Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Tackiest Refrigerator Magnet

Years ago I bought a refrigerator magnet from Daytona Beach FL that I thought would -- for all time -- be the tackiest refrigerator magnet ever! How can you beat a gator coming out of a toilet? Well -- that's before I went to Myrtle Beach SC and found a woman in a bikini with "Myrtle Beach" tatooed across her butt and a bottle opener for a head.

SO -- I figured it was time to share the two cheesiest magnets ever with all of you and let you help me to decide which is truly the cheesiest. Oh, and if you have a story about an even cheesier one -- post a comment!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Gay Dolphin Gift Cove, Myrtle Beach SC -- Largest Gift Shop in the US

November 29, 2007

The Gay Dolphin Gift Cove in Myrtle Beach SC (916 North Ocean Blvd) deserves its own mention. “The largest gift shop in the United States,” the cashier told me, is the most fascinating collection of memorabilia and truly cheesy, tacky tourist stuff that you will ever see. I knew it was going to be interesting the minute I saw that the sign pointing to the store was actually across the street from it and next to the roaring dinosaur announcing Ripley's Moving Theater (next to Ripley's Haunted Adventure) on Ocean Blvd.

I was tempted to buy the farting tighty whities key chain (yep – 2 inches of stuffed tight-whitey that made the most disgusting sounds when you squeezed them), but apparently they'd been there a while and were a little dusty. Dirty tighty whities just didn't have the same appeal (though they did add to the disgust, I must say)

After a while of roaming around the store I began to notice that there was no shortage of items you could buy with your name proudly displayed on it. They had the requisite license plates (the blue ones were more expensive – probably because they actually said “Myrtle Beach” on them), pens (plastic, wooden, retractable), and magnets (refrigerator, kitchen, memo, etc.).
If you've ever wondered what your name means, you could find out by buying a magnet, postcard, greeting card, coffee cup, or parchment tucked away in pottery. If you could care less what your name means and you just want to see it on something, you had a choice of at least 5 different kinds of stickers, plaques, magnets, bedroom door signs, address books, recipe books, notebads, to-do lists, shot glasses, and really interesting-looking (as in, pretty ugly), blue-spotted piggy bank.

As I rounded the corner by the shelves (yes, shelves) of stuffed cats curled up (or sitting up) in baskets, I found even more options for having your name emblazoned on something – bookmarks, purses, photo frames, and photo books.

Now, I’m not real sure which one of the plethora of dolphins in the store was the gay one (they came in all colors of plush, glass, wood, etc.), but you had plenty of dolphins in plenty of poses from which to choose.

In the middle of the section dedicated to Native American art, you could find ceramic sculptures of chiefs in headresses, warriors on horses, teepees, and a full-sized face mask of Gene Simmons in his KISS make-up (not sure why that was there, exactly, but it did amuse me).

Various buddhas (all happy, fat, and smiling) were 1/3 off, but most were too big for me to put in my already full luggage. They didn’t have any stuffed squirrels, but they had a lot of ceramic ones.

Then there was the whole section of “novelty” gifts (as though nothing else in the store was), where you could buy your requisite fake poop and vomit, as well as your trick cards and exploding cigars, etc. There was also a whole rack of nothing but bathroom time-occupying books – even one for kids (just to get them started on the bathroom reading habit, I suppose). For a friend’s 60th birthday, I got the Word Games book shaped like a toilet seat (the #2 version, of course). She probably won’t talk to me for a week.

Make no mistake about it – this place is huge, and it’s not set out on whole floors that you go up and down. Instead, you navigate numerous steps up and numerous steps down, turning into alcoves and around corners. The balcony was closed the day I was there, so I didn’t get to see the whole thing, but you could easily spend hours roaming around there looking at all the back scratchers and trivets and beach souvenirs you could ever imagine.

They even have a fortune-telling machine (complete with fortune teller) who will see the future for you for a mere 50 cents. I think he was wrong, however, because in retrospect I think the farting tighty whities SHOULD have been in my future!

