Digitize This, by Marlene Bruce



Visiting Rash in California

January 28, 2001 (Sunday)

Located at the famous Palace of Fine Arts, the Exploratorium is the "museum of science, art and human perception." A large, curving structure (not unlike a warehouse on the inside), the Exploratorium houses all kinds of hands-on exhibits which challenge the visitor to examine their perception through the various senses. At the far end sits the Tactile Dome, for which you must obtain tickets in advance (we had 11:00 AM passes; if you plan to go, reserve ahead of time!).

After wandering through and playing with some of the exhibits on the main floor, we were ushered into the small sitting area of the Tactile Dome. Our guide, Zephyr(!), gave us a good-natured spiel about how we were going to proceed into and through the dome (by pairs or threes, in well-spaced intervals), and instructed us to remove our shoes, glasses, earrings, belts/suspenders, completely empty our pockets and leave everything behind in cubbies or the safe. We were to enter the dome, which like the Audium was pitch black, and walk, crawl, and above all feel our way along. I won't give away anything about the dome, but it was fun to go through. A couple of times I was rather perplexed by how to proceed (Rash and I took turns leading), and was even caught off-guard at the end.

Ready for a lunch-break, we saved our passes and walked out through the gorgeous architecture of the Palace of Fine Arts. This neoclassical structure has been the setting for many movie scenes (though I don't personally recall seeing any). I liked the groupings of four female figures at the tops of various points, looking in so that you can't see their faces. If there were ever a way, I'd love to get up on top.

The rest of the museum is organized by categories (life sciences, complexity, vision, color, light, speech and hearing, sound, vibrations, patterns, heat and temperatures, electricity and magnetism), and it can take hours to even halfway explore. As Rash noted, the Exploratorium is regrettably showing its age, and an attempt to see it all is somewhat draining. That said, it's an excellent place to visit, especially with children. If you go, be sure to take a good look at the columns inside the entrance, by the ticket window. A few of my other favorites were the bubble maker, the infrared camera (through its "eye," Rash and I looked like Laurel and Hardy), the conversation dishes, the giant music-box thingy (neat idea, anyway), and the glass tubes resonating with ambient sounds.

For lunch we drove into another part of the city (not too far away), and parked on a residential street surrounded by some of the steeply inclined hills we all associate with San Francisco (the houses must have been pricey; they were gorgeous with tiny, well-groomed gardens, and many had a beautiful Bay view). Pretty bottlebrush trees in early blossom lined the streets. We found our way to the nouveau cafe cuisine of Plutos. My steak sandwich was good, but Rash's chicken was better. People in (at least this part of) California certainly are much more body-conscious than we fat East-Coasters. Lots of pretty bodies.

Back to the Exploratorium for an hour or two after lunch. From there we started heading back to Mountain View, about an hour away. I was a bit saddened to leave the city, which by this point I'd fallen in love with. We drove down to North Beach(?), past the site of the old Cliff House and a misty Bay view, and briefly observed the waves along the beach. Driving through the neighborhoods, I remarked about the cute diversity of the houses (we are overly brick-minded in the East), and Rash told me about his Uncle who lives in the area. As always, cool tunes were playing on the car stereo.

Again, lovely mountains, and we were finally back in Mountain View. I'd planned to cook dinner for us (Italian sausage, spinach and cannellini soup), so while Rash had a coffee at Peet's I gathered groceries at the nearby market. Back at the apartment we stowed our gear, and I cooked. After dinner we watched Powaqqatsi, a movie of visuals and music1. The scene I liked the most was of a woman in what looked to be a sari(?) walking into a courtyard. Many of the childrens' faces were enchanting (if for no other reason than because of their obvious curiosity).

My third gift to Rash was the folded and partially glued pieces of a flower kusudama origami (though I'd already spent about 6 hours on it, it wasn't yet finished).

[Proceed to Day Four >]
[Days: One, Two A and B, Three A and B, Four]

1 - Powaqqatsi is a pseudo-sequel, by several years, of Koyaanisqatsi (which I was first shown by Andy in 1986), and there looks to be a new one coming out in 2002: Naqoyqatsi.

Credits: All photos this page are mine, except the black and white tile pattern which I scanned from the Exploratorium brochure.