Today, we left San Juan Capistrano and headed up toward Northern California to the right. I mean WAY to the Right. Since our motel was actually in San Clemente, and we had eaten dinner at Richard Nixon’s favorite restaurant, we thought we should swing by the Nixon Presidential Library and Birthplace. But on the way we’d be passing the Crystal Cathedral of Dr. Robert Schuller of televangelist fame, so we thought we’d stop in. Why? Because if a preacher starts giving sermons in a drive-in, parlays it into a world-wide empire of ministries, universities and television broadcasts, then finally builds a giant cathedral made entirely out of glass, well, you’ve just got to swing by and see it.
Now, I’m not normally someone who makes fun of others’ religious beliefs. But I feel perfectly free to make fun of excruciatingly bad art. And Dr. Robert Schuller has commissioned and installed some of the WORST attempts at art ever to be foisted on a public space. Chief among them are some of the scariest Jesuses ever seen. Just look:
Then there are the restrooms in the Cathedral. Marble, chandeliers, gold fixtures, Thomas Kinkade paintings and piped in choir music. Gives “Religious Movement” a whole new meaning.
Clearly, I wasn’t going to be able to control my snark and I started to worry that the red jacketed guides would figure out that a possible Liberal was prowling the property. Then I went inside the cathedral to snap a few pics. The guides were running up to every visitor and cheerily asking where they were from and if they wanted a tour. When I mistakenly told the chirpy guides I was from San Francisco, there was a long pause. And no offer of a tour. That’s when I decided to grab Mom, who was still marveling over the bathrooms, and get out of there before Security was called.
Next stop: The Nixon Presidential Library and Birthplace. I have to say, although I hadn’t expected much, it was worth the trip. As you may know, these Presidential Libraries are usually funded and organized by wealthy donors and friends of said President rather than scholars, so
they have an agenda. The Nixon Library is no exception. It’s light on the scandals — such as Checkers, his Red-baiting and Watergate — and heavy on relations with China, ending the Viet Nam war and the heyday of the NASA program. But that agenda seems to have worked. By the time I left, I actually had some respect for Richard Nixon. Although the unsung hero of that administration turns out to have been Pat Nixon who comes off as a consummate diplomat and incredible woman.
Here’s what I thought were the highlights:
The Hall of Leaders features life-sized statues of all the world leaders Nixon dealt with. So you can wander among them and marvel how tall Charles De Gaulle was, how much Mao looks like a giant toad and what a tiny little fireplug Khrushev was. Then you can go to this touch screen and find the details on Nixon’s dealings with each leader and some of his thoughts on them. Biggest surprise: Nixon was surprisingly impressed by Khrushev and even, in the end, fond of him.
Also on the don’t miss list: the vintage gun Elvis brought Nixon when he showed up at the White House, stoned out of his mind, to ask if he could be Ninja in the War on Drugs.
Surpisingly, Nixon’s tape recorder — YES, that tape recorder — is on display. Also a sign says that a special exhibit all about Watergate is underway and soon to open. They claim you’ll be able to hear audio from the actual tapes that brought about his downfall. I would suggest they include the ones with all the swearing.
Armed with a surprising new-found respect for Richard Nixon, we figured we’d better get out of there before we found ourselves voting Republican. So we lit out for Bakersfield to pay homage to the great Buck Owens. (My tribute to Buck in this post.)
Here’s where, I have to admit, I didn’t think Mom would get with the program. She’s not the Country music fan that I am and she had no idea what The Bakersfield Sound was. But by the time we hit the city limits I had her singing along with Merle Haggard:
I turned 21 in prison
Doing life without parole
No one could steer me right
But Mama tried.
Mama tried to teach me better
But her pleading I denied
That leaves only me to blame
‘Cause Mama tried.
(There’s a whole new twist to that song when a 76 year old mother sings it.)
We threw our bags in the Crystal Palace Best Western and headed for Buck Owens’ Crystal Palace. The Palace is great even though I didn’t see anything that was crystal. It’s equal parts honky-tonk, steak house and country music museum. Mom and I tucked into steaks, beers, biscuits, squaw bread, mashed potatoes and green beans while the live band played on stage and guys and gals in cowboy hats line danced. The band? It was Buck Owens’ son, who wisely stayed with Country’s greatest hits — heavy on the Buck Owens tunes. Even better, a large screen showed
old footage of Buck’s performances on stage and on the old Buck Owens Ranchhouse musical variety show. After a great meal and good music, we headed to the gift shop to stock up on Buck Owens CDs, DVDs, commemorative guitar picks and fridge magnets. All in all good night out!
And tomorrow? Other than driving home, it’s unscheduled. We’ll see what strikes our fancy as we roll up the I-5.
I’m starting an anti-bucket list.
