Category Attractions

Happy Place Los Angeles

In early December, someone shared a link on Facebook to the new Los Angeles pop-up museum, Happy Place. It was one of those made-for-Insta places where the whole point of the thing was to get whimsical photos to share on social media, with the tagline “find your happy place” and for some reason, it sucked me right in. Jason had been encouraging me to take some trips on my own, and this is the sort of thing he would more tolerate than enjoy, so it seemed like a good opportunity to dip my toes into the water of solo travel. I bought a ticket for one of the only dates in January on which they had a ticket available, found a cheap flight for a day trip to LA, and prepared to find my happy place. 

So, of course, not long before my trip, I got an email from Happy Place “reminding” me that the museum would be closed on the date on which I’d bought my ticket. What?! I checked my inbox to see if I’d missed any earlier messages: nope. Nice, guys. Thanks for the awesome communication. THIS IS NOT HOW YOU MAKE PEOPLE HAPPY. Later that day, I received another email stating that after “tireless work trying to gain the necessary approvals to get re-opened, it is clear at this time that the needed steps will not be complete until after the holiday season at the earliest.” In other words, they’d been shut down by the city. Great. Great. Evidently their person in charge of the permitting process was just as capable at their job as the one assigned to email. 

Well, I was not about to let some bullshitty “museum” I never should have purchased a ticket for in the first place ruin my day trip, and thus I visited Los Angeles determined to find my own happy place. I did do some preliminary research (I don’t know if I’m capable of full spontaneity) and determined that if I wasn’t going to rent a car, taking the flyaway bus was my best option. While I waited for my bus, a number of other buses and shuttles came and went, including some shabby vans supposedly bound for Disneyland but looked like a one way ride to Murderville. One of them had “Mickey sent me” written on the side, which didn’t so much evoke the warm umbrella of Disney so much as the stranger who pulls up next to your elementary school, rolls down his window, and says your mom sent him to come get you. Nope, not today, buddy. Especially if you don’t have candy OR puppies.

Waiting with me was an elderly woman, who asked me about my plans and told me all about her granddaughter, who she said is first clarinet for the John Williams orchestra, and that he’s a delight to work for. Cool, right? Before I could ask her a million more questions, her bus arrived, and she thanked me for the conversation. No, thank YOU, ma’am. 

My fly away bus finally arrived, and I took the one headed to Hollywood. Not because I particularly wanted to go to Hollywood (I’ve been. A few times.) but because it was the sort-of closest stop that would put me within walking distance of the places I wanted to start my day. So of course immediately after arrival, I put off my other plans and had pie for breakfast at The Pie Hole. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, after all. 

I had a nitro cold brew and a warm strawberry lavender hand pie. The crust on the hand pie is just meh, but the other flavors were on point, and I was glad to have some food in my belly before I proceeded on foot to my next destination, which was about an hour walk away. I briefly considered hanging around Hollywood until the Museum of Death opened, but since the day was about pleasing myself and not the harsh realities of life, I decided to give it a pass this time. And last time. And maybe I’ll just keep passing even though people keep recommending it to me. Either way, I knew that having a bunch of strawberry goo churning around in my insides while looking at gore wasn’t going to do me any favors. 

While out on my walk, I was stopped by a queen and asked if I had a dollar to spare for breakfast, saying she’d had a rough holiday. I told her I could do better than a dollar and gave her enough for breakfast. She pulled me in for a hug, told me I’d made her day, and that if I ever needed anything and saw her around the neighborhood, her name was Jasmine. 

Here’s some stuff I saw on my walk:

I have to assume that the reason it’s a gym for actors is that there is no gym equipment so one has to be adept at pretending one is getting a good workout.

I finally made it to my first destination: The Never Open Store. This place has notoriously unusual hours and equally notoriously unusual things for sale, but was, when I arrived, not open, with no indication that it would be opening soon, as the hands on the clock on their door were conspicuously missing. I’m not saying I needed an opium jar, but it would’ve been nice to have a look. 

Around the back side of the Never Open Store were a lot of different pieces of street art. I walked around the back of the block and circled around, because there was another place I wanted to visit, directly across the street: Gallery 1988. There were a few prints I was debating online and I was hoping to have an opportunity to look at them in person before I made a decision. Unfortunately, I caught them between shows and they, too, were closed. Siiiiigh. So I was thankful that I knew my next destination, about another mile away, was definitely open.

If there’s not, you’re in the wrong place.

