Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Most Bestest Church Staff Ever

A few months ago we switched the church website over to a Blogger site since it's so much easier to update than the nightmare we were using. We have a page on our new site (Get to Know Us) where we've listed all the staff positions and contact info. I asked everyone to send me a picture of themselves to put on that page because people who are looking for a church sometimes like to see if the staff looks at least semi-normal. Or maybe that's just me. The first thing I do when I go to another church's website is check out their staff page to see what everyone looks like. If they look all perfect like they're carved out of cream cheese, I'm not going there.

I have had zero response to my request for pictures so that means it's up to me. God help them all. I've carefully chosen some pictures of our staff from my own photo archives, their Facebook pages, and the few websites that popped up during my Google search and managed to make it through our filters. Before putting them on the official website, I thought I would test drive them here.

I would love to know what you would think if you saw these pictures on a church website. Do the people look friendly? Do they look approachable and "real"? Would you visit a church with a staff like this? Have you seen any of these people on America's Most Wanted? You know...basic stuff like that.

Dennis Malcolm
Senior Pastor

This is what Dennis looks like every Monday morning.

Marti Thomas
Executive Pastor

Marti doesn't let her position on the staff prevent her from expressing her girlish femininity.

Tim Osborne
Mission/Men/Small Groups Pastor

Tim carries a ladder with him everywhere he goes because it makes him feel closer to God.

Joel Sprayberry
Worship Arts Leader

Well, he's an artist. Whaddya gonna do?

Matt Adams
Youth and Children's Pastor

He deals with high school and middle school kids all day every day.  You have to be a little "off" to do that.

Barbara Quebedeaux
Office Administrator

It's a little known fact that there were originally 4 girls in the Brady Bunch. Barbara was the oldest sister, Beatrice, who secretly eloped with Richie Cunningham's older brother who we also never saw.

Shannon Green
Arts & Communications Administrator

I'm actually the most authentic one on staff.

Courtney Tribe
Children's Creative Assistant

Although we don't allow smoking in the office, Courtney does enjoy a stogie on her personal time. And as you can see, we are facial hair friendly.

Sadly, this is only a portion of our staff. I was not able to get pictures of our other staff members, Susan Smith, Grace Guidry, Nancy Hocutt and Keri Culotta because their websites were blocked by our ultra Christian appropriateness filters. That's the rumor I'm going to start if they don't send me pictures.

Even though I didn't request pictures from them, I ran across a few pictures of our elders that I thought the general public might like to see. These are the spiritual leaders of our church, the men who meet and pray regularly to tackle all the big decisions.

Senior pastor Dennis Malcolm is also on the elder board at Trinity. Few people know that the time he spent as one of the Rockettes is how he paid for seminary.

As a respected elder here at Trinity, you can see that Bob Kulbeth is brimming with intelligence, decisiveness, and the ability to come up with solutions for complex churchy problems.

Rusty Dunn has been instrumental in helping to promote many ministries here at trinity, including those for men and small groups. Men of all ages seek him out for his mentoring abilities.

Mark Thomas (who insists on being called Hoss) is married to our executive pastor Marti Thomas. Don't they make a cute couple? It's a good thing Mark and Marti are so down to earth, otherwise people would be jealous of their fashion sense.

So that's our highly respected, uber Christian staff, men and women of God who are modeling what it means to be a follower of Jesus. I just feel so fortunate to be able to surround myself with their wisdom on a daily basis. I feel extra fortunate when their wisdom is tied up in meetings all day which has allowed me to pay this unsupervised tribute to them. Hallelujah.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Church, Frogs and Rocks

Our last official vacation day was a long one but a fun one.  We drove in to Eureka Springs and headed straight for St. Elizabeth's Church.  It's unusual because the entrance is through the bell tower.  It's a beautiful little chapel and Jayson was helpful in explaining all of the statues and symbolism of the Catholic church.

Inside the foyer there were 4 statues with candles in front of them where you can pray.   We understood all of the statues except one.  Apparently you can pray to Jesus, Mary, St. Therese or Friar Tuck.

