Observing US:
A column about America,
by Marylaine Block
originally published by
Fox News Online, 1998-2000

#38, June 9, 1999


by Marylaine Block

If you're going to be out on the road this summer, don't just zip along the interstates -- not that you'll be able to, given the road construction. Try slowing down and taking the detours on purpose, those old two-lane blacktops, where you can explore the odd things that crop up by the waysides.

If you do, you'll come to appreciate something special about America, that spirit of "Why not" that makes a man look upon a desert and say thoughtfully, "What this place needs is a bridge" -- and then say, "Who says London Bridge has to be in London?" Because of that man's vision, you can visit London Bridge today in Lake Havasu, Arizona.

While you're in a mood for things British, you could also visit Stonehenge. No, not the one in England. You can take your pick, really: there are Stonehenges in Maryville, Washington, and Elberton County, Georgia. There's even one in Alliance, Nebraska made out of junked cars (Carhenge). Of course, not everybody recognizes genius when they see it. Ungrateful Nebraskans once called it an unsightly nuisance and wanted to fence it in. But now that it draws visitors from all over, stores throughout the state proudly sell Carhenge souvenirs.

You could also visit the Pyramids of your choice: the one in Memphis, once the largest on the continent, is now outshone by the Luxor in Las Vegas (and it has a sphinx to go with it).

Without ever leaving America, you can see the Eiffel Tower (Paris, Texas), tour the Parthenon (Nashville), see a Shakespeare play at the Globe Theatre (Odessa, Texas), and view the Leaning Tower of Pisa (Niles, Illinois). Tolkien fans may treat themselves to a trip to Hobbiton in Phillipsville, California. And don't forget to see the Garden of Eden in Lucas, Kansas (not perhaps an obvious location).

The same kind of visionary responsible for these wonders, when planning a building says "Who says it has to be shaped like a building?" And lo, the beaches of New Jersey gave rise to Lucy, the building that looks like an elephant. There are also buildings shaped like covered wagons, Noah's Ark, pirate ships, milk bottles and shoes.

There's a special charm about having your morning capuccino in a building shaped like a coffeepot (Bob's Java Jive, Tacoma), and eating at diners and restaurants shaped like Coney Island Hot Dogs (Aspen Park, Colorado), Dairy Queen cones (the Twistee Treat in Jacksonville, Florida), and a Dougnut Hole (La Puente, California). It would be hard to resist the restaurant that has a statue of a gigantic cow in a waitress uniform beside it, in Shartlesville, Pennsylvania. And what promoter of local produce could match the public relations genius who came up with Castroville, California's giant artichoke, a gift shop attached to a restaurant that specializes in artichoke-based dishes?

You also have to admire anyone who could conceive and build a house entirely out of beer cans (in Houston), or construct not only the world's largest bug, but a hurricane-proof one at that (in Providence). Another genius built a 30 foot Paul Bunyan out of old Kaiser automobiles (a legend made out of a legend, as it were), which you can view in Alpena, Michigan. And what kind of mind could come up with a 45 ton talking bull? It was an Iowan. You can tell because the bull is so polite; it says "Please drive carefully."

Speaking of my home state, the enterprising town fathers of Riverside realized that if Captain James T. Kirk would be born in a nameless small town in Iowa in a couple of hundred years, that town might just as well be Riverside. They exhibit a 20 foot long model of the starship Enterprise in the town park, and host Trekkie conventions.

Oh, yes, there was also a man named Walt Disney. His original Disneyland was the most grandiose of all the "why nots" , leading bankers to say "You want me to loan you millions of dollars to build a park for a MOUSE?"

If you've all come to look for America, get off the interstate. The real America, the land of "Why Not?" lies all around you if you're only ready to see it.

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