Posts Tagged With: opera

MUD ISLAND, TENNESSEE

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A place not to miss when you travel to Memphis is the river walk on Mud Island. The best way to do it is park your car at the Visitors Center, walk across the street and take the tram across to Mud Island, so-called because it was at one time a natural sandbar. Dredging mud to deepen the channel made it big enough to turn into a great park.

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Enjoy the views from the gondola ,or you can walk over on the walking bridge above the tram. We enjoyed very  much the John Grisham movie The Firm much of which was filmed in Memphis. Particularly memorable was a tense scene from this gondola and the mezzinine where you disembark near the escalators. We decided to re-watch the movie just to see it again.

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From the mezzanine, you peer down on a miniature replica of the Mississippi River and its environs as it passes through every state, from its source in Minnesota, to its ending in the Gulf of Mexico. I’ve been here previously and I love this park. Unique, educational, beautiful and stimulating.

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The cement floor of the river bed details every little elevation and bank and floodplain. It features the rivers, levees, bridges  and  places where the river has dramatically changed course and no longer flows. The park is only a half mile long. The scale is every 30 inches, one step, is a mile.

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When you cross from one state to the next, the border is clearly marked.

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All the major cities along the way are plotted in grey slate with their bridges both rail and car built across the river.

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An oxbow is a section where the river once flowed and was then cut off and now contains a lake or a dry bed.

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At this spot, you can see the miniature river along with the real Mississippi rolling along beside the park and a real bridge in the background. The park offers many places to sit and watch. One couple I talked to had chosen to follow a leaf and watch it make the entire trip just for the fun of it.

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Jim enjoyed cities he has visited. Here he stands in Natchez, across from Vidalia, Louisiana. Kids here love to take off their shoes and play in the water or float little boats. There are picnic tables and lawn aplenty.

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As you pass from state to state, the plantings along the miniature river match the flora and fauna of that state. Story boards identify the plant life as you pass through each state.

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If you’ve ever viewed a major river from the air, you know it resembles this curving, snake-like path. The  river has carved the earth and given life to humans and animals for thousands of years. Some people walk down one side and back on the other. We often stepped over the river to see both sides because it is so easy to do.

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Here we are at the sprawling contours of New Orleans. To the right is a cafe where you can lunch before heading back. To the left a small lake with a fountain. But the Mississippi doesn’t actually end here.

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We chose to follow it to the small deltas where the river is building islands that will one day be one solid piece. We found 1/B, a spot of one of our unique adventures, our trip to Pilots Island.

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We hired a boat to take us to Pilottown in 2010.  There isn’t much there, but we enjoyed the  adventure for many reasons.  It was fun to see it designated at the very tip of the Gulf of Mexico where the river meets ocean.  A ticket for seniors at $9 includes the tram, the river walk and the museum.

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The museum is very thorough. It gives early Native American History, which we skipped because we’ve seen so much of it. Here is riverboat history. Above are boat builders tools.

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Steamboat whistles.

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Inside a typical passengers berth on a steam-powered paddle wheeler. The river is dangerous. Awful accidents killed many. There was a film about disasters on the river. The saddest, the sinking of the Sultana.

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A  section on slavery and sharecroppers that built the south. And, another section on how the blues developed from the black churches and field hollers from slave days. It gives very interesting lyrics and clips of old-time music. Lyrics and music that Scott Joplin put on paper and saved. His own tragic story is here as well. Ragtime piano, opera, one of his that failed during his lifetime has been produced and put on stage to great acclaim.

I’m still struggling to walk a half-mile even with plenty of rest stops. We go this morning for a second  acupuncture treatment. But, I see signs of wellness and hope.

 

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TIBETAN TEMPLE AND THE PEKING OPERA

Early in the day, we went to the one surviving Tibetan Buddhist Temple not destroyed by the Red Guard during the Cultural Revolution of the 1960’s.

The temple building is huge and is in the Guinness Book of World Records for being the largest building built from a single white sandalwood tree. It is 23 meteres high, guarded by those symbolic  lions, and mobbed with worshipers.

The roads leading up to Temples are lined with incense stands. Inside, several huge fire pots are available to light the incense.

Buddhists pray with incense and touch their head, mouth and bow for good deeds.


This woman has a small spread of incense but most use the huge bouquets of incense sticks in their ritual.

While many stand, some use the prayer benches.

Only ten percent of China is Buddhist because many Chinese feared retribution from the government. But, the Buddhist tradition is deeply rooted and Chinese people want to do good deeds and enjoy a better life in the hereafter.

Like all organized religion, there is money to be made. First from the incense and donations to the temple managers. Bills in the water, coins in the dish.

We left the Temple and visited the Prince Gong Garden. It was so crowded with humanity, we left very quickly.

Our last grand affair before leaving Beijing, is an old tradition in China, the Peking Opera.  The Opera is only performed in Beijing-subsidized by the government. We viewed pictures in the lobby of the costumes. Colorful, embroidered, traditional costumes, both male and female. Predominant colors in China are yellow and red.  The costumes alone were worth the price of the tickets. ($30).
The players  entertained us as we sat at square tables with no one’s back to the stage.  They served dainty little cookies of several types on a decorated square plate to pass around. Then with great flair poured tea into tiny cups from a pot held high above their heads with a three foot long spout. A took a steady aim to pour without splashing and the feat delighted us all.

Like parts in a play, one-act was fast paced, acrobatic ballet. In another act, the men and women performed in slow motion meaning every muscle was tuned. The painted white faces and red lips are not allowed to move or show emotion.  We were close enough to see their nostrils flare as they must breathe, but otherwise they were like elegant puppets, disciplined, strictly, choreographed in difficult balancing positions.  You caught yourself  holding your breath for them. The dancing and  story telling drama had more typical  movement and much emotion on stage. The words in English show on screens on either side of the stage. One sequence has the government issued degree hated by the people. They conspire to steal the key to a government room where they unlock the papers and change the degree. (Their only form of protest in ancient times.)  Another is about a Shogun who has a beautiful concubine that he is in love with. He is ordered away in shame and they cannot accept their fate and commit suicide together.  The whole thing was fascinating, enjoyable and a great send off from Beijing.

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