I dig this bush a lot, it looks like it moved out of an ocean bed into someone’s front lawn. I’m thinking it’s a foxtail fern

That destination was ScentBar Hollywood. No one could have predicted when I was kid that I would grow up to be a complete and utter perfume hoor, considering I used to get a migraine whenever anyone with heavily-applied scent would walk by. Either I’ve built up a tolerance, or the choking oriental cloud style of the 80s has fallen out of favor, but I haven’t experienced a scent trigger for ages. It’s fun to dabble in scent, and there’s so much to try in the world of niche perfumes and oils. I’ve been buying little samples from LuckyScent for years, because the descriptions almost always suck me in, but I’m not always thrilled by the scents themselves, and who wants to splurge big bucks on a bottle of scent that they don’t like? ScentBar is one of LuckyScent’s physical locations, and I was excited to have this opportunity to go in and sniff ALL the perfumes I’d been intrigued by online and some I’d never considered. ScentBar also offers up to four samples free of charge, so in addition to a small bottle of scent I’d been eyeing for a while, I was able to walk out with four new things to try: Hummingbird (the floralest floral to ever floral), Kismet (recommended to me as an ambery vanilla that doesn’t read too gourmand), Confessions of a Garden Gnome (green and playful), and La Danza Delle Libellule, which is honestly something I never would have reached for based on its notes (apple? fruity? Naaaaaah) but I fell in love with at one sniff, because it smells like a warm secret garden where everything good lives. Which just goes to show me that I don’t always know what I’ll like, so I shouldn’t write things off before trying them.

After ScentBar, it was time for lunch, and there was no place I wanted to eat lunch more than Trejo’s Tacos. I once received a book as a gift that was essentially making fun of actors’ headshots–very “look at how stupid this person is, wanting to be a star”. It was deeply cruel, and I remember seeing Danny Trejo’s photo inside, so literally every time I see him in a movie or a show I am completely stoked for him. I’m also stoked that he was able to take his new fame and turn it into six thriving restaurants. 

When I arrived, I ordered a jackfruit taco, a carnitas taco, the street corn appetizer, and a strawberry lemon agua fresca, and I took a seat outside, because being able to eat outside in January is peak Happy Place. 

The street corn was charred grilled corn with a chipotle cream and popcorn, and it was totally bomb. The popcorn was a surprising element but it worked. The standout, however, was by far the jackfruit taco. I’d heard that cooked jackfruit takes on a texture like pulled pork, and that it soaks up the flavor of everything around it, much like tofu, but I don’t know that I believed it. Well baby, I’m a believer now. The cooked jackfuit was shockingly meatlike. Juicy, flavorful, delicious. I vastly preferred it to the carnitas taco–the pork was a tad dry and had me looking around for salsa or hot sauce. The jackfruit taco needed nothing because it was everything. EVERYTHING.

This was across the street from Trejo’s Tacos, I wonder how many of these pink signs to God there are throughout the city?

After lunch, I made my way to Velveteria, a museum dedicated to black velvet paintings, located in Chinatown. This place deserves its own post, and it’s going to have one later this week. Watch for it! In brief: it’s weird and great and everything I hoped it would be.

From Chinatown, I made my way to Culver City, primarily because I wanted to be closer to the airport as my time grew short. I had fun just walking around, checking out some more street art, peeping in some more shop windows, and eventually ending up at Coolhaus, a super premium ice cream shop. I’d tried one of their frozen ice cream sandwiches from their grocery store line and was really unimpressed, but I also think it’s difficult to translate that fresh ice cream sandwich experience into a prepack, so I wanted to give the original a try. Verdict? Much, much tastier, particularly their ice cream. I tried their brown butter french toast ice cream (aces) and their churro cookie dough (even better), but their cookies leave something to be desired, and overall, I still think The Baked Bear is a better place to get your ice cream sandwich fix. 

I’m certain I saw a piece by the same artist in Iceland!

And then it was time to head back to the airport, where I finished the excellent book I was reading and met an aspiring novelist who bought me a drink and regaled me with the tales of her past twenty-two days in Mazatlan.

There’s no denying that I was pretty ticked off when my reason for purchasing nonrefundable airline tickets was going to be closed, but ultimately, I’m glad, because I’m certain that I had a much better time carving out my own happy place than I would have had there. I also learned that I do well traveling by myself, and that if I have a problem, I can figure it out. I also learned that people talk to me a lot more when I’m alone, which I’m generally down with, because I’m interested in people. Overall, I’m declaring this experiment a success and am looking forward to booking more impulse flights!

Hiking Point Defiance Park

This December, we bought Jason a new (used) car, because you could hear his old junktrap Saturn squealing down the street from a block away, its bumper held on with a bit of string, the oil puddle in the garage growing into a horrible pond. It was ridiculous, and we were both determined to get him into something that was less likely to heave a sigh and collapse in the middle of the freeway. Ultimately, we bought a Mini Cooper. It had some flaws in the chrome pieces surrounding the headlight and taillight, and since it was certified and the trim should have been pristine, they gave us a thirty day IOU to replace them.

