Tuesday, September 15, 2015
Top 10 Things To Do Near Here
It's time again for the Top 10 Tuesday countdown! For those that aren't aware of what this is or where to go to sign up, the best place to start is to just click on the icon above which will take you to Kate's Blog, The Suddenly Kate Show and also link you to Tiffany's Blog, Tiffsttiches a Blog.
Hopefully this week will go as quick as last week, but this is going to be a real hard theme for me. I've always been pretty vocal about my dislike of my home territory (even though I do absolutely nothing in terms of getting a better job so I could afford to move...self sabotage, but that's a whole other ball of wax). There is absolutely NO culture in Northeast Arkansas at all and culture is what leads me out of my hidie-hole when I do emerge, so I'm definitely going to have to branch out a bit for this list, but I'll try to keep it pretty "southern" in locales.
#1: EUREKA SPRINGS, ARKANSAS - SHOPPING
Branson, Missouri is the big draw for a lot of Arkansans, but I find Branson, not only a commercial joke, but a useless waste of space. Branson is horrible to navigate through and is designed more for the country music-loving octogenarian set versus the weirdos like me. Eureka Springs is Branson's baby sister and has always been hipper and cooler (and weirdo friendly). Eureka has become a bit more commercialized lately (still not even close to the level of Branson), but it's still a neat place to go with all the old fudge/taffy shops and other niche-type places. It's really a very diverse kind of town with pretty much something for everyone. They have one of those giant Jesus statues as well as a LOT of churches (it's a really popular wedding destination) but they also have some great clubs and places for the new age-types. The infamous Passion Play comes and goes and I think it's currently about to come back for those that like that kind of thing (I have seen it, but I'll just leave it at that and drop the subject). There is also a very famous haunted hotel there that has been on Ghost Hunters called the Crescent (one of the few places they actually got video of a ghost), but I have trouble going anywhere near it because the ju-ju vibe is strong there Obi-Wan.
#2: SONIC DRIVE-IN
Sonic is an eatery that pretty much covers the South, but it's actually more like a religion around here, especially for me. When I was a kid, the only "chain"-type eating place we had in my town was a Sonic and a Pizza Hut (we eventually got a McDonald's and it spread from there), so I basically grew up with Sonic food (because Pizza Hut was for "special" occasions...yeah, the joys of small Southern town life). One of the biggest things that the youth always got in my day was a Pineapple Cherry Mountain Dew (although EVERYONE else called it a Cherry Pineapple Mountain Dew). Now, Sonic carries Mello Yello, but the effect is the same...that's the best thing about Sonic, there are hundreds of drink combinations and, if they have it, you can put it in any drink from all kinds of fruit to chocolate or vanilla to even candy. Whoever came up with the idea of putting Nerds in drinks should be canonized...trust me, it is literally drink nirvana! I always get a Coke Zero with Nerds although you can get them in any other kind of drink too as well as Jolly Ranchers and Pop Rocks (but I haven't tried either one of those yet). I think I'm secretly trying to convince myself that the diet drink with candy in it is less harmful to me than a sugary one, but the thin layer of grease that forms as the Nerds start to melt tells me another story.
#3: MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE
The town I grew up in is a bit less than an hour outside of Memphis, so "going to town" for us always meant going to Memphis. We shopped there, ate there, went to the fair there, etc. I attribute it to my "Yankee" mother who knew what culture was and knew there wasn't any in Northeast Arkansas for her children (might have been the other "real" mothering she ever did). As I got older and Memphis got more and more dangerous, those trips slacked off quite and bit and now I rarely go more than once a year and that's usually only a trip to the Memphis airport to go to Disney, but there are still some pretty "cultural" type things to do there. When we were in school, we always took numerous trips per year to the Pink Palace, Mud Island, the Zoo, the MidSouth Fair, Libertyland, etc, but some of those placed are gone now...succumbed to the gang activity that has taken over much of the city (and I don't think kids take school trips anymore anyway).
Every decade or so they build a new mall on the outskirts of town in a newer safer area, but it falls victim to the same fate and the outskirts grow further and further out, either to the South in Mississippi, or on the old road to my #6. It's a shame really, but I'm still listing it because of all the great memories I have of going there, especially the MidSouth Fair (which always fell on the week of my birthday, so we went for my birthday and for school and I got a double whammy of it every year). The town I was born in and the town I grew up in both have festivals whereas the county fair is held in the town I live in now...it's a huge part of Southern life and almost every town here has a festival or a fair. I've only ever been to my local fair once, and only because I was tricked by friends and thought we were going to the MidSouth Fair in Memphis (that's what "going to the fair" meant to me).
