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The Elisabet Ney Museum of Austin, TX

Today you are going to learn about the absolute badass Elisabet Ney. Born in 1833 and educated in Germany, Elisabet was so certain she wanted to pursue sculpture as her life’s work that she went on a weeks-long hunger strike to otherwise persuade her reticent parents. They eventually relented, and Elisabet became the first female student at the Munich Academy of Art. She was a very talented sculptor; her forms are exquisite and her expressions are subtle and lifelike. Elisabet was also a dedicated and outspoken women’s rights activist, riding horses astride like men, refusing to take her husband’s name, and her dedication to avoiding housework was so strong that she slept in a hammock just so she wouldn’t have to make a bed. What. A. Badass.

After her death in her studio in Austin, the studio and its contents were donated to the University of Texas Austin, under the condition that the contents would not be removed. Now, these originals and replicas are on display for the public to view for free five days a week, and appears to be a popular place for artists to come and sketch the grounds and her work. How wonderful that although it’s no longer an artist’s studio, art continues unabated.

Blanton Museum, Austin, LBJ Presidential Library, and Skyspace

All of these places are on the University of Texas Austin’s campus, so I paid for parking, stuffed a raspberry kolache in my maw, and made a day of it.

Blanton Museum

Jacob Asking for Laban, Frencesco Castiglione, ca 1660-1710

The informational placard next to this piece identified it as representing “the Genoese fondness for animals in artwork, a taste stimulated by Northern European genre painting and depictions of keenly observed animals.:” I have keenly observed a lot of horses, and, not being familiar with this Biblical tale, can only assume that Laban is Jacob’s horse dealer and Jacob is REAL mad about the deformed horse Laban sold to him.

Suicide of Lucretia, Luca Cambiaso, 1565

Medieval animals are so ridiculous, I love them.

Casting the Runes [Tirando las Runas], Leonora Carrington, 1951

On its lower floor, the Blanton Museum featured a large exhibit by Ellsworth Kelly (the artist who also created the Austin installation on campus). I’m not much of a fan of minimalism or geometric color blocks, so Kelly’s work does not speak to me and I was much happier when I went upstairs and found their other galleries, particularly when I found some surrealism which was and is and probably will forever be my artistic movement bae. I was particularly thrilled to see a piece by Leonora Carrington, one of my favorite Surrealists, who infused her work with alchemy and Celtic mythology and the subversion of the feminine role.

Looking at their website now, I’m bummed that I missed their exhibit on photography and the American road trip, because that one also would’ve been right up my alley. 


This is a permanent structure on the University of Texas Austin’s campus, with the design concept gifted to the university by Ellsworth Kelly in January 2015. It was subsequently constructed and opened to the public in February 2018. It’s constructed like a chapel, with stained glass on three sides. The building’s exterior is striking, it transcribes Kelly’s work from the wall into the world. Rendered in this way, Kelly’s blocks of color are luminous and luscious, candy-like in their appeal. From the inside as light blazes through the glass, color plays over the walls. It’s not an easy structure to linger inside–the heat was oppressive even in March, and there’s nowhere to stand that doesn’t feel like it’s in the way of someone else’s camera, but it’s a rare thing to be able to stand inside of a non-architect’s artistic vision.

LBJ Presidential Library

I only had a brief thirty minutes to visit the LBJ Presidential Library and I spent five of them convincing the person at the front desk that, yes, I did want to buy a ticket at this late hour. I’d never been to a presidential library before and didn’t know what to expect, because apparently I didn’t have the intellectual curiosity to investigate the idea beforehand, satisfied to laugh without context at jokes like “Trump’s presidential library is just going to be 50 copies of The Art of the Deal“.

No, Melissa, a presidential library is meant to preserve papers, speeches, and essentially be the ultimate informational center about a given president. So the LBJ Presidential Library had floors and floors of materials only available to researchers, and then several floors accessible to visitors dedicated to the Johnson presidency (1963-1969), including replicas of both Lyndon B. Johnson’s office and the first lady, Claudia Alta “Lady Bird” Johnson’s office.

