My grandparents had a farm on County Highway JJ in Lone Rock, just twenty some minutes from one of Wisconsin's weirdest attractions, The House on the Rock. The House on the Rock is a shrine to one man's weird collections and architectural dreams. The house itself is like some shag pile automated party house for Austin Powers, while the outlying warehouse-like buildings are crammed with everything from creepy dolls and dollhouses to mannequins wearing some of the oddest outfits to Eastern shrines and vast copper kettles surrounded by little walkways and staircases that go nowhere. And then there's the carousel. It's the world's largest indoor carousel that features 269 carousel animals, 182 chandeliers, over 20,000 lights, and hundreds of mannequin angels hanging from the ceiling. I spent much of my childhood hoping to ride that carousel, but alas, they don't allow it. I literally don't know how many times my parents took me there, it was a way to divert my brother and me for hours. I loved getting lost in the recreation of old streets and looking into fake houses, always wondering about other places and other people's lives.
The last time I went with my parents was for one of my brother's birthday parties. I remember it was sometime after the movie Big came out because I was 100% convinced that my fortune from the Esmeralda Machine, like Zoltar, would come to pass. In fact, it kind of did. I scoffed at it saying I'd end up in theatre and then I went and got myself a degree doing theatre tech! Though I am to this day grateful the card didn't say:
Years later when I was out of high school I went back with my friends and was still awed by the weirdness of it all. Last fall I went for what I am claiming will be my last time. The place was dusty and dilapidated, hot and overwhelming. And so cacophonous with the om-pah-pah music reverberating everywhere. But it's been a part of my life for so long it's no surprise that when I heard there was a book set there written by Neil Gaiman I ran to the bookstore and bought it. I am glad that American Gods wasn't the first Gaiman book I read because I have a feeling I would never have read anything else by him. He has often stated that American Gods is his most polarizing book and I can see that just among my friends. Some view it as the best book they've ever read and some have never been able to finish it. I just feel stupid when I read it, like I need a PHD in mythology to grasp the plot. I even tried to re-read it last fall before my final excursion to The House on the Rock and failed after the first section. But American Gods does hold a special place in my heart because Neil perfectly captured a place that was part of my growing up and immortalized it. So when the dust and decay and faulty wiring finally consume Alex Jordan's vision it will live on through Neil's writing.