Semi-dome, Transit Plaza @ Union Station

I had gobs to do this past weekend especially since I would be leaving for New Mexico on Tuesday. Despite that, John and I had a hankering to take on one of our favorite day trips through Pasadena. We drive downtown and park at Transit Plaza at Union Station, get a day pass and duck in and out of the stops along the Metro Gold Line on the way to old town Pasadena and oftentimes cap the day with dinner at Traxx (consistently a great meal and in a great space: Union Station). In the past we’ve discovered the Museum of the Southwest (at the Metro stop by the same name), Margarita Jones for a memorable chicken mole enchilada and blue cadillac margarita (at the Fillmore stop), exquisitely junkie antique shops (at the Mission stop), and we’ve trekked to the Norton Simon (from the Memorial Park stop). I’m pretty sure the Norton Simon is, architecturally, my favorite art museum very narrowly beating the Smithsonian National Gallery of Art.

As I readied for a day of walking in the bright sun, I chose a breezy skirt, sleeveless shirt and my new blast-from-the-past Jesus sandals. These were sandals popular in the 70’s that I spotted and immediately acquired (“made in Italy” usually closes a shoe deal for me). I was aware there was no insole cushioning, but I figured I wasn’t hiking La Luz trail up to Sandia Peak (for instance), I’d be fine.

We only made 2 stops: the Mission station to hit the antique shops and then to Memorial Park. From there we walked – back-tracking to near the Del Mar stop to try a restaurant nearby and walked back again into Old Town Pasadena and then Metro’d back to Union Station. When we got back on the Metro, I could feel a burning sensation on the soles of my feet. I figured the train ride would lend enough time to rest my feet. And so at the end of the Gold Line and the day, we didn’t go straight for our car, we headed for Olvera Street. It was the weekend before cinco de Mayo and we both knew we had to duck in on the scene. I scarfed a churro against the expected backdrop of mariachi music and we enjoyed the cool breeze and the slant of light at sunset along with the music. I LOVE mariachi music! How can anyone not love mariachi music???

So after a dose of fiesta we headed back for our car and as I walked, the effect of the sandals kicked in. My left pinky toe had just about enough of the strap that harnessed it for hours and I felt an electrical-shock type pain that affected my walk. I tried adjusting my shoe so many times as I slowly walked back to the car clinging to John.

My feet were fine when I got home and out of the sandals and I’ve since put the sandals on sabbatical for my feet to recuperate – couple more days I’ll get back to wearing them a lot (but not for day tripping).

fence_480.jpg

Low-profile weekend: no travel, no events, but that’s the point. It occurred to me many years ago that people take pictures of themselves on vacation and visiting the sites as if their daily lives aren’t anything to look at. So when I set out Sunday afternoon to walk to my neighborhood stores for some retail entertainment and groceries, I brought my camera. Unfortunately I got out late in the day and was feeling a little too rushed to take as many pictures as I would have liked. Nevertheless I snapped a photo at the fence between Target and Studio Village in Culver City where everyone hops – because the parking is too crowded at Target, or they need to shop one of the stores at Studio Village too and only want to park once, or, like me, they choose to walk.

It’s so absurd, when you attempt your errands by foot, how many obstacles there are in connecting from place to place. Sidewalks generally frame shopping centers rather than connect into them. There are townhouses across the street from our neighborhood Ralph’s with a signal crossing at the traffic light, but no sidewalks to lead you in. You walk on the asphalt along with the other cars driving in and nipping at your ankles. Landscaping and plantings are installed as well with the intent to control circulation and enforce pedestrian movement off-premises. Nevertheless, despite the cost of gas and despite the obesity epidemic and, probably because of any liability issues that go along with owning a parking lot or a crosswalk, we live in an urban environment that keeps us in our cars.

fence2_300.jpgSo anyway, I like this patch of fence. The ground is path-worn here and the fence’s paint is worn off from the repeated hurdle-overs to reveal its pewter-toned steel. I’ve even spotted small pieces of wood sheathing placed here to assist one’s step when the ground muddies from rain. I have, on a number of occasions, waited for others to make their way over before my turn over the barrier. I feel like I’m participating in a collective small choice: amidst these loomingly large corporate stores fencing off their big parking lots there is this pinhole leak of rogue pedestrians subtly creating (and polishing) new networks and connections. It’s just a small act of freedom in this car-encapsulated, calorie conscious, litigious world we live in.

