Freudian Slips: The Halls of Montezuma

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Location: Irony, New Jersey, United States

Life takes us many places. It's a box of chocolates and a Hansel and Gretal trail of candy wrappers. I have filmed as an actor in The Happening, Invincible, The Lovely Bones, The Bounty Hunter, The Greek American, Bazookas, Limitless, TV's Its Always Sunny in Philly, Outlaw, New York, The Warrior, The Nail, Game Change, Cold Case, & commercial work includes The Philadelphia Eagles, Septa, Coors, Turbo Tax & Carnival Cruises. Freudian Slips spotlights irony in short story format.

November 22, 2004

The Halls of Montezuma

There exist few circumstances more precarious than walking into a museum to see a statue of yourself for the inaugural time. I had little control over the content or the direction the project took, which is ending its second year in the development stage. Along the way, I gave practical suggestions and Ripley’s listened with a sympathetic ear to my input while never promising me any rose gardens. I perseverated to Ripley’s the importance of making the public aware of the seriousness of my disease, Mastocytosis, and to downplay the underlying man vs. insect theme.
I find myself, in life and actuality, standing in front of the Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum. Since 1996, the museum has been a landmark on the boardwalk even without me inside. The building's enormous signature wrecking ball globe is an impressive breakway facade. The museum has just opened up for the day and my life was about to turn a page. The curator is out of town on business. So my initial walk through the museum is without escort and this causes an uneasy deliberation in my stride. Through the catacomb rooms, I stumble upon a man on his knees busily dusting the unique furniture with pride.
“Excuse me. The manager said I could snap a few pictures of my display. You know the new exhibit.”
He popped to his feet and it looked like his hand seemed thankful to stop working in a circular motion with his dust rag. “What do you mean, your display?”
Since I set-up my visit through the absent curator, I was not sure if the staff expected my arrival, especially since I left my visit open-ended without an appointment.
“I am the guy behind the beekeeper’s mask.” I explain. “I am...the exhibit.”
The expression on his face changed for the better. Then his jaw drooped before issuing the following statement. “Man, I have been dusting these displays and statues for years; I ain’t never met a real attraction.”
“Joe Tornatore, how do you do?”
I carry no pretense about me. I am who I am. I offer my hand and my hand confirms to him that I was not an aspiration casing the joint.
“Wow, you’re the Bee Man from Blackwood. You were on the TV show and everything. I don’t believe it.”
Anytime a Ripley’s staff member exclaims “I don’t believe it” in one of their famed museums I nominate them to win the First Annual Freudian Slips grand prize award, if ever there was one on my website.
He gladly led me through the halls of Montezuma, where a strange sensation took over me. Goose bumps stood out on my forearms and I glanced at any one of the exhibits as my brethren. We arrive no worse for wear at the Survivor’s Gallery, one of their thirteen themed galleries.
The room is poorly lit and it adds to the spooky ambience. A life size ambulance is stationed with its poor passenger impaled by a spear. A statue of St. Jude, the patron Saint of Hopeless Causes, was nowhere to be found although her blessed name could easily be dropped in the suggestion box at the door. The man points to a statue standing before a red brick wall.
I do not know what a normal reaction should be seeing themselves as an erect statue in a museum. I stop walking and blink my eyes upon bearing witness to my effigy. Ripley’s chose to use a full figured mannequin instead of making a more authentic wax figure. Because of my allergy to bees, dipping me up to my eyeballs in beeswax might have been an exercise in futility, liability, or both. I hate to use a man vs. insect analogy here, but I would have enjoyed being a fly on the wall to observe the responsible party picking out the mannequin that best looked like me? I quickly embraced the Adonis statuesque looks with the svelte figure dressed in a full-figured beekeeper’s outfit. At 5’9” I always wanted to be a few inches taller anyway. At 230 pounds and counting, I did not have a problem with being remembered as lighter. Ripley’s sculpted an overweight endomorph into an athletic looking ectomorph but maybe this was for the good of mankind. Ripley's could correct the discrepancy if they wanted to. Buzz saw me at the ankles, wrap