Ripley’s Museum Perfectly Believable… Or Not?

When walking around in the armpit of San Francisco’s touristy sweat-pit, it’s hard not to get drawn in to the many museums that abound in that area. Right in the heart of it all on Jefferson Street just up from Fisherman’s Wharf is the Ripley’s Museum, which I found to be more appealing and as curiously interesting as any of them… Believe it… or not?

Even the entrance novelty of a jailbird climbing a rope can be seen from above and below.
Even the entrance novelty of a jailbird climbing a rope can be seen from above and below.

The curb appeal of the Ripley’s museum is as great as any and far better than most. There’s a suspended fountain that pours water without cause all day, a rubber convict climbing a rope and any of a number of courteous and cordial desk-folk to great you. They even step it up a tad with blaring tape loops that give you no more than a glimpse of what’s inside… “fair enough,” said I, I was ready to bite; however the parents weren’t convinced.

From the curb you’d never imagine how much space they have inside. It’s a believe-it-or-not-able optical illusion. They only have a store or two’s width on the curb, but they’ve got a monster of an upstairs… I’ll spare you from the slogan again and just tell you that you ican believe it.

We paid our due, went inside and were immediately baffled by the most outlandish collection of exhibits we’d ever imagined. Perhaps you wouldn’t believe that a Chinese emperor had double-pupiledy irised eyes or that a man could stand at a foot and some change. For me it was ho-hum and whatever, I was more interested by the crazy sculptures and smaller goofball stuff.

What was weirder than all of it was that our online guide said you could scream through the place in twenty minutes, but I don’t believe that. We spent almost two hours in there. I mean, I’m not the most savvy of consumer, I guess, but to get through the place in under an hour would require that you just not pay any attention.

ripleys-wide
Above – I know it’s not the most interesting thing in the place, but we were all pretty curious about the bottomless pit in the floor, especially since it didn’t also appear in the ceiling below… how do they do that?

But there’s better stuff than unbelievable and scant-believable exhibits of what the genetic code has doled out over time. The best part to me was all the simple tricks I’d never seen before. I don’t want to ruin it, but at every turn (and there’s probably a hundred turns in this crazy place) is something that begs you to open it, peek inside, grab it, squeeze it, walk through it despite your best senses telling you not to, and watch other people try to do the same thing themselves.

I won’t ruin it for you, but there’s fully a dozen things that will make you scratch your head, laugh at yourselves as much as others, and remind you how funny human nature really is.

The Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum is located at 175 Jefferson Street in San Francisco, and is open seven days a week starting at 10:00 a.m., but check their website for seasonal adjustments and rates, as well as other locations that may be closer to you.

To conclude, let me tell you that only one in five people can roll their tongue and one in a thousand can curl it. They provide videos for you to model yourself at and mirrors for you to try it. Don’t feel inhibited, everybody there is a tourist and you’ll never see the people behind you again, besides, nobody is really looking. You owe it to yourself to discover how truly unique you are. I tried like crazy but I just ain’t cut out for it. Nope, I mostly just slapped the mirror and laughed at my reflection.

Believe it… or not?

Above - There were so many oddities we didn't know where to look and didn't fare much better in figuring out where to point the camera. Much of the problem came because we got so wound up that we kept running around, rarely standing still for a photo for more than a second or so. Patrick had better focus, so we got him checking out the strange plates in the strange lips of these strange people, believe it... or not.
Above – There were so many oddities we didn’t know where to look and didn’t fare much better in figuring out where to point the camera. Much of the problem came because we got so wound up that we kept running around, rarely standing still for a photo for more than a second or so. Patrick had better focus, so we got him checking out the strange plates in the strange lips of these strange people, believe it… or not.

Pointing Out Fort Point Fun, Though Curiously Off-Commissioned

What a neat place this is! If you have a chance to visit San Francisco, you need to make the chance to visit Fort Point. It’s a 19th century defensive emplacement complete with bricks, mortar and cannons too. If you’ve ever done business with an obscenely profitable dot com business, you know they only have two of those three things, and they aren’t nearly as much fun.

