Dense Blog Advisory

Lots of words, people. Lots of words.

Florida, I Have a Bone to Pick with You June 16, 2009

Is this really something to brag about?  Really?  Maybe if you're David Caruso, with nowhere else to go.

Is this really something to brag about? Really? Maybe if you're David Caruso, with nowhere else to go.

In fact, I have several.

The first: ENOUGH WITH THE ANTI-ABORTION BILLBOARDS ALREADY. I am on vacation. I do not want to be bombarded with messages about heartbeats and lima-bean shaped fetuses every freaking mile up and down the east coast. If you must advertise your religio-political beliefs via billboard, a small number will suffice. May I suggest one every 30 miles? Every 60 miles? Your advertising blitz is the equivalent of hitting someone in the head with a hammer; if it doesn’t lobotomize her, it will really piss her off.  If I weren’t pro-choice before (I was), I would be now.

The second: I HATE your toll roads. I HATE your stupid turnpike. Do you have any idea how annoying it is to have to cough up $2 and then $1.25 and then another $2 every couple of miles? At one point, we paid something like $8 or $9 at a SINGLE toll booth. This is out of control. It would be cheaper to charter a helicopter to get where I need to be. If you need money so badly, try instituting a luxury car tax. Or a bikini tax. Or just take some of the profits from the bars on South Beach that charge $25 FREAKING DOLLARS for a mojito. There is something really wrong with a system that needs to give you a toll calculator. Hint: if you have to calculate it, you can’t afford it.

The third: The Keys? SO NOT LIKE THE BAHAMAS. They’re small, they don’t have many beaches, and they’re raging tourist rip-off joints. I paid $41 dollars for lunch at a Cuban restaurant in Key West that consisted of banana chips (sold at most grocery stores), saffron rice (ditto), seasoned ground beef (hello Taco Bell), and black beans (again, grocery store). The Cuba Libre was weak, and the piped-in soundtrack was Putumayo’s Latin Groove, which I already own. SO NOT CUBAN.

We found one beach on Key West where I was able to swim in the water a bit, at the price of my newly seared corneas: someone’s grandpa wore a red/yellow/green striped Speedo that left nothing to the imagination, not even the grapefruit-sized hernia sticking out of his stomach. No one needs to see that. No one.

Back to the point about rip-off joints: I do not want to pay $24 for two adults to go into Hemingway’s house. I do not want to pay $25 per plate for two of us to have lunch. I definitely don’t want to pay $15 for a mixed drink. I don’t want to pay $7 for a skinny-ass slice of key lime pie.  I don’t want to pay $200 for the two of us to go out on a boat and fish. I don’t want to pay $150 for the two of us to parasail for ten minutes. There must have been something Hemingway loved about this place, but it’s long gone. Now it’s just Disneyland with more booze and swear words on the cheap tourist t-shirts. Nothing felt more inauthentic our whole trip.

P.S.: Where the freak do you grow the limes? I didn’t see any.

The fourth: you guys have GOT to do something about the insects. Those palmetto bugs are something else. We found one in our shower in Marathon Key, but only because of a strange wardrobe malfunction on my part. My Old Navy flip flops had gotten wet, and unbeknownst to me, were emitting a high-pitched squeak (squeal?) every time I stepped on them. Silly me, I mistook this for an insect mating call and hopped up onto the chair, screaming for P. to find the evildoer and kill it. He graciously moved the bedding, the bed, anything that could be moved in our Spartan room. No bug.  So I got down from the chair, stepped on my shoe, and heard the evil insect’s call once more.

With a shriek and a hop, I remounted the chair and told P. to check the bathroom. That’s when he found it. A palmetto bug the size of a Cuban cigar, waddling around the shower. He smashed it with the bathroom trash can, but it took a few good and heavy swats, and it didn’t completely die until he severed it in two, like that chick who gets run through by the knife-enabled chariot in Gladiator. Unfortunately for me, he left the body parts in the shower for the CSI team (me) to deal with in the morning.

When I kicked off my shoes and we stopped hearing creatures hiss at us, it dawned on him that it was my shoes and not the bugs making that hissing noise. But still…if my shoes hadn’t done that, we wouldn’t have found that bug in the shower until God knows when. Have I mentioned I hate bugs? REALLY REALLY REALLY hate bugs?

The fifth: Can you please find someone who knows how to make a stiff drink? We had a couple of drinks each at the Clevelander in South Beach; no buzz. Another night, in Hollywood, we went to the Hollywood Ale House, which had surprisingly few ale choices, and ended up deciding to get plastered on drink specials. $60 later, neither of us felt tipsy at all. In the Keys, we had Cuba Libres with our Cuban lunch in Key West and it just tasted like Coke. Whoever poured the rum must have forgotten how to count to three. Would it kill someone to give a little value to the tourist these days? What fun is vacation if you’re not drunk half the time?

