ART, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, Museums, Presidential, Road Trips, TRAVEL, United States

Jamie Wyeth at the San Antonio Museum of Art

From MFA.org the site of the Museum of Fine Art in Boston
From MFA.org the site of the Museum of Fine Art in Boston

TRAVEL THERE: WYETH NOT VISIT THE SAMA?

Sorry for the pun but I couldn’t resist! From The Pearl we crossed the Riverwalk’s Museum Reach and entered the San Antonio Museum of Art in its Lone Star Brewery digs. This is a museum I love, but so far in this multi-year journey I haven’t told you much about it, in spite of the fact that I have visited.

My Love Affair with the SAMA

I first visited many years ago when it was in a warehouse downtown.  I’ll confess I loved their installations in the old space.  They had less room, so they were very creative with their displays.  The old antiquities exhibit was one of my all time favorites.  The entire ancient world was represented in one room.  Many different pieces were suspended in the air  inside one large area. I would always lose count of time as I considered each piece and compared to the others nearby.  There was less to see, but I liked that I could take it all in during a fairly short visit – if I didn’t spend hours in the antiquities section.

Their new digs are so spacious that I have yet to make it through the modern art section.  I always start with the antiquities and European Art and before I get to the modern stuff I’ve worn myself out.  This, of course, is not the SAMA’s fault.  I feel a little guilty about always opting for the classics, but not guilty enough to do anything about it.

My Recent Visit

Tip of the hat to my Dallas Museum of Art (DMA) membership which got us free admission.  The guy manning the entry booth at the river didn’t know anything about the VIA trolleys, so they first thing we did was trot over to the “official” information booth.  They said the trolley had just been by, so we had almost an hour before they would be back again.  We discussed our options and chose the Jamie Wyeth exhibit.

When you say Wyeth to me, I immediately think of the patriarch of the Wyeth artists, N.C.,  an illustrator whose colorful plates graced classic tales like Treasure Island and Robinson Caruso, but he spawned a litter of artists, all of whom have created beautiful works.  The DMA once had a Wyeth retrospect exhibit featuring masterworks from the father and his talented offspring.  I knew Jamie for a famous portrait of JFK – not the official one, but this one.

I’ll have to say that much of Jamie’s art is a little odd and introspective for me.  Bloody seagulls are just not my thing.  I am, however, glad we had the chance to take in the exhibit before the trolley showed up.  I have, after all, been looking at the museum’s own collection for a long time.  Unfortunately, if Deb wants to see it, we’re going to have to go back another time (and you know how much we’d hate that!).

If you want to see Jamie’s work, you’ll need to go to Bentonville, AR and see it at the Crystal  Bridges Museum of American Art.  But Crystal Bridges is the last stop on the tour, so get there by October 10th.

Hopping the VIA

Back at the SAMA, not wanting to miss VIA’s once hourly trolley, we arrived at the stop early and enjoyed the break. When the trolley showed up, we climbed on and wanted to pay for a $4 all day ticket, but neither of us had singles and they don’t give change.  So our $4 tickets were $5 each.  Inconvenient, so don’t make our mistake.  However, we were ready for a lift.

Next stop in the San Antonio Stroll?  The San Antonio Botanical Gardens.  Come back next week and I’ll give you a tour.

Architecture, ART, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, DFW Metroplex, Libraries, Museums, Presidential, Road Trips, TRAVEL

The Bush Library in Dallas TX

PRIMARILY PRESIDENTIAL DESTINATIONS: THE GEORGE W.BUSH PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARY AND MUSEUM ON THE SMU CAMPUS

Welcome to my series on Presidential Destinations. The series was supposed to stop with Number 14, Mount Vernon, but even though I live in Dallas, I forgot that it actually has a presidential destination. If you read Number 15, you know that I’m not fond of Dallas’ association with Kennedy’s assassination, but there will soon be a presidential destination here that I’ll be proud to take visitors to: The George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum.

I Love My Local President

I know GWB’s name is a lightning rod.  People either love him or they hate him.  Here’s your warning:  I’m on the loving team.  I’ll readily admit that, like most human beings, he made mistakes, but I think history will be a lot kinder to him than our modern day talking heads have been.  He’ll be the guy that carried us through the aftermath of 9/11, focused on critical National Security issues and, if our sense of fairness ever returns, his policies will be credited for the capture of Bin Laden.  Many people see him from a completely different point of view.  I acknowledge that and respect it, but this is my blog.

