The Non-Definitive Guide To Life

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Posts for ontheroad1014

SC : HUSK RESTAURANT – The Table

South Carolina HUSK

As we are back from the road posts might be a little out of chronological order, like this one! We left off in the first half of Nashville which was the 9th of October, now let’s fast forward to the 15 & 16. Zoooom!

One of the most exciting things to happen on this trip was getting seats at the fully booked Husk Restaurant in Charleston, South Carolina through twitter. Yes, Twitter! Before we left for this trip, I was expressing to a friend that we would be traveling mostly through the south. He told me I had to check out the second season, first part of The Mind of a Chef (available on Netflix). This portion of the show is strictly about Southern food hosted by Chef Sean Brock of Husk Restaurant. He expresses his love for heritage grains and preserving the history and stories of backwoods cooking that earned the south its culinary distinction. From the Low country to the Appalachian Mountains, before southern cooking was only known for fried chicken, mac and cheese, gravy and grits; it had flavors and grains that were unique to the seeds and people.

I respect Chef Sean Brock and his passion for food and its purpose in preserving his heritage. He’s even explored the history of the flavors brought to the states through the southern slave trade. It’s agreed slavery is a terrible horrible institution, but it’s a part of American history and shaped the south. I believe Sean Brock addresses all aspects of Southern cooking and food in a very educated manner, that’s why I HAD TO GO TO HUSK!

On October 15, we were in Williamsburg, Virginia. As we would be heading to Charleston the next day, I thought, “Oh I should probably book a reservation, just in case”. Putting in our arrival time into Open Table I watched as the loading dots searched for a table and presented the next available reservation, 5:30pm October 28. My heart sank. I was shocked. I felt stupid for not booking earlier, and then started coming up with reasons I couldn’t have booked earlier to make myself feel better. Bowerbird could see how terribly upset I was, I felt like the stormy clouds that loomed outside. The rain that fell down were my tears. But as my mother always told me, there is no use feeling sorry for yourself. I rallied. I told Bowerbird “Maybe we can just get a seat at the bar” or “Hang out till a reservation cancels.” We were going to Charleston just for HUSK. I packed a pretty dress. There was no way I was giving up so easy.

My professional bread and butter is Social Media Management. I’m no social superstar, yet. My follower count on Twitter is under 300. But I was going to Tweet Husk anyway….

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Being a social media professional I thought it might be hours or a day before anyone read my tweets. So I turned to Sean! I had tweeted him before, while watching the show. He never interacted with me, but maybe he remembered my tweet to his buddy Edward Lee regarding a Dolly Parton karaoke showdown. I directed my plea to the chef, because I really just wanted to experience his cooking. I didn’t need the fancy restaurant. I just wanted to taste the grains, farms, and the southern heritage Sean puts into his dishes at HUSK. This road trip was all about the South, I could not give up on the ultimate in southern cooking.

Sean Brock Twitter

I tweeted in the rain with droplets collecting on my screen to the point I was afraid of water damage. My request was out in the universe and on Twitter. Now all I could do was wait. Dan and I explored Williamsburg.  Drank a beer in a non-designated area like teenagers, hiding next to Coca Cola vending machines. Visited the museum and exhibit on the first colonial Mental Institution on the site of the first asylum. We even had a delightful dinner in one of the colonial restaurants. They fortunately had available space when we made reservations.

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When we got back to the car, I was feeling really weird. This was also the day after we had stayed in the haunted hotel, more on that later. I had to stop and pray. Not pray for us to get seats at HUSK, but just that this heavy weird feeling that was lingering would go away. As we drove to the home of our couch surfer, I received a tweet from a Kristin saying she was happy to help with my mission to HUSK.

Kristin and I began corresponding through email regarding the reservation. Emails that my phone was not receiving in a timely manner, and created some anxiety as we drove down to Charleston the next day. But in the end it all worked out, by 1:30pm on October 16 we had reservations for that night at 8:30pm. My Mom and Dad are amazing home cooks, I’ve been spoiled with delicious food my entire life. I appreciate the work that goes into a plate, and nothing peeves me more than overpriced mediocre food. The dinner at HUSK was not the case. I’m splitting this up into two stories, as I feel the lead up was just as interesting as the actual dinner itself. So if you would like to continue reading – click here – .

