Travel Thursday: A Quick Recap of the Weekend

I always thought the best definition of serendipity was one used on the Max Headroom TV series: “Digging for worms and striking oil.”
But here’s an even better one: “Serendipity means looking for a needle in a haystack and finding the farmer’s daughter.”
Oh yes, please. . .

Okay, Saturday found me in Pasadena’s imposing main library. Thankfully all I had to do was walk two blocks to catch the bus that left me right in front of the library, which was good because as usual it was late and I got there just before Marina V went on stage, barely enough time to get my camera out and hope the new faster lens could deal with the strange lighting behind her. . . though obviously it did well enough, as you saw from the photos two blogs ago. . . yeah, go to the bottom of this one, skip the poem, and there they are.
Set list:
1 Ghost Wandering This Earth
2 I’ll Be All Right
3 You Make Me Beautiful
4 Run
5 Neil Diamond in Russian
6 Say Hello
7 Stand
8 Light Up the Dark
9 Speak

1 Ghost Wandering This Earth
Haven’t heard this one in years, seemed longer than usual. Marina teased Nick about being a blonde with a master’s degree. “You don’t see that often.” To which he promptly replied, “You didn’t say what it was in!”
2 I’ll Be All Right
I don’t remember now why she mentioned it, but she did say she was wearing sports shorts under her relatively short blue dress. No further comment necessary.
3 You Make Me Beautiful
This usta be my fave, before the next one came along.
4 Run
Yay for little cameras with video capabilities and relatively steady hands!

5 Neil Diamond in Russian
Not a fan of his in any language. Nuff said.
6 Say Hello
This one took a while to start, as they were confused as to location of the tambourine, which was supposed to be in the bag. . . except Nick had already taken it out and put it under the piano. And conveniently forgotten. Marina also mentioned how cushy the seats were, “like grandma’s couch.”
7 Stand
For being overly dramatic I still like this one.
8 Light Up the Dark
Pretty sure this is my first time hearing this one live.
9 Speak
I think this has become her official closer.
Didn’t stay long, still having stamina troubles after the nose surgery.

Just like the last time I attended a performance at A Noise Within, the bus came late and I actually arrived at the back door after it was scheduled to start. On the other hand, going to previews, which are a lot more relaxed as far as time is concerned, mitigate that a little, so I had time to go to the front and pick up my ticket and even go to the restroom. . .
Today was Julius Caesar day. . . as in the play I was going to see, not the Ides of March. Despite being a Shakespeare fan, I don’t think I’ve seen this since we performed it in English class my junior year of high school; I still remember how a friend had written “Assinated” instead of “assassinated” in his notes. Good times. . .
The opening music was so overly dramatic I instantly hated it. Here it was a little justified as people walked around the stage handing each other cardboard signs, which at a predetermined point where placed before chests, bearing the names of the characters. This description was hardly worth how amazingly cool that moment was, but on the other hand the music did not get better. The industrial design, with plenty of scaffolding, didn’t do much for me either, though as the play went on I saw how ingeniously they used it and decided it was okay. The costuming left me mystified, though; those long fur coats weren’t enough for me to know exactly what time period this was supposed to be set in. . . and as usual I’m gonna keep on going to keep that participle from dangling off the cliff, since it’s afraid of heights.
Took a while for me to get into it; hesitate to admit it, but I might have nodded off for a few moments there. But at the assassination scene things picked up, and I didn’t lose interest from them on. As much as I had against the design and music, the lighting was incredibly effective, especially the handheld lamps. Another effective part was their use of the open area atop the seats, as well as the ramps between sections; this is the fifth work I’ve seen here, and all have featured actors walking or running through the audience, but this time it worked even better.
As expected, but even more so here with the acting, Mark Antony’s speech was the highlight. Later in the Q&A a lady mentioned she was a Brutus fan, but this performance put her squarely in Marcus’s camp. {The actor did seem to appreciate it.}
One thing I noticed all the more here than in other performances: the actors help move the scenery. No divas here; even in high school productions you don’t usually see that. I think it’s a nice touch for a company I have rapidly grown fond of, for much more than just the quality acting.
This being the first preview there was an after-show discussion, from which I remember these tidbits:
Iambic pentameter allows you to memorize easier, like when you listen to a song over and over and suddenly realize you know the words, or as I like to call it, osmosis.
This play brings out the absurdity of politics, even more relevant now. And this production’s based on Mean Girls, according to the chiefs’ daughter.
The best way to memorize lines, according to one of the actors, is to whisper them, so you don’t get any inflection on them when you haven’t yet decided how you’re going to play it. But the most important acting point is you have to love your character. . .
All topped off by a very late lunch/early dinner at Hook Burger. Yummy!