I’m a fan of GWB, but not exactly a groupie.  I remember the excitement created when Laura picked out the Preston Hollow estate for their Dallas home and I was aware that SMU would be the site of his library, but I was in the middle of completing my degree when all the fuss was going on and I really didn’t pay much attention to it.  When you offset your mid-life crisis by returning to school, your brain doesn’t have much room for anything else, but the local papers and evening news were full of it.

I still haven’t driven by their home, but I’m very familiar with the site of the library, thanks to my mom’s CPA.  He’s one of those liberals.  He knows I’m a conservative, but he baits me with liberal propaganda the whole time he’s preparing my parents’ return.  Without the political commentary, it would only take about fifteen minutes for him to plug in the few numbers necessary to complete my parents’ tax return, but we never get out of there in less than an hour.

A few years ago, in an effort to avoid the usual liberal harangue, I glanced out of his high rise office onto a baseball diamond across the highway.  “What a great view,” I said, thinking I’d hit upon a neutral subject – WRONG!  I wasn’t aware that the baseball diamond would soon be a building site for GWB’s library.  It was like Pavlov’s Dogs.  The subject of George W. Bush came up and the liberal in the room started salivating.

If you’re a fan of our forty-third president, you may already be planning a visit to Dallas next year, so you can see the largest presidential library and museum built to date.  If you aren’t a fan, maybe you should plan a visit so you’ll have a chance to hear the other side of the story.  One thing I know for sure, once the library opens my mom’s accountant will have plenty to bend my ear with.

ART, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, DFW Metroplex, Museums, Presidential, Road Trips, TRAVEL

JFK in Dallas

PRIMARILY PRESIDENTIAL DESTINATIONS:  DALLAS IS MORE THAN A JFK DESTINATION

Welcome to the fifteenth  installment of Primarily Presidential Destinations. We’ve covered almost all of the Presidential destinations that I’ve visited, but we haven’t talked about Dallas.  I live in Dallas now, but my family lived in Georgia when Kennedy was shot in Dealey Plaza.  Like most Dallasites I try to disassociate my city from the assassination, but we can’t quite shake it.

Love Field

Love Field no longer looks anything like it did when the dazzling Kennedys stepped onto the tarmac.  When I think of Love Field, my mind is more likely to run to hot pants by Pucci than a First Lady in a pink suit.  Sure I remember the black and white photos, but Braniff landed there a lot more times than Airforce One.  I never greeted a president at Love Field, but I welcomed the Dallas Cowboys outside the Braniff terminal after many an away game- whether we had won or lost.

The JFK Sites

If you live here, visitors are going to ask about Dealey Plaza, the Texas School Book Depository and Parkland Hospital, but I always discourage them.  From Dealy Plaza you can gaze at the infamous grassy knoll, but you can’t drive the route JFK did, because traffic in front of the old courthouse flows one way in the wrong direction.  You can find Parkland Hospital, but you’d never find anything in the huge complex, remodeled several times over, that even remotely reminded you of the hospital in those old news clips.

There’s an old building across from Dealey Plaza that was the Texas School Book Depository.  It’s been through several incarnations, but the infamous window is still there.  Inside there’s something called The Sixth Floor Museum.  Some guy bought up some of the contents of the Depository and several people went broke trying to make money off of them.   Apparently the current manifestation of the museum is the most successful, but it’s a good thing they have tourists to depend on, because even Dallas school teachers don’t want to take their students.

 

A block or so away from Dealey Plaza is a big square piece of concrete that is a memorial to the assassinated president.  It embarrasses me a little bit.  If a guest does insist that they must see where Kennedy was shot, I will drive them by Dealey Plaza and the Book Depository, but I never allow enough time to see the Sixth Floor Museum and I never point out the memorial.  It looks like an abandoned building project – blank walls and no ceiling.  If we were going to have a memorial to him, it should have looked more like Dealey Plaza – columns, a statue, lots of grass.  Maybe a waterfall or something, but not the empty concrete walls on a slab of concrete behind a red brick courthouse.

There’s so much more to see and do in Dallas.  Dallas didn’t kill John F. Kennedy.  Maybe it was Lee Harvey Oswald.  Maybe it was the Mafia.  Maybe it was aliens.  But it wasn’t Dallas.  For that matter, we didn’t shoot JR either, but I’ll save that for another day.

Come to Dallas to shop.  Redecorate your digs in the Design District.  Eat at our restaurants.  See the Dallas Museum of Art, The Meadows Museum, The Crow Collection of Asian Art, The Nasher  or any number of museums besides the Sixth Floor.  Catch an opera, symphony or show in the Arts District.  There a lot to do, but don’t waste time on an event we’re working so hard to ignore.