Once again it was shown to me you really bring about what you think about. I had told the story of Husk and Sean Brock to dozens of people since I’d watched Mind of a Chef.  Every person we met and asked what we had planned, I mentioned going to HUSK. I tried to express the enormity and importance of preserving grains and seeds to other people, the way Sean shared it on Mind of a Chef. Now I get to share just how amazing his cooking is too.

Here is the schedule for Sean’s “Heritage” book tour. It started on October 19, and unfortunately it never synced up with our own trip.  If you happen to be in the same town as his tour, I really urge you to go. He is a personable chef with a lot of heart and understands how to deliver flavor!

Sean Brock Heritage

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being on the road…

Being on the road and blogging isn’t nearly as easy as I had imagined. Heck being on the road and journaling is hard to. This writer has had very little downtime. I imagine the traveling writers of yesteryear would jot down their notes and stories while waiting for a bus or train. Right now I’m laying in bed of an Airbnb place, the sun is coming through shear white curtains and its quiet. When I get back home I’ll continue to share about each day of the trip. For myself I’ll take the time to go through the memory of each day and write it down, exercise my mind to remembering the specifics of each state. Right now the places and people flash in my mind like a disorganized slideshow.

Since Nashville we’ve been to Louisville, a haunted hotel in West Virgina, got a table at a booked restaurant in Charleston, pet a deer, held an Alligator, and have eaten so much good food our bodies absolutely hate us. Every night I go to sleep exhausted from a well lived day, and I think that is the greatest success of this adventure. To experience all the day and night can offer till I can’t absorb another ounce of “insert place here”.

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TN: Johnny Cash & Nashville

One of my favorite shows on television right now is Nashville. Admittedly, this show influenced a few choices in the process of planning this trip. I was looking forward to all the bright lights and country songs. Plus I’m a huge Johnny Cash fan. My Ji-chan (grandpa in Japanese) loved Patsy Cline and Hank Williams. Bowerbird was raised on the Grand Ole Opry. The Music City was a pretty big destination for us. But lodging for our first night there, the 9th, was not planned.  At the recommendation of some people we met at Muscle Shoals Sound, we went to a Bed and Breakfast owned by their friend. They had even given the B&B a call to see if we could get a discounted room. Unfortunately once we got there it seemed to be deserted. Thank modern technology for Airbnb, because at 9pm we were able to find beautiful lodging for an insanely reasonable price. It was under $100.

The Airbnb place was really close to the B&B, so close when I looked at the address I thought it was only 4 houses down from the bed and breakfast. When I called the Airbnb host to clarify what house was his, because we couldn’t find the driveway he indicated in the arrival details. He informed us we were ten blocks north of his home. Same street, but instead of 612 it was 1612 – doh! After a day on the road, I swear you lose a few brain cells.

Located in East Nashville, a trendy part of town that is comparable to Soho or Los Feliz. We couldn’t have lucked out anymore, this place was gorgeous.  In the morning we decided to go “running”, and I put running in quotations because it’s more of a fast paced walk in full workout clothes. Seriously, we packed running shoes and have only used them once. Regardless I’m so glad we took the time to “exercise”, because with the tree lined streets and turn of the century homes, East Nashville could easily be the neighborhood Mr. Rodgers was always singing about.

House in East Nashville - Halloween

Next we dived straight into tourist central, downtown Nashville. We ended up spending nearly 2 hours in the Johnny Cash museum. Not a very big museum, but we read every caption under the photos. It even includes a poem written by Johnny after June’s funeral. I dare the toughest guy to read that and not tear up a little. I love their love story. I don’t endorse how Johnny handled his relationship with his first wife Vivian, but you can’t deny that J.R and June’s love ran deep. Watching videos of the two performing, you see this puppy dog love in Johnny Cash’s eyes that makes a girl weak in the knees and pray for the same devotion.

