Sunday, June 30, 2013

Signs of the Times: Forbidden Fruit & Faith Lifts

West Virginia radio listeners have essentially two options - and if one is not a fan of contemporary country stations (Mr. Tiny is not), one had better be a fan of gospel music.  On one of our adventure days we tuned into WMLJ 90.5FM's "Gospel Hour;"  I feel like a higher power was involved in the choosing of that particular station because we were treated to an old-timey broadcast that included twin-sister accordion players, a trio of girls singing about the devil jumping with glee when they forgot to say their prayers, and the story of Baa Baa, the pet sheep of a "backward" young boy, Dave, who taught his father that every sheep is important when one is "looking with the eye of love."  Dave's father (who treated poor Davy with total disdain) learned a valuable lesson after Dave stayed out in the rain to rescue the injured and lost Baa Baa.  He said, "Now I can understand what a good shepherd really is, one who will leave the ninety-and-nine and will look for the one who has been lost from the fold."  Christian kitsch - why don't we have more stuff like this in California???

Many years ago, a wealthy, West Virginia businessman was taken ill;
upon his recovery, he made a promise to God that he would use his fortune
 to spread the good news.  Now, trios of crosses (built by the businessman)
 dot the countryside all along the highway in over twenty nine states (source).

We grew up in a strongly religious household but I guess living in California made us comparatively-casual observers when judged against the fervent piety displayed throughout the American South.  West Virginia is about as far north as one can get before becoming Yankee-fied, but based on the signs we were seeing, it was clear that it was time to tighten our "Bible Belt."  Much attention has already been given to the clever messages churches create on their marquees, but we just don't have anything like that in our neighborhood.  In fact, our neighborhood (small by California standards) dwarfs the population of West Virginia's capitol city and yet there are more churches per capita in a tiny West Virginia town than any city in California.  Therefore, I was utterly captivated by the signs and the sentiments.

Some signs are simple and straight forward.

"A change in behavior begins with Jesus changing our heart."
It's like a Christian fortune cookie.

"The presence of the Lord is here."
Should've brought a better host gift.

"Jesus and Justice are coming; ready yourselves."
Is Justice a sidekick, like Robin to Batman?  Tonto to The Lone Ranger?

Some signs are trying...but not quite hard enough.

"The older I get, the smarter my Father seems to get."
Father knows best, as they say.

"We're to[sic] blessed to be so stressed."
Too busy to find too many "O's."

And some signs are just downright brutal in their directness.

"It's HELL to die without Christ."
I hope I don't see you there...

Our favorites, of course, are of the more clever variety

"Forbidden fruit creates many jams."
I wonder what it's like spread on toast.

"Get right or get left."
This reminds of those Left Behind books (I never read them);
I always imagine piles of clothes and pairs of sneakers empty
except for trails of vapor.

"Do not wait for the hearse to take you to church."
Well, it's hard to get another type of ride when you're dead;
you could wait for the bus all day but it won't pick you up.

"Son block prevents sin burn."

"Isn't it time to accept God's friend request?"
I didn't even know He was on Facebook.
I'll be sure to get on it!!!

"Are U wrinkled with burden? See God for a faith lift."
I was only going in for a nose Job.  See what I did there?!

Then there are the signs that are so "clever" that the message is totally obscured.

"The banana that gets away from the bunch gets peeled and eaten."
Say what?!  The only thing that makes sense about this one is
the trio of crosses echoed from the full-size highway examples.

Even when its tongue is in its cheek (I hope it turns the other cheek after reading this post), it is clear to me that West Virginia takes its Christianity VERY seriously; the signs and the intentional year-round Christmas decorations (seriously, wreaths, garlands, and fully-lit Christmas trees) make it a wacky tacky miracle to behold.  

Nothing about snake handling on the sign, but how could I be sure???

Inspired by the religious zeal, my sister wanted me to go to a tent revival at one of those Pentecostal churches and write a blog about snake handling and speaking in tongues...but I was too scared.

Instead I went by the EconoLodge; seeing the success
of the churches, even motels are trying to horn in on the act!

"Open Up Your Heart and Let The Sunshine In"
Oh my gosh...that trio was The McGuire Sisters!!!!

Well, don't forget to "Let The Sunshine In."  See ya in church!


