Date Archives October 2008

Wisconsin Day Three: Tomfoolery and Boozehardiness

344_33501133939_595_n After House on the Rock, Nicki and I went to New Glarus, tiny Wisconsin Swiss town, home of the Glarner Stube and a supposedly awesome brewery that was closed by the time we got there, in line with my family’s tradition of being a day late and a dollar short for everything, particularly themed towns. I’d originally intended on visiting Dr. Evermore’s Forevertron on the same day as The House on the Rock, but Roadside America lied to me when it indicated that Baraboo was anywhere near Spring Green, which I should’ve cottoned onto when they said that after visiting the Forevertron, it was only a short jaunt to Wisconsin Dells for their torture exhibit. Wisconsin Dells!? That’s FAR away from Spring Green! However, Nicki told me there was something I needed to see in New Glarus, and that I would be suitably impressed. After some delicious Swiss cheese fondue with wine, garlic, and kirsch, I decided that I should probably order the Schublig, which was billed as a mild spiced beef sausage made by Ruef’s Meat Market, and sure to please a true sausage lover. Who could possibly love sausage in their face hole more than me? I was NOT prepared for the scale of the Glarner Stube’s sausage, however. Laid out onto a plate and brought into the light, it looked almost obscene. The green beans seem like almost an afterthought compared to the sheer amount of sausage majesty* set in front of me. 2980926017_30ab9617e0 I couldn’t even make a sizeable dent in the sausage–it was no meal, it was a task! A challenge! A trial! The waitress seemed appalled that I asked for a box after about two bites, but I wasn’t there to impress her, I was there for something else. Are you ready to find out what that something else was? That something else happened to be none other than the midwest’s largest urinal. 344_33501128939_340_n I was a little disappointed that the Glarner Stube doesn’t really promote that they have the midwest’s largest urinal, nor is it in a sizeable room with tasteful lighting. Rather, it’s crammed into a one-man bathroom, where you can hardly appreciate its massive scale. That still didn’t stop me from opening the men’s room door to snap a photo, giggling so hard at the absurdity that I could hardly hold the camera up, whilst the people at the bar had a good laugh at the girl busting up while taking a picture of a urinal with no fewer than four pink cakes inside. …I suppose when you’ve got a big sausage, you need a big urinal. Yes/no? *’Sausage Majesty’ would be an awesome band name.

Wisconsin Day Three: The Crazy House

“If this was the afterlife, he thought, it was a lot like the House on the Rock: part diorama, part nightmare.” -Neil Gaiman, American Gods

On Friday, Nicki and I went to Spring Green to visit The House on the Rock, or as I like to call it, The House That Spite Built. You see, Alex Jordan, the madman behind Spite House, fancied himself quite the architect, even claiming to be on par with Frank Lloyd Wright. Frank Lloyd Wright, on the other hand, sneeringly dismissed Jordan with “I wouldn’t hire you to design a cheese crate or a chicken coop.” Thus, Jordan decided to build a monstrous parody of Wright’s Taliesin home, also located in Spring Green. The House on the Rock was so named due to its rather unusual placement on a 60-foot chimney of rock, which forced some individual rooms to have very odd, disconcerting proportions.

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The ceilings in the original house were almost universally low, which has prompted me to wonder whether Alex Jordan was an extremely short man, or if he simply did not have access to a ladder whilst he was building it–in some areas, my 5’2″ self could stand on tiptoes and smack my head on the ceiling.

There were some random, locked doors, high up on the walls, and rooms where people were intended to be seated were raised even further off of the ground so that heads would still be quite close to the ceiling, offering no respite for the claustrophobic.

During his lifetime, Alex Jordan’s friends believed he lived in abject poverty, and in a way, it was true: he never had any money because he was always spending it on more STUFF to fill his home. Every room was packed to the gills with STUFF. By no means am I a minimalist, but after a short while, even I was overwhelmed by the sheer amount of STUFF in the tours; by the end, Nicki and I were almost running through the exhibits because we just couldn’t take any more.

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This musical display played the ‘Godfather’ theme on a constant loop, which may or may not make the nearby security guard feel like a macho, macho man for eight hours a day.

The standout of the tour through the original House is the Infinity Room, which projects out over the Wyoming Valley 218 feet and contains over 3,200 windows.

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This room? Terrifying. Just as you peek your head over the railing to look out the glass panel on the floor to see just how far out you are, high above the treetops, you are reminded that this is someone’s homemade construction project AND of your own mortality as it sways in the wind.

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I thought this statue was neat; the spiral staircase next to it was rickety and terrifying.

