West Baden Springs Indiana

West Baden Springs Indiana
Inside of the AMAZING West Baden Springs Resort in Indiana.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Cats beat Tennessee at Rupp

I was at Rupp for the game against Tennessee this Saturday. What a fun game! It was great seeing the Cats play that way. They were moving the ball, scoring points, and playing some defense!
I felt bad for the other teams coach though. I don't even know of a store that would sell an orange jacket like that. Maybe there is a special clown store where you can buy one, I don't know. I would hope that even if a store stocked a jacket like that, they would try to talk the potential buyer out of getting it. I would hope that salesperson at the clown shop would say, "come on Bruce, all of the other coaches will make fun of you if you wear that jacket."
It was pretty cool of the guy to take responsibility after the game. He bashed his team and himself for the loss.
That team looked tough. Watching them warm up before the game, I felt a little scared. Luckily, UK has found its rhythm here at the end of the season.
I headed downtown early for this game. I had some reading to catch up on, and I thought I could hang out in the mall before the game and read. I did get several hours of reading in. The mall, and the entire area around Rupp really starts hopping a few hours before the games. There are people wearing blue everywhere.
I can't say enough about the Rupp security, and the traffic cops around the arena. 24,000 people in a downtown stadium, and things move pretty smoothly. If you have been to similar events in other major cities, and event like this can be total chaos.

With the walk ways going from Rupp, the connecting hotels, and the Victorian Square area, you can really access a lot downtown without having to deal with some of the bitter cold weather.

Friday, February 20, 2009

pro sports teams in Kentucky

Several years ago, my friend Nate from Cincy insisted that we get together and go to a Columbus Clippers game. After going to some major sporting events in the Cleveland area, I was a little hesitant. I reluctantly went after much persistence.
It was a great experience. We quickly realized that this was different from attending a major sporting event. The crowd was smaller, and it was a lot easier to get close to the action.
I love going to sporting events in this area. I especially love minor league and independent sports. There is something really fun about Minor League baseball and seeing guys that might make it to the highest level possible.
I also love the independent leagues. Most of the guys playing were let go by affiliated teams, or they weren't drafted. This is their last shot at making it. These guys aren't making much money either. Some stay with host families, and they very probably have off season jobs. Some of these players have been associated, in some way, with more significant teams, but that link is no more.
Outside of my favorite sport, baseball, I really enjoyed going to see the Kentucky Horsemen last year. I attended over half of their home games. This is a great dollar value in Lexington, and its just a lot of fun. Its another one of those things, however, where I ask myself why aren't there more people at the games. Its a lot of fun. NFL alum Craig Yeast was with the team last year. This year, they Jared Lorenzen! The guy owns a Super Bowl ring!
Louisville had an Arena 2 team last year too, and they were very successful, but it seems that team has folded, which is really sad. They were drawing good crowds, and had a good record.
I am glad the Lexington team is still around.
I have not been able to get down to Owensboro to see the Kentucky Bison yet. I know the season is almost over, but I am still hoping to catch a game. They have a former Globetrotter as their manager, and a former UK player! At the moment, they are dominating! I really hope Owensboro realizes how cool it is to have this team.
Evansville Indiana has had the Frontier League baseball team the Otters for a long time now. They have recently become the home of a pro hockey team. I am not a hockey fan, but I am hoping this team makes it too. I was reading that they made pro hockey history lately when their goalie, Kira Hurley, became the 1st female pro hockey player to score a point. How cool is that?
Anyway, this area is bursting with some great sports teams. Take the family, you can afford it. I am sure the team owners and players will appreciate the support.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Book: Trapped! The Story of Floyd Collins by Robert K. Murray & Roger W. Brucker

Wow! I have lucked in to reading some good books lately! This book was a very satisfying read.

I love Wikipedia. It is probably the site I visit most these days. They do a fine yet too brief job covering Floyd Collins and his being stuck in Sand Cave. This book is a thorough, easy read about the Floyd Collins situation. The story easily needs 300 pages.