dscn2301.jpg

Did you know that Evelyn Wood, “speed reading” guru, was from Logan, Utah? I just learned this ‘googling’ trying to glean some poesis from our trip to this small town in northern Utah. We were there for a family gathering and for a seminar at Utah State University which made it worth while (many thanks to those bright and wise individuals who contributed and from whom I learned). Over and beyond that however, due to weather and schedule demands, I didn’t get a chance to walk a neighborhood or see their art museum (@ USU) or even see, what appeared to be, dscn9724a.jpgthe imposing mountains that embrace this town. So the richness, which I’m sure is there, that those who live there know, was not apparent to me. And so I’m reminded of one of Woody Allen’s quotable’s: “I took a speed-reading course and read War and Peace in twenty minutes. It involves Russia.”

Here’s the “Russia” (Rush-“uh?”) on Logan:
Saturday evening? Hmmmm…LDS temple or Logan Lanes (bowling)? The LDS temple is prominent and competes with the surrounding mountains (kind of like this). I know cathedrals and temples, in general, dominate their settings, but what I saw lacked a sense of proportion. It looked more like the fly tower to the auditorium of a theatre but, architecturally (formally), there was no auditorium. The LDS fly tower’s twin towers are lighted hauntingly at night likedscn9702a.jpg ojo de dios as if to pose the question: are you sure you want to go bowling? As for the bowling, the parking lot looked as crowded as an after-Christmas sale at any-mall USA. Which brings me to my third observation, once again, based on my marginalized experience of the place: after “information overload” (an Evelyn Wood term) of a full-day’s seminar I was ready for my spirit of choice – a white wine spritzer of pinot grigio (aka “peanut gringo”) and lime-flavored sparkling water. I went to an Albertson’s and then to a Smith’s and found the same scenario: no liquor (no prob.) but no wine either. There is, however, an aisle for beer. Beer aisle and no wine?…I suddenly have the urge to ‘google’ the results of the democratic primary in Utah. The results were just what I suspected.

serra.jpg
…whatever will be will be and what’s done is done. But aaah! Serra! I loved walking through those monumental, warm folds of steel. I so wanted to run my hand across the surface and pull a henna-colored, granule film of rust onto my hand. The steel looked so warm from its rusty patina it looked more like teak or Phillipine mahogany than the 2-inch fold of solid steel. I felt like I was swimming in a Rothko painting. What blunts this experience, however, is transcendence has a ceiling : ( -Much like seeing the majestic Orca at Seaworld whose fin is weakened for want of swimming the great distances of the ocean, Serra’s sculpture is caged. It does not enfold you and shelter you against the stark contrast of the metropolis or the universe we marginally know through the lense of the sky – it, itself, is housed. Both, however, still have entertainment value and, if given the choice, go see the Serra.

recep.jpgAs for entertainment value, John and I had a great evening. We headed for the reception tent first for some sangria and munchies. I was impressed. The space was beautifully lit with light that was scrimmed and projected and included an uplit runway, and a jazz combo played; altogether creating a space that was subdued, relaxed, still festive, but still allowed for conversation. We had an engaging chat with the couple we shared a table with. The subject of the Broad’s had him sharing what he knew about Hearst and J. P. Getty’s wealth. I hope I can find that movie he mentioned: The Cat’s Meow.

follyesque1.jpgFrom reception-event central we proceeded to the new building. Upon my approach it looked as though Piano (I love that name) internalized and projected all those Pompidou Centre-adjacent Tschumi follies onto this BCAM building. The stairs connecting the floors outside and the shock-scale freight elevator inside along with the expressed structure along the way added a Tschumi-folly zest to the stalwart, travertine-clad building.

After the Serra experience on the ground floor we took the passenger elevator up to the 3rd floor entourage: Basquiat, Rauschenberg, Johns, Kelly, Schnabel, Twombly, Baldessari, Koons, Warhol. I was surprised Warhol’s Jackie Kennedy portrait grabbed me the most: a photo taken of her unaware and with an expression of quiet grief is repeated and gridded out onto a larger canvas. There is a Chinese philosophy that believes that all moments are eternal and our lives are a process of actualizing these moments. In repeating the moment of this photo, Warhol dissects its eternity frame by repeated frame. What’s even more striking is this “aura” is created by mechanical reproduction. The play of ink in each silk screened copy inflects the expression on her face and the quality of the print: sometimes vivid, sometimes blurred…somehow casts this eternity in slow motion.

We ducked out to take the stairs down to the second floor and found a balcony that provided great views out into the city. The second floor wasn’t as much fun as what came before: “dog run” took up way too much real estate for its flimsy content and vague wit; however a lot of people, myself included, delighted in the big table and chairs installation. I couldn’t help but wonder if our sense of scale trumps our sense of smell for triggering memories.

Overall, the building is a manageable scale and provides a clear sense of orientation for the visitor – which I like in a museum. Navigating a building and pacing your visit and gaging your procession can easily compete with and distract from the subject at hand (my first visit to the Metropolitan for example). The building’s galleries are phrased around a service core and opens up to views to the north and south. By night, that south view offers glimpses into the museum from Wilshire. I also liked the diffusers in the floor. Traipsing through the galleries, the softest updraft of fresh air prompts you out of museum fatique – which is a very modest effect with BCAM.

risa.jpgWe headed out for the coffee and cookie scene between buildings (BCAM/LACMA) (and now for something completely kitschy…) for a quick pick-me-up and then hoofed it over to catch the last open moments of LACMA’s galleries. We scratched the surface of an exhibit on German Expressionists; a gallery, adjacent, which included some works from the Bauhaus, Otto Wagner, Loos; another gallery with Picassos and I caught a Stella with a side glance over my left shoulder into a distant gallery as we were ushered out. I’m definitely going back.

John @ MJT Entrance, 9 Feb. 08
John @ MJT entrance, 9 Feb. ’08

Walking into the Museum of Jurassic Technology is like walking into a Terry Gilliam movie: collaged, quirky, and a bit incoherent. The difference, however, is that I liked the museum. Despite being a bit dog-eared with missing or out-of commission exhibits, the museum envelopes the visitor into its intimately scaled, dimly lit galleries and enchants with its lush layers of sound and visual tricks (mirrors and lenses bouncing light and overlaying reflections). I particularly liked the gallery of stereoradiographs. A series of flowers, rendered in a 3-dimensional, gossamer play of light -coalesced with a background of choral music playing in the gallery, the music somehow seemed to resonate with the pictures. I could almost see the flower’s petals flow and dissipate like tendrils of white smoke as if animated by the sounds.

The smell of scented candles upstairs lead us to a tea room -a room which vaguely reminded me of Saenredam’s paintings (minus the cathedral scale of course): white interior, vaulted ceiling, suffuse with sunlight. This space could use a little more polish though. The ceiling has patches of smoke stains (a previously-placed candle sconce?) and our table hadn’t been wiped off in a while.

The tea and cookies were just the right boost to absorb what the rest of the museum had to offer. We moved on to the theater to see a 45 minute film called Levsha: a Russian tale interwoven with the interview of a craftsman who creates micro-miniature works. By the end of the movie I was thinking, “…yeah, that’s about right…” – the way it caps the experience of the museum which I can best describe with a “huh?” I would very nearly suspect this film was directed by Mike Myers’ character from Saturday Night Live: Dieter – a german aesthete whose comment on surreal, disturbing, and non-sensical videos was: “gorgeous!” (said with an erudite, raised eyebrow).

Overall I felt like I was walking through someone’s house-sized curio cabinet. Forget the pomp and starchitecture of today’s museums. M.J.T. amuses, enchants, and, best of all, makes you go “huh?”

Museum of Jurassic Technology
9341 Venice Blvd.
Culver City, CA 90232
mjt.org

Recommendation: use the parking structures in downtown Culver City (first 2 hours free) and walk over to the museum (crossing Venice Blvd.); also, plenty of great restaurants in downtown Culver City all in walking distance.