My time in Southern California has been completely wonderful. I’ve gotten to visit the Queen Mary, drove out to Venice Beach to spend time with a friend, and got a new tattoo in the process! I checked out the Echo Park Time Travel Mart and Wacko, a treasure trove of tikis, and oddly fantastic kitschy stuff out in Hollywood. I haven’t written much about my adventures here because this visit was kind of a cool down period that I’ve sorely been needing. I’d been pushing myself so hard to get out and see everything I could in the limited amounts of time that I’ve had in the other places that I’ve visted, that it was getting really stressful.

Having now taken the time to de-stress and relax, I’m feeling much better and ready to get back on the road!

This weekend, I’ll be driving out to Albuquerque, NM for The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta! I’m hugely excited, and very eager to see the Mass Ascension early sunday morning 🙂

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The Museum of Jurassic Technology

Hidden behind a small green door off Venice Boulevard in Culver City, California, the Museum of Jurassic Technology is a deceptively large space. The front door opens into a well lit gift shop that leads back into the depths of the darkened museum itself. The entrance fee is $8 for adults, $5 for students.

Beyond the gift shop lies a bizarre maze of quirky, odd displays shrouded in mostly darkness with patches of low lighting directly hitting the information placards and displays themselves. It was difficult at times to see the other patrons as they wandered through, checking out the various installments, which almost made you felt like you were somewhere you shouldn’t be, creeping around behind the scenes of a much larger production. At times, when I was trying to find the other members of my party, my head would construct this mini fantasy wherein I was being chased throughout the museum, unable to find a way out. It was delightfully creepy and pleasantly unsettling.

The surreality begins pretty much right away as you hear several distinct sounds – the repeated metallic cry from a small brass machine that makes corundum gemstones from powder, this wierd underwater burbling noise echoing out from the speakers near a small black and white display screen that featured movies of fruit bats licking fruit, and the sound of a guy making what I guess he thinks are the noises that small wild canids make. The combination is somewhat disorienting as you look around, trying to figure out what to check out first.

To the left of the fruit bat screen is an elaborate display about an X-ray bat that reportedly flies through walls. As you turn, there’s a collection of antlers from various animals, including a hair horn that supposedly once grew from the head of a woman named Mary Davis.

As I looked into the screen with the bats, I kept expecting the image to shift to the girl in the radiator dancing on wierd fleshy things that dropped from the ceiling. Imagery from Eraserhead stayed with me throughout most of the trip throughout the museum.

I then walked over to a clear box with what looked like a fox’s head in it. There were two optics that you could look through, but nothing special happened when I looked through them. Every few seconds, there would be this wierd growling and barking that sounded like a guy growling and barking. It seemed to echo out of a speaker suspended above the display. I completely didn’t get what this display was supposed to be, and there was no explanation whatsoever anywhere near it. I finally broke down and went to the guy in the gift shop to ask what it was supposed to be, and he replied, “Oh, is the video not working?”

Video? I thought to myself. “No, it’s not working.” I replied, thinking that once it was fixed, it might make more sense.

He goes out and fixes it, and when I look through the optics again, there’s now this tiny image of a guy sitting in a chair, barking, superimposed over the creature’s head. I couldn’t help it. I started laughing. Giggling, in fact. I kept giggling to myself every time I heard the barking, because these kinds of things are hilarious to me for some reason. Especially the completely inexplicable aspect of it. It was just so completely random that I adored it. I don’t know if this was supposed to be the installation’s desired result, but hey – I laughed. Job well done.

Upon closer research online, I found that the exhibit is apparently called “Voice of the American Gray Fox”, and the guy in the chair is a local voice-over actor who specializes in making fox noises, which actually makes it more hilarious, that there may or may not be some guy in LA that actually does this. The veracity of the installations in the museum remains to be seen, and apparently that’s a rather large part of the point, which further endears me to this particular museum.

Throughout the maze of installations are things such as an homage to American mobile homes in the 1930’s called Garden of Eden on Wheels: Collections From Los Angeles Mobile Home and Trailer Parks, two rows full of microscopes that show an assortment of tiny diatoms and butterfly wing scales arranged to create lovely floral displays, tiny sculptures of Napoleon and Pope John Paul II seated in the heads of needles that can only be viewed under a microscope and a collection of glass spheres filled with water in which small, odd wax figurines – both human and animal, are suspended, to name a few. The wax figures apparently stay exactly in the middle of the spheres due to magnetism.

The suspended figures were part of a larger collection of displays by Athanasius Kircher, a German 17th-century inventor, historian, philosopher, physicist, astronomer and Jesuit. Kircher had apparently also constructed a bell of wheels that would turn every couple of minutes, making an alarming, but charming racket as you walked through an area with different optics.
Down another hall, the echos of arias accompany a collection of old theatrical contraption diagrams and small displays of enormous theatrical contrivances (waves, floating griffins and the like that would enhance the performances of ages long past), and another room is filled with Stereo Floral Radiographs – a collection of x-rayed flowers, so as to view their inner anatomy. There are wooden hand held viewing appliances with which one can attempt to view the images in 3-D, but the effect really doesn’t come off quite that well.

I think my favorite exhibit was Tell the Bees: Belief, Knowledge, and Hypersymbolic Cognition: An exhibit of pre-scientific cures and remedies. A veritable cornucopia of possible folk remedies, Tell the Bees includes things such things as consuming dead mice on toast to address issues of “bed wetting or general incontinence of urine” (featured were two dead white mice on toast and what could reasonably be assumed to be ‘mouse pie’) or breathing from the beak of a duck to cure those “afflicted with thrush and other fungeous mouth or throat disorders”, among others (having the maternal unit in the house collect her fresh urine in the morning so as to sprinkle a small portion of it on the furniture, the family, etc) – as well as charming folk tales such as notifying the bees in your hives when someone has died or gotten married so there will be no jealousy or death within the hive.

