Psych Out!

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"Well, of course you would have to start the tour with dead people. I swear, you girls are always trying to psych me out.” 

Honestly, we weren’t. Today we just happened to start in the basement of the Glore Psychiatric Museum in St. Joseph, MO. And yes, it was indeed the morgue. But come to think of it, that IS where it’s located in most hospitals. While it wasn’t done with the purpose of making Lou’s skin crawl, it was a little enjoyable to see the role reversal. Usually it’s OUR nerves that become frayed when sightseeing together. 

The Glore Museum is an attraction on Roadside America that is just a hop, skip and longish car ride with Lou, from home. It has an amazing history of the treatment of mental illness, and of the State Lunatic Asylum that was located here. 

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Part of the museum is dedicated to the historic treatment of mental illness, not just things that took place at Glore. The exhibit includes racks, cages, boxes, enclosed “gerbil wheel” devices, etc., all expressly intended to calm the crazed. When we got to the “Bath of Surprise” Lou started laughing, and couldn’t stop. The information plackard read, “The Bath of Surprise was a 17th Century device for calming disturbed patients. The patient was dropped suddenly through a trap door and into a tub of cold water.” Lou guffawed in a totally inappropriate manner and told the story about the time she threw ice cold water over the shower curtain on her husband, Al. “I heard it would be a good practical joke. I didn’t realize he would bolt out of the trailer buck naked screaming and yelling down the road. Didn’t calm him down at all (she said with a twinkle in her eye). Too bad they didn’t have the interweb then.”

The next exhibit explained how hysteria in women was believed to have been caused by a uterus out of alignment, or a “wandering uterus.” Symptoms included a desire for education and a spoken opinion, among others. This evoked an expletive-laced commentary from Lou as she stuck out her belly and continued through the exhibit LOUDLY pretending to be drawn this way and that, as if pulled by some invisible force. For once we were in complete agreement with Lou.  We cheered both her outrage and her reenactment of the dangerous days of “Uteri Gone Astray.”

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On the 3rd floor there is an interesting display of art created by patients that had lived at Glore. The collection included a variety of items including an incredible embroidered piece by a mute schizophrenic woman, many amazing clay pieces, and this sculpture, on which the patient wrote different phrases before its assembly. “I wonder what type of glue they used here. I’ve been trying to make an art car myself, you know. I have 782 bottle caps I’m glueing to the trunk of Al’s car. It makes a real statement.”

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"WHAT IS THIS? WHAT’S A CONDUCT-O-METER??" While we can’t answer that, we feel certain that Lou would peg the meter at one end or the other. Whichever is most indicative of the mood of her "wandering uterus."

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The lunatic asylum included a dental office. Lou wanted to skip by that room really fast and we happen to know why. The last time she was at the dentist they called us to come and pick her up early. Apparently when the dentist inadvertently hit a nerve she “accidentally” kicked him across the room with her orthotic clogs. “I don’t really see what all the fuss is about,” Lou said as we loaded her into the car, “it was just a knee-jerk reaction. I had the knee, and he was the jerk.”

As we left the museum we were all grateful for advances in the treatment of mental illness. The memorable afternoon of a bawdy but entertaining Lou made both of us thankful that snarky, ill-tempered, loud-mouthed, and opinionated are not symptoms recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV).  

Eh, that’s probably just the uterus talking…

Kerfuffle in Kansas

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We recently had a chance to check out The World’s Largest Czechoslovakian Egg in Wilson, Kansas, when we wanted to stop for a break on our way back from Denver.  When a road-weary Lou heard we were questing after a peek at the world’s largest egg she perked up. Any roadside attraction that has to do with food, and Lou wants to be in on it. 

  Although the egg isn’t painted yet, it certainly is big. ”Czech egg? I thought Czech eggs were all painted up! What you need here is the World’s Biggest Frying Pan, The World’s Biggest Toaster, and a really huge can of Spam. Then you’d have the World’s Biggest Breakfast for sure. I like ‘em over easy myself but I bet if you cracked this baby all you would have is a scrambled mess. Besides, I can’t get Al to eat them any other way. He always eats scrambled eggs and All Bran. He says it keeps him regular.  If they added the world’s largest bowl of All Bran to this exhibit then you’d also need the World’s Largest Toilet for the World’s Largest…” (WOAH now, Lou!  Just hold it right there…we get the picture.)  

While we were prepared for the World’s Largest Egg and even the World’s Longest Running Commentary that always seems to accompany our road trips with Lou, we didn’t plan on the wind and rain. But in spite of the inclement weather we decided to get out of the car to get a closer look. Lou suddenly decided to be “helpful” by grabbing the camera AND the umbrella while talking the entire time about her egg drop soup recipe that is made with lemon Jello.