When replacement day rolled around, they gave me a new Mini to tool around in until the work was done, and since it was a gorgeous day, I decided to go to Point Defiance Park and walk around. 

I parked near Owen beach and climbed the staircase back up to five mile loop road, backtracking to the rhododendron garden. I started wandering the trails and found myself on this absolutely magical moss pathway: 

How is it even possible that this didn’t lead to a witches’ hut?

While the branches here don’t sigh as heavily with mosses as the ones at the Olympic National Rainforest, it’s a close thing. Even in the winter, with dead leaves carpeting the ground, this place is verdant and full of life. Very few other people, however, so I almost shrieked a couple of times when someone I had been unaware of suddenly passed me by because I had been looking too intently at my camera and too deep in podcast land to sense their presence. I might as well wear a sign on my back that says “Murder me“. 

What a neat mushroom!

Olympic mountain range

Tacoma Narrows Bridge

Speaking of getting murdered out in the woods somewhere, I misinterpreted the map and ended up getting a little lost. Not, like, “oh shit I need some survival skills alone out in the wilderness for 72 hours” kind of lost but more like “this road keeps splitting and somehow every fork is marked with the fort going one way and the zoo going another but I never arrive at either”. If I only had access to those signs, it could have turned into the former kind of lost situation, but thankfully T-Mobile’s coverage has improved since I switched to them and I was able to use GPS to figure out that I was nowhere near where I thought I was. 

Once I had that information, I was able to orient myself back on the path toward Owen beach, and took myself out for a celebratory “I didn’t get myself killed out in the woods” lunch at Duke’s Chowder House. This wild salmon with goat cheese and blueberries was so good, and while I’m still iffy about mixing cheese and seafood (probably from hearing it my whole life and not because I’ve had a particularly heinous cheese seafood experience), the tangy goat cheese paired beautifully with the flaky, rich salmon, the balsamic blueberries a burst of earthy summer on a cold winter’s day. A window seat with a beautiful view of the sound was the cherry on top. 

I can’t believe how long I’ve lived in this area and had never been to this park before. I’ll have to make it a point to go back during the other seasons to see how it changes–maybe I can twist Mini’s arm into giving me a loaner for oil changes.

This Didn’t Deserve Its Own Post: Ohio Edition

When I take a trip somewhere, if I don’t do a day-by-day recounting, there’s usually a bunch of tidbits left over that I either couldn’t write more than a few sentences about or don’t have any photos for or would drag out the series far beyond what any human could be expected to tolerate.  All combined, however, they make for something a little more substantial, so here’s yet another one, this time about Ohio. Six weeks of Ohio is long enough, right?

CINCINNATI

Spotted this cool book fountain outside of Cincinnati’s public library, the water flowing over the books symbolizing the free flow of information and ideas thanks to the printed word. Neat, huh?

Metrobot is back outside the Contemporary Arts Center after more than a five year absence, during which time it was refinished and beefed up to include a scrolling LED and a tummy screen. Even with the more modern upgrades it still feels charmingly retro, thanks to the 10¢ pay phone embedded in its leg. 

Near the metrobot, Cincinnati also features an outdoor chandelier, which is unfortunately outdone by…

CLEVELAND

Cleveland’s outdoor chandelier, which happens to be the largest outdoor chandelier in the world. 

If a city happens to build an even larger outdoor chandelier, Cleveland’s can be called The World’s Largest Outdoor Chandelier Adjacent To A Building That Looks Like The Headquarters Of A Batman Villain . 

Cleveland also has the world’s largest rubber stamp. It has the word “FREE” on it, embodying the desire of anyone in Cleveland. A large desire to be free. Free from this place, free from life, whatever. and it was commissioned  by Standard Oil of Ohio. Between commission and delivery, the company decided that, actually, they didn’t want this thing, so they dumped it on the city as a tax deductible gift of public art. The city demurred until the company, now Amoco, agreed to pay for all transportation, installation, and upkeep costs. That is how much they didn’t want it. Imagine listing something large and bulky in your home in the Craigslist “free” section and being so desperate to get rid of it that not only do you offer to deliver it, but also to pay for any future maintenance on it, forever. Cleveland knows that free stamps ain’t free. 

I got hollered at in Cleveland by a driver who told me I was gonna get run over — while I was crossing at a crosswalk with the pedestrian signal lit. Uh, are the laws different there? Or are we just to assume that anyone behind the wheel of a car in Cleveland is going to floor it through intersections and careen around corners regardless of traffic signals due to the sheer desperation of trying to be free of Cleveland? 

