Yes, there is such a place! Update your bucket list accordingly!
Since one of my “man failings” is an obsession with cars, my eyes lit up when I saw the signs. Imagine an entire museum devoted to Corvettes.
Actually, don’t imagine it.
Go. Just go. And call me so I can meet you there.
Nearby, we stopped at a McDonalds for a break and some coffee. The place was teeming with Corvettes. American icon car meets American icon food! Apparently we’d stumbled into some sort of rally. I half-expected “Born in the U.S.A.” by The Boss himself, Bruce Springsteen, to come on over McDonalds’ PA while we were there.
As I admired one of the cars, my daughter said to me, “Would you like a Chevy Courgette, Daddy?”
Some of you are probably now thinking, How cute. She doesn’t know what a Corvette is, but she’s trying.
But you might not know what a courgette is. It’s not simply a little girl stumbling over a new word. American culture lesson #256 was that we Brits call them courgettes, but you Americans call them zucchinis.
So the joke doesn’t really translate, does it? And courgettes – erm – zucchinis, don’t quite enjoy the icon status of Corvettes and McDonalds.
I’ve always been smitten with icons of American culture. This was partly because of my brother. John was 13 years my senior and as obsessed with American music as I am with cars. He died when he was just 49, or he would be peppering me with questions about what it’s like to live in the city that birthed the legendary music of Al Green, Aretha Franklin, Otis Reading and the Black Moses, Isaac Hayes.
John would have loved it here. He was part of the Northern Soul movement in England, a club scene in the north that played rare American soul music.
I will never forget watching him proudly—and carefully—setting the needle down on his latest vinyl in the bedroom we shared growing up. Despite our age difference, he never worried that I might cramp his style. He was never impatient with me. He was just my big brother.
That made him an icon to me, right up to the moment he died and in all the years since.
Cultural icons—like Corvettes and McDonalds, though probably not courgettes—reflect the history and shared experience of a wide group of people. Personal icons, I think, reflect the values that shape us even if those who hold them are not yet widely recognized. Henri Nouwen, an icon in spirituality circles, wrote in In the Name of Jesus,
“I leave you with the image of the leader with outstretched hands, who chooses a life of downward mobility. It is the image of the praying leader, the vulnerable leader, and the trusting leader. May that image fill your hearts with hope, courage, and confidence.”
Coming from England to Memphis has allowed me to enjoy up-close the American icons that tantalized me from afar.