Architecture, ART, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, Presidential, Road Trips, TRAVEL

George Washington’s Mount Vernon

PRIMARILY PRESIDENTIAL DESTINATIONS: MOUNT VERNON, HOME OF PRESIDENT GEORGE WASHINGTON

Welcome to the final stop in our series about travel destinations related to American presidents.  Now we’ll visit George Washington’s Mount Vernon.  It’s an amazing place to visit and everyone should go there, but rather than tell you a lot of historical information you can get for yourself from other sources -which I hope my other blogs in this series inspire you to do – I’m going to tell you the thing I remember most about my visit to Mount Vernon.

Where’s Susan?

On the day in 1969 when we visited Mount Vernon, we were up early and were among the first to tour the house – but the house was not all there was to see.  When they ushered us out the back door, they invited us to inspect the grounds.  Behind the house were a series of small wooden structures with a variety of uses.  My dad stuck his head inside a cookhouse and then turned around and said, “Where’s Susan?”

Every parent in the world knows that feeling.  They were right next to you, clinging to the seam of your pant or skirt one minute and the next they were gone.  I’m sure when my dad first inquired about Susan’s whereabouts I rolled my eyes and said to myself, “It’s always about Susan,” but that was merely my teen-aged angst.  Fact is, I absolutely adored that little mite and felt more than a little responsibility towards her.

When we couldn’t locate Susan after a few minutes, we began to panic and ask for help.  An hour later, my parents were talking with the security staff in low voices and Susan’s inability to swim was discussed.  Pretty much everyone from fellow tourists to the Mount Vernon security staff was involved in the search for Susan.  From the first moment, I’d wanted to set out on my own to find her, but that was the one thing no one was going to let me do.  I was told, in no uncertain terms, that I could help best by not getting lost myself and the best way for me to avoid that was to stay right there.

I was more than frustrated.  My parents were frantic and the concern of everyone else was obvious.  They’d chatted on their walkie talkies.  They’d searched the property several times in their golf carts and on foot.  They hadn’t found her and I wasn’t buying the Potomac theory.  But the grow-ups didn’t know what to suggest next, short of searching the river.

God and I have always been close, but at the age of fourteen I still thought of my parents as the first line of inquiry.  They provided food, shelter and new packages of notebook paper.  In this strange place, Susan had been their responsibility, but they hadn’t been able to produce her since Dad visited the cookhouse.  So finally, I contacted God.  He gave me the message that she was OK and told me to open my eyes and look for her.  That sort of ticked me off, because my eyes were almost raw from the way I’d been peering around trying to locate her.

I took a deep breath and began to scan the horizon once again.  My eyes ran from the corner of the house across the lawn to a small white foot bridge.  Before my brain even registered what I saw, I yelled, “There she is.”  My parents glanced toward where I was pointing, but their expressions told me they couldn’t see what I did.  I’d had enough.  I broke into a run.  Then I heard my dad yell, “It is Susan!”  My parents were not far behind me as I ran across the immaculate lawn.

We all fell to our knees and hugged the tiny redhead we loved so much.  Susan was glad to see us, but was a little bemused at the attention.  She didn’t realize she had been lost.  The couple who had found her hadn’t wanted to upset her by asking a lot of questions and because Susan was with the couple, the security staff didn’t think she was the child they were looking for.  All’s well that ends well, but it was pretty dicey there for a while.

Traveling is an adventure.  Some of the adventures are grand and others you would choose to live without if you could.  To escape the hour of trauma for my family, I’d gladly have missed the opportunity to see Mount Vernon, but you never know ahead of time what will be trouble and what will be the most fun you ever had.  You’ve got to get out there and risk losing your little sister.  In most cases, the missing siblings turn up and you go have lunch somewhere.  I don’t remember where we had lunch that day, but you can bet your bottom dollar no one got lost for the rest of the trip.

Did you ever lose your sibling at a major tourist attraction?  Or were you the one that wandered over the bridge?  We’d all like to hear about it.

Accommodations, Architecture, ART, Attractions, Decorative Arts, DESTINATIONS, Gardens, Museums, Presidential, Road Trips, TRAVEL

James Munroe’s Ash Lawn Highland

PRIMARILY PRESIDENTIAL DESTINATIONS: ASH LAWN HIGHLAND, HOME OF PRESIDENT JAMES MONROE

Welcome to number thirteen in this series about presidential destinations for your vacations. The list of presidential destinations I’ve actually visited only has two more names on it, James Munroe’s Ash Lawn Highland and George Washington’s Mount Vernon. I’m sure I’ve had more fun writing this series than anyone will have reading it, but I hope that through reading these blogs you’ve found some presidential destinations you want to visit.