We walked around inside for about an hour and a half, through a seemingly endless connection of tunnels, when we finally decided to head out. I needed to get back to Matilda so that I could get out to the Queen Mary.

If you’re out in the LA area – DO check this out. It really is spectacularly wierd and fun.

I just realized that I didn’t post about the San Juan Islands. Unfortunately, the plan to hit the San Juan islands was kind of a dud, and I’m still kinda bummed about it. I did get to run around a little bit, which was lovely – because the area is completely gorgeous, but ended up breakin’ out for Oregon earlier than intended due to car issues. The transmission started acting up again, which was very stressing – but thank goodness, ended up being a cheap, quick fix.
 
Friday night, I checked out Deception Pass Bridge. It’s a fairly impressive bridge, coupled with the Canoe Pass bridge, that links Whidbey Island to Fidalgo Island. Lots of tourists walk along the span of the bridge, taking pictures and checking out the scenery. There are walkways along the two lane bridge that allow for safe passage and the only way for pedestrians to cross is to take the stairs and go beneath it. (pics)
 
The first stop that saturday was to Fort Casey State Park on Whidbey Island, a large concrete installation that several concealed enormous seacoast artillery guns. There are a couple of the large guns that are still there; apparently having been salvaged from other forts. Groups of runners seem to use the spot to distance run from the lighthouse up on the hill down to the installation itself. It was pretty cool to walk in, around and on everything, and I got a good collection of pictures.
 
My plan of hitting Moran State Park was thwarted due to the $112 in ferry tolls it would have taken to get there and back. I hadn’t budgeted for that kind of money, so Moran was a no go.

Unstable geology and a Museum of Death

Over the weekend, my gracious hosts took me out to Portuguese Bend out in Palos Verdes. It’s apparently the most geologically unstable portion of land in the US. As we drove along a road that seemed to be comprised mostly of patches due to the many geologic shifts and slides, my friend pointed out the large metal water pipe running along the roadside aboveground. I was told that the ground shifts often enough that there are teams that wait for a shift, then rush out to fix the water pipes. It’s startling how many enormous mansions are built throughout the area. It’s also home to the Trump National Golf Club course. The area is an interesting mix of native vegetation and the overstated, lush and verdant landscaping that the well-to-do have clustered around their enormous houses.

We then parked at Lunada Bay and checked out the scenery. The water is clear and blue here, and apparently the beach far below is local surfing hot spot for residents. I was notified that the locals would throw rocks when anybody that wasn’t from the neighborhood tried to surf there.

So far, I have yet to experience an actual earthquake. Sometime in the next week, I want to head back out there to check out the Wayfarer’s Chapel.

Shortly after entering Hollywood, we drove past The Museum of Death, which my host pointed out. I’d never heard of it, and am always morbidly curious, so we took the tour.

Inside the first exhibit area is a collection of Serial Killer memorabilia – with various ‘artworks’ on display by Otis Toole, Henry Lee Lucas and John Wayne Gacy; there’s a self portrait of Gacy as Pogo the Clown which is FAR less unsettling than the actual overly creepy picture of Gacy beside it. In the Richard Ramirez display, there’s actually a Richard Ramirez plush doll affixed to the wall. The walls are lined with copies of letters from the men themselves, painting a bizarre picture of sociopathy that’s quite disturbing. Letters from Jeffrey Dahmer, the Son of Sam and other Serial Killer ‘heavy hitters’, as it were, are also featured beside a television that shows footage of court scenes and interviews.

The next room is the execution chamber, with the clothes of a man that had been executed in the electric chair tacked up on the wall beside a mock electric chair. I think they’re the clothes of Allen Lee Davis – they were spotted where he’d bled during the execution. There were also ‘after’ pictures of Ted Bundy from several tabloids.

There’s an entire room dedicated to Charles Manson, and another rather large exhibit with enormous, vivid photos of the Black Dahlia murder. There’s even a Heaven’s Gate room:

“The Museum of Death acquired a bunk bed from the Heaven’s Gate compound along with other items that were auctioned off by police. These items have been arranged into a display recreating how the scene must have appeared to authorities discovering the bodies back in March of 1997. Mannequins dressed in black, with Nike sneakers on their feet, rest on a bunk bed. Purple sheets bearing the emblem of the Heaven’s Gate cult are draped over them. Nearby sit Heaven’s Gate cult literature, bottles of barbiturates and vodka.” – Text taken from (http://www.thecabinet.com/darkdestinations/location.php?sub_id=dark_destinations&letter=m&location_id=the_museum_of_death)

A smaller section of wall across from the door leading into the Heaven’s Gate room features literature, propaganda and images from The Peoples Temple. There’s also an entire mortuary area, with videos and vivid images of how bodies are prepared for viewing. There’s also a looping video that details the embalming process.

Throughout the museum are various photos of decapitations (with a small collection of chinese decapitation photos, which I assume were from WWII), autopsy photos and execution videos. Also lots of car accident photos.
There’s also an entire wall dedicated to GG Allin, which is as it should be, really.

There were mentions and images of Albert Fish, Andrei Romanovich Chikatilo and other severely cracked people in a small alcove, as well as a video theater with looping videos of shark attacks, murders and other various garish things. The walls of the theater were covered with newspaper articles about horrific happenings.

Afterwards, we drove out to Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. I’d always wanted to see it in person. I love the architecture and decor and it made me really happy to be able to check it out. Afterwards, we stopped for dinner at Genghis Cohen, which is quite possibly the best Chinese restaurant I’ve ever eaten at.