Thursday, September 27, 2012

Inside the Odditorium

I was the kid who always wanted Dad to pull the Pontiac Land Yacht over so I could see the World’s Largest Ball of Twine.
Of course, he was the guy who probably left the car door open that day when he peered over the edge of the Grand Canyon and remarked, “It looks like a big ditch to me.” But that’s my mother’s story.
Actually, it doesn’t matter if the signs refer to a haystack, bubble gum, rubber bands, an animal, plate juggling, body parts, food, a hole in the ground – I’m a sucker for pretty much anything that includes hyperbole in the title: Most Amazing, Only Living, First Ever, World’s Smallest, Internationally Known.  
It doesn’t get much better than the World Famous Big Texan Steak Ranch in Amarillo – where hyperbole meets food meets eclectic d├ęcor. You can even get a free steak – that is, if you consume all 72 ounces of it AND the sides in an hour. The six-ounce sirloin was enough for me but what an adventure just to see the inside of that place. J
            Despite the pricey admission tickets and against My Better Judgment, I took my kids a few years ago to  a Ripley’s Believe or Not Odditorium in Grand Prairie, Texas. Ripley’s, after all, has been “proudly freaking out families for over 90 years.”
So, for the Original Combo price of $21.99 each, which included Louis Tussaud’s Palace of Wax, we walked through the 10,000 square feet of objects labeled “oddities.” We gazed at the greasy wax reproduction of the World’s Tallest Man, a variety of shrunken heads, a barbaric electrocution chair, an extensive collection of torture mechanisms, a couple of mummies. We followed the Warning for Those Faint of Heart signs to a blackened room, where some sort of ninja swinging a really big sword jumped out at us. (I screamed; the kids were fine.) We learned a lot of stuff, too. Like, if you never cut your nails, they will grow to about 13 feet by the time you are 80. Stuff like that.
            Even attractions billed as historical or educational often turn out to be oddities. My son was 6 when we did all the tourist stuff in San Antonio. “Mom, the gift shop is bigger than The Alamo!” he exclaimed as he ran to the plastic weapons.
If you've ever walked through any of those massive traveling exhibits – Star Wars, King Tut, Titanic – you know you always end up at the same destination – a really big gift shop full of junk stamped Made in China. Only the main graphic on the T-shirts changes.
            Because you never know what oddities you’ll find at local events, I go to as many as possible. The requirement: “Fest” or “Fair” or “Cook-off” or “Day” must be in the name: Red Earth, Western Heritage, Chili, International, Cowboy, Car, May, October, Balloon, Films, Arts, Stilwell Strawberry, Medieval, Rush Springs Watermelon, Watonga Cheese, Grape, Family, Great State. (Anyone found a Bacon Fest yet?)
It’s all about the journey. So, if you spend any time with me, be prepared to stop and smell, uh – stop and stare – at the oddities along the way.

Monday, September 3, 2012

The Promised Land

She was armed with a yellow measuring tape and a big smile as she intersected me in the huge :) Playtex section.
Did you see Despicable Me? Think Miss Hattie. Sylvia was a short, dark-haired 60ish sales associate.
I was actually trying to slink my way back to the Clearance section at the large department store on the west side of the mall. I just don’t like anyone watching when I’m holding up a lavender bra in front of a three-way mirror.
“It’s free measuring day!” she exclaimed, waving the tape in front of her.
Great, so I can find out for free what I don’t want to know.
When did someone decide to put them on little plastic hangers and hang promise tags on them? Who renamed them “intimates”? When did they start coming in neon colors? You know, Bette Midler had it right: it’s really just a “over the shoulder boulder holder.”
 “I’m good,” I told Sylvia, avoiding eye contact. “I don’t need to be measured; I just want to look around.”
“But if we measure you, you’ll know your perfect bra size,” she said. “We PROMISE to find one that fits you.”
I’ve actually learned to pour out false promises like bitter coffee.
“I know my size; I think I’ll just find a few to try on.”
“But every brand is different,” she insisted. “The sizes vary.”
Then how can I have a “perfect bra size”?    
“That sounds more like a manufacturing issue,” I said, walking quickly toward the red sale signs. “And I recommend that you don’t make promises that you can’t keep.”
“Ok, but call me if you need help. We can fit ANYONE,” she said loudly, waving the tape above her head.
I sifted through the contraptions in their variety of colors, fabric, padding, metal. There are a lot of promises out there; they screamed at me from large, colorful tags.
 “One Smooth U” (Text language?)
“Concealing Petals” (I don’t know either.)
“Amazing LIFT” (Actually, just “good” would be OK.)
“No Pinch Poke Pressure” (Now, that takes the fun out of it.)
“Fall in Luxe with Five-Star Comfort” (Someone rates bras?!)
“Eliminates Back Fat; We’ve Got Your Back” (Two contradicting slogans.)
“Invisible Hardware-free Straps” (I could see them.)
“Elements of Bliss Lift” (“Bliss” is a word I rarely use. Don’t see how it fits here.)
“Youthful Lift and Shape” (The model looked just like the sexy librarian from the Pearle Vision eyeglasses commercial. Yep, just the bra and glasses.)

I bought the one that made the ultimate promise – as seen in the picture below. It doesn’t really matter. When I get home, it’s still the second thing that I’ll take off.