the development of this complex, and the effects it had on the inner city. It was nice to see the actual site. Next, we drove to an old section with an active outdoor market, City Market.
Lulu: Yeah, its called Riverwalk, or something like that, and it's really not that close to the river, and the outdoor market had only two produce sellers. It was boring. We walked over some railroad tracts, determined to see the river. We saw it from a distance and couldn't easily get down to it. If you're not on the river, don't call the neighborhood River anything. Fortunately, I found Riverwalk Brewery and dragged Ed in for a sample. It was good.
Ed: I felt there was enormous development potential along the riverfront. There are beautiful locations to overlook the existing Riverfront Park and the Missouri River.
We left and saw in the downtown where they have a green square above an underground parking garage, similar to one in Boston. It is a good example of beautification of an otherwise drab rooftop.
Lulu: Usually we try to eat at mom and pop restaurants instead of chains. Unfortunately, many little quaint places are greasy spoons with few insights into customer service. One wonders how they survive.
Ed: The place we ate at, Jake Edwards Bar B-Q wasn't bad, but not exceptional. It shows what happens when your expectations are high. I mean, Kansas City Bar B-Q is famous nationwide. We skipped the well advertised chains to try something on the back streets, and it was, well, O.K.
Lulu: Not worth driving across Kansas for.
Ed: So we drove southwest back into Kansas towards the suburbs looking for a safe, cheap motel. Way out yonder in the homogeneous burbs we stopped into three look-alike chains. Not a mom and pop in site. We settle for the cheapest, a Days Inn for $53. More exciting, we found a place that specializes in custards. I got vanilla.
Lulu: In the hotel Ed opened a bottle of 95' Bodegas Montecillo Rioja, from Spain. I had some Flying Dog Tire Biter ale, from Denver. This beer won the silver at the Great American Beer Fest as a Kolsch-style beer. We watched the 1964 film, 'The Naked Kiss.' In the movie the cop says, "I'm pretty good at popping the cork if the vintage is right." Hot stuff.
Tuesday, Sept. 29.
Ed: We find ourselves at a St. Louis Bread Company store where we have some delicious goodies. Lulu gets a coffee; I don't like coffee. What I did like was the statues throughout the backstreets and neighborhoods, and the way there's this one straight street, State Line Rd., that divides Kansas from Missouri.
Lulu: Put it this way: If I don't get my coffee or some other significant source of caffeine, I'm gonna bitch. I'll probably fuss and pretend to be miserable, period.
Ed: We head to Country Club Plaza, the concept of real estate developer Jesse Clyde Nichols. Around 1906 he organized the development of a 5000 acre community with the first suburban shopping plaza. At the time this was a novel concept and many thought he would fail. People's increasing dependence on automobiles made this and future shopping complexes succeed. I was so pleased to finally see it up close. Unfortunately, we never found a parking space and most of the stores were chains I've seen elsewhere. So we drove around, admired the fountains and architecture, and crossed bridges over the Brush creek a few times.
Compared to Cherry Creek in Denver, or, say, Coral Gables outside of Miami, Country Club Plaza may not seem so unique. But, and this is a big but, Country Club was designed with statues, fountains, and Spanish architecture. The automobile space and people space were given equal aesthetic prioritization.
Lulu: Ed, what are you gabbing about?
Ed: Compared to later suburban shopping complexes, this one was better designed for the pedestrian in an urban setting. It's fun to walk around the streets. It's not one enclosed mall surrounded by a sea of parking. It blends with the surrounding neighborhoods and encourages people of all walks of life to explore and enjoy.
Lulu: Yeah, to bad we couldn't even park! So, we leave this early shoppers heaven and drive through various poor neighborhoods till we find I-70 heading east. Outta there. Go east wild women.
Ed: My plan was to head to Wildwood, Missouri. Years ago this community went to the state Supreme Court to become incorporated and adopt 'New Urbanist' planning ideals. We didn't make it there. Instead we ended up at a fireworks stand outside Columbia, Missouri, and then some isolated lake to eat a Dairy Queen lunch.
Lulu: I wanted to go to Point Lookout, Missouri, to see Granny's rocker and the original Beverly Hillbillies car at The Ralph Foster Museum.
Ed: About this time Lulu started playing this cassette speech by Terence McKenna called 'Global Perspectives and Psychedelic Poetics.' McKenna makes a pretty good case of why the use of natural psychedelics, like mushrooms, could help men release their aggressive tendencies and egos. It was an intriguing proposition.
Lulu: By evening we hit St. Louis, Missouri. Yahoo, it took no time to cross that Missouri. So much more to see than Kansas. Did I mention that driving across Kansas was BORING? So, Ed has some gay friends near the gorgeous St. Louis Cathedral basilica.
Ed: The Cathedral has the largest collection of mosaics in the world, made from 41 million pieces and covering 83,000 square feet.
Lulu: These two buds, Joel and Hula, have this pad right near Dressel's Welsh pub. I dragged us all there for a Welsh bitter and some walleye. Yahoo!
Ed: Joel and Hemphrey, not Hula, live in an exquisite high-rise near Forest Park. Joel works for a large interior design firm...