There were also examples of the white house china, campaign ephemera, and gifts that were given to the Johnsons on behalf of other nations–two that I took note of were golden swords from the UAE and Morocco, respectively. The gifts are there in part due to the Foreign Gifts and Declarations Act of 1966, which limited the dollar value of gifts presidents could accept ($390 in 2018) from foreign nations. Anything over that value is filed in the National Archive, and later is transferred to the Presidential Library when the president retires. These swords have to have been among the very first items to be affected by this rule change. And in doing some rudimentary research, I’ve found a lot of sources talking about how Johnson received a Burberry coat as a gift from the UK prime minister, tried it on, and upon finding the sleeves too short, sent his aides out running into the streets with the coat to chase down the prime minister to ask him to exchange it for the right size. However, I cannot find a single source that pinpoints the date upon which that coat was gifted and if it was the camelhair coat that made Congress act. Luckily, I know of a place in Texas where I could research this. 

My final stop on campus was at The Color Inside, a skyspace by James Turrell at the Student Activities Center. It’s a naked eye observatory (a room with a hole cut in the ceiling), and for an hour at sunrise and sunset, colored lights illuminate the walls inside the dome, creating an ever-changing colored frame around the sky that influences how you perceive its color. Reservations are required as the dome can only accommodate roughly thirty people. Silence is requested in the dome, and it’s unusual to be in a space with other people where everyone is silent as is the room. No music, no talking, just you and a couple dozen other people and the sky. People started to filter out after fifteen minutes or so, and nearer the hour mark, there were only four people left in the room. It was a true pleasure to take the time to mark the sunset in a different way, to watch the sky and not have anything else I should be doing, or could be doing.

Museum of the Weird in Austin, TX

In case it somehow isn’t 100% clear to you from the photos that I absolutely, positively loved Austin’s Museum of the Weird…I absolutely, positively loved it. The Museum of the Weird has every classic roadside attraction element:

  • A museum incorporating lots of sensational posters, travel ephemera, movie props, and taxidermy including at least one feejee mermaid
  •  An area with a larger legend surrounding it that you can look at but not photograph
  • Enter and exit via a gift shop

In addition, this museum has another museum built on top of the first one full of classic horror movie icons rendered in wax and your tour guide for the legendary part of the tour you can’t photograph is a man who claims to be a wizard and does a brief cold reading show. You heard me. A mother-flipping wizard. 

But first: The legendary Ice Man. The owner of this museum saw the Minnesota Ice Man as a child when it came around on tour in the 60s, which is not really the sort of tour you see going around anymore. Admittedly, I don’t browse ticket buying sites often but I still don’t think “dead guy in block of ice” has much of a chance if it’s in town the same dates as The Book of Mormon. Regardless, dead guy in a block of ice made a big impression on this child, and he began to collect weird items, like a mere glimpse of the ice man radicalized him to a gothic awakening. In 2013, that same Minnesota Iceman was listed for sale on eBay, and the only way I can explain as to why I didn’t know about this/bid on it was that I was going mildly insane with wedding planning at the time. Otherwise I never would’ve missed a chance to bid on something that had a feature on Unsolved Mysteries

On to the wizard: In the ice man room, the wizard put on a show. He had a man in the group picture a person in his mind while holding a crystal in his hand. He gave me another crystal and told me to vividly picture a place I found special or interesting, real or imaginary, somewhere I would want to go. I chose Egypt because I’m dying to go and have wanted to visit since I was a kid, so I suppose in a way Hatshepsut is my Minnesota Iceman. He had the man and myself write down who or what we were picturing, respectively, fold the paper twice, and hand them to someone else in the audience. She mixed them up until she didn’t know which was which, and then she handed them to someone else, who also shuffled them. Saul Ravencraft (the wizard) took one of the papers and burned it. There was then a whole thing about the man in the group’s person but since that part’s not about me and I don’t know how true or false any of his guesses general statements wizard oracles were, let’s skip to the part that’s about me.

…As I go through my notes, it’s clear to me how this particular wizardry worked but it’s delightful all the same, and if a visit to Egypt does indeed “inspire a very interesting creative work” I’ll be sure to quote the wizard on my book cover.