Floyd Collins liked to explore caves in the Mammoth Cave area. It could be very profitable for someone to have a cave on their land at that time. Several land owners competed for tourist dollars trying to sell tourists on their cave being the most spectacular in the region.
Floyd was trying to find a new cave entrance. While doing this, in a very narrow cave area, he knocked over his lantern and his leg became wedged in a way that he could not get it out.
His friends and family found him the next day. Over the next several days friends, family, and many others came to the Sand Cave area to help. Actually, many just came and hung out. A carnival like atmosphere rose up near the cave over the next couple of weeks. Vendors and entertainers were on the scene, with Floyd, underground, the main unseen attraction.
Some people went in and tried to help Floyd by feeding him, trying to dig him out, etc. Many people started to go in to get to Floyd, but changed their minds, as Floyd was in a deep, narrow secluded area. Some feared they might also end up trapped.
Some people thought of ways to try to get Floyd out. Others argued against those ideas. One group of monument carvers arrived at Sand Cave to offer their assistance, and they were turned away.
For the first several days that Floyd was trapped, various groups of people offered suggestions and theories on ways to get Floyd out, but other groups would argue about why that plan would not work.
In a few sentences, Floyd gets stuck in a very narrow, scary cave. Some people show up to help. Many people show up to see what happens, and to drink and have fun. The people that try to help get protective about their rescue plans, and try to prevent other would be rescuers from putting their plans into motion. Eventually, Floyd dies as no one has been able to get him out.
One group does dig a hole 60 feet deep and they do get to Floyd that way (the passage Floyd used collapsed in 2 places) but it was too late. Floyd was dead.

The story is far from over though. Floyd's body is moved several times after this (it still takes his family and friends some time to recover his body). His body is stolen at one time, and there is even a legal battle about who owns his body. The authors do a great job of tracking the characters in the story (including another historically important figure, Charles Lindbergh, who played a part in the media coverage of the event). The authors track down other players, including one who suggests that Floyd was actually murdered, but refuses to elaborate.

Murray and Brucker also cover a lot of inaccuracies in the reporting of the event at the time. Many news outlets were eager to one up each other. In their efforts, false reports were made about Floyd and his situation. Many fake Floyd's surfaced. Rumors about Floyd being freed and faking his situation were printed.

The authors even get special permission to visit Sand Cave (it has been sealed off for some time). They make some very exciting discoveries, including a discovery that pretty much proves that rescuers could have continued getting to Floyd despite the collapses.

In my updated edition of the book, it is noted that several people linked to the incident (mostly decedents of the people originally involved) have contacted the author about their perceptions of people mentioned in the book, facts that they know about them, etc.

There are many reasons to check out this book. It is exciting. We know how the story of Floyd Collins ends, but there is so much more to the legacy and the details. Brucker and Murray cover it all thoroughly in exciting detail.

If you are interested in caving, Mammoth Cave, or strange stories, this is it. Its a good read and it keeps you attention. It was so well written that I wish the book was about 200 pages longer.

The story of Floyd Collins is just as interesting as many others that get more attention. The story is under appreciated. A musical has been produced, obviously some books, but I would love to see this story exploited more. Floyd deserves at least a comic book graphic novel, and a modern movie.

It is very hard to visualize Floyd's predicament. The authors do give a detailed description of their climb down. It almost seems that Floyd it trapped more in a very deep hole than in a cave. Also, the rock that wedges his foot is only 26 pounds.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Lynn's Paradise Cafe, Louisville

I recently had a chance to visit Lynn's Paradise Cafe for the first time. I read about it in my "Weird Kentucky" book, and a co-worker friend in the Louisville area told me this place was a must see.
My wife and I pulled in to the parking lot around 8:30 on a Saturday. It was hard to find a parking space already! Getting a table was easy though. I wouldn't say the place was crowded yet, but there were people there for sure!
My first impression as we pulled in was that this place ripped off the set of the old Saturday morning kids TV show, "Pee Wee's Playhouse." The place was very colorful and lively. There were some funky animal and coffee related statues out front, along with a cool flower arrangement.
You walk in through their gift shop. I was eager to check out all of the stuff for sale, but my wife made me go straight to the dining area. She promised that we could look later, and, if I was good, she would maybe even let me buy a souvenir.
My friend Ann said that we should only go to Lynn's hungry. They were generous with their tasty items. This was an understatement! We had coffee and we ordered the 2 pancake breakfast. We are not really breakfast people, and we never eat large breakfasts. Their two pancake meal was more thanenough for the 2 of us to share. In fact, a third person could have joined us in our meal!
I read that Lynn grew up in the Louisville area, moved to San Francisco, then came back to Kentucky to open her cafe. People in Louisville should be grateful that Lynn decided to come home to open this place. The decor and vibe does have a very San Francisco feel to it. We were sort of reminded of our trip a couple years ago to San Francisco, except we weren't worried about someone trying to hustle us for spare change on the way out.
Inside Lynn's is a bit overwhelming. I noticed a tree, a huge world map on the wall near the restrooms, and toys and tacky lamps on every table. I am sure that the next time I am there, I will notice something different.
On our table there was a large clear tube filled with beads and other trinkets. The "other trinkets" were listed on the top of the tube. You had to shake the tube and flip it around to try to find all of the listed trinkets. This entertained for some time. In fact, I didn't want to stop playing with it, but my wife said I had to when our pancakes arrived.
Each individual table had its own character too. One table had a clear glass top, and a cool mini railroad display built into it.
Goofy lamps are everywhere. We had a really neat cherub lamp on our table. It was a little chipped, but nicely detailed. Like many of the other items displayed at Lynn's, this lamp looked like it may have come from a garage sale. A really cool garage sale. In fact, if I had been at the garage sale where Lynn bought this lamp, I would have offered the garage saler $5 more than whatever Lynn gave them for the lamp. I wanted to take that lamp home and paint it! I would have painted some little rosy cheeks on those cherubs!
On the way out we ran through the gift shop. They had the standard novelty shop items (sea monkeys, plastic dinosaurs, Sigmund Frued action figures) and a cool selection of "Lynn's Paradise Cafe" items, mostly shirts, and postcards.

I really like Lynn's Paradise Cafe. It is a very nice comfortable place. Its right off of Bardstown Road too, which makes it convenient. Anyone within a 2 hour drive of Louisville could make a nice little day trip to the Bardstown Rd. area, have breakfast or lunch at Lynn's and not have a boring moment in their day.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Louisville KY.

I am really glad to be back in Kentucky after being away for a long time. It is really nice going back to places I kind of remember from before, but that I haven't been to in some time.
My wife and I recently went back to the Old Spaghetti Factory in Louisville. We were in the area, and walked in.
As we set down, we realized we had not been to that specific spaghetti place in a very long time. Then we remembered, it was right before our first real date (away from campus, without a group of friends). We drove to Louisville one night for a Natalie Merchant concert, and this was where we went before the show.
Louisville previously seemed big and intimidating to me. It was a REALLY big city that you only went to when you had to, or whenever a good concert was in town.
I had to fly out of Louisville a couple of times in college. I remember the 1st time. My mom and aunt drove me up from Owensboro. Many pictures were taken at the airport, it was part of the adventure.
Louisville seemed to me to be too big for Kentucky. Back then I thought that, maybe Kentucky could trade Louisville to another state. You know, like they do in pro-sports. Maybe we could trade Louisville to Indiana for Evansville and a couple other towns? Tennessee might entertain a swap for Gatlinburg. Of course, Kentucky would have to keep the Derby.
Of course now I wouldn't think of trading Louisville away. I love Louisville, its a great place. And, after spending a lot of time in a town like Cleveland, Louisville doesn't seem big and overwhelming at all now. It's still a nice friendly town, its just bigger than all of the others in the state.
I have been back recently, really for the 1st few times since leaving some time ago.
Back in the early 90s, I do remember hanging out on Bardstown Rd. some with my cousin. The place seemed to go on forever. It seemed there were many neat little novelty stores. Bardstown Rd. was the area to go.
I went to Lynn's Paradise Cafe right off of Bardstown Rd. recently. AND, of course, I went up and down Bardtown Rd. some too. I am going to have to spend some more time there again.
I remember the Shelbyville Rd. area being cool 10 years ago, and it seems even more cool now. For mall lovers, you have St. Matthews and Oxmoore right next to each other! They are both pleasant, active malls. St. Matthews has that cool "A Taste of Kentucky" store. I love these type of shops.
There is a lot going on right around the mall too. My favorite book chain, "Half Price Books" has a shop close to the mall too. I can browse there for hours. I think Lexington and Louisville are the only Kentucky towns that have stores from this chain around.
A couple miles behind the St. Matthews mall is a really cool, almost hidden stamp shop. Not a rubber stamp shop for scrap book people, but an actual, well stocked shop that sells collectible postage stamps! The hobby seems to be dying, and there are fewer placers to find cool old stamps, but this is a great place for a collector to visit! The guys running the place know their stuff and are fun to talk to. Its a small shop in an old apartment type building. Its not for the claustrophobic. 4012 Dupont Circle #313.
Another great Louisville only chain that I just found out about is Heine Brothers Coffee. Holy Carp this is some good coffee! And they have cool locations. One off of Bardstown, connected to a cool local bookstore (this one has been crowded every time I have been in the area though). I just realized there is one on Shelbyville Rd.
I had some time to kill, and went in to this one to relax. It worked.
The weather has been a bit nicer in Kentucky the last few days. This isn't a big coffee shop, but they have a sliding door patio type area near the front door. It was open, and created the perfect atmosphere. The place was just nice. I stuck around and read a lot longer than I originally planned to.
I am really looking forward to my next trip to Heine Brothers. My only problem with this chain is that they haven't branched out more.
I do hope locals start showing their appreciation for places like this too. I passed a crowded chain coffee shop to get to this Heine Brothers. I see this in a lot of towns too. There are a lot of cool, cozy, quit independent coffee shops right down the road from the bigger chain guys.

Book: Owensboro, KY. (Postcard History Series)

Owensboro, KY. (Postcard History Series) by Terry Blake And David Edds Jr.

I recently flipped through the book, "Owensboro" from the Picture Postcard series of books.
There really isn't a lot to talk about with this book, it is mostly a lot of reprinted postcards from Owensboro. I personally love postcards. I wish more of them were available, especially relating to areas like Owensboro.
This book is just a great one to have around if you are familiar with the area. Authors Terry Blake and David Edds Jr. have put together a must have for anyone interested in the history of Owensboro. There are a lot of pictures I look at and think that I am familiar with that area. Many you will recognize, but the landscape is a bit different now.
Pictures of the radio stations, Good Shepherd Church, St. Joseph and Gabe's are easily recognizable. My favorite might be the Utica bank. I know that area well. It's great just looking at the old postcard picture of it.
My cousins picked this book up for me for Christmas. It's one that I would have bought for myself. I would love to read a volume two of this book, if there have been enough postcards made to support it.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Graceland Memphis, TN.

My wife and I drove to Memphis last year to visit the shrine known as Graceland. There are many reasons to visit Graceland. Elvis hung out here, lived here, died here, and is buried here. The biggest musician ever lived here, and it is still pretty much the same place it was then. It looks like it looked back then. You can walk through his house, and see his stuff.
Everyone knows who Elvis was, and this is where he lived.

The house
We paid I think $8 to park. At first, not having been there before, we weren't really sure what was what. Where was the house, the planes, etc. You actually go into a tourist center and buy your ticket. They then load you into a bus and drive you across the street to Elvis' actual house. If you walked, you would walk about 3 minutes from the center to his house. They give you an audio device and headphones at the bus. The audio device guides you and tells you about what you are seeing in the house.
There are ropes in the house. You can't go set on Elvis' couch or anything, but there is plenty of access. They are pretty laid back about the whole thing really. You can take pictures but you can't use a flash. I was a little surprised really by how much access they gave you.
The house is very 70's. It's a bit over the top. Also, it's a lot smaller than I expected. It's big, but I figured a music legend would have a REALLY big pad.
There are several side buildings too. They have put up many of the King's awards in his racquetball court.
After Elvis left the army, he held a press conference in one building. There is a video loop in that building of the conference. You can look around and see that the room is still pretty much unchanged.
Everyone knows that Elvis and his family are buried on the site too, not far from the front door of the house. It is pretty emotional seeing that. Flowers and fan art arrive and are displayed pretty constantly.
The area
Back across the street, near the main visitor center, are the other Elvis related museums. You can by a ticket to see all of the museums, or just one, or just a ticket to see the house. There is a museum of Elvis' cars, costumes, military stuff, and his planes (including the Lisa Marie). All are cool. The military one was crowded but had a lot of neat stuff relating to his service. Each of the museums has a connecting gift shop. The gift shops in this area go on forever. At least every other business is a gift shop.