The original House comes to an abrupt end, and we’re pointed by a helpful wizard to tour two.

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Tour two begins in the Millhouse opened in 1968, and houses way more crap than you’d believe any one human being could collect. The first rooms contain a lot of antique guns, dolls, mechanical banks, suits of armor, and so on and so forth.

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I would imagine that your seriousness about a situation may increase exponentially with the number of barrels you choose to have on your gun. These guns, as you can see, are Serious Business.

Here are some suits of armor, dwarfed by a fireplace the size of my apartment:

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And here is a clown bank that will surely be featured in an upcoming nightmare.

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The tour continues into the ‘Streets of Yesterday’, which opened in 1971. It’s a recreation of a supposedly typical 19th century main street. The proprietors claim that this area is intentionally dim to simulate a nighttime environment, but really, the whole House is overly dark, to the point where it’s difficult to photograph anything, and additionally makes everything seem like an extended creepy dream.

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I want to travel back in time and feed people ‘medicinal’ tapeworms.

It was right around the ‘Streets of Yesterday’ when you could start plugging tokens into machines to make various mechanical things in the rooms start to play, and Nicki and I happened upon one titled ‘Death of a Drunkard’–this is one I’m glad we saw early in the tour as some of the mechanical things were on the disappointing side and I might not’ve been as inclined to put money into the machine later down the line.

Watch, and be amazed:

The ‘Heritage of the Sea’ opened in 1990, and features a 200ft whale battling with a giant octopus. The only thing that could make this room more awesome would be the inclusion of a tyrannosaurus standing atop the whale, screaming in triumph.

Here’s a small version of the battle, as there is nowhere in the room where you can photograph the enormous battle in its entirety. It’s simply too dark and too large.

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See what I’m talking about? This thing is HUGE.

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Along the sides of the room, on all three levels, they have many museum-sized model ships and other historical nautical pieces, including a large Titanic display, and Chester the Molester in a diving suit.

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After the Octopus Garden is the Tribute to Nostalgia building, with even more nightmare fuel.

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After Tribute to Nostalgia came the Music of Yesterday exhibit, which is one of the largest collections of animated and automated music machines.

‘Death of a Drunkard’ might’ve been the best quarter I ever spent–the best fifty cents has to go to the Mikado room. (This is not our video, but one I found on youtube, in case you were breathlessly awaiting more of our delightful commentary.)

 

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I find it delightful that she’s peering into the rear end in front of her with obvious glee.

Shortly after this, we came to the World’s Largest Carousel:

Calliope music played: a Strauss waltz, stirring and occasionally discordant. The wall as they entered was hung with antique carousel horses, hundreds of them, some in need of a lick of paint, others in need of a good dusting; above them hung dozens of winged angels constructed rather obviously from female store-window mannequins; some of them bared their sexless breasts; some had lost their wigs and stared baldly and blindly down from the darkness.

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And then there was the carousel.

A sign proclaimed it was the largest in the world, said how much it weighed, how many thousand lightbulbs were to be found in the chandeliers that hung from it in Gothic profusion, and forbade anyone from climbing on it or from riding on the animals.

And such animals! Shadow stared, impressed in spite of himself, at the hundreds of full-sized creatures who circled on the platform of the carousel. Real creatures, imaginary creatures, and transformations of the two: each creature was different. He saw mermaid and merman, centaur and unicorn, elephants (one huge, one tiny), bulldog, frog and phoenix, zebra, tiger, manticore and basilisk, swans pulling a carriage, a white ox, a fox, twin walruses, even a sea serpent, all of them brightly colored and more than real: each rode the platform as the waltz came to an end and a new waltz began. The carousel did not even slow down. “What’s it for?” asked Shadow. “I mean, okay, world’s biggest, hundreds of animals, thousands of lightbulbs, and it goes around all the time, and no one ever rides it.”

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“It’s not there to be ridden, not by people,” said Wednesday. “It’s there to be admired. It’s there to be.” – Neil Gaiman, American Gods

The carousel marked the end of tour two and the beginning of tour three. It was at this point that I started to feel fatigued and overwhelmed just from looking at things; tour three’s rooms are mainly displays of things more museum-style, with less of the grandness of vision that created things like the Mikado room.

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There were rooms full of dollhouses which I could appreciate for their intricate construction but I still find immeasurably creepy, particularly this one, with a figure peeping out of the attic.

