Big Mamma’s House: Volume V

There is a tendency among Lawrentians to assume that the city of Appleton is an uninteresting place, leading many to rarely leave campus. This column seeks to profile spots in the city to burst your Lawrence bubble, while I use my experience as a townie to give them a side by side comparison with my eponymous mom’s house.

One of the cultural weak points of America is, far and away, the lack of castles. But, while rare, you can still find these imposing edifices dotted around the country, and home to one of those is Appleton. In fact, Appleton is home to two. Let me introduce you to Monkey Joe’s.  

Monkey Joe’s is a veritable haven of bouncy houses located in a strip mall down the road from the Timber Rattlers stadium. It has party rooms, shoe cubbies and three bouncy houses — one an obstacle race and the other two regular adventure-mode houses. These houses have lots of fun features like climbing walls, slides and inflatable figures of the mascot, a beefy monkey. 

This palatial establishment is a remnant of a time when the kid-geared bouncy house market was not cornered by Chuck E. Cheese. Monkey Joe’s has survived by being better. One big problem with the mouse house is that it is overcrowded. Monkey Joe’s has no crowds. The bouncy houses are barren of children and has fertile ground for your feet. The whole place often will only contain whatever group you come with. The houses are bouncier, which is scientifically proven. The root beer is tastier, like a carbonated picnic. The parents are probably less depressed, because they know their kids are getting a better experience. Monkey Joe’s is the place to bring kids if you want them to listen to local alt rock stations and watch French cinema, and that brings a little ray of hope into parents’ hearts. Monkey Joe’s could have the Grinch whistling “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” in a minute, because everything about Monkey Joe’s is superior to Chuck E. Cheese. And, the mascot is even creepier.  

I really almost did it, you guys. I really almost put Monkey Joe’s ahead of my mom’s house. But who are we kidding? By now my loyal readers have had the time to visit my mom’s house and already know Monkey Joe’s has nothing on Appleton’s very own badly painted, wasp-infested hotspot. 

For every area in which Monkey Joe’s rocks Chuck E. Cheese’s clock, my mom’s house obliterates both of them with fun. We have two box TVs with VCR players. We have the drama between my gangly brother, who has never picked up an animal in his life and my dog, who he taunts every time my mom says Hobbes is her favorite son. We have the hole I dug in the front yard when my sister and I watched “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” and actually thought jumping in and out of a hole would give us mad hops. You would choose a building full of bouncy houses over a hole in the ground? Go get your brain checked, heathen. 

Think about this, Monkey Joe’s has an article’s worth of good qualities. I’ve been writing about my mom’s house for a month now and still have not run out of good qualities. My mom’s house is an overflowing cornucopia of entertainment for all ages, for wild nights as well as genteel company. 

When I googled Monkey Joe’s and saw the inflatable monkey straddling the obstacle course with his big beefy legs, I will admit I thought, “This place looks pretty nice.” You will probably think that too. Everyone in the world probably admires those monkey games. But, when I said out loud to my friend, “This place might be better than my mom’s house,” it was like the shrieking of a million tortured souls filled my ears. It felt so unflinchingly wrong to say Monkey Joe’s was a better time than hanging out at my mom’s house that I was sick for nearly two days after that.  

My mom’s house once again tops the pile, making us five to one on the season. It has been a tough schedule so far, and we were nearly toppled this week by Monkey Joe’s. But, my mom’s house finished strong, once again making its case as the coolest place in Appleton, Wisconsin.