Along the walkway up to the entrance of the church we noticed that there was a separate building which we assumed was the priest's house since there was a satellite dish and a barbecue grill.  The roof of the house and the yard below was full of coins.  I wasn't sure if this was a Catholic tradition or just a "thing" for this particular church, but it looked like we were supposed to toss a coin onto the roof so we did.  Well, Taylor did.  She chucked her coin which looked like it was going to make a perfect landing on the upper part of the roof but then it turned onto its side, rolled down the roof and landed in the yard below.  We figured that meant her wish wasn't going to come true.  It's my guess that these coins are considered some kind of offering and are probably collected from time to time but I really wanted to make a suggestion to the priest:  Dude, put in gutters, you're lawnmower probably eats up a couple of happy meals every time you mow.

As we drove to our next destination, I fell in love with Eureka Springs and decided that we need to retire there.  Fortunately, Jayson agreed.  It's quaint, quiet (except for the more touristy parts), the architecture is amazing and it's full of arts and crafts of all kinds.  I can just see us living in a quirky little house (with lots of bottle trees) and driving around town on our scooters.  OOooo!  Or matching Segways!  I, of course, will be part of the local hippie art colony where I will make new junk out of old junk to sell to the tourists and I'll design custom tattoos for senior citizens.  Jayson will play golf until he gets more holes in one than my Uncle Fred.

We stopped by Frog Fantasies hoping to see their huge collection of frogs, but they had just moved into a new place and don't have room for their collection which is packed up in 50 banana boxes right now.  They had a few things on display and for sale and we had a nice visit with the old frog guy. 

From there we made our way to Thorncrown Chapel.  I had seen pictures online and knew it would be amazing and it was.  The architecture is incredible.  It has over 400 windows from floor to ceiling and is surrounded by a beautiful wooded area.  All of the furnishings and decor inside the chapel mimics the architecture of the building, making it a cohesive, beautiful experience.  I loved it!

After a quick lunch downtown we headed to Quigley Castle, which I had been looking forward to all week.  Everywhere we went, Jayson & Taylor asked me why we were going there, what we would see, what was so special about it, etc.  I had no idea.  I caught a glimpse of this stuff on the internet, it looked cool so we went.  They both thought that Quigley Castle was the "big cheese" of this trip but I had to disagree.  I didn't find it cheesy at all, I loved it.  Yes, it was a little overkill but it was definitely a one of a kind experience.  Mrs. Quigley had a large collection of rocks, stones, shells, marbles, etc. that she used to completely cover the outside of her house as well as anything else that would sit still.  She made sculptures from her collection and also has a lot of big, free standing chunks of minerals.  And the bottle trees!  I love bottle trees and I lost count of how many she had.

The inside of her house is just as spectacular.  The perimeter of the interior is surrounded by a "garden mote" where she has 2-story tall trees and plants growing inside.  Really, really interesting.  I think Jayson wasn't crazy about the whole Quigley experience because he was afraid it would push me over the deep end.  I saw it as a glimpse into the heart of someone's passion.  Jayson saw it as a glimpse into the mind of a crazy person and I think he was frightened at how much it resembled the mind of his wife.  Silly man.  He doesn't have to worry about me sticking stuff all over the outside of our house.  My collection is big enough.  Yet.

That's How We Roll

What day is this?  Day 5?  Day 43?  I think the fun is starting to wear off of the Green Family Arkansas Vacation.  We're starting to get a little cranky and on each others nerves and frankly, I'm surprised we've lasted this long.

But...all is not lost.  I knew it was only a matter of time before we turned on each other but experience has shown there is a cure for this.  All we need is some outside force to come along and either try to fix things for us or start picking on one of us.  If either of those things happen, we will band together like a pack of rabid hyenas and tear the outsider limb from limb.  The bonding process caused by the unwelcome outside force will cause us to completely forget about whatever little petty differences we had and we will be rebonded for a few more days.  Or at least long enough to get us home where we can each have control of our own TV.

