I had seen the building boasting the world’s largest kaleidoscope on many drives through the Catskills, cropping up along Route 28 in Mt. Tremper between the idiosyncratic motels and restaurants perched on cliff-faces.
“WORLD’S LARGEST KALEIDOSCOPE,” the lettering bellowed, with an arrow helpfully pointing to a silo emerging from the structure. The building was asking to be explored.
My girlfriend, Jody, was expecting something a little more carnivalesque upon our arrival.
“I thought this place would be kookier,” she said, by which she meant she was expecting something less classy and more neon-encrusted.
The world’s largest kaleidoscope is not part of some circus side-show, but is located in the Emerson Resort and Spa, in case you want a face-peel and pedicure before seeing some psychedelic visuals.
We entered through the location’s general store, which included Ralph’s Café and a plethora of artisanal jams. I had sworn off bread and the delicious, delicious spreads atop them a couple weeks back to get in shape for beach-bod season, so I opted to buy a coconut cream coffee and some hot sauce.
The café leads to what could be considered a small mall, since it consisted of a broad indoor walkway lined with shops and kiosks, except the owners had obviously taken great pains to make it not look like a mall. This included a brick floor, which gave the situation the feel of an outdoor market, but the bricks had not been sealed together in any way and moved slightly as we tottered past a saleswoman behind a kiosk.
“The bricks move,” the saleswoman explained.
We continued through the not-mall until the not-floor turned into carpeting, and the place kept getting classier until I felt like I was trespassing.
We passed a waiting room for the spa and I saw a woman in a bathrobe giving a very perturbed glare to the door leading to the hallway. I certainly wondered why someone would be so irate while in a spa (wrong toenail color? claustrophobia?) but didn’t stop to ask.
Jody and I doubled back to the “Kaleidostore,” where a woman was ushering an older couple through a heavy door to the kaleidoscope itself. After the door closed, I heard a deep rumble of bass as the show started.
“So, what’s the deal with the kaleidoscope?” I inquired when the three of us were back in the store.
The deal was $5 a person for a ten-minute show, which is a good deal for the largest of ANYTHING. The Catskills, for all their awesomeness, do not, to my knowledge, have claim to the largest of anything else. There is the World’s Third-Largest Gnome (name = “Gnome Chomsky”) in Kerhonkson, which WAS the world’s largest when it was erected about a decade ago, but was unseated by some bastard in Canada. Plus I wouldn’t consider Kerhonkson part of the Catskills. Plus, who really gives a shit about gnomes?
Technicolor dream-shows are something I DO give a shit about, so I was excited when the woman ushered us into the silo.
I was a bit disappointed by the show, because it was a prefabricated projection through a series of mirrors, as opposed objects behind the mirrors creating random images. The show had a narrator, who told us to lie back (we were on the floor) and wait for the space ship to blast off.
Therein followed a scientifically questionable journey through the universe accompanied by the swirling, deconstructing patterns of the light show and some slammin’ bass, which vibrated our bodies through the carpeting.
“…and remember,” the show concluded, “we are all stardust.”
The Kaleidostore was far from some cheesy rip-off tourist trap and was actually more enjoyable than the kaleidoscope (which wasn’t, like, BAD, or anything). It featured hand-made kaleidoscopes from a series of artisans, and the contraptions were breathtaking, both inside and out.
“If I were a millionaire, I would buy this entire store,” I said.
If you have $5, would suggest taking a spin in the world’s largest kaleidoscope. However, if you have a million dollars, go and buy the kaleidostore. It’ll be worth every penny.
Afterword: The Private Catskills
Route 28 is one of my favorite roads to drive on.