On vacation (continued)

Here I wrap up a diaristic overview of our 2006 vacation to Kentucky and Texas (and parts in between), the first part of which is here.

9/16 — My aunt Peggy took me to Ft. Worth to the Amon Carter museum, which is known for its excellent photography collection. There was a special “landscape photography” exhibit of Eliot Porter and Robert Glenn Ketchum (mainly the latter), which I quite liked, especially some pieces Ketchum had done in collaboration with some Chinese embroidery institute where they basically took some of his photos and made fabulously intricate ebroideries out of them; sadly only a hardcover exhibition catalog at $50 which I passed on….some highlights of museum’s photo collection on view, only one Winogrand which was a bummer….nice unexpected exhibition of government-sponsored FSA photos from 1939 to 1943 done in color, from Library of Congress archives (this catalog was cheaper, $35, so I bought it)….museum features a lot of western-themed paintings I would have liked to have seen but I wanted to visit other museums in the area (plus the Carter’s bookstore) so I didn’t….at any rate, Carter’s bookstore was a disappointment, not nearly the amount of photo books I was expecting, frankly one can see a better selection at many stores in Tokyo (albeit with higher pricetags)….went over to the Modern museum, I wanted to see a Sugimoto exhibit but I had forgotten it was supposed to start the next day, so just did a recon of the bookstore (not great) and then left; my aunt drove me through downtown Ft. Worth (quite nice, from the car anyway), then we stopped at Subway before going back home….(while we were at museum, Naoko and Kaika went with my cousin Kelly and her kids to McDonalds and the kids played there)….Naoko and I went in the afternoon to shopping mall, went first to Starbucks because I had a caffiene headache on account of the fact that my aunt’s coffee that morning had unbeknownst to me until later been decaf!, then over to Old Navy….nothing much on sale there, so then went to Ross Dress for Less….in Hawaii we always make several stops to these stores because in addition to cheap children’s clothes, they always have lots of children’s books and toys at good prices….sadly the book section was miniscule at this store but the toy’s section was adequate, picked up some puzzles and such (Ross always has a good selection of “Melissa and Doug” puzzles and stuff and this store was no exception)….came home and played outside with kids for a while, then watched college football on TV and had pizza which was ordered….went by myself to local Borders store a couple of miles away and spent two-plus hours in heaven….well, not exactly but I always look forward to bookstore visits when I go home but had yet had that chance this trip, and being by myself I could browse and read at leisure, which is what I did….also this was my first chance to look at a decent DVD selection with actual foreign movies stocked, imagine that!….anyway, I ended up buying DVD’s and books totaling over $300, which was probably a bit excessive but….I realize Borders is a biggie but I’ve always liked the store(s) I have to admit, something very cozy about them, and this one had some nice comfy chairs and being late no one was in them….also gotta love it being open to 11p.m….came back to house finding all the lights off and doors locked and was about to throw pebbles up to the room we were sleeping in when Naoko came down and opened the door….

9/17 — this was the day all the relatives (well, most of them anyway) would be coming and desperate to get some shopping in we made an early start out of the house (8:30) and head to the local Wal-mart….before that we found a starbucks (no drive thru) and I went in for coffee….I was wearing my SF Giants t-shirt (w/Shinjo on back) and the lone clerk said he was a big Giants/49ers fan from Southern California….he gave me my coffee “on the house” which was a great way to start the day (not to mention not having to suffer another decaf-induced headache)….had yet another lovely Customer Service encounter at Wal-mart trying to get my photo-cd backup in under an hour (“I’m the only one working today and this is only my second day opening the photo department….” and other such excuses), when I finally got my CD and said “thank you” naoko questioned why I said thanks, which was a good question….also surprised at the dearth of Texas souvenirs, you know the tacky stuff like spoons and thermometers….did buy some postcards though…..hung out at the house until the relatives started arriving, ended up about 21 folks altogether for a hamburger bbq (we had bought veggie burger patties the day before)….best part of day was going through old family photos, many I hadn’t seen before, and hearing/reading about old family history (folks who immigrated to US from Germany, etc.)….was also amused to find that (one of) my cousin’s two sons (11 and 10 years old) were heavily into Japanese manga and anime, and couldn’t get over that we were from Japan, and nearly died from the coolness of having their names written in katakana….anyway I enjoyed that these two boys from a small Texas town know much more about Japanese manga than I do, and were so enthusiastic….by 4:30 or so everyone had left and we went to the .99 cents store up the street for some more shopping, then had leftovers for dinner, I watched the Cowboys game on TV and wrote the first part of this vacation diary on my aunt’s very fast cable internet connection….

