August 20, 1998 Oh, Beautiful! I started to write this, as we were broken down, on Interstate 40 somewhere between Little Rock and Memphis. It has been three weeks since we started our vacation, the last long, big vacation before our oldest, Sari, goes off to Syracuse University and Melissa, a year later. The dynamics of the family will never be the same, so we wanted one more trip with our “babies”. Going to work each day in New York, one loses sight of the beauty that is America, both in its landscape and its people. We tend to think of Americans as who is portrayed in movies and television. Our trip covered the southern part of the U.S. including St. Louis, Branson, Oklahoma City, Amarillo, Sante Fe, Durango, Four Corners, Monument Valley, Lake Powell, Grand Canyon, Holbrook, Oracle, Tucson, Kitts Peak, Tombstone, Safford, Morenci, Deming, El Paso, San Antonio, Dallas, Murfreesboro, Hot Springs, Mt. Ida, Memphis, Nashville and Wheeling. We broke down twice, once in Durango, Colorado and once on that Interstate outside of Hazan, Arkansas. Based on the media I should have been overcharged by the small town auto repair stores run by Cro-Magnon looking overall-clad Northerner hating good ol’ boys. They did wear coveralls, but we were treated with so much courtesy and respect and better than at most New York and New Jersey garages we have known. These small businessmen were what the local chambers of commerce imagine them to be. For Spacious Skies It’s easy to see why the heartland is religious; there is sky for as long as the eye can see. From horizon to horizon, the plains states are devoid of trees. You can see the weather coming in from the Rockies. It’s almost as if you can see the power of G-d. In fact, the most unusual radio commercial we heard was for a religious bootcamp, run for young adults, by the Methodist Church. For Amber Waves of Grain There is no shortage of land planted for food in America. In the Big Apple we are told we’re running out of space; we’re not. In New York we think a rich ethnic mix means persons from other countries. In the West, it means Native Americans (of which we saw many types, mostly Ute and Navajo) and leathery looking hard scrabble types of Americans not seen in primetime TV or New York, either. For Purple Mountains Majesty Never knew there were so many mountains in Arizona. Oh yes, the Rockies are purple. They start as a purple blur on the horizon seen almost to the Mississippi River. Then the blur keeps rising higher and higher until you are finally are confronted with a vertical wall. Above the Fruited Plain Branson Missouri was a hoot! Kind of like Lancaster, Pennsylvania with dinner shows (breakfast, lunch and between snacks too!) I now know what happened to Andy Williams, the Osmonds, Yakov Smirnoff and other entertainers from the 70’s; they have twice daily shows in their own theaters in Branson. Tourists descend by the busload and we were the only Eastern license plate in sight. It was nostalgic to hear jokes and monologues devoid of profanity. America, America Some states really stand out from the others. For example: Arkansas: Thank G-d Clinton didn’t do as good a job on America as he did in Arkansas. His boyhood home of Hot Springs is decrepit and scary. In a very poor state with the most dangerous roads I have ever encountered; they have two way traffic on the service roads along the highway. Try exiting from the highway onto one! Texas: The worst drivers I have ever seen . They are in a class all their own. They do not believe in entrance ramps. A very “big” state. We drove for three days before leaving it. So big, didn’t see any out of state license plates. Hotter than Hell, the heat just sucked the breath out of your body. Riverwalk, in San Antonio alone, is worth the visit. Didn’t expect the Texas Book Depository to be as crowded as Yad Vashem. It was extremely well done and balanced. Arizona: Lake Powell is magnificent and I hope the Easterners don’t learn about this incredibly beautiful and underutilized federal resort area. Grand Canyon is Grand and worth a hike of a couple of miles into it. Forget Armageddon, or Deep Impact--see the real thing at Meteor Crater. Who expected a Jewish Memorial in Boot Hill Cemetery in Tombstone? White mountains, pink mountains, grey mountains, etc. Oklahoma City: There’s a sense of something lost where the bombing took place. The fence is movingly decorated with offerings from moved Americans. Worst Person Met on the Trip: The Ford dealer in Durango, Colorado who couldn’t give us an appointment to fix our car for three days. Best Person Met on the Trip: The repair shop in Durango that gave us an appointment for 8 A.M. the next morning. Observation We last went cross country in 1992 during the summer of the Bush-Clinton Presidential campaign (see my August 1992 newsletter). A big difference between this trip and the last one was that most tour guides and some people we met on this trip had something to say about the President’s alleged sex life (i.e. at the Louisville Slugger Museum the bats with the Presidential seal were said to be ordered by Hillary to beat away Bill’s girlfriends!). Last time, nobody said anything about President Bush or Candidate Clinton (remember Gennifer Flowers?) much less the race itself. I came away with three thoughts-where are the people who are giving the President his 70% approval rating, the American people, contrary to the press are not tired of the subject, they’re fascinated by it, and nobody talked about the stock market! I can’t tell anyone that a three week trip with three teenagers and a very grown-up nine year old (“I’m not an eight year old baby!) in a van in 100 degree heat is pleasurable; but it is memorable. Between games of Scrabble, learning how to compromise and decisions on where to eat our meals and complaining whether there was too much or too little air conditioning, and digging in Arkansas for diamonds, quartz crystals and Arizona rocks and minerals, we became a family again. We now prepare for our move to much expanded and spanking new offices at 450 Seventh Avenue. Call with any questions, on our new phone number 695-0440, starting August 31, 1998.