Two Thoughts on Nose Surgery

1. So, which part of my body got the worst of the pain from my nose surgery? My calves! What? Why?

2. Been told to use hydrogen peroxide to clean the blood from my nose. That’s the stuff that sends rockets into space and makes bimbos blonde, right?


Mozart non-opera and opera

Despite severe exhaustion from the volleyball day at Northridge, I valiantly headed out to A Noise Within for Figaro; it helped that all I had to do was cross the street to catch the bus. It also helped that I’d already paid for the ticket, otherwise I might not have tried it. Bus almost zoomed by me, maybe because it wasn’t expecting to pick anyone up, considering there was only one person aboard. Very rare. Driver told me I shoulda used my flashlight, but it wasn’t until walking back that I remembered I had a flashlight with me. Two actually, but why quibble? After that a couple got on, she Indian with a British accent, he hippie from South Philly, and on an almost-empty bus they sit right behind me and subject me to such inanities. . .
Okay. Off the bus, I walk down the length of the bus station, then cross the small road, and I’m at the back door of the venue, first one there. Unfortunately there’s a late rehearsal, so the audience is dark and they’re not letting anyone in just yet for fear of someone going splat. By the time they open there’s a dozen people and I don’t feel special anymore. Also didn’t feel special when I had the row all to myself and someone else came by, but oh well.
Tonight’s production of Figaro is the same plot as the famous Mozart opera, just no singing. And it’s in English. The only music we get is during scene changes, and it’s a rock version–heavy on electric guitar–of Mozart’s music. The main characters are on first, Figaro and Suzanne, but it isn’t till the Count comes out–dressed in what a stylish 70s rocker type might be sporting–that things really take off. Later there’s a scene where he takes off the long wig, and yeah, definitely changed not just the actor’s appearance but his whole mojo; we would not have believed all that bombastic entitlement from the meek accountant-like guy underneath.
Though the play is witty and sarcastic, what really sells the comedy is the body language, particularly by Suzanne. The character doesn’t have much grace, sitting with her legs spread and shoulders slumped, especially opposed to the mincing high-heeled steps of the Countess. But later in the play, when the roles are reversed, the maid has to fix the countess’s body language, slumping her shoulders and spreading her legs rather forcibly. All small touches, but add up to a lot of funny, the best being when Figaro has to describe what’s in a letter and Suzanne is behind the count giving him huge pantomime hints. . .
If you’re at all familiar with the plot, you know it’s about Figaro coming up with grandiose schemes and not realizing how clueless he is; Suzanne’s gonna be the one wearing the pants in that family. Everyone’s got their own ploys and scams, and for a while it’s hard to keep all the tangles clear in your head, but of course since it’s a comedy everything will work out fine in the end. . .
I had told myself that if I wasn’t having fun by halftime I would leave, thereby catching the last bus home. But it was so good I stayed, and then had to walk for an hour, as I said already exhausted from the previous day. Strangely enough, only one person passed me, and that was outside the Taco Bell. Two bikes overtook me, but other than that it was actually a pleasant solitary walk which left me with plenty of time to think. . . except with my senses attuned to the extra dangers darkness brings, I didn’t think of much anyway.

Sorry, UCLA gymnastics. Far too exhausted to trudge across town on Saturday. Gonna miss you and your amazing smile, Elette.

