'Tour of the Unmentionables'
When one thinks
of the U.S. state of Maryland, they tend to think of the state's long
storied history in American culture. Some may think back to the days
when the first railroad station was built in Baltimore way back in 1830.
Others may think of the great baseball slugger Babe Ruth, who was born
there. Still, many think of the first telegraph message that was received
here - effectively paving the way for long distance instant communication.
When Spud thinks
of Maryland however, the tater thinks of one thing: the state's apparent
obsession with bodily functions.It was with that goal that Spud set
out for a trip to Maryland to visit some of its hallowed halls that
pay homage to the unmentionables.
First stop on the
tuber's itinerary was the William P. Didusch Center for Urologic History.
Why go to some stuffy formal museum and learn about the Civil War and
aboriginal life when you can learn about various macabre instruments
and procedures used by urologists over the last few centuries?
The Didusch Museum
in the hamlet of Linthicum is tucked inside the headquarters of the
American Urological Association. Anticipating that the place was going
to be packed when it opened, Spud lined up outside the building overnight.
Surprisingly enough, the only other person he saw that night was the
security guard who tried to bounce the potato for loitering.
When morning came
and the doors were opened, Spud rushed inside and began looking at display
after display of instruments used by the internal 'plumbers of yesteryear.
The cases were filled
with scopes and syringes, irrigators and evacuators, everything imaginable.
The size and crude design of some of the cystoscopes looked more like
shock absorbers than medical instruments. The crown jewel of the museum's
treasures was a massive staghorn calculus (kidney stone to you and me)
that was almost the size of a pineapple. What makes the stone so remarkable
was that it was 'passed' the old
fashioned way. Spud cringed and thanked his lucky stars that
he was a potato and doesn't have any 'stuff'.
The next stop on
Spud's 'tour of the unmentionables' was the American Dime Museum in
Dime Museum is a veritable treasure trove of the bizarre and unusual.
It is jam packed with every conceiveable oddity that you could ever
imagine and then some.
Its apparent biggest
draw is the 37 mile, 800 + pound ball of string firmly ensconced in
the front window. While that surely would be enough to coax the admission
out of anyone, Spud did not venture all this way to see that. Inside
the museum takes visitors back to the 19th century when mobile freak
shows used to pass thru town after town, bringing to life some real
and some questionable obscurities.
Spud had visited
other travelling showman collections in the past, such as when he went
to the PT Barnum museum
in Connecticut, years before.
The American Dime Museum however, has one of the most treasured exhbits
of all museums known to mankind - and it is what brought the tater across
the country to see.
The potato graciously
paid his admission to curator Dick Horne who also offered the potato
a cup of coffee that he has freshly brewed. The tato declined the offer
as he was too eager to find the exhbit he had come for.
As he worked his
way through the cramped quarters of the museum, he took time to see
some of its offerings.
One of the tables
held a box containing a human head packed in tea leaves. While it was
remarkably well preserved, the potato was glad he turned down the cup
of brew he was offered.
On the wall were
a pair of Martyr blood balls, looking startingly similar to meatballs
he had for dinner at the hotel the night before. The placard told the
story of Auguste Valiant who was a revolutionary leader that was executed
in 1893 by guillotine. His head fell into a basket of bran which was
used back then to soak up the blood. When the bran was later tossed
into the bushes, fans of Valiant clamoured to collect a souvenir of
their hero. They rolled up the bran into little balls, and while it
is unsure what they did with them, Spud hoped that one of these groupies
wasn't named 'Kellogg'
In a room near the
back of the museum, Spud came upon a wall of photographs depicting a
man named Joseph Pujol, who was known as 'Le Petomane'. He was one of
the world's most popular showmen at the turn of the Century in Europe
and North America. No, he wasn't a singer, dancer or magician...he was
the world's most accomplished farter. Everywhere he appeared he would
break attendance records for his ability to 'perform' on demand. The
collage that was pictured on the walls was a particular performance
captured at the Moulin Rouge in Paris.
With this clue, Spud knew he had to be close to the Museum's holy grail.
Then out of the
corner of his eye, he spied it, hanging on a wall: the 'Last Passage'
of Abraham Lincoln
Valiant wasn't the only man to have an obsessed following of fans. Back
in 1865 when President Lincoln was at the Ford Theater, one of these
wackos followed him into the bathroom and 'liberated'
one of the President's 'leftovers'. Sad as that may be,
who was to know that the great leader would be assassinated that same
night, thus levitating the fan's find to instant collectible 'status'.
So much so that it even influenced the "Lincoln
Logs" building toy that was hugely popular in the 20th
This Spud pondered
what its value would be today on eBay or at Sotheby's. Surely its historical
signifigance would garner thousands.That shall remain a mystery however,
as the curator has no intention of parting with his piece of Americana.