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The Drunk 'n Stuffed Museum Tour

Every country needs something to be proud of. While some nationalistic accomplishments are dubious, like the Scots inventing haggis, Italy spawning Fabio, and Afghanistan changing their country's motto from "The Land Time Forgot" to "Got bin Laden?", if you've created something good you should flaunt it. That's why it's nice to see that some Russians have taken pride in their national beverage and opened the Vodka Museum. This is the Absolut truth.

And why shouldn't they? After all, France has a cognac museum, Ireland has a whiskey museum, and Wisconsin has the Old Milwaukee Museum of Lame American Beer for People With a Budget To Match Their Taste Buds. Besides, vodka is the national pastime--I mean, drink--of Russia. Each year the average Russian man drinks 180 bottles of the stuff, which is one every two days, or just the right amount to forget about the long bread lines, horrible weather, Yakov Smirnoff, and Mir.

The museum is small--only two rooms in fact--but they're packed full of vodka bottles, glasses, advertising posters, and a display of a Russian monk distilling the first shot way back in the mid-1400's. It shouldn't come as a surprise that vodka has religious origins. After all, the Benedictine Monks invented the liqueur which bears their name and the Little Sisters of the Poor created Blue Nun. Just kidding. Actually they created the Flying Nun, which is even more embarrassing. Especially to Sally Field.

One of the high points of the museum is the vodka tasting. It's not a great sign that the founders think visitors need shots of seven different vodkas to enjoy the museum to its fullest, though I have to admit I think any museum is more fun after seven shots of vodka. Even the newly opened SPAM museum in Austin, Minnesota. Or maybe that should be 'especially.'

Amazingly there's never been a SPAM museum until now. This has been a major national embarrassment since there's a Ramen noodle museum in Japan, a Cadbury chocolate museum in England, and even a Jell-O museum in LeRoy, NY. Luckily SPAM's maker, Hormel Animal Parts Recycling, saw the hole in the museum market and plugged it.

The SPAM museum is a lot larger than two rooms---it's 16,500 square feet to be exact. To put this in perspective, you could lay 2,845 Russians who have passed out after drinking seven shots of vodka on the floor side-by-side and still have room for a few cases of bootleg caviar. Right, like any self-respecting Russian would pass out after imbibing their usual lunchtime vodka ration, not to mention leaving free caviar sitting there uneaten.

The museum features SPAM advertising, a production line which probably won't take any mystery out of the mystery meat, and even a video of Monty Python's famous skit. No, not the dead parrot skit, the SPAM one.

The museum should do well. After all, SPAM is very popular. Over the past 64 years they've sold nearly six billion---that's billion with a 'b'--cans of the stuff. That's nearly 94 million cans a year, or one for every man, woman, and child who doesn't question what they put in their mouth.

In some parts of the world---okay, in South Korea, anyway--SPAM is considered a gourmet delicacy. This isn't surprising when you realize that the ad campaign there touts SPAM as "The other dog meat." Of course it helps to remember that this is South Korea, the home of the Kimchi Museum. Kimchi, in case you haven't felt like burning off your taste buds lately, is the fiery cabbage salad Koreans eat with every meal. They also use it to cauterize wounds, teach children never to utter naughty words again, and as entertainment. Face it, there aren't many things that are more fun than watching a Westerner jump and scream after mistaking kimchi for cole slaw.

The SPAM Museum has an interactive game show ("I'll take Food My Starving Cat Refuses to Eat for 500, Alex."), a display of 4,752 cans of SPAM from around the world ("Best when eaten after drinking seven shots of vodka."), and a gift shop with 255 different SPAM items ("Do you have that SPAM stomach pump in blue?"). They also have a display showing the role SPAM played in World War II.

I haven't made it to the museum to see just what that role was, but if it worked then I'm sure it can work now. I think President Bush should recruit SPAM and send it into battle. We could drop the cans from airplanes onto terrorist camps--they'd be deadly falling from 10,000 feet. Plus, if they accidentally opened and ate any of it they'd be in for a surprise when they read the leaflets we dumped the next day with the Arabic translation of the ingredients. As soon as they discovered it contains pork they'd realize there was no way they were getting into heaven no matter how many terrorist attacks they made mistakenly thinking it would buy them a "Get Into Heaven Free" card in Islamonopolyâ„¢.

This may help explain why the Russians had such a hard time in Afghanistan--dropping bottles of vodka just wouldn't have had the same effect. It also points out another reason America is such a great nation: we have SPAM. So support America and check out the museum. Though it might not be a bad idea to pretend you're at the Russian Vodka Museum first and have those seven shots before you go.

More Mad Dog can be found online at: His compilation of humorous travel columns, "If It's Such a Small World Then Why Have I Been Sitting on This Airplane For Twelve Hours?" is available from Xlibris Corporation. Email:

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