Our next big outing was to the J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center in Brentwood. As a girl I went many times to the beautiful, original Getty museum in Malibu, which was built as a replica of Villa dei Papyri in Herculaneum. Evidently with the massive Getty endowment (see the last few pages of this for mind-boggling figures like $5 billion, $8 billion, and many stunning photos of the two sites) allowing an ever-expanding collection, the museum needed a bit more space. Make that A LOT more space. The villa now houses only the Greek, Roman and Etrurian art. All of the rest is at the Getty Center.
The Getty Center is awe-inspiring. Somehow when I’m there I always feel like I’m in ancient Greece, surrounded by cool marble and fountains on a hot, bright day. The entire complex is clad in Italian travertine marble, many panels including natural fossilized leaves and feathers. The site is on a hilltop overlooking the West Side of Los Angeles, with ocean and mountain views on clear days.
Now, with two small children (albeit ones who love museums) we didn’t plan to spend much time closely perusing the masterpieces. Luckily the Getty Center has a few tricks up their sleeves just for kids. The first thing we saw upon entering the main building was a monumental sculpture playing music! Überorgan by Tim Hawkinson was truly awe-inspiring, and we were lucky enough to walk in during its 5-minute, hourly performance. This huge sculpture was made from greenhouse polyethylene plastic, nylon netting, plastic bottles, and other recycled materials, and the electronic controller is essentially a huge player piano.
Then we saw the exhibit Oudry’s Painted Menagerie, a series of life-size animal paintings from the 18th century menagerie at Versailles. This showing was geared toward kids, with an emphasis on the painting of Clara, a rhinoceros that toured throughout Europe for 17 years. Then we checked out the Family Room, where the kids could color their own paper masks, draw with dry-erase markers on a wall-sized medieval illuminated manuscript, and build a tube sculpture. Anthropapa and the kids also decided they wanted to be part of Christ’s Entry into Brussels in 1889 by James Ensor:
After lunch, the kids wanted to see some paintings. Yes, the preschoolers specifically requested paintings. And to our delight, the Getty had just last month opened a fun new thing: a sketching gallery. So we got set up with easels, paper and pencils, and the kids made some art. We didn’t want to try to pack the big rolls of paper, so you’ll all have to wait for Nana to mail them to us before you get to see their inspired creations. Then we high-tailed it to the Van Goghs and Monets.
Napoleona and I were in a small gallery looking at A Centennial of Independence by Henri Rousseau. We talked about how the people in it were dancing around a tree, and there were flags flying and general merriment. Napoleona said quite loudly, “It’s a nice day. Do they have cake?” Amusement among nearby patrons ensued. Then we all hit maximum sensory input–back to the car and Nana’s house!
After all that, we spent the next day closer to home. Nana lives at the end of a cul-de-sac, surrounded by nice families. One evening just as we finished dinner, the doorbell was rung urgently. A six-year-old neighbor wanted the kids to come out to play. Who could say no to that? SillyBilly was excited to learn that she had one of those battery-operated kid-sized cars, in this case a pink Barbie jeep. So, SillyBilly got to show off his awesome driving skills. 4 going on 14, I tell you.
As I was standing in the street talking to the girl’s mother, we noticed that she was standing in her driveway with her back to us, seeming to be crying. Another neighborhood girl ran up and the mother asked her what was wrong. She said, and I quote, “It’s fine, she’s only bleeding.” The mom ran right over, shrieked, and ran the crying girl into the house. A few minutes later they came out with the girl still sniffling and applying an ice cube to her mouth. The tetherball in the driveway had knocked out her front tooth!
We got the chance to visit with my aunt, and with her we took the kids to Kidspace Children’s Museum in Pasadena. Generally a cool idea: take some land in Brookside park in the arroyo next to the Rose Bowl, turn it into an indoor-outdoor kid art/craft/play/learning extravaganza. They had legos, they had sprinklers, they had fossils, they had tricycles, they had collage-making, they had bugs. But, it was also crowded and overwhelming. Another vote for playing in the backyard!
The last big event for us was the pilgrimage to our old favorite Japanese restaurant, Cho Cho San. In the early years of our marriage, Anthropapa and I spent many hours and many, many dollars there. It’s a sushi bar and teppan room, but who are we kidding: who needs teppan when you can get your sushi from a conveyor belt? And even though I’m sure it’s not authentic Japanese cuisine, our favorite thing there is the “Rock and Roll” handroll: a temaki with avocado and scallops baked with mayonnaise. It’s just buttery and melty and so, so good. Our kids snarfed up the kappamaki and crab salad like the culinary troopers they usually are.
We had a nice Memorial Day barbecue with my cousin and his family. Anthropapa and I made it out of the house a few times for another visit to Cho Cho San, several visits to the bookstore, and a movie, Pirates of the Caribbean 3. I would say that film lived up to my expectations, which were minimal. The main thing was, we were out of the house sans kids after dark.
We made it out of L.A. with little hassle. Traffic was relatively light, we returned the rental car and made it to our flight on time. The flight itself was pretty mellow, with a fairly good if inane movie, Music and Lyrics, and the kids handled things OK except for a half-meltdown from Napoleona.
Then we landed at Newark. And we sat on the tarmac at Newark, for OVER AN HOUR. Why, you ask? Ask George W. Bush. Yes, I can actually blame it on him. Apparently the POTUS was visiting the New York area, and evidently one of the Air Force One planes could be seen out of the other side of the plance. And when the POTUS comes to New York, all the planes get to sit and wait until he leaves the airport. Even the pilot sounded peeved over the intercom.
All I can say is, thank the Lord for our wonderful seatmate, a lovely Portuguese lady from Cerritos named Filomena. She was tolerant of Napoleonas wiggling, and even read a story to her and made real conversation with a three-year-old. Otherwise that last hour on the tarmac would have been hell on earth.
Now I’m just repeating to myself, there’s no place like home, there’s no place like home…and no silver slippers required.