Day 3 - Symphony of Speed
We cross the Mississippi River and one thing is clear: America thinks it's going down the tubes. There's no respect, no family, and no jobs. People are pissed, and talk radio is just a vent hole. Omnipresent Rush Limbaugh leads the pack, gleefully informing America that President Clinton is holding the country hostage. We expect him to tell us that Clinton does this "because it makes him feel kind of like a hero."
Gloom and doom appear in other ways as well. A billboard depicting a dismembered doll outside St. Charles, MO informs us: "In a real abortion, the baby's not plastic." A St. Louis DJ complains, "White people don't fear us; they HATE us." Pepsi news is notable in its absence.
Even Missouri's tourist attractions have a dark side this morning. Conspiracy is the main theme at the revisionist Jesse James Museum in Stanton (#21) which proves that Jesse didn't die young; the Stonehenge replica in Rolla is only half-size (#22), the plaque to Tokyo-bomber Jimmy Doolittle (#23) in Doolittle is battered and forgotten, and the Lanning Garden Folk Art Environment (#24) in Republic is up for sale. Marionville, "Home Of The White Squirrels," (#25) is falling apart. Its streets are deserted, its businesses boarded.
|Jimmy Doolittle's forgotten plaque and Jesse James' empty chair. Somber relics of southeastern Missouri.|
Precious Moments figurines, for those unaware, are teardrop-eyed porcelain bisque representations mainly of dead children who have gone to heaven. They are the country's number one collectible. And here, their creator, Samuel J. Butcher, has built an inspiring monument to their success. The crowded Precious Moments complex houses a museum, a convention center, a series of gift shops, and the centerpiece, a life-sized homage to the Sistine Chapel - The Precious Moments Chapel - decorated with cartoon murals and frescoes interpreting the Bible using Precious Moments characters.
One new mixed-media mural shows "The Second Coming," in which painted clouds part and a painted Jesus appears to a collection of Precious Moments porcelain miniatures. In another, heaven's angels welcome Butcher's own son, Philip, who died in 1990. Mr. Butcher's love and grief can be shared by those who purchase a Precious Moments "Philip" doll.
Timmy, the dead child angel who is the chapel's mascot, wanders the grounds and poses for photos. Visitors hold their living babies next to Timmy, finding nothing wrong with any of it.
Back on the road in cow country, the bugs hitting our windshield burst red as Christian counselor Andy Stanley advises his female audience to "stop putting pressure on your marriage. There can only be one leader. Drop the reins...Learn to follow your husband even when he's wrong." Stanley's announcer adds that cassettes of today's talk make an ideal wedding gift.
27) Walter Johnson Memorial, Coffeyville, KS; 28) Yellow Brick Road & Munchkin Mall, Sedan, KS; 29) The Pyradomes, Wichita, KS.
Killer lightning and hail surround us in the dead of night. Torrential rains - a fire hose aimed at our windshield - flood the road. A plaque of frogs vainly flees the storm, hopping madly into our headlight beams. Hundreds of dead frog patties stick like gum to the highway ahead. Perhaps it's even raining frogs. We cannot tell as the lightning strobes our wipers. The elements may rage when Hypertourism pushes the weather barrier, but it's too late.
Radio ads for a local cancer society's "Annual Dog Dip," for a brake shop that's "not really far from anywhere," and an "alcohol-guzzling" funny car event in honor of fathers on Father's Day no longer surprise us. We see the Big Picture. As we've gone faster, our brains have become denser. We've grown younger.