COLUMBUS

In Columbus’ brewery district, there’s a large statue of Gambrinus, the mythological king of beer. What I would have never guessed about it is that it’s actually been in Columbus for a hundred years. Gambrinus originally stood in front of the August Wagner brewery, and when the brewery closed, the statue was purchased and preserved by the local newspaper, the Columbus Dispatch, and placed in its current location. Gambrinus survived Prohibition, he survived the brewery demolishing, no wonder he raises his glass in a perpetual toast!

We had lunch at Hot Chicken Takeover and it was great and I loved it. Sweet cheesus, the mac & cheese was awesome, the chicken sandwich made me weep tears of joy and tears of pain, and I couldn’t eat it all even though I really, really wanted to. Don’t forget to grab your free sweet tea and spice-combatting house made ranch to drizzle on that sandwich! What’s also super cool about this place is that they hire job seekers with criminal records, because American society often fails people who have had dealings with the justice system. If there’s no legitimate work available for those with criminal records, how can we be shocked by recidivism? I’m glad they’re helping give people opportunities to succeed, and this philosophy certainly seems to have not impeded Hot Chicken Takeover in any way, as they’ve rapidly expanded to three locations. None near me though. Bah!

I love Fiona the chunky lil hippo and I will do anything she tells me to, including buying her special limited edition ice cream. In this case, however, I’ve gotta say that not listening to her is the better option, because the supreme ice cream at Graeter’s is their black raspberry chocolate chip, with its thick soft hunks of shaved chocolate rippling through its rich black raspberry ice cream base. Especially in a pretzel cone. Yum. So good I’d consider having a case of it shipped to me but so good that I really, really don’t want a case of it shipped to me. I’m better off without the unholy knowledge of how fast I could rip through twelve pints of outstanding ice cream.

This is the photo I’m going to give to the landscape designer I desperately need to hire this year. If my back patio looked like this, I would spend so many more summer afternoons/evenings out reading. The Book Loft in Columbus is an excellent labyrinthine bookstore–they were having a Bruce Campbell signing the night I visited. I had a good time winding my way through the sections–in one of the rooms, I found a woman sitting on the floor lightheartedly groaning to her friend about how they never should’ve come because she’s going to spend far too much money. I bought a new title and took photos of the ones that I thought might make me face some scrutiny from my shopping companions so I’d remember to look them up later.

Not far from the Book Loft is this house featuring this teeny tiny door for the Littles family, complete with a doormat and teeny tiny topiaries. 

Neither of us were worthy to pull the sword from the stone in front of a dentist’s office in Columbus, which is fine, because if I’ve got to be queen of something, I’d rather it be something more exciting than a dentist’s office. Plus no matter how benevolently I ruled, I’d still be portrayed as an evil monarch because of all the black I wear and the fact that dental drills strike fear into the hearts of literally everyone. Nobody is ever going to call the queen of root canals a good gal. You see how much thought I gave this as I was approaching the sword, preparing to give my speech declining the monarchy. Freedom ain’t free.

 

 

And that’s it for Ohio! The stuff that didn’t make the cut really didn’t deserve its own post. 

Spotted on the Roadside: The World’s Largest Ping Pong Paddle in Columbus, OH

No, it’s not right there on the roadside–you’ve got to go inside Pins Mechanical Company to see the world’s largest ping pong paddle, which is totally fine because Pins turns out to be an awesome bar where it doesn’t feel totally weird to get day drunk. In addition to this almost 12′ x7′ behemoth that could crush a smart car like a ping pong ball, Pins has a wide selection of pinball games, duckpin bowling, and has outdoor jenga games capable of reaching such heights that the shorter among us have to climb on a stool to take their turn. In brief, this place is totally cool and I’d definitely come here again. 

Spotted on US 33 in Columbus, OH

Newport, Ohio, the Basketiest Place In The World

I have never seen a basketier place than Newport, Ohio. I do not believe a basketier place exists in this entire world. Legend holds* that the basketweavers guild summoned the devil long ago to ensure that when the world goes to hell, it will be in a handbasket and not some other, more useful mode of transportation. If indeed that is the case, Newport is the place from whence those baskets will proceed before beginning their initial descent.

Allow me to make my case. Within a small radius, this portion of Ohio contains:

  • The world’s largest basket that is also a building
  • The world’s largest basket that’s an actual large basket
  • The world’s largest apple basket that’s an actual large basket but not as large as the world’s largest basket and also holds large fake apples 
  • Approximately one shitload of basket stores

All these landmarks stemmed from one company: Longaberger. Back in the days before the internet when you had to leave your house and put on pants to buy goods, companies found another way to sell: get suckers to host house parties where their product lines would be shown to the unsuspecting guests of the hosts who would then feel a sense of obligation to purchase something, anything before they left. And if they were really pliable, they’d be signed up to host a party themselves the following month so as to loop in a whole new set of unsuspecting social acquaintances. I have some familiarity with this model, as when I was a kid, all kinds of product parties were held in my home while my brother and I were forced upstairs and threatened not to make a single goddamn sound while my parents’ friends were coerced into purchasing tupperware, pampered chef, mary kay, and more. Longaberger also followed this model, though I don’t believe they ever made an appearance at my house**–I can’t be certain, because, again, I was upstairs trying to stay silent as the grave while fervently hoping my parents’ friends wouldn’t eat all the cheese puffs***. 

