Today I took my son Matthew to NASA’s Stennis Space Center on the Mississippi Coast. He’s a complete space geek, and this is what he wanted to do for his birthday (he turns 13 on Saturday). True to form, he geeked out at the place. It was fine by me, the exhibit, but it takes a true space nut to get all giddy at the site of rocket engine test pads:

Bless his heart, say I. But space is not my thing. However, my kids are my thing, and if it delights them, then it delights me.

On the drive home, Matthew talked about why he loves space so much, and the depth of his curiosity to explore and know what’s out there. “Do you know that we have no idea what’s beneath the ice caps on [some planet or moon I’ve never heard of]?!” he said.

“I love that you’re crazy about exploring space,” I said. “It’s funny, but I think I’m about as passionate about exploring the inner world as you are the outer world.”

He asked me what I meant.

“I mean the world inside of people, and what comes out of that,” I said. “It’s culture. I love to travel, but I don’t want to travel to look at beautiful mountains or beaches. I want to travel to see towns and cities. I mean, I love to see what kind of environments people have made for themselves in the world. How their towns and buildings and food express what’s inside them.”

“Hmm,” Matthew said.

Which brings us, happily, to the Abita Mystery House. Matt and I detoured to the little town of Abita Springs to have lunch at the brewpub owned by the Abita Brewing Company, an excellent Louisiana craft brewer. I had plans to eat there, then drive out to the Benedictine abbey north of Covington to visit Walker Percy’s grave, but we were running late, and I was having a mono crash, so we decided to go back.

Walking into the pub, we noticed a flyer or something for the Abita Mystery House, a crackpot folk art museum I’d been wanting to see since I moved back to Louisiana. The waitress told us it was within easy walking distance. After we ate, Matt and I toddled over to it, on a side street off the town’s main drag. We stopped by the bank to make sure we were going the right way. The teller sent us off with some advice: “Don’t let John scare you.”

John is John Preble, the genius behind the House. Read all about him and his joint here. Sadly, he wasn’t there today, but I testify all the same that what Stennis was to Matt, the Abita Mystery House was to me. It was trippy and eccentric and entirely wonderful. Pictures below the jump. You really do want to see them. I would not have been the least bit surprised to have run across our own Charles Cosimano sitting on a giant poured concrete lotus flower in one of the back courtyards. This is such a weird, great state. Look:

A moving diorama showing a tornado blowing through a trailer park. Push the button and the tornado twirls, and the top comes off the trailer on the left.

The only truly creepy thing I saw there.

Inside the Hot Sauce House. A couple hundred bottles of hot sauce live there.

Let’s all sit out here and have a cold Abita, whaddaya say?

We had a great day together, Matthew and me. I don’t know whether the Abita Mystery House is the Lord’s plan at work, but I’m confident that it’s the Lord’s plan at play…

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