The modicum of culture I got from Memphis probably hurt more than it helped. I would probably be a quite happy redneck woman content with my life and stature otherwise, never knowing what I was missing from the world, drugged up, riding up and down the highway, ten kids in tow by nine different men, living in public housing and on welfare...what the hell am I saying? Anything that kills one's predilection to the redneck virus should be praised! I'm always hopeful that Memphis will get it's act together again and become the city it once was, if not for me, then for the generations of Southern kids of the future. Maybe one day, the redneck gene will die out completely...again, I live in hope!
Here in the South, we literally have the best barbecue in the world. When I go to other places (even Disney), their idea of BBQ is really quite hilarious and is not to be touched. I actually don't really even eat a lot of it around here, even though I absolutely love it, because most of the BBQ restaurants don't have drive thrus (and I can't go into places by myself). But thankfully, every fall, the local Catholic Church and School have their fall festival and someone from work always manages to go and get enough for all of us (especially since it's literally two blocks from our job). They have the absolute best in the whole town and it's just a shame we only get it once a year! The town I was born in (not the one I grew up in), has several great (and semi-famous) BBQ restaurants too, but I rarely ever get there, especially since my dad moved away from there (and I haven't spoken to him in 14 years, so there you go). Memphis has a huge BBQ festival every year and they have a very famous restaurant on the river side called Rendezvous (which I personally hate because it's dry rub and there is no meat on the bones). But speaking of BBQ, my next number below has another famous chain called The Shed (or at least both it's sister cities, Gulfport and Ocean Springs do) and that has become my new favorite 'cue place!
#5: BILOXI, MISSISSIPPI - THE BEACH
OK, this one is a bit of a stretch because Biloxi is about 6 1/2 hours away, but there was a time I used to drive down there on Saturdays, get out and walk on the beach for 20 minutes and then drive straight back home, I loved it that much. After Andrew and then Katrina came through, I didn't go at all for several years and I really missed it. My first trip back there was several years after Katrina, once everything had been cleaned up and I fell back in love with it all over again. I always make it a point to drive through there either on the way to or from Disney World now, even though it adds several hours to the journey, simply because I enjoy the road so much. I should warn you though...the Gulf ocean has a bit of a "smell" compared to the open ocean like that of the Atlantic and it can freak some people out (I'm kind of anxious to see how the Pacific smells...that sounds weird, right?), more of a dead fish/oil/moldy seaweed smell versus that of salt water and clean air. I don't notice that Gulf smell so much anymore, especially since Katrina. I often wondered if it was because they had to ship in new sand to replace the decimated beaches after Katrina and it was the sand's fault all along. Who knows?
#6: CHATTANOOGA, TENNESSEE - EVERYTHING
OK, I know I'm reaching a bit again with this one because it's 6 hours in a different direction from Biloxi, but we're still talking the South, so there you go. I used to LOVE going to Chattanooga when I was a kid and we went through there a lot on the way to the Smokies (which, by the way, has their own Branson/Eureka Springs incarnations in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge...one is cool, the other is a tourist trap, I just can't remember which is which if someone can help me out on that point). Granted, Chattanooga is a huge tourist trap too, but a tourist trap with cool places like Rock City and Lookout Mountain (where you can see seven states from one location). I really wanted to take Kate there when she was here, but time and money just didn't allow it (besides, she was hurting pretty bad then and it was bad enough I dragged her to Disney World). Someday I will go back (I've been saying that a lot lately, haven't I?), although I have driven to Disney through there in the past couple of years, but I didn't stop because...wait for it...I was by myself and I can't do stuff like that alone. Asperness in action.
#7: ARKANSAS STATE PARKS
I can dog my area as much as I want, but one thing I can't deny is that Arkansas really is a beautiful state. We have tons of state parks here and you really can't drive 50 miles in any direction without hitting one. We actually have one in this town and at least two others that I can think of within 20 miles. The further west you go, the more there are and some of them are amazing. Petit Jean State Park, Devil's Den, Blanchard Springs Caverns, Beaver Lake, just to name a few. There was a time I used to drive a lot just to clear my head and I always found my way into a State Park and I've always preferred the parks with more rocks than trees (thanks to my massive tree phobia). I always loved the caves and went to them a lot as a kid (which is why the ones I specifically named were all rocky places). Most water here is all spring fed, so bottled water is kind of useless around here because what comes out of the tap is usually better (well, my town ain't so great, but the town I grew up in has amazing water). Most people around here go to the "lake" all the time (and there are dozens of lakes around here, so I'm never sure where they mean). I prefer my vacations to be a big more adventurous (funny for an Asper, right?). But these "lake people" are the ones that don't get Disney at all (the ones that have been), so there is obviously a cultural clash between our mentalities anyway. I've just learned not to discuss Disney with "lake people", even if they ask.