As much as it may look grand, it is, and amongst the free attractions it tops the list.
As much as it may look grand, it is, and amongst the free attractions it tops the list.

Fort Point is located (in)conveniently in the shadows of the Golden Gate Bridge, right at the mouth of the harbor. Not sure what the harbor is called, but a quick deductive guess would tell me it’s something like Golden Gate… I can’t be held accountable at my age for that answer; it’s just a guess.

Fort Point a really great place. It’s like a playland for kids, except for kids… wait, did I already say that? It’s many stories tall, more indestructible than plastic (as a couple hundred years of use will agree) and it’s even got real-life cannons. No playground I’ve ever hung out on had those.

It’s long since been decommissioned, but I don’t know why. Is this no longer an important harbor for attack? Wouldn’t it be worthwhile to keep it active just to gun down a few pleasure boats every once in a while? Nothing against pleasure boats, per se, I’m sure they’re quite pleasant, pleasing and pleasurable, but what about my fun from the gun emplacement? What am I supposed to do, use my imagination?

fort-point-wide1
Above – Fort Point is more than just an old fort, it’s the only such brick emplacement this side of Virginia, it’s a place to wander around and explore rooms, cubbies, exhibits and the general operating placements of the once grand place. Rooms like this may look dingy, and only because they are, but it’s all in part of the exploration fun… much better for my handlers that I played in here, rather than in the furnished crew rooms where I climbed under the gate and ran around like a junior madman. What can I say, I wanted to learn things I couldn’t from my side of the rope.

We did it the only way we could, we used our imagination. With our harbors more in danger now than they were when this place was decommissioned, I say we lobby the National Security Administration and tell them what to do. We may be kids, but we can run the NSA as well as them I’m sure. Reinstate Fort Point (and all the other pre World War One emplacements) and get those guns pointing bayward. Nothing says “don’t mess with me” like a life-threatening, 4-inch barrel pointing at you.

fort-point-animation
Left – This animation should show you what it’s like to visit a place like this… it’s little more than an opportunity to run around all crazy and find out what’s around each corner.

In closing, I’d also like to suggest we man them, these, there cannons with monkeys. They’re fun, cheap and it would really make America’s standards of defense stand out as a truly terrifying force in the world. I mean think about it, monkeys at the trigger of a monster cannon, what could be better?

Above - If this doesn't say I'm pointing out Fort Point then I just can't say what would do it for you.
Above – If this doesn’t say I’m pointing out Fort Point then I just can’t say what would do it for you.

Hilly Town Enhappies Me to be Pushed

We’ve been on vacation now for what feels like forever, but for the first time in my life I’m grateful that I’m being toted about in a stroller like a second-class citizen or paraplegic. Normally I regret this sort of treatment, because, let’s face it, I’d rather walk myself around however slowly I may do it, but with all these silly hills around, I’m just glad I’m being pushed.

I was a reluctant to be pushed, but now that I see how hard it is I`m rethinking the matter.
I was a reluctant to be pushed, but now that I see how hard it is I`m rethinking the matter.

It’s great really. We hit the shore and take in the sites, then tote ourselves up crazy hills to see the sites up there. I love walking, really I do, but one thing I love more than walking around myself is being carried, pushed or otherwise toted up a hill, even if that means I have to sit around in my stroller while the hardest bits of the work is done autonomically for me.

Normally I’m all about getting out and having my way with the terrain, but I’ve tried it here and it gets real old real fast as it does real steep and real tiring. I hopped out just yesterday and tried my standard escape and evasion tactic, only to find that one wrong turn had me headed up a 40° incline, and it burned me out right quick.

I know my legs are short, but I had no idea it could be such a disadvantage when it came to heading for the hills. Before I knew it I was panting like a summer dog and pausing for a breather, and Mr. Daddy-O had overtaken me and reigned me back in.

And normally I’d be sad about being so quickly captured, but we were in agreement this time about one big thing… I needed to go back in the stroller.

