Thursday, December 27, 2007


The Memphis Temple is the same temple as the Baton Rouge and similarly hidden away in an obscure part of a suburban neighborhood. It almost becomes just another church building. The cool part is actually the Stake Center with the drive through services.

Beale Street
in downtown Memphis is kind of a kiddie version of Bourbon Street – both literally and figuratively; I mean, there are actually kids on Beale Street. It’s similar in that it’s a number of blocks that appear to be permanently blocked off and which are lined with neon signs advertising various nightlife. It’s only a few blocks though and while it has a few bars most of the places are restaurants or Blues clubs. You could hear them singing from outside, so I listen for a bit. It was a cold, rainy evening so there wasn’t a lot of activity.

There’s a Hard Rock Café at one end of the district. There’s also a Rock and Soul museum around the corner, but they didn’t allow photographs. Not much worth taking a picture of anyways - there wasn’t much “rock” to it. It was really just a history of soul and blues in and around Memphis up through the 70’s or so.

And then there’s Graceland. The main attraction is just the mansion, but they’ve made a whole pseudo-park out of it all. There’s more ground space dedicated to gift shops than the actual Presley estate. You pay for a ticket to get onto the shuttle that drives you across the street and up to the mansion.

It’s a fun place, with all sorts of rooms that are designed in a different style and with a different purpose. It’s pretty much all as it was back in the day, but a few of the rooms had been converted into memorabilia rooms.

A shrine to the king. He lies here with his parents and grandma.

Saturday, December 15, 2007


New Orleans is a freaky place, in pretty much every sense of the word. The town itself feels spooky with all the old French-looking buildings. But just going about the town, there are a highly disproportionate number of scary looking people. If you wondered were all the Goths and freaks go after high school, they go to New Orleans. And then you’ve got people like this on the street corner.

Bourbon street is like none other. The active part of it stretches about 10 blocks or so and appears to be permanently blocked off – at least at night. These ten blocks are filled with bars and clubs, many of which feature live bands, and each of which is advertised with neon lights. People walk up and down the street drinking, wearing beaded necklaces, acting crazy. The scene was about how I imagined Mardi Gras to be – and I was there on a Wednesday in December. I went back again on Thursday after getting back from the temple just to see if there was some special thing going on Wednesday, but it was the same. Heck of a contrast to the temple.

You can’t tell from this picture, but with the heavy fog, the city in the background had a real Gotham City look. This whole place is like a real life comic book town.

You’ve got to have a heck of street for a voodoo shop to be the most family friendly thing on the street. You’re not allowed to take pictures inside but I caught one passing by.

But there’s a pirate store too.

The back of the St. Louis Cathedral at night. Only in comic books and New Orleans.

I thought this was pretty cool, up until I actually came right up to it, I was sure it was a real life statue outside the building. It’s a painting.

Even the Hard Rock Café was kind of freaky. You’ve got stuff like this.

And in the front doorway.

I wanted to check out the neighborhoods hit hardest by the hurricanes, and they were kind of scary too, for different reasons. Some neighborhoods were nearly ghost towns. Lots of still abandoned houses.

And lots of just completely demolished lots which nothing remaining but uncut grass.

Another weird part was that, in the middle of the day, there were tons of people just sitting on their front porch. Some were talking to others, many were just sitting. It was as if they were all waiting for something.

It would appear that some people are taking the sign seriously though.

In stark contrast, I stopped by some of the old plantations on my way out.

The oak tree corridor was pretty cool. It’s hard to capture the feel of this lane on camera.

As if New Orleans actually needed anything else to make it spooky, it apparently has a history of being haunted. There are all sorts of ghost tours, vampire tours, voodoo tours and cemetery tours that you can do all night. I didn’t do any of them, but if I’m ever here again I think it’d be fun. There are also lots of swamp tours, because the city is pretty much surrounded by swamps. Next time.

Friday, December 14, 2007


Avery Island wasn’t too far south of Baton Rouge, so I headed there first. I’ve driven over 2000 miles since leaving Quantico, so it was about time I was caught by the long arm of the law – going a whopping 12 mph over the speed limit.

It was actually kind of fun. Two highway patrolmen in their mid-20’s. One of them jumped out from behind a concrete barrier with a laser pointed at me and then began talking quickly into his radio. Shortly thereafter the other was standing in the middle of the 70 mph freeway flagging me down. He had a deep southern accent and was real friendly. He got all excited when I said I was headed down to the Tabasco factory. The whole thing felt like a couple kids just playing a game. If only it were.

Down at Avery Island I took a look around the Tabasco gift shop, all sorts of foods there with Tabasco in them, if only I didn’t hate the stuff. It looked like the tours of the factory were free, but they were guided and I was the only one around and I didn’t want to do a guided tour for just me, so I got out of there.

The jungle gardens were the cool part, anyways. There were all these signs for alligators, but I didn’t see jack for no alligators. And I stood there a long time too, all quiet like. But nothing. The signs were kind of fun though.

And just in case you didn’t know.

For some reason there’s a shrine to Buddha right in the middle of the lagoon.