Mr. Tiny

Friday, June 28, 2013

Don't Be Hatin' on Bloglovin'

I honestly have no idea what Bloglovin' does or doesn't do but it seems like the tide is turning that way. What am I if I am not a sheep?  I just follow the rules and the rules stated that I needed to claim my blog and paste this code in the post???  I hope this isn't some kind of virus and that I'm not erasing all of my posts.  It goes against my blogging principles to waste a whole post on something like this but sometimes you just can't fight the man!  We'll see what happens...

<a href="">Follow my blog with Bloglovin</a>

Follow me on Bloglovin'???  Follow me to Bloglovin'???  Where do I get some Bloglovin'?!?!?!?!  I'm crossing my fingers cause I can't cross my eyes!


Mr. Tiny

p.s. My very talented, computer-savvy brother just made this badge/button for me...pretty awesome, right?!?!?!?!  Thanks brother!!!!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Chow Time: King Tut Drive-In

Living in Southern California, the veritable epicenter of car culture, one might suspect that drive-in restaurants are the de facto method of food service.  In facto, though the concept seems so simple, so charming, and so suited to California's climate, drive-ins are an extremely rare sight.  I don't know why I think drive-ins are so cool; going to a drive-in restaurant is really just a belabored, protracted drive-thru experience with none of the convenience of eating at a proper table and none of the cinematic atmosphere promised by American Graffiti.  Nevertheless, I am always searching for old drive-ins, hoping to capture the nostalgia of warm summer nights, roller skates, and good, old-fashioned junk food.

My overly-romantic notion of drive-ins is no doubt influenced by the opening scene in Moon Over Miami.  It's no wonder then that I'm always slightly deflated when the server at a real life drive-in isn't Betty Grable and she isn't singing the menu to me.  I guess it would be too much to ask that she be clad in 1940's western wear.  

"What Can I Do for You?" - Betty Grable & 
Carole Landis from Moon Over Miami

When my sister explained that there was an authentic drive-in restaurant very near her new home, I was equally excited and disappointed - excited because it sounded perfect, disappointed because in all of the research I had done in preparation for my trip to West Virginia I had seen absolutely no reference to King Tut Drive-In in Beckley, WV.

King Tut Drive-In is a fixture in Beckley.  In fact, it is well-known all over the state of West Virginia.
Their biggest claim to fame is the introduction of pizza to the state in 1957.
Although they will probably accommodate peculiar tastes, I believe that
 "Fried Chicken Livers" and "Pizzas" are two separate menu items.

The look of King Tut is rather, er,...strange.  Long, weathered pickets create a fence-like facade while blue steel beams support a carport structure with a corrugated roof.  It looked more like a tree house than a longstanding eatery.  Learning that it has been in operation for the last 70 years (under current ownership for nearly 60), I wondered if the rusticity of King Tut's current facade didn't hide some really outstanding Egyptian theming.

It definitely speaks more to "King Creole" than King Tut.

Fortunately, I was able to find an historic photo of King Tut (not sure when they ditched the "'s.")
Isn't it dreamy?  It is obviously the same structure but it has clearly undergone an extreme make-under.
Even in the early days, however, there was absolutely no trace of the Sphinx, the pyramids, or the desert sands. 

If King Tut Drive-In isn't known for its stunning curb appeal, it is known for its down-home food.  Hand-formed hamburger patties, real ice cream milkshakes, fresh homemade pies, and full dinners are among the most highly-favored menu items.

The King Tut burger with everything.
As I mentioned in a previous post, West Virginians like their food SWEET!
The delicious, homemade bun was bordering on dessert and the coleslaw
(a signature WV topping on burgers and dogs) seemed to be candy-coated.
I will say that the flavor profile was a surprise and surprisingly good once
my savory palate adjusted.  I won't even speak to the lemonade which
would rot your teeth with just one look.

Intrigued by the variety of side orders, we decided to order
the "Loaf of Homemade Bread" to take home for the week.

We were hoping it would be the best thing since un-sliced bread!

I heard it was pretty good....
I think my brother-in-law was able to eat it in two bites.

The only way to overcome the temptation of homemade
 pie is to learn that they are all sold out!

There is so much to like about King Tut but our best recommendation is to get there early.  Since everything is freshly made on site, there is a limited supply and popular items do sell out.  We went through a few rounds of ordering before settling on what they had in rich supply.   If there is another recommendation to be made, it is to NOT pull up wearing heavily kohl-rimmed eyes, presenting your Alexandria Library card; this ain't ancient Egypt!!!  And whatever you do, don't "ankh" your horn, the protocol at the drive-in is to flash your lights for service.

If you're in West Virginia, then get on over to King Tut Drive-In; it's food fit for a long as that pharaoh is not insulin dependent.

King Tut Drive-In
301 N Eisenhower Dr
Beckley, WV

*Closed every Wednesday*


Mr. Tiny

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Lost World Caverns: Going to The Land of The Lost

wacky tacky isn't always manmade; nature often reveals proof of a wacky tacky power of infinitely superior skill and imagination than even Sid & Marty Krofft!

Would you believe that this rustic mill setting held the secrets to
 thousands of years of the Earth's most fascinating creations?

I probably would not have believed it had I not followed this sign.
A full-and-complete stop and then right to LOST WORLD CAVERNS!

The modern story of The Lost World Caverns in Lewisburg, West Virginia begins on a farm in the early 20th Century.  Surveying his land, a local farmer found a hole in the ground; while this appears to be a less-than-Salk-worthy discovery, it proved a valuable commodity to a man who had little resources when it came to waste disposal.  Examining the hole, he realized that it was the perfect size for eliminating farm refuse - including bovine carcasses.  Where did it all go once down the hole?  The farmer didn't care; he just knew that it took a long time for anything to hit the bottom and that his trash troubles were over.  For years this practice continued until other caves and underground water supplies were being discovered in the surrounding area.  In 1942, two college students were lowered on ropes into the mysterious darkness of the hole and what they saw (once they finished removing the filth of 1,000 rotting cows from their shoes) was another world - The Lost World!

The startling discoveries did not end there.  The Lost World Caverns was
revealed to be the official home of that darling of the Weekly World News,
Intent on making some discoveries of my own, I too braved the abyss.

Lucky for me, the entrance to the caverns was well lit and
 accessible by railed staircase rather than harness and rope. 

Armed with naught but a trusty flashlight and a laminated guide,
I made my way into the depths of the Lost World.

Coming into the main room of the caverns was incredible!
A large group of people had just exited upon my arrival (purely coincidental I assure you)
 so I had the whole thing entirely to myself; it was like being Indiana Jones, if only for a minute.

You can bet a lot of yodeling/echoing took place...
until I realized that I might be attracting a Sleestak!!

The real discovery in this adventure is that my resolute dispassion for the study of geology was abandoned for a genuine excitement over rock formations.  I hope that it carries over into the reading of this post because there are plenty of geological wonders ahead!

This particular area of West Virginia is conspicuous for its
lack of above ground water sources; it seems almost everywhere
 one goes in West Virginia that there is a creek, a river, a waterfall
but in Lewisburg, it is all underground, thus creating the magic
 of The Lost World.

Doesn't it kind of look like a forest of Art Nouveau trees?

Stalactite?  Stalagmite?  This cave is always happy to see you.

This makes the sad, seaside, drip castles of my youth look positively pathetic.

It was at this precise moment when I realized that I was
 spelunking.  I'm a spelunker!!!

It's like gazing into the past...and maybe the future.

One of the largest rock formations of its type on record, the "Snowy Chandelier" weighs roughly thirty tons!

Definitely one of the best parts of the cavern expedition was the threat of an ancient cave bear...

and a curious cave bug??? 

From thirteen stories below, one can see the original hole in the ground
from which the farmer fashioned a primitive garbage disposal.

I can't be the only one who sees the giant tiki head, right?

The photos just don't do justice to nature's mineral rainbow - coral, aqua, and robin's egg blue.

According to Lost World Cavern history, the "War Club" stalagmite helped win
 a Guinness World Record for a dedicated stalagmite sitter.  Although, I wonder how
much competition there is for the title of "World's Longest Stalagmite Sitter?"

Under most circumstances, an invitation to trek down into a dank, musty hole in the ground would have me in a light jog toward the nearest Cinnabon.  For some reason, however, The Lost World Caverns made me feel like I had finally come home...

I guess I no longer have to wonder about my genealogy...

If you love nature and weird roadside attractions, then the Lost World Caverns might just be right up your alley...or down your hole.

"The Land of The Lost"

Lost World Caverns
Lewisburg, WV


Mr. Tiny