Thursday, December 5, 2013

Mellow yellow

The post office may tell you that the International Banana Museum is in Mecca, CA, but to the traveller, it's south of that small date-growing town, along the North Shore of the Salton Sea. It's pretty much in the middle of nowhere.

From the 111 highway, the clean, bright yellow, white and blue painting building with the jaunty yellow Volkswagen beetle out front catches your eye with enough time to slow down and turn into the parking lot.

The sign on the door says the suggested $3.50 admission fee is credited to your first purchase, but when you step inside the screen door, there are no uniformed museum guards there to collect. Instead, we encountered a child wearing a banana suit. It just seemed normal, given that the entire room was filled with banana-like objects in all sizes and guises.

Display cases were crammed with banana memorabilia, artifacts of banana-flavored processed food and candy, stuffed banana toys, and plastic bananas. Kitschy banana dishware and objets d'art, banana-themed lamps, banana themed books, magazines and LP covers were arrayed all over the room.

I loved these unusual banana salt-and-pepper shakers - unusual because they were PEELED bananas.

A lovely Carmen Miranda - er, Banana - like ceramic décor piece on the bar.

I love this little boudoir lamp, with a bronze monkey holding a bunch of bananas. Note, too, the variety of banana wall décor.

The banana-girl's parents and siblings were seated at the glass-topped bar or at the small tea-tables, while behind the counter an industrial-size milkshake machine whirred away, where Fred, the museum's owner, artistic director, CEO and most devoted docent, was making banana shakes.

When it was our turn, I ordered a banana-strawberry shake, while [The Man I Love] asked Fred for his recommendation for banana-flavored soda.

Photo from HERE

Fred recommended Empire Banana-flavored soda, a classic dating back to the 1930s. Fred has owned the museum since 2010, having bought the collection from the man who founded it in 1972.  Here's an article on Gawker about Fred and his mom saving the museum.

The Museum shares an attractive Mid-Century Modern concrete block building with Skip's Liquor Store.  There's a large parking lot, to accommodate hordes of visitors, and out back there's a tiny concrete shed with a clean and serviceable restroom.  I took the opportunity to check it out, and take Jack for a little walk.

Beyond the museum and Skip's,  there's nothing to see but flat open desert. Shimmering far on the horizon, you can see the silvery water of the Salton Sea.

The strawberry-banana shake was delicious, sweet, and almost too thick to get through a straw.  The taste of banana soda was like a blast from the past - like any banana-flavored candy, popsicle, or pudding from childhood. If you like that kind of thing.

The vast, unpopulated reaches of southwestern Imperial County seem an unlikely spot for a tourist attraction, but Fred's enthusiasm seems to attract plenty of visitors who are delighted to Go Bananas!

Don't miss it if you're passing through!

No comments: