Thursday, April 20, 2006

No Sleep 'Til Branson!

Today, my fabulous friend Tara is leaving on a fabulous, extended vacation to South America. This makes me jealous. And when I’m jealous, my custom is usually to lie to myself. So, in my mind, she won’t be spending the next three weeks traipsing around Buenos Aires and Montevideo. Oh, no, no, no: she’ll be in Branson, Missouri. Yes, you heard me: Branson! Jewel of the Ozarks! The mid-South’s premiere family-friendly getaway hotspot! And, since I want her to have the best possible time in the Tri-Lakes area, I’ve even gone so far as to research her recreation and entertainment options and present my recommendations. There is, after all, a baffling array of things to do and see in the Branson region and I’d hate for her to be overwhelmed by the abundance of wholesome fun to be had. You can thank me with a Grand Old Gospel Hour souvenir t-shirt, Tara.

1) The Shepherd of the Hills Fish Hatchery. It’s free. It’s a fish hatchery. It’s got a Jesusy name. Need I say any more?

2) World-Fest at Silver Dollar City. These days you don’t need to endure some hellishly-long plane flight to another continent to see the world. All you need to do is pilot your rental Plymouth to Silver Dollar City (which is a theme park, by the way) and experience a “month-long celebration of each other’s differences”. It’s got something for everyone: “Whether you're enjoying the 1800's Ozarks mountain culture that can be found at Silver Dollar City every day or enjoying Russian acrobatics, Irish dancing, African drumming or any other cultural artistic expression, you're sure to find it all in authentic form at Silver Dollar City's World-Fest.” Can Dollywood make those claims? I don’t think so. Dollywood isn’t cultural artistic at all.

3) Plumb Nellie Days. A craft fair! Who doesn’t love crafts? Me, I can’t imagine a vacation that doesn’t involve buying a whole bunch of folksy what-have-you. But, alas, I can’t make it down there this year. Maybe you can pick me up a wicker wall-hanging that says “PRAY HARDER” or a pine walking stick or a little clay figurine of President Bush in his flight-suit.

4) The Precious Moments Chapel. You don’t need to be strong. You can admit that you were moved to tears by the winsome beauty and unquenchable innocence on display here. I won’t think any less of you for it. Because I cried just looking at the webpage.

5) Branson Meadows. Don’t worry. These aren’t actual meadows. Of course not! It’s a shopping mall! And what a shopping mall: it’s got a Christian gift outlet, a Dress Barn, a Supermarket of Shoes, a “Touch of Class”, two institutions of higher learning, and a Skaggs Medical Supply. And there’s also a place called “Foozles”. What goes on at “Foozles”? I have no goddamn idea. You better find out!

6) The Outback Pub. Why not unwind after a long day sightseeing here? In addition to the finest wines of Australia, it offers “live entertainment, billiards, and NTN trivia”. Again, I don’t know what “NTN trivia” is, but I imagine it must be a hell of a lot of fun, otherwise they wouldn’t do it. And it stays open until one in the morning! You won’t have to abandon your night-owl ways just because you’re in the Bible Belt!

7) Yakov Smirnoff. The funniest man in Branson. ‘Nuff said.

8) The Lowe Family of Utah. This one I’ll let speak for itself: “Thrill to their lush harmonies and then fasten your seat belt as their fingers and feet fly through some of the most amazing performances in Branson - not to mention their stirring patriotic tribute which is the talk of the town! This is the show NOT to be missed!”

9) The Promise. This is a “Multi-million dollar production” about the “Life of Jesus” that “penetrates the mind and warms the spirits”. Sounds sensual, doesn’t it? And, for some reason, they also have a Live Baby Camel on hand.

10) Celebrate America. Not just a title, but a command. The sister show to “The Promise” and just as uplifting! “From the beginning shots of the Revolutionary War Through September 11th, and up to present day. Celebrate America will uplift and inspire all who share in this entertainment experience!” Because, as we all know, in Branson even war and terrorism become fodder for toe-tapping, good-feelin’ musical fun!

You know, it's funny. I started out thinking that doing this whole "Branson bit" would dampen my envy a little bit. But, now that I've thoroughly researched the place, I think I've only worsened it. I want to go to Branson. I want to take in a show. I want to see the fish hatchery. I especially want to see the Live Baby Camel. Funny how that works.

Sweet Baby Jesus, I think I've got the seeds of a dream vacation here...