The plan for today is to do as many of the touristy things in Eureka Springs as we can.  If the past week has been any indication, we will accomplish exactly 2 of those things.  But this is not a bad thing since most of the fun happens between the activities and is not the actual activity itself.  The road signs alone have been well worth the trip.  These are the choices we will have to narrow down:

The old Wal Mart store in Bentonville.
Terra Studios in Durham
In Eureka Springs:
     Art Colony
     Frog Fantasies
     Quigley's Castle
     St. Elizabeth's Church
     Thorncrown Chapel
     Turpentine Creek
     5 more caverns

I have a feeling that anything with "art" or "studio" in it will get voted down but that's when I'll fire the ammo I accumulated at the prison exhibit in Little Rock.  If I had to learn all about the Tucker Telephone (and believe me, I could have lived my whole life without knowing that), then by gosh this family can surely suffer through a little glass blowing.  I may have to call in outside reinforcements and have some stranger start telling Jayson & Taylor how stupid I am for wanting to see some art studios.  But my luck, that plan will backfire and I will be ditched for the art-hating replacement.  Better not risk it.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Mr. Chatty Pants, Bad Juju, and the Mennonite Women

This morning during breakfast I laid out our plan for the day which was to visit 2 cave sites.  The first was the Mystic Cavern which includes the Crystal Dome Cavern and is only 8 miles south of Harrison.  The second site was the Cosmic Cavern located near Berryville, AR.

The Crystal Dome Cavern is small but it is pristine.  It has been preserved since its discovery so there is very little damage that has been caused by humans.  In fact, the only real damaged area is shown in the picture on the right.  The tour guide said these are footprints of the man who accidentally discovered the cave.  He saw what he thought was a 5' hole in the ground.  He wanted to explore the hole so he took off his boots so he wouldn't get them muddy or wet.  He jumped down barefoot into the hole and discovered that it was over a 10' drop.  You can see his bare footprints in the rock because the oils from human skin cause rock formations to stop growing.  That's the story we were told.

I have a couple of problems with that story.  Yes, there are a couple of indentations in the rock that resemble bare human feet.  But I'm thinking that if I jumped down into a hole that I thought was 5' deep and it ended up being 10' deep, the chances of me landing on my feet are pretty slim.  There would be a butt print accompanying those foot prints and a couple of palm prints to get me back on my feet.  And even if Mr. Cave Discoverer did manage to land on his feet, where are the rest of the foot prints?  Did he just remain frozen in that position until someone lifted him straight out of the cave?  Not likely.  I really wanted to tell that tour guide chick that there was no way her story could be true, it was completely illogical and she really shouldn't believe everything she's told without thinking through it first...but I didn't. She was so proud of those footprints I decided to let someone else pee in her Wheaties.

The Mystic Cavern was much larger than the Crystal Dome but shortly after its discovery it was used to hide a moonshine still so there is all kinds of damage down there.  Despite that, it still has a lot of beautiful formations.

After the Mystic Cavern we headed back to Harrison for lunch and a pit stop.  Let me just say, the timing for this trip has been perfect.  Kids are either starting school this week or getting ready for it next week so there are no crowds anywhere.  And the temperature in those caves is around 60 degrees which is a little slice of heaven in mid August.

After our little break we drove to Cosmic Cavern in Berryville, AR.  While we waited in the gift shop for the next tour to start, some guy whose brother-in-law used to live in either Lafayette or Lake Charles tried to get all chatty with me.  Apparently he was immune to the "don't talk to me I'm not friendly" vibes I was giving off.  I had to chew off my own leg to get away from him and once free, I dutifully notified Jayson that there were friendly people in our tour group and showed him which ones to avoid.  I'm just a thoughtful wife that way.

Mr. Chatty Pants then decided to take advantage of one of the Cavern's ultra cheesy ways to separate the tourists from their cash.  You buy this bag of sand that has a variety of stones and "jewels" in it.  Then you take your bag to this big trough with running water in it and you pan for the jewels you just bought.  In his defense, Mr. Pants (I don't know him well enough to call him Chatty) had about a dozen kids with him and this was a good way to keep them occupied for a good 10 minutes.

The Cavern gal took Mr. Pants' money from him and led him and his children over to a wheelbarrow full of plastic bags of sand.  She showed the children how to shake off the bad juju then let their hand hover over each sand bag until they were hovering over the bag that made their hand feel warm.  When they found the warm bag, that's the one they were meant to have.  Mr. Pants and his children shook off their juju then did the hovering hand thing and chose their hot bag.  I can promise you that from now on the Green family will not make a single decision on this trip without shaking off our juju and doing the hand hovering thing over our choices.

