Bad Taste Tour: The Orange Show
Have you ever heard of a guy called Jeff McKissack? Well, he's the author of this health book called How You Can Live a Hundred Years, which, since he died at 79, I'd say he was uniquely underqualified to write. However, before he died, Jeff McKissack built this weird structure in Houston which he called The Orange Show. Tour guide Erin Johnson:
Johnson: "It's fun. It's fun. It's a great laugh. It's ridiculous, it's absurd, it's stuck in a neighborhood, one guy built it. It's bizarre. But it's fun."
So you get the idea - it's fun. Jeff was a mailman who had a bizarre fixation with oranges, and so in his spare time, quite naturally, he decided to build a tribute to his favorite fruit, and fill it with sculptures, tractor seats, wagon wheels, and umbrellas. Imagine clearing out your garage and dumping everything in your neighbor's garden. It's a bit like that. There's also a pond and a steam engine, and maps of places you should recognize, but don't.
Johnson: "Now, here we have a map of Florida. It's odd. It's not the proper shape."
Anyway, the entrance fee's a dollar - although I'd haggle, if I were you. For that you get to see Jeff's amazing wishing well - amazing because it's only four feet deep and doesn't hold water - and you visit the toilet. Honest - the gents bathroom is part of the tour! Jeff designed it himself, so you can expect the worst.
Peters: "Would it hurt you to put lids on the toilets?"
It's true. Normally you have to take LSD before you see anything like this. The Orange Show is what a migraine would look like if you could draw it. Jeff, it turns out, though, died an unhappy man. Suzanne Theis, is the executive director.
Theis: "He believed that hundreds of thousands of people would come here. And when he opened it and only 150 people came he was so sad and died six months later. The lifespan of the creator is often the same as it takes to achieve the dream, which suggests to me that the important thing is doing it, which makes this a very zen thing."
Well, I guess. But there's a pool and a juice bar, and signs everywhere saying things like: 'Please be quiet' and 'I love oranges.' On the whole, the structure falls somewhere between an eyesore and a monstrosity, so I'm guessing the neighbors must be furious. Well, it turns out, there are good neighbors and bad neighbors. This is the good neighbor:
Good Neighbor: "It's amazing."
To reach the bad neighbors, the ones who hate the Orange Show, I wormed my way into the affections of their mailman - Kermit Briscoe. He's a real fan of Jeff McKissack.
Briscoe: "He had a vision. It was a vision. A vision. And he built it from his vision."
[They approach the bad neighbor's door:]
Peters: "Okay, this is the moment. I'm worried for my life."
Who cares, I certainly wasn't waiting around to find out. I returned to the Orange Show for the final leg of the tour - the museum.
Peters: "Oh no."
It's the dopiest museum you'll ever visit. There's no theme, no point to it. It's just a shed full of stuff. They've got two shop window dummies in polyester pant suits, a decapitated Santa Claus, and objects that even the people who run the place have yet to identify.
Peters: "This looks like a barbecue with a barrel organ attached."
Oh boy. In short, Jeff McKissack was a guy who didn't know the meaning of the phrase 'you're nuts.' But for a dollar, I figure it's well worth a visit. Oh, incidentally, before he died, Jeff requested that his ashes be thrown over the exhibits at the Orange Show, so remember that if you decide to sit down. In Houston, Texas, I'm Cash Peters for The Savvy Traveler.
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