#8: RIDING UP AND DOWN THE HIGHWAY
OK, I'm kind of pulling things out of my butt now, but it is a list of things to do and people do it, so there you go. When I was a kid (and still to this day), riding up and down the highway was a really huge deal for the teens. I rarely did it and my first (and only) ever wreck was because I was trying to get the attention of the guy I had a huge crush on and I rear-ended someone. I never got the point...you started at one end of town, drove straight down the highway to the other side of town, turned around, and kept doing it over and over again. Some people would pull each other over and they'd sit on the hoods of their cars and talk or whatever, but I still didn't (and don't) get the point. The town I live in now has banned it and you can literally get a ticket if you traverse the same roadway more than once in front of a cop (so don't get lost around here, FYI). I always preferred to get on the open road and go to new places instead of traversing the same track over and over and over and over again. Besides, it was bad enough I had to deal with those people all day at school, I sure as heck didn't want to socialize with them (and still don't...I haven't been to one single reunion and don't ever plan to).
#9: ANIMAL KILLING
I've never understood the purpose of hunting. It's not like in this day and age it's done for food...if you want food, you go to the store and buy it (and I don't buy the argument that it's cheaper to kill it because by the time you buy the guns, bullets, clothing, and licenses, you've spent a heck of a lot more than groceries). I also don't buy the "sport" argument of it, using a gun on a defenseless animal isn't sport. Give the animal a weapon, preferably the same as the human and let the two of them go at it in the woods, then you have a "sport". But hunting is a HUGE culture around here. Same goes with fishing. I'm not a fish eater, but fish always tastes cleaner and better when it's store bought versus ditch-fished (what I call fishing in waters that you can't see your fingertips when you stick you hand in up to wrist level, some people call them lakes or rivers...you say tomato...needless to say, I don't typically go near them let alone swim in them). It is something people do around here though, so I guess I needed to add it to the list to.
#10: DRINKING AND DRUGS
And I guess I'll end on a negative spin again because drinking and drugs are a huge part of redneck culture too. I live in a dry county...for those that don't know what is, alcohol cannot be sold here (I remember a very funny conversation with a Cast Member at LeCellier Restaurant in Epcot who had, not only never heard of such, but called over several of his co-workers as well as brought me to the attention of the other patrons sitting around me in on the discussion...normally, I would have been terrified in that situation, but he was so cute, I didn't mind too much). We don't have liquor stores and the like, but fairly recently certain places have been allowed liquor licenses and you can "buy" a membership so they can sell you booze with a meal. A "membership" is defined as signing your name to a school notebook pad, maybe paying a dollar or showing your license, and your in the club (at least for the night). You can't take the drinks outside the restaurants though.
I'm not a big drinker. Growing up in an extremely religious household, being seen in a liquor store was a "dirty" thing and not something "good people" did. Granted, they all had libations in their house (including my parents), but you just didn't talk about it. I personally never even stepped foot in a liquor store until I was in my mid to late 30's and I used to be married to an alcoholic! Now, I typically go about once a year to stock up, but it's always a very hard thing for me to do (that damned religious conditioning!). Besides, I can think of a lot of other things I'd rather be spending my money on anyway. The town I grew up in was a wet county, so a LOT of people drank and drank heavily. A lot of my high school classmates are dead now because of either overdoses or car accidents from being drunk. It's just a way of life here.
I've always said that it is the worst side effect of no culture, there is nothing for the kids to do but get high, drunk and ride up and down the highway. I preferred the solo route and it probably saved my life (because I would have been right in the mix had I been a "normal"). I went to a very drug heavy school and it wasn't just a wasters world...even the super popular kids did it quite heavily (and more of those are dead now than the so-called wasters), but I honestly was completely oblivious to it (well, except for the fact that the bathrooms smelled like pot, which is why I rarely went to the bathroom at school anyway, so I didn't know). I'm not sure if I was just blind or ignorant or didn't care enough to notice. I spent a lot of my high school time either in the art room or the library. I had to get my culture somewhere! People still talk about my town to this day for it's drug problem and I still never see it. We actually made it on 20/20 back in the day because we had one of the highest VD rates in the country for the population...yeah, I grew up in a town famous for VD! Now do you understand why I distance myself!
So that's it...this was a HARD one, especially for me. I think this area does have a lot of offer for the right kind of person, I'm just not one of those people and thankfully, no one in my immediate family is either. Granted, even I have some distant cousins who are full-on cartoonish Arkansans, barefoot, pregnant, corncob-smokin', moonshine-drinkin' redneck hillbillies, but doesn't everyone? Next week probably will be quite hard for me too...I might have to modify it a bit.