Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:
Every year since 1999 my wife Anne and I have taken a trip to a different part of the United States and visited attractions, wonders, and events we didn’t have back home in Indianapolis. From 1999 to 2003 we did so as best friends; from 2004 to the present, as husband and wife. For 2017 our ultimate destination of choice was the city of Baltimore, Maryland. You might remember it from such TV shows as Homicide: Life on the Street and The Wire, not exactly the most enticing showcases to lure in prospective tourists. Though folks who know me best know I’m one of those guys who won’t shut up about The Wire, a Baltimore walkabout was Anne’s idea. Setting aside my fandom, as a major history buff she was first to remind skeptics who made worried faces at us for this plan that Maryland was one of the original thirteen American colonies and, urban decay notwithstanding, remains packed with notable history and architecture from ye olde Founding Father times. In the course of our research we were surprised to discover Baltimore also has an entire designated tourist-trap section covered with things to do. And if we just so happened to run across former filming locations without getting shot, happy bonus…
We left the Gettysburg Battlefield area after a late lunch and were heading northwest when, barely a mile down the road, we pulled over for our next diversion. In a complete change of pace from solemn reminders of our bloodied American history, we perused a unique little establishment, a seller of myriad sugary snacks that boasts an assortment of over twelve thousand elephants. Because they can.
Mister Ed’s Elephant Museum and Candy Emporium began in 1975 as an ordinary general store. As time passed, founder and former grocery manager Ed Gotwalt tweaked his merchandise offerings, shifted his focus, and decided there should be lots and lots and lots and lots of elephants. Thus was one man’s dream born and brought to fruition. Mister Ed and his wife retired years ago, but passed on the legacy to their granddaughter and her husband, who together keep the elephantine dream alive.
Hence: elephants. You can’t possibly miss the place as you’re driving down the highway, what with all the elephants on the lawn.
The outdoor elephants aren’t alone. All around the premises are additional non-elephant statues, decorations, knickknacks, lost objects, junk nailed to trees, stuff that isn’t quite trash but may not aspire to art. Around the house, in the backyard, and all through the adjacent copse are eye-catching bits of randomness, glued to walls or tossed in bushes, floating somewhere in the vast gray area between the realm of kitsch and the sin of littering.
Inside Mister Ed’s is the heart of the dream — his thundering herd, his non-traveling super-circus, his vast collection of elephants of all shapes, sizes, nationalities, media, and occupations.
There’s more to Mister Ed’s than elephants, though that’s a proud accomplishment in itself. Mister Ed’s quirky institution has afforded him the opportunity to travel and meet high-profile folks throughout the course of his career. A wall of photographs captures Mister Ed’s momentous encounters with the likes of Whoopi Goldberg, Robin Williams, Kathleen Turner, Mad Men‘s Kevin Rahm, Curtis “Booger” Armstrong, and — of note to longtime MCC followers — former Bunheads star Sutton Foster. For that alone, Mister Ed has earned my heartfelt envy.
For local kids and passing motorists, Mister Ed’s also carries over 700 varieties of candy, including many old-fashioned brands you can’t find at Walmart or your favorite gas station. Marvel at the extra-large exhibit pieces as you walk around, but don’t forget to stock up on supplies for the rest of your road trip.
I wish I could say we bought a trash bag full of candies to take with us, but the truth is we had no cooler with us and no safe way to transport so much perishable product. We still had leftovers from Vaccaro’s in Baltimore that thankfully hadn’t melted inside our luggage and trunk yet. We refused to leave empty-handed, but we had to keep it modest. Choosing from their extensive selection of flavored fudges, I picked up some root beer fudge, while Anne went experimental with some watermelon fudge. Because watermelon fudge, like a herd of 12,000 elephants, isn’t something you see everyday.
To be continued!
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