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Friday, June 28, 2013

The Golgotha Fun Park

As you travel across the Southern Bible Belt you will realize that people will find a way to mix Christianity with everything and anything.

For the God fearing tourist there are no shortage of Christian attractions on the open road.  Back in 2008 when I was visiting Cave City, I stopped here.

No for those of you with some knowledge of the Bible you will recognize "Golgotha" as the site of Jesus's Crucifixion.  The original Golgotha was no fun park.  This Golotha, is however a minature golf course.  Well, at least it used to be.  It was long closed and in pretty bad shape when I got there.

At one point they advertized themselves as the number one Biblical Golf Course in the country, giving you a chance to knock a golf ball right between the 10 Commandments.

Sadly, somewhere along the way the demand for a religous themed mini-golf course faded and it was left in shambles.  The majority of the bibilical obstacles and decor are missing and what is left has been smashed by hooligans.

Poor poor Mary......

Someone even stole Jonah right out of the Mouth of his purple whale.....

It seems that the only thing that the vandals left alone was the set of concrete Jesuses.  I guess they just could bring themselves to smash Jesus.

On a more recent trip to Cave City I found that the golf course had reopened, but all the religious imagery was replaced with toy race cars.  Despite this, the Golgotha Fun Park will always be a fond memory of the open road.

The Carpetbagger

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Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Public Crucifixion of Paul Deen

I posted a few days ago about Paula Deen's situation.  I tried to talk about both sides of the issue, but at this point I have gotten pretty upset.  Since I last posted she was fired from her TV show and even her local restaurant in Cherokee, NC is set to close over the incident.  Now I obviously don't know what Miss Deen is like personally, but it is clear to me that the punishment here does not fit the crime.

Under deposition Paula Deen admitted to having used racist language in the past.  It would have been easy for Deen to simply lie and say that she never did these things.  She chose to be honest and said things that could be harmful to her in the future.  Deen showed integrity in her honesty and by admitting she was not perfect.  I for one can say that I have said things I am not proud of, and I have definitely said things that I would not want published in a newspaper.

Words are powerful and Miss Deen said a very hurtful word.  This was several decades ago, when that word was thrown around a lot more casually. That said, she used the word to describe a man that had threatened her life.  Isn't it quite possible that Miss Deen has grown.  As a nation, we have grown and shifted to a place where we realize this is not appropriate.  For some reason we are assuming that Miss Deen has not grown with the rest of the country.  Strom Thurmond actively fought against civil rights, yet he was allowed to stay a respected member of congress until 2003!  Yet, Paula Deen makes some off hand remarks in her personal life and she is supposed to go away forever.  This seems like an odd double standard. 

Recently another interesting accusation has been leveled against Miss Deen.  There has been criticism that she has failed to give African Americans credit for their role in the history of the food she creates.  Does Paula Deen's food have huge African American influence?  Absolutely.  The majority of African Americans can trace their heritage back to the Southern United States for obvious reasons.  The fact of the matter is the black and white southerns have a shared culinary history.  What is considered traditional "Black Food" is essentially the same thing that is traditionally eaten by Southern Whites.  My wife was raised in the South by her grandparents and grew up eating what would be considered "Soul Food".  Southerners of all colors played a role in their creation of modern Southern Cuisine. I don't ever remember Paula Deen ever marketing her food as "White Food". 

I feel like she has gotten a raw deal.  What could have been a starting point for a reasonable discussion was instead turned into a public crucifixion.

The Carpetbagger

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Ghost Town in the Sky: The Cursed Amusement Park

Opening up in 1960s the Ghost Town in the Sky Amusement Park in Maggie Valley, NC was one of the most popular attractions in the Smokey Mountains.  It was made in a time when kids loved nothing more then pretending to be cowboys and hoping that one day they would get to shoot Indians.  The Amusement Park was built on the top of a Mountain, which greatly added to the charm.  The only ways to reach it was an incline train or a chair lift.  In the last decade it has been haunted by non-stop trouble.