1. do not go to Crystal Cathedral
That ‘art’ was sad. All Presidential libraries have you loving the guy when you walk out. Nixon was his worst enemy. Too bad his illegal activity ruins all his good, imagine, we prefer our Presidents to follow the law, and they all seem to teter on the line. What is it with Men and Power? Oh, that was sexist, but wait, we have yet to have a woman President!
If you have time drop by my blog for you Sisterhood Award, it is all about being Sassy! (Friday Favorites Post)
Have a safe drive home!!
Glad you stopped in and enjoyed the Crystal Palace. I also wonder about the name. Seems like it should be called the Wooden Palace. I go each time Asleep At The Wheel performs.
As for the Crystal Cathedral, I may be under a false understanding. Don’t liberal minded people believe that art is in the eye of the beholder? I suppose both sides are just as judgemental as the other.
I’m interested to know if your mom’s leftovers made the trip back home.
Thank you for the excellent virtual tour of the California’s secret super-tacky religious empire. What a wack-job- Schuller and his donated billions of dollars! I wonder if he received ‘bonuses’ in the same vein as AIG? Hmmmm….
I have driven past all 3 locations many times and never stopped by. While I have stopped at all the missions, I somehow missed the exits for Schuller’s cathedral, Nixon’s Library and Buck Owen’s spot. With your virtual tour and splendiferous pictures and descriptions, I am likely to stop by the next time I am down in California!
I am curious if the Crystal Cathedral or Nixon’s Library had cafes and if they did, what types of specials they offered. As many of those historical and religious wack-job locations offer meals with venerable names, I can just see some of the food titles…..
Sweet Jesus Meat Balls (served as 2 large meat balls on whole-wheat spaghetti noodles), etc.
Wow! The tolerance is eye opening.
Every year the Crystal Catherdral does an Easter Pageant that’s an elaborate theatrical production, complete with flying rigs for the angels. I have an actor friend who is regularly cast in the role of Jesus. I asked him what it’s like playing Jesus, and he said it really isn’t a very challenging role – he wishes he had been cast as Judas instead, because for an actor, that’s a better part – a more challenging character to portray.
And Maybelline – some of the greatest works of art our world has seen is religious art, particularly Christian religious art. But Bad Art is Bad Art, no matter what the inspiration behind it, and the stuff at the Crystal Cathedral is Bad Art.
Art ISN’T just in the eye of the beholder. There are standards and benchmarks. As an Art History major from way back, I can claim to know a few of them. Sorry, Schuller’s collection doesn’t measure up.
Nixon, now, I have to say, the Library changed my mind on him. I’d always seen him as somewhat Shakespearian — a potentially great man felled by his own fatal flaw. But my memories of Nixon are mostly of being forced in school to see endless amounts of the Watergate hearings (which at that age, I thought were boring.) I was too young to have had a full grasp on anything else he did. The Nixon Library did a good job of putting him in context, currently with a slant to his accomplishments, although there are promises of future exhibits that focus on the failings.
The real eye-opener was the information on Pat Nixon. What an amazing woman and far ahead of her time.
And, Maybelline, the chicken fried steak features prominently in yesterday’s post. Just too tired to write it last night. Watch this space.
When I saw that bust at the beginning, I thought “sheesh that is hideous” and it only got worse from there!! Loved your commentary. And that ghostlike hand coming out of the chrysalis – most troublesome. I may have bad dreams tonight.
Snarky doesn’t begin to cover it. This really is not a fair reflection on the Crystal Cathedral (or the many interesting statues there)… and the bathrooms, to my understanding (at least the ladies’) was a gift from Dr. Schuller for his wife.
I notice you didn’t mention two of the most amazing statues in the place. The Jesus behind the belltower that is installed so that it’s “walking on the water” and The Prodigal Son which is so detailed you can see the sores on the son’s feet.
Third — the statue of Baby Jesus with mirrored skin, clearly the MIRROR symbolism is totally lost on you. Rather than depicting a middle eastern jewish man as blonde haired and blue eyed as many current Christians do, they made the baby reflective, so that he is what you are.
Okay, The Crystal Cathedral is not perfect, but they’re not the bloody TBN either (Who’s television compound is worth several tens of millions of dollars at the very least, but go on TV begging for money for the poor). They attempt to reflect a more contemporary and accessible Christianity, and I think it’s really tacky that you’d mention being treated differently for being from San Francisco. I am not exactly a right wing dream and i’ve never been treated with anything but kindness dignity and respect.
Well, we’re going to have to disagree about the value of the “art” at the Crystal Cathedral. As an Art History major, I didn’t find it met any of the standards of art that I’m acquainted with. Mirror Jesus may have had the intention you mentioned (although ironically his mother Mary IS depicted as a WASP.) But it’s horribly executed. But if it speaks to you, then it’s art in your book. The bathrooms may have been a gift from Dr. Schuller, but they were pretty over the top.
That aside, why is it tacky to mention that they treated me differently when they found out I was from San Francisco? They did. I didn’t say they were rude to me. But they sure didn’t want to waste a tour on me. Just stating the facts.