Mecha-Madonna and Toasted Jesus

 

 

 

I forgot to post about it before, but during our southern roadtrip we did indeed make a pilgrimage to visit Mecha-Madonna in Delaware:

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It was the coldest, greyest and rainiest day of our trip. Still, it was the the only interesting thing either of us had ever seen in Delaware in our lives.

People sure like their giant Jesuses and their giant Madonnas. I know I do.

Mecha-Madonna wasn’t our first giant religious figure we’d ever visited on a road trip. That, of course, would be Touchdown Jesus of Monroe, Ohio. He’s six stories high- frighteningly enormous.

Here we are enjoying Touchdown Jesus early in the morning of September 11th, 2009:

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It was very…spiritual. Judging from the picture above, Jesus granted me the miraculous ability to spray water from my palms.

And Jon was deified on the spot!

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It really was the highlight of Ohio for us, besides the Ordovician slab of bryozoan fossils that I found in the parking lot in our hotel in Cincinnati.

So there was big news about Touchdown Jesus today!

He was struck by lightning last night and died! He burned to a crisp and all that’s left of him is an eerie metal skeleton. Here’s what he looks like now:

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Poor Jesus. I’m glad we got to see him before God decided to strike him down. So what’s with that, anyway? Was Zeus jealous?
There’s a much smaller Jesus that I pass by on my way home from work every day. He’s pretty beloved ’round these part. We call him Shrugging Jesus. You can ask Jesus anything you want, anything at all, and he’ll give you an honest answer- a helpless shrug.

Today I said “Shrugging Jesus, why did God throw a lightning bolt at Touchdown Jesus last night?”

Here’s what he said:

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Roadtrip II- Southern Circuit

Day 4, our last day in DC. As usual, I had the morning to myself while Jon was at his conference. I spent the morning catching up on a few more smooshed penny sites and a few more monuments I wanted to see- namely, the Naked Boy Scout Memorial.

I felt like I’d won a scavenger hunt when I found it.

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The plaque said something about honoring our nation’s boy scouts, but offered no explanation of the adults following the little boy. One appears to be Pele, Goddess of fire and the other is a chiseled hottie who has opted to carry his clothes instead of wearing them.

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To make this even more perfect, a large group of children on a school trip were surrounding the statue when I arrived, all eating paper bag lunches. One of them said hi to me cheerfully, as if nothing was amiss.

I spent the rest of my time taking pictures of the street vendors’ carts and buying commmerative presidential plates that I only learned after I ate off one of them were poisonous.

Then it was time to meet Jon again and hit our last siteseeing attraction in DC:

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Oh, I cannot describe the wonder that is the DEA museum properly. Had I not already been through several metal detectors and bag x-rays at the Smithsonian, I would have been intimidated by this process at the DEA museum. Inside, the security guards were serious. Very, very serious.

Upon entering, you are immediately greeted by Tokemaster Boots, imprisoned behind a wall of glass along with his suspicious paraphernalia:

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I think I had a necklace like the one on the left when I was 11.

Right next door to the Tokemaster’s house was “American Crackhouse, circa 1990s”, and after that we began our drug tour with opium, circa 1860s. They had a lot of very old bottles of opium, cocaine and heroin, along with some excerpts from the diary from a fine lady of the time:

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I think this one was from the 60s. Maybe the 70s- whenever it was that they started making imitation mayonnaise. It was in a collection called “middle class drug culture”. More than anything else, I was shocked and disgusted that someone had consumed a jar of imitation mayonnaise prior to reusing the jar. Regular mayonnaise is foul and disgusting enough, but imitation mayonnaise is so ungodly that it would be an ongoing joke on The Daily Show had baconnaise not been invented. Seriously, how stoned or middle class do you have to be to eat imitation mayonnaise? And how long had this been sitting around in DEA’s office before they made a museum and added this to it?