The British Museum

I could have spent the bulk of forever inside the British Museum. My visit was a foregone conclusion–how could I know that one country spent centuries invading, ruling, and claiming other countries’ treasures for its own, amassing many of them in one place, and not see that collection myself? And even still, knowing this, I did not comprehend the scope of the collection. Even now, I cannot fully comprehend it, and here’s why: the permanent collection at the British Museum comprises over 8 million items. EIGHT MILLION. I can easily comprehend something like eight million dollars in the context of what it could do–namely, in the Seattle area, it could buy you roughly 18 condemned houses at 2016 prices. Fewer, if there’s a bidding war (there will be). Closer to ten now, if that house just outside my neighborhood is any indication, because you’d need the million left over to tear down and haul away the abandoned car and bus lawn stockpile. Digression aside, I have a harder time comprehending eight million items, as objects that take up three dimensional space. As things you could set side by side and contemplate one after another after another after another, and the amount of time it would take to do so. If I spent one second looking at each item in a collection of eight million, it would take me 133,333 minutes to look at everything. 2,222 hours. If I went to the British Museum every single day from open until close, looking at one item per second, with no breaks, it would take me over 40 weeks to view eight million items. I could be impregnated the morning before my first day at the museum and walk out with a full term baby on my last. Except then it would presumably take me a little longer because no pregnant woman is going 7.5 hours (10.5 on Fridays!) without a bathroom break. 

Of course not everything is on display all the time, so I wouldn’t have to take a nine-month sabbatical to personally contemplate each and every item in the British Museum, but even still, the size of the collection on display is nigh-incomprehensible. I spent an entire day inside and still had to be choosy about which exhibits I most wanted to see. Which is a problem when you’re the sort of person who wants to see everything

The case of ants-in-my-pants must-see-it-all grew stronger when immediately after we arrived, Jason decided he needed a snack, so instead of some stupendous historical treasure, the first thing I saw in the British Museum was a woman in the self-serve snack line carefully weighing each and every single millionaire bar on the tray with the tongs to ensure she got the largest piece. That’s a thing I saw. 

Impatience aside, once we finally got into the museum itself, it was hard to understand the scope of the place, the expanse of the building. It contains entire temple facades, nearly half the Parthenon, the largest collection of ancient Egyptian artifacts outside of Egypt, the largest collection of Mesopotamian artifacts outside of Iraq, one of the largest collections of different types of physical currency in the world, and I could continue listing them but my brain is already tired just revisiting some of those places in my head. It would probably take me the better part of nine months to describe all of the astounding, intricate, heartbreaking, thought-provoking things I saw, and I’m already two trips behind on this thing so instead, here are the high points:

Throwing knives

Knife money, do not get confused with throwing knives!

photographed B.H. (because horse)

Here, I learned that even in ancient Egypt, cats were dicks.

As is clearly evident, the ramen noodle hairstyle was popular long before 1998 Justin Timberlake, potentially predating packaged noodles themselves! 

This whole wing of the museum is essentially #housegoals. I’m sure “Library of King George III and given to the British nation by King George IV in the third year of his reign” is a very affordable home furnishing style.

They even make fun of us, their wayward child, on their teacups. Tough love!

You know why I took this photo. You know. If you don’t, look a little more closely.

Do you reckon that baby monitor is particularly valuable?

I was thrilled to see this work by Odilon Redon, as he is one of my favorite artists and I have yet to see very many of his works in person. 

photographed B.H.

All I want for my birthday is this chalice. Maybe a pair so there’s always a clean one ready to go.

Also, I would like a baba yaga pitcher.

I found another Jaime Lannister hand among the collection. 

You also know why I took this photo. Don’t click away before you spot all three! Ding dong, you’re good at this game!

I estimate I was able to see perhaps half of the rooms of the museum before having to hustle out so as not to have my coat confiscated by coat check. Which is probably for the best, as it kept me from actively trying to furnish my home via the exceptional gift shop. I couldn’t help but notice they didn’t sell any replicas of those wind chimes, though.

The American Sign Museum in Cincinnati

I say I’m not the biggest fan of advertisements, and sometimes I even mean it. I consider Times Square to be the closest thing we have to hell on Earth, and when I learned that Piccadilly Circus was much the same, I knew what area of town I wouldn’t want to stay in on my trip to London.

I despise all the billboards on the large road nearest my home, and I especially loathe the digital one that blasts blinding light into the low income apartments across the street. (Seriously guys, this is a suburb, not Blade Runner’s Los Angeles, no one needs an advertisement for a weed whacker blazing into their bedroom window at 4am.)