Myrtle Beach SC -- Home of Themed Everything

November 29, 2007

I’m riding here in the turbo prop plane from Myrtle Beach to Atlanta, where the pilot just announced that the vibration we might be feeling on the left side of the plane stems from the fact that the landing gear wouldn’t retract when we took off from the airport. “Nothing to worry about,” though. Apparently it’s down and locked – just causing us to go a little slower. Lovely.
Myrtle Beach was one interesting place – a blend of Branson MO, Pigeon Forge TN, and Vegas (without the gambling) all rolled into one. It’s one really tricked out themed “family” vacation place. From 1958-2006 there as a downtown beachside amusement area called “The Pavilion” that apparently has closed and, according to one card “made way for development.” Nobody I talked to seemed real clear on what’s going up in its place, but there is much talk of the new amusement park being built by the Hard Rock Café.

In a two-mile stretch from my hotel heading toward the beach I passed at least 4 heavily themed (pirates, ocean, fun) miniature golf courses. And this ain’t yo’ mama’s putt-putt golf. Everything’s motorized and mechanized and built up high – pirates and ships and windmills and on and on and on. This is in and amongst the NASCAR restaurant (pictured above), the Hard Rock Café restaurant, the Planet Hollywood Restaurant (pictured above), Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede, Kingdom Family Amusement Park, the Ripley’s Aquarium, Ripley’s House of Terror, and Ripley’s regular Believe-It-Or-Not Museum. Whew.

I’m not real sure what “family entertainment” actually means, but apparently it has a lot to do with crass commercialism and the ability to spend a month’s mortgage in about a 2-block area.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Fall Colors -- Flint, MI

November 15, 2007.

This blog is especially for my Central Texas friends. We don't see leaves change colors down there (they go from green to brown to gone), and they tell me that the colors are really bad in Michigan this year. However, while I was in downtown Flint, MI, I saw some colors that made me stop and jump out of the car to take a picture. I've never seen red leaves like this in Austin, that's for sure. The yellow doesn't turn out as bright as it should, but you still get the picture. These trees stand right along the Flint River. There are big iron banner signs across other bridges welcoming you to Flint, "Vehicle City USA," reminding us all of a brighter time for this town. A bunch of us were introduced to Flint through Michael Moore's documentary "Roger and Me," chronicling the collapse of the automobile industry here. Through the process of getting ready for depositiosn here I learned that at one time there were 13 different GM plants alone in this city, employing something like 77,000 people. Most of them have closed down now, so there's not a lot of brightness in flint, but you gotta love the color of these leaves. These trees stand near the University of Michigan-Flint, and it looks like there's some effort to get the downtown area back up and running again.

World's Largest Lugnut, Lansing MI

November 13, 2007.

Lansing MI is home to the Lansing Lugnuts (we're talking the heart of the auto industry here, folks), a Class "A" affiliate of the Toronto Blue-Jays, and they play at Oldsmobile Park in downtown Lansing. The park is on E. Michigan Avenue in downtown Lansing, and catty-corner to it (the corner of E. Michigan and S. Cedar) stands the world's largest lugnut. I don't know why it's sitting on top of a smokestack, but it is. The smokestack is part of the Lansing Board of Power and Light, and it's obviously an electricy generation plant. Sitting right on the corner is a bar called the Nut House Sports Grill, and you can see the the lugnut literally "towers" over the place. Here I've got a picture of the lugnut during the daytime behind the Nut House sign (which, I think, was probably a gas station at some point). If you stand just to the left of the bar, looking down an alley, you can get a picture of the lugnut with the Michigan State Capitol off in the distance. At night both the bar and the nut are lit up -- it's quite festive, actually.

Way Cool -- Igloo Factory, Katy TX

October 1, 2007.

I normally travel from Austin to Houston on Hwy 290, but once in a while I decide to go down Hwy 71 and then shoot straight into Hoston on I-10. I'm really glad I did recently, because for the first time I had the time to stop at the Igloo plant (at the Igloo Road exit, of all places) in Katy TX. I cracked up when I saw their guardhouse to the loading dock area -- it was one of those little playmate coolers, complete with a round window (you know, the place where you push in the button to open the lid on the real ones). The guard was great about letting me take the picture, telling me he was known as "the guy in the cooler." I hope that doesn't mean he's spent some time in jail! You can't tour the plant without getting permission beforehand, but there is an outlet store open during regular business hours, and inside the plant entrance there is a wall filled with posters describing the history of Igloo. As is fitting with that part of Texas, the company essentially got its start by making containers that kept water cool for oilfield workers. That hot Texas sun, once more, is the mother of invention!!