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I also liked the oversized medicine cabinet of the most commonly abused legal drugs:

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Since the security guards seemed to be ever-present and ever-watching, we didn’t feel comfortable laughing, guffawing, giggling or snickering at any of the exhibits while we were in there. We tried to remain serious:

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Our last stops were to grab of handful from the pharm bowl and then visit the vending machine:

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I also have to mention that their gift shop was rudely boring- just some t-shirts, hat and address books that say “DEA” on them. That gift shop had so much potential to supply creative and hilarious gifts and it was all wasted. Kind of like how the tobacco museum we visited in North Carolina didn’t sell tobacco products of any kind in their gift shop. All they had were totally irrelevant honey sticks, stuffed animals and pretend-handmade soaps. Ho hum.

We went back to the hotel, Jon cleaned up for his presentation. I went to the gym, took a shower, bought a necklace of Hanuman from the Indian store down the street and finished my book about Mr. Lincoln.

Jon came back from his presentation and we were all ready for Brandon round two. Trickie wasn’t there this time, but it was fun anyway. We liked the neighborhood we were in last time, so we met there again with no particular destination. BK suggested Madam Organ to start, explaining it was an institution in DC. I get it- when I go to new places I do like to see the things that *everybody* is expected to go to. That way you get an idea of how the world perceives that particular place. I also like seeing the places that tourists never go because then you get to compare what the real city is like against the world perception. Madam Organ had a lot of taxidermy all over the place, which was plenty enough to win me over.

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I had too many vodka and Red Bulls there. The next place we went I don’t remember as clearly, except that it was quieter and it was easier to hear things and they were playing Lady Gaga. I had too many vodkas and Red Bulls there as well. It made for a fairly miserable morning the next day, but I had a great night. I think the fellas did, too. We walked back to the hotel and it seemed to take no time at all, like I had 18 legs and therefore could move very fast. All was well until the next morning and until then, I had lots and lots of love for our nation’s capital.

Roadtrip II- Southern Circuit

On Day 3 I only had a few hours by myself before meeting Jon for lunch. I spent my Becky time by going for a run in the morning. I even had a course planned out- I would run to the National Cathedral, since Jon and I had gone there the previous day to get some smooshed pennies with gargoyles on them. Unfortunately, when we arrived there the gift shop was closed. We took note that the gift shop’s hours were 9:30am to 5:30pm. I planned my run so that I would arrive at the cathedral at 9:35, early enough that it wouldn’t be so hot out and also leaving five minutes for the store to be open and ready to go when I arrived.

I arrived exactly on time but the idea that it wouldn’t be so hot at 9:35am was stupidly wrong. I had that slimy sweaty feeling and my face was bright red. I had also completed the run with 8 quarters and 4 pennies in my pocket (there were 4 penny designs and I wanted them all) and they jangled and slapped against my leg the whole way.

The gift shop didn’t seem open, though (what kind of church has a gift shop, anyway? With a penny machine?). On a total whim I opened the gate leading to the gift shop, which led down the stairs to a heavy, wood-and-iron church door. That lead to another door just like that and I opened that one, too. There was no one in the gift shop except a stern-looking, thin woman with glasses, who was putting an armful of mugs on a shelf. I paused at the scene, probably still dripping with sweat, and she said “We’re not open yet!” It was 9:37, and according to that sign upstairs, they should have opened seven minutes ago. I said nothing and she quickly corrected herself- “Well, technically we’re open, but that door should have been locked!”

Um…if they’re “technically open”, did that mean I could get my pennies? She seemed pretty upset with me and I felt a little embarrassed. The penny machine was within arm’s reach of me. I hoped that my shortness of breath and beading sweat would be interpreted by her to mean I had sprinted here in a dire smooshed penny emergency.

“Can I just get some pennies from that machine? It’ll only take a few minutes…”

She frowned and sort of grunted so I took that as a yes. While I was cranking out my four pennies, a younger woman came into the gift shop. The first woman snapped at her “That door wasn’t locked! You need to lock that up as soon as she leaves!”

Yikes. When I was done it was around 9:42. They locked the door behind me, so I don’t know if that gift shop is ever actually open. It only opens technically if you bang down the doors.

I ran back to the hotel with fewer coins jangling in my pocket, took a shower, changed, then went to the zoo. You don’t need to see pictures from the zoo, right? It looked like a zoo. In the tradition of all zoo visits, it was oppressively hot and crammed with kids. I really enjoyed the orangutans, though. The pandas weren’t there anymore, but I wouldn’t have waited in a line to see them anyway. Pandas fail at life.

