Is this the Tackiest Place on Earth?

24 Feb

South of the Border Welcome sign, South CarolinaSince I haven’t been to every single place on Earth I can’t attest as to whether South of the Border  in South Carolina is in fact the tackiest place, but it certainly would make a Top Ten list.

Oasis or Quagmire of Kitsch?
They call themselves a “highway oasis.” Well, it is, something.

In fact it’s a collection of shops full of kitchsy crap like fake poo, oversized pencils, tshirts with ridiculous sayings, shotglasses with every conceivable animal adornment, and anything else you can think of. It’s the kind of stuff that’s usually not Made in America and surely must make those factory workers wonder what is wrong with Americans for wanting all this crap.

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BTW – these are the only pics on this post that I took. See the Disclaimer below for more details.

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Step Away from the Snarkiness
All that sarcasm aside, South of the Border is WONDERFUL! I called high school friend Regina the. very. second. I. arrived. Why? Because the absurd oversized fiberglass animal “statues” were a delight! And the neon, oh the neon.

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Are we there Yet?
There’s no missing South of the Border. Billboards line the roads for miles – like hundreds of miles. They’re funny, goofy, even dorky. Bless their hearts.

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Even Tacky is Rooted in History
This, um, destination, started as a beer store south of the North Carolina border, which was home to dry counties (dry means alcohol-free; by law). And once the romping began, things exponentiated into this “wonderland.”

Disclaimer
Only a fraction of these photos are mine. Driving solo, I couldn’t take pics of the billboards. And once there I truly had too much fun playing to take the time to photograph. Plus, it was too hot and there were too many people. So thank you Flickr and your contributors for capturing memories for me and for sharing the experiences with you fine readers.

City Girl Takes to the…City

20 Feb

Fairlie Poplar photo walk, Atlanta, iron awning, architecture, photographySometimes the only escape you need is from the house. Same city, practically same neighborhood, but with a whole new perspective.

The photo club took a walk through a downtown neighborhood, the Fairlie Poplar district of Atlanta. Looking at architecture, street flotsam and jetsam, and people’s interaction with space.

We ran across a chess game in the park, abandoned buildings, reflections in glass and of Atlanta’s growth.

There were photo walks around the world on this same weekend: 1,118 of them!

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Fairlie Poplar, posted with vodpod

When a Rubber Chicken is an Absolute Necessity

17 Feb

Mardi Gras beadsThink Mardi Gras is all about the beads? Think again.

When you go to the family-friendly parades, the booty ain’t on the pretty girls; it’s in your bags-full-of-crap that you wouldn’t want otherwise but suddenly find essential.

Stuffed animals of varying sizes and mostly of poor quality–how they keep their stuffing in during all that partying is a mystery. Oh, and many are wearing Mardi Gras gear.  Of course they are.

A rubber chicken that I ABSOLUTELY HAD TO HAVE. I can’t explain why. I don’t like gag gifts, novelty items, or tradeshow giveaways. (That was my mom’s business and we had drawers full of thousands of misprinted pens (among other things). I hate imprinted items, but do thank them for sending me to college) But in the Mardi Gras moment–and even on the way home divvying up loot with my nieces, that chicken was mine. Then I gave it to a work friend who was truly baffled as to why I gave him such a thing. Probably the right reaction.

Other treats: a parasol with tassels, which I (generously) let my nieces keep.  Doubloons (coins) with the brand of each krewe (the crew of each float)–those are a treat. Or start a collection:  a necklace from every parade with the krewe’s name.

And of course there are the beads, which range from ordinary to huge and extravagant. Those are saved for women in the French Quarter or kids at the family parade. Good thing my nieces were there or I’d have left empty-handed. Seriously. Spending time with them, laughing and creating memories–feh. I needed them for the beads, people.

Mardi Gras doesn’t always bring out the best in people: drunken debauchery for some; or for me, jealousy when someone caught what I was hoping for. It’s vicious, competitive, and absurd. And wonderful fun!

Anyone know what they throw in the French Quarter besides beads? A girl’s gotta know!

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Did You Know that there’s a Family-Friendly Mardi Gras?

17 Feb

Did you know that there’s a family-friendly Mardi Gras? Me neither. And just because kids are invited doesn’t mean it’s tame. Raucous fun, spectacles of artistry, wild characters–both in the parade and watching it–and Americana.

Meanwhile, I had no idea that the Mardi Gras celebration lasts so long–weeks–or had so many parades (over 40). We went to 7 in two days!

The floats were impressive: large scale, double-decker, and themed to the hilt. The people on the floats are members of a krewe and pay for the right to be on the float, plus buy their own throws (lingo for beads and toys). It could cost up to $1500 per person. It was never made clear to me, but seemingly the organizations do charity work throughout the year. And somehow it’s a city ordinance that they wear masks. No one could explain why…

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In between floats were horses and characters like people or a Star Wars Storm Trooper. Of course.

Storm Trooper at Mardi Gras Parade

And then the joy of high school band after high school band. LOVE their hats with plumes!

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Stay tuned for upcoming posts about why a rubber chicken is so compelling; and the incredible community of people who celebrate Mardi Gras with their families.

A Road Trip to See…Cars?

15 Feb

Old Car City, White GA, rusted cars, junkyardThe photo club took a field and trip and what a wonderful one it was! Old Car City in White, GA is home to acres of rusted cars and car parts, with trees and vines growing over and through them. Pollen that stuck to the windows left patterns once it was washed away by rain. Details and the whole. Both so compelling.

We know I have a thing for rust. Not sure why…

Are junkyards particularly American? We certainly find them fascinating–they’re the stuff of lore with ferocious dogs. And now tv shows abound. Perhaps it’s the possibility of a find. The reality that one girl’s trash is another girl’s treasure (a friend used to throw a dating party in our 20’s with that name: bring a guy you aren’t dating and hope to find someone else’s platonic friend attractive to you!).

Want to go yourself? Call ahead. We had to arrange a time and paid a $10 fee. Does everyone have to do that or only sucker photographers who will do anything for rust and dappled light?

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Old Car City, posted with vodpod

A Vacation State of Mind

13 Feb

When you pull over the car–urgently–to spend 20 minutes getting pictures of tall grasses, you’re on vacation with me. Yup, I know how to live it up. Rise with the sun, in bed (sleeping bag) not much later than its descent, and collective hours taking pictures of, well, plants.

Ahh, vacation.

Seriously.

There’s no timeline other than what the sun informs; no obligations other than to yourself; and freedom to enjoy whatever catches your fancy. To me, at the Outer Banks of NC, I couldn’t get enough of the plant life. Sea oats, marsh grass, bulrush.

What’s an obsession (photographic or otherwise) that overcame you on vacation?

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Choosing To Travel the US And Not the World

12 Feb

It’s fun to meet folks while traveling. And when writing about travel, we also meet virtually.

The kind people at Inspiring Travelers opened their blog to guest posters; and fancy that, they took my submission.

What did I write about? Why Americana the Beautiful, of course. And choosing to travel the US, not the world.