Adult Swim at the Madison Children’s Museum was a blast! If I hadn’t grabbed a copy of The Isthmus to read while I was waiting for My Darling B to pick me up after work I probably would never have heard about it, and even so I might still have missed it because there was only a short squib in the center spread where they summarize all the most popular events going on around town over the weekend, which are usually local bands that mostly appeal to a younger crowd and, even if they tried to play music that appealed to my generation, they would probably crank up the volume to eleven. Maybe that’s why old people are referred to as cranks. Why do you have to crank up the volume so high? Turn that noise down!
But I was waiting for a while that day because B was stuck in traffic or something, so I read every single word of The Isthmus and that’s how the squib about Adult Swim caught my eye. “If you’d like to check out the spiffy new digs of the Children’s Museum but don’t have kids –” and talk about coincidences, just last weekend as we were walking past the Children’s Museum I made a remark to B along the lines of, Do you know anybody who has a kid we can borrow so we can go check that out? “– here’s your chance. Tonight all exhibits are guaranteed child-free, including the human gerbil wheel.” Well, when I saw that they had a human gerbil wheel there was really no question in my mind whether or not we were going.
And it didn’t take much to convince My Darling B, either. I very smoothly introduced the idea after dinner earlier this week, saying something like, The children’s museum is open only to adults this Friday after work, sweetie. Want to go visit? She didn’t make a face, she didn’t ask questions like, Why the hell would I want to go to the Children’s Museum with a bunch of adults? she didn’t answer very slowly, Ah, yeah, sure honey, and back away from me slowly, avoiding any sudden moves, as if I might be ready to go totally batshit crazy at any moment. I think she said something like, Cool! Yeah! and after that the only questions she had were, What kid of exhibits do they have? and, Will we get to run on the human gerbil wheel? Really, she’s the ideal woman.
We got there at six on the button, just as it was opening, and we didn’t even get to the admissions desk before we were sidetracked by the squirty water jets right that shot red plastic balls into the whirlpool. We must have doinked around with that for at least ten minutes before we decided that there was no way to get the balls into the whirlpool no matter how many different ways we tried to do it, and the lobby was filling up, so I went to the counter to check in while B played with the rolly steel ball roller coaster thingies. I had to drag her away so we could get our hands stamped. Well, I had to drag her away after I played with the roller coasters a little bit myself.
Instead of staying on the ground floor with the rest of the crowd shuffling around, we headed up to the second floor while we could still have it mostly to ourselves. The second floor has a balcony around the stairway and the ceiling over the stairs is very high for the cow and the moon. Not an actual cow, but a full-size fiberglass replica hanging from the ceiling in a sling on a strap that runs up through a pulley and back down to a ten-foot-tall crescent moon with a rosy-cheeked smiley face. You can turn a big wheel to make the cow and moon go up and down, up and down, because of course the cow has to jump over the moon.
After playing with the jumping cow, I raced My Darling B to the top of the great big climby thing made of pod-like spheres clustered around a central stalk, and that’s about the clearest I can come to describing it. It looked like an organized collection of junk, not so organized that it didn’t look like junk but organized enough that you could look at it and see several ways to get to the top. I took what I at first thought was one of the easiest ways but, less than halfway up, I changed my mind and decided it was one of the hardest ways, maybe because I’m past the age when I can effortlessly climb to the top of a jungle gym. B beat me to the top.
I think the next thing we did was go to the rooftop garden, because we wanted to get up there while there was still daylight. There’s an impressive amount of foliage up there, mostly herbs and vegetables that you’d grow in your backyard if you were a gardener, beans and sunflowers, mint and basil, corn and creeping vines. The museum is in one of the many triangle buildings that sit on the corners where Madison’s unusual radial roads cross the conventional street grid, and the point of the rooftop garden is a glassed-in balcony that juts out over the street below like the jib of a sailing ship. You can stand on it, stretch out your arms to touch the glass panels on either side and shout, “I’m the King of the World!” to the crowds below, like they haven’t heard that a million times on that corner by now.
We took the elevator down from the rooftop garden, and that’s when we discovered the piano player. Not like we wouldn’t have discovered him eventually. As the night went on and the crowd became more like a party, the elevator turned out to be The Place To Be. It’s a freight elevator, big enough to hold thirty or forty people and a piano, and from about seven o’clock on it never held less than thirty or forty people, all singing so loud the piano became unnecessary except when they transitioned from one song to the next. If you were waiting for the elevator you could tell when it was approaching your floor by the increase in volume as it approached, and when the doors opened the chorus of whatever song they were singing in there forced you to stagger back a step before you regained your footing and stepped in. It was the best ride in the place, especially when they sang Sweet Caroline and all thirty people jumped up and down as they shouted “BOM! BOM! BOM!” and made the elevator car bounce up and down like cheap hotel mattress.
The human gerbil wheel is just what it sounds like: A gerbil wheel big enough to hold two grown human beings – grown up, but not old. There was a never-ending line of laughing grown-ups waiting to get in, and an attendant with one hand on a brake lever to make sure that none of them got hurt going too fast. “How fast can two people get this going if you don’t put the brakes on?” I asked her. “I don’t want to find out,” she answered. Fair enough.
There was so much more: The punch buggy, the musical village, the bone bridge, the hair driers that should have played music (No charge for that idea, Children’s Museum!), and I would love to go on and on but I’ve got stuff to do, like take care of basic hygiene, and then refill my coffee cup and read the Sunday paper, which has been sitting on the floor at my feet for hours, waiting for my attention, so any further drivel on this will have to wait for another day, or maybe the next time we go to the Adult Swim, which is scheduled for December 9th. And we will be there. Will you?play | 10:42 am CDT
Category: daily drivel | Tags: Children's Museum