There’s a dinosaur mural near the bridge near Little Italy in Cleveland. Mayfield Ave.
The last time I was in Cleveland, I decided to check out Little Italy. It was hot – almost 90 degrees. 3o minute walk. When I arrived in Little Italy I was a hulking, sweaty mess. I paced Mayfield Ave, trying to decide which restaurant or pizza parlor to pick. I chose the one with a visible bar. The bartender looked at me with wide-eyed panic. I imagined he was thinking I was about to have a heart attack. I ordered a pizza and a large beer in a large glass. We both relaxed. Beer, pizza. I was happy.
While I was in the Weeki Wachee area for the Mermaids, I decided to stay an extra day and check out other local attractions.
My hotel was kind of crusty, kind of weird. Red/orange carpets. Stucco & a spray-on ceiling to cover stains, leaks, & burns. Cigarette burns on the sink countertop in my room. I shared an elevator ride with a brunette woman in a crimson nightgown, holding a lit cigarette. She said, “God bless you”. I did not sneeze. I don’t remember the hotel room having lights, except in the bathroom. The air conditioner was making a racket. I tried to fix it. The filters were caked with gray-brown filth. I rinsed them off in the shower. The noise persisted, but the room smelled better. I looked out the window. Old gray macadam, Florida vegetation, saw palmetto, anole lizards everywhere. There was a bar & bowling alley across the highway. Why didn’t I go? I’m a fool. Instead, I watched videos on my phone. Watched the trailer for Wonder Woman 1984 — the one with music by New Order — and thought “that looks good”. The front desk clerk was sassy, humorous — the kid needs to get out of Florida and move to LA or New York. Be a stand-up comic, find more people like you “sassy front desk man”! Plenty of local magazines featuring gun ranges & stores. Good bedtime reading to remind me where I am.
My destination was the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science (2148 Riverside Dr, Jackson, MS). The location was particularly vexing for my GPS, which led me through a maze of lumpy streets, the surface of which rose and fell with an amplitude of about a half a meter. It was as if I was driving over frozen waves or ski slope moguls.
( An aside: My in-dash GPS is good, but it isn’t great. It probably isn’t as great as Google/Wais is, but I’m not going to risk my life and the lives of others squinting at a cellphone screen or juggling one in my hand while I drive. I do use Wais when I’m stuck in traffic though. )
The Mississippi Museum of Natural Sciences
The Mississippi Museum of Natural Sciences was nice. Their best attractions were their live fish, reptile, and amphibian environments. They had a two-headed snake and more cute baby alligators than you can imagine.
The live fish exhibits were particularly fascinating and enchanting. Definitely, a perfect atmosphere to chill out in after a long drive on a hot day.
Trails behind the museum led to the LeFleurs Bluff State Park. The trails wound through what seemed like miles of woodland, past alligator infested lakes and the Pearl River (which I will assume is also infested with gators). My “desk potato” body was out of breath by the time I navigated all the trails and returned to the Museum.
Here’s a video of some of the many natural wonders you’ll find in LeFleurs Bluff State Park:
Maybe it is wrong to say “alligator infested lakes”. It is their home and has been for millions of years.
( My condo is a “Dan infested condo”. )
Needing a place to stay, I found the nearest Hilton, and said: “I’m a Hilton HHonors member, what have you got for me”? ( Two h’s in HHonors, BTW. ) Membership has its privileges and I got a penthouse suite, floor 14. Great view of the city. I liked that the desk chair looked like it was made in the 1960s.
If “classy” has a spectrum, the Jackson Mississippi Hilton falls on the “swank” side of the spectrum, rather than the “posh” side. This is the room:
It’s “swank”, right? Look at this chair. That is a swank chair.
The highlight of staying in the penthouse suite was that Ms. Diva was in the suite next to mine. How did I know Ms. Diva was next to me? Her Bluetooth name gave her away. I got to meet Ms. Diva in the hallway, and she looked like Janet Jackson, which seems appropriate.
Most of the hotels/motels I stayed at had breakfast in the lobby, but the Jackson Hilton had its own classy dining room. And breakfast was not free. Rule of thumb: if breakfast is in a dining room, it is not free; if it is in the lobby, particularly if there is a lobby waffle maker, it is free.