The Cosmic Cavern was also used to hide a moonshine still so there was a lot of damage to it but, again, it was still beautiful.  It has 2 bottomless lakes in it...no one has been able to find the bottom or even determine how deep it might go.  There were a lot of steep stairs in this cavern and some very tight spaces to squeeze through.  We also spent a lot of time ducking in low areas and I have the bruises on my head to prove it.  I have no idea why, when someone says "watch your head" I immediately rise up and promptly hit my head on whatever I was supposed to be watching.  It's like a freaking Pavlov's Dog response for me.

I escaped the Cosmic Cavern without a serious concussion and we headed back to Harrison to call it a day.  Taylor has this annoying habit of having to eat at least 3 times a day.  Jayson and I are good with one, maybe 2 meals and a whole bunch of non-stop snacking in between.  Taylor does the constant snacking thing but she wants regular meals too which can be so inconvenient.  Jayson and I were still full from lunch (and looking forward to the cookies and muffins we bought from the bakery where we had lunch) but Taylor was starving so we cruised through the Arby's drive through on the way back to the hotel. 

Here are bits and pieces of the conversation we had while waiting for the food:

"Hey, look at those 2 Mennonite women."

"What's a Mennonite?"

"How can you tell they're Mennonite?"

"By their clothes and the little hat thing the wear."

"Are you sure they're not Amish?"

"What's the difference?"

"I'll Google it."

"Are Mennonites Christian?"

"They could be Quakers. Are there still Quakers?"

"They're Mennonite, I can tell."

"But, they're getting into their car. Can Mennonites have cars?"

"I think that kid (working the drive through) has a rainbow earring."

"Oh leave him alone."

"That doesn't mean he's gay, maybe he just likes rainbows."

"What difference does it make?"

"Was it in his right ear or his left ear?"

"I think it was his left."

"Oh that's the gay ear."

"The gay ear?  Are you kidding me?"

"Everyone knows the left ear is the gay ear."

"I thought it was the right ear."

"It's both ears.  Remember George Michael?"


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Here's your sign

After snapping 3 pictures at Pugh's Mill Park, my camera said that the memory card was full and it refused to do anything else.  I knew this was a lie because I always delete all the pictures from the memory card as soon as I upload them.  I had no choice but to use my iPhone for the Old Mill pictures and this made me cranky because the park was beautiful and I had no zoom.

Pugh's Mill Park is in North Little Rock and is actually a life size sculpture of an old grist mill.  The actual mill mechanism is authentic from the 1800s, but the mill house, bridges, rocks, and the rest of the grounds are completely man made.  It was never a working mill but you couldn't tell by looking.  The Old Mill's claim to fame is that it appears in the opening credits of Gone With The Wind for a whopping 8 seconds.

I'm so glad we came here, it made me want to rush home and start sculpting a stage set out of concrete for Dennis's next sermon.  Not that I've ever sculpted out of concrete but I have the gift of reverse engineering so I'm sure I could do it.  I also have the gift (curse) of thinking that I can do something just because I've seen it done once.  I watched a brain surgery on Discovery Health once so I'm sure I could do it.  It's all about having the right tools.

After the Mill, we stopped and got a new memory card for the camera (which seemed to solve the problem) and made our way toward Harrison.  Conway, AR was on our route so we made an effort to find Toad Suck Park (just because the name is funny) but gave up after about 5 minutes because we were hungry.  We went in search of food and found an Old Chicago Pizza place.   Taylor and I had to go to the little girls' room and we were entertained by the pictures on the bathroom doors.  I whipped out my phone to take a picture of the men's room door and just as I was poised to snap, the door started to open.  I swung around and ran into the ladies room and shut the door as fast as I could.  Taylor was cracking up and said she'd never seen me get embarrassed like that and run from a situation.  I was more embarrassed for the poor guy coming out of the bathroom than I was for me.  Since I am constantly finding myself in embarrassing situations of my own making, I am rarely phased by them anymore.  But I just hated for some poor guy to step out of the bathroom and find himself face to face with my phone's camera.  Once he cleared the hallway, I got my picture.