Neighbor of Thomas Jefferson

Since we went to Monticello last week, let’s go visit Jefferson’s neighbor, just down the hill at Ash Lawn Highland, James Munroe.  Presidents Jefferson and Munroe were of similar mind.  In fact, according this brochure, Jefferson picked out Munroe’s property for him to “create a society to our taste.”  Gardeners from Monticello started Munroe’s orchards.  The two were very much in one another’s company.

President James Monroe

Besides being the fifth president of the US, Munroe was a Senator, Minister to France, England and Spain, Governor of Virginia and Secretary of State and of War.  He negotiated the Louisiana Purchase and the Monroe doctrine was the basis of our foreign policy for many decades.  His presidency was “The Era of Good Feeling.”

His home, Ash Lawn Highland is a pastoral gem.  It’s not as grand as Monticello and won’t take long to visit, but you should see it.  In fact, when you get in that part of the world there’s a lot to see and none of it is too far away.  You could visit Monticello and Ash Lawn Highland, see Mount Vernon the next day and then go to Colonial Williamsburg.  A drive of just over two hundred miles connects them all.

Other Attractions in the Area

Ash Lawn Highland wasn’t available to the public the first time I saw Monticello in 1969.  Before his death Munroe, health and financial challenges forced him to sell the property, but on that trip I did visit Lincoln’s Birthplace, Stephen Foster’s Old Kentucky Home, Washington D.C., Jamestown, Colonial Williamsburg, Mount Vernon, Monticello and Myrtle Beach – all on the same vacation.

On returning to the area in the nineties with my husband, Ash Lawn Highland had been bequeathed in 1974 to the College of William and Mary “for the education of the general public.”  Along with Monticello and Ash Lawn Highland we enjoyed the scenery along Skyline Drive.  I’m trying to think of a way to describe Shenandoah to you without employing any of the over-used superlatives which crowd the usual travel brochure, but it’s difficult.  The scenery is beautiful, breath-taking and gorgeous.  After a day of driving we were worn out – not because the drive had been difficult, but because the scenery had been so overwhelming.  As we pulled into Big Meadows Lodge in Shenandoah National Park my husband saw the most exciting thing he’d seen all day: a doe and her fawn feeding in a clearing by the side of the road completely unfazed by the human population across the street from them.

We loved Shenandoah and Skyline Drive.  Driving through Virginia you can understand the extreme devotion men like Jefferson, Munroe and Washington had for this nation.  Their dreams were big and they were willing to sacrifice their lives for our young nation.  Jefferson and Munroe brought us the Louisiana Purchase.  Jefferson commissioned Lewis and Clark.  These men laid the groundwork for manifest destiny, but they built their homes in Virginia.  I’m thinking it was about more than proximity to the White House.  What do you think?

Architecture, ART, Attractions, Decorative Arts, DESTINATIONS, Gardens, Libraries, Museums, Presidential, Road Trips, TRAVEL, United States

Monticello – Jefferson’s Legacy

The official postcard version

PRIMARILY PRESIDENTIAL DESTINATIONS: THOMAS JEFFERSON’S LEGACY, BEAUTIFUL MONTICELLO

Welcome to the eleventh installment in a series about travel destinations related to our presidents. We’ve been to the Texas White House, The Western White House, The Summer White House and The Little White House. We’ve visited cemeteries, ranches, libraries, museums and even  residence of the Confederate President. Now we’ll visit one of my favorite homes in the United States and it just so happens to be presidential – that’s Monticello, Thomas Jefferson‘s home.

My Visits to Monticello

I’ve visited Monticello twice.  The first time I was a captive in the back seat of my parents’ car.  Their attitude seemed to be, “This is your heritage, gosh darn it, and you better appreciate it.”  Let me be honest with you.  Given my druthers back then, I might just have traded two weeks of American History in for a day at Disneyland.  Though I didn’t realize it at the time, my parents were doing me a great service.

In the years after that trip, Thomas Jefferson was not just some guy in a history book.  He was the guy who invented some very cool stuff I’d seen when I visited his house.  Washington was the guy who had that pretty blue and white china in his dining room (Wedgewood).  Lincoln was born in a tiny log cabin and I knew it wasn’t as big as my parents’ living room, because I saw the facsimile they’d built at his birthplace.  The dry history on the pages of the textbook assigned to me for a semester became something real.