Still a bit tired–losing an hour made it worse–but more than game Sunday morning to head out to real opera, if you can call it that. As usual went early, and as it turned out the bus downtown had to take not just one but two detours, missing Union Station, heading off a block away from the house–probably no longer there–where I spent the first seven years of my life. Ended up at the central library after another detour, due to some gathering in front of City Hall, then had to wait some minutes for it to open so I could hit the restroom. Not only that, but the little old Asian lady sitting next to me on the bus stole my water bottle! What is the world coming to?
At least I catch the subway right in step, and even with the detours I’m pretty early when I step into the sun of North Hollywood. Earlier I’d googled–can’t believe that’s a real verb–restaurants but couldn’t find anything that my taste buds and allergies could take. There was some diner nearby, but it was closed. After catching a pure vanilla at Coffee Bean, I set off down Lankersheim toward Universal, walking and walking and kept walking till I finally found a burger place about a half hour later. Had thought about eating there in the air conditioning, but instead figured I’d eat while waiting for the bus. Nope, something ornery in my mind said go ahead and walk by while eating, which is difficult when you have a burger, fries, and a drink to deal with and only two hands. If they’re right about evolution, how come we don’t have an extra hand sticking out of the chest or something? (old joke)
Finished off the fries just in time to get in line for theater, where my ticket was found with no problem, once the guy realized my last name wasn’t Franklin. A cute Orion slave girl handed me a program, then I gave my ticket and was led–not just given directions–to a small hutch on the left side, where there were five seats in two rows–combined. Instantly the two ladies in the three-seat row, Portland and Ruth, pronounced me their new best friend, so there was a little bit of chatter as I tried not to listen to their conversation when they weren’t including me. At the last moment two guys, one in an original pilot command shirt, sat in the two-seat row in front of us, so no leg-stretching allowed after all.
Finally it gets going, with the Star Trek theme, including “these are the voyages,” played by the orchestra in the pit. . . but just when you think they’re gonna launch into the main song it instead turns to the Mozart, which got a chuckle.
Instantly we get Captain Belmonte, played with relish, ham AND cheese, by Brian Cheney. His credits show he is indeed an operatic tenor, but I doubt he’s ever done anything like this. Not that the singing is out of his wheelhouse, but the sheer. . . Shatner-ness cubed of his performance. . . it’s actually shocking that anyone could out-Shatner Shatner, but then his many aside glances to the audience proves this is well past anything that pretends not to be farce. . . and I mean that in a good way! Later on he plays a certain “Scottish mechanic,” and that accent is, again, something he’s never done in his opera career before. . . I hope. But the contenders for his biggest laugh are the barrel rolls and when he works in an “Oh my!”
Once the Klingons come out he hides in front of a rock to spy on them, which is good because the Klingons are singing in. . . well, Klingon! Even the supertitles say “Some Klingon. . . more Klingon.” At this point Belmonte calls for the Universal Translator, and order, such as it is, is restored. Nice touch.
The Spock is named, just like in Mozart’s version, Pedrillo, which makes it fun when the bimbo pronounces it wrong later. Constanza–a name as close to the original as you can get without actually using it–is the Uhura, whom Belmonte has fallen in love with; not something we ever saw in the show or the movies, though considering Kirk’s reputation, not out of the question. But easily my favorite character is the Orion slave girl; in the original the character was simply called Blonde, so it makes sense here she’s Blondie. Her Brooklyn bimbo accent is so perfect; she plays ditzy so well that when she sings operatically it’s almost shocking. She gets a great stealth joke where she complains that people are trying to get the “slave” part of the name out, but traditionalists back in Orion–most of them below the belt, in the South part–are resisting. I think the only reason they made the Orion Slave girl a major character was for the obvious–saw it coming a kilometer away–“It’s not easy being green” line.
Gotta say, these are some wimpy Klingons, though to be fair they were wimpy Ottomans in the original too. The chancellor is easily toyed with, and even the cruel Osmin gets played with by Pedrillo, Blondie, and even the captain. He does have a really funny chuckle, though. It didn’t occur to me that these are Next Generation Klingons interfacing with original series Federation until the end. But then, considering even the laser burn effects were cheesy–I’m hoping purposefully so–everything just fit together in an outrageous and hilarious way.
And nothing was more out there than the recreation of Kirk’s battle with the Gorn! Even the conductor in the orchestra put got into it, throwing Belmonte a rock as a weapon in the middle of battle. But since we didn’t have time for him to rediscover gunpowder, Belmonte pulls out his phaser and Indiana Jones’s the Gorn to oblivion. BeeTeeDubya, as I was walking out of the place I saw that the Gorn was actually a pretty brunette, without the Gorn head that is.
Can’t have the thing end without a redshirt showing up! And of course getting his head chopped off right away. No rescue there. Then we get the main four singing about how they should be escaping, not singing, and of course get captured. Those of you familiar with the Mozart, it ends the same way here; those who don’t, find out by going to see it somewhere.
The whole thing was so over-the-top they needed oxygen masks and Sherpas, but again, it was all in good fun with only a couple of eye rolls.
After all the bows we get a tribute to Leonard Nimoy, as it should be.
Well, that was simply awesome, though my own pleasure was somewhat mitigated by my eyes going watery throughout. Thought it was due to the darkness and my still-new glasses, but once outside on the way to the subway–just two blocks away, convenient–the nose went runny too, so I took an allergy pill with a Gatorade I had to buy off the street, since you might recall my water bottle was stolen earlier. Yeah, like Chekov’s gun. . . and not the Star Trek Chekov!
Three nights ago, after the Northridge day, I was thinking how dark it got coming back from North Hollywood; this time the sun is still high, thanks to daylight savings. Too bad, I like the dark. . .