I sent a dude packing who wanted to advertise his business in my front yard with not so much as a “good day, sir”. I listen to a lot of NPR because then I don’t have to hear about my “friend in the diamond business” like I would on other radio stations. I have yet to take money from a single business to put any form of ad in front of your eyeballs, beloved readers*.

But I’m also a shocking hypocrite–stick me in a room with old timey neon lights and I go all doe-eyed with delight. And what the hell is my blog even about if not monuments erected as a form of advertisement? See? Hypocrite. So it’s really no wonder that when I got to Ohio, I shoved my in-laws into a rental car and dragged everyone to Cincinnati to visit the American Sign Museum. 

The American Sign Museum opened in 2005, the brainchild of Tod Swormstedt, of the sign industry magazine baron** Swormstedts. Its purpose is to preserve and display (you guessed it) signs, and they must be doing a bang-up job as they outgrew their first location and moved to this new location in 2012. Even at this new location, they’re only displaying a small percentage of their overall collection, and they’re looking to raise the roof and double the museum’s size in the future. I honestly wish I could tell you more, but there isn’t a ton in the way of context in this museum. I can tell you that while I was there, they blocked off the whole back room for an interview with/photoshoot of a Kroger executive, and part of me really, really wanted to play reporter and ask him what those brown lumps were in my brand new non-expired Kroger Brand heavy cream, but a bigger part of me didn’t want to be dragged off the property. 

All those signs sure are pretty, though.

You can hardly read it here, but that door purports to lead to “funtown”. Not to judge a funtown by its door, but…run, children. Run.

Every single time I see an indoor faux streetscape, I think of House on the Rock. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. 

The fish in the blender is obviously my favorite, because a fish smoothie sounds like a nom or vom in the making.

I’m 99.99999% sure that the person in this photo *is* Sign Industry Magazine Baron Tod Swormstedt. I literally was not even going to include this photo in the post until I did a triple-take whilst perusing their website. If this was a professional-person blog, this caption would read something like “above: Tod Swormstedt working in his shop at Neonworks of Cincinnati”. If it was indeed Tod Swormstedt. And also if they managed to take a photo that didn’t completely obscure his eyes.

That feels less like an ad, and more like a threat, just saying.


*Not for lack of trying, and I did post that one thing one time but those people got weird and I took it down, not just because they got weird but also because they didn’t pay me, which, to me,  feels like a really important part of the whole buying an advertisement scenario.

**I mean, yes, they own Signs of the Times but I honestly just don’t even know what qualifies one for a non-nobility barony honorific

The International Banana Museum in Mecca, CA


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Shimmering on the edge of the desert like a yellow mirage is the International Banana Museum, home to the Guinness-verified world’s largest collection of banana and banana-adjacent paraphernalia. A sign on the outside of their door informed me that their entry fee is a dollar, unless you intend to purchase food, in which case the fee is waived. Having just come from the blistering heat of Salvation Mountain (new suggested slogan: feel the fires of hell before you get there, sinners!), there was no way I was going to forgo the delight of a frozen banana. Unfortunately, since I didn’t have cash, this meant that after I made my selection, the banana museum folks had to write up an invoice which I then paid with my card at the liquor store next door, where I got to wait in line behind a charming gentleman who had no qualms about discussing his plans for Mother’s Day, or rather his lack of them, as he so elegantly put it “I ain’t doin’ shit, she ain’t my mama, I ain’t done come out her cooch.” Thank you for the clarification about the circumstances of your birth and the reminder to carry more cash, guy. Thanks for that. What I’m saying is, it was a long, cultured, revelatory five minutes in line, where I had ample moments for reflection about both my life and my choices, and the circumstances that brought me to be waiting in that line at that moment.

The banana museum itself was, well, bananas. But you can’t say it with the American, Gwen Stefani b-a-n-a-n-a-s accent, it’s one of those things that really has to be expressed with the posh British accent. The museum was bananas. Bahnahnahs.


It delights me that I’ve now been to two banana museums, neither of which are in an area where bananas would grow. I was surprised at how little overlap there seemed to be between the International Banana Museum’s collection and Banana Antiques–the IBM  has a lot more modern banana stuff and eschewed some of the older, slightly (maybe more than slightly, to be honest) racist banana collectibles, which I appreciated. Just because advertisers used shitty and gross ways to market a product about which you are enthusiastic doesn’t mean those shitty and gross things need to themselves be collected and commemorated. It demonstrates that even the world’s largest collection can be curated in such a way that it doesn’t need to hurt people. Because who wants to hurt someone unnecessarily? That’d just be bananas.

