For Fat Tuesday, Gyna finds out about a bar with $3 liters of something that sounds delicious. We leave right after work and take Bowser dze German, who introduces us to his friend Philip, who is also from Germany and visiting Chicago.
"So how did you like the Field Museum?" I ask after a few. I am a Member of the Field Museum, which means I have a fancy tote bag and my name on a bunch of mailing lists.
"It was nothing. It was crap," Philip shrugs.
"What?" I bug out at Gyna.
"I know, I told them to get Mold-A-Rama dinosaurs and everything.”
“The whole thing was a little Discovery Channel," Bowser laughs.
“Exactly. That’s why it’s awesome,” I mutter. Philip looks at me and mouths egzakilty? I nod.
“Ja, egzaktily, with the gift shop and Sue dollies,” he mocks. “Tell us where we find out about dze real American dinosaurs.
Wie sagt, ah, intelligent design and wonderful nonsense."
“Oooooo, like the Creation Museum." Gyna raises her eyebrows.
"Egzaktily! There is one?"
"In Kentucky,” I explain. “I went last year, and it is hilarious. They hate Darwin because he’s the devil. And they murder lambs like over and over and they have their own Garden
of Eden and the guards have rifles and it’s goddamn wicked ridiculous."
"It is good? Are you a Creation…nista?”
but I also don’t believe in talking mouses, and I—“
“Mice,” Gyna and Bowser correct me, grinning. Simpatico, those two.
“What? What did I say?”
“Mouses. You said mouses.”
“Yeah, well. Mice. Whatever, I would go to Disneyland tomorrow if I had the funds. Oh! And they have hip archangels who wear drug rugs and sunglasses and talk like they’re from California and talk about how science is wack and Jesus is your homeboy.”
"Well, that is what I want to do then." Philip turns to Bowser. "We will go tomorrow?"
"I can't. I have work."
"But it is so...America. Christians...und, and...and guns! Don’t be wack."
"I want to go, but I leave for Houston tomorrow," Gyna whimpers.
There's a slim needle of silence. The last time I went to the Creation Museum I caught a lot of atheistic hell for ‘supporting ignorance and everything that is wrong with America’ and ‘giving them money so they can teach our children mythology instead of science’ and I’m like, yeah, but, you know. Funny. "Fuck it. I got personal days. Let’s go.”
"You'll go? Really? Wickedawesome!"
"Ausgezeichnet!" I say, which is a German word I think I understand but really don’t.
We agree on a five-thirty am departure and slow down the beer before scattering
"I made a friend dzis morning when you were late with your car," Philip says at five-fifty-five, coiled with patience while I house my coffee.
"And how is that?”
"A young man came up to me, ja? and he said to draw my portrait. So I gave him ten US dollars."
"Schmuck? Schmuck. And yes, I know, I know, but it was such a nice portrait." He pulls a pencil sketch out of his jacket and shows it to me. It's horrible.
I laugh like a wrecking ball. “He gave you a ponytail.”
He smiles with pride. "Yes, well I now know I need haircut. I think it’s wickedawesome."
"It's on the back of an excel spreadsheet."
"Axel spredshit? Oh I know, I gave him dze, ah, the paper."
"And apparently ten dollars. You could have just given that to me, you
"I like to think dhat I pay for a story to relate."
Philip flicks the sentence aside with his odd translational English and admires his shitty portrait. I’m jealous. No young man ever asked to draw my portrait for ten US dollars, and I’m
a nubile lady. A friend of mine has a face like a gently carved bolt of lightning, and artists are always trying to catch it on paper and hilariously failing. She isn’t a professional model or anything, just a breathing muse. But you can’t capture the shattering sincerity of lightning bolts without the right lens, yet they keep trying. Now I’m jealous of her too. Dammit.
We drive for a while. Kentucky is far from Chicago and we don’t have any directions, but I don’t think we need them since I read road maps when I’m in the bathroom. Perhaps maps would be more useful in the car. “If we hit Indianapolis, we’re going the right way. All the roads lead to Indianapolis.”
“Similar to Rome. I think that is wickedawesome,” Philip grins. “We will arrive.”
“Good. I don’t stop in Indiana, even for directions. People here keep bodies in their basements.”
“Why would they do that?”
“I don’t know. Because I have unwarranted prejudice.”
“Why is that?”
“I think it’s the accent. There’s a soft, um, hostile—?” I glance at him and he nods—“pattern to speech here. As if people don’t trust you. It’s probably unintentional.”
“Are we driving between the Bible area of America? Perhaps they know you have so little respect for them."
“I guess. But we aren’t in the Bible Belt. Not right now.”
"Belt? As if for trousers? It supports what covers the sin—that’s intelligent. I wish we were.”
“We will arrive.”