I was amazed by the number of pickup trucks in the parking lot of the hotel. Pickup trucks seem to be the new SUVs — everyone has one because they’re handy for hauling shit back from Costco and Ikea.
After deliberating where to eat for about three hours, I settled on Dracos’s which is a seafood joint in the same parking lot as the hotel.
Draco’s claim to fame is their charbroiled oysters. In the spirit of trying everything at least once, I gave them a shot. And guess what: they’re freaking amazing. Oyster + butter + parmesan cheese + charbroiled flavor = amazingly delicious. I can’t lie.
How Lucky I Am
I was done exploring LeFleurs Bluff park & the museum, I’d met Ms. Diva, I’d had amazing oysters, so it was time to go. I stopped by a chain pharmacy (can’t remember if it was a CVS, Rite-Aid or Walgreens, and not that it matters) to load up on water, Red Bull, and some snacks. At the front of a checkout line was a gentleman in a wheelchair. He did not simply have a broken leg; it was apparent that he suffered from considerable physical and neurological disorders. Every moment of his transaction with the cashier was a struggle; finding the change, handing it to her, holding the soda he had purchased — all a struggle. A second and third cashier opened their registers, and the rest of us customers were able to check out quickly. I left before the man in the wheelchair and turned back to notice that he was stuck in the automatic doors. I held the door open for him, and he was finally able to leave.
I am thankful for how lucky I am to have been born with a relatively sound mind and body, and that I am able to drive around the U.S., pretty much anywhere I want to go without much effort or resistance. I’m a lucky guy.
Imagine you were a cow. A meat cow. Now ruminate 😉 on what is the one moment in time that led to billions of your species being butchered and eaten every year. According to the legend, that moment came sometime in 1895 when Louis Lunch served the first hamburger sandwich.
Louis Lunch, established in 1895 in New Haven, Connecticut, claims to have invented the hamburger sandwich. Perhaps ironically, Louis did not invent Lunch (but if he did, they’re passing up on perhaps a more impressive claim to fame).
They serve their hamburger sandwich today the same way they did over a century ago: a ground beef patty on toasted bread (not a bun) with NO KETCHUP (caps added for emphasis). They also have Foxon Park Soda — a local favorite.
Outside, you’ll wait online to get in. Inside, you’ll quickly learn that there are no buns or ketchup, and you’ll place your order. You’ll find a spot along the tiny, tightly packed hallway-like rooms — hopefully not around the corner by the restrooms where you won’t be able to hear your order announced. You’ll likely see tourists from places like Japan and Germany; you’ll think “perhaps I’ll try to start a conversation with them”; and then you’ll think “why take the chance”. The kitchen area is tightly packed with the machines that toast bread, and these archaic mechanical meat searing devices that make the patties. The interior, as insinuated before, is microscopically small, and features brick walls and 18th-century wood furnishings (like most of New Haven).
It is a unique experience — even if you’re just getting a Foxon Park soda. If you love eating cattle, this is your Mecca.
While staying at the Kuttawa/Eddyville Hampton Inn, I developed a strong hankering for nourishment, and whatever candy bars or snack crackers the hotel vending machine offered would not suffice. Certainly, the near-by gas stations had plenty of snacks, but I wanted a meal, and hopefully a meal that had a little bit of local flavor. Fortunately, there was a Huddle House in the same parking lot as the hotel.
A Huddle House is similar to a Waffle House or Denny’s in that they serve hot, delicious, stomach packing food, however, the Huddle House has its own unique vibe. It is decorated like a stereotypical 1950s diner, using the colors red, white and chrome. The kitchen is open (not behind a wall) and you can see it from any point of view. The visibility of the kitchen and the bright, sparkly colors, provide the diner (me) with an overall feeling of ease that the Huddle House care about cleanliness and order.
What really made my Huddle House experience shine was Rusty the maitre’d/waiter/restaurant manager/cashier. Rusty was like the operating system of the Huddle House: seating people, taking orders, checking on the status of orders, doing his best to keep everything flowing. It is kind of fascinating being able to watch all the employees work together to make your dining experience as perfect as possible. It is like removing the back of a fine watch and observing how all the parts work together to provide the time.
I had the fried green tomatoes. They are the perfect combination of sour and crispy, and the Huddle House prepared them perfectly.