Did you know that Conway, AR is the church capital of the world?  Conway probably doesn't even know it but I kid you not, I have never in my life seen so many big churches in such a small area.  They're everywhere, all denominations, they're huge, and they're obviously trying to out-steeple each other.  There's also a huge Young Life center in the middle of town.  We decided that Conway is not a place the Green family would like to live.  All the churches and Christianness just plain creeped us out.

Just outside of Conway is a little burg called Pickles Gap, AR.  It is full of flea markets and antique malls and if I wasn't carrying so much baggage with me (namely Jayson & Taylor) I could have spent the entire day there.  On the side of the road there was a sign advertising a flea market/antique store called "Fleas & Tiques".  I thought that was just brilliant.

As we continued our journey we discovered that it wasn't just Conway that had the church problem, the whole dang state is back to back churches.  Not that that's a bad thing, it's just an unusual thing.  I guess I should think of it as a good thing but for some reason that I can't quite put my finger on, I found it to be creepy...similar to the way I feel about bubbly, perky, happy people.  They may be 100% genuine but I can't help but think they're hiding something behind all that happiness.  Something like a torture chamber in their basement.  That kind of happiness just isn't natural.

As we neared Clinton, AR it started pouring down rain and I also started seeing big billboards advertising the "Natural Bridge of Arkansas".  Somehow this little jewel escaped my cheesy roadside attraction radar so we had to stop to see what it was all about.  I'm glad we did, it was actually pretty cool.  You can't really gauge the size from the picture but the thing is huge.

We saw another entertaining sign on the highway but unfortunately we passed too quickly for me to get a picture.  We were on some very steep and winding roads and at one point we had been going downhill in such a way that I was sure we were going to run into either the earth's core or Raquel Welch.  It was along this downhill stretch that we saw a sign that said "Runaway Truck Ramp Ahead".  The fact that we were on a road that had a need for a runaway truck ramp was slightly disturbing.  A little further down, sure enough, there was the ramp and the sign beside it said "Runaway Vehicles Only".  I don't know why I find things like that hilarious but I really do.

Texas doesn't have trees.  Not really.  Or at least not north Texas.  We have mesquite trees which are just weeds that got out of hand.  When we moved to Louisiana I thought we had hit the tree lottery.  They're everywhere, even lining the sides of the highways.  We thought this was so cool.  But Arkansas trumps Louisiana in the tree department.  They've got trees out the wazoo.  I've often wondered what would happen if the earth's forests could no longer sustain the consumption of our wood products.  I am not longer concerned about that.  Arkansas has us covered.  They could loan trees to the Amazon.  Seriously, there are are a lot of trees here.

Someone pointed out to me that while we were in Hot Springs and I was marveling at the lack of size of the Ozarks, I was not actually seeing the Ozarks.  Those were the Ouachita Mountains.  My bad.  Today I am sure I am seeing the Ozarks and they aren't much bigger than the Ouachita Mountains.  In fact, I'm not certain they're really mountains at all.  I think they're just piles of kudzu that got out of control.

We checked into our hotel in Harrison and met one guy from Lafayette and another from Baton Rouge.  Then we had dinner at a place called The Ol' Rockhouse.  It was fantastic, I would recommend it if you're in the area.  I was a little worried at first because it was dark inside and I'm convinced that dark restaurants are that way on purpose so they can hide the yuckiness of their food.  This one was an exception, the food was great and you just can't beat the ambiance of a faux fire plugged in next to your table.

What day is it? Where are we?

This morning we ate plastic eggs compliments of the Holiday Inn Express in North Little Rock while watching the host of some Arkansas morning show explain the difference between varicose veins and spider veins, complete with pictures of "bulky varicosity".  If our morning sets the tone for the rest of the day, we're in for a treat!

Our tentative plan which can change on a whim (or with the onset of an IBS attack, which is more likely) will be to head to Pugh's Mill Park followed by Toad Suck Park in Conway...thank you Susan and Jennifer!!  Then we'll make our way to Harrison unless something else catches our eye along the way.