After the zoo it was lunch with Jon, then a stop at Ford’s Theatre to get my tickets for the show that night. The same pudgy woman with the extremely hairy arms and the yellow (not blond, oddly yellow) hair with the tight curls was working the ticket booth. The two guys in front of me were arguing with her. They wanted to just go into the theatre and look around, but Yellow Lady said they would have to buy tickets and see the one-act play about Lincoln’s assassination before they could go into the theater. They were having the exact same argument with the lady that I’d had the day before. That poor woman must have to explain 95 times a day that no, you can’t just go into the theatre and look around, you have to see the play first. And the boring museum. When I bought my ticket for the evening’s show, I was all smiles and trying to be extra nice to her because I felt bad about arguing with her the day before. She cheerfully printed my ticket and said that doors open at 7:00, show’s at 7:30 and if I show up early, I could wait downstairs in the boring museum that I spent 45 minutes in yesterday. Oh dear.

Then Jon and I went together to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. Jon was a happy Boy:

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My favorite part was the Space Monkey, not to be confused with Ham the Space Chimp:

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I also learned that in addition to that rhesus monkey, they also sent up a squirrel monkey. The rhesus monkey fell ill a few months after his return but not seemingly from something space-related. The squirrel monkey lived a good long life after his retirement from space travel- about 27 years.

After the Air and Space Museum, we went on a walk to visit all the familiar monuments. I should have figured out from my morning run and from the zoo that this would be a searingly hot death march. Why is it *always* 700 degrees out with 98% humidity every time one goes to see monuments in Washington DC? Maybe we need to make more January visits. We had to take sit-breaks and bomb-pop breaks and slush-breaks frequently, so it was still a good time. Of course we paid Mr. Lincoln a visit, but we also visited a friend we hadn’t seen before-

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God damn these people. They hung around Professor Einstein for ages and ages taking pictures and we sat there waiting and waiting for our turn. I was bored while I waited so I started taking pictures of them. FINALLY they left.

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Hooray! The Professor likes me better, anyway. He told me so. Jon’s camera has much better pictures of him, though. Two nice ladies, who also seemed to be waiting ages for a turn on Einstein’s lap, offered to take pictures of the two of us together with Jon’s camera. We did the same for them.

After that we went back to the hotel all hot, sweaty and tired but not sunburnt. We’re really good at reapplying sunblock. I was still tired and cranky and therefore disgusted with the painted panda outside our hotel. Pandas fail at life. It’s time for pandas to go extinct, the experts say.

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Jon and I had things to do that evening, so we showered and cleaned ourselves up. Jon had conference stuff, and I had a show to attend at Ford’s Theatre!

Awwwww yeah…

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I had the best seat in the house- there was a pole next to me on the right and the aisle on my left, so my seat was isolated from everybody else’s. The Russian seating lady helped me find it and when she saw how it stuck out all on its own, she said “You’re all by yourself!” in a mournful tone. But it was a great seat and I wanted to be all by myself. There was no better seat in entire theatre besides the box seats reserved for the Lincolns, but they wouldn’t let me sit there. The program said that if I liked my seat, I could have my name engraved on it for $10,000. I was tempted a little.

The show was so good I was trembling during the prologue. I knew that prologue word for word and I knew what was coming and then-

The chorus girls flew out on a revolving stage wearing 50s style spaceman suits! I thought I was going to weep. It was already the best musical I’d ever seen. I felt a little disloyal because I had seen Little Shop of Horrors once before, this past January. It was at MIT and naturally it was far more low-budget than the performance I was now seeing. Ford’s giant carnivorous plant was constructed by a professional puppet company and looked almost identical to the one in the movie. MIT’s Audrey II was constructed with bedsheets, acrylic paint, papier mache and cardboard. It looked like this:

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But I liked MIT’s Audrey II better. It had a lot more spirit. The characters who were eaten by Audrey II had to kind of crawl carefully into Audrey II’s mouth, and Audrey II’s mouth movements never quite matched what he was saying.