Whoever said that turtles are slow is full of crap. There was this turtle sticking his neck out at me, all cocky like, but as soon as I lifted my camera he darted off into the water, fast as a jack rabbit.

This has got to be the sorriest Christmas decoration I’ve ever seen. Somewhere outside of Baton Rouge is this combined Taco Bell/KFC and instead of reindeer pulling a sleigh, they’ve got tacos and chicken legs pulling a tamale.

I don’t think I’ve ever realized how mini these mini temples really are. I mean, I think this temple actually covered less ground space than the stake center right across from it.

The stars kind of aligned to do a session. There are only nine a week, but I just happened to arrive about a half hour before one of them and the only one of the day. And I guess you’re supposed to bring your own names, because I didn’t see any available, but right before going in I ran into a guy who asked me if I would do one of his because he had extra. So it all worked out.

This is the exact same statue set as Atlanta. They must be standard issue to all the temples. Too bad these guys are behind bars.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


Along the gulf coast is the little casino town of Biloxi, Mississippi. There are only a handful of casinos there, but the standout is actually the Hard Rock Casino. I only vaguely remember the Las Vegas Hard Rock Casino, but this one seems a lot better. Lots of stuff all over the place.

Two questions on this one. Why is Townshend wearing an American flag and why is this guitar not broken?

I would totally wear these pants.

The Beau Rivage was nice and festive.

In the morning I went jogging on the beach. The dark, overcast skies actually make for some nice images against the similarly colored sea.

Birds of a feather flock together, I suppose.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


Mobile, Alabama is a heinous little town. Everyone there is fat and talks funny. Driving about the city, it looked as if not a single building had been built in the last three decades. All the houses had columns out in front though, which was kinda interesting. Even the little white trash houses had these wood 2X2 columns. However, I found nothing worth spending the batter power of my rechargeable camera battery on. Well, there were a few nice old plantation mansions that had been restored. Here’s one.

There were a lot of little produce stands selling “Hot Boiled Peanuts” so I figured it must be the thing to eat around here and got a bag. They’re nasty. And now they’re stinking up the car.

Monday, December 10, 2007


I had read about a place called Dinosaur Adventure Land that’s a Dinosaur activity park whose primary purpose was to prove that creationism is true. The whole concept of such a park cracked me up, so I went by to check it out, but it was closed. You can see the T-Rex on the left side.

It would appear that the kid they told to put letters on their sign happens to be British.

I went down to Pensacola Beach, but it was gray and overcast and so you couldn’t see very far. The surfer dudes seemed to be disappointed with the day’s waves too.

They did catch a few small waves on occasion.

The Gulf of Mexico. If you want to know the truth, I really can't tell the difference between it and the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

Christmas trees and palm trees.

I was about to leave Pensacola when I realized I was actually just blocks away from one of the largest aviation museums in the world. Lots of fun stuff there. I watched an IMAX movie about Navy fighter jets and rode in a little flight simulator.

There was some Marine stuff too.

Sunday, December 9, 2007


The R.E.M. pilgrimage begins at Wuxtry Records, where Michael and Peter first met.

The store had a display of rare R.E.M. stuff, but alas, most of it was expensive and didn’t actually have music I didn’t already have. As you can see, they had an actual train conductor's cap that says, "Driver 8." I asked how much it was, but the guy working there couldn't find a price tag and was reluctant to sell it without knowing how much the manager wanted to sell it for. I did pick up an album of R.E.M. covers from local Athens bands.

The album was recorded at the 40 Watt Club, where R.E.M. first played and still play on occasion.

The Athens Trestle was made famous by its placement on the back of R.E.M.'s first album Murmur and is now referred to as the “Murmur Trestle.” It was going to be torn down a few years ago but was saved purely by virtue of its R.E.M. fame.

Weaver D’s Delicious Fine Foods, whose slogan was the inspiration for R.E.M.’s album Automatic for the People.


The Atlanta Temple was rather underwhelming. I believe the figures in the display are supposed to be Mary and Joseph.

Downtown, I stopped by the CNN Center. Tickets for the tour were $12, but I got one from an Asian guy off the street for $8. It was fun to be able to look down on a broadcast currently in progress. Being above and behind, we could see read the teleprompter and see the anchor as she read from it. It was old Fredricka while I was there. There was also a room where we could see all the CNN feeds and hear the producer directing the show, saying such things as when to cut to a picture and back again.

Then I went over to check out the HRC, thinking that R.E.M. might get some kind of spotlight at this one, but all I found was this tucked away in a corner.

I walked through the underground mall and the Olympic park. By the time I got over to The World of Coca-Cola it was closed, but I’m rather skeptical that it would have been worth the $15 ticket anyways.

After that I went to see Atonement, which was only playing in one theater in the city. That’s right, one day in Atlanta, and I went to see a movie. Not entirely worth it, it was really just a souped up Nicholas Sparks-type romance.

On the way back I passed this house, owned by people who take their Christmas decoration responsibilities seriously. I think the temple should do something like this.