My introduction to Ghost Town was a bit horrifying.  Me and my family are a bit afraid of heights.  We all decided that we would made an attempt to go up the chair lift, despite being pretty nervous.  None of us had ever ridden a chair lift before and weren't exactly clear on how it worked.  We got in position to get on and as the chair neared we set our three year old daughter inside.  The chair promptly began whisking her up the Mountain by her lonesome, with the safety bar not secured.  The chair lift operator panicked and tried to grab the bottom of the chair, nearly dumping my daughter out.  Meanwhile, my wife miraculously scurried up a rock wall and jumped backwards into the chair.  Me and my son road the chair behind them. My hands were shaking the whole time.  Partly because riding the chairlift was terrifying and partly because I almost watched my 3 year old daughter carried up a mountain unsecured.

The chair lift would actually mark the beginning of Ghost Town's problems.

In 2002 the chair lift would malfunction and leave guests hanging in the air for 2 hours in the rain.  Days after the incident the park would be shut down and be closed for the next 5 years.  Ghost Town would reopen in 2007 to much fanfare.  This is when my family visited.

The park wasn't fully operational by any means.  The train up the mountain, nor the train around the attraction were not working.  Many rides, including the "Cliffhanger" roller coaster (their #1 attraction) were not operational.

Fortunately, the main draw of Ghost Town has always been their Wild West Town. We started out by watching a charming little Can Can show in their Saloon.

After the show we walked out into the street for the main event:  The Gun Fight.

The mood is set with a little Clint Eastwood-esque music and a gravel voiced narrator stepping into the street.  I have witnessed 3 gunfights at Ghost Town over the years and they all had different stories, so they must rotate them.

Of course the basic framework is the same........The bad guys roll into Town.....

They are up to no good.......

Then the Sheriff and his men come in and start blowing them away.....

Bullets fly and cowboys die.....

Some guy gets his belt shot off and runs around with his pants around his ankles......

Little kids cry because they think they just watched people get murdered...........

The the comic relief begins when Ghost Town's signature character, Digger the Undertaker, begins his act.

This act includes checking to make sure the cowboys are dead, and shooting them if they are not......

Then he folds up their bodies and robs them of their cash....

My daughter was a touch traumatized by the whole ordeal and ran over and gave the cowboy a hug when she realized that he was still alive.  Man, this day makes me sound like a horrible father.....

Oddly enough, this photo would appear in "Idaho Magazine", despite me never having been to Idaho.

The Cowboys then posed with cheerful tourists for photos.

Check out this full gunfight....

After the gunfight we took a stroll around the wild west town and checked out the various wild-west scenes that had been set up with Mannequins.

Most of Ghost Town is dedicated to Cowboys, but the Indians do get a small table to give blow dart demonstrations and do face painting.

You can also buy Native American crafts made by a real pro-wrestler....

Here is Ric Youngblood in action.....

Ghost Town's Renaissance would not last long.  Despite them promising that their Roller Coaster would be operational "soon", it would not open that year.  The following year the Roller Coaster would be open for a total of one day, when state inspectors promptly shut it down.  My son's friend road it and said that they put cinder blocks in the cars to balance them out.  Keep in mind this is a Roller Coaster with at 360 loop.   Ghost Town would get more and more bad press as it turned out that they were way in debt and were not paying their employees, who continued working there out of loyalty.  Ghost Town begged the local government for money, which was met with local anger.

After crawling through a 2009 season another devastating blow occurred when a retaining wall blew out causing a serious mudslide causing 40 homes being evacuated.

Recently, Ghost Town was purchased for a bargain price by a local woman with the impressive name "Alaska Presley".   Ghost town was supposed to open again for 2013, but things are already looking grim as the opening has been pushed back several times and is now indefinite.