So if you’ve been sentenced to time in the stroller, don’t appeal the decision until you’ve seen the topography around you. I always thought the grass was greener on the other side, but I’ve learned that sometimes there ain’t no grass and your pushers may indeed know what’s best.

With that in mind… Mush! Mush, I say, mush!

Above - Even without the hills, I'm not sure I could push this thing anywhere. Not only am I rethinking my rejection of riding in it, I'm rethinking my ill-conceived offer to push it for our group. How do they even reach these handles?
Above – Even without the hills, I’m not sure I could push this thing anywhere. Not only am I rethinking my rejection of riding in it, I’m rethinking my ill-conceived offer to push it for our group. How do they even reach these handles?

Avoiding No-Name Motels for Fun, Safety and Value

Whenever you travel you face the agest oldest debate of working with the name brand chains versus going somewhere smaller, though ostensibly equally convenient motels for you accommodations. Take it from me, the reputable name is far more than it may seem, and not just because you’ll be more sure of avoiding a landslide of criminal drug addicts.

The picture may do little justice, but neither did the accomodations.
The picture may do little justice, but neither did the accomodations.

I know it sounds basic — and I’ll get serious for a second because it is — but wherever there are discount motels there’s sure to be a gaggle of derelicts, drug addicts and overzealous innkeepers. I wish I could say I know this in some indirect way, but our hotel reservation at the Mark Hopkins got all messed up somewhere between the corporate rep who promised us a room and the onsite general manager (who is apparently too new to know how to make a booking stick without being mean about whose fault it was).

We took an hour, drove the famous stretch of Highway 101 along Lombard Street, and checked out all of our best options for an affordable, reasonable room, but what we got was neither affordable nor reasonable. There were some conventions in town so even though the banners out front all offered spectacular rates, nothing was available for less than twice the price.

We ended up paying more than double what we expected and the room we got was not just dilapidated, but disgusting. Never mind that the parking was nearly non-existent; the bed was falling down in one corner, half the outlets didn’t work, it smelled like an armpit on vacation and half the building didn’t go to sleep until two in the morning.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with roadside motels, but stick with the big names you know and trust. You won’t pay more for using the big guys, you’ll just skip the madness of lying 7-feet beneath a crack party and the worry of laying on sheets that may or may not have been washed within my own lifetime.

Above - It may not look like much, but don't be fooled by my snark, it isn't.
Above – It may not look like much, but don’t be fooled by my snark, it isn’t.

Bay Quackers Rock Amphibious Aquati-land Tours, Lack Crackers

I’m told we have a similar tour group back in our hometown of Seattle, but we’ve never tackled it for review purposes. San Francisco offers tourists and locals alike an unprecedented view of the city, in a single vehicle, on both turf and surf, all rolled into one. But where’s the crackers?

The Quackers city tour doesn`t just show you the city, but shows it to you from the sea too.
The Quackers city tour doesn`t just show you the city, but shows it to you from the sea too.

In our endeavor to hit each and every one of the best tourist attractions in San Francisco, we simply had to take on the Bay Quackers for their equally famous and infamous tours of the city on land and sea, in a single ride I might add, to take in what bits of the city we could that we might have otherwise missed.

I was so excited to climb aboard this especially odd-looking bus. It’s got open sides, a strange hull of a chassis and even more peculiar awnings to boot. They put awnings on their cars? Okay, that’s weird, but I’ll bite.

What was more exciting to me about all of it was that it’s called the “Bay Quackers” and, as much as I love ducks, I love crackers that much more. Saltines, Cheez-Its, Oysters, you name it; if it’s a cracker, you can count me in.

Maybe I’m misunderstanding this whole amphibious Bay Quackers tour, but it didn’t have any crackers of any kind at all, whatsoever. What’s this all about? I feel cheated.

But hide the crackers for a minute, as I’ll tell you from my own experience… they’re nowhere to be found and, this tour is simply amazing!

quackers-wide2
Above – I didn’t feel entirely qualified to drive the thing myself, but once we got on the water the offer was made and I accepted it. That’s right, I got to drive the duck myself!

