Formerly a seven franchise chain, The Near Nothing Museum has only one remaining location. It’s worth the ticket ($12.34) and the drive out of your way for the Room of Latitude and Longitude where crossword cut-outs dangle from the ceiling, the clues grazing the top of your head and where blank squares spread the walls and you can reach all the way from 34 across to 59 down, a clue no one has yet solved. You can climb inside all the black squares, but I won’t ruin all the surprises therein. Inside one of the squares, familiar poems are communicated via sense of smell. Plath’s “The Moon and the Yew Tree” smelled mostly of a basement, which initially confused this reviewer, but made sense once the scent began to turn sheet-white, a shade that flaps and hisses at the wind or at loneliness, if there is a difference. One of Shakespeare’s sonnets (#130) smelled like rain, lipstick, old copper, and formaldehyde–which is astonishing in its ability to please and can be purchased along with the elixirs of other poems as a perfumes in the gift shop (prices vary according to meter.)
Also worth a look is the broken heart, which you can hold gently in your hands, or, as most visitors seem to prefer, toss at the wall which presumably once was white but has been painted over in cathartic splatter. Like an inverse Oscar Wilde’s tomb, people have come to pay a different respect.
The less adventurous can take communion from an intoxicated bear. The travel-weary are free to nap in front of a live audience who are encouraged to participate in the sound effects of dreams.
Most notable and the main attraction, the reason people veer off the desert highway (please have a full tank of gas and a spare dispenser in the trunk, plenty of water and snacks–all of which can be fulfilled at the turn by a shop with no attendant; pay in the drop box) is the Near Nothing Man. You must give up all your possessions to visit with him. He will return your heart when you leave, but it will have been altered (for most it will continue to perform all physiological functions.) This reviewer had no trouble afterward with its beating and response to stimuli. However, she had a deeper understanding of not-knowing the answer to 59 Down, left with the scent of Anne Sexton’s “Her Kind” pulsing on her wrist (licorice, star-pointed lilies, wet moss), and a print of her heart’s reaction to the wall, that car-wreck stop and the explosion of retraced paths, first in the frantic, slow seconds when brakes could have been applied, then the minutes when an alternate route could have been taken, hours of steady stretches of open road, days of waiting just to get somewhere, until the womb-beginning before the heart is actually a heart and therefore doesn’t yet have its singular desire to get so near everything.
posted by holly.