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"Just let go would you? I know what I’m doing! …and then you just sprinkle about a tablespoon across the top while it’s boiling…"

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"Lou, I could help…"

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"Lou, can you hand me….OW!"

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(This was taken right before the umbrella blew away…)

After more skirmishing, this experience left everyone wet and grass-stained, the umbrella taking off for parts unknown, and a very testy Lou soaked from her lilac-grey tresses to her rolled-down support hose.

Roadside America reports that the egg was delivered to Wilson in 2012 with plans spearheaded by a local art teacher to get it painted in 2013.  We all know how plans can change and as of June 2014 the all white egg still looks forward to being Czechorated.

After explaining to Lou that, NO, we weren’t going to “wait around to see if they would start painting the egg today,” she begrudgingly returned to the car muttering all the way. “Now I’m all wet! Why can’t you girls just let me handle the equipment from now on? Hey, know what I think? I think we should hit the Waffle House and get us a TRIPLE smothered, scattered, chunked, waffle covered with a fried egg on top!”

Eggcellent idea, Lou!

She’s A Pistol

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"Gun? What gun? I don’t see a gun! The closest we are to a gun is you girls  shooting off at the mouth."

Lou has a potentially dangerous habit of missing the most obvious things.

We were driving around looking for antiques and stumbled upon the world’s largest cap gun according to Roadside America, located at what was once the Pistol Social Club in the West Bottoms of Kansas City. And even as big as it is, Lou walked right under it without being aware. “I’ve told you girls my eyes aren’t what they used to be on account of all those years working under the flourescent lights at the Piggly-Wiggly.” Well, we have seen evidence of this for years:

There was the time she ran into the fence, WHILE she was building it. And the time she fell in the hole, WHILE she was digging it.  Then there was the time she mistook their pet hamster, Marshmallow, for, well, his name sake.  That one didn’t end well. Then there was the time she backed into the mayor’s car. Picture the scene: looking the way Lou looks, and unable to refrain from an animated critique of city policy WHILE she had his attention, is it any wonder that she was briefly detained by security? But the time she got her hair caught in the drill (while Al was using it) left Lou with both a bald spot and her fallback phrase “I think I just look better in short hair”. So it’s not surprising that Lou didn’t see the gun. What was surprising is what came next.

"That pistol reminds me of one I used to have. Did I ever tell you girls I won ‘Best Bullseye Bodacious Beginner Pistol Packer’ in Platte County? Well, I did. I had to hit a bullseye target while riding a wild bull dressed in a cowgirl costume during a thunder storm. And I have pictures to prove it. Somewhere. I would just have to find them."

We can definitely see the evidence of bull in your story, Lou, but we aren’t sure that its a bullseye. 

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At-At-A-Boy

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"I never did understand those Star War movies. There were too many fast things with lots of dials and talking trash cans, or were they mail boxes, I can’t remember. And that Luke kid! Such a typical teenage boy, always whining and fighting with his father. Makes me glad we never had kids. If my kid whined like that I’d have hit him over the head with that talking trash can.”

We went to visit our friend, Jason, who made this incredible AT-AT Walker mailbox. He’s a welder and an artist, and, if you can’t tell, a Star Wars fan. And because he and Lou have met before, he knew better than to enter into a debate with her. So even when she talked about Han Solo “being too cute for his own good,” he was gracious enough to not kick us off his property. But Lou can never leave well enough alone. 

"I’ll tell you what though, I was a little disappointed in that little green ‘Yodel' character, he talked really funny but he never yodeled. I have a record album of yodeling that could teach him a thing or two. I bet if they gave that girl with the buns over her ears a chance she could have belted it out!”

And that’s when Jason asked us to leave.

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Big Cry Baby

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"She’s not moving, and she’s not talking," we whispered back and forth as we stood awestruck at Lou’s pensiveness. This was not the outcome we had expected when we stopped to see "The Crying Giant" by Tom Otterness at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art. This statue has always been one of our favorites, and we thought Lou might like it during our weekly outing with her, and even if she didn’t, we’d be outside where her critique might feel less…critical.

After a couple of minutes we were jolted back into reality. Lou’s contemplation transformed the way a tornado mulls things over before dropping to the ground. “Well, I can totally relate to that statue. It’s just how I feel today. Here’s the thing… Al’s been trying to fix things around the house. Whenever he does that the doo-doo really hits you like a ton of bricks. The last time he worked on a Honey-Do list he wound up supergluing his head to the table and I had to call 911…again. Now I’m wonderin’ why I let you girls drag me out here to look at some artsy stuff that makes me feel like I would have felt if I just stayed home and watched while Al tried to finish my list the right way.”

Since we still had several stops to go before heading back to Flanderland, we decided to try to distract Lou. But she is nothing if not focused.