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Being a fan of country from a far, but far from a historian the Ryman and Opry history always confused me. So when we came across the Ryman I was excited to purchase tickets to the backstage tour in order to get my facts straight. The original home of the Opry, the floors are the same wooden panels from the 1800’s when it was a church. The dressing rooms are themed based on the famous faces that had sung on its stage. We learned the history of those kicked out of the Ryman and the backdoor they used to drink at the bar next door.

Ryman Old Opry

When we were in the Ryman a friend of mine texted me to get ahold of Bowerbird. Knowing we were in Nashville, he tried to contact his friend, Ikey Owens, a member of Jack White’s band to give us a tour of Third Man Records, but unfortunately, he was on tour. Ikey passed away a few days later. Not knowing him personally, we couldn’t help but be shocked and saddened at the eerily close timing to both incidents. My Facebook feed was full of his mutual friends sharing stories and outpours of love. I don’t live far from Long Beach, and he had lived there for years before moving to Nashville only six months prior. I’m happy my friend was able to text and have a conversation with Ikey, before his untimely passing, even if it were brief. While on the road you can’t help but reflect on life and purpose. You feel more appreciative of the friendships you have, a comfortable bed, the potential in every new day. Ikey Owens impacted a lot of lives. Like I said, my Facebook feed was filled with friends sharing their memories and mourning of the loss of their friend. I didn’t get the opportunity to meet him, but he seemed to live a life full of creative passion and love. I’ll continue to strive to live a life with the same intention, and wanted to give a little respect to this fantastic friend to my friends.

On that note, I’ll end this post here. Later that night we went to Prince’s Hot Chicken and saw Johnny Cash’s home, but more on that another day. Our hotel tomorrow has Wifi so unless I get wasted on Bourbon street, I should be able to post more in the coming days.

B, Bekka

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AL: Sweet Sounds Alabama

 

“Buy a chevy get a gun!” announced the radio commercial somewhere in Mississippi followed by another commercial with a sultry women’s voice enticing the listener, “ever wanted to get into exotic dancing, come down on talent night and make lots of money”.

Bowerbird at Muscle Shoals

Leaving Memphis we drove through Mississippi and Alabama to get to Muscle Shoals. The trees in Mississippi have vines growing all around them, connecting each tree with an overgrowth that sweeps down up and around. Men drove tractors on the side of the freeway keeping nature away from the road, pulling trailers that pushed down on the long grass and probably cut the vines.

I’d seen the documentary earlier in the year, and it motivated me further to start planning actual stops on our road trip. Bowerbird and I being music nerds, Muscle Shoals was a must see destination followed by Fame Studio which is around the corner and down the street. The documentary is a little confusing when it comes to the timeline of both studios, but Muscle Shoals Sound studio was established after the partners at Fame studio decided to go their separate ways.

Trying to be a prepared tourist, I messaged Muscle Shoals Sound earlier in the month to make sure they we’re open the 8th as I know the studios will be restored. I got a friendly reply back saying the studios were open till 2pm that day. Bowerbird and I do not arrive places early together, more like right on time. So when we of course left Memphis a little later than intended, we tried to be light hearted and joked the entire way to Muscle Shoals, looking at our GPS which read ETA 1:57 and every time we increased our arrival time I’d chime “we will have 6 minutes at the studio – damn now only 3 minutes – come on sweetheart I know we can get 9 minutes.”

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As we drove up I saw someone from the studio come outside and remove the open sign from the front lawn. I had Bowerbird flip a Dukes of Hazard u-turn and hopped out of the car before we officially parked. Opening the door to the studio, the adrenaline was pumping as I asked the guide if we could still look around. She kindly said yes, her name being Georgia.

The Muscle Shoals tour is informal with a capital I. You walk around this hallow ground, where Mick Jagger and Keith Richards wrote music, Simon and Garfunkel recorded, the sound of a generation was shaped at your own speed. Pictures hung on the walls with the famed musicians working in the studio, writing is physically written on the wall like playful boys marking their spot. The toilet seat from which “Wild Horses” came into fruition. Georgia shared stores with us, explained the structure of the building, and how tiny it felt when it was originally in operation due to how large engineering equipment used to be. To think now most people just make music on their laptops, and before it took an attention to detail and agility to make sure everything was laid right because the last thing you can afford is a botched recording.

