Last week's holiday break from school (budget-mandated furlough days have turned the Thanksgiving holiday into a full week off for Los Angeles Unified School District students) turned out to be the perfect opportunity for us to take our astronaut-in-training Diego on his first visit to one of our favorite places - the old Griffith Park Observatory.
Budget cuts have also mandated that this magical facility is now closed on Monday and Tuesday. Which just means that this popular destination is even more crowded on the remaining days when it is open.
We got there early, and the weather was glorious. The welcoming statue of Galileo, Kepler, Copernicus, Newton and other luminaries of astronomy was practically glowing.
The kids were fascinated by the domes that house the telescope and the planetarium. Diego had made a drawing at home in anticipation of the visit, and he clutched his paper sketch of the solar system with him wherever he went that day.
You didn't even need the deco-looking telescope to have a clear view of downtown!
In these days when the value of government, the public sector, the New Deal, and the middle class are all under vicious attack, it was a potent reminder of what we are capable of and can aspire to, to visit this wonderful public space built in the middle of the great Depression which has educated and entertained generations of visitors and been a source of pride and identification for the community.
Look at the many intricate details that went into its design and construction.
A copper plate on the front walk shows the relative distance of the planets' orbit around the sun. The orbit for Pluto is marked by a small plaque many meters away from this one. Unfortunately, Pluto has been downgraded to a dwarf planet in 2006, so this particular feature is now anachronistic.
Diego was really excited that his Grandmother was in town and could join him for this maiden voyage in Space! The planetarium show with its kicked-back reclining seats and magical star show overhead was just as cool as when Nick Ray filmed his version of it back in the 1950's with James Dean and Sal Mineo and the rest of the cast of "Rebel Without A Cause".
I was worried that the sensory overload of the swirling stars and shifting perspective on the Domed ceiling might be too much for our little rebel's autistic temperament, but he literally was in Heaven, amongst the constellations and the artist's imagined view of the underwater volcanoes of Jupiter's moon Europa in the sky show film about the search for Water and Life on other planets.
"No one can stop us now, 'cause we are all made of stars"