June 16, 2001

Today I rediscovered the National Wax Museum, first seen from the bone-jarring second level of a bus constipated in mid-morning traffic.  I was wandering today, as I do when I don’t know what to do – physically or mentally – and rounding the corner past the Hugh Lane Gallery saw its dull, spotty red sign.

They robbed me of £3.50 at the door – breaking my only remaining bill and adding another ninety pounds of needlessly large and heavy coinage to my straining pockets.  One wonders if it’s like ears that get stretched into long lobes by Eastern tribes with large weights in their piercings.  By the end of this trip I should have pockets down to my ankles.

You go upstairs to start your tour in the children’s fairy land in which there are actually no wax figures whatsoever.  They’re all tableaux of odd little almond-eyed plush muppet-like characters.  The scenes are uninspired and but for the little placards in each cell you wouldn’t have a clue what you were looking at.  Not that that would be all that much of a hardship.  There are here, and throughout the rest of the exhibitions, little nooks and crannies which go nowhere but badly-painted dead-ends.  One gets the feeling that there was more there at one time.  Or that the geniuses behind the operation imagined a great flush of popularity and funds with which to expand their waxen empire.  They couldn’t have been more mistaken.

You go down a floor to the history bit.  Lifeless figurines with horribly badly done hair.  The only thing that kept me there as long as it did were the small narrations that accompanied them, giving me a Reader’s Digest uncontroversial grade-school breeze through Irish history.  I saw Wolfe Tone, Robert Emmett, a scene from the 1916 uprising in which the figure on the stretcher is cupping his genitals for no conceivable reason.  Maybe to take his mind off his mangled, waxen, toenail-less block of a bloody foot.  Then there are the presidents and taoseichs of the Republic.  Very interesting.

However, rounding the corner to further unknown figures in Ireland’s history, the small buttons on the wall “press here for narration” seemed to be out of order, and repeated pressings brought nought but electrical farts from the overhead speakers.

Needless to say I breezed down to the last and final floor.  First off are the Simpsons.  Again, not in wax.  Is there no truth of labeling act in this country?

Oh, by the way, on history floor you are first presented with the Ninja Turtles – do people even remember them? – with very loud music that drowns out the historical narrations.  Making the tinny voices even more difficult to hear and making near-negligible the only strength of the god-forsaken place.

Behind the Simpsons is the Pope and their great claim to fame, the actual Popemobile used by the popeness on his historic visit to Ireland.  It has no wheels or wheel holes.  Did it float?  Was it a hovercraft?

(Gads, I’m feeling tight in the old upper-right-hand corner.  The gallbladder hates the fact that simple sandwiches come with enough butter to choke a horse.)

The chamber of celebrity was awful, unlabelled, and only through judicious squinting and costume interpretation could you figure out who the dull, inhuman totems were to represent.  Freddie Mercury looks as if he’s distended his jaw in preparation for some alien hatchling propelling its way out of his body.  Even U2 – Ireland’s greatest export after the populations of Chicago and Boston – were modeled awfully.  You’d think they’d at least have taken some care with them.

As I rounded a corner by Freddy Kruger leaning less than intimidatingly from the wall with a dull claw, the gaggle of girls rounded the opposite corner and, confronted with my figure emerging from the dark, screamed, turned, and ran.

All in all an awful waste of time and money.  Dublin seems to excel at having unimpressive museums, but this one absolutely takes the cake with its awful wax figures mixed with absolute neglect.  Apart from the narrations being out of order, there are books that have fallen out of authors’ hands onto the floor, beards pulling away from faces, a general lack of labeling, and in one area meant to hold a promised Star Wars exhibit there is what looks like an old employee break room with a sink and a stack of chairs.  Thoroughly awful.

And yet, at the same time, I smiled almost the whole way through.  Somehow I was genuinely amused – must be the rapt fascination of watching a car accident.  Or the knowledge that you could absolutely do better than the crap that was on display.  The amusement that someone got paid to do these figures and that was probably how they made their living.

However, I would never return.

The city of poor museums outdoes itself.  Just when you think you’ve hit rock bottom there is always a trap door.  And that trap door is the National Wax Museum.

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