Why go
Graceland is cool. Elvis is such an icon that, even if you aren't real familiar with him or his work, it is amazing that this area has become a religious landmark. You should go see it too because it is so well preserved. Also, Elvis is cool by every definition. He influenced everything. I think he was a good southern kid who cared about people, he had good manors, and he loved his mom. Even though he was bigger than life, he still helped people out, gave cars away, and was a generally nice guy. He didn't attempt to duck out of his military service the way other celbs tried to (I'm talking to you James Dean!). Even though he was huge, he was still Elvis from the block.

Why not go

It is really hard for me to think of a reason not to go to Graceland. I guess, if you have kids, they may not appreciate it. Screw that though, take them and make them appreciate it. If they can't appreciate Elvis, there is something wrong with them. Memphis is cool without Graceland too though. There are a zillion things to do there. Of all the things to do in town, this should be your first stop. THEN you can go see the ducks, the pyramid, some baseball, or the Civil Rights Museum.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

66-57 Mississippi State beats Cats

I was at the game last night, thanks to my boss who has season tickets. It was a last minute thing though, she has a lot of work to do, and gave me her tickets the morning of the game.
I would suggest going to Kentucky.com for good game coverage, scores, etc. I thought I might cover some non-paper and technical stuff.
If the Cats win or if they don't, there is always such a great atmosphere in downtown Lexington before a game. That feel is here really before any event, but especially a basketball game.
It was a cold night, and a lot of snow (by Lexington standards) had covered the road hours before the game.
My buddy Rick and I got to the Rupp parking area a little after 5.
It was VERY cold. I don't think I have felt that kind of a chill in the air here ever.
We walked into Rupp, and took the walkway over to Quizno's. We wanted something quick, and we wanted to eat somewhere that would not be crowded. Quizno's did get crowded right after we got our subs. Some of the more unique restaurants downtown are packed before games, and its almost impossible to squeeze in.
We walked over to the mall area, walked around some, and then headed to the game.
I love the pyro show before the game when they announce the players! This is a lot of fun. They never show that on TV.
Another thing that seems to occur at about every game these days is the "boogie cam." I know they have this at a lot of sporting events everywhere. At Rupp, there is the boogie cam guy. I don't know if he has been given an official name or not, but man is he funny. He's just a lanky rubbery guy who always gets up and dances in the isle during the "boogie cam". He dances like absolutely no one is watching. The last few games I have been to, he is the star of the break. The cameras do get other people, but he is at least every other shot. He gets a lot of applause when he is done too. Pyro, three point shots, and the "Boogie Cam Guy" are expected high points at Cats games right now.
They have been bringing out UK sports alumni a lot too. Last night, 08 World Series Champ Joe Blanton was there. Getting my tickets on short notice meant I did not have my camera with me. I tried to get a pic with my cell phone.
Tim Couch was there a couple weeks ago. Oh, he follows me everywhere by the way! He was UKs QK when I was in the area, then he was working with the Browns after I move to Cleveland. Now we are both back in the area. Say what you will about him and his time with the Browns, but he is one of my favorite players. I can relate to him. I left the great state of Kentucky for Cleveland too. Looks like we both used good judgement at the end of the day.
Back to the game. The Cats looked bad. They looked scared. Seriously, there were a few passes where a player got hit by the ball. They seemed unaware that the ball might get thrown to them. They have seemed nervous about taking shots, really not just lately but all season. I hate to admit it and to agree with critics, but they simply look scared.
I don't know if the TV feed showed it, but the Herald Leader mentioned this morning that they were booed at the half. This was totally true. They were playing bad, and they were hearing it form the fans.
I hate seeing the good guys lose 3 in a row. This is a better team than that.
I still had fun last night, and it is a treat seeing a game at Rupp any time. I just wish I had my camera.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Snow and Ice in Kentucky!