My first visit to Monticello

Chances are, if you took your kids on a family vacation, like the one my parents took me on in 1969, you’d get the same sort of heavy sighs and reluctant cooperation that my parents put up with.  I urge you to take the kids anyway – and don’t let them watch movies in the back seat.  Make them sit up straight, look out the window and talk about what they’re looking at.  Quiz them about what they see, what impresses them and what disappoints them.  The video games are not going anywhere, but the empty spaces in your kid’s heads are filling up fast.  Best to put some stuff up there that you want them to have.

Monticello 1999

I returned to Monticello in 1999, thirty years after my first visit.  The first thing I noticed was that it had shrunk.  In my memory the house outstripped anything on Lives of the Rich and Famous.  Sure, it has about 11,000 square feet of living area, but back in 1969 I hadn’t been to Europe.  Those guys get the whole idea of a country estate.  They call them castles.

Being dragged to Monticello by your parents is also quite different than traveling with your husband.  Bill indulges me, trailing through all the museums I find, but he wouldn’t fuss if I didn’t need to visit so many.  Monticello, on the other hand, completely captured his imagination.

By occupation, Bill is a very successful options trader.  But that doesn’t keep him from an interest in everything from architecture to zoology and all subjects in between.  He and old Tom Jefferson would have been fast friends.  As we wandered from room to room, Bill was enchanted with the design and execution of the house.  He loved Mr. Jefferson’s taste in decor.  Mr. Jefferson’s inventions like mechanical doors, great clock and reading lamp stirred Bill’s imagination.  Then we walked outside.  Bill’s interest in the man multiplied geometrically.  In fact, even though that was twelve years ago, merely the mention of Monticello or Thomas Jefferson will send Bill off into the stratosphere.

Bill contemplates the ingenuity and productivity of Jefferson

Monticello should be on everyone’s bucket list.  Kids should be taken as soon as they are old enough to comprehend the magnitude of what they are seeing and not so late that they will ignore it simply because their parents took them.  Then, we should all return as adults to appreciate what we couldn’t comprehend as kids.  And no – you can’t take Bill with you unless you take me, too.

References for this blog picked up at Monticello in 1999
Attractions, DESTINATIONS, Presidential, Road Trips, TRAVEL, United States

Andrew Johnson Historic Sites

PRIMARILY PRESIDENTIAL DESTINATIONS: THE ANDREW JOHNSON HISTORIC SITES IN GREENVILLE TN

Welcome to number eleven in a series about travel destinations associated with the Presidents of the United States. Last week, while discussing Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederacy, I mentioned the Post Civil War Restoration and the negative impact it had on the South. Today we’re visiting with Andrew Johnson, Lincoln’s successor, to explore that further.

Andrew Johnson’s History

I’m not alone in my opinion that the Restoration of the South by the post-Civil War Congress was too harsh.  Andrew Johnson believed the same thing and he was impeached for it.  He’s the only president, except Bill Clinton, to go through that dishonor.

If the Bushes and the Roosevelts represent the one-per-centers, then Lincoln and Johnson would definitely represent the ninety-nine.  We all know about Lincoln’s humble birth, but at least his dad was a land owner.  Johnson’s dad was a hotel porter and little Andrew was apprenticed to a tailor.  But I doubt Johnson would have signed up for food stamps, even if they were available.  His story is that of a entrepreneur of the first degree.

Though born in Raleigh, North Carolina, he made his home in Tennessee.  In spite of running away from the tailor he was apprenticed to, tailoring remained his trade, until he got into politics.  He was a senator when Tennessee seceded from the Union, but Union-loyalist Johnson reported to Congress for duty nonetheless.  When the Union regained control of Tennessee, Lincoln named Johnson as military governor of the state.  Johnson’s work  in that office recommended him to Lincoln as running mate for the second term, because both men thought reconciliation was the right tone to take with the South.  Their opponents were out for revenge and repression.

In spite of his soft-handed opinion about how to deal with Johnny Reb after the Civil War, Johnson’s personal business philosophy had a lot in common with the Trump.  He’s been quoted as having told his son, “There is no use in buying property, unless there is a bargain in it.”  I guess Trump’s buddy, Romney, would agree with that, too.

Mock tickets to Johnson’s Impeachment were used as tickets to his home by the National Park Service.

Other Things to see in the Area

Visiting the Andrew Johnson Historic Sites in Greeneville, Tennessee is not a day long prospect, like some of the presidential destinations.  Bill and I squeezed it in during a Tennessee/North Carolina ramble through the Smoky Mountains and Appalachia.

