I would just like to take this opportunity to say what a swell job all the new contributors are doing! You have all been trained well in the "Chuck Shepherd School for Weirdos," graduating with honors. And a round of applause to Alex for thinking up this new forum and getting it off the ground!
I'm home now from my trip to the West Coast for only twelve hours, but I made sure that my first task was to read the last week's worth of WU posts and comments. Unfortunately I don't have a second, in the face of various deadlines, to respond to every single great comment on the assorted FOLLIES OF THE MAD MEN posts. But rest assured that I enjoyed each one, and continue to be amazed at the sagacity and enthusiasm and wit of the WU family of readers and contributors.
As for Chuck and Alex, they did tremendous work taking up my slack, with dozens of really great posts. If I can single out one, it would be Alex's talking goats video, which confirms that the earlier image I posted of goat testicles was accurate.
And that's what we're all about: accuracy in weirdness.
Please have one more FOLLIES, following this post. Then, tomorrow, even more goodies!
Continuing the travelogue, on Friday my wife and I drove up north from San Luis Obispo and did the tour of Hearst Castle. It was worth seeing, but for my money it wasn't as interesting as "Nit Wit Ridge" located about fifteen minutes away in nearby Cambria. Nit Wit Ridge is like the anti-Hearst Castle, being a mansion built entirely out of junk. From sierrasol.com
[Nit Wit Ridge] is considered a fine example of folk art and is a California State Historic Landmark. It was built by one man (Arthur Harold Beal) over the course of 51 years. Art began his creation in 1928 by digging out a hillside in Cambria. He used rocks, abalone shells, wood, beer cans, tile, car parts and other assorted junk to create his "Hearst Castle".
They're not kidding when they say it's built out of assorted junk. How many toilets can you spot in the picture below? (I see at least four.) Unfortunately Nit Wit Ridge is not open to the public, so I was only able to admire it from the outside.
Reporting in from the road: I spent Thursday night at the Madonna Inn
in San Luis Obispo. It was as over-the-top kitschy as promised. One of the main tourist attractions there is the urinal in the downstairs men's bathroom. People make special trips to see it. The novelty is that it's a waterfall urinal, but unfortunately it was out of order when I was there... so no waterfall. Still there was a steady trickle of tourists wandering into the restroom to see it, including many women with their giggling young daughters following behind. So if you're a guy who actually wants to use the restroom, you're out of luck.
The upstairs men's urinal featured a trough. Interesting, but there were no tourists lining up to see it.
While in San Luis Obispo we also checked out Bubblegum Alley, to whose walls people have been sticking used bubblegum for decades. Opinion about the alley is split between those who think it's really cool, and those who think it's filthy. For instance, while there we overheard a mother ordering her obviously fascinated son, as they walked through it, to keep his hands behind his back and not touch anything. No one seems to know exactly how the tradition of sticking gum to the walls started, but Wikipedia reports
a rumor that it may have originated during the 1950s out of a rivalry between the students of San Luis High School and Cal Poly: "As soon as the Poly students suspected that the High School was trying to out-do them on the gum walls, the college students stepped up their game and immediately became more creative, thus launching Bubblegum Alley."
I'm off for a long weekend of wine tasting
around Paso Robles. My wife and I are starting the vacation tonight by staying at the Madonna Inn
near San Luis Obispo, which deserves a mention here on WU. From Wikipedia
The Madonna Inn is a motel of flamboyant style in San Luis Obispo, California. Opened for business in 1958, the motel was the creation of Alex Madonna, who died in April 2004, and his wife Phyllis. The motel is a monument of unremitting kitsch, a Swiss-Alp exterior, and lavish pink common rooms. Each room in the Madonna Inn is uniquely designed and themed. Its famed rock waterfall urinal is a fixture along California's Central Coast. Many tourists come to visit the urinal, to the embarrassment of males who genuinely need to use the facilities.
I don't know which room we have, but it's one of the more budget-priced ones. (The place ain't cheap.) The next two nights we're unfortunately just at a Best Western.
I will, of course, keep my eye out for weirdness while on the road. In fact, whenever I travel by car in California I take along my map of Eccentric California
, which has provided quite a few interesting detours over the years (to the dismay of my wife, who isn't as enthusiastic about the weird stuff as I am, though she's more into the wineries than I am -- I'm more of a beer guy -- so it's a trade-off).
Shameless self-promotion: MSN UK has an article about "the weirdest experiments in the history of science"
based on my book Elephants on Acid
, which was just released in the UK. It's got a nice photo gallery of ten particularly strange experiments selected from my book.
But eagle-eyed reader Rowenna noticed that, on the cover, the word "bizarre" was misspelled. They spelled it "bizzare". Panicked, I ran to check if the actual cover had the same misspelling. (By coincidence, I had just received my copy of the UK edition in the mail.) Thankfully, it was spelled correctly. But then I noticed that the same misspelling occurs on the cover photo on Amazon
. I'll have to let my publisher know. I don't think "bizzare" is an alternative UK spelling of "bizarre".