 

The World’s Largest Basket That Is Also A Building

This building was Longaberger’s former headquarters: 7 stories, 180,000 square feet, or 160 times larger than its “medium market basket” inspiration. This building was vacated in 2016 and very recently sold, though no plans have been specified as to the new buyer’s intentions with the property: to restore it, to raze it, or to stick some giant apples in it as a middle finger to that apple basket down the road, reducing it in stature to the world’s second largest apple basket. It would be a shame to raze it as the building is quite impressive/distinctive: instead of being just another building off in the distance somewhere, it’s a giant basket looming on the horizon, which is delightful. As no one was around, we engaged in some light front lawn trespassing, which I will justify as being way less egregious than the literal dozens of dog turds someone allowed to let lay from their pack of dogs I have to assume they let loose on the lawn.

The World’s Largest Basket That’s An Actual Large Basket

It’s hard to sell this basket as the World’s Largest Basket as its label proclaims, given that we already know that basket building down the road is significantly larger and vastly more impressive, but just remember that when playing the game of world’s largest anything, it’s all about semantics. It’s why there’s an endless debate for what “counts” when determining things like the world’s largest building, because it’s more polite for architects to argue about that than unzip their pants and whip it on the table. So this is the world’s largest basket, in that it’s an actual woven basket and not just made to look like a basket. It’s also the former former Longaberger headquarters, because I’m assuming each new headquarters is christened by smashing a bottle of champagne on an adjacent giant basket. No word on whether they use it to store the world’s largest picnic supplies, but I certainly hope so. 

This large basket, however, is not a monolith, for if you open your eyes and look around you,  you’ll see:

Approximately One Shitload Of Basket Stores

 

I spy with my little eye: The Basket Guy, Smore Baskets, Retired Baskets Etc., Baskets and More, The Retired Basket Shoppe, and Basket of Dreams. How many basket specific stores does one town need****? How much basket business can one giant basket bring to an area? I had spent the morning looking at and feeling good feelings about baskets (I am EXACTLY the sort of person drawn in by the World’s Largest Anything) and yet no part of me wanted to bring a basket home, so who are these hordes of basket buyers? Also, what’s up with all these retired baskets? Are they retired in that they will no longer be performing basket labors? Are they the stores where old basket designs go to when their makers can no longer care for them? Are they retired limited edition basket designs and if so should they be used exclusively to store retired limited edition beanie babies? How does a town have this many basket stores and not change its name to Basketville with a mandatory pet shop named The Hounds of Basketville? Confused and yearning for a simpler time, I popped back in the car and headed toward something that would make sense. 

The World’s Largest Apple Basket That’s An Actual Large Basket But Not As Large As The World’s Largest Basket And Also Holds Large Fake Apples

 

This 20 foot tall baskety behemoth (also woven) stands on the grounds of the NEW Longaberger headquarters, lending credence to my idea that each new headquarters must involve the construction of a world’s largest basket that somehow doesn’t also remove the others from world’s largest status. I’m personally hoping for The World’s Largest Basket of Puppies next.

How could anywhere possibly be basketier?

 

 

 

*No it doesn’t, I made that part up.

**They made an appearance at Jason’s childhood home, however. When we got back from our basket extravaganza, his mom pulled out a Longaberger basket that she had been coerced into buying at a party years ago.

***They almost always did. Nowadays,  you don’t even get the cheese puffs, just an invitation to a facebook “party” from someone you haven’t spoken to since high school asking you to buy their nail stickers, essential oils, and life-changing juice, and the supposed benefit is that you can shop from your living room. Yeah, it turns out that with the internet, I can buy pretty much any product I want from my living room, obligation free. If you want to twist my arm into buying something I don’t want, you’re going to have to  have an actual party.

****I know that the Gilmore Girls’ fictional home town of Star’s Hollow is located in Connecticut, but the town that Longaberger built feels like the real Star’s Hollow to me if only because it seems like exactly the sort of place where a significant number of the townspeople would go apeshit over a charity picnic basket auction.

Cleveland Rocks?