It works like this: You climb into an open-air bus, you drive around and look at the city, you head to the harbor, splash down in it, and then take a tour of the bay, all in the same vehicle. Isn’t that amazing? How on earth do they do this?

Patrick freaked out a bit when we hit the water, but he quickly (quackly?) calmed down and had a great time. Me and brother Brendan (my perpetually irritating boss) just got excited and pointed it out. Me? I was chill the whole time, I just took it all in like the bus didn’t with the water… you know, like the duck didn’t take on the water? Does that make sense?

If you have the time to take in San Francisco, there’s only a handful of things you have to do. You have to see Alcatraz, you have to have your picture taken with that silly, red bridge, and you have to see the scenery. If you’re going to take in the scenery, might I suggest you see it from on land as well as by sea, and if you’re time is as tight as mine, I suggest you roll those two things into one.

Bay Quackers amphibious tours are available daily from nine to nineteen hundred hours; so check them out online for departure information and pricing at their website.

Above - I know the look on my face accurately represents my joy, and I don't know if they extend this offer to everyone, but I got to drive through more water than I could even see. I think that's the biggest reason kids aren't allowed to drive, usually, we can't see where we're going. Works out okay for me, I'm usually just along for the ride anyhow.
Above – I know the look on my face accurately represents my joy, and I don’t know if they extend this offer to everyone, but I got to drive through more water than I could even see. I think that’s the biggest reason kids aren’t allowed to drive, usually, we can’t see where we’re going. Works out okay for me, I’m usually just along for the ride anyhow.

Book Review: Fodor’s San Francisco 2006

As any loyal reader of Perplexing Times must know, we’ve collectively traveled half the earth in the capacity of journalist, but this was the first trip we took since I’ve known how to talk, and I was expected to be more responsible than ever. Okay, fine, if you want me to be a smart traveler, I’m going to have (to have had) a great guidebook and I got one.

Not much of a reader, myself, but I can still see the value in it.
Not much of a reader, myself, but I can still see the value in it.

Brendan had three different guidebooks when he went to Shanghai and Fodor’s topped the list. My own attempts to use Fodor’s book went almost as well, except for the unfortunate fact that I can’t read. Hey, if life gives you lemons you make illiterate-aid, right? That’s what I did.

So we got the Fodor’s San Francisco guide, which was only like seventeen-bucks or something, and we got 200,000 words of firsthand insight into the city. I don’t know if you know this, but it’s our aim to be publishing our own travel guide for ‘the City’ from this trip, and I don’t know how we can compete with these guys, I really don’t.

It has a fold-out map, a comprehensive appendix, and coverage of everything from hip, young bistros to free, family-friendly attractions. It has personal reviews of more hotels and B&Bs than we even knew existed. How am I supposed to compete with that?

So if you’re going to San Francisco and you want a book that’s comprehensive beyond the scope of by, for, with and about kids, you should get yourself a legitimate travel book. We bought only one such book and it served us well.

We’ve got a large staff of writers, but frankly, we’re all just a bunch of easily impressed kids, so who can know for sure what we’re really writing about? Heck, I’ve never even reviewed an article I’ve written, so take me with at least a grain of salt.

Also, Fodor updates their San Francisco guide annually, so they’ve got a better insight to what’s new, what’s gone and what’s worth seeing than anybody else we’ve seen. The San Francisco guidebook offered by Fodor’s is available at Borders, Barnes & Noble, Amazon.com and any number of other reputable book dealers.

 

I am Kevin Spacey’s Clone

Everybody has a favorite person they look like, even me. Ever since I was young — well I guess I’m still young if you ask some people — but I mean younger than I am now. Anyway, people tell me all the time I look like Kevin Spacey.
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Friends, family, strangers and even people on the phone tell me I look like him. “Yeah, I know; I get that a lot.”

The stuff we have in common is easy to see. We both have full heads of long, lush hair; we both have two eyes, a mouth and a nose. His eyebrows are less invisible than mine but, other than that we look just the same, at least as far as I can tell.

I hope we don’t get each others letters too much. I think he’s older than me so maybe people can tell us apart okay, but I’m pretty wrinkly (especially for my age). He’s kind of wrinkly too.

