For Richard’s birthday, I thought it might be fun to drive down to Clarksdale to visit the famed Crossroads and visit the local museums and haunts known for their connection to blues history.
The trip did not disappoint. Even though we went during the week and live music offerings were limited, in part because lots of places have limited operating hours early in the week, we still got to see and hear some good stuff, and just bask in the muggy glory of the birthplace of the blues.
Check out the full photo set here.
About two hours east of Nashville, in Crossville, there’s a giant treehouse built by a minister who says God told him as long as he kept adding to the structure, he’d never run out of material. A few years ago the Fire Marshall ordered the structure to be closed to the public, as it did not meet fire codes. So now it sits abandoned.
I’m a sucker for rural places with bizarre backstories (like the Mindfield, for example), so when I saw this thing pop up in my Instagram feed as someone I follow visited it, I knew I had to go see for myself.
I went solo, which made for an interesting experience as I had no one there to crack jokes with to make me feel less creeped out. A family was leaving as I pulled up and I presumably had the place all to myself. There were times I doubted that, though, as the building swayed and creaked and made strange noises all around. Shuffling, knocking, scraping, sliding. I assume there are plenty of animals that call the treehouse home, and it occurred to me that if one of them was a crazed raccoon, I’d be in for a fight.
One of the stranger experiences of climbing in the treehouse was looking down and seeing the floor below through the widely spaced floor boards. Several times I felt my stomach jump up to my throat as I thought about how I was three, four, five floors up on wooden boards that were constructed by a man with no blueprints and just a calling from God to build, build, build.
The chapel is the most impressive room in the place. It’s got an interesting mix of solemnity and whimsy (there’s a basketball goal on the wall, opposite the pulpit) and it’s built in amphitheater style, with slats of pews rising on all sides, several floors high around where the preacher would stand at the hand-carved altar. There were photos, paintings and carvings still in place. There’s a makeshift skylight formed by light corrugated fiberglass. Visitors from over the years had carved and painted what I thought was remarkably stupid graffiti on every surface.
There’s a room on one of the upper floors full of carved figures that look like Native Americans and Jesus. They’re all sort of hanging out around the perimeter of the room, and the afternoon sun streams in through gaps in the wooden walls to illuminate their faces.
I climbed up the bell tower as far as the stairs would let me but stopped short of climbing up the ladder into the bell tower itself. I could see through the floorboards above some giant metal canisters that the internet tells me used to be strung up to clang like bells. There’s a bench in the bell tower and windows all around. The view is beautiful and serene, even though you can hear the hum of I-40 nearby.
I stepped so gingerly and deliberately through the whole house that the next day I was sore. I kept thinking I’d find a loose board and crash through the tree, but the place did feel sturdy, I have to say. I can’t imagine a whole gaggle of kids galloping around, playing basketball in the chapel up in the tree and their parents not having cardiac events, but the minister had faith that his treehouse could sustain his flock so who am I to argue?
Once upon a time, Flickr would let you embed slideshows, but it looks like the new Flickr (which, OK, is a few years old now) doesn’t allow it. So if you want to see more, and I hope you do, click here to view the album and click the slideshow icon in the top right corner.
Or better yet, just go see it for yourself. It’s a fantastic bit of folk art and truly an architectural masterpiece.
I am at a bar in a kind of huge strip mall in Des Moines, Iowa. There is a wall of giant, beautifully crisp, flat televisions behind the bar, all showing the same baseball game, and not a single eye is pointed toward them. People are yelling at each other, as you do in most situations when drink and loud music get involved. Boyz II Men’s “Thank You” just came on the loudpseaker and threw me uncomfortably back to my youth when I used to have that single on a cassette and would rewind and replay ad nauseum, only to swap it out with whatever Brandy single I was also obsessed with at the time.
There is a table of middle-aged men in business suits directly in front of me, and they are cackling like madmen and dropping F-bombs in the course of whatever story one of them is relaying.
I flew in this morning and did that ridiculous thing occasional airplane passengers do where I felt a kinship with my fellow stranger travelers. You know, you break through the clouds and suddenly spot the blue arc of the Earth’s boundary and you start to look at the backs of people’s heads — their tiny, stupid, insignificant heads — and they start to seem both stranger than ever (I am on a flying bus with people I’ve never met, and we are rocketing through space and time!!!) and more familiar than ever (someone on this plane near me will not stop farting oh god), once you consider that they are living the same weird life you are, but in a different way.
I had these idiotic thoughts before achieving full caffeination; forgive me.
This is my first extended stay in the Midwest, which is to say it is my first non-layover trip to the Midwest. It’s true — the people are nice and the grass is green. Right now in this little strip-mall bar, there’s a country song and then an R&B song. Country song, R&B song. And then a Mr. Big song (you know the one). And now the song that is about butts that masquerades as being about bass. Ah, the Midwest. The great melting pot of America.
I was lucky enough to get to go to the SND conference in Louisville last weekend. I’d never been to Louisville and never been to an SND conference. Twofer!
The city seems cool — we stayed right downtown in the beautiful Galt House and walked pretty much everywhere — and the conference was inspiring. I came back full of hope and ideas and hopefully the right amount of added chutzpah to be a better designer and a better manager of designers.
One of my favorite quotes from the conference was by David Wright, a designer for Twitter. He said — and put up on a big slide — “Great experiences thrive in environments where design is respected.” You would think something like that might be a no-brainer, but there are a lot of people who actually don’t fully embrace this concept.
The full set is here. I definitely aim to get to another SND conference in the future, and I am going to be back in Louisville too! It’s not that far away and there is a ton of stuff to do there.
Because if there’s one thing the internet HASN’T changed, it’s how much people LOOOVE looking at other people’s vacation photos!