I hope any reader (my mom) is doing OK right now. Looks like we might get a little more snow tonight. The state has been nailed by bad weather.
We were hit, but we did OK. One thing I can say about the northern states is they are prepared for bad weather and bad road conditions. If it snowed several inches in northern Ohio, as long as the snowing was pretty much over by 2 am or so, the roads would be fine in the morning. They would have them in shape in no time!
They kinda cleaned up the main roads here. They were usable, as long as you were careful. It took me a long, careful ride to get a couple miles out of my area though.
I didn't miss any work myself, but many did. There is an icy tree, scratching my office window. Taunting me.
My parents were secluded in the rural neck of the woods last week. No one heard from them for a couple of days. They have no land line and their cell phones went straight to voice mail. My cousin went out to check on them, but there are only really a couple of roads that lead to their area, and both were not accessible. No one had contact with them for a couple of days.
They finally did make it to my uncle's house (he's about half a mile down the road). They called everyone to let people know they were OK.
I didn't worry though, my dad hunts, farms, and does all of the out doorsy, wilderness stuff. I had no doubt they were doing fine. If they needed food he would go out and hunt a critter. If they needed heat, he would go out and hunt a fire.

Book: Manhunt: The Twelve Day Chase For Lincoln's Killer, By James L. Swanson

OK, this book is about the hunt for the killer of a Kentuckian. It might be a stretch discussing this here, but the link is there. Oh, and I did get the book at the Frankfort book fest, and Mr. Swanson signed my copy for me!

What's the book about
The book is about John Wilkes Booth killing Lincoln, and the following 12 day chase for him. It covers pretty much everything.
We have a good idea of where he went, where he was hiding, etc. Swanson writes a historical novel that reads like fun fiction. He clarifies that whenever a quote is used, it comes from a source. He takes all of the known facts about the hunt for Booth, and makes them a fun read in novel form. I was reading a critical review of this book that argues the author takes too much artistic license. I think he might take some, but it doesn't change the story (or history). I think Swanson may assume some given facts at times at most. This is an exciting read that, written by someone else would have turned out boring.
The book has a nice flow to it. You know it is happening in 1865, but Swanson does let you know about the information sources. He does discuss the whereabouts of the relics he mentions, like the flags hanging near where Lincoln set at Ford's Theatre.
There are several days of the 12 days that historians could not account for for many years. Swanson gives a great account of how the person who helped Booth at that time (and who would not discuss it until right before his death) finally opened up 30 years later.
Swanson covers Booth's co-conspirators, family, and and friends affected by the events. He covers all of the characters in this historical event, what happened to them, and even how some descendants have dealt with their place in history. He covers how Boston Corbett finally shot Booth (I hope I didn't ruin the ending for anyone). Swanson points out that the gun that shot Booth is currently unaccounted for. He also notes Corbett's questionable exit from the pages of history.

Why read it
This is a fun book. It reads well, and keeps your attention. All ends are connected too. Swanson covers everything. I have read some books that simply aren't put together well. You wonder about this character, or that event, or what happened later. Swanson won't do that to you. If a piece of the puzzle is missing from this story it is history's fault. Swanson will point that out to you too, and if he knows, he will let you know what little is known about the piece.

Why not read it
This is a BIG book. In fact, I bought it because it looked like a lot of book for the money, and I was right. If a nearly 500 page book scares you, you might want to stay away. But, there is a similar book that Swanson has put out for younger kids telling the the story. Don't be a wuss though, read this version. My friend Ann read the book and said she enjoyed it so much she did not want it to end. It is that good of a read!

Jungle Jim's Cincy, OH.

