Monday, March 2, 2015

Keep Houston Weird


Things I like:
1. The website RoadsideAmerica.com. The site come in particularly handy when visiting small towns with no obvious places of interest. When it comes to big cities, I generally don't think to even check. I mean sure, NYC must have some great quirky attractions but are you really going to pass up the MOMA in order to see George Washington's wooden tooth displayed in a bar?  Ok, bad example.  I would totally do that.

2.  Bizarro museums, random displays of folk art, unnaturally large balls of twine. If you build it, I will visit. (Note: I tried to stick to the original phrasing but "come" just did not sound right here)

3.  Taking unsuspecting people to visit any of the things listed in #2.

Things I don't like:
1.  Most of Texas.  I only say "most" because I am willing to give Austin and San Antonio a pass.  The rest of the state- phoeey.

What happens when these two admittedly restrictive lists overlap in a Venn diagram of weirdness? Turns out you end up with a surprisingly enjoyable day in Houston, TX. 

One of RoadsideAmerica's features allows you to choose any number of attractions and it will map them out for you in the most practical order.  It was they that decided (based on my choices) that our first stop should be the Beer Can House. 

Back in 1968, John Milkovisch, a retired upholsterer, was faced with his own lists of things he liked and things he didn't.  His dislikes included mowing the lawn and painting his house.  His likes: beer. He had already addressed the mowing issue by covering his entire lawn in concrete, in which he embedded marbles, bits of glass and tile, stones and/ or anything else that caught his fancy.  He then turned his attention to covering the siding of his home in something that he had in ample supply, beer cans.  



An estimated 50,000 beer cans decorate every bit of surface of the home's exterior.  Undoubtably this would have extended to the interior but that is where his wife, Mary drew the line.  He was free to express his eccentricities anywhere outdoors but she kibosh'ed any idea of bringing the project inside of her home.  This is not to say she was not supportive.  When asked if John had drank all of those beers, she responded "No, I helped."




Mary's other contribution was this "lemon tree".



The home is now in the care of the Orange Show Center for Visionary Art, a non-profit organization that could single-handedly add Houston to my list of acceptable cities in Texas.



In addition to the beer house, they are also responsible for putting on the annual Art Car Parade. This is an event where anyone with a vehicle and copious amounts of creativity can participate. Unfortunately we were a couple of months early for the parade itself but our next stop on the tour was the next best thing.  It was the Art Car Museum, where some of the past participants are displayed.


I quickly lost count of the number of times I uttered the phrase "How cool is this?!", but seriously....


This is something straight out of a White Zombie video.  The eyes light up.  The gargoyle on the right is sticking its tongue out.  It actually drives.  How cool is that?!


Look at this thing!!  It's entire body has been reconstructed in wood.


A mutant fish is eating the freaking van!!!  If you don't think this is cool, we could never be friends. Ever.




Fortunately, everyone in my group did think this was cool and were fascinated (and slightly perplexed) that these places even existed.  These sentiments only increased when we drove into an industrial area and came across 36 feet tall versions of the lads from Liverpool.



The work of sculptor, David Adickes, they are just kind of hanging out with what appear to be a couple of decapitated busts.  Why?


Dee proves that if you are athletic and not afraid to climb a rickety platform, you can "bust" yourself. 


Why not?

The Beatles used to share their lot with a whole lot of US presidents but the former chiefs of state have since been re-located to a nearby fenced in area, closer to the artist's studio.  This seems to be in keeping with their wandering ways.  They were originally created to be displayed in parks in S Dakota and Virginia but once the parks closed, the artist brought his creations home.


The Little Tramp staying up on current events with a "Je suis Charlie" sign around his ankles.


While driving around, we saw some other giant Pres heads on the side of the road but were not willing to do more battle with Houston traffic to turn around for a photo.  Fittingly enough, I later learned that particular display is called Mt. Rush Hour.




We then went from giant politicians to over-sized rodents (ok, technically armadillos are actually mammals and not rodents but this seems like an oversight to me).

This still being Texas, a couple of things stuck out.  First, I personally believe if you have a massive metal-plated glowing-eyed armadillo,  this is attention getting enough.  You don't really have to go and add a pair of steer's horn to the work.


Second, this guy was gracing a place called the Armadillo Palace, which was a bar-b-que place and country bar.  Because Texas.

This seemed like a fine stop to conclude our tour, not just because RoadsideAmerica said so, but because we had made it there in the sweet spot.  It was late enough for happy hour but early enough so as to avoid the line dancers and the rest of their ten-gallon-hat wearing brethren, thus not reversing my earlier proclamation declaring this a surprisingly enjoyable day in Houston, TX, of all places.

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