Quote of the Day:
“If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, we have at least to consider the possibility that we have a small aquatic bird of the family anitidae on our hands.” –Douglas Adams, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
As I mentioned last week, TB took a few days off from the blog and elsewhere to go on a holiday road trip to Hot Springs, then Little Rock, Arkansas. While I was on blog hiatus Sarah Palin resigned, Steve McNair died and Michael Jackson wasn’t buried. It was a bad time to be blog free, but a small price to pay for the many benefits a road trip provides.
I’d never been to Hot Springs before last weekend and that’s one of the main reasons we went. There are precious few destinations within five hours of home that are new. I was, of course, familiar with the fact that Hot Springs is home to “bathhouse row”, the ancient spas that long ago located in central Arkansas where the therapeutic waters flowed. I wanted to see these landmarks and the accompanying mountainsides that comprise the Hot Springs National Park. I expected the usual cliched tourist town accoutrements–a fudgery, a wax museum, putt putt and scooter rentals–and I wasn’t disappointed. But I must say these businesses were much less ubiquitous in Hot Springs than they are in many other old school tourist towns.
I was surprised to find out that while there are several modern spas about, only one of the half dozen or so original bath houses is still in operation. One is now a bath house museum, one is an art museum and several are vacant. Roughly a decade ago it seems their condition was even worse–all closed and crumbling–but the federal government stepped in and saved the row by incorporating the old houses into the Hot Springs National Park that had been established even before venerated Yellowstone and is the oldest of all our national parks. I also learned that Hot Springs had much in common with (more familiar to me) Biloxi, Mississippi, in its 20th century experience. It was the home of all that is/was illicit for Arkansans–booze and gambling primarily–and was winked at by the authorities until the mid 1960’s when the slot machines and the proprietors of all that was fun but illegal were shut down and run out of town. Coincident with graft and corruption and partying, the town was a frequent host to Chicago and New York mobsters on holiday from their day jobs. An interesting tidbit of trivia I learned was that Capone et al could freely cavort in town and in the then privately owned bath houses because the mayor was friendly. However they dared not step foot in the mountains where the National Park was located lest the park rangers exercise their right to arrest anyone under a federal warrant. One can imagine the gangsters and the rangers sharing a drink in one of the unofficial saloons in town, laughing about their cat and mouse game like Sam Sheep Dog and (Wile E Coyote relative) Ralph Wolf.
Indulge me a 6 minute interludinal tangent:
Two final words about Hot Springs….there are several stations set up around town where you can collect all the water you want for your personal consumption–hot or cold. If you ever happen to go through there, bring empty jugs. But don’t try to figure out a way to make money selling the freely obtained water–it can’t be done. I spent a Newman-esque amount of time trying to figure out how to undercut locally operated Mountain Valley Spring Water.
And I will always rue the missed opportunity I had Friday afternoon while parking on Central Avenue, the town’s main drag. As I mentioned before, Hot Springs is home to everything you would expect to see in a classic tourist trap. In recent years, one of the mainstays in any destination is a duck tour–those World War II vehicles capable of traveling on land or sea that give you the grand tour of all the sites are called “ducks” for those of you uninitiated. Anyway, I pulled into a beautiful spot on Central but before we could exit a large lady with a small shirt and a sunburned upper torso region came charging at our car. “You can’t park here!”, she shouted. “This is where the duck parks.” I paused briefly, instantly recalling first that I’d seen no signage posted by the city limiting who could park where, simultaneously forming the perfect retort, then realizing that as a family man the retort was best left untorted and a confrontation best avoided. Instead I meekly smiled and waved, and moved my car down a few spaces where I deftly parallel parked amidst heavy vehicle, pedestrian and duck traffic and began repeating the mantra that has haunted me nigh on three days now. But here on my blog I can exact my passive aggressive revenge, even if it means violating a self imposed rule temporarily. I simply can’t hold it in any longer. Stop reading now if you have delicate ears, or keep reading, but with earmuffs.
Here it comes….
It’s not really that funny, but will be cathartic….
Just one moment more…..
Join in with me if you’re feelin it….
FUCK A DUCK!
I sometimes feel that way when dodging those ducks at the inner harbor – they just don’t move fast enough some days when I am trying to park over there. I have a good friend that spends Thanksgiving in Hot Springs every year and the bath house portion of the trip is THE big event.
We experienced really bad weather on our 4th of July Island Trip and it was a new one for me. I felt like I was on an episode of “Deadliest Catch”. I kept waiting for my Caymanian Sailor Genes to kick in and I do not think they did, although I managed not to panic.