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Next came a series of circus rooms, with a collection totalling over one million pieces. In addition to some giant elephants, there’s a 40-piece animated circus band that plays in concert with an 80-piece orchestra, for a cacaphony of sound. It took 14 people three years to create, and has 37 miles of wiring and over 2000 motors. The room also houses a large number of mechanical displays, all of which were pushing people to buy diamonds.

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‘Take Humpty Dumpty’s advice and buy that diamond now.’ ‘One of our beautiful diamonds will help.’ (With what, exactly?) ‘A beautiful diamond might persuade her.’ (But drugs in her cocktail are more of a sure bet.) ‘When the walrus speaks of diamonds, he means our beautiful gems.’ ‘One of our beautiful diamonds will help.’ (Help keep the couple inside the burning house from burning alive? WHAT?)

There were HUNDREDS of these things.

After that came another collection of guns, one of which was embedded in a prosthetic leg. If I ever lose a limb, I want my replacement to be slotted for weaponry!

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After the guns came the ‘Oriental collection’, the ‘armor collection’ and the ‘crown jewel collection’, which are replicas of the Tower of London’s Crown Jewels and other assorted items of royalty. It was around this time that we began blasting through rooms; I was so overwhelmed by stuff at this point that I lost all of my social niceties and began openly laughing at a family that was yelling at their son to come take a picture with them by the Forbidden City replica RIGHT NOW.

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After all of that came the Doll Carousel room, which houses not one, but TWO Doll Carousels, in case you hadn’t seen enough terrifying, dead-eyed things in one day.

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One of them is riding a pirate!

Also in the doll carousel room, in a surprising contrast, was the World’s Largest Cannon, which was (again) so large, I couldn’t take one decent photo of it. Unforunately, there was no token-taking contraption that would allow you to fire said cannon–I’d probably pay a week’s salary to do it, on the condition that I get to aim it at one of the doll carousels.

ALSO in the room is a sculpture of the four horsemen of the apocalypse. Fitting, as at this point, you have seen so much crap, you’re pretty certain you’ll die at any moment.

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After the four horsemen, you’re brought back around to the world’s largest carousel and immediately afterward, you’re finally expelled back into the fresh air and wandering walkways to ensure you don’t leave without passing at least one gift shop.

All in all, I enjoyed the House on the Rock as I wholeheartedly love most all roadside attractions; they give me satisfaction on a deep, lizard-brain level, but visiting once was certainly enough for me–I don’t feel a pressing need to attempt to return to view their Christmas display, full of 6,000 Santas staring with dead eyes: the one in the bathroom, watching to see if I washed my hands thoroughly was enough.

Wisconsin: Gastronomic Journey Day

On Thursday, I didn’t go to House on the Rock and the Forevertron, because Nicki had decided to accompany me to the House that Spite Built on Friday instead. She left me her car to tool around, and I decided to drive down to Kenosha and drop in on my grandparents.

My first stop was the legendary MARS CHEESE CASTLE.

Although the castle is somewhat lacking in battlements and, in fact, is neither made of cheese nor is on the planet mars, it contains many meaty, cheesy delights inside, along with a bunch of ridiculous tourist crap, like Brett Favre action figures.

In this House o’ Cheese near Bong Recreation Area (hee hee!), I purchased some chudge, which comes highly recommended by hotshotrobot, a piece of cheddar shaped like Wisconsin, a cheese kringle for breakfasting, and some butterscotch root beer. During this time, I was hit on by a skeezy man with about three teeth who looked me up and down and said that everything in the store looked ‘deee-licious’. You can’t see it, but I’m shuddering.

After my cheese purchase, I saw a sign indicating that the Jelly Belly factory in Pleasant Prairie gives tours, and I was all over that like a fat kid on a…jelly belly.

Things I learned:

*Jelly Belly’s national prominence is due to Ronald Reagan, who was quite a fan of the beans while legislating. *The blueberry bean was invented for Reagan’s presidential inauguration, so that the company could give out red, white, and blue packs. *Reagan’s favorite flavor was licorice. *liquid jelly bean mixture is called ‘slurry’, made from 100% recycled animals. *the jelly-bean making process takes a couple of weeks and a hell of a lot of equipment. *the location I was in stores 2.5 billion jelly beans, and they ship out over a million jelly beans a day. *they take suggestions for flavors, and even as much as I like pickles, I am a little appalled that someone suggested pickle-flavored jelly beans. WHYYYY? *the company makes other candies, like taffy–you know taffy that comes with tiny pictures inside? That started as a 100 pound roll of taffy and they make something like 10,000 pieces from that one roll.