Well, there it was, my first report after being officially “born” into this office. Not too exciting I know, but it’s a start.

So long for now everybody. I’m Dominic Benjamin and that’s news to me.


Pretty good likeness, I must say.

 

Vacation Somehow Invokes Rice-a-Roni Cravings

As any fool (who has been reading our Perplexing Times as of late) can tell you, we’re out on our latest vacation, and this time our “pop in” is to San Francisco. This is no surprise to anyone but me, but what is surprising has been my in-outing cravings for Rice-a Roni. It’s weird, really, I don’t even like rice.

From the precipice of ever-popular touristy attraction, I stand with my Rice-a-Roni.
From the precipice of ever-popular touristy attraction, I stand with my Rice-a-Roni.

The hills, the valleys, the trolley cars and the fog all add up to a sum of travel frustration, but what’s come to me too in sum of these visits has been something more peculiar. I know I’m not pregnant (because I’ve been peeing on sticks for weeks) and I doubt about as highly that I’m going through an extraordinary growth period, so why am I craving Rice-a-Roni?

It’s a strange thing all around, really. I already said I don’t like rice, but I’ll add to it that I’m no fan of boxed dinner foods. Frozen dinners are okay, but the boxed ones do painfully little for me. I don’t know what it’s all about, but with the off-season San Francisco Giants, Dharma, and/or Greg in mind, I just look at my surroundings and crave a glut of A-Roni.

Have I gone slightly more mad than usual? Have I lost what precious little of my mind I once had endeavored to have? Is there something from the WB hit show Charmed that makes me love San Fran as much as the principal characters fear it for the rampant overrunning of evil spirits, ghouls, demons and exceptionally gorgeous nymphs?

By the way, in the past paragraph, my Daddy-O added in the “exceptionally gorgeous nymph” business without my approval, and Miss Mama-Lady disapproved as much too. I don’t think those unreasonably old women are magnificent, I just think they’re old. Come on, they have to be at least in their 20’s, so yuck, double-yuck and super-yuck all to boot.

But I’m on the streets, I’m looking at the locals, I’ve seen all the attractions, and I’m hungry as a Hungry, Hungry Hippo, and I’m craving Rice-a-Roni and I have no idea why.

If you go to San Francisco, be sure to wear flowers in your hair, but more than that, go on a less-than-empty stomach. If you don’t, you just can’t know what you’ll be craving, but something inside me (specifically a scrap of Rice-a-Roni) tells me it will be an over-priced box of rice dinner with a modest wisp of seasoning, despite your own best interests.

See San Fran, if you’re able, but beware the cravings of Rice-a-Roni. It’s a fair product, the quintessential San Francisco treat, but nothing to be trifled with.

ricearoni-wide
Above – I’m smiling, but that doesn’t mean I’m laughing with you. In fact, I don’t even get the joke. Do they still run those commercials or is my ghost writer artificially dating me by proxy?

EDITORIAL NOTE: We sent this article to the good folks at Rice-a-Roni for a review and fact-check and suggested that if they liked it, they could send us some new flavors for additional mention or review. Such strangely short-sighted people I’ve never met in my whole, admittedly short life. They took two weeks to write back, and said that they appreciated our patronage of Quaker Oats and Pepsi, but that “due to [their] present commitments and limited resources, [they found] it necessary to decline [our] proposal.” What? All we said was we’d review a new flavor if they had one, but hang on a second, we’ve been eating the Roni’s of Rice our whole life, they can’t spare $1 to send us a promotional box? Wow man, I think we my hankering for the Roni just waned out the rest of the way.

Seriously, don’t eat Rice-a-Roni, those guys are a bunch of jerks.

New Word ‘Gimme’ Yields Mixed Results

Over the past month or so I’ve been trying out two of my newest words to see what kind of results they can bring me. Don’t get me wrong, all of these so-called “words” are pretty effective, but none have had quite an impact as “my” and “gimme” which have always had a response, though somewhat of a polarized response at that.