Apparently one of the Swampers haunts the property today, and most of the photos I took are blurry, so it makes you wonder. Although I didn’t feel any spooky spirit, not like I did in West Virginia but that’s another story. Here are a few of my favorite shots from Muscle Shoals.

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After Muscle Shoals we visited Fame Studios for a tour. Still an operating studio, we only saw Studio B as they were recording in Studio A. The history of Fame was shared along with the stories that directly came from Studio B. My favorite being guitarist, Duane Allman camping outside Fame Studios until Rick the owner would give him a chance to perform and record. He slept in the parking lots for weeks till he was given a chance, and I just loved the story of commitment and roughing it out to get what you want. It’s a metaphor for all success, because the road to success sure isn’t comfortable.

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We are in South Carolina right now, and clearly in the second half of the trip, 3rd quarter. I’m trying not to get sad, while already on it. Mourn the loss of the trip, while I still have more states to go to I’ve never seen. Tonight is Atlanta, the day after possibly southern Alabama and next Monday – New Orleans! Ok I’m no longer mourning, I’m just excited. So many wonderful things have happened on this trip, even a few weird things. But all together I’m living my dream, I’m seeing new sights. Yesterday I picked cotton off the side of the road. I’m experiencing life in a way I don’t normally get to, and that in itself is the greatest part of this adventure. It’s new!!  For me, a full life is achieved when you seek out new experiences, break routine, and get out of your comfort zone. Whether it’s a thrill seeker going to a silent yoga retreat or a shy introvert going on stage and belting out their voice. Variety is the spice of life they say, so let’s spice it up!

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TN: Back to Memphis…

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Memphis is the hometown to one of my favorite bands of all time, Lucero. They were the first band I ever saw by myself, and if my heart had a soundtrack it would be comprised of Lucero songs. I made it a mission of mine to visit 1372 Overton Park, not only the title of an album but an actual address in Memphis. Lucero’s musical roots in Memphis, it’s where the band lived and wrote music for years. A loft on top of a Thrift Store, taking a picture with the door to 1372 was my little piece of Lucero memorabilia. I asked the Sun Records tour guide what was near 1372 Overton Park, as I was a huge Lucero fan, and she lit up with the familiarity of talking about a wonderful mutual friend.  A few of the members had played on her own record. She recommended a few bars, but told us the place to go that night to potentially run into Lucero members was Buccaneer. A friend of Lucero and fellow musician, Dave Cuosar was playing at 11pm. I was completely committed to seeing this local act, and till then we filled our time with local Memphis finds.

We chose to experience the delicious ribs at Central BBQ. Their hot BBQ sauce still teases my phantom senses. The meat fell off the bone, but wasn’t too dry, only around the blackened edges that gave it an extra smoky flavor. Next we went to Beale Street. The tourist trap of Memphis. Its neon signs draw the out-of-towners like a moth to the flame. But once on it, aside from the jazz and blue grass music that fills the air outside stuffy bars, it is a dead street. We left just as soon as we arrived, walking up and down it once, and then hoping back in the car.

bealstreet

On ward we went to one of the other bars our Sun Tour guide suggested, we came across Overton Square. A colorful street lined with restaurants and bars, the buildings were really interesting. A mixture between the old and new, most of them had to either been built or renovated within the last ten years. Maintaining the structures charm and a certain amount of character most modern establishments’ lack. We pulled over to explore, stopping inside Boscos, a Tennessee brewing company. Enjoying a flight, we overheard two college students discussing their Knoxville campus. Sharing that the campus was socially segregated, and how some of their friends don’t know how to talk to black people. I was stunned, my ear glued to the conversation. I can’t fathom the idea of not knowing how to talk to someone because of their skin color. Language barrier yes, but a different ethnic background… it was my first real taste of the stereo-typical south everyone warns you about. This same person then went on to discuss how they didn’t care for Jewish people. Let’s just all agree, that as a society we should look at people as an individual and not respond to someone based on a skewed idea of a group of people.