There’s so much banana stuff in the International Banana Museum that it’s hard to focus on it all. Figurines. Plushies. Keychains. Advertisements. Art. Home decor. News. Snacks. It all eventually blends together into one giant, yellow, bulging banana in the middle of the desert. Or maybe that’s just the heat talking. GO BANANA. And eat ’em while we’ve got ’em–the banana we know and love is likely to be gone within the next ten to twenty years. The world’s largest banana collection in the desert will presumably remain.


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banana museum (19 of 41)Ring ring ring ring ring ring ring…

banana museum (20 of 41)…BANANA PHONE

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banana museum (36 of 41)I don’t care how old this thing is, I would eat it. If reincarnation is a thing, then I am definitely Elvis, because both sequins and deep fried peanut butter foods are counted among my greatest joys.

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Long ago in days of yore, it all began with a god named Thor: The Saga Museum


saga museum exterior

saga museum statue

Well, a bit after the time of Thor, actually. The Icelandic Sagas are narratives based on the 9th, 10th, and early 11th centuries (essentially the Viking age), about the struggles that early settlers faced in the harsh climate. The Saga Museum has rendered these histories in silicone to give you a visual representation of their great heroes, infamous villains, and everyone’s favorite, the black plague. I took the audio tour, but to be honest, I did not retain much information at all–I was distracted by the couple behind me who started the audio tour something like five minutes after me, which should have kept us a consistent distance apart, but they were up my butt almost immediately and stayed that way for the entire museum. I tried skipping ahead, I tried waiting long after the audio portion of an area had ended to let them pass, but they stuck to me like my backside was giving them oxygen. It was really distracting. If this were a professional travel blog, the writer in question would probably not post about the museum at all so as not to pass along disinformation. This is not a professional travel blog however, so instead I am going to make all the jokes I couldn’t make because of the aforementioned butt-clingers. At least until I get to the really important part. You’ll know it when you see it.

 no i am not busy at all please tell me about your band“No, I am not busy at all, please tell me about your band.”

i swear to god i will do it if you mention politics one more time at this brunch marci“I swear to god I will do it if you mention politics one more time at this brunch, Marci.”

yes hello did someone mention they needed the talents of a man or a dog“Hey did I hear boobs popping out of a shirt? Just checking”

snorriI do remember that this guy’s name is Snorri, and based on that information and also his haircut, I am going to assume that he’s one of the dwarves who stayed home.

i changed my mind lets play rock paper scissors instead“Oooh, I forgot I left the oven on, let’s continue this battle later byeeee”

no really i am very interested in this book of your vacation photos“No really, I am very interested in your dream journal. I’m not staring off into space, I’m, uh…contemplating the significance. Yeah.”

someone is having a bad day“Hey I changed my mind I am definitely not a witch, it was just a phase. It was just a phase!”

saga museum“This arranged marriage is working out great. Super great. Sure, there was that incident when I found him on AdultVikingFriendFinder but other than that, it’s been really, really, really great.”

bellows“Please tell me more about how hard that level in your video game is. Go on.”

your caption hereYOUR CAPTION HERE


After the, uh, learning was done, it was time to determine whether or not we were true vikings, a process which involved putting on costumes and flailing around weapons wildly. It’s possible that I didn’t need to make fierce battle screams, but at the same time, I wanted to make it clear that I was in no way struggling with that twenty pound shield so as to better ascertain TRUE VIKING status. I think it’s safe for me to put it on my resume now. TRUE VIKING. But in which section? Accomplishments? School? Hobbies? All of them?

just a couple of vikings


true viking

bear battle

hee hee fighting a bearThe background for this epic bear fight is pretty lame, though.


Aaah, that’s better.


The Presbytere Museum in New Orleans



bottles from the ceiling

The Presbytere Museum is a study in contrasts, from the height of revelry to utter devastation, showcasing gobs of money being thrown around for fun and how the poorest suffered during one of the bleakest periods in New Orleans history. You see, the upper floor is dedicated to the krewes and history of Mardi Gras balls and parades, while the lower floor is dedicated to the destruction and horrors of Hurricane Katrina.