Work with me, Florida.

 

Touring the Filthy South, Part I May 28, 2009

Filed under: Do Re Me,Life, Whatnot — indiakonstanze @ 7:53 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

Last week, I experienced a healthy dose of what some people refer to as “the dirty South.”  I would rather refer to it as the Onion does:  “the filthy South.” Dirty just doesn’t capture it all, because dirty things can be cleaned up. The word implies underlying cleanliness, and boy, is that wrong. “Filthy,” on the other hand, has no such connotation; it implies lasting dirt, sort of like Pigpen in Charlie Brown comics. That’s far more accurate.

We set off from Little Rock early last Saturday morning. Somewhere around Memphis, my 10-month old car received its first bullseye, which isn’t a tragedy on a regular day but on a day when PMS hormones are on the rampage, it’s the equivalent of nuclear meltdown. I fumed all the way through Mississippi and part of Alabama, until we reached our first destination: the Barber Motorsports Museum in Birmingham.

Holy crap, who knew this was in Alabama?

Holy crap, who knew this was in Alabama?

Note to those wanting to visit: eat before you go. There is no food available at this exit, and all they had inside were a few vending machines. I ate two gas station hot dogs for lunch. They were rubbery and the buns were suspiciously chewy. Also, you had to tell the cashier exactly what toppings you wanted, and she gave them to us in packets (mayo, mustard, relish, ketchup). I’m not opposed to packets, but I am opposed to estimating how many I’ll need before I even eat. It kills the joy of spontaneous consumption, in the same way that asking someone what time sex will be over can do. Besides, is there really a need to ration ketchup packets? Are people in broke-ass Alabama so poor that they hoard gas station packets of pickle relish?

Perhaps. The ride into Birmingham was like descending into Africa’s Rift Valley, only with bingo parlors instead of roadside stations selling bushmeat and Maasai warrior blankets. Apparently, there’s not much people there can afford except Bingo and chicken. There were empty storefronts by the truckload, and entire strip malls sat vacant, mile after mile. What I don’t understand is…how can these people even afford bingo? You have to pay to play, right?  So if there’s money for Bingo, why isn’t there money for any of the businesses that used to inhabit the empty space? Seriously, there are like twenty Bingo parlors between the freeway and the Barber Motorsports Museum. Someone is making a killing.  And someone is hella stupid, forking out money to Bingo parlors that could be used to, oh, I don’t know, FIND A JOB.

At the opposite end of the spectrum was the Barber Motorsports Museum itself. The highlights: gorgeous grounds, millions of dollars of cars and motorcycles, and a track where people were learning to race Porsches. This Barber guy shelled out a lot of money to his architect—the building has a sweeping multi-story curved walkway, floor-to-ceiling glass elevator, and stacked rows of shelving for cycles that go all the way to the rafters. There are weird art sculptures scattered all over the place (the ones out front look like angry Soviet-era proletarians on Segways), and I’m really surprised I didn’t see personal memorabilia mixed in with the bikes. This Barber guy seems content to let the machines steal the show. Then again, nothing screams “I’M RICH, BITCH” like a hand-picked collection of Lotus racecars.

I discovered that if I were to ever own a motorcycle, I’d want what’s called a café racer.

Bitchin' cafe racer

Bitchin' cafe racer

Very simple, linear bikes with a hunk of metal for the gas tank, horizontal handlebars, and a big-ass headlight. They look freakin’ cool, and they’d look even better in pink and black, with maybe a few rhinestones or black pearls superglued onto it somewhere. And a quilted seat, with an embroidered Chanel logo. Dude, that would rock so hard.

Somewhere toward the end of our visit, a very large man started talking to my husband about a particular make of Italian motorcycle. He walked with a cane, and couldn’t stand up for long. He asked P. what kind of motorcycle he had, and P. said he didn’t have one right now because we live in a place where it’s really boring to ride.  When the man found out we meant Little Rock, he cooled. He seemed offended that we think the Ozarks are boring, but when you’re used to the Sierra Nevadas, a couple 3,000-foot-tall bumps in the road don’t really faze you, do they? The man was quick to point out that he’d ridden in from Atlanta on his Gold Wing, and this is totally evil, but all I could think was, oh my God, your shocks and tires must be shot from carrying all that weight. Seriously…if you weigh as much as your bike, are performance features not affected?

I know, I know. Sometimes I’m not a very nice person. I blame PMS.

Next time: my tour of the filthy South continues, through Atlanta and down Florida. Highlights will include bad drivers, fried chicken fragrance, and more bad drivers.