Lulu: Ed, these boys are queer. They raise exotic birds in the spare bedroom. Ed and I were placed in the living room with a large Doberman. Hula was playing a Neil Diamond album. I knew right then that this was no vacation, it was one of Ed's special excursions into bizarre occurrences. He said we'd see fall colors and put our toes in warm waters. I was on the floor being eyed by a Doberman.
Wednesday, Sept. 30, 1998.
"I can really see enormous potential for St. Louis," Ed says while driving downtown with Joel. "First, they have to ban suburban sprawl and preserve the remaining farms, woodlands, historic places, and wildlife migratory routes. Then they need to invest in their inner city the way Portland has. There's some absolutely beautiful Victorian buildings and empty lots throughout the inner city begging for renovation and beautification."
"It looks like slums to me," said Lulu.
"Oh no, Lulu. Look at that boarded up four-story Victorian house. On both sides there are empty lots. Within a mile is the Trans World Dome. Down the street are some small businesses and a sizable population living in mixed-use buildings, townhouses, renovated condos and hip shops. This place has enormous potential."
Lulu: While letting my fingers do the walking in the yellow pages the night before at Joel and Hula's, I found the Morgan Street Brewery which is located in the old section, across from a Wax museum and near the Arch, which happened to be closed because of a recent fire in one of the maintenance rooms. I dragged Joel and Ed there.
Joel rambled about personal problems with Hula while Ed and I pigged out. Real good beer, yahoo! We bought some of the unfiltered wheat beer to go. I knew we'd be visiting relatives soon and didn't wanna go in empty handed, or end up being served pee-pee beer by unsavy hosts. Dig?
Ed: Yeah, well, so we end up crossing Illinois without stopping, listening to a tape of the Peruvian Diva, Susana Baca, and the Zydeco cutie Rosie Ledet.
Lulu: I informed Ed that at Collinsville, Illinois, is the world's largest Catsup bottle. Collinsville is also considered the horseradish capital of the world! Ed showed no interest.
Ed: After driving in Indiana for a while we both got excited by seeing a sign for Brazil. We found the place and got gas. Then things started to get interesting. I thought I was making an easy loop back to the interstate but ended up on dirt roads in the middle of some gorgeous countryside. Within an hour we crossed our first covered bridge. Then another.
Lulu: We went through tiny, little towns that aren't listed on our maps, like Ferndale and Clinton Falls. Only a few trees were showing signs of fall colors, but it was still beautiful countryside. It's said that Indiana has more covered bridges than any other state. Ed had me pose in front of one, but I turned around and mooned him. Bet that shot will go up above the bar, aye Ed?
Ed: The sun set and we ended up in a little college town called Greencastle. That night we walked around the DePauw University campus, stopping into the student union and eating amongst the students. I reflected upon my undergraduate years with nostalgia.
Lulu: I feeded on a rubbery hamburger and greasy fries with a chocolate milkshake. Cheap and good, though the burger was rather cold. Did you know that the highest cholesterol foods are beef and pork brains, followed by eggs and sweetbreads, liver and spleen?
Thursday, Oct. 1, 1998.
Ed: Lulu has this obsession of saying "Rabbit, Rabbit, Rabbit" at the beginning of each month to give her good luck. I always forget and she reminds me later in the month that some hardship is related to my omission. In early September I was on a dirt road near the Appalachian Trail in Tennessee. I'd been shooting some photos of the few remaining wildflowers in a small open field when a storm came up suddenly. I rushed to the car, getting soaked along the way. After drying off, changing to my spare shirt and socks, I started to drive away. After driving 50 feet my front passenger side tire became flat. The rain was coming down fairly hard, and it was cold at our nearly 4,000 foot elevation. Despite having just changed I got out and scrambled for the jack and spare and fixed my tire. I was half an hour late for work, quite unusual, and Lulu was fretting...not because she worried for me, mind you, but because she was to get off and head to Greensboro for some concert. I had no way to contact her. Lulu and I refuse to buy cell phones, beepers, or even to wear watches.
Lulu: We don't have no nose, belly, or scrotum rings either!
Ed: So I couldn't call and forewarn that I'd be late. There are no phones near where I was hiking. When I arrived at the Boogie Woogie Bar she was furious. After I explained my troubles, evidenced by my wet clothes, she pondered a second and reminded me of forgetting to say "Rabbit, Rabbit, Rabbit."
Lulu: Well fortunately we both said it that October morning.
Ed: Yes, and the breakfast at Kristy's Café, somewhere SW of Indianapolis on Highway 40, wasn't bad. What was bad is the Rand McNally's 'Scenic Route' designation. We often look for the little green dots on maps that indicate something more special than monotonous interstates. Sometimes those 'Scenic Routes' are filled with the standard commercial schlock...
Lulu: Fast food and fast lube, sex shops that are crude, big box stores that are a bore, do I need to describe more?
Ed: Uh...thanks Lulu. My plan was to see downtown Indianapolis, including Purdue U. and Market Square. Well, I was driving and Lulu was directing.
Lulu: Don't go there.
Ed: We ended up bypassing Indianapolis via their beltway.
Lulu: The signs were real screwy.
