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The life you save could be your own.

Look, I like a Weetzie Bat book as much as the next fellow, but I’m not about to start waxing rhapsodic over the City of Quartz. There’s a place for it in the collective unconscious, I suppose—gracelessly aging screen queens of whatever gender still need shady bungalows where Nancy Drews and Walter Neffs can tumble headlong into stories they won’t suss out till the final moments of a posthumous voiceover, and the world would be a poorer place without the Dude. But (what little I’ve seen of) the there that’s there all too often leaves me wretched, retching on all fours.

In a metaphorical sense, anyway.

There’s the heat and the sun and the fact that you’re driving for hours to get anywhere and the sheer number of movie billboards makes getting around the city feel like those obnoxious DVDs where you can’t fast-forward past the coming attractions. There’s the prefab megaburbs, fœtal Neal Stephenson atopias that spring forth fully paved from the knotted foreheads of urban planning committees, settling the Mandlebrot fronds of their culs-de-sac around big-box nuclei of Home Depots and Bed Bath & Beyonds, and if you think it’s tacky to blame Venice for the sins of Thousand Oaks, well, tough. There’s more than enough to go around. And sure there’s wonder there, and beauty—you can’t put that many people in one place without some deliriously amazing things being done and said and built—but it takes too much money and gas to enjoy them properly. I am a callow, petty, cruel man, and for these sins: heat; sun; annoyance; urban blight; profligacy; bad planning; and one of the worst cups of coffee I’ve ever had in my life, I could easily write the whole festering mess off without a backward glance—Bats and bungalows, screen queens, Dudes and all. Except—

We were in this minivan, Scott and Ivy and Winter and Sky and Jenn and me, and we were somewhere between Thousand Oaks and Culver City and having a hard time getting any closer to either of them, and it was hot, and the sun was flinging daggers off the chrome and glass all around us, and even though there’s something to be said about improvising Pythonesque skits with a couple of disarmingly precocious kids in the back seat of an elderly minivan on the 101, you’re still stuck in the back of an elderly minivan on the 101, and even disarmingly precocious kids can get squallingly cranky. (Hence the Pythonesque skits.) Are we there yet?

Eventually whatever was blocking the traffic popped free and it began sluggishly to move, down out of the dry, scrubby hills through cool green suburbs toward the apocalyptic orange haze at the bottom. Somewhere off thataway, that grey mass that wasn’t quite sky and yet wasn’t quite anything else? That has something to do with an ocean, apparently. And for all the skyscraping high-rises jutting up at alarmingly random intervals, none of them quite stick in the mind’s eye, you know? (Quick! Draw LA’s skyline!) —We didn’t go quite that far; we found instead a nondescript corner with only a couple of movie billboards looming over it and parked. (Climbing out, I discovered I had suffered a Sartorial Indignity; I do not want it to be said that I blame anyone, as any fool knows one shouldn’t wear white pants in an elderly minivan frequented by disarmingly precocious children. But: nonetheless: I had, and it was.) One door down from that corner was a nondescript storefront. Scott leaned on the nondescript buzzer. The door opened. And, ladies and gentlemen, as God is my witness: all of Los Angeles was redeemed.

We were in the Museum of Jurassic Technology.

For one thing, it was cool and dim. But! I don’t know that I have ever spent any two hours more totally immersed in awe, stumbling about through such a lovely, druggy haze of presque vu. I— I—

Trailer parks! Rotting luck! Athanasius Kircher! Mice on toast! —Aw, fuck. Words fail me.

(There was a book. Words kinda failed him, too.)

Which makes this part of the post mildly moot: it has come to my attention that, like so many other enterprises which depend upon the kindness of strangers, the Museum of Jurassic Technology could use a little more help than usual, these days. Memberships start at $35 per year ($25 for seniors and students), and you get stuff and discounts and free admission and so on. And if you know about the Museum then you know, but if you don’t—my inability to articulate the hows and the whys and wherefores does none of us any good, now, does it.

Think of it this way: one day, you, too, will be in Los Angeles. And you, too, will be hot and sun-stricken and stuck in traffic. When you finally pull off the 101 into the City of Culver City, well—you’re gonna want a there to still be there. Know what I mean?

No one may ever have the same knowledge again.

  1. Ray    Dec 12, 07:00 AM    #
    Hear, hear! The saving grace of L.A. and the finest museum on the West Coast. (Although I did enjoy the ludicrousness of the William Blake collection at the Huntington Gardens.)

  2. Prentiss Riddle    Jan 10, 04:08 PM    #
    Reminds me of Austin's Museum of Ephemerata.

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