Dance of Death at A Noise Within

Been a long time since I wrote about one of my adventures in the City of Beautiful Angels, though I’m not at all sure going to see a play should be labeled adventurous.
This was the second time I would be seeing theater at A Noise Within; I’d bought a season package simply because I could cross the street from my apartment, get on a bus, and a few minutes later debark and be right at the rear entrance of the theater. This was especially helpful as the last few times I’ve gone to see live acting it’s been over 100 degrees.
This Sunday was not nearly as hot, but there were other worries. The first time I’d taken an early bus and was consequently the first person there, trying not to flirt too obviously with the concessions girl while waiting for almost an hour for things to start. When I saw there was a bus that would leave me where I needed to be with ten minutes to spare till curtain, I chose that one instead. . . only for the bus to be late, and catch all the red lights. Yikes!
So I arrived, after a bit of a dash through the bus station, with two minutes to spare. . . only for them to start well late. Sigh, story of my life. . .
Okay, on to da show. For some reason I can’t figure out I prefer watching the previews, and in this case the very first one. This day’s performance would be Dance of Death, by Strindburg, who I certainly can’t say is among my favorites. I pictured something heavy, like Proof, but was ready to take a break from all the funny musicals I’ve seen recently.
Though there was plenty of psychological drama, I certainly didn’t expect a bickering couple to be so humorous! Perhaps this was included by the guy who’d adapted it–I need to check that–but some of this wit was classic!
It’s basically the story of a married couple who’ve been together almost 25 years, he a martinet of a non-commissioned Army officer–the reasons why he never rose very high in rank were spot-on–and a retired stage actress. And yes, they hate each other; he threatens to throw her out of the house or have her arrested, while she claims she’ll divorce him and leave him by himself, and then who will take care of him, especially now that he’s sick, though he’ll never admit it. . . and the local doctor hates him.
The set was fascinating; in act one we learn they actually live in the old jail! Seems appropriate, though I found it hard to watch, especially the humorous moments between all the psychological torture. At one point it occurred to me that he was an evil version of the The Big Bang Theory’s Sheldon Cooper! The most memorable moment–can ya tell I love alliteration?–comes when she plays the piano, or rather harpsichord, and he goes into a hilarious dance, like a demented Russian or Bavarian folk dancer, before spinning–literally–out of control.
There’s one more character, a relative of the woman, who becomes the prize they fight for as they categorize their grievances against each other; his innocence is of course tainted by all this. There’s a great line where he tells his cousin that as a doctor he carries certain drugs, leading her to gasp, in a happily surprised tone, “You have morphine?”
But the most telling line is “It is too late for shame.”
As I said earlier, despite all the hilarious moments, this was simply too hard to bear! But as good as it was, I hated the happy ending!
So once it was done I checked the handout and found the main actor was Geoff Elliot, who founded the company with his wife and is a much younger man than the old coot he’s playing; makes me wonder if he ever played Mark Twain. In all the makeup and especially the broad acting style he reminds me of James Whitmore Jr. in Proof. It also made me ponder about the art of acting; playing subtle moments allows an actor to shine, but playing a character like Edgar must be all about fun!
From there I settled my long-gnawing hunger–can’t remember the last time I had lunch after four, if ever–across the street at Hook, now my second fave burger joint after In-N-Out. . . and they have bacon, which almost gives them an edge in this contest. They also have orange cream soda, and as I’m reading the painted label on the bottle, I see the second ingredient–after water–is cane sugar. No wonder it tastes so good. . .
And that’s the way to end a day at the theater. . .

