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on the Road!
Dog on the Road
Part III - A Shoppers Guide to
by Mad Dog
thats not to say there arent some incredible finds out there. Take Alamo
|| Being on the road
is a game, the object being to travel from one coast to the other while seeing a lot of
interesting people, places and sites without letting everyone you meet sell you something.
This isnt easy, since your opponents goal is to extract as much money from you
as possible in exchange for the least useful item imaginable. (For the purpose of this
discussion a useful item is defined as anything made in another country that has the name
of a United States city or historical site on it.)
These are called souvenirs. Souvenirs have several uses. One is to sit on a shelf in your
living room behind seventeen other souvenirs as a fond reminder of what the Grand Canyon
would have looked like had it not rained for four straight days while you were there. The
other is to give it to someone else so they can reminisce about the two week trip you took
to New England and wish it could be that quiet around the house now that youre back.
The problem with souvenirs is that you
cant pick up what you really want, like stalagmites from Carlsbad Caverns, shards of
2,000 year-old pottery laying along the path in the pueblo, or that hitchhiker on the side
of the road that you hope will fulfill that fantasy youve had since the day you got
your learners permit. But thats not to say there arent some incredible
finds out there. Take Alamo crackers. These are like animal crackers except they come in
the shape of boots, stars, cowboy hats, the state of Texas and the Alamo. One of them in
my box looked a lot like Davey Crocketts coonskin cap but once I brushed the fuzzy
stuff off I realized it was just another cowboy boot.
dont know who first came up with the idea of making you walk through a gift shop to
leave, but Im sure they won a Nobel Prize in merchandising for it.
|| The first real
souvenir bonanza I came across was Graceland. In case you havent been there, this is
the house in Memphis where Elvis Presley showed the world that money cant buy good
decorating or a refined palate. Theres a mile-long stretch of road, oddly enough on
Elvis Presley Boulevard, which is dedicated to making sure you remember the King. You can
eat Love Me Chicken Tenders, leave Fido at the You Aint Nothing But A Hound Dog
Kennel, or shop at any one of the 1,482 gift shops whose only goal is to perpetuate the
memory of a great singer. Thank you. Thank you very much.
These gift shops stock nearly as many items as Wal-Mart, but are infinitely better since
everything relates to Elvis, and besides, you dont have to run a gauntlet of aging
greeters as you walk in the door. And yes, you can get virtually anything you can think of
with Elvis photograph, name, a song quote, or Elvis favorite acronym (the
highly appropriate TCB or "Taking Care of Business") imprinted on it. Whether
you want dinner service for twelve, a snow globe so youll know what Elvis would have
looked like in a snowstorm, or a copy of his drivers license ("But Mr. Presley,
this drivers license expired 20 years ago.") youre bound to find
something which will gather dust on anyones shelf.
A close second to Graceland in the souvenir
sweepstakes is the International UFO Museum & Research Center in Roswell, New Mexico,
known to the locals as "the only thing thats kept this town from drying up and
blowing away." There are exhibits documenting the 1947 Roswell Incident (when either
a UFO or a large dose of LSD landed in the area), general exhibits on UFO sightings, and
the Alien Caffeine Espresso Bar. No kidding.
And just in case you dont manage to
see enough drawings of that large-headed, doe-eyed alien that looks like one of those kids
in a Margaret Keane painting, just stop in the gift shop on your way out. I dont
know who first came up with the idea of making you walk through a gift shop to leave, but
Im sure they won a Nobel Prize in merchandising for it. Doing this serves three
purposes. The first is to give you the opportunity to buy another thimble to add to the
4,384 you already have and dont use because, face it, no one sews by hand anymore.
The second is to boost the local economy. Well, the ones in Singapore and Guatemala,
anyway. And the final reason is to remind you once again what this country is built
if thats not enough, theres also a T-shirt that shows a flying saucer with a
sign hanging from it that reads "Looking for Elvis."
|| But while Memphis
easily has the most souvenirs, the UFO Museum may just win the prize for the most unique
items. Theres the barbecue apron with a picture of the alien holding a charred piece
of something-or-other labeled "Unidentified Frying Object". Theres the
T-shirt with the alien dressed up in a Mexican straw hat, serape, sandals and a bushy
moustache which reads, "Illegal Alien". And yes, believe it or not this alien
has its own comic books, sock puppet ("Hi! Im from outer space. Have you seen
E.T. or ALF?"), pillows, dolls, potato chip bag clips, crayon holders, litter bags
and 2 ounce packages of Honey Roasted "Planetary Peanuts". Did I mention the
blankets, guitar straps, or welcome mat that says "All Aliens Welcome"?
Interestingly, theres a common thread between these
top notch souvenir shops, for the UFO Museum also offers music, not unlike Elvis.
Well, if you figure theyre both based on an octave scale. Its a cassette of a
song by Leon Rubenhold called "Down in Roswell" which includes the sing-along
chorus of "Down in Roswell, New Mexico. Down in Roswell, we have a right to
know." And as if thats not enough, theres also a T-shirt that shows a
flying saucer with a sign hanging from it that reads "Looking for Elvis."
I have to admit that Ive bought very
few souvenirs on the road, but I did buy a few at Graceland and the UFO Museum. That just
shows what a good friend I am. Hey, I could have given everyone the same souvenir most
people give their friendsa two-hour slide show featuring overexposed shots of every
mile of every road they traveled.
©1997 Mad Dog Productions, Inc. All
These columns appear in better newspapers across the country. Keep one
as a souvenir.