After I left Jelly Belly, I swung by China House in Pershing Plaza, where I used to have lunch once a week when I worked at Music Center on Green Bay Road–so many of us were regulars there that we could call in an order and they’d deliver to us, even though they don’t DO delivery. 10 years later and I recognized most of the people working there, which blows my mind a little because I’m such a job-hopper.

Wisconsin: Day One

On Wednesday (the 15th), I hauled myself out of bed at 3:30am, showered, and trudged the mile uphill to the bus stop, dragging my suitcase and cursing at being up and about at such an early hour. Mind, it was my fault that I hadn’t gotten to bed until midnight as I hadn’t even really given a thought to packing until that very day. I firmly believe that the best work is that which is done at the last minute, even if it means accidentally forgetting items like deodorant and cell phone chargers and needing to acquire these items on the other end of the trip.

I had expected the bus to be rather empty at that early hour, and was shocked when I stepped onboard to see that there was only one seat left, way in the back. Tired, large people were spilled out into the aisles, and I smacked every single one of them with my suitcase en route to the back and received more than a few glares for my efforts.

At the airport, tiredness flipped into irritation–the e-ticket machine wouldn’t allow me to check in, the United woman treated me like a moron when I told her the error message I got, even after she received the same error, and, predictably, my midget fury rose when I had to pay $15 to check my bag, and was even denied the pleasure of doing so by check so that I might’ve written ‘extortion’ in the memo field. Granted, I knew that one was coming beforehand, but it seems silly to me to split flights into ala carte selections–bump ticket prices by $50 and it covers luggage and meals both ways, and then you get to project the image that you take care of your customers instead of attempting to stick it to them in every way possible. I also take umbrage with paying specifically for checked luggage when the airline still refuses to take responsibility for taking care that nothing is broken or stolen, so in essence, I’m paying for the privilege of having someone paw through my personal belongings like some sort of starving raccoon. I practically snarled at the TSA agent who checked my ID, and I think the only thing that saved me from a cavity search was that I wisely stepped in line behind some guys in turbans, who took the honor for me. Profiling much?

After replacing my belt, shoes, phone, wallet, and pocket change, and repacking my liquid items and electronics into my carry-on (seriously, the terrorists have won), I headed downstairs where I got to take the subway train to the N terminal. When I flew to Taiwan, the flights were San Diego to Seattle to Tokyo to Taipei, and I’d had to take the subway at that time as well. I thought I’d misremembered it as I’ve flown out of Seattle many times since and hadn’t even seen signs for it…which explains how I very nearly missed the flight to Tokyo because I couldn’t find my terminal.

I slept through most of the flight; I had some talk radio programs on iDirtyRobot, which work better than white noise for snoozing, let me tell you. After the flight, I ran to grab my bag and hauled tail outside to find the Wisconsin Coach bus that was to take me to Milwaukee’s Mitchell airport. I actually SAW that bus pulling away, I ran in front of a bunch of cars to stop it, and when the driver opened the door, my brain stopped working and I asked him if he was going to MIDWAY airport. When he said no, I walked away, and as soon as he drove off, I realized what I’d done. I didn’t want to go to the rinkydink airport in the middle of a corn field where the air traffic controller is a Mexican waving around two carrots, I wanted to go to MITCHELL…where they don’t even have the carrots. I attempted to run after the bus again, but my suitcase flipped off the curb and I nearly went flying over it…so I decided to just wait for the next one.

My bus driver was, well, a character. He made it quite clear that he didn’t want to be driving the bus, but if he “fucks it up enough, they won’t ask [him] to do it again.” Within a minute of pulling away from the station, he claimed to be lost. Angry and befuddled: I hadn’t realized that John McCain drives buses these days. He alternated between cursing at the road and traffic and construction workers, and having a conversation with the dude across the aisle from me, who was gnawing down on an entire pizza and explaining the intricacies of operating Walgreens stores, and that Pick & Save had bought out Jewel-Osco and blah blah blah. This was a guy who took his grocery and drug stores SERIOUSLY.

The first stop was at the Brat Stop in Kenosha–I was surprised to see that the nearby outlet mall had been knocked down, as I remembered how big of a deal that mall was when it was first built, which doesn’t seem to be all that long ago to me, but I suppose is something like twenty years ago now. True story: during one of their tent sales in the late 80s/early 90s, I bought a black t-shirt with the word ‘NOT!’ printed on it in bright neon bubble puff-paint letters, which I wore with one of those t-shirt ties that easily facilitated stretching out and wrinkling your clothing on one side. Oh yeah, you bet I was cool!

