The Taming of the Burn 


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We make a left into the Nixon Library & Birthplace parking lot, find a shady spot and head inside. It’s opening day of the White House Replica Exhibition. What a sight: Almost 20 honky people stand indifferently in the air-conditioned gallery, wandering around the centerpiece. Measuring 60 by 20 feet, the highly detailed, one-twelfth-scale model, created by John and Jan Zweifel of the Great State of Florida, has taken over 43 years to build, and has been touring all 50 states since 1975. It’s constructed from the same materials and paint as the original, and contains miniatures of all the paintings, furniture, area rugs, fireplaces and wastebaskets. All the lamps and light fixtures work, and there’s even a bit of real plumbing — the fountain in Jackie Kennedy’s garden kind of dribbles. Muscular anthems of artificial triumph and majesty flow through the PA as we bend over the velvet ropes, trying to watch television. (In some rooms, functioning 2-inch television sets play local broadcast signals.)

Tiny motorized security guards posted in the minibushes move just slightly, back and forth, keeping the peace. The guard outside the Map Room looks like he’s just returned from a six-pack lunch: He slides left and starts to fall, then catches himself at the last second and repeats, evermore. Painstaking accuracy.

But before I can cry, a real security guard reminds us that the place is closing soon, so we head out back, to Nixon’s grave, for the Blessing of the License Plate. Jeffrey places the plate reverently beside the grave, and we stand in silence for a full 81 seconds, until the plate is thoroughly blessed.

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Then we retrieve the plate and run off to the gift shop, where, just as the cash register closes for the day, Jeffrey buys The President’s Wastebasket, in miniature, for $4.95. At the security guard’s recommendation, we celebrate our day’s triumphs as Nixon would’ve wanted us to — at the library staff’s favorite Mexican restaurant, the Blue Agave Southwestern Grill, home of the Albequerque [sic] Margarita (“Discover the ultimate margarita!”), the Blue Agave Caddilac [sic] (“An exciting new Caddilac [sic]!”) and free toothpicks.

If only we had only Nixon to kick around.

—Dave Shulman

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