One of my favorite stops in the Cincinnati area is Jungle Jim's. If you are not familiar with Jungle Jim's you probably don't know anyone who lives within 2 hours of it, and you have never watched the travel channel.
Jungle Jim's, if you don't know, is a huge grocery store that's over the top. Each section is decorated with a theme. There is a huge soup can character in a swing over the soup isle. Boats and divers over the seafood area. There is an a cereal band over the cereal isle with the Trix Rabbit, the Lucky Charms leprechaun, and the Cheerios Bee. I think it is a converted Showbiz or Chucky Cheese band.
There are sample stations everywhere, and I always get suckered in to buying some cheese or cider there after a sample. Jungle Jim's seems to support the local guy too. Many of the sample people mention being from around the area, and making their product locally.
I can't imagine being a kid and going through their candy isle. Their candy section would compete with any novelty candy shop I have ever seen.
I am not a drinker, but their wine area would also best most wine shops I would imagine. You have to walk past it to get to their bathrooms (also featured on several shows.... there is a video loop playing above the bathrooms showing clips from their various TV appearances). Not to give the joke away, but the bathroom entrance looks like you are about to walk into a small porta potty. The inside is..... well, not a porta potty.
I could go on about each section in Jungle Jim's. Each one is festively decorated and well stocked.
Jungle Jim's also now has a post office and a Starbucks. There is a small movie theater in the store too which shows a video about how Jungle Jim's got started. Take a moment to watch this. Jungle Jim literally set up in vacant lots selling fruit in the early 70's. His is a great "work hard in America to succeed" story.
For souvenir people like myself, Jungle Jim's will give you a store map when you walk in. They have postcards, and my favorite, an elongated penny machine.

You could go in to Jungle Jim's and have a fun time without spending money. Don't do that though. Drop a few bucks on some things you will never find at your local grocery. Pick up something novel for a friend (I have picked up gator jerky for my dad here).

Monday, February 2, 2009

Pittsburgh, PA

I must admit that the first time I went to Pittsburgh, well over 10 years ago, I didn't think much of it. I thought it was OK, but it seemed big and chaotic. I may have lumped it in to the same category I would lump any other big city.
It seemed rough. Driving there was hard. Streets seemed to split, going in two different directions, with no signs telling you which way you should go.
In defense of anyone who does not like Pittsburgh, the roads are still chaotic, but the city has grown on me.
I don't think it is my attitude about Pittsburgh that has changed. I think the city has changed. I think those that live there are taking more pride in their city. I think the image of the city has improved nationally too.
I won't mention how the team can be proud of their football team (who one ANOTHER Super Bowl last night). I know we were in the area when they won Super Bowl XL, and this town seemed proud of itself. Not smug, but the place had a happy, "we know we are a nice town" feel to it.
The place has a lot going for it. The football and baseball stadiums are right next door. They share parking areas. I know getting downtown and parking for a baseball game is relatively simple. The streets and businesses are festive.
PNC Park, where the Pirates play, has the most gorgeous skyline view of any city, anywhere. Its a friendly, relaxing park. The seats are spread out and comfortable.
There are many bars and concert venues here too.
The South Side is a real happenin' area. Every town has an area like the South Side. I think mostly locals know about it. It is the cool area with music shops, novelty type stores, unique restaurants, etc. A GREAT music venue down here is Club Cafe. I once saw my favorite folk duo John & Mary play with several local acts, including another great local (by way of Ireland) Mark Dignam. Pretty much 4 hours of non-stop music, my wife and I had desert and coffee, I bought 2 CDs from the performers, and we experienced a great night of music! Here is the really cool part, we spent less than $50 that night! You can't buy 1 rafter ticket to see the big name stadium act coming through town for that. PLUS, we were able to chat with the acts, and it was all in a small (maybe 1-200 person capacity) club.
For any fan of horror flicks, Pittsburgh is a bit of a pilgrimage. The original "Dawn of the Dead" was filmed at the Monroeville Mall here in town (there is a comic book convention hosted right next door about every year). "Day of the Dead", "Silence of the Lambs", and "Night of the Living Dead" all have connections to Pittsburgh.
It's been a while since I went to the Murray area, but they do have "Jerry's Records". In the past, I have found all sorts of cool old vinyl here. I think Jerry's might be the only place left anywhere where you can scavenge through old records. Jerry's has survived CDs and other new forms of media, and it is just fun browsing here.
I could go on and on about Pittsburgh. This is a fun, happening town with many fun areas to visit.
Its not even in a state that boarders Kentucky, but, it could be done as a 3-4 day weekend trip pretty easily for anyone in the northern Kentucky area.