All of a sudden Lou sidled up to us and smiled really big, a behavior that could be equated to firing a warning shot over the bow of a ship. “In fact, I was just telling Al last night how handy you gals are with tools. And then Al suggested that maybe you girls could come over and help him with his little list tomorrow. Why, I’ll even make you some lunch. I think I’ve got some leftover fish sticks and lima beans in the freezer. Al said he would be so glad to get to spend time with you. Maybe one of you could just run me on to BINGO before you get started. That way I won’t be in your hair while you’re trying to get things done. Whatdoyasay… bright and early, say, about 7:30?”

After many years of swimming against the current we have learned that sometimes it takes more energy to fight than it does to accept the lesser struggle. So we decided to get an early start and help Al with his little Honey-Do list and with luck we could be finished before the freezer-burned fish sticks hit the oven.

When we arrived the next day Lou met us in the driveway, house shoes practically flying off as she hurried out, waving her list, which suspiciously looked like it had been written out on a roll of butcher paper. “I hope you have all your tools handy, cuz I was able to think of a few more things last night during Dancing with the Stars. You’re gonna need to get busy if you want to get home in time for the 10 o’clock evening weather.” Uh-oh. We hoped she had lots of tartar sauce.

Before we grabbed our gear we needed to get a look at Lou’s list. She herded us into the kitchen where she rolled it out. Literally, rolled it out across the kitchen counter. We realized we were going to need an iron-clad exit plan when we saw just a few of the things she had written down:

1. Build a dog pen for Muffy to keep him from tinkling on the plastic pink flamingos.

2. Hose down and move the flamingos from the back yard to the front yard where they’ll get more fresh air.

3. Patch the roof so it stops leaking into the spare room. The leaks are makin’ my styrofoam peanuts and plastic canvas supplies all moldy.

4. Build a shelf for the bowling trophies cause the cabinet is full.

5. Fix the leak under the kitchen sink because I can’t stand to see Al’s plumber’s you-know-what again. Gawd, Some things just can’t be unseen.

6. Alphabetize the VHS and 8-track tapes.

7. Re-install the Dixie cup holder by the bathroom sink and put the butterfly grippy stickers on the bottom of the tub. Last time Al put them on the window.

8. Decorate my mailbox with my “Spring” mailbox cover and change the goose out of her parka and snow boots and into her bonnet and galoshes.

9. Rake the shag carpet in the guest room…

Oh, geez. The list just kept going and going. We drew straws. dropped Lou at the BINGO parlor, and started dragging out hoses and chop saws. We marched through most of her list, but just couldn’t bring ourselves to attempt the one last item:

43. Call that art museum and get the plans for that Crying Giant statue. I want you to build one in my back yard right outside my kitchen window. It can remind me NOT to give Al any more Honey-Do lists. I’ll just call you two instead.

Oh, Al, NOW we know why you glued your head to the table…

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Go Big, Or Go Home

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"Since these guys are so large and muscly they outta make the faces look like Andy Griffith, now that would stop traffic! Oh, and I tell you I wouldn’t mind a giant Tom Jones in my back yard. He would look great between the toilet flower planter and the yard gnomes.”

Last winter we stopped at Glenn Goodes’ Big People in Gainesfield, Texas. We found Glenn on Roadside America, and we all know Lou can’t pass up a great roadside attraction. Lou was almost amiable to Glenn, and especially liked the story about the giant fiberglass lady. He told us that when he bought that statue she had on a skirt that was so short it was embarrassing, so he lengthened her skirt, and gave her a higher neckline. According to Lou, “I never wear skirts unless it’s a funeral or black tie. Bein’ the athletic type, they slow me down and get in my way, but you two probably wouldn’t understand that. You don’t keep up the kind of healthy lifestyle that I do.”

While Lou has been known to break out her denim maxi skirt with the quilted hem when there is a special event at the BINGO hall, her daily attire is more of a combo of support hose and polyester bermudas. We guess this allows her the freedom required for her “healthy lifestyle.” Which, as far as we can tell, consists of sitting on the couch watching old tapes of Jack LaLanne while eating cheese curls.

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Lou was full of suggestions as we pulled away from Glenn’s Big People. “When Glenn was busy fixing the skirt of that Amazon chick I don’t know why he didn’t give her a duckie inner-tube while he was at it. There’s nothing like always being ready for the beach. You never know when you might have a hot flash and need to cool off in a big hurry. I’ll never forget the time Dora Mae and I were at BINGO and she had such a power surge I thought she was going to get arrested. She kept taking off sweater after sweater ‘til she was down to her slip and support garments. Now that was a skirt that needed to be lengthened! I told her if she had just kept drinking more Kool-Aid she’d be fine. Kool-Aid is so good for you and might have even cooled her off in time for the SUPER BINGO card of the day. But that’s Dora Mae, she never listens.”