The chorus girls at Ford’s were much, much better than MIT’s, though. And a soaring performance of Little Shop of Horrors really is dependent on a soaring set of chorus girls. Chorus girls wearing green 50s style spaceman suits.

The man who played the voice of Audrey II was also extremely impressive. He was huge! And he sat in a thronelike chair above the stage, visible to the audience. He looked like Mr. T and he was wearing silver shirt that, from my distance, looked like it could have been chain mail. Whenever he demanded to be fed in that commanding voice, it suddenly seemed reasonable to chop up humans and toss them into the plant. He was emoting when he sang lines like “I swear on all my spores/When he’s gone the world will be yours…” He had a vibrato on the word “spores”. In the beginning when Seymour was describing how he acquired the seedling Audrey II, Mr. T stood motionless above the stage, holding a small flytrap that a spotlight shone upon. He looked like the All-Powerful Supreme Lord of Horticulture.

I was enjoying myself so roundly that I had to restrain myself from bouncing along in my chair to every single song, and compromised by rocking very slightly side to side in my chair and mouthing the words. I don’t think the pole sitting next to me noticed.

I could also see Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln’s seats, reserved for all eternity, up on the right. At various points during the show I imagined the ghosts of Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln, silently watching the show. I wondered what Mr. Lincoln would have thought of it. I know that in their time the Lincolns loved the theatre and during Lincoln’s presidency, going to the theatre was one of the few things that Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln did together as a couple once Lincoln was elected president. It makes me sad to think that their marriage became extremely strained during Lincoln’s presidency, and Lincoln’s depression seemed to be at its worst during the end of the war and the few days in his life following the end of the war. It’s been said that during that night they went to Ford’s, Lincoln was in an unusually good mood and the two of them were having a very pleasant night without arguing or fighting. Kind of like how it’s said that people who are on the verge of suicide suddenly become unusually cheerful once they have definitely decided to go through with it. Like he just knew somehow.

I watched the ghosts of Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln watching the show from their seats above me. I pretended that they had a really great time and were baffled yet amused at the musical, which was nothing like Our American Cousin.

I wasn’t the only one who was seeing the ghost of Mr. Lincoln watching the show.

At the end of the show Audrey II eats Audrey and Seymour and the chorus girls take clippings of the vines to raise more Audrey II’s, implying that the small plants continue to grow and multiply and take over the world. During the finale, the chorus girls each take a small plant and sing about world destruction and warn the audience not to feed the plants or we’ll all die. When the chorus girls sang, one of the three faced the empty box seats and quite deliberately offered up her small venus flytrap to the ghosts in those seats. I felt honored to have seen such a show with Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln that night.

Roadtrip II- Southern Circuit

On Day 2, I had a lot of time to myself because Jon was at his conference. For my first stop on my first full day in DC, I made a beeline to Ford’s Theatre. It’s the infamous theater where Mr. Lincoln was shot and it also had two smooshed penny machines- one with Lincoln’s face on it which seemed redundant as I was flattening a penny, of all things. They were selling Venus fly traps in the gift shop, and I bought one because they were calling me. Later in North Carolina I gave it to Jenny Wood, after asking that we watch it eat some bugs.We ended up feeding it a small earthworm (it was a really big Venus flytrap) and an isopod. Those heads really snap shut like a leg trap once their trigger hairs are tripped. It seemed odd that Ford’s Theatre gift shop would be selling such a non-Lincoln-related gift, but I didn’t worry much about it. I’m a little embarrassed over the other souvenir I bought there, so I won’t elaborate. Jon laughed at me over it.

The woman at the ticket counter was really pudgy and had extremely hairy arms and yellow (not blond, actually yellow) hair in very tight curls. I asked if I could just walk into the theatre and see the box seats where the Lincolns sat that night, but she said that I could only go into the theatre if I saw a play about Lincoln’s assassination. I tried to ask politely if I could just peek in and see the theatre and be done with it, but apparently you can only do that at 4:00pm, three days a week. It was 10:30am. The play was only $5, so I thought “Sure….why wouldn’t I want to see a play about Mr. Lincoln?”