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After the flight we headed to First Avenue which was one of the first venues Lucero played at. It was a pretty mellow night, and we took a seat at the bar. Watching the baseball game on the TV, those sitting at the counter bonded over a singer on the screen wearing a bizarre parade float styled hat upon her head.  Soaking in the vibe, when I told the bartender we were there as I was informed Lucero got their start there, he handed me an old guitar pick. “This could be from them, or perhaps another band, one thing for certain it’s old.” He went on to say how members of Lucero still come in, and the bassist was across the street at a different bar the night before.

Then on to the Buck, a dive bar located inside a yellow house. It was filled with cigarette smoke and illuminated with red lights. Set up on an area that was clearly designated for bands, but hardly a stage, was one guitar and a stack of amps. Arriving ten minutes till the show, we ordered drinks, took a seat and watched Dave come out of the shadows and take his seat next to the guitar. That night we got one of the best shows I’ve seen in 2014.  Dave Cousar is an artist with the guitar. He plays in a way that I’ve never heard before, making the guitar cry and wine, vibrate beneath his fingertips. An abstract painting of folk and rock, he is what Bob Dylan should be. I made up a story in my head that Dave and Dylan were at the same festival or audition, and by some random accident Dave couldn’t go on, letting Dylan take the stage and the slot for that sound. I think Dave is a little younger than Dylan, but man did his voice just weave through notes rising and falling. Mid-set he paused, and aside from my enjoyment of the music I was getting really sleepy. We told Dave how much we loved his set and he humbly thanked us, even gave me his own I just saw the guys in Lucero story.

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That night I didn’t see any of the members of Lucero, but I met them through Memphis. I began to gain a better sense of the band through friends, acquaintances, the musicians they play with for fun. Driving up and down the same streets they do, and talking with the same friendly faces they know to be familiar. If I wasn’t going to see Lucero live in Memphis, that night was the best I could have asked for. I look forward to name dropping Dave to Ben at The Echo in November.

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TN: Walking in Memphis…

 

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Memphis has soul, it possess a grit that can be felt throughout the city. It’s this authentic character even amongst the most tired tourist spots. I’m not a huge Elvis fan, but you don’t visit Memphis without going to Graceland. A different tour guide experience, your handed an ipad and headphones to help direct the tour. Older gentlemen and their wives at times looked like lost children with the clunky tech around their neck, trying to figure out where to go next once the audio (spoken by John Stamos) ended. It’s a tour that depends on self- reliance to move from one room to the next, and a little bit of attitude in not allowing the museum staff to heard you from one room to the next too quickly.

Elvis’s decorating style was as distinctive as his sound. There is no doubt you are in the home of a king; it’s opulent carved furniture, stained glass windows, shag carpeting as wall treatment, and bright patterns on the walls are loud but in harmony. For any interior design nerd, you must go to Graceland. It overflows with unique focus pieces, and is a challenge to the bold to see if one could decorate their own home this way, and succeed.

 

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Next we headed to Sun Records, the source of where it all began. Parking in the back alley a man approached us, being friendly he chatted us up about traveling and being from California. He eventually asked for a couple bucks, and I said I had no change but would give him something when I broke my twenty.  Going into Sun, I bought our tour tickets and then walked back outside to search for the gentleman.  He appeared out of nowhere, once again like how he appeared the first time, and lit up at the fact we had gone out to actually find him to give him the dollar. A woman of my word, I handed it to him and he gave us a hug.

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has it only been a few days?

…Since I recapped Oklahoma city. We’ve been to Memphis, Dollywood, and now leaving Nashville. I haven’t had the chance to write an actual post. Whether I’m too exhausted to think or staying someplace with out WiFi, there are a lot of stories I’m collecting in my head which I’m dying to get out on paper/ computer. My whole sense of time is wacked, I never know what day it is anymore or how long we’ve been gone unless I check. Sort of gives me a sense what being on a deserted island would feel like.

I write this on my phone as i ‘ve paused putting on my makeup. I’m excited as we head to Louisville today and to Elizabethtown!