a big pillow case around my waist, and inject a healthy dose of collagen in my plastic cheeks. Two peas in a pod! I took a few pictures with my digital camera for prosperity. My trigger happy finger snapping the shutter seems to forget the exhibit is a permanent fixture of the museum. Soon people gather around me, asking for autographs at the foot of my display. It has been said that one definition of famous is when asked earnestly for your autograph from two different people for the same reason. I am not comfortable with the famous designation so let’s put an asterisk next to that definition. Nonetheless, Ripley’s letterhead and a black sharpie are thrusted my way, and I begin honoring requests to sign autographs not only for patrons and staffers but for their relatives and enclave including “Sally, who lives in the unit above me.” and “my niece who is due to be born any day.” I did not mind signing an autograph for Sally in absentia but I do not know if a newborn baby is better off entering this world being sung lullabies of the Bee Man from Blackwood. Who am I to tell would-be parents how to raise their children? I minded my own beeswax.
The assistant manager interrupts the autograph signing. “What do you think of your display?”
“All I got to say, I’m glad to see someone finally wearing that costume other than me.”
At this point, I notice a familiarity with the footwear on the mannequin. I kneel down and inspect the sneakers. “Hey, this is cool. I’m glad corporate decided to use the Reeboks I donated. Those dogs were so comfortable on my feet and my twin is going to be on his feet all the live long day.”
I am not sure what people thought of my strong sense of humor. They just kind of obliged me and made my remarks seemingly pleasing to their ears. I thanked everyone before I left. I promised to return when my exhibit moves from its prototype stage to completion. Ribbon cutting ceremonies, a press release, and a book signing are tentatively scheduled in 2005.
I exit the front doors of the museum and gain my bearings. The museum is located with its front doors to the Atlantic Ocean at New York and the Boardwalk between the Resorts and Sands casinos. Even on this overcast November day, the boardwalk bustles with sightseers. I make a mental bookmark. There is no getting around the fact that I am now a sight for sore eyes in the museum but amongst sightseers this may turn out to be a good location to sell my autobiography.
I remember my mother, whose lifeline is portable oxygen tanks, waiting in the car curbside. Health and fatigue prevented her from joining me in the museum. I hurry down the boardwalk ramp singing, “If I were a rich man, dadadadadee”. I make it back to the car and my mother’s side.
“Well, how did it go?” my mother asks in the cabin of the car.
“Uh, your son is an exhibit in a museum on the boardwalk of Atlantic City, the tourist capital of the entire country. I answer in the third person, for no other reason than to gain some seperation from the events which just transpired.
“I thought Las Vegas held that distinction?” my mother corrected.
“Mom, I just got done signing autographs. Don’t you think you’re splitting hairs here? You’re acting like you got another son in a more upscale museum at the Smithsonian or something.”
My mother registers a full belly laugh and she had not even seen the exhibit. I take care of that glitch. I whip out my digital camera. Mom fumbles for her granny glasses, puts them on just above her air intake, and stares down the barrel of the camera. I show her the carnage in a rather unusual “Joey Horror Picture Show.” My mother has always been my biggest critic and showing her a Ripley’s Believe it or Not effigy seemed to give her twice as many targets, each bearing the same name. Not a smart career move for a son wanting her respect.
“I hope the pictures print a lot better than they look, Joe.” she commented.
The car is put in drive and my mother never looks back. For me, objects in the rear view mirror appeared closer than they really are. On the drive home, my mother and I entertain many conversations but my mind never fully leaves the museum. Not many people can talk about themselves in a museum nor am I sure how many people want to in this case. I mull over the possibilities in disembodied thought as we put distance behind us.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, and to think - I played Golf with the "Bee Guy" from Blackwood" Best to Joe.


10:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When a reader still gets my nickname wrong, I must not be famous. "It's Bee Man from Blackwood." Glad you found my website, Todd.

8:36 PM  

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