Sunday, August 31, 2008

Museum Menagerie

Day 173
It wasn´t until I had woken up that I realized that I was sleeping in the bottom bunk of a three bunk bed. I´d heard of these, but had never actually seen one before myself. It was a bit weird.

I wanted to accomplish things today. First on the list was to book my night train reservation out of here. That took a little bit of time but I was able to get what I wanted. Once that was done I headed to a place that I had been to before in Atlantic City. No, I wasn´t going to be gambling, I was going to the Ripley's Believe It or Not Museum.

When I was a kid the Ripley's books were already a thing of the past, but I still loved them. Robert Ripley began as a sports writer and was really interested in fascinating statistics. In 1922 his went on his first round the world trip. He moved from sport oddities to cultural ones. He visited 201 countries during his life time. Ripley died quite young, only 58 years old in 1948. Despite this he left a lasting legacy of travel and, well, bizarre stuff. During his lifetime Odditouriums were opened, some of these closed, and other became museums, like the one I was about to visit.

As I perused the displays I wasn´t as intrigued by the stories themselves, but by Ripley´s travels. He went to places that don t even exist anymore and preserved bits of culture that may have been lost without him. I wonder if this inspired me as a kid and I didn´t even realize it at the time.

Some of Ripley's things were down right silly, for example a woman used the same 14 bobby pins for 50 years. Some were about ancient African tribal rituals that would even sound odd to their current desendents. I found the collection of two headed animals to be really interesting. I kept expecting to see Dr. Doolittles pushme-pullme around the next corner. An unfortunate deer had an antler through its neck. There was a collection of toast art. A tornado broke a house in two, yet preserved the china perfectly.

Early in my tour I felt like a couple of kids were following me. Eventually I found out that I was right. The kids were from India and wanted to see the museum but their parents were not interested. They were a bit scared though and wanted to stick close to an adult. I didn´t ask, the little boy just told me this and apologized for following me. I told them no problem, but wondered exactly what qualified me as an adult. After a while they moved ahead of me, I guess I was taking too long.

After checking out a statue of Lincoln made out of shredded $100 bills I moved next door to my next museum. This was the Hans Christain Anderson Museum. He wrote fairy tales, but I bet you knew that. What I didn´t know was that he was also an avid traveler.

The museum didn´t really concentrate on Anderson´s life, but rather on his stories. Most were hanging on the wall to read and others were multi media stories read to me. Ok, this was a kids museum. I told you I didn´t know why those kids were calling me an adult. I read everything there. The Ugly Duckling, Thumbalina, the Little Mermaid. I really disliked the Matchstick Girl though, she froze to death, thats just sad.

There were two more museums left on my ticket. While I walked down the street there was a guy singing really badly for money. I think people were paying him to shut up.

The next museum was the Guinness Book of World Records Museum. This was not nearly as interesting as I would have liked. They had a replica of the worlds tallest man, Robert Wadlow. This was another sad story. Wadlow was 8´11. His body produced a continuous amount of the human growth hormone. His height caused him all sorts of medical problems and he required leg braces to walk. One of these braces gave him a blister which got infected, he died in 1940 at age 22. On a happier note I did see the worlds largest soccer ball, it was my height. The Danish royal family is apparently the oldest in the world.

Following this museum was one that I can´t remember the name of. It was filled with optical illusions and other weird things. First it told me to find a ghost in a fireplace, it was just me in a lot of mirrors. Then I spent some time talking to a rather drunk leprechaun. After that I yelled down a bottomless pit. It was dumb.

At this point it was time for dinner and I headed back to the hostel. I had a feast of bread and tuna fish. Nothing was going on. It was one group of lame travelers. After reading for a bit I simply headed off to bed.

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