Ed: I missed everything and by time she figured out what had happened we were on the other side of the city.
Lulu: I offered to turn back.
Ed: I was so frustrated that I lost my interest. I just wanted to keep going. So we got back on Highway 40 to rediscover that it should not be called 'Scenic' within 10 miles of either side of the beltway outside Indianapolis.
Lulu: Life started improving mightily when we crossed into Ohio.
Ed: We were heading towards Oxford, home of the infamous Miami University. A good buddy of mine at American University had gotten his Bachelor's degree from Miami. For months after I met him I thought he was talking about Florida. One day he talked about sledding down a hill on campus and I became confused.
Lulu: I was happy cause we picked up a non-commercial radio station playing bluegrass, some Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver.
Ed: There was also a station on the left end of the dial playing popular music from the 40's, stuff like Skinnay Ennis, "Got a Date With an Angel," Earl Hines with "Stormy Monday Blues," and Benny Goodman's "Gotta Be This or That."
Lulu: I wanted to hear the bluegrass station but Ed promised a stop at a brewpub, and, things improved again when his station played The Andrews Sisters' "Rum and Coca-Cola." Unfortunately, Oxford, Ohio, has no brewpub.
Ed: The campus was rather nice, spread out. Some of the dorms were pleasantly located in the woods. A creek with mountain bike trails touched the campus. There was a small formal garden.
Lulu: In other words, its like, after an hour we had seen it all...been there, done that, outta there.
Ed: Our next stop was Greenhills, Ohio. Ten miles north of Cincinnati is this 6,000 acre New-Deal development from the Roosevelt Administration. In the early 1930s, Dr. Rexford Guy Tugwell of Columbia University envisioned towns to combine the best of city and country life for the working poor and industry. Greenhills. Greenbelt, Maryland, and some Green place in Wisconsin are the only master planned new towns that warrant mentioning.
Lulu: There's nothing worth mentioning about Greenhills.
Ed: Though Greenhills may look like your standard suburban community, there are differences. The whole community is surrounded by woods. The main road cutting through has busses leading to downtown Cincinnati. Most residents could walk to the bus stops. Many people's backyards have a large common park area, free of cars. And, there's a large recreational facility with a restaurant and golf course. Residents can also walk to a central grocery, bank, school and some shops. We found a public phone and tried to get the number of a friend of Lulu's from India whom now lives in Covington, Kentucky.
With Congressman X we once looked into the accuracy of long-distance information services since the breakup of Ma Bell. A study on one such company found their information inaccurate 80% of the time. Our call to information services cost us $1.40 and then they gave us the wrong number. I'm convinced the phone service has gotten worse over the past few years.
Lulu: It's awful! So I get us outta there and get us lost in Cincinnati during rush hour. There are some beautiful houses and neighborhoods in Cincinnati, especially near the University and on the east side. We also drove up to the top of some hill overlooking the Ohio River, with Kentucky on the other side. Ed starts chatting with this little lady with a baby and she tells of how five generations of her family have lived on this hill that is now filled with yuppies and artsy-fartsy folks and she can't afford to live there anymore and there's no parking and no longer a market and that there's no reason to go downtown because of crack houses and no reason to go to Kentucky because of whorehouses. We leave.
Ed: We're driving east, maybe on Erie or Madison road, and we see one of the most unusual houses I've ever seen.
Lulu: Sitting on a corner lot, it looks kinda of like an unfinished Polynesian/Tiki flying saucer covered with black tar sheets and round windows.
Ed: There's a winding metal sculptured staircase with round steps leading up to a bright blue door. There's glass and tiles and wood shingles and sunflowers in the yard.
Lulu: Don't forget the Hindu temple emblem on the chimney.
Ed: What I won't forget is the beer store right down the street. We're driving along and Lulu screams to make a u-turn. I comply and pull up to this streetside beer sales joint. You can't go in this place. You stand on the sidewalk and just look up at this wall of beer and tell the clerks what you want and they grab it from the back room. To close shop they simply lower the garage-type door. There must have been 300 different beers on the wall; Lulu was in heaven.
Lulu: Driving on through one of the outer communities of Cincinnati we stopped at a Skyline Chili franchise to have Chili done up in a strange fashion with spaghetti. I think I tasted cinnamon in the chili.
Ed: By nightfall we arrived in Greenfield, Ohio, home of Uncle George. George lives outside this small community with 10 scraggly dogs that he allows to roam in the house, in the bathtub, across all the beds and sofas, and throughout the 50 acres of his farm and all his neighbor's farms, much to their dismay.
Lulu: Staying with George was a nightmare. It wasn't just the dogs, it was his refrigerator. All the cheese had thick mold, the milk felt solid, and there was green meat. I could'a gagged.
Ed: Since Aunt Bletchel died four years ago, Uncle George has let his farm, hygiene, and brain deteriorate. I used to love to visit him as a child because of his large collection of Halloween masks and outfits. He has a whole room filled with such. It's the only room the animals aren't allowed in, and consequently, the cleanest room in the house.
Lulu: That's not saying much. It was all disgusting...except, George gave me a gorilla mask. I could've used it while driving across Kansas.
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