From the moment I stepped into the first room, I was overcome with emotion. Watching the news, reading about it online, I still had no concept of just how powerful the storm was. I still don’t, not really. But I do understand it better than I used to. When you’re exhausted from hearing something on the news, you can just turn it off and walk away. There is no turning this off. It’s staring you in the face. It’s a garage door that was spraypainted with a message about a dead dog–a beloved pet that the owner would find a way to return and bury. It’s a teddy bear that was so  coated in mud and silt that you wonder how it could have ever been soft, a child’s cherished possession. Your decision to walk away here is more meaningful, deliberate. Can you close off the sound of the wind whipping in the next room, ignore the 1600 bottles hanging from the ceiling representing the people who died in the floods and the hands of the first responders reaching out to help?

Ten years later, New Orleans is still struggling to recover from Katrina. I know, you got tired of hearing about it. There’s always more tragedy somewhere. A new worthy cause. There’s too much pain in the world for us to try and bear, much less comprehend it all. But if you can, spare a thought today for the people who didn’t make it out. For the people who did and lost everything and had no home and no family to come back to. For the people who tried to start anew somewhere else and were treated like second-class citizens because of their ‘refugee’ status, in their own country. For the people who came back and who are working hard to rebuild their homes and their lives. And help them if you can.

katrina fema garage door

destroyed teddy bear

One of the ways New Orleans is recovering from Katrina is via tourism, and there’s no greater draw for tourists to their city than Mardi Gras. Mardi Gras, a French Catholic tradition, was first (simply) observed in the New Orleans area in 1699 (though obviously celebrated elsewhere before that time, it did not originate in New Orleans). The first recorded Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans was held in 1837, and the celebration has grown significantly in scope since then, with more than 40 parades running through the city over the course of the event, each headed by a different krewe.

What is a krewe? It’s an association of people who pay membership dues in order to put on these grand events, and membership is determined by the krewes themselves–some limiting their members to relatives of previous members, and some are open to all who can afford to pay. Membership fees also vary wildly, depending on how sizeable and elaborate their parties and parade are. Each krewe hosts their own parade, decides their own theme, pays for everything associated with having a parade, from floats to costumes to throws. It’s my understanding that the only way to be in a Mardi Gras parade is to be a member of a krewe. Me? I want to roll with the Krewe of Barkus, mainly to be part of a dog gang and have a solid excuse to think about puppy costumes all day long.

krewe of barkus

butterfly float

hobgoblins of fearFrom the Mistick Krewe of Comus parade bulletin of 1891–their parade theme was Demonology and all their floats were badass, with badass names. Hobgoblins of Fear, Vampires of War, and the one my friends and I would’ve ridden on, the Harpies of Remorse.

mardi gras queen

zulu 2000

zulu king

astounding headdress

mardi gras costumeA mardi gras costume design sketch. I think a bunch of these would make a rad coloring book.

creepy wizard


seahorse costume

parade throwsThe average amount of parade throws for one person on one float.


Mardi Gras parades are the public celebrations for all to enjoy. Mardi Gras balls are highly exclusive social events, with elaborate invitations, fancy favors bestowed at the end of each dance by krewe members (some of which are so large and ungainly that they’re later mailed to the recipient’s home), a king and queen complete with crowns, wands, and jewelry so bedazzled they’d make Miss America weep with envy, and a strictly formal dress code. Such a thing would never fly in Seattle, where utilikilts are considered semi-formal. What I’m saying is, I am both super bummed that I have never been invited to a party like this and at the same time, I completely understand why no one with taste would ever invite me to a party like this.


mardi gras invitationIf you give me a piece of gilded china as an invitation to your party, you can be guaranteed of my attendance. I could be having dinner with the President that day and I’d be like “sorry, bro, can we reschedule? I’ve got a truly baller party to attend.” Once I told him about the china invitation, he’d understand.

crown and sceptre


the gifts of satanLiterally no reason to post this other than the name “The Gifts of Satan” makes me laugh every time I read it.

mardi gras carnival party favorThank you for the pleasure of this dance, here is an elaborate jeweled pin as a lovely parting gift.

           public restrooms    Also no reason to post these bathrooms other than they made me laugh.


