Friday, April 06, 2007


We left New York under a gibbous moon and journeyed far into the past. Our goal was the beginning of time, but we only managed to go back about 40 years.

It began with a drive down the BQE towards the Brooklyn Bridge at 3 am. The lights of lower Manhattan twinkle on the other side of the river. A rush of adrenaline wakes me up as I speed across the bridge and fight for position with the yellow cabs. Then I’m winding down Chambers street dodging potholes. The sidewalks are filled with junkies, prostitutes and the homeless as I near the Holland Tunnel. The whores are calling the cops out for a suck. No, sorry. That’s just Lou Reed on the cd player. This is Tribeca, one of the wealthiest zip codes in the U.S. It looks seedy to an untrained eye, but in reality it's difficult to drive through there without running over Robert Deniro. A few beautiful people are still on the street. That’s about it.

Then New Jersey, PA and WVA. The morning wears on. O-hio, a strange land where so many people still wear their Bush/Cheney decals defiantly on their bumpers. A few, however, appear to have scraped them off.

But Ohio only takes us back to 2004, or 1984 at best. Kentucky’s on the event horizon now, just across the Ohio river. There, I have been led to believe, we can go back all the way to the beginning of time, 4000 or so years ago, when the cave-men and their pet dinosaurs walked the earth.

Sorry, to be so hokey with the tease. The story is this: I came across this article about a Creationism museum the other night. I IM’ed my daughter a few choice quotes and asked if she wanted to go. She was pysched so we decided to make a road trip out of it. The next day I got a car, loaded up the children at 3 am, and off we drove.

As I was saying in the previous post... with all the instant messaging, cell phones, and other wacky new technologies, our family communication has suffered. We sit in our small apartment – my daughter in her room listening to the iPod, my son in his room playing the GameBoy DS, me in my cave, drinking cheap beer and thinking vast and noble thoughts, and communicate by instant message when we are not 50 feet away from each other physically. It makes me yearn for an earlier time.

I think back to the sixties before we had those technologies. How did families communicate? How did they spend time together? Well, one way, perhaps the best way, was to get in the station wagon and go somewhere. Preferably somewhere far away. Being cooped up in the same car for a long day would bring us closer together then. Maybe it would bring us closer together now?

But it didn't appear to be working. We weren’t three feet apart. My daughter sat right next to me in the passenger seat and listened to her iPod. My son was just behind me playing his GameBoy. And there’s nothing like a long road ahead to get the deep thoughts thinking. After a few beers, I decided to resume work on my 13 part treatise on the films of Studio Ghibli. I had become stuck on the fact that Princess Mononoke wasn’t really about the Princess, but now I saw a way around that obstacle. I saw a grand literary prize in my future. Finishing volume XIII would be a cakewalk. What would I wear to the ceremony? Those thoughts consumed me for several hours and nearly half a case of beer.

That was great, but the trip was supposed to be more about togetherness. I wanted it to be an educational experience for the children as well. That’s why we were going to the Creationism museum.

The chuckling household is non-denominational. The kids don’t learn anything about religion at home beyond the fact that it is laughable. Of course they go to a progressive private school where they study the bible, but I wanted them to learn about the real Christianity, not the one you read about in some old book. And it’s not enough that they intellectually know that it is laughable. They need to laugh at it themselves, to witness its irrational senselessness at the apogee of its glory, to feel it in the gut. And what better place to laugh at religion than a Creationism museum? And in Kentucky no less.

I was a child in the sixties and my parents were young and liberal. They paid lip service to the ideas of racial and ethnic equality and I was taught not to discriminate based on the color of a person’s skin or where they were born. The only exception to those fine ideals concerned Kentuckians. It’s sad and I am embarrassed to share this, but it’s true. I, and everyone else in my neck of the woods, was raised to disrespect people from Kentucky.

I don’t guess you could call it racism. Kentuckians weren’t really considered a different race. They were more of a sub-species, like monkeys only not quite as cultured. Sorry, it’s hard to break the ways of our upbringing. They were portrayed as an ethnic group, one like any other in which inbred stupidity and cowardice are the norm. These days we call them Republicans or conservative Christians, but back then they were just plain old Kentuckian dumb fucks. But now I realize that was wrong, that Kentuckians are just as good as anyone else and I vowed not to raise my own children with any of the those horrible prejudices.

Still, even though I have pulled free of my anti-Kentuckian roots, I have to confess that I got a bit of a snicker from the fact that the Creation Museum with its dinosaurs on Noah’s ark is located in Kentucky. Unfortunately however, the joke was on me. The article failed to mention the very important fact that the museum was not yet open and I hadn’t done any other research. When we pulled up at the gates I learned that the Creation Museum not open for another two months.

That was a bit of a blow, I admit, and the teenaged one was, as you can imagine, cruel, but we are a resilient people and I would have to make the best of it.

The plan had been to camp near the museum and spend several days there, but now there was no plan. I drove aimlessly, scanning the horizon for a sign. And it was a sign I saw, in the form of a giant inflatable bottle of Jack Daniels. What the fuck is the matter with these people, I thought. If there is one good thing you can say about Kentucky, it is that they make some damn fine whiskey. Why, in the land of Jim Beam Black, is there a giant bottle of Tennessee whiskey making eyesore of the skyline?

I stopped in to investigate and bought a bottle of Ezra Brooks to help me ponder these things. That’s just whut people like, said the cashier. Just whut people like. Just whut people like. God, fuck, people. Whut they like? This trip was going south. Whut was I going to do? I drove in circles around the giant bottle of Jack Daniels thinking, thinking. Going south, I thought. The trip is going south, so maybe we should go south. That was it. That was the ticket. We got back on the interstate and headed south. Soon we came to Louisville.

I’ve passed through Louisville many times but never learned much of anything about it. On the positive side I knew that both Hunter S. Thompson and Mark Ames, two writers who revolutionized the practice of journalism, came from there. It may seem counter-intuitive that cultured, creative people could come from such a place, but it’s really not so surprising. Talented people stuck in these hellholes just want to get out and the struggle fucks them up. They come out twisted in their own particular ways. I also know that Cassius Clay was from there, though I never quite saw what made him such a hero. I guess anyone that stood up against Vietnam and went to prison for it, especially someone with so much to lose, is deserving of respect, but if there is justice in this world, he may rot in hell for what he did to the English language.

Anyhow, Louisville's Main Street proved to be an artsy little mile. We saw galleries, museums, expensive gift shops, bars and trendy restaurants. We parked and walked around. They had commissioned a lot of art for the sidewalks. We passed various sculptures, a cool bike rack, that kind of thing. My teenage daughter made snide comments about how out-dated my anti-Kentuckian snobism. This place was cool and up-to-date, unlike some people she knew.

It also seemed that there was a vintage car revival going on. We saw several from the sixties, including a very cool Ford Fairlane station wagon that had been restored and painted. Funny how what must have been the un-coolest car of the entire sixties looked so cool now. And there were a couple of guys, not a couple, just different guys, and I don’t even think they were gay, in different locations who were wearing tight fitting gym shorts and t-shirts like John Travolta in Pulp Fiction. What was up with that? I was forced to ponder. But that was not all.

We also noticed that Louisville was also doing the Kentucky version of New York’s painted cow thing from just a few years past. We saw decorative race horses at various points throughout the city.

And soon we noticed that it was only 5 o’clock on a beautiful spring Saturday and almost all of those fancy art galleries, gift shops and museums were closed. My son, who is only eight, speculated that it must be a very Jewish city, but my daughter became increasingly angry and began composing Kentuckian jokes of her own. Why do all the shops in Kentucky close before five? So the yokels can get home in time to have sex with their siblings. It was obvious that my lessons against anti-Kentuckinan discrimination had failed, but I confess that I felt a shameful kind of pride. Where I’m from it's a big occasion when a child made its first Kentuckian joke. Sadly, we’re never as far away from our roots as we’d like to think.

But I made a game face. You have to be positive, I said. Think of it as time travel. Traveling to Kentucky is like going back in time forty years. It’s still the sixties here. Of course everything closes as five. But when you’re old and want to revisit your youth, all you have to do is come to Kentucky. They’ll be wearing the same fashion and listening to the same music then as you do now. They'll even be driving the same cars. And wearing the same underwear.

Unfortunately, by that time I wasn’t making much sense. I had drank way too much whiskey and was driving erratically. The only logical thing to do at that point was to get off of the street so I drove faster and took the sidewalk. Before going half a block, I ran over one of those god damned fake New York cows, a rainbow-colored horse and jockey. The damned thing was staring at me across my crumpled hood. I backed up, confused. Fucking Kentuckian horseboy, I yelled and ran over it again.

Umm dad, said my daughter, here come the police. Fucking John Law, I thought, just won’t leave me alone. Still, seeing the lights and hearing the siren sobered me up a bit. I spun around, raced down the street, up the on-ramp to the interstate and headed for the state line as fast as the little car would take me. But two sets of flashing blue lights were gaining on me in the rear view. One was right on my ass.

You may think that I am writing this from my jail cell, but it wasn’t all that difficult to outwit the Kentucky state police and escape across the river. When I came to the last exit ramp before the bridge, I turned on my right turn signal and slowed down as if I were going to exit. At the last second, I gunned it forward. The cop, unable to react in time, took the exit.

That was easy, but the second cop car took its place on my ass. No exits remained. We were on the bridge. I didn’t know how I was going to lose him. It was a conundrum.

Then I thought, what the hell, it’s worth a try. I flipped on the right turn signal and slowed down as though I were going to exit. The cop was totally fooled and drove right off the bridge and his car exploded into a giant fireball when it hit the water.

Nevertheless, our bad experiences in Kentucky taught us a lot about inclusiveness and I think the whole family came away more open minded. And next time we will visit the Creation Museum.