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There was one further, odd catch. Once I had my ticket, I was instructed to wait in a long line outside until 11:00. Then the crowd was to move into the Lincoln museum in the theatre’s basement, where we would have to hang around until the doors opened at 11:45 for the show at noon. We were forced to wander around this small, very boring museum for nearly a freaking hour and the three dozen kids were getting very cranky and screamy. I don’t know how a museum about Mr. Lincoln could be that boring, but it was. Most of it was posters about other plays the Booth family had performed in, and a short film about Frederick Douglass on a loop.

But the show wasn’t bad, and I got to see where Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln sat. It’s still decorated the way it was for the Lincolns in 1865. A lot kids in the audience kept pointing to the flags and lecturing their parents about how John Wilkes Booth caught his spur on one of the flags as he leapt onto the stage to cry “Sic semper tyrannis”. Since he broke his ankle in the process, he kind of blew his big moment and his big line, wouldn’t you say?

I was bored before the show started, so I took pictures of my flytrap with the Lincolns’ seats.

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It was also dawning on me that the set for the play was kind of…interesting. One of windows in the building had a sign in it with a man-eating Venus flytrap.

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It was the Little Shop of Horrors set! This happens to be my favorite musical of all time- out of the two that I actually like. When I was 10 I had a dinky little tape recorder and for my birthday I got the original Little Shop of Horrors soundtrack, which I listened to thousands of times before the tape recorder ate it. I knew (and still know) every word to every song, and knew which songs were omitted in the movie version and what minor changes in song lyrics exist between the movie soundtrack and the off-broadway soundtrack. It’s my Ultra Mega Happy Music from age 10, along with The Monkees.

I hadn’t realized before that Ford’s Theatre was a functioning theater and not just a “Here’s where Lincoln got shot” tourist attraction. Wouldn’t that be great if I could see a real show at Ford’s Theatre? And gee, my favorite musical of all time happens to be playing while I’m here. It seemed like the ghost of Mr. Lincoln was speaking to me, asking me to see a play with him, so the next day I bought a ticket for the evening show.

I think the two-man, one-act play about Lincoln’s assassination didn’t really count as seeing a real show in Ford’s Theatre, but I enjoyed the surrealism of the experience. The play about Lincoln didn’t have a set, just two guys putting on different hats to portray different characters. I was terribly distracted by the Little Shop of Horrors set, though, as if my mind couldn’t reconcile the clash. I was studying the sign in Mushnik’s window, so when the actors cried out lines like “The President has been shot!” and “Somebody stop that man!”, all I saw was “STOP IN AND SEE THE AMAZING NEW PLANT AUDREY II”. And when the doctor arrived and said gravely “It is a mortal wound, he cannot recover”, I was blinking back tears, but in the back of my head I heard chorus girls singing “shing a ling shing, what a creepy thing to be happening…. ”

After the play, we were herded across the street to the Peterson House, where Lincoln was carried after being shot and where he died at 7:22am. I wanted to see it, but the line was ridiculous and I snuck away from the group, seeing as I’d spent all morning in the theater and was scheduled to meet Jon at 3:00.

I had time to visit the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, but I only had time to see the new “Origins of Man” exhibit. You should go. It’s excellent. My favorite part was the bronze statues placed all over the exhibit hall, each of an early hominid.

Here’s Homo erectus. She’s very strong and her people brought home ibexes and other game not by sophisticated hunting techniques, but by sheer doggedness. We think that they chased their prey, up to three days, to complete exhaustion and only then could they finish it off:

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If Jon were with me, we would have taken turns posing with the hominids and interacting with them. But since I was all by myself, I had to make do with asking random people to take my picture. I asked a nice lady if she would take a picture of me tending to the fire of Heidelbergensis. She gladly obliged, but then seemed surprised and amused that I assumed an early hominid-like pose with the chimpanzee O-mouth expression:

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I wanted to assume the squatting frog-leg posture that these guys are often depicted in, but with that skirt my modesty prevented that. The nice lady was the only one who was able to take a picture that was remotely in focus. The picture of me pulling up tubers with Paranthropus taken by a nice man was unusable, along with the picture of me threatening Homo floresiensis and Floresiensis fleeing in terror. I had to take the picture over:

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The caption for this statue said that she was running away from a komodo dragon.