I haven't planned any further in advance than that, but I did learn how to update my blog via iPhone so I may have to give that a try.  I don't know how that will work since I tend to get wordy and typing on an iPhone is similar to Chinese water torture.

I included this picture of Taylor in the stockades because that's probably how she feels about now.  Jayson and I give out at about 8:30 every night and I swear I can hear her eyes rolling at us from across the room.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Jayson's Inner Kelly Clarkson

Not a lot of excitement today.  We slept in a little then hopped in the car and headed toward Redfield for lunch.  Along the way I spotted a little point of interest in Benton, AR that I at least wanted a picture of.  It's the world's only building made from bauxite which is a beautifully colored aluminum ore.

We pulled into Redfield just in time for lunch and made our way over to the Mammoth Orange Cafe.  It looks just like it does in the pictures I've seen!  The food and atmosphere are exactly like every Dixie Dog, Tastee Freez or small town Dairy Queen on the planet.  The Green Family walked in, sat down, and immediately whipped out our cell phones to take pictures, update our FB status and answer a few texts.  At the same time, a rippling silence fell across the Mammoth Orange as its people detected alien beings in their midst.  The deafening silence caught my attention and when I scanned the diner I saw that we had no hope of blending in with these plaid clad patrons.  I didn't even know you could still buy shirts with pearly snaps on them.  Or maybe you can't.

They had some background music playing but I wasn't really even aware of what it was.  Maybe country music, I'm not sure.  Jayson started singing along and Taylor got all embarrassed and told him to stop.  I told her to lighten up, we're on vacation and Daddy is just having a little fun.  Taylor said, "Omigosh, Mom, you don't know what it's like!!  When you're not home Daddy will bust out into a Kelly Clarkson song for no reason!" Wow.  I had no idea.  I hope CPS doesn't get wind of that.

Our food was good, nothing spectacular, just good.  It reminded me a lot of Gene's Tasty Burger back home but with less grease.  Everything I've read about the Mammoth Orange said to make sure you have a milkshake so we got one to go before we left.  Omigosh.  That was the most fantastic chocolate shake I've ever had.  I'm not sure what that girl put in it but the flavor was perfect and the consistency was exactly as it should be...not too thick, not too thin.  I hope we can make it back through there on the way home.  I want a butterscotch shake.

A few minutes later we cruised into North Little Rock and landed at the Old State House Museum.  It's a beautiful building that used to be the state capital but now has some interesting exhibits.  One is called "Badges, Bandits and Bars" and is all about Arkansas law and justice.  We got to see 2 retired electric chairs, Old Sparky I and Old Sparky II, as well as the Tucker Telephone and other torture devices from Tucker Prison.  That's just fun for the whole family!  They had information on lots of local criminals and gangsters which made us feel all smart and educated since we already learned about most of them at the Gangster Museum.

As soon as you step into some of the rooms in the museum, a recording automatically starts playing and tells you about the things you're looking at.  Poor Taylor seemed to forget about that from room to room because every time it happened she jumped 10 feet off the ground then crouched down and covered the back of her head like a 3rd grader in a tornado drill.  She's a jumpy little thing but then so is her mama.

It rained pretty good this afternoon but hopefully tomorrow it will be dry enough for us to visit Pugh's Mill Park before heading north to Harrison, AR.  I keep looking over my shoulder half expecting to run into Tim & Trish again.  Our luck, they'll show up the next time we're caught in an embarrassing situation...or when we're naked.  But that won't happen because we've vowed to never be naked again.

The Road to Little Rock

We have a somewhat leisurely day planned as we head to Little Rock by way of Redfield.  One of the things I'm most looking forward to on this trip is having a milkshake at the Mammoth Orange Cafe in Redfield, AR. I love small town soda fountain/cafes like that and they are an endangered species.

There's not a whole lot in Little Rock that really catches my eye, which is odd, but then again maybe not.  Being the state capital, there's all kinds of stuff to do and see and visit but it's regular stuff like you can see in any other town.  I want offbeat, quirky stuff that we will remember, not just another museum that we will get confused with all the other museums we've seen.