New Orleans is a city that has known adversity and finds a way to party anyway, to celebrate life in a big way, to see a period of fasting ahead and say “fuck it, we’re going to eat and drink and party until we can hold no more”, a city that rolls with the punches and comes back bigger, stronger, and more vibrant. They’re still coming back from this last punch. But they are coming back.

The Bishop Museum in Oahu

bishop museum

If you’re looking to learn about Hawaiian history and culture, the Bishop Museum may well be your jam. It absolutely was mine, and was in fact one of the most interesting and educational museums I’ve ever had the pleasure to visit. The Bishop Museum contains the largest number of Polynesian artifacts in the world, from royal kahili (feather standards) and royal feather cloaks that are woven so tightly they appear to be made of cloth, to ceremonial artifacts and deity statues. Each section was beautifully displayed and evocatively described; you can appreciate the artifacts on their own, but the placards gave you the opportunity to dig deeper and learn more.

bishop museum hall

Look at all that luxe koa wood: those display cases are actually worth more than the original museum buildings! The Hawaiian hall covers everything from the gods of pre-contact Hawaii to Hawaiian daily life to Hawaiian history. There are a number of stations where you can learn Hawaiian storytelling, play with kala’au sticks, and more. Adjacent is the Pacific Hall, which teaches you about the distinct but connected cultures of Polynesia. They even had a small section on the aboriginal Taiwanese, which surprised me for some reason. Maybe because I didn’t learn much about the aboriginal culture when I was actually in Taiwan.


wooden sculpture

shark tooth weapon

The placard underneath this tiger shark tooth weapon said that it was used to kill tiger sharks, which is the most metal thing I’ve ever heard.

creepy statue

The placard with this statue of a shark deity said that its burial location was discovered in a dream where it had begged to be found, and they had to cement it into place in its current location, because despite their efforts to relocate it outside the Hawaiian Hall, it refused to be moved. Now look at its eyes again. Following you around? They haunted me that entire room.

hat display

There was an entire room dedicated to the craftsmanship of grass hats, and when you neared this camera, the monitor would plop a hat on your head. Fabulous, no?

protest signs    white people ruin everything

The Bishop Museum was very tasteful in their labeling of sheet music about America’s newfound interest in Hawaii, merely saying that the songwriters “created some absurd versions of the Hawaiian language.” My label would have been “Goddamn it, white people.”

bishop museum inside

bishop museum volcano

We moseyed over to the science hall to make sure we arrived in plenty of time for the lava pouring demonstration, the only place you can see melted lava in person on Oahu. Inside the science hall, they’ve got a wee volcano that wafts smoke from its top, and a sad slide that not even children can work up a good speed on, so it was extra sad when I tried it. I looked like a dog scooting his ass on the carpet, dragging myself down the slide with my feet. Echoes of the Kennedy Space Center and the ramp slide I made when they wouldn’t let me slide down their actual slide, except people were openly laughing at me this time.

To get to their hot shop under the volcano, you need to take a trip down the rainbow road, aka Stoner’s Paradise:

rainbow road

We were right on time, and the demonstrator taught us all about the different kinds of volcanic glass and passed around samples for us to touch and inspect. He also passed around a chunk of what will eventually be the new island in the Hawaiian chain, Lo’ihi, some 10,000-100,000 years from now, which means neither you nor I will vacation there in our lifetimes, barring vampiric immortality or robot bodies, neither of which would probably appreciate the salty sea air and blazing sun.

Then on to the good stuff: the lava pour. To get it into its liquid state, it has to be heated to over 1292°F, which is so hot that I’m assuming you can toast a marshmallow from 100 yards. No one has really invested in the marshmallow toasting sciences enough to tell me for certain. The lava solidified rapidly, and even though it was still incredibly hot, it could be picked up and manipulated.  At that level of heat, even in a protective suit the demonstrator couldn’t be near it for long, and he was out of the containment area before it cooled down enough to look like the rippled lava we more readily recognize.

lava flow demonstration

They also had dinosaurs. Poseable ones, rideable ones, and so many animatronic ones, and you know I’ll always take a hot second to gawk at some animatronic dinosaurs or maybe feed one an onion ring.

bishop t rex

trike rider

baby dinosaurs

The Bishop Museum was completely amazing, and even though every fiber of your body urges you to be outside every moment while you’re visiting Oahu, if you have any interest in Polynesian history or culture, I wholeheartedly recommend you carve out some time to visit.