After spending a lot of time with my friend Doug Wreden in the Seattle Metropolitan Area this past summer, I headed out for the next leg of my road trip journey in September. Two months later (i.e., earlier this month), we were reunited in Los Angeles, California after I had arrived in town to set up my temporary base camp for the winter at the Tempo headquarters in Long Beach, and Doug flew in for a few days for an unrelated matter to attend an in-person event at the Galen Center at the University of Southern California.
We met up in Hollywood to get lunch together at a ramen restaurant with two of our mutual friends, then headed over to the University of Southern California campus so we would be nearby and he wouldn’t be late for his event. Event parking was US$40.00 in the main lot, but we managed to get the best luck possible by finding a side street with free weekend street parking.
We headed into the USC campus and wandered into the California Science Center, a museum with free admission.
This was one of the strangest museums I’ve ever been to, and I probably would not have been too happy if I had to pay to get in.
After we went up the escalator, one of the first things we saw was an exhibit dedicated to COVID-19. It already wasn’t exactly the most exciting thing to see in a museum, especially considering that we had just finished surviving a pandemic and most people probably want to take their minds off of it and want to resume normal life, but the mood and tone of the exhibit was a bit apocalyptic. It had the number of deaths prominently displayed on a digital screen, and the messaging still strongly pushed masking and social distancing. Confused, Doug and I chuckled a bit and went to the next section of the museum.
Next up was a section that was designed as if you were walking into a woman’s reproductive organs. Deep into the “uterus,” there was a video playing depicting a woman giving birth in graphic detail with great clarity. There were a few small children eagerly watching. Further confused, Doug and I decided that was enough learning about reproduction for one day, and we walked through a tunnel (which I imagine represented a fallopian tube) to exit that section.
On the way to the next section, we took an intermission to watch a short film. The longer we watched, the more confused we got (as if we weren’t incomprehensibly confused at this museum already). We realized that the film wasn’t actually a film, but rather, just a bunch of stock footage stitched together with random words (like “water,” “desert,” “mountains,” “life,” etc.) overlayed on top of the footage. This is one of those “you had to be there to get it” moments, but if you have any experience editing video and you caught onto this, you probably would’ve also found it ridiculous.
If you thought it ended there, you would be sorely mistaken. The next exhibit was about avian life, and there was an interactive game I tried out where you would feed a ball into a tube and use a lever to shoot it out, and it was supposed to reflect something related to birds and how they evolved to survive. I never found out what that was, though… because the ball just got stuck in the tube and I couldn’t get it out.
By this point, I had solidly awarded this the worst museum I have ever been to, and during my year-and-a-half road trip, I have been to a tremendous number of museums.
It seemed like the main attraction of this museum was the area about space, and even this wasn’t that incredible.
The weirdness also didn’t end. There were a set of worn-down tires on display and a sign that said “Touch the tires!” but it was safely behind a barricade. The most prominent display of this entire area, directly in the middle of the space, was a movie and explanation of how astronauts defecated in space, as well as a physical model where you could climb up some steps and see what it would feel like to use a space toilet.
In a neighboring building, the Endeavour was on display. It was interesting to me that, as a space shuttle adorned with United States flags that was part of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, an agency associated with United States federal government, they decided to spell Endeavor with a “u.” My best guess is that it was named in honor of or named after something British, but I never found out for sure.
After we decided we had enough of this museum, we decided to go for a walk around the campus some more, first taking a stroll through some rose gardens that were not in bloom because it is December, and then walking through a field with a ton of chipmunks. It seemed like the university students treated them well and fed them a lot, because when I stooped down and extended my fingers, the chipmunks walked right up to me, presumably because they thought I had food.
Here is a fountain. (I like fountains and waterfalls.)
Something I found intriguing about the USC campus was how there were random single palm trees planted in random places, at an average density of one palm tree per few blocks. Usually, you’ll see a row of palm trees lined up along pathways or organized in a cluster in open areas, but USC seems to have decided to put single palm trees right in the middle of other trees and buildings.
With my adoration of dogs, I of course had to take a picture with George Tirebiter. This is a bronze statue of the dog located at the intersection of Bloom Walk and Trousdale Parkway, just off West Exposition Boulevard, in between the Marshall School of Business and Zumberge Hall of Science. It was erected in 2006 by Michael Davis and is titled “Mascot/Fan.”
By coincidence, I had great synergy with the dog because I was wearing a Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department K-9 hoodie.
Oh, and here is Doug who, after I passed my phone to him and asked him to take a photo of me with George, instead used the wrong-facing camera and ended up taking a selfie of himself (though, knowing Doug, I am guessing it wasn’t entirely a mistake).
After our adventure, we walked towards the Galen Center together so I could bid Doug farewell and head back to my truck. Of course, with my fantastic luck, the route we took led us onto West 34th Street, and we did not realize that its intersection with Figueroa Street right in front of the Galen Center was blocked with a closed vehicular gate and a locked pedestrian gate. … We solved this problem by just climbing over the fence.
I wasn’t really a fan of my undergraduate university years, and I feel like my exposure to the University of Southern California was probably the worst it could’ve possibly been considering the circumstances, but I still enjoyed spending time with Doug and exploring the campus, and it still brought back a bit of the nostalgia of being a younger college student.