We might actually visit the Old State House Museum because one of their current exhibits is about the "history of Arkansas law and justice".  That's the blurb on their website which sounds like a big snoozer to me.  After a little further digging, I found that this exhibit includes Old Sparky I and II (retired electric chairs), an actual jail cell, and torture devices such as the Tucker Telephone.  Now that's something we can sink our teeth into!  I'm not really into all that stuff but Jayson is and there's this art thing that I really want to see in Eureka Springs that I haven't told him about yet.  So...this is not about electric chairs, it's about leverage.

Those who think I'm being devious and manipulative are obviously single.  All the married women reading this are giving me virtual high fives with a fist pump.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Mini Mountains, Strip Karaoke, and Serge the Bathing Attendant

We started off our morning with a short drive to the Hot Springs Mountain in the Hot Springs National Park to go to the top of the Hot Springs Mountain Tower where we can see 140 miles worth of Hot Springs. It wasn't quite like the Victoria Peak Tower but it was nice.

The Ozarks are very pretty with lots of trees but for some reason I expected them to be bigger. I haven't seen a lot of mountains in my lifetime but the ones I have seen are...well...mountains. I've seen the Canadian Rockies and the Swiss Alps and I guess I just assumed that all mountains looked like those. Yeah, not so much. The Ozarks are the Mini Me of the mountain kingdom.

During our drive up  Central Avenue Jayson, Taylor and myself each chose the roach motel we would stay in on our next trip and we each picked out own personal tattoo parlor.  We're not in a bad area of town or anything, but there is a colorful mix of businesses in the area. We were sad that we wouldn't be able to visit one "gentleman's club" that advertised strip karaoke.

After admiring the view from the tower, we drove up the street to the Gangster Museum.  Just the name of it screams cheesy fun.  It delivered about what we expected which wasn't a whole lot.  We did learn a lot of fun facts about some well known gangsters, one being how a lot of them came to Hot Springs to have their syphilis treated in the thermal waters. My life has been enriched by that little factoid.

Taylor wasn't very impressed with the Gangster Museum because she thought we said "gangsta" so she was expecting this whole hip hop experience which she did not get.  But at the end we got to take some pictures with a big plaster Al Capone which made the whole trip to Hot Springs worth it.  We could have spent all day snapping goofy poses with Al.

After the Gangster Museum we decided to grab some lunch so we headed over to Bill Clinton's favorite barbecue place, McClard's Bar-B-Q.  Evidently the McClard family is on vacation so they've locked up the shop for a week.  Plan B was Stubby's Barbecue, a place we spotted on our way into town.  It was pricey but we have enough leftovers for at least another meal, maybe 2.  The meat was excellent, the beans were baked instead of pintos so that's a strike against them and the potato salad was just so-so.  They have this thing called the pot-o-beans which is their baked beans, sauce and ham that's all baked up in this little crockery bowl.  It was pretty darn tasty.

After lunch, it was time for a bath.  We chose the Buckstaff Bathhouse because it is the only one on Bathhouse Row that is still operational.  Recently the Quapaw Bathhouse has opened up but it has been refurbished to be a modern spa.  You can't spit in Hot Springs without hitting some kind of spa that uses the thermal waters, but we really wanted the traditional bathhouse experience.  Okay, so "I" really wanted it and I planned the trip so we went to the Buckstaff.

Before we went, I explained to Taylor that the bathhouses are swimsuit optional and no, this is not inappropriate it's just the way it is. She asked if Jayson and I were taking our swimsuits and we both said no, we're old, we've both had massages and stuff before so we're good.  Or so we thought.  Taylor was completely mortified at the thought of her parents being nude at the bathhouse but we both just rolled our eyes at her and told her to get over it.

We each signed up for the traditional bathing package which includes the whirlpool bath, a hot towel treatment, a sitz bath, the vapor cabinet, a shower and a Swedish massage.  Oh, and your own personal loofah mitt.  We were there for 2 hours and got all that stuff for $55 each.  You don't get the opulence of a fancy day spa but you get the same services at a heck of a price!

