The Beer Can House: Recycling at its Best

“They say every man should leave something to be remembered by.  At least I accomplished that goal.”  – John Martin Milkovisch

By Terri Marshall

Are you a beer drinker?  I don’t mean just an occasional beer drinker, but one with a regular beer consumption schedule!  Well if you are, I am sure you have accumulated your share of beer cans over the years.  We all know beer cans are recyclable, but one Houston, Texas resident took recycling to a whole new level.  You might say he was “green” before green was fashionable!

John Milkovisch, a retired upholsterer for the Southern Pacific Railroad and the creator of The Beer Can House was definitely one of a kind!  In 1968 John decided to begin inlaying thousands of marbles and rocks to create unique landscaping for his Malone Street home because he “got sick of mowing the grass.” This little project soon spread to an aluminum siding project – only the aluminum siding was made from aluminum beer cans. 

For the next 18 years John continued covering his home with flattened beer cans.  He created garlands of cut beer cans to hang from the roof edges, which reduced his family’s energy bills.  It also gave the house a special song in the wind.

John’s wife, Mary, learned to live with and accept his unusual home improvement projects.  Her only stipulation was that John install nice flooring inside their home.  Ever the recycler, John created beautiful tile floors from scraps of tile he brought home from the trains he was upholstering – I suppose aluminum flooring would not have been functional!

John was a good guy.  In the front yard of the Beer Can House there is a sign reminding us to live by the Golden Rule.  There is also a yellow ladder with one black rung.  The ladder represents the climb we all have in life to reach our goals.  The black rung serves as a reminder of the struggles we will encounter along the way.  John said we have the choice to slip backwards when we encounter the black rung or continue the climb.  Wise words!

John did not consider his project to be a work of art, or a champion for recycling – he was just enjoying himself.  Mary and the neighbors got into the act by helping drink the beer.  Even the neighborhood children contributed their Mountain Dew and
Coca Cola cans to the project at times.  John always said his favorite beer was “Whatever’s on special”!  The Beer Can House is maintained by the Orange Show, a non-profit foundation, and is open to visitors and events throughout the year.  The Beer Can House is located at 222 Malone Street between Memorial Drive and Washington Avenue in Houston, Texas.  It is open for visitors Saturdays and Sundays from 12:00 pm until 5:00 pm.  Next time you are in Houston, check out this landmark to recycling and originality!

In New York: Skip the pubs and clubs and head to the Trailer Park

By Terri Marshall

Looking for drinks in New York City?  Skip the pubs and clubs and head straight to the Trailer Park!  Yes, I said the Trailer Park.  Advertised on its website as “The Place to Meet your Next Ex”, the Trailer Park Lounge & Grill located in historic Chelsea at  271 West 23rd Street brings all things tacky to the big city.  It’s not hard to find, just look for the toilet out front – the one doubling as a planter and ashtray of course.  Head inside through the screened door  (slamming it as you enter) and you will find yourself right smack dab in the middle of  trailer park culture.

This kitschiest of establishments is filled with decor that (I have to admit) reminds me of my childhood in the South.  There are metal porch chairs, an old black and white console television, bowling alley lockers and pink flamingos.   Tunes are played from 8-track tapes and there is even a trailer inside the bar.  Like most redneck communities, the Trailer Park Lounge & Grill keeps its Christmas decorations up all year long so you can expect to see a blow-up Santa and snowman along with strings of flashing multi-colored lights.  There are arcade machines like the “Love Tester” and even a display case full of Cheese Whiz.   Of course no trailer park is complete without a collection of velvet Elvis paintings and the Trailer Park Lounge & Grill does not disappoint.  Basically, if you can find it at a flea market or for sale by the road at a gas station in some out of the way little town, you will find it at the Trailer Park Lounge.  Every trailer park has its heroes or heroines and this one is no exception so be sure to look for the tributes to Tonya Harding and Tammy Faye Baker.

I caught up with Andy – one of the owners of this most unusual New York establishment – to try to understand how in the world he came up with this idea.  First I was told a story about an Elvis impersonator making an appearance to Andy and business partner, Tom, while they were in a donut shop in Florida and telling them to go back up to New York City and open up a grill filled with fried foods and velvet Elvis paintings.  But, after some discussion, I learned that Elvis never appeared so they really cannot blame him for creating this place, although I am sure he would have loved it!

The truth is Andy and Tom had been in the bar business for many years in various capacities when they started brainstorming about starting their own business.  Their basic concept was to make it different or don’t make it at all.  “In a city that issues over 30,000 new liquor licenses each year it is important to have a unique idea to stand out from all the other bars,”  says Andy.  I think they found one.

The Trailer Park Lounge & Grill has been operating for ten years.  The biggest challenge was finding enough kitschy furnishings to really portray the essence of trailer park life.  It took ten years, but Andy combed through flea markets, thrift shops and  roadside stands to collect…well…everything!   The centerpiece of the bar is half of an actual trailer mounted to the wall.  I asked him how he managed to get the trailer through the screen door.  Turns out the trailer had been involved in an accident with an 18-wheeler in California where one-half sustained damage.   No one really wanted half a trailer as a residence so Andy took advantage of the opportunity.  He asked the owner to cut it into four equal sections and ship it from California to New York.  Andy’s carpenters reassembled the trailer inside the bar and it remains there today.

The Trailer Park Lounge & Grill is all about fun, but one thing Andy and Tom take very seriously is the quality of the food and service.  The menu is straight from your Mama’s kitchen – well, if your mama is from the trailer park!   You will find Sloppy Joes with Tater Tots, Mac & Cheese, Double-wide burgers, grilled cheese sandwiches, BLT’s and Sweet Potato Fries.   If your sweet tooth is acting up you can have yourself a Moon Pie for dessert.

There is a full bar available but if you want to keep your drinking in line with the culture try  “Jim Bob’s IQ” – a blue concoction guaranteed to erase any sign of intelligence you may have had before you arrived. There are happy hour specials each night including deals like $3.00 Pabst Blue Ribbon beers (if you dare) and $6.00 pitchers of margaritas.  If your taste runs towards champagne just order yourself a can or two of the bubbly and sip it through your Dixie straw.

Andy actually lived in a trailer park at one time and means no disrespect to the trailer park culture or anyone else.  He says the Trailer Park Lounge & Grill is simply “a good natured parody of questionable taste!”   Ya’ll should check this place out!

For more information, check out Trailerparklounge.com.

EFFEN Vodka’s Art of Design at Studio Paris Chicago

On Wednesday, July 18th, premier local mixologists, designers, and over 500 cocktail enthusiasts flocked to Studio Paris in Chicago for EFFEN Vodka’s annual Art of Design. Throughout the evening, mixologists competed to design the ultimate EFFEN Vodka Cocktail. While media judges and guests sampled freshly designed cocktails and voted for their favorites, they also enjoyed the EFFEN-inspired works by Fashion Designer, Anna Hovet, Painter, Patrick Skoff, and Photographer, Jonathan Mathias. Photos by Barry Brecheisen.