Books, Pop Culture and Political Humor from J.D. Rhoades, best-selling author, attorney, and award-winning newspaper columnist.
"Like [Lee] Child, Rhoades dishes out one airtight action scene after another, mixing in just enough character-building moments and holding our interest in a full cast of nicely developed supporting players."-Booklist
I feel as though I need to apologize. I just noticed that this column's annual compendium of suggested summer vacation spots is scandalously late this year.
If you've been putting off your vacation plans until you see what I've come up with, please accept my abject apologies. Sorry, even if everything's all booked up by now, you may not come over and spend the week at my house. Anyway, on to the guide.
What would summer vacation be without a visit to a collection of grotesque medical oddities? No, I'm not referring to your Aunt Junie and Uncle Clem in West Virginia. I'm talking about the Mutter Museum at the College of Physicians of Philadelphia. Right now, the museum is hosting an exhibit called "Corporeal Manifestations," in which "11 ceramic sculptors ... examine the human experience from a physiological and psychological perspective." Wheeeee!
But who needs that sort of artsy malarkey when you can bop right down the hall and see sights like a jaw tumor secretly removed from the jaw of President Grover Cleveland, a "huge ovarian cyst" and a plaster cast of the bodies of the original Siamese Twins?
As if that wasn't already more fun than a human should be allowed to have on a summer's day in Philly, you can gaze in wide-eyed wonder at a display of the actual conjoined liver of said twins, and a "specimen" taken from the autopsy of presidential assassin John Wilkes Booth. Now that's what I call entertainment for the whole family.
If you're a real hard-core body-part aficionado, however, for whom gazing at bits of people through glass just doesn't provide the thrills you crave, you can jet to the other side of the continent, to the frozen Yukon and the town of Dawson City. There you will find the Downtown Hotel (located, one supposes, downtown) and its famous "Sourtoe Cocktail Club."
Sourtoes, it should be noted, are actual human toes that have been dehydrated, preserved in salt and dropped into a cocktail, which is then consumed by an aspiring member of the club. I do not know where they get the toes, and I am not asking. You do not have to consume the actual toe, just touch it with your lips. As the club's one rule puts it: "You can drink it fast, you can drink it slow - but the lips have gotta touch the toe."
Have you been feeling run down? Out of sorts? Just plain pooped? Well, maybe your problem is that you're not getting enough radiation! If you think that may be it, head for the healthy radon mines of Montana!
According to the website www.RoadsideAmerica.com, a half-dozen played-out mines south of Helena, Mont., "attract ailing tourists, who bask in radioactive radon gas and drink radioactive water to improve their health." One claim is that "the gas stimulates the nerves and helps the body heal itself."
The mines have names like "Sunshine Health Mine," "Earth Angel" and "Merry Widow." (Actually that last one sounds a bit ominous, doesn't it?) Supposedly, in order to get the full effect, you're required to sit in the mine for a few hours, two or three times a week, until you hit the maximum exposure levels the state of Montana allows.
I don't know about you, but to me, nothing says "summer fun" like sitting in a hole in the ground while I worry about turning into something from a cheesy '50s monster flick.
I know some of you are probably getting impatient, tapping your feet and saying under your breath, "Yeah, yeah, that's all well and good, but where's my favorite part of this feature? Where are the freakishly huge objects?" Tap no more, dear friends. I bring you, for your edification and amazement, the world's largest pecans.
There's the actual world's largest, which sits outside a pecan farm in Brunswick, Mo. It stands 12 feet tall and weighs in at 12,000 pounds. Seguin, Texas, boasts a 5-foot-by-2 1/2-foot 1,000-pounder that has a sign over it saying, "World's largest pecan."
When asked, however, Seguinites (Seguinians?) will admit it's only No. 2. They are quick to point out, -however, that they do have the world's largest mobile pecan, a 10-foot-tall behemoth mounted on a truck frame. See it before it rolls away.
Big nuts, radioactive mines, body parts under glass and in your glass - may all your vacations be at least this interesting. Happy summer!