Los Angeles

I visited Los Angeles a couple of weeks ago specifically to pay my respects to my grandfather who is buried in Los Angeles National Cemetary.

Los Angeles National Cemetary is dedicated to veterans.  It’s right off the 405 along Wilshire Boulevard in Westwood, right next to UCLA.  It’s a very prominent spot so I’ve driven by there many times, though I’ve never stopped.  I never knew my grandfather, he died several years before I was born.

I asked my father to take me there.  I know he misses his dad, though though he’s been gone for 40 years.  We took my son along and spent ten minutes or so placing flowers and talking about my grandfather.  It was nice to spend time with three generations of family and remember someone who went before us.

Since it’s a two hour drive there from San Diego we decided to make a day of it.  My father was born and raised in Los Angeles, so I’m always trying to come up with excuses to get him to show me around.  Because Los Angeles, if you’re not from there, is a daunting place to visit.  I’ve been there dozens upon dozens of times and I feel like I’ve only scratched the surface.

We headed over to Exposition Park, which was a relatively short distance away.  I shouldn’t say relative- when I get to Los Angeles I lose all track of what that means.  In general, when a Southern Californian says “it’s not that far” and a car is involved, that can mean anywhere for 10 minutes to two hours away.  In LA I find it’s better not to think in terms of distance, but in terms of time.  It doesn’t matter if something is only 10 miles away if it’s going to take an hour to get there.  We’re spoiled in San Diego- we have very little traffic.  10 minutes= 10 miles.  In LA, that just depends.

But anyway, Exposition Park is the home of the LA Coliseum, the Natural History Museum and the California Science Center, which is home to the Space Shuttle Endeavor.

I hate to keep going back to this, but it’s natural for me to compare LA and San Diego.  There are a lot of things to recommend about both, but Los Angeles KILLS San Diego when it comes to museums.  We just don’t compare.  The Science Center is awesome.

And it’s free.  I feel like Homer Simpson in that episode where Lisa takes him to the museum and he keeps asking what it costs.  Nothing.  It costs nothing.  Except for $2 to view the Space Shuttle on weekends and major holidays.

Endeavor is housed in a new addition to the museum, basically a warehouse because the first thing that strikes you about the space shuttle is big.  Really big.  I don’t know why I thought this, but if I’d had to guess I would have said space shuttles are probably the size of one of those bus conversion RVs.  No, it’s much bigger than that.

It’s also got a lot of wear and tear on it.  Not that it’s dilapidated by any means, but that it’s got scars and burn marks from entering and reentering the atmosphere.  This time was my second time seeing it, but it’s pretty great to stand and imagine being out in outer space vacuum, looking out the windows at Earth.  What a ride that must have been.

All around the walls of the warehouse are a list of all the missions the shuttles flew.  All of the displays are in color until right around the middle there is one in black and white- the 1986 Challenger mission.  I know it’s cliche to claim that I was watching that launch live- and I almost definitely wasn’t, but I do remember seeing the footage, and that being one of the saddest things in my childhood.  Probably that was the beginning of the end of the Shuttle program.  There was another black and white display for the Columbia.  It just shows how insanely difficult visiting space is that of the five shuttles built to travel in space, two were destroyed.

We drove back after that.  I want to say more about Los Angeles, because it’s such an interesting city to me, and a city I really like.  I’ll get back to it soon.

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