We started in Chattanooga and loved their fresh water aquarium.  Bluff View was a delightful little Arts District with a number of bed and breakfast inns, but we stayed at Lookout Lake which we thoroughly enjoyed.  We also enjoyed the kitschy Rock City. If you’re in Chattanooga don’t miss The Hunter Museum of American Art which uniquely meshes a contemporary museum with a historic home.  Around the corner was the Houston Museum which housed one of the most interesting collection of Decorative Arts that I’ve ever seen.  Chattanooga wasn’t all museums and aquariums.  Bill spent part of each day hang-gliding.

Then we took the Cherohola Skyway through the Cherokee National Forest over to Asheville, where we visited the Biltmore Estate. ( Talk about one-percenters.)  Then we hooked around the Appalachians through Johnson City on our way to Pigeon Forge.  That’s when we squeezed in Andrew Johnson and the Davy Crockett Tavern, for good measure.  We still got into Pigeon Ford early enough to visit The Incredible Christmas Place.  We stayed in a little cabin up in the hills, visited Dollywood, Gatlinburg and Smoky Mountain National Park.

Some of the memorabilia from my scrapbook

One of the reasons I can recall all of this information so clearly is because I am such a devoted scrapbooker.  I not only save all the photos I take on a trip, but I keep all the memorabilia.  A National Parks Service publication on Andrew Johnson provided his history and his advice to his son.  Tickets from the attractions keep me straight on dates.  I could even tell you the restaurants I enjoyed and the movie we went to see, because I kept menus and ticket stubs.  I didn’t even tell you about Chimney Rock Park, The Grove Park Inn or the Louise Mandrell Theater, but I can later, because I’ve kept everything together in my Creative Memories scrapbook.

Are you a scrapbooker?  Do you look back at your scrapbooks frequently or are they forgotten once they are on the shelf.  If you’d like to start scrapbooking a good  place to start is a Creative Memories consultant.  Mine is Denise Overton.  Give her shout if you’d like to get started.

Architecture, ART, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, Presidential, Road Trips, TRAVEL, United States

Beauvior in Biloxi, MS

PRIMARILY PRESIDENTIAL DESTINATIONS: A CONFEDERATE PRESIDENT’S HOME

Welcome! This is the tenth installment in a series about destinations associated with American presidents. Last week I paid homage to Lincoln, but today I’m going to take a little detour South. Do you know which president lived at Beauvoir? The President of the Confederacy: Jefferson Davis.

A Little History

Before anyone gets their nose bent out of shape, let me tell you that I think slavery was awful.  No human being should ever own another and no one should have to suffer the way many slaves did in the South.  However, I cannot hate everything that the antebellum South stood for.  Beauvoir represents many of the things that are worth remembering.

Though the means did not justify the ends, Southern planters created a genteel society among themselves.  The genteel aspect encompassed only the interaction between plantation owners and their families, but Southern hospitality is famous for a reason.  I grew up in the South.  Southern manners, Southern cooking and Southern accents are dear to my heart.  These are also alive and well, so they are independent from the travesty of slavery.  In the coming weeks we’ll be visiting Mount Vernon and Monticello.  Much that is memorable about these landmarks is more closely related to the Southern traditions of Beauvoir than to the White House.

Beauvoir is located in Biloxi, Mississippi.  Though it’s better known for casinos now, in the seventies, when I visited,

History almost as ancient as the Civil War.  Scenes from the pre-casino, pre-Katrina, pre-BP spill Biloxi.

Beauvoir

Biloxi was more of a sleepy little beach town.  Beauvoir is situated right on that beach.  I remember driving along the coast road and parking next to a comparatively modest house.  I’d seen plantations with slave quarters grander than Beauvior.

Beauvoir is not exactly an antebellum home.  Davis moved there after the Civil War.  With his cause defeated, he searched for a place where he could write his memoirs and a defense of his way of life.  At first he merely rented a couple of pavilions on the Beauvior estate, but fell in love with the home as he wrote and contracted to purchase it.  Climbing the steps at the front of the house and turning toward the sea, you can certainly understand why.

A Little More History

Slavery was wrong, but there was a deeper issue that I still support – states rights, and beyond that, the rights of the individual.  It is my opinion that the federal government has grown entirely too big for its britches.  I’m for sending the czars home and closing down most of the government agencies.  I’m not sure exactly how that could be accomplished and I can only imagine my liberal friends gasping in horror, but that’s at the heart of what I believe.  Jefferson Davis would have agreed with me.