Alaska has posted her plan on Ghost Town's website.  The most fascinating is that she plans on recreating a replica of Jerusalem on top of the Mountain.  Not sure what this has to do with Wild West, but its intriguing.  There has even been talk of Alaska building a giant Rio-esque Jesus to top off the Mountain.  Now that is something I desperately want to see!

It is really sad to see a classic roadside attraction struggling to stay alive and I do wish them the absolute best at maintaining part of the old Roadside.  Sadly, I can't help but feel that the final closure is inevitable.  A little Wild West Amusement park may just not fit into the modern tourist's itinerary.

Over in Cave City, KY is Ghost Town's karmic cousin:  Guntown Mountain.

Now, I don't like to hate on Cave City, but if Ghost Town is anything, it is far superior to Guntown.

Much like Ghost Town, you must reach the town through Chairlift, which is slightly less terrifying, as the Mountain isn't nearly as high.

The town itself is similar to Ghost Town and they have their own gunfights.....

But sadly, instead of a gravel-voiced narrator, we are relegated to a pre-recorded narration and a gun fight lasting about 30 seconds.  It pretty much involved the cowboys all walking out into the street and immediately shooting each other dead.

All in all, these places are a call back to a simpler time, and may just not have a place in our modern world.  However, its still fun to watch people pretend to shoot each other.

UPDATE: More bad news from Ghost Town in the Sky

The Carpetbagger

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Saturday, June 22, 2013

The Hemingway Cats

I admit I am not the most cultured man.  I haven't read a lot of great American literature.  I recognize that Earnest Hemingway is a towering figure in American Culture, but I have not read one word he has written (unless you count the titles). 

Hemingway is particularly legendary in the State of Florida and his home is the number one must-see attraction in Key West.  Now, I may not know a lot about Hemingway, but I am a good tourist, and I went and saw his house just like I was supposed to.

Although it is the biggest home in Key West, the Hemingway House is a humble little place.  The Tour Guide (a definite Historian), explained the home and Hemingway's time here, but it became clear very fast that history and artifacts were not the main attraction here.  As soon as we walked into Earnest Hemingway's bedroom the entire tour group quit listening to the Guide and focused their attention on the real Main Event.

The cats......

Now this may sound dumb at first, but these are not just any ordinary cats.  Earnest Hemingway was given a white 6-toed cat by a sailor as a gift.  The cat would have many offspring, many of whom also had 6-toes and Earnest became a true mutant cat rancher.  To this day the cat's reside at Hemingway's Key West home.

These Cats are known as "polydactyl" which means that they have more toes then they are suppossed to.  Of the 50 cats on the property about half are polydactyl.

The cats pretty much run the place as they lounge around on the priceless antiques, such as Hemingway's bed.

The historical tour pretty much degenerated into tourists petting and snuggling with cats while ignoring everything the guide had to say.

Here is Ivan....

Now, Ivan was very friendly and let me pet him, but for some reason he didn't like having his polydactyl paws photographed.  I guess he was embarrassed.  I had to wait for just the right moment to get a shot of his mutant paws.

Gotcha!  As you can see Ivan has at least 6 toes on his front paws and 5 on the back (a normal cat has 4 on the back).

Most the cats are named after famous people.  The one on the bed was named "Fats Waller" after the famous jazz pianist.

Of course, these artistocats are in need of proper burials when they pass on.  The home has its own cat cemetery where you can pay homage to some of the kitties of the past.

So, what did I learn at the Hemingway house?  Well, Mr. Hemingway liked mutant cats.....Oh yeah, and he was an alcoholic......

During a drunken night of partying he stole the urinal from a local bar and it is still in his garden, used as a fountain.....

And the house was built next to the Island light house so he could find his way when he was stumbling home drunk.....

Now, ever since I left Key West I have been asking myself the obvious question:  Where do I get my own Hemingway cat?

The answer:  Craig's List.

Today my family got our very own Hemingway Cat....Say "hi" to Virginia...

The Carpetbagger

Please feel free to e-mail me at
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