What better way to start your day than with an upside down White House? My first stop Sunday morning after leaving the cinnamon perfumed boudoir of my Wilton lodgings was the curious city of Wisconsin Dells. I say curious, because Wisconsin Dells is one of those weird places like Vegas or Branson that caters exclusively to captive tourists, and I'm just not sure why they all seem to pool together like that.
As I drove along the main highway into the heart of this mecca of water parks, putt putt golf courses and themed hotels, I was thrilled to recognize over and over again the end product from molds I'd seen at the F.A.S.T. fiberglass mold yard the previous afternoon. "There's the giant Spartan! There's the Old Lady that Lived in the Shoe! There's the giant golf ball!!!...." I shouted aloud to no one but myself. Hurray for F.A.S.T. for so vastly improving my world.
I was headed to an attraction called Top Secret, the upside down White House. After purchasing a ticket at a counter that has bedroom furniture hanging above you like a Sears French Provincial sword of Damocles, you enter a door to honestly one of the most perplexing tourist attractions I've ever seen. You're offered the following explanation on a cardboard sign near the door: "In 2002, the White House landed upside down in the Dells. To cover this fact, it was made into a tourist attraction."
The harder I tried to have this place make any sort of sense to me, the further the point receded from me, laughing manically like Chuckie. Somewhere, an omnipotent huckster rubbed their hands together in glee as I struggled mightily with rationality in a place that was so obviously a singularity of reasoning.
For example, why is George Washington the only president hanging from the ceiling? And why if the White House just landed upside down in a parking lot in 2002 is George Washington still alive?
Hilariously, George Bush Jr. stood right side up near an emergency exit, ready to bolt with a look of frightened agitation and a missing hand. I watched as a family gathered around George to make a souvenir photo and was amazed yet again.
Barack Obama was represented as a 2-D flat cardboard cutout, his presence also defying temporal logic. I think I startled this kid who was busy texting the excitement of the experience when I used my flash and caught him in the act of leaning on our nation's 44th president.
And why was there an alien autopsy scene? I guess the answer to this one is obvious - because every attraction is made better by an alien autopsy scene, duh! But why was this cherished spectacle right side up??
And how does everything cling to the ceiling if it's hanging upside down??? Must gravity also be upended too? This is the question that probably bugged me most of all.
Next was a revolving tunnel with a grated walkway. Multi-colored LED lights swirled madly about, giving one that all important sense of having travelled through time.
The tunnel led to an even more mystifying tableau of K.D. Lang dressed as an Elvis impersonator in a big suit, employed by the Secret Service to survey and guard gold cinder blocks and other assorted dime store treasures.
I loved the way this place so completely stumped me. It reminded me that I try too hard sometimes to intellectualize what it is that's entertaining me. There are times you just have to go to the fun house and let it be what it is. Yahoooo!
Obviously the proper response to this experience was a cocktail and some fried cheese curds. I navigated the ungodly downtown traffic to eat at a bar called Monk's that came highly recommended. Monk's, like so many of my favorite places has been doing the same thing for over 60 years, and doing it well. They were reputed to serve the best fried cheese curds in all of Wisconsin. As I sat at the bar trying to decide what to order, the waiter brought the dining companion at my right elbow a tall, delicious looking Bloody Mary. I'm not a big drinker, but the sight of that concoction made me impulsive and I ordered one for myself. It was damn tasty and was definitely the first Bloody Mary I'd ever had with a beef stick in it. My fried cheese curds were insanely delicious too. I forget that in the land of real cheese curds (squeak! squeak!), I needn't be fearful. They were just the right balance of crispy on the outside and elasticky on the inside, served with a side of marinara sauce for dipping.
After finishing my mid-american Sunday brunch and clawing my way out of the Wisconsin Dells, I headed south towards Baraboo, home of probably my favorite found art installation ever - the Forevertron. I've visited the Forevertron many, many times, but it's a touchstone to me, just like Cadillac Ranch and I'll never ever pass through central Wisconsin without making a stop.
I won't go into laborious detail about the Forevertron since I've discussed it at length several times previously, but if you'd care to read more, click here to read Roadside America's excellent description. However, a few pictures won't hurt!
While planning my road trip earlier this summer, I had discovered that my dear friend Ken Wiesehuegel would be in Wisconsin visiting with his family at the same time I would be passing through. I hold a deep fondness for the Wiesehuegel family after many years of hearing stories about their wonderful antics and common sense approach to life. I was finally able to meet a good number of them a couple of years back and I welcomed the opportunity to invite myself for a visit while I was in their vicinity. Kenny's brother Paul and his wife Wendy were gracious enough to invite me to stay over at their place along with Kenny and his fiance David, so I could get a good concentrated dose of Wiesehuegel magic in the brief time I was there.
Shortly after I arrived in the tiny town of Hartland, Kenny told me excitedly that he and his brother Paul had discovered something that he thought I was going to love and boy was he ever right! The two of them had seen cryptic signs while driving around the previous day that simply read "Spectacular Sculpture" with a pointing arrow. They had followed to the signs to discover that not only was it spectacular, but there were literally hundreds of different sculptures of every size, shape, style and technique. Kenny's mom Gloria drove David, Kenny and me out several meandering country roads to have a look around. All of us were amazed by what we found.
As we walked around, I kept declaring that all this work must be from a bunch of different artists, not only because of the sheer number of works but also because of the wide variety of styles used. I was pretty shocked to discover halfway through our tour that all these works had been produced by one fellow, Paul Bobrowitz, Jr. While we were perambulating, David (below) had the good sense to stand next to one of the pieces to provide a sense of scale since many of the sculptures were quite large.
I particularly loved this bear. It was probably about 15 feet tall, made great use of materials and shapes and was adorable and menacing at the same time.
What a lark to stumble on such a concentration of one man's passion. Not to mention the thrill of discovering something that isn't plastered all over the Internet. Thank you Mr. Bobrowitz, and thank you Kenny for knowing what truly lights me up.
We returned to Paul and Wendy's house and enjoyed the good old fashioned art of hanging out. Wendy was just returning from a long what I'm sure was difficult visit that included 10 hours of driving in two days and still had the energy and hospitality to fix a special place setting for dinner along with champagne to celebrate Kenny and David's engagement. My goal was to immerse myself in the Wiesehuegel clan for a day and I was treated to something really special and intimate. And that is why, in a nutshell, I love me some Wiesehuegels!
Wendy, proposing a toast:
David on the left, Kenny on the right:
When I finally dropped into bed, it felt like a silken cocoon. I slept deeply and soundly after a wacky, happy, beautiful day.