From the pages of Devil's Elbow, the Magazine That's Salty, Crusty, and Tough as a Boot ¥ Number 6 (119 Chestnut Street, Oxford, MS 38655; $7 for 4 issues)
Richard Nixon's Boyhood Home:
Pilgrimage to the Belly of the Beast
By Lori Robbins
The path to the birthplace takes you past the Pat and Dick gravesite, so be prepared and make sure your camera is loaded. Many of you might be tempted, as I was, to commemorate your visit by photographing yourself doing something clownish and disrespectful in front of the graves, i.e. holding your nose or leaping for joy. Of course, I would discourage that. For one thing, there are a lot of guards and docents standing around, and you never know but that they might turn your name in to the CIA or throw you off the grounds. Secondly, a visit to a Nixon site will be almost like a visit to a foreign country for most of us, and therefore you should try to show the same respect for the different values and beliefs of the "natives" that you would show while on a trip to any other exotic locale.
Regardless of these reasons for behaving respectfully, you will probably have more sympathy for Nixon than you thought possible when you actually see the Sears Roebuck kit house in which he spent his formative years. A tiny six-room white frame number, it held five young boys, a fanatically religious, emotionally abusive mother, and a hot-tempered, physically abusive father. Compared to this, the Presley family's two-room shotgun shack in Tupelo almost seems like a dream home.
Speaking of Elvis, you'll want to check out the Nixon museum's gift shop before you take your leave. One of the best things about Republicans is that they understand marketing, and they're not ashamed to make a buck. That's why you shouldn't be surprised that after spending millions to build a museum that elevates and dignifies Nixon's memory, the museum's staff chooses to devote a huge chunk of the gift shop to hawking items that tackily commemorate the meeting of the King and the Prez. Let's face it, this meeting represents a low point in American history. Elvis, a founding father of rebellious pop culture, goes hat in hand before the leader of the straight world so that he can obtain DEA agent status and reduce his risk of a drug bust. Nixon, eternally struggling to improve his image with the young and the working class, agrees to give Elvis what he wants just for a chance at a grab-and-grin PR opportunity. Shame, shame, shame on both of you! Anyway, if you are amused by this disgusting incident, you can pick up framed photographs, T-shirts, and drink coasters that capture the legendary handshake in all its criminal dishonesty.
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Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): zine cover.