Wednesday, November 3, 2010

House on the Rock, Day 2: And then what happened?

Saturday was a big day! My friend and I were very focused on winning a ride on the World's Largest Carousel That No One Is Supposed to Ride. There three ways a person could win a ride: you could win by raffle, by winning the costume contest, or by winning the scavenger hunt. We bought raffle tickets the night before, we had costumes but felt the competition might be pretty stiff, so to up our chances, we decided to complete the scavenger hunt. They had given us the clues the day before so while were waiting for the reading to begin, we worked out almost all of the clues. When we got up Saturday morning, we were ready! Most of the clues led us to locations in Spring Green and all we had to do was collect a stamp from each location. We had to go to three other nearby towns to complete our card.
The first town we went to was Gotham where we had to go to the Bat Cave to collect a stamp. We didn't know what to expect but the bat cave turned out to be a lounge with a Batman theme. And Gotham in this part of the world is pronounced Goh-them rather than Gah-tham. Here is a picture of me in front of the Bat Cave.
Next, we went to the town of Muscoda, pronounced Musk-uh-day to get a stamp from Culver's. Finally, to the Carousel lounge in Richland, pronounced Richland, for our last stamp. We finished in two hours. We pit stopped at our hotel room, added some finishing touches to my friend's costume, packed up our costumes and headed back up to the rock to tour the house.

"Where's the rock?" asked Shadow.
"Under the house," said Wednesday.
"Where's the house?"
Wednesday put his finger to his lips, and they walked forward. Farther in, a player piano was playing something that was intended to be Ravel's Bolero.

The place seemed to be a geometrically reconfigured 1960's bachelor pad, with open stone work, pile carpeting, and magnificently ugly mushroom-shaped stained-glass lampshades. Up a winding staircase was another room filled with knickknacks.
"They say this was built by Frank Lloyd Wright's evil twin," said Wednesday. "Frank Lloyd Wrong." - American Gods, by Neil Gaiman.

Here is me at the end of the Infinity Room. It's a long pointy room that juts out over the gentle hills and valleys around the house. That thing that looks like a platform that I'm standing in front of is actually a window. The wind was blowing pretty good on this day which made the whole room creak a little bit. Which was a little spooky. After this room, we entered the Attraction.

The Attraction is like nothing you've ever seen in your entire life. It is a collection of antiques, cheap fakes, and oddities that have really no common thread. There are vast collections of model ships and airplanes, dollhouses, firearms, armor, and things for which I don't know the names.

One of the most amazing and head scratching features is the Whale Room. Here is a picture of a diorama of a giant squid and a whale locked in mortal combat. If you look close, you can see a little row boat inside the whale's mouth. This display was probably about 6 feet long and 3 feet high. This alone was pretty impressive. And then you turn the corner. And slowly, you realize that the enormous thing you are looking at, the ginormity that is filling the room, was the diorama that you were just looking at. The diorama was the miniature and the actual thing is 3 stories high!
With my little point and shoot camera, it was impossible to get a decent picture between the poor lighting and the hugeness of it. There was a ramp to walk up that spiraled around the structure and in the walls were more displays of stuff. The picture of the whale's mouth was taken from the third story and you can just see in the lower left corner of the picture a person standing on the second floor to give you an idea of the scale of the thing. But I really can't tell you what the point of it is. Because I don't know.

As you are working your way around the whale room, there are other little rooms that break off on each floor, I guess so you can get a break from the overwhelmingness of the big whale. This is where you will see displays of Christmas decorations, Santa Claus mugs, and a Christmas town constructed of plastic canvas and craft yarn. ???

Throughout the house and attraction are rooms that contain mechanical bands and orchestras, ranging from just a player piano to entire orchestras peopled with mannequins. Neil Gaiman describes the cacophony that emanates from these rooms as 'discordant.' Here is a definition of 'discordant:' 2 discordant sounds: inharmonious, tuneless, off-key, dissonant, harsh,jarring, grating, jangling, jangly, strident, shrill, screeching,screechy, cacophonous; sharp, flat.
And here is an illustration:

This is the Mikado room. I recorded the sound for these separately but the files were corrupted and they didn't make it. The song that plays in the Mikado room is Danse Macabre. Beautiful!
This is another room full of mechanical instruments, including jugs and glass jars. There were many more of these musical rooms and they were all coin operated. To hear them play, you had to put two tokens into a machine to start them up. We walked through room after room of these discordant mechanical bands, some with animatronic characters and all in terrible lighting until we were on sensory overload.
And then we entered the Carousel Room. I wish someone could have filmed me as I entered that room for the first time. I was like a child. Like one of those kids from the old Willy Wonka movie walking into a room and looking all around with my mouth agape and eyes wide open, not knowing what to look at first. The Carousel was spinning and the music was playing, not as discordantly as the previous rooms but nearly, and there are 20,000 lights on the thing and no one is riding it. The creatures on the Carousel are the most bizarre collection of myth-colliding characters you could imagine. Most of them are part horse and part something else but there are no horse heads on any of these creatures.

The next thing you must do is look up. Because there is - what would you call it, a flock? of angels hanging from the ceiling. But they are just department store mannequins with wings slapped on their backs! It's just so weird and so wonderful! But it's not the end of the tour, more wonders await! To leave the Carousel room, you must walk through the gaping maw of some kind of monkey monster and that leads you to the organ room. The organ room is full of giant pipe organs with a twisty elevated path that winds around through the room. There are also 3 foot high beer steins in this room.
And also this giant sized chandelier that is made up of smaller chandeliers, the same ones that illuminate the Carousel.
Finally at the end of the organ room is this mechanical orchestra of static mannequins and the pianist has no legs. But there was still more to see. The doll houses and the armor and the lovingly displayed fake crown jewels. And the miniature circus, and the miniature of the miniature circus. It just went on and on until finally I reached my absolute threshold of sensory overload and I could not take it anymore. I stopped taking pictures and made a beeline for the exit. The air outside was crisp and refreshing so we bought some coffee in the gift shop and sat outside for a while to calm down.
After our break, we changed into our costumes and enjoyed the costume party. Sadly, we did not win a ride on the carousel but we still had a grand time. We were allowed to roam the house and the attraction in our costumes and that made it truly surreal! There were some really amazing costumes at this party.

Then we stumbled into the Carousel room again and saw Neil Gaiman riding the Carousel That No One Is Allowed to Ride. I just managed to get a picture before the end of his ride and then my camera battery died.
This picture came from my friend's camera. My friend is dressed as a cuddly kraken and I'm the raven Munin. And yes, that is Mr. Neil Gaiman between us. My daughter says I look like a teenage girl meeting Hannah Montana in this picture. That's pretty much how I felt. Like a giddy little school girl. I almost chickened out and missed the opportunity but my friend reminded me that we would have no regrets on this trip, and she was right and I thank her for it. I'm also grateful to Mr. Gaiman's assistant Lorraine who made sure we weren't holding our drink cups in the picture. Once we got this picture, the day caught up to us. We were totally exhausted and totally happy so we went back to our motel room and collapsed. The whole weekend was such a terrific adventure, I will never forget it!

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