Jayson went to the men's area on the first floor while Taylor and I took the old elevator to the women's section on the second floor.  I loved the architecture and decor of the bathhouse which looked to be mostly original. There were some modern fixtures here and there but the bathing area still had what looked like original pipes, tubs and solid marble enclosures around the tubs.  I snapped a quick picture of the dressing room but they don't allow cameras or cell phones in the bathing area.

After we disrobed, we were wrapped in a big sheet toga style and waited for our bathing attendants to come get us.  Mine was Latoya, who has been an attendant at Buckstaff for 6 years and loves her job.  Latoya removed my sheet, helped me into the tub, asked if the water temperature was okay and pointed out the cold mineral water waiting for me on the ledge of the tub.  I am amazed that I can remember any of that since the only thing going through my mind was OMIGOD I'M NAKED I'M NAKED I'M NAKED I'M NAKED OMIGOD OMIGOD!!!

I knew we would be discreetly wrapped as we walked from section to section in the bathing area, but I hadn't given a moment's thought as to how that wrapping would have to be removed as we got in and out of tubs and steam cabinets and sitz baths, etc.  There I was, lying in the crystal clear (and very warm) water listening to Latoya and trying to act like I was naked in front of people all the time.  I was SO glad Taylor wore her swimsuit and I would have given anything for one at that point.

Latoya asked if I was ready for her to start the whirlpool and my heart skipped a beat. Dear God, YES, please give me some bubbles to hide behind!  Oh how I wish I had a picture of the whirlpool device that was hooked up to my tub.  These were old claw footed cast iron tubs that didn't have any kind of fixtures attached to them.  The whirlpool device was a separate unit mounted to the wall and inserted into one end of the tub.  It resembled one of those stick blenders that the chefs on TV use, only a lot bigger.  The top part of it was red and looked just like an old gas can.  I half expected Latoya to pull a string and start that sucker like an outboard motor.

Once I got over the initial trauma of being naked in front of my bathing attendant and worrying about one of my feet getting too close to the whirlpool blender causing me to be instantly pureed, I really enjoyed my 20 minute bath.  Latoya came back in and loofahed my arms, legs and back then wrapped me in screaming hot towels for 10 minutes.  There was an icy cold one over my head so it wasn't unpleasant at all.

Then she walked me over to one of those metal steam cabinets like you see in the movies where just your head sticks out.  I baked in there for about 10 minutes then went to the sitz bath for another 10 minutes.  After that was a cool shower then about a 20 minute massage.  Not a bad way to spend an afternoon.

Jayson's bathhouse experience was similar to mine and Taylor's yet oh so different.  He got exactly the same services we got but apparently some of that comes with an ick factor if you're a man.  Jayson called his bathing attendant Serge (a la Beverly Hills Cop) which I am sure is not his real name but it got his point across.  After disrobing, Jayson was handed a sheet to cover up with but when he got to his bath tub, the sheet disappeared and he didn't see it again until he went for his massage.  When he stepped out of the bath tub, Jayson was handed a towel that he wrapped around his waist but the ends didn't quite meet in the front.

Jayson said all the guys were walking around buck naked and there were no privacy curtains.  He didn't even get the little lap towel thing during his sitz bath! He was quite traumatized by all the swinging junk he saw but nothing could come close to the creepiness of being loofahed by another man.  His voice actually broke when he told me that.  Poor baby.  Despite the trauma, he did enjoy the experience and was glad we did it.

Jayson & Taylor finished up a few minutes before I did and when I met them in the lobby they were chatting with Tim and Trish Osborne.  That was just weird.  A person normally doesn't expect to run into their Mission Pastor and his wife at a bathhouse in Arkansas.  I seem to remember hearing someone say something about the Osbornes going to Arkansas but I didn't know exactly where or when since keeping up with Osbornes' travel schedule could be a full time job for someone.  We had a nice chat and discovered that we'll be following the same path to northern Arkansas so we may run into each other again.

I didn't get really creeped out until we got in the car and Jayson started telling me and Taylor about his bathhouse nightmare and I didn't want to ask but I couldn't help but ask if he saw Tim in the tub room.  Fortunately he said no, he never saw Tim in there and I just knew that the hand of God himself had blinded both men so that later they wouldn't have to deal with any kind of naked fallout.

Poor choice of words.