Sometimes I will arrive somewhere and think “Yeah, that fits in precisely with the stereotypes I hold about this area.” Cleveland, Ohio, is one such place. Cleveland looks like a city that someone forgot about and left in the rain to rust. Cleveland looks like it’s already living out a post-apocalyptic scenario where half the population is dead and the other half spends their time making bullets and then spraying them wildly. Cleveland looks like it could give your eyeballs tetanus. It comes as no surprise that their football team is called the Browns, because a compelling argument could be made that the entire city is a turd. Cleveland looks exactly like the kind of place where a river would accidentally light itself on fire. Repeatedly. The air in Cleveland in August feels as though one has somehow been trapped inside a jock strap that’s been worn for three straight days. I was already in a truly piss-poor mood when I arrived in Cleveland, and Cleveland did not improve it.

But The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame…that’s an icon. It’s one of the few museums outside of the Louvre to come up routinely in the news*. Like the Louvre, its architecture prominently features a large glass pyramid. There are probably Illuminati conspiracies about both. But only one of these two is a world class museum…and unsurprisingly, it’s not the one in Cleveland.

Upon entry and ticket purchase, you descend into the basement of the pyramid, which is actually a little clever–starting in the basement like any number of bands. I also would have had a similar appreciation if the museum started in a garage adjacent to the pyramid.

At the start, there is a room dedicated to some artifacts from the most recent year’s inductees, which eventually get shuffled further back into the “Legends of Rock & Roll” area if they have room so if you’re a lesser-known legend I’m guessing your stuff is bound for a closet somewhere. There’s also some stuff from just about everyone you’d expect to see there: a room dedicated to Elvis, a room split between The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, and a number of special exhibits, including one on John Cougar Mellencamp.

There was also a bunch of stuff from musicians not inducted into the hall of fame, including an entire room on Cleveland musicians, which I found to be a curious choice. There are currently more than 300 inductees in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and until an angry museum employee informs me otherwise, I am telling you that it doesn’t seem to me that all of those artists were represented on this, the main floor of the hall of fame in which they are supposedly being honored. Isn’t having to be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame to be included in it the entire point of the place?

They also had a horse with cannon turret titties.

Oooh, I have bad news for you, Ed.

According to their own rules, Katy shouldn’t be here until 2026 at the earliest.

Because the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is built in a giant pyramid, a lot of valuable real estate is lost on every floor ascended. And they made the least out of the space, with the second largest floor taken up entirely by ticket sales, a cafe, and an outrageously large gift shop.

As you proceed up the pyramid, you can wait for a booth to be available so you can listen to some one hit wonders (again, not Hall of Famer material), look at a genuine empty Rolling Stone office (Oh boy, I’ve never seen a real office before! Look, a chair!) and some covers of Rolling Stone magazines, and then, almost as an afterthought, the actual list of inductees on some half-assed plaques on one of the floors. It’s not like we have the technology available to give each visitor a broader look at the work of the inductees, the reasoning behind why they were chosen, and how they influenced music. Nope. We’re clearly still in the static list on paper phase of humanity. The inductees are such an afterthought that at the time of posting, their placement in the museum that, again, supposedly exists to honor them isn’t even mentioned in their online visitor’s exhibit guide.

The inductees actually get a better display on shit sold in the gift shop than they do in the actual museum, which is straight fucking ridiculous.

This may as well be another exhibit–hey kids, this is what a CD store used to look like back when physical media was a thing!

Our group split up on entering the hall of fame. We ran into Jason’s uncle halfway up the pyramid and asked him what he was taking photos of. “Crap, mostly.”

Couldn’t agree with you more, man.

 

 

 

*Now that I know how much this place sucks, going forward I could do without the yearly breathless discussions about the nominees/inductees/and why so and so continues to be slighted. It’s a subjective list, and literally anyone could start a new museum and call it The Musician’s Lodge of Awesome and set up their own arbitrary system of inclusion. But the glass pyramid thing is a little oversaturated, so maybe pick a different shape for your statement entrance. And if you’re gonna exist to mostly be a gift shop, do everyone a favor and just call it The Musician’s Lodge of Souvenirs.

The Topiary Park in Columbus, OH

Have you ever wished you could step inside a piece of artwork? To move about the people portrayed, smell the luscious ripe fruit gently warmed by the sun on a rich wooden table, see the horses’s muscles ripple under their shining coats? Well, you can’t go quite that far, but you can walk among the topiary version of Georges Seurat’s pointillist masterpiece, A Sunday on La Grande Jatte.

Located in the downtown of Columbus, Ohio, the Topiary Park (also known as Old Deaf School Park) was dedicated in 1992 and contains some 67 yew topiaries: 54 humans, 8 boats, three dogs, a monkey, and a cat. I didn’t count them all, but I trust none have scurried away in the night since its inception. It’s a “landscape of a painting of a landscape”, a work of art that references and celebrates art, a living painting. What’s especially striking about recreating this particular art style in topiary is that needles of the yew tree perform a similar function: disparate points of greenery, they come together en masse and provide shape and depth in the same way the distinct dots of color create a pointillist scene.