Go on, let my innocent looks fool you.
Go on, let my innocent looks fool you.

I’ve been adding snippets and bits to my vernacular day by day — though never on command and I rarely admit to them — but two of my newest scraps of verbiage have had more impact than any other. Sometimes it’s good and often times it’s bad, but both “my” and “gimme” have never failed to get me some sort of attention, sometimes even the attention I was looking for.

“My” is a good one. It’s a possessive word I’ve known for a long time but never employed as much as I have in the last couple months. It’s a great one, really. If you see something you want, no matter who it belongs to, no matter what the circumstance, you can just let loose with a window-rattling “MY!” and see what happens. Clearly the item in question isn’t mine, specifically, though it has been at least once that I’ve used it, but no matter what, based on parental ear drum bleeding alone, they have to pay you a modicum of heed.

Maybe you’ll get your “MY!” and maybe you won’t, but attention, you’ll get plenty of that.

The other one, and a much more recent addition to my vocabulary is “gimme”. Oh man, this one is great. It’s like a possessive word but in the future mandatory sense. Instead of saying “I want juice, please, Mama,” I bark out such phrases as “Gimme my juice, now!”

You may not get your juice this way but you’ll be noticed. None of that quiet kid by the cupboard business, you can’t be ignored when howling out such a high pitched, high volume utterance.

Even if you just want juice (“please” or otherwise) you’ll surely be noticed, and commanding attention is half the battle… the other half, by my experience, has been to get a parent to de-concentrate and cuppify the juice. Small matters, you’ve got them by the short hairs already* and that’s what counts.

But if you’re getting “my” and “gimme” down to a science, you simply have to expand them to other practices as well. Don’t limit your demands (notice I didn’t say “requests”) to juice. Require your Spiderman be returned with a “my” and a “gimme”, or even a “gimme my Spiderman!” Hey, if it’s yours, it’s yours, even if it isn’t yours.

* The hairs beside the ears are the short ones, right? Because, when screaming for no reason, those are the shortest hairs by which you can possess a parent. Also, they usually stand on end.

my mine, me-me, gimme Above - Sometimes after I mouth off real good I like to hide behind something thick, plush, protective and, well, my dog.
my mine, me-me, gimme
Above – Sometimes after I mouth off real good I like to hide behind something thick, plush, protective and, well, my dog.

Your City Goes Here

It’s that easy, your city really and truly can go right here. I mean, not like we’re going to go back and delete this article to insert something about your town, but we’ll do just about as good. We’re always curious about cities to review and yours could be right here, if you love us enough and want to help us make it happen.

What`s this copyright infringement you speak of? Nay, ye, this is an original composition!
What`s this copyright infringement you speak of? Nay, ye, this is an original composition!

Does your city want to be reviewed? Does it stay up nights craving it after other cities brag about how we reviewed them? The solution may be closer than you think, and it may come in a handsome three-foot-tall package.

We can hit your town, make it look as pretty as it is, bring you tens of tens of dollars in tourist revenue, and embrace you as warmly as you clearly embrace us. For the right town, we can make the time to spare, all you need to do is convince us and show us the zazz.

Is your city struggling for a voice to advocate its tourism or businesses? Maybe we can be that voice for you, if you want it so bad you can feel the burn. Can you feel it? Maybe you’re not a person at all but a country, complete with your zig-zagging edges. Should we review your country?

We’ve said for years we’re waiting for the right mountain cult to embrace us as members of their own, and we’re still ready, if you’re leader will have us. We can paint your peculiar habits in a positive light, assuming there’s anything remotely desirable about them.

If you’re reading this as anything other than a casual passer by, indeed, as a true and honest advocate for your town, use the EMAIL button up top and drop us the line we need to know you guys exist. We’ve done great things for Shanghai, Longbeach, Vancouver, Seattle, SAN FRANCISCO, and Humboldt County, and we’ve got a shaven mammoth of a section coming up about San Francsisco, but we’re curious George’s and we’re always looking for more.

animated map of the united states
Above – Round and round she goes, where she stops, I already forgot the question.