Exit Through the Gift Shop

gift shopI took a parlor car tour of parts of the American West, starting in Rapid City and ending in Salt Lake City. It was good; I enjoyed the sights; but my strongest memory was actually the on-board tour guide warning us that when we stopped for lunch we inevitably were forced to congregate in the gift shop before we left. The wonders of Yellowstone, Mt. Rushmore, the Tetons, Jackson Hole, but always tainted by the imported curios in the local gift shop.

I was watching Tony Bourdain taking his No Reservations travel show to Egypt and he regularly reminded the viewer and the Egyptian guide that he was in Cairo but he wasn’t going to see the pyramids. True, you could see them from the hotel balcony off in the distance, but how could you go to Egypt and eschew such impressive and ancient monuments? Well, Tony made a good point by suggesting that he didn’t want to exit through the gift shop. After all, what does Tony need with chotchkes when he’s in search of good food (and a cold beer).

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The new Old Country Store

A major event occurred yesterday here in the land of sunshine, palm trees, and alligators, and I was right in the middle of the excitement. You’ve undoubtedly guessed by now … yes, the Cracker Barrel opened adjacent to our increasingly less active adult community.

Actually, I was sitting in the air-conditioning when a contingent of the Ladies of the Cul-de-Sac stormed into the house, forced me to put on pants and teeth, and rushed over to the familiar ersatz homeyness of a long porch crowded with rocking chairs and oversized checkerboards. If you have never seen the gift shop at a Cracker Barrel then it follows that you have never been to a Cracker Barrel since you are forced to maneuver through the gingham pot-holders, ceramic frogs, and Moon Pies before the line waiting to sign up to wait for a down-home feast even comes in sight. The question has been posed:  is it a restaurant with a large gift shop or is it a gift shop with food for the weary traveler?

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