The history of Beauvior after Jefferson Davis’s death tells a story of how we Southerner’s look after one another.  Mrs. Davis sold the property to the Sons of Confederate Veterans with the stipulation that as long as there were any Confederate veterans or widows who needed it, they had a home at Beauvior.  It served in that capacity until 1957.

The American Civil War is a sad chapter of our history, but slavery did need to be eradicated from the land of the free.  However, the Restoration was a sad chapter, too.  What Lincoln intended for good, John Wilkes Booth’s bullet  turned into a horror.  The Restoration is an example of government policy run amok.

Just as individual freedoms are suffering under an onslaught of government policy now, Beauvior suffered the wind and water of Katrina.  If you visited Beauvior today, the architectural  restoration is well underway – and more than just restoration.  A brand new Jefferson Davis Library and Museum is being built – thank you FEMA/MEMA.  Everything should be finished by May 2012, so you might consider a visit this summer.  Not only would you see the new and improved facility, but you’d be giving a boost to the Gulf Coast, which is still recovering from the BP Oil Spill.

We’ve reached an interesting place in the history of our world.  From the day Cain slew Abel and set out in the wider world, men who were uncomfortable with the status quo could embark on settling a new land.  They could go beyond the next mountain or the next sea and run things their own way.  The earth has no new horizons, so today’s Pilgrims have no where to go.  We are finally going to have to learn how to live with one another.  I’m not sure how all of that is going to work out, but I hope the world will be able to find a compromise that includes a little Southern hospitality and protects our heritage of the rights of the individual.  What do you think?

Accommodations, Architecture, ART, DESTINATIONS, Presidential, Road Trips, TRAVEL, United States

The Life of Lincoln

Anticipating Lincoln’s actual log cabin birthplace

PRIMARILY PRESIDENTIAL DESTINATIONS: THE LIFE OF LINCOLN

Welcome to the ninth installment of a series about destinations primarily associated with presidents of the United States. Last week we went to Arlington National Cemetery to visit the grave of JFK, a president who was assassinated. Today, another assassinated president, Abraham Lincoln, will be our focus.

My 1969

It just so happens that I saw both JFK’s grave-site, discussed last week, and the Lincoln birthplace on the same vacation in 1969.  For most of my elementary years, we lived in Georgia and vacation meant a wild ride back to Texas to visit family.  We finally moved “home” in August of 1966 and in the summer of 1969 Mom wanted us to experience a traditional family vacation focused on important American landmarks.  Before we got home, I’d fainted on the streets of Williamsburg, eaten my first lobster at a restaurant next to the Gettyburg battlefield and waded in the Atlantic Ocean, but we started with Abraham Lincoln.

Lincoln’s Birthplace

A few weeks back FDR’s beloved Springwood was my subject and if ever a president was defined by his birthplace, I’d say it was Roosevelt.  Seeing his childhood home helped me understand the man.  That’s not how Lincoln’s birthplace made me feel.  My photos show my mom, my sister and I, full of anticipation by a large National Park Service Sign announcing Lincoln’s birthplace.  Another picture shows us standing  before a smaller sign explaining why the cabin we are looking at is not exactly Lincoln’s birthplace, but a reasonable facsimile.  Quite frankly, I was not impressed.

Going to the NPS website for Lincoln’s birthplace preparing for this blog, I saw the picture of a large memorial that is completely unfamiliar to me.  I’m sure my dad drove by it, but I guess I was already disgusted with the cabin’s facsimile.

Speaking of driving by sites, I’m afraid that’s the way I saw most of Washington D.C. on that trip, zipping by in the family car.  I appreciate my parents making the effort, but the Capitol, the White House, and all the Memorials – Lincoln’s Jefferson’s and Washington’s were merely viewed through the window of a baby blue Pontiac Catalina.

Discovering the cabin was a reasonable facsimile – not the real thing.

Fortunately, I’ve been to Washington D.C. since then.  My job flew me up there and then a business colleague served as tour guide for several days.  I still didn’t get very close to the White House and the Capitol, but I actually made it inside the Lincoln Memorial.  That was a WOW moment.

I understand Lincoln’s contribution to America.  It seems inevitable to me that slavery would have eventually been abolished one way or another, but without Lincoln, I doubt if the United States would have been preserved.  He was an incredible man, destined to serve his country at a critical time.  His memorial in Washington D.C. is sufficient to the cause of honoring him.