The rest of the park is no slouch, either, with its careful landscaping, cicadas buzzing from the branches. I was excited to see my first ever cicada exoskeleton here (although the live ones still eluded me), and I got all up in its business. It’s impressive how tightly this discarded casing clings to the bark of a tree, even with no visible leverage. I’m sure I’d feel a little differently about it if I lived in one of those places that sees massive swarms every thirteen years, no one likes a “swarm” unless it’s a “swarm of the world’s cutest puppies” or a “swarm of pizza delivery people each with a pizza more delicious than the last” or a “swarm of money being pumped into your house through the mail slot, turning your living room into a giant cash cage”. Sadly, that kind of swarm has yet to materialize.

Proto Build Bar in Dayton, OH

I was lured into Proto Build Bar by the promise of the world’s largest claw machine, almost as if I had been grabbed by a larger, invisible claw through the internet that took a month or so to reel me in. I wasn’t quite sure what else to expect as the details I saw were sparse, and I assumed that it was something relegated to the back of a dim dive bar, much in the same way the glory of the midwest’s largest urinal was forgotten. If I had done even a little bit of my own research beforehand, I would have seen that was not the case, but I generally prefer to look upon a place with fresh eyes. At least that’s my excuse.

Regardless, Proto Build Bar was nothing like I expected: it was much better. They’re proud of their giant claw machine, they make a killer cup of coffee, and with enough time there, they could probably help you make anything else you can conceive with their array of 3d printers and electrical tools. 

I need more torchwork in my home barista-ry.

We made haste to the claw machine, which was as gargantuan as promised. I especially appreciated that the controller was also huge, which made it feel like I was playing a machine for giants that humans had acquired somehow. Each of us played once and each of us won once, and then we promptly gave our winnings away as a large bouncy ball isn’t the most convenient thing to try and take on a plane–or ship, for that matter. The point of the visit was to play, not necessarily to win.

The game I did want to win was their custom built Edison vs Tesla: War of Currents arcade game, and this, friends, is not because I’m overly competitive (though I am, ask me about the time I almost gave myself frostbite because I wanted to win something more than common sense would allow) but because the loser gets shocked. Electrically. Talk about a punishing learning curve! Until the first shock happened, I still didn’t really believe that the game would zap you. After it happened, I really, really didn’t want to lose.

All in all, Proto Build Bar is super cool, and if I lived in the area, I’d be in there all the time. Far, far away from the arcade game. 

Jungle Jim’s International Market

The Jungle Jim’s experience starts in the parking lot, with a monorail station entwined by a snake large enough to be given its own six movie series by the SyFy channel. Jungle Jim purchased the monorail cars inside from nearby King’s Island for the, uh, kingly sum of $1 when they closed down their wild animal safari ride in the early ’90s.

Originally, Jim intended to have the monorail track run all around the greater property, but as it turns out, even if you get the cars for cheap, installing monorail track is really expensive, so the track runs from the monorail station in the back parking lot to the storefront. The track runs. The monorail itself, to the best of my research abilities, only runs for special occasions, and my arrival sadly did not constitute one of those occasions, so we trudged from the back lot all the way to the front of the store, noting that many of the other businesses tucked into the complex have gotten into the statuary spirit. All except for “AVAIL Vapor”, which my mind insisted on turning into ANAL VAPOR, because of course it did.

If I can’t ride it, then what’s the point?

My father in law didn’t quite understand why I’d flown halfway across the country and driven halfway across the state to visit a grocery store, and that was because he had yet to behold the wonder that is Jungle Jim’s. Once we entered the store, I believe those questions ceased.

This is a grocery store so grand, it requires maps to find your way from the cheese counter to the frozen foods section. It’s a grocery store so grand that giant talking statuary in each section feels like a small, natural touch. It’s a grocery store so grand that you can find pretty much anything you’re looking for inside. It’s a grocery store so grand that if I lived anywhere in the state of Ohio, I wouldn’t be able to grocery shop anywhere else. What’s a three hour round trip drive when I can find all the international treats my greedy little heart desires?

I bought one of these gummy pickles and I can tell you for a fact that if real pickles tasted like its “real pickle taste”, I would never again eat another pickle in my life. Not even to make sure they still tasted terrible. NEVER IN LIFE.

To be honest, I’m not sure if Jungle Jim is a wizard who lives in the jungle or if this is is his cousin, Wizard Jim, but either way, I appreciate the man’s dedication to dress up.

