I missed Bodies...The Exhibition when it was in San Francisco a while back. Last week we were at the NAA convention in Las Vegas, and Burns tells me the bodies exhibition is at the Tropicana. I had to go. I'd read about the crazy process where they take cadavers and fill the veins and stuff with plastic and turn the bodies into life-sized, real models of themselves or something. So Burns and I take a hike up there from Mandalay Bay one day before our show.
Tolles wouldn't come, he was too creeped out.
The exhibition was amazing, even better than I expected.
Imagine a person's circulatory system, filled with plastic, holding its shape, with the the rest of the person dissolved away so only the red-colored blood vessels remain, hanging 3D in space.
The fetus room had its own special warning, so you could go around and skip that part if you wanted to. Rightly so. Yuugh.
The respiratory system room had a big plexiglass box with a hole in the top of it. The box was filled with hundreds of packs of cigarettes. Next to the box was a case with two preserved lungs, a healthy lung and a black-tarred smoker's lung. A sign over the plexiglass box said "Quit now." While Burns and I watched a woman dropped her pack into the box. I wonder if she'll really quit. It's hard.
Spending an hour looking at partially-dissected cadavers really started to haunt me about my own mortality. I was wondering who all these exhibited cadavers belonged too. I mean who were these people that their bodies ended up in a traveling show in Las Vegas with a bunch of people gawking at them. This isn't just Hamlet holding his buddy's skull, it's surreal on a modern scale.
The last time I felt this way was in Paris, when I visited the catacombs. Apparently in the 18th century the dead of Paris were overflowing the cemetaries, so monks dug up all the bodies, cleaned off the bones, and neatly stacked them in various ..patterns.. against the walls in a network of tunnels buried beneath the city. You can take a tour. (Take a close look at that picture. Those skulls are arranged in the shape of a heart. What were the monks thinking?)
The place is genuinely creepy, all wet-dripping stuff from the ceiling and skulls and plaques with ominous messages of doom every few paces.
While I was there a girl from a high school tour group freaked out and ran past me screaming "I have to get out of here!" She was going the wrong way.
That was ten years ago. I think it would be even more spooky to me now. You don't see any old people touring the catacombs.