While we stopped at the Brat Stop, I asked the driver if we could also swing by Mars Cheese Castle, and that’s when he finally perked up. “Yeah, we should go on a big shopping trip! That’s one thing you don’t have to ask me to do twice, I love shopping,” which were honestly the last words I expected to hear coming from him.

Eventually, we arrived at Mitchell airport, I hopped off, grabbed my suitcase, and hopped into the car with bellachiara6, who went on to cook me One Damn Fine Macaroni & Cheese. We then watched what may be the worst Bruce Campbell movie of all time, and then I crashed out for the night at something like 9pm.

Day one: fin

Are you ready for some football?

The Seattle Majestics tryouts were yesterday at 11 at Kent Memorial’s French Field. I showed up around 10:30 to fill out paperwork and hopefully work through some of the major jitters I was feeling–the night before, I was pacing around my apartment and had trouble sleeping. After telling them what my special skills were (outside of athletic abilities or lack thereof) “Uh, I can whistle really well? I’m…uh…sickeningly cheerful?” and resisting the urge to answer the question “What are your expectations for this season?” with “PLAY SOME GODDAMNED FOOTBALL BECAUSE I’M THE GODDAMNED BATMAN”, I grabbed my tryout shirt and headed onto the field. The girls I was with formed a large circle, just to warm up with passing and catching while everyone else was getting signed in–after about 45 minutes of doing really well, catching everything, and even getting better throwing the ball, I misjudged a ball coming at me and really jammed two of my fingers. Had I been going out for wide receiver, I would’ve been really upset as I was absolute shit at catching afterward, but since I wasn’t, it didn’t bother me much.

They warmed us up by doing a LOT of running. A LOT. Run with high knees. Run while kicking yourself in the rear. Run while gradually increasing speed from 1/4 to half-speed to 3/4 speed. It’s not a contest, but don’t come in last. Do all of this four times. Then after all of the running, it was time to test our running speed and agility by doing the shuttle run and the 40 yard dash.

My first time on the shuttle run, the coach instructed me to get lower as it would improve my time–I was focused on listening to him and lost track of where my feet were and wiped out flat on the slippery astroturf. My second go-round, I did much better, stayed low, and more importantly, did not fall.

After the shuttle run was the 40 yard dash, which I did pretty well at both times–I wasn’t the fastest girl on the field (and I never have been), but I also wasn’t the slowest.

Next came push-up and sit-up tests. If you had asked me beforehand which of the two I thought I’d excel at, I’d have told you, hands down, it would be sit-ups. In reality, I kicked ass at push-ups (unmodified, no girl-style for anyone), shocking even me, and I struggled, hard, with sit-ups. After a while, I made the mistake of saying “I can’t do another one” and all of a sudden I had three coaches standing over me, shouting at me to squeeze another one out, which is sort of what I imagine boot camp might be like. I really, really, really tried and got half and 3/4ths of the way up a few times, but I couldn’t get another full sit-up. Still, they said it wasn’t about the number, but rather your effort, so I hope they noticed my effort on that last one.

After tests, they had everyone split out into their areas of interest–special teams in one section, wide receivers, QBs and runningbacks in another section, and linemen in a third. I split off with the linemen, and was surprised, yet hopeful, to see that my group was the smallest, which gives me less competition. From the looks of group sizes, most everyone wants to be the superstar positions. They had the lineman hopefuls get into 2-point, 3-point, and 4-point stances, and had us rush from stance. We worked on timing, and they taught us that if we were caught offsides, the most helpful thing to do was point a finger at someone on the other team to, you know, help the ref out. Shifting blame, as it turns out, is a special skill that I forgot to list at the beginning of the day.

All in all, things went really well. Although they call it tryouts, the girls who were on the team last year said that basically, if you want to be on the team, just show up to practices and workout sessions, show dedication, and you’ll make the team, that the tryouts were basically to input basic stats on the interested, and to help actually gauge the interest of the interested as many, many, many of the girls have never played the game before.

We all met up after tryouts at Poppa’s Pub in Kent so the owners and seasoned players could answer any questions we had; all in all, it was a really great experience–all of the other girls were really nice and encouraging, not clique-y at all. My friend Nicole (who also tried out yesterday) said that she’d tried out for the Rat City Rollergirls last year and it was basically Bitch City, so even if she’d made the cut, the attitudes would’ve driven her away–and if the Majestics were anything like that, I also would’ve thrown in the towel.

I couldn’t be happier about how things went–even if I wasn’t the best at any one thing, I gave everything 100%, and I’m thrilled at the idea of playing with everyone when practices start in a few weeks.