60 B

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OKC : Birth of a Dream

womb gallery roadtrip

The saying, if you knew how powerful your thoughts are you’d never have a bad one, really is the best intro into what I’m about to share. Wayne Coyne, singer of Flaming Lips, lives in Oklahoma City and has a reputation for being very nice, giving, and open. A king of the freaks, he welcomes people, if you can find him. Knowing his gallery, Womb Gallery was located in Oklahoma City, Bowerbird and I decided on a whim to just see if we knocked on the door possibly we would be able to stay at the compound.  Unfortunately the freak storm in Oklahoma, caused us to pull off the road 16 miles from the gallery and all my hopes of running into Wayne washed away.

The next morning we went to the gallery, and as Womb is known to have fluctuating hours, I assumed we’d only be able to take pictures on the outside and it would put us 10 minutes behind schedule max. We also had the diamond crater of Arkansas on our list of things to do that day. Instead Womb Gallery turned into nearly an hour excursion and it was better than we could have imagined, we found a different kind of diamond that day.

Driving up to the gallery, there was a group of men taking down an installation of a nose on the outside of the building. I could tell the gallery probably wasn’t open, but I wasn’t going to let it stop me from asking. Approaching the gallery manager, we asked if it was open and after explaining we we’re on a road trip from California and wouldn’t be able to swing back for the show, Jake was very kind and offered to give us a tour. Their show Acid Off by artist Isis Fisher opens this weekend, October 11, and half the space was incomplete but the concepts mind blowing.

Glitter floors, fluorescent walls, textural and scent stimulating sculptures; the entire space awakens a creative spark within. Pushing norms, and mixing the absurd with post-modern fine art.  Jake and I geeked out on art, discussing past exhibits with Dalek and Bigfoot. I even shared with him an artist I had worked with before, Alex Chiu that I feel would fit in the gallery perfectly.

***photos and topics after the jump are graphic in nature, Bowerbird’s mom who is a loyal reader will most likely not enjoy the following – so you’ve been warned <3 ***

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AR: Just passing through…

Every horror movie you’ve ever seen has been inspired by Arkansas. Dense forest line the highway as a misty fog rolls in over the fields between trees. Even when the sun is high, parts of these forests are forever in shadow. Cemetaries pop up along the road like pimples on a teenager. Around every bend is a patch of land decorated in tombstones, rising from the ground marking the dead who could have possibly lived or died in the Civil War. We went through Arkansas to view the Diamond Mine, but arrived too late to actually mine for diamonds. Yet we took a a cheesy picture anyways, because sometimes that is how memories are made.

 

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KS & MO : Toto We’re in Kansas

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Remember VHS? The way kids used to watch movies. I had a copy of The Wizard of Oz that I played so much the color ran out of it, or at least the tape became so worn it had lines going through it. My earliest memories was watching Wizard of Oz, and sometimes asking my Dad to fast forward to the colored part. My mom would French braid my hair and I’d call it “Dorothy hair”. Surprisingly I never dressed up as Dorothy for Halloween, but I do have a collector set of all the characters. A lifelong fan, I’ve seen most OZ related material expect Wicked, I just can’t bring myself to endorse it. For kicks and giggles, I’ve even searched Ebay for first editions of Oz books by Baum.

In Wamego Kansas there is the OZ Museum. The largest collection of OZ collectibles in the world, I had to see this treasure of Kansas. First this museum is legit, its not just one musty room with a few items behind glass. The OZ museum is a well thought out and executed extravaganza of everything OZ. From the moment you walk through the front porch doors, you seriously don’t feel like you’re in Kansas anymore. Greeted by an alcove with a Dorothy statue, to the left of it is early editions of the OZ books and history on Baum and his career. Then moving through the museum, a new character alcove at every turn, the history of the MGM production unfolded. Describing casting choices, directors – which apparently the film had 5, and evolution of the OZ world over the decades.

They really created a fun atmosphere for any OZ fanatic. My favorite land till this day, I’ve always felt a little like Dorothy. Possessing a desire to explore, see new things, experience absolute wonderment; and in the end still have an inkling to go back home. In later books for non-OZ fans, Dorothy goes to OZ when in distress or when OZ needs help. Oz is a second home, because in the end home is just where the heart is.

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