Washington D.C. the second time

The statue of Lincoln inside the memorial is huge, gigantic, enormous – just like Lincoln’s legacy.  Everything I did not feel as I stood by a facsimile cabin or rode past the memorial in the family car rolled over me when I finally stood next to his massive statue.  Though I had not anticipated them, tears overwhelmed me.  I’d already been to several other sites by the time I got to the Lincoln Memorial.  Parking was a real hassle and I wondered as we got out of the car if it was going to be worth the frustration and the climb up all those stairs.

Let me assure you that it is.  As I stood inside the memorial,and read his words on the walls, the hair on the back of my neck stood out.  Then as I left the memorial, I stood at the top of the stairs and other words echoed in my ear, “I have a dream…”  I wonder if Lincoln had any idea how long it would take for emancipation to become equality?

I often hear God criticized for the faults of Christians and it angers me, because God should not be judged by his frail followers.  I feel the same way about America.  We Americans don’t get everything right.  In fact, we do a lot of things wrong, but that does not diminish America.  Our Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, the checks and balances of our government – these are the real America.  Even a president with his four or eight year of power are merely a blip on the face of our great nation.

Lincoln knew that.  Martin Luther King knew that.  Do you?

ART, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, Gardens, Presidential, Road Trips, TRAVEL, United States

Arlington National Cemetery

PRIMARILY PRESIDENTIAL DESTINATIONS: ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY

Welcome to my series on presidential destinations. We’ve been visiting a lot of residences, libraries and museums, but today we’re going to Arlington National Cemetery.

More Than Merely Presidential

Arlington National Cemetery transcends being called a presidential destination.  The lives represented by the tombstones there are one of the greatest legacies we have as Americans.  If you’re wondering whether our country is worth fighting for, look at the testimony of these men and women.  If this is not convincing multiply those tombstones by our military cemeteries on foreign battlefields, by other National Cemeteries in our country and by the many veterans you find buried in public and private cemeteries throughout our nation.

Presidents Buried at Arlington

There are two presidents buried at Arlington Cemetery, William Howard Taft and John F. Kennedy.  Taft was a one-term president hand-selected by Teddy Roosevelt as a successor.  Roosevelt’s blessing was not enough to overcome the apolitical policies of Taft’s administration, but Taft went on to have a significant career in the judiciary branch.  Few of us could list a significant result of his off the top of our head, even though he was a task-oriented man who accomplished many things in his administration and then went on to serve our country for many years in other roles.

John F. Kennedy‘s legacy is completely different.  A charismatic man cut down in the prime of his life, he’s still mourned as a hero.  Even now, decades after his assassination, pilgrims from all over the world congregate at his graveside to honor him.  Visitors to Arlington Cemetery, who are not visiting someone from their own life, most often come to see  the Tomb of the Unknowns and/or the Kennedy Memorial, then move on to other Washington D.C. attractions more compelling than the Taft Monument.

Though I would love to go, I have not yet visited the JFK Library and Museum in Boston.  I have been to his graveside.  I was only eight when he was shot and I have no actual memory of him before that day.  I have seen so much about him over the years that I know his history almost as well as I know my own.  Perhaps since he became real to me with his death, it is fitting that I visited the grave first.

One of the saddest things about the early death of Kennedy is that he died before those who could tell his secrets did.  There is no doubt that he was a great man from a great family, a family devoted to America.  The politics of the Kennedy family are more liberal than mine, but this does not diminish my admiration for them.  However, it seems as if every year or so someone comes forth with secrets which can only serve to tarnish his name.  I wonder if they think they are doing anything of value when they reveal their tawdry trash.  He was human and none of us humans are perfect.  Though I am aware of reality, I choose to remember Camelot.

If you want to explore the life of Kennedy, there are other locations beyond his Library and his grave to visit.  Living in Dallas I frequently drive by Love Field, Dealy Plaza, the Texas School Book Depository, the Grassy Knoll and Parkland Hospital, but he was only at these sites for a few fleeting moments.  The site I associate most with JFK would be the Kennedy Compound in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts.  Perhaps someday it will be available for tours, because it was  recently donated for charitable use, but it’s future is still being determined.

To me, a grave is an odd place to commemorate a life.  It’s easy to find out where all the presidents are buried.  Several sites list them all with dates of death and grave-sites.  Many are buried next to their Library.  Others are taking their eternal rest near a residence that was important to them.  I’ve been to several of them, but I do not think of these men in relation to where they died or where they were buried.  It is where they lived and what they accomplished that captures my heart and my mind.

What do you think?  Do you find burial sites compelling?  Do you like to go where someone died or was buried?  Do you attach a significance to final resting places?