Two hours in and I have to remind myself that I should not speak English like a river, but a light rain. I apologize to Philip about this but he thinks it's hilarious. I complain about Journey for like a bajillion minutes. After five hours and only one false exit all that quality bathroom time with maps proves worthwhile and we turn onto Bullittsburg Church Road where the museum lives.
Families scuttle around the parking lot like beetles, and the Creation Museum thrums dead center with the Garden of Eden dinosaur topiary rolling muddy and green beside it. Philip strolls towards the doors and opens them with flourishing reverence, on the cusp of jest, but only because I realize that doors should always be opened that way. I mean with honesty and zeal, never as a flippant remark on genuine excitement.
I watch him marvel as we walk the path through Genesis.
There’s an alien alchemy to the Creation Museum, where bunnies and Velociraptors share honeycombs and drops of morning dew. I touch Philip’s shoulder and point to a red snake in the trees, glittering like a Chinese dragon while Adam and Eve bathe in a pool. I blush at their nakedness. Bearded Philip looks eerily like Naked Adam and I tell him so. Naked Adam is not necessarily a dreamboat, but it makes me picture Philip naked. I glance at his jaw. There is something about jaws, but not Philip’s jaw, which is good. Who needs a crush inspired by anatomically biblical mannequins and frivolous jawlines?
He snaps a picture of the exhibit. “A second portrait,” he explains.
I watch Philip as Adam and Eve slaughter a lamb on an altar for clothing, and study his curious face while Cain shadows over a bloody Abel. He thoughtfully regards the miniature model of Noah’s Ark where giraffes and horses and Brachiosauruseseses board the vessel in pairs.
I drag him to the flood diorama because it’s my favorite: scrappy, quarter-inch figures scramble on scarred rocks, wrestling bears and punting each other into the waxy, jagged sea. They’re determined to survive even after Noah didn’t pick them for his survivor team. I loiter for a while, memorizing their sins. “I just love how they try,” I say, and then turn to smile up at Philip, but he’s across the room.
Philip floats through it all, casual as a sonnet. He is here without a trace of irony, I realize. It makes me jealous again, so I counter these bursts of jealousy by repeatedly calling myself a stupid, jealous bitch and or telling myself to drop it. Like a dog. Drop it. Drop et. Humanity has come so far from the days of sharing honeycombs with Velociraptors.
We hear drums in the distance, horror over the death of Christ and mourn for him. It is, after all, the greatest story ever told. In this building, and nowhere else, I want to believe. Only when I am here, I think, because they deserve that much. Science really can be used to verify a predetermined outcome. (No, it can’t.) But the museum is beautiful. We take lots of pictures.
“They don’t do, ah,” Philip makes the sign of the cross on his forehead, “Ash Wednesday.”
“No, Creationists think Catholicism is evil.”
Up ahead, an animatronic prophet is writing ancient texts. “Are you Catholic?”
Philip sniffs. “Germany is very Catholic. And yes, we are evil. Remember the Holocaust? And Indiana Jones films?”
We stroll through the garden because that is how one is supposed to walk through gardens, stopping at the petting zoo to admire the zedonks and there’s a terrifying turkey thundering next to a camel. Philip pets a pig. I try to feed a wallaby but it runs away.
We decide to stop in Cincinnati for a bowl of chili and hit up a White Castle instead.
“White Castle,” I explain between bites, “Is the quintessential American food. It’s our entire cultural mindset packed into a square. I always want more White Castle, but in reality I don't need it. Ever. Because the idea of White Castle fundamentally opposes its physical manifestation – what we have is this. And then I have to pay the price for fantasy and indulgence. With my bowels."
“So...America makes you shit?" Philip winks. Why don’t people wink anymore?
I laugh, burning words. "No. No, not at all. But—yes. Because everything we love becomes shit. Because we smash it til it’s unrecognizable and then we mercilessly ridicule that which was once good until all that's left is poorly executed snark.”
"So...White Castle is snark?"
"I guess this has nothing to do with White Castle."
Later on Philip asks if we can stop in Indianapolis for a pair of Vans.
“What are you thinking?” I ask as we browse Shoe Carnival.
“I am thinking today was, ha, wickedawesome. I think when you come to Germany I know where I will take you, egzaktily.”
I've been given so much crap for supporting this museum just by paying to go there. But seriously, it's like Disney World, but with Jesus and dinosaurs and mass slaughter, and dead sheep are just lying all over the place. Completely macabre, like they're trying to scare you into agreement.
The propaganda tactics employed throughout the place are genius. Sometimes very, very subtle, and sometimes outright obvious. Every exhibit is designed with the distinct purpose of making non-believers feel guilty and the believers feel righteous. Perfectly constructed psychological warfare.
Although I believe that Creationism is firmly rooted in mythology, I believe even more strongly that people reserve the right to believe in what they want. So, I will support the Creation Museum, because no matter what, different mindsets are worth noting. In the end, it's just exciting and fun, like a Voodoo or Scientology museum, or watching Ghost Adventures.