9/18 — naoko woke up with extreme stomach pains and many trips to the toilet, but we still managed to leave my aunt’s at 8:30 a.m. for the car trip back to Kentucky….outside Terrell east of Dallas we stopped at a collection of antique shops, one of which was so jam-packed with stuff that it took us about an hour to go through it….didn’t buy anything there but at another store next door bought a couple of old photos taken at a state fair in the 50’s, and some old postcards….then we were back on the road….took a bunch of smallish highways meandering our way east, all the way to Jefferson near the Louisiana border, then headed north to Texarkana and eventually Little Rock on the interstate….just after Texarkana however Kaika did a massive vomit in the backseat, which took about 45 minutes to clean up….got into Little Rock about 8 p.m. and found a Mexican restaurant to eat at, food was quite good but Naoko couldn’t finish her’s so I ate more than I should have….went to the Barnes and Noble nearby while Naoko and Kaika (sleeping) waited in the car…picked up a few things but couldn’t really enjoy it knowing they were just sitting in the car….found a motel after looking around for a while, after spending $80 at the Best Western a few nights before we were determined to go cheap, but gawd be damned if the motel landscape these days isn’t dominated by these quasi-hotels like Hampton Inn and various Marriott courtyard things where the going rate is $80 and above….finally got lucky and spotted a billboard for “all rooms $33.95,” which was at Americas Best Value Inn on I40 towards Memphis….not great, but all we needed frankly and I’d stay there again….read a bit and then crashed with Naoko still watching the Food Network or whatever it’s called

9/19 — got a reasonably early start but then delayed that with a breakfast at Waffle House, which was damn good if I do say so myself (one plain, one pecan waffle)….again got on to some back roads and passed through Jonesboro, on the way to a place called Piggott in the NE corner of the state, a place my dad had mentioned he had stopped in once, because there’s a museum related to Hemingway there….turns out that one of Hemingway’s wives (named Pfeiffer, his second I believe) was from Piggott, and they spent some time in the town from time to time after marrying (they met in Paris), and he wrote For Whom the Bell Tolls there….at any rate the Pfeiffer family home has been restored and turned into a modest museum which was worthwhile….continued one towards Missouri and went along for a long way on a highway I thought (according to map) would cross the Mississippi, only to find out it didn’t (what’s the use of a “dead end” sign 100 feet from the end!?), so had to backtrack and eventually it took another 1 1/2 hours to cross over first to Tennessee and then return to my dad’s place….just relaxed, had spaghetti for dinner, then went over to my step-mother’s brother’s place down the road for cake and ice cream (his daughter’s birthday)

9/20 — I took the car by myself to the Mayfield Wal-mart to get a photo CD backup and had yet another extremely frustrating experience, ended up spending an hour trying to get the CD made, which in the end I didn’t have to pay for but still….swore I would never set foot in one of these stores again, famous last words….in the afternoon drove with my father along some local back roads down across the Tennessee border, ended up getting a bit lost but it was nice, this is the kind of driving I prefer….while doing that, Naoko and Kaika and my step mother went over to her brothers where Kaika tried out their trampoline….for dinner housemate Forrest prepared steamed crab and shrimp and naoko prepared some salmon, and frankly it was the best dinner we enjoyed during our trip….on account of having yet another caffiene headache (I hadn’t realized the morning coffee was “half and half” eg. half decaf), I took some caffiene pills (I guess a generic version of No Doze) plus had another cup of coffee around 8 p.m., which meant that after watching baseball with my father I went upstairs and read from my book until 2:30 in the morning!

9/21 — left the house early and drove up a smallish highway (339) from my dad’s place up to Paducah, very nice drive, passed some Amish places on the way….went to a shopping mall in Paducah, a Borders Express but it wasn’t that well stocked….went across the highway to Wal-mart (argh!) but didn’t stay long, mainly went because Naoko needed to cash a traveler’s cheque….on way back we spotted a “books-a-million” store which I just assumed was a pulp-paperback place but Naoko suggested we stop, and I was pleasantly surprised, had a great African American section among other things (I was looking for Alex Haley’s Roots, they didn’t have it but my stepmother ended up giving my her worn paperback copy anyway)….then drove back and got the car washed, which was fun (did the automatic one, so we just sat inside while the machine did it’s thing)…hung out around the house, then drove to Murray, a college town not too far away, and went to an Applebee’s, which was surprisingly quite good….came home, packed up, then went to bed around 10….

9/23 — woke up about 4 1/2 hours later, left house with dad and stop mother for drive to Nashville airport….said our goodbyes, then had a day of less than stellar cust. service from United airlines….planes to Chicago were delayed but announcements were few and far between (one, count them, one announcement in a period of an hour), waited in line for 45 minutes at the check-in counter so I could find out what was going on, only to have our flight called for boarding, at a different gate!….fortunately our flight from Chicago to Japan wasn’t a tight connection so even with the delay we had time to spare….flight to Japan was on old plane, with no individual tv monitors for the films, no individual choice as well, me I don’t really care but these things are essential to ensure that Kaika can handle the long flights (this one over 12 hours!)….Kaika’s seat was also broken which meant a mechanic had to come on board to switch it out which delayed the plane, nothing like being responsible for the delay of hundreds of passengers!….at any rate, Naoko was mumbling, “last time we take United,” and I had to agree, except for the fact that I have all my frequent flier miles tied up with them (in fact, my portion of this trip was paid for with my miles)….on the plus side, the crew was so much better than the crew we had coming over here two weeks ago (one of the worst I’ve ever experienced), like night and day really, everyone friendly….and I have to say, the veggie meals were quite good, surprisingly….at any rate, flight was uneventful, and upon arrival all 4 checked-in luggage pieces were there (phew, with all those DVD’s and books I bought)….got the train home, and father-in-law picked us up from the local station….trip over…..

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