Monday, April 14, 2008

Step right up

A few miles west of the Honey Island swamp lies the north shore town of Abita Springs. Abita Springs is home to the Abita Brewing Company, brewer of one of my favorite beers of all time: Abita Turbo Dog.

I was introduced to Turbo Dog during my first visit to Louisiana for a defensive tactics instructor seminar at the Louisiana State Police Academy. I drank a lot of Turbo Dog there, and it was a damn shame that no one I worked with was there with me, because if they
had been with me then maybe I could've ended up with a cool nickname like "Turbo Dog." One of the great tragedies of my law enforcement career is that I've never gotten a cool nickname. But I digress.
Abita Springs is a charming town. A little downtown area consisting of some shops, the brewpub, and an old grocery store, and lots of tin roofs on the houses. The houses ranged from cottages to larger Victorian homes. It reminded us of the town Spectre from the movie Big Fish.

As far as we're concerned, though, the best thing about the town of Abita Springs is the UCM Museum.

The UCM (you-see-um) Museum was created by a wonderful artist named John Preble. Mr. Preble is known for his paintings of Creole women, but it's clear that his true love is the roadside attraction. We were lucky enough to meet him when we first visited in 2004, but he was away (appropriately enough, in Florida) when we were there this time. He's a gracious man and fun to talk with, and if you are ever passing through the area you really owe it to yourself to stop by.

The UCM is housed in an old gas station and a variety of outbuildings, arranged, if you will, in a kind of folksy surreal compound. I can't tell you the joy this place gives us, so I'll just run through some pictures.

Here's the entrance

Go through that door and you're in the gift shop, which houses a nice collection of Archie McPhee type novelties, as well as work by Mr. Preble, some beautiful jewelry created by his wife Ann O'Brien (also a well known artist), and some interesting music and DVD's. (**note: I just discovered that Ms. O'Brien passed away in July 2006--you can read a lovely obituary for her here.)

When you walk out of the gift shop you enter the compound

There's a pond with a turtle in it, and Christmas lights overhead. Everywhere you look you find goofy little details: bottle caps nailed to walls, bits of machinery and old radios, folk art, clippings, paint-by-numbers artwork, you name it.

Elvis welcomed us into the first building

There's an extensive collection of paint-by-numbers pieces, perhaps the largest in the world. MizBubs thought this was a pretty peppy looking cat, and asked me to grab his photo:

There are all these cool dioramas with titles like "New Orleans Jazz Funeral" and "Tragedy on Dogpound Road". You press a button, and next thing they light up and there's music playing and stuff moving around. I love em.

Knowing the reptile-infested and swampy nature of the outlying areas, the proprietor reassures his visitors...or maybe he's sucking up to those reptile rights do-gooders

There's plenty of other stuff to see as you move from building to building

And finally, like in any good museum, you're funneled back into the gift shop at the end of your visit:

It's always a letdown having to leave there and return to real life outside. I think my youngest daughter wants to live there, or at least create her own version of it.

Thanks for coming along.


Johnny Yen said...

Abita Turbodog is one of my very favorite beers.

I love funky cool places! Thanks for sharing your experience!

Coaster Punchman said...

I think signs confirming a lack of snakes are always a good idea.

Writeprocrastinator said...

"MizBubs thought this was a pretty peppy looking cat, and asked me to grab his photo"

Wow, I can't believe a copy of this still exists! This is one of a series of four painting from "Tony The Tiger In Boots."

He had the Kellog Corporation pay millions to have all depictions from this series destroyed and some people have disappeared off the face of the Earth behind this.

FranIAm said...

Oh Bubs... you have found your calling I think.

Please do travel writing. You have a gift.

When I make my way to the ramshackle compound, I will bring a case of Abita Turbodog.

It is the least I can do to repay you for these amazing posts.

And I love what you say about your daughter at the end.

I totally get that.

Bubs said...

Fran, you're too kind. Thank you!

WP, and now the truth comes out...actually, the cat painting reminded me of one of those series of cat paintings done by some schizophrenic, showing the progression of his illness. THis would be, like, stage 1.0

CP, I agree. I hate being startled by an unexpected snake, and I appreciate being able to holster my firearm and relaxing when I know I'm in a snake-free establishment.

Johnny, you're welcome. I'm glad that Turbo Dog is one of the beers that's pretty easy to find around here now.

Baroness von Bloggenschtern said...

Hey, Bubs:

I found you through Write Procrastinator.

Oh, my good lord. This place is heaven on earth!!! And I thought the Grassroots & Folk Art Gallery in Lucas Kansas was da bomb. Move over, Rover!!

Thanks for the great travelogue! I will add this to my kitsch "1000 Places to See" list.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

This is what I was hoping th Ripley's Believe It Or Not museum would be like, but sadly was not. Should've gone with you instead!

And I hereby dub you "Turbo Dog" because it's about time somebody did.

lulu said...

I would totally move in there.

dguzman said...

Turbo Dog, this museum is truly a work of art in itself. I love it, and I share your daughter's desire to either live there or create my own satellite museum elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

That's great. I love places like that.

'Bubbles' said...

We used to have a funky western place near here. Alas, they took the money from the developers and ran...

They had chickens in booths. You drop a quarter in and it would go over to a lever and drop a "fortune" out for you.

Western "gunfights", you know what I mean.

They relocated, but the old place was a relic. You can't recreate what they did over the years, can you?