Monday, November 24, 2014

Where the Dead Meet the Dogs in DC

It is jarring the first time you see a dachshund lower its haunches and poo right next to a tombstone. Some people say it's disrespectful. Others say the dogs saved Washington, DC's Congressional Cemetery.

Founded in 1807, the burial ground had become a forlorn place of crack deals and toppled monuments by the 1990s. But then a group of locals had an idea: turn the graveyard into a members-only dog park, and use the fees to restore the site.

It's now a lovely spot to ramble, and the cemetery has done a fab job documenting the dead. Pick up maps at the entrance to find famed civil rights heroes, global explorers, beer brewers, War of 1812 officers, and loads of other people you should know. Favorite spirits to seek out:

* Mathew Brady: The Civil War photographer is known as the father of photojournalism. He took the picture of Lincoln that's now on the $5 bill.

* Belva Lockwood: She ran for US president in 1884 as the Equal Rights Party's candidate. Yes, she was aware women didn't have voting rights at the time. She still got 4000 votes.

* J Edgar Hoover: The infamous FBI director has a grave that's surrounded by a fence and faces DC's jail.

Just watch out for loping black labs, stick-chasing Yorkies and other members of the K9 Corps patrolling the stony rows. Incidentally, it's a year-long waiting list to join the pack.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Mustache Tourism

What? You've never heard of it? People travel all over the globe for their lip doilies. Here's where:

1. Portland, Oregon: It hosts the World Beard and Mustache Championships on Oct. 25. Contestants twist, curl and wax their facial hair into spectacular formations (some with flowers, like this).

2. Budapest, Hungary: The nation has such renowned 'staches it gets its own bushy category at the World Championships. Travel to Budapest, home of the Hungarian Moustache Society, and you'll see the lady ticklers firsthand.

3. London, England: Have a "hirsute appendage of the upper lip, with graspable extremities"? That's the qualification for membership in the Handlebar Club. Join the gents achieving mustache excellence at monthly meetings in a Marylebone pub.

4. Trondheim, Norway: Epic mustache history here. It's Norway's Viking capital - the very dudes who originated badass whiskers. It's headquarters of the Norwegian Mustache Club. And Trondheim has twice held the World Championships.

5. Liverpool, England: A mustache museum! OK, officially it's Merseyside Maritime Museum with a "Mustaches from the Past" exhibit. Most go walrus style. 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Amsterdam's 7 Oddest Museums

Everyone goes to gape at Van Gogh and ogle Rembrandt. But where are the neck violins and fluorescent rabbits? The bong displays and erotic music boxes? Amsterdam has a sublime assortment of oddball museums. 

1. Kattenkabinet: Art devoted to cats – including works by Picasso and Rembrandt – hangs in this creaky old canal house.

2. Tassenmuseum Hendrikje: The Museum of Handbags and Purses shows arm candy throughout the ages, with lots of sparkling celebrity clutches.

3. Torture Museum: Spooky galleries display skull crackers, finger screws, a guillotine and the Iron Maiden of Nuremberg.

4. Sexmuseum Amsterdam: Good silly fun, especially the penis-encircled baptismal font and automated farting flasher.

5. Electric Lady Land: The world’s first museum of fluorescence lays out glow-in-the-dark rocks, rice and rabbits. Trippy!

6. Pianola Museum: Listen to rare jazz and classical tunes unroll on vintage player pianos.

7. Hash, Marijuana and Hemp Museum: Ganja galore in the Red Light District. Browse the whopping pipe collection and roomful of big-budded plants, then send an e-postcard of yourself in a pot field.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Top 5 Museums a Zombie Would Love

The Walking Dead had record-breaking ratings for its premiere on Sunday. Zombies are hot. Zombies are everywhere. But when they're done face-eating, what do zombies do for entertainment?

Here are the top 5 museums a zombie would love:

1. Indiana Medical History Museum: The room inside an old insane asylum filled with brains in jars is like a cannibal candy shop.

2. Philadelphia's Mutter Museum: Einstein's braaaain is here, in 20-micron-thick slices.

3. Cornell's Wilder Brain Collection: The smorgasbord of juicy lobes includes doctors, suffragists and serial killers.

4. National Zoo: Zombie pets will lip-smack at the pickled brains, from pygmy hippos to blue whales, white-tailed deer to red foxes.

5. Living Dead Museum: This one's for reanimated corpses with a sense of humor. It's set in the house where Night of the Living Dead was filmed and is stuffed with rotting legs, eyeball-less faces and other movie props. 

Photo from jaded-ink

Friday, July 11, 2014

Beer-Filled Donuts, Craft Classes & Modern Art: 5 New Things LeBron Can Do in Cleveland

A lot has changed in the years you've been gone, LeBron. Enjoy the new, cool Cleveland. Here is your to-do list:

1. Brewnuts: This Tremont shop fries donuts using C-town brews in the batter. And they're making you your very own boozy treat. It'll likely be a long john-type donut named King James. Suds to be decided....

2. Gotta Groove Records: Gotta Groove presses 70,000 records a month in an old elevator factory downtown. They'll preserve your crooning onto 7-inch or 12-inch vinyl. Staff will even give you a tour if you call ahead.

3. Cleveland Flea: The city's hipsters unite one Sunday per month from May through October for a crafty street market. The group also hosts underground dinners to which you are invited, LeBron, as well as DIY classes where you can learn to make your own craft cocktails with habanero-flavored salt.

4. Cleveland Museum of Art:  Fresh off a whopping expansion, this place will blow your mind with rock star works from Impressionists, Picasso and surrealists. Bring your mobile device, because the museum makes sweet use of digital technology.

5. Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland: MOCA is where you can get your fix of Belgian video artists and feminist performance artists, LeBron. If nothing else, gape at the shiny new building of geometric black steel.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Signs of the Times

If you're driving through Cincinnati, Ohio, and you pass an old parachute factory with a giant genie beckoning out front, stop. It's the American Sign Museum, chock full of flashing neon beacons that will sear your retinas. Vintage drive-in marquees, the Frisch’s Big Boy and Charo's Vegas billboard ("The Can-Can goes Cuchi Cuchi") are among the cache of nostalgic novelties. 
The museum was born from one man's passion and collection of salvaged signs. A neon-making shop onsite guarantees a future for the industry.

Friday, June 27, 2014

The King's Last Stand

I've written about Indianapolis' offbeat attractions before: the rejection letters at the Kurt Vonnegut Library and brains in jars at the Indiana Medical History Museum. Add the Elvis marker to the list.

Elvis Presley played his last-ever concert in Indy. It happened 37 years ago almost to the day, on June 26, 1977. The city put up a plaque to mark the spot, and buried the King's scarf underneath in tribute. The neckwear was part of his outfit for that final show, along with a gold and white jumpsuit.

Alas, critics panned Elvis' performance as sloppy and lethargic. Seven weeks later, on August 16, he was found dead on his bathroom floor.