Travel Thursday: The Girl With Three Left Feet, Part 5

While we waited for the museum to close, with me having nothing to do but answer her occasional absent-minded mutterings as she caught up on ignored work, I ruminated on things I’d put on my brain’s back burner the last couple of weeks. Like the news item that some students had invented an alarm clock that monitored the user’s brainwaves and worked out the best time to wake you up. I didn’t know how good an idea that was: what if the damned thing thought the best time for me to wake was around four? Or noon, on a day I had to be at work by nine? Plus having to wear a headband equipped with electrodes tended to get in the way of romance. . .
No better wake-up than the way Shan had done this morning, of course; you’d think students would know that, but if they were the scientist egghead type. . . wait a minute, Shan was the scientist egghead type.
I glanced over, but she hadn’t been able to read my mind this time.
A possibly better, and certainly funnier, idea was the alarm that rang and then ran away and hid, so that the sleeper had to get up to turn it off. No snooze button there, but considering how slowly some people woke up, they might be late for work by the time they chased the little critter down. And the batteries would run down quickly. . .
I was startled out of my reverie of imagining my little travel alarm skittering away on tiny sneaker-soled feet by her sudden jump out of her chair. “Time to go!”
I grinned as I realized I’d successfully distracted myself long enough, but that didn’t last as we went out, especially when the elevator door opened. “I knew it.”
“Museums are fuckin’ creepy in the dark. Scary.”
She laughed.
“Hey, I saw a vampire movie that was filmed here. I didn’t think reality would be worse, but it is.”
“Think about the blonde in that movie. You’ll feel better.”
I brightened, more than she’d hoped, so she smacked my shoulder to bring me down.
“Typical female, scientist or not. Playing both sides.”
“You’re talking your way out of sex, buddy.”
“With some women that might be true, not with you.”
“So that’s the downside of letting a guy know me so well!” she mourned.
“Yeah, now I know you watch vampire movies. That ‘Enchanted April’ crap you tried to pull last time–”
“I’m versatile in my viewing habits!”
There were other things she was versatile in, but it wouldn’t do me any good to mention that now. Maybe later. “Hey, As long as we’re here, let’s go borrow the gold exhibit.”
“Vault’s probably closed,” she grinned.
“Gold’s not in the vault.”
“True.” She still had her downloaded notes in her pocket, so she checked. “More than two thousand gem and mineral specimens are on view in the Gem and Mineral Hall.”
“Good name for it. Couldn’t they find a jewelry store to sponsor it, like everything else here?”
“My office isn’t sponsored.”
“I’ll call Hustler.”
“Ha ha. The hall features one of the largest gold exhibits in the world, and includes over three hundred pounds of natural gold along with gold mining artifacts and other memorabilia.” Patting me on the shoulder, she soothed, “All that gold would be too heavy to carry out.”
“You’d like the gems more anyway, right?”
“Abso-tively! The walk-through Hixon Gem Vault–see, that one’s sponsored!–houses such spectacular treasures as exquisite star rubies, emeralds and sapphires.”
“Emeralds are so much better than diamonds.”
She beamed. “Glad you agree! Now steal some of those to match my eyes.”
“Your eyes are already emeralds.”
“Party pooper.”
“Besides, there’s probably a permanent guard there.”
“You were thinking of checking it again?”
“Not really. Too deep into the museum, especially since no one saw the guy running through the halls.”
“With that reasoning,” she pointed out, “he probably wouldn’t have gotten to the second floor.”
“Still. . .”
“What is it you don’t want to check out again up there?”
Knowing she shouldn’t have bothered trying to fool me, she mentioned the bird exhibit. “It was spooky even in the daytime.” She checked the papers. “Begun with two hundred fifty specimens in 1913–”
“Right when it opened? First curator musta loved the feathery things.”
“The Museum’s ornithological collection now numbers more than 104,000 birds, including more California condors than any other institution in the world. Yippee!”
“But that wasn’t the exhibit. Doesn’t that one have a name and/or sponsor?”
“Probably not a sponsor, but someone who loved birds enough to donate enough money to get it built.”