Then I noticed I was going to be late for meeting Jon at 3:00, so I jogged/ran to the Metro and hurried back to the hotel. I got there exactly three minutes before Jon walked in the door and felt a little proud of myself. After changing out of his work clothes, we headed out to Duke Ellington School of the Arts. We were there to see yet another World’s Largest Chair:

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When we’d had enough of really big chairs and laughing at the passive aggressive notes the Ambassador of New Zealand was leaving for the Ambassador of New Zealand at the embassies, we headed out for dinner.

Dinner was at an Ethiopian restaurant in a neighborhood I think is called Adam Morgan, but maybe people who live there don’t call it that. Our Washington DC friends, Brandon and Trickie met up with there. I was really happy that night- not only did I get to see Origins of Man and Ford’s Theatre and the Not-World’s Largest Chair, I got to eat Ethiopian food, followed by strawberries and Nutella, with some people who already felt like good friends.

 

Roadtrip II- Southern Circuit

Day 0 was dinner with Jon’s family and dropping off The Dog with Jon’s parents in New Jersey. We had to trick Buddy on the morning we left- I took him for a long walk while Jon loaded up the car so Buddy wouldn’t see us packing and start to panic. When Buddy and I returned from the walk, he went to his bowl to get a drink and we snuck out quickly before Buddy could notice. Even though he’s incapable of being mad at me, I felt terrible for duping him like that and wondered how long it would take for him to figure out that we had left without him.

Day 1 was New Jersey to DC, with one sightseeing stop in Baltimore along the way-

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Yes, we went to Baltimore’s famous National Great Blacks in Wax Museum!

I have to say our visit was more intimidating than I expected it to be. The museum wasn’t located downtown in some touristy section. Most of the buildings in the neighborhood looked like this:Blacks 2

It was politely referred to as a “neighborhood in transition” and we had no problem finding parking on the street- on the contrary, there weren’t enough cars parked around in order to camouflage our car in any way and it was so Prius-y and loaded with laptops and luggage that we were both afraid to go to the museum for fear of leaving the “standing out like a supernova” car unattended.

I then felt ashamed of myself for being afraid of the bad neighborhood with black people milling around when we were about to visit a museum celebrating black people and it made me more determined to go in. As a compromise though, we took our stuff with us.

The man behind the ticket booth, who was behind a thick wall of plexiglass, didn’t blink twice at our coming in with our stuff. The museum was situated in this neighborhood for a reason, though- the staff felt that they could best reach their audience this way compared to being in some nicer neighborhood with corporate sponsors who would never in a million years allow the offensive and disturbing exhibits found within. Also they felt like the local residents were the ones who needed to see it the most.

Besides featuring noble blacks in history, the museum also serves as a holocaust museum exhibiting the terrible injustices blacks have faced at the hands of white people.

First we entered the slave ship:

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But then it got worse:

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The man behind the plexiglass, along with that sign, warned us that the exhibit was very graphic. The main part of the lynching exhibit was a hanging man with his penis cut off and stored in a jar, while two little kitties wound around his feet daintily sampling his spilled entrails. Next to him is a hanging pregnant women covered in blood with her baby’s head being ripped out of her by a white man. The recording in the exhibit said that the two cats were shoved into the pregnant women and bets were placed as to which cat would claw its way out first.

Next to that was a modern day scene with the caption “Now We Lynch Ourselves”:

 

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This visit was not proving to be all that uplifting.

Among the exhibits that made me less compelled to slit my wrists in shame was their brand-new Obama, who was noticeably darker in complexion than the pallid wax Obama we saw in the tourist part of South Dakota. I also liked Richard Wright reading a gigantic book and suspended-animation Booker T. Washington sleeping upright in an oversized copy of his own book:

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I was hoping to see Muhammed Ali but I couldn’t find him anywhere. Still, my favorite was Hannibal:

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He was the first to greet us when we arrived and since the museum runs in a circle, ending with the lynching exhibit before returning to the lobby where we started, Hannibal was also the last thing we saw before leaving.

The car was fine when we returned.