December 12, 2006

The Culture Maven: The Seven Wonders of My World

It’s been more than a month since my vainglorious gloating over the election. A little embarrassed I’m happy to report I’ve not been sued by those mocked … yet. Thank heavens for “Borat,” the defendant du jour favored by those dreaded mercenary trial lawyers.Nor has there been a severed horse head between my sheets “Godfather” style.Both are blessings, the current wonders of my world.Speaking of which, did you see the blurb about some Swiss guy who has instigated a campaign to name the “New Seven Wonders the World”? Seems only the pyramids from the original group still stand.You can vote online from a list of 21 finalists. It includes the usual suspects. Taj Mahal. Eiffel Tower. Easter Island. Chichen Itza. Statue of Liberty, etc., etc.Still in voting mode, I figured I’d cast my lot. Problem is, I’ve never been much of a world traveler. My personal experience is limited. Never walked the Great Wall. I’ve been in the Parthenon — Nashville’s, not the original in Athens.The Sydney Opera House is stunning. Especially from a sailboat in the harbor. But the inside is spare to the point of b-o-r-i-n-g. Even my architect pal along on the trip thought so. Besides, we attended a performance there of a Chinese dance troupe that was — hands down — the worst cultural event I’ve ever had to sit through. If you hear the words “Shen Wei,” run, run fast, in the opposite direction. So, striking as it is, Sydney’s splendiferous Opera House doesn’t get my vote.Anyway, here goes, the Culture Maven’s Seven Wonders of My World:1) Cave Paintings at Lascaux, France. Frankly, this one has a hint o’ reasonable facsimile to it. They don’t let you go in the actual cave anymore. People’s breathing is ruining the drawings or something. So they built an exact replica to size a few hundred yards down the hill. It was pretty dang nifty anyway, Janson’s “History of Art” come to real life.2) Freedom Hall. This local shrine is not to be taken for granted. It’s hosted more Final Fours than any other building. Not to mention the Dead, the Stones and Grand Funk Railroad in a ’71 concert. My hearing has never recovered. Plus a gazillion U of L games, the Cats, flea markets, Ali fights and championship tractor pulls.3) Robert Johnson’s Gravesite, Mississippi Delta. There are as many as three. At least. Nobody knows really where the blues icon is interred. But the day we sought them out, there were ominous clouds, thunder and lightning, and we could feel the hellhounds on our trail. 4) Sagrada Familia, Barcelona. Decades ago I fell smitten with a postcard-like photo of Antonin Gaudi’s most famous edifice. It looked like towers constructed from dollops of chocolate mousse. I finally got there last summer. Only one wall face was actually completed during Gaudi’s lifetime. But the town fathers couldn’t leave well enough alone. So they keep building. It’s more construction zone than monument. But still outrageously garish, magnificent, the essence of gaudy.5) Hearst Castle, San Simeon, California. William Randolph Hearst, the real “Citizen Kane,” hired architect Julia Morgan to build the world’s grandest home. So she tossed together a Spanish cathedral, Roman baths, Egyptian furniture and some rococo to fashion a mishmash of a conclave. It’s a funky mess, a really big funky mess. With the world’s coolest swimming pool, overlooking the 40,000-acre estate.6) Shapiro’s Delicatessen, Indianapolis. It is an eatery with significant personal emotional presence. The first time I dined there was in March 1980, the day after U of L won its first national championship. Friends and I have savored many sublime corned beef on ryes since. Once I dreamt I lived in an auxiliary dining area. There are worse places to reside.7) Stonehenge. I’ve always been fascinated by the structure “where the banshees live and they do live well.” Not to mention the mythos. Was it the Druids? Early Tories? OK, I’ve never been there. Or to the miniature replica in Pardeeville, Wis. I’m advised the real thing sits next to an expressway interchange, by a convenience store selling the British equivalent of pecan logs. But, hey, I did see “This is Spinal Tap.” So I got that going for me. Contact the writer at cdk@culturemaven.com