Lou, you give such good advice. We’ll be sure to put you in charge of the beverages at our next black tie gala, if you can take time away from your workout and can still find your denim skirt.

Lou-ow!

If you have read even a few of our posts, then you are well aware that Lou has an imagination of grand proportion. You may hear about it, but we live with it on a daily basis. Much of our time with her is spent sorting through the remnants of her tales and grousings for nuggets of truth. Before we act on anything, these snippets of reality must be sifted again as a safety measure. Our safety.

I say all that so that you will understand why, when Lou recently declared, “I won the Lottery! I’m going to Hawaii! Which one of you is going to take me?”, we each took a deep breath and replayed the recent conversation we had about Lou the previous day. After seeing the movie Nebraska, starring Bruce Dern, we had gone out for coffee to chat about it.

The similarities were there. Though Lou is no alcoholic (she does like the occasional frou-frou drink, but only if it comes with a souvenir glass as well as the umbrella) she could match the dogged determination of the character played by Dern. He portrays an elderly man seemingly suffering from dementia who is convinced that he has won $1,000,000 in a sweepstakes. Unable to understand the facts surrounding the contest, he is relentless in his commitment to collect his winnings. In many ways his altered view of reality reminded us of Lou. Though she isn’t actually suffering from dementia, her view of reality is distorted none the less. So neither of us took it too seriously when she started down the road paved by the Publisher’s Clearing House Sweepstakes scammers.                       

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"About six months ago I filled out this sweepstakes card down to the Piggly-Wiggly," Lou erupted when we pulled in to pick her up for BINGO this morning. "I have seen them come and go, those contests I mean. Over the years and years of standin’ behind that damned cash register ringing up canned meat and Froot Loops. You see, in the past I could never enter those things cause I was an ‘employee of the store,’ now my friend Margeen entered and won herself a new rotisserie back in ‘73. And that crabby ol’ Marston Peters won himself a trip to Panama City in ‘81. Made us all look at his photographs, too, when he came in the store after he got back. Humph! That’s not very nice to brag about something like that when the rest of us are working ourselves to the bone while he’s picking up seashells. He brought us each a toothpick holder shaped like a crab which was EXACTLY how I felt when he handed it to me. Everybody else gets to enter the contest. But not me, nope, my FABULOUS PRIZE was the chance to stand behind that damned cash register and sell potted weenies and canned hominy for $3.25 an hour.” We arrived at the BINGO parlor but Lou was on a roll. This was going to take a while, so we kept the car running as she raved on.

"But then as soon as I retired I asked my manager, Edgar Legpatch, if I could finally throw my own flippin’ hat in the ring. He told me that he didn’t see any reason why not but that really it’s kind of a scam and you aren’t really ‘winning’ anything. But I didn’t believe him, not one bit, cause he still works for the Piggly Wiggly and can’t enter in his name for another eight years at least! So I put my name in the box that said I could win an ALL EXPENSES PAID VACATION…and I did. So like I asked you guys when I got in the car…who’s going with me?"

Oh! Lou. It’s January in the Midwest and everyone wants to believe that they are sitting on the beach. Why should YOU be any different I guess?

But right now I definitely feel like I’m in Nebraska, the movie, not the state.

Free Wheelin’

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"That’s the fanciest danged barn I’ve ever seen. Hmmm…those people look familiar somehow, I think they were my neighbors way back when, Joe and Irma. They had a little farm with naked chickens, fainting goats, and an albino pig. Yep, pretty sure that’s them, though why they’d be painted on a barn here in the middle of Iowa I have no idea." 

This incredible barn depicting Grant Wood’s American Gothic, painted by Iowan artist Mark Benesh, is located outside of Mt. Vernon, and we stopped for a photo opp. Unable to distract Lou, and after listening to her lecture on why albino pigs are ornerier than regular pink pigs, we again got to hear about how all she really wants is a pet pig and why it’s all Al’s fault that she has a pug instead. Trying to change the subject we hopped back into the car and drove east on I-80, taking another little diversion. We found this amazing wheel art made by Mr. L.J. Maasdan on Roadside America

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The sculpture is located in a beautiful wide open area near Lynnville, IA. There’s even a picnic table for better weather, and we thought that it would be a lovely spot to come back to in the spring. Lou, however, seemed to think that her ability to make sculptures of her own rivaled this piece by Mr. Maasdan.

"I think this guy must have hijacked my idea. I’ve made things exactly like this only completely different. Why, my replica of the Eiffel Tower made entirely out of chicken wishbones is just as fancy." When we tried to help Lou understand the scale of this work, and that it took Mr. Maasdan years just to collect the wheels and that he was 90 years old at the time, she humphed.  "I’ve been savin’ chicken bones for fifteen years. But now, on account of chicken getting more expensive I’m going to have to start using Spam cans for my art."

Lou, sometimes we just have to laugh or you’ll make us cry.

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