“Like a guy donated to have gems in a vault?”
“That is kinda weird. Here it is! Animated birds, three walk-through habitats and twenty-seven separate learning stations are featured in the popular Schreiber Hall of Birds.”
“Ah, Schreiber, I knew her well.”
“I’m not Horatio, and how’d you know it was a woman?”
“Don’t know this Schreiber, and the only one I do know is a woman. Nice Shakespeare catch, by the way, Little Miss Scientist.”
She looked proud of herself. “More than five hundred birds from around the world are on display. Didn’t seem like all that many.”
“You didn’t go into the treetops.”
“Oh yeah, I was flirting with those tourists.”
“The birds could learn lessons from you.”
She didn’t know where I was going with that, but had to of course pretend she did. “I thought we were going straight to Ken’s clue.”
“Yeah, let’s do that. Do you know where it is?”
“Um. . . no. In one of the animal exhibit halls, obviously, but I don’t remember seeing it.”
“Great, the biggest exhibit space, just what my legs need.”
The halls with the animals were even more spooky, so we refrained from speaking. . . until I ruined it with, “That silverback is staring at me!”
She turned quickly, then just as fast jumped behind me. “Shit, he is!”
“It’s gonna be a long night. . .”
And it was, with plenty of surprises, like the chimps on the ceiling that neither of us had noticed before. I had spotted the doors in the dark corridors by the lonely stairs that might lead to the animal enclosures, though there might be corridors behind them too; I’d forgotten to ask. Though I couldn’t mention that, or else I wouldn’t be able to continue joking about her kudu thing. {It should not be considered hypocrisy by any means.}
“Isn’t it kinda funny how some of the animals are behind glass and others in the open?”
“And it’s not the dangerous ones behind glass,” I smirked, pointing to the lion. “Ah, look there on the wall near the floor.”
“What am I looking for? Oh, that little round thing?”
“Yeah, looks like a sensor. But it’s so low it’d be easy enough to step over. . . unless they’re expecting that and the real alarm is higher–”
“Okay, that’s a never-ending argument. Check out that Arabian oryx thing.”
I squinted to read the plaque in the dim light. “From Arabia, supposedly the foundation for the myth of the unicorn. Hey, this should be your favorite animal.”
She put her fists on her hips. “Am I that much of a girly-girl?”
She squealed, clapped her hands together near her chest like a cheerleader, and snuggled up to me. “You really DO know me!”
I gave her a little smack on the ass to keep it from getting too romantical, and also because she had a really cute squeal I wanted to hear again.
A few minutes later we reached the huge bison exhibit at the end. “Good thing we don’t have to search all of that thing,” she muttered. “Is that real dust or just light-brown carpet?”
“Be glad they didn’t go too realistic and put browner stuff on the floor.”
“Yeech! Downside of animals, huh?”
“Not too many hundreds of years ago it was the same for humans.”
She didn’t see any reason to answer that, so we stayed quiet for a few minutes, until she proclaimed, “Standing is tiring too. Let’s start back.”
We’d been up and down just about every corridor and stairway sometime during this long day, and this one more than once, so I was starting to drag again. Her natural perkiness, however, was making up for whatever her volleyball thighs had lost. And her natural clumsiness, which had so far not been evident during the day, came back with a vengeance as she leaned forward to frown at something in the leopard exhibit when she took a header into it. Finding herself unhurt, she heaved a heavy sigh of relief as she kneeled up and stretched, accidentally hitting the feline’s ass, but not enough to knock it over. “I spanked the kitty,” she giggled.
“Sounds naughty. How loud did you scream?”
It took her a while to get it, then she blushed. “Not THAT!”
From there we enjoyed the comfortable silence as we continued walking down the long hall, then passed through the connector to the other side of the exhibit. The little dome at the top of the connecting hall made me think vampires would love to roost there, and I was too done in to get any help from the blonde in the movie, but as long as I didn’t hear any flapping wings. . .
“Maybe grandpa was just being poetical about the kudu thing, greater or not,” she groused, “cuz I don’t remember any such name.”
“I suppose we can press every eye in the damned place,” I muttered, trying to keep on topic.
And suddenly, there it was. . .
In an appropriately hushed and reverential tone, Shannon actressed, “The gosh durn thang do exist!”
Needing to control my excitement, curiosity, and for some reason mounting horniness, all at once, I took a deep breath and read the educational board in front of the exhibit. “The greater kudu is considered by many to be the most handsome of the tragelaphine antelopes, which includes the bongo, eland, nyala, bushbuck and sitatunga.”
“Well, what else need be said?” she sarcasted, a little nastily.
“Kudus, both the greater kudu and its close cousin the lesser kudu, have stripes and spots on the body, and most have a chevron of white hair on the forehead between the eyes.”
She checked the dead animal in front of her; yep so far.
“Greater and lesser kudu males have long, spiral horns. Yeah, watch out for those, you ballerina, you.”
She spared a moment to show me her favorite finger.
“These beautifully shaped horns have long been prized in Africa for use as musical instruments, honey containers and symbolic ritual objects. In some cultures the horns are thought to be the dwelling places of powerful spirits, and in others they are a symbol for male potency.”
“Damn, I hate assholes who kill animals because they can’t get it up!”
“They obviously never met you. The horns are seldom used in defense against predators, nor are they an impediment in wooded habitats–the kudu tilts the chin up and lays the horns against the back, moving easily through dense bush. Kudus frequently use their horns in wrestling matches, locking them together and then trying to push or wrestle the opponent into submission. They have also been observed in a form of play, tossing broken branches into the air with their horns and catching them as they fall.”
“That’s cool!” she squealed. “Wonder how it got its name.”
“I remember one time in Kenya when the guide pointed out an antelope-type being that he called a Kirk’s dik-dik. You don’t have to be a Trekkie to get why that one’s so funny.”
She actually was a Trekkie, so she laughed for a while, telling me she’d dreamed of fucking Spock, but not the captain.
“I took you for more of the Picard type.”
“Give me a wig and I’ll be your Dax,” she smiled sweetly. Unable to contain her curiosity any longer, she stepped into the exhibit and immediately started poking and prodding the eyes. I tried not to check out her ass, even though it was pointed right at me, so I kept reading.
“They have a bluish-gray, grayish-brown or rust hide, with lateral white stripes, a crest of long hair along the spine, and a fringe under the chin.”
“I like fringe,” she said in as high a voice as she could manage, tickling the fringe in question. The animal had no response to that.
“Their cryptic coloring and markings protect kudus by camouflaging them. If alarmed they usually stand still and are very difficult to spot.”
“That sounds dumb,” she mused, but didn’t let it distract her.
“Farmers in areas inhabited by the kudu must take into account, when building their fences, the animal’s ability to easily leap obstacles two and a half meters in height. Hmmm, volleyball mascot,” I joked. “How depressing must it be to be a lesser kudu?”
For once she didn’t answer, and even told me to shut for a moment, which hardly mattered as her hand acted like a hammer on the poor kudu’s eyes. . .

To be continued. . .


Travel Thursday: The Girl With Three Left Feet, Part 3

Finding a friendlier, and female, guard at the museum entrance the next morning, I got through with a wink and a quick flash of the I.D. without breaking stride a few hours after Shannon. Now knowing where the elevators were, and not feeling guilty about not taking the stairs because she’d left me delightfully exhausted, I quickly made my way through the anteroom and into her office before most people could look up.
“What’re you up to?” I had indeed learned my lesson about hugging her from behind, especially now that she was bent over the microscope.
“Building a bomb,” she replied absently.
“Well. . . I’ll be seein’ ya, then. . .” I backed away carefully.
“It’s a genetic bomb,” she laughed. “Inside.”
“Ouch even more.”
“This bomb kills the bad guys, don’t worry.”
“What about collateral damage?”
She thought about ignoring me, but figured it might be something worth knowing. “What’s that?”
“When someone wants to kill a particular person with a bomb, there’s always a chance that innocent passerby might also be injured–”
“Oh! No, this’ll leave all the