As you might expect, this area plays Michael Jackson music on a nigh-constant loop.

IMO, store brand products never looked better.

The British foods section had its own Sherwood forest, complete with Robin Hood, Maid Marion, and pilfered booty jammed up in the tree trunk.

A grocery store so mighty it dwarfs King Kong!

And somehow, after all that, it’s the toilet that’s famous.

I can’t even really convey just how massive this grocery store was, the multitudes of products it contains. An entire walls of hot sauces. An aisle of nothing but single bottles of craft sodas. A cheese section large enough to live in. Thousands upon thousands upon thousands of goods hailing from everywhere around the globe. All I can tell you is that I bought so much stuff that it necessitated shipping two boxes home, one of which USPS lost for three weeks, the box containing the above pictured gummy pickle. I was so happy when that prodigal pickle returned to me, at least until I tried it, at which point I cast it away and told it I wished it had never come back if all it was going to do was make me gag. JUNGLE WIZARD JIM, I TRUSTED YOU.

Cincinnati Eats: Famous Chili and the Best Pie in Ohio

Of course I was not going to take a day trip to Cincinnati and not eat the style of chili for which they are famous (or infamous, depending on one’s perspective on chili). I will tell you that I have never, never been to a city where chili is so heavily advertised and consumed. Chili restaurants in Cincinnati are the equivalent of Starbucks in Seattle: there’s one on every corner, and if you miss that one, there’s one less than a block away. Who is eating all this chili?! And pretty much all of their chili chain stores have drive throughs, which I also find a little mind boggling if only because chili doesn’t strike me as the consummate eat-on-the-go food. Like maybe, maybe I would concede this point if it was of the “frito pie/walking taco” variety where you dump chili and some fixings into an individual corn chip bag (there’s plenty of room in there, after all, given that each of them contains, on average, five to seven chips maximum) and eat it out of the bag with a fork. Or turn around and redump the contents of your bag into your mouth, I’m not the etiquette police. I can barely spell etiquette on the first try, much less put on pants and enforce a system of rigid and complex rules that seem archaic in modern society. Just, for the love of god, as you’re pouring chili and chips into your maw, please try not to burp at the same time.

Regardless, Cincinnati chili is a different beast altogether. Cincinnati chili is a spiced meat and tomato sauce melange that is used as a topping for two things: spaghetti, and hot dogs. It is NOT intended to be eaten by the bowl like chili con carne, and the people of Texas would probably rather blow Ohio off the map than refer to Cincinnati’s signature sauce as chili. If you decide on spaghetti, you can order your Cincinnati chili a number of ways. As in, literally, you tell the server whether you want your chili two way, three way, five way, etc. The least you can order your chili is two way, which is the chili plus the spaghetti. Three way: chili and spaghetti and cheese. To add to the confusion, not all of the ways are the same at all of the restaurants, but they all involve chili, spaghetti, cheese, beans, and onions. Oyster crackers are commonly given on the side as a garnish, but for some reason, they do not count as an additional way, forming the ultimate Six Way Chili. 

I did some polling at the American Sign Museum and they all agreed that Camp Washington Chili was the place to go for the best Cincinnati chili, and in my later research, discovered that it had won a James Beard Foundation American Classics award in 2000, so I feel confident that the Cincinnati chili I ordered and ate was its best possible iteration. The verdict? It’s tasty but I think you have to grow up on it to get it in your blood enough to crave it.

O Pie O was a late addition to the rounds. When we arrived in Ohio, my mother in law had stacks and stacks of every magazine and brochure that had anything to do with Ohio tourism (she knows me pretty well on that score). I flipped through all of them, and a glossy page calling the Honey Vinegar Pie at O Pie O Ohio’s best dessert stopped me dead in my tracks. Ohio’s best dessert? Within striking distance? Obviously we were going to go. Obviously

The verdict on this one was…not so good. I don’t know if I caught them on an off day in the kitchen or what, but the crusts on all of the pies were tough and leathery, not flaky in the least and not nearly tender enough to cut with a fork. Without a good pastry, you really cannot have a good pie aaaaaand it’s especially hard if the insides aren’t all that great, either. I can appreciate the tangy silkiness of the honey vinegar, but it felt like it needed something. The blackberries in the blackberry buttermilk pie were unpleasantly sour.  On the eternal battle that is cake v pie, I’ve switched to team pie, but I’m finding it difficult to go to bat for this particular pie. Now this pie that I made for my Game of Thrones birthday that disappeared before I got a slice and so many people came out of my kitchen moaning about its deliciousness that I had to make it again like a week later, THAT is a pie that I’m willing to ride or die on team pie for. Go eat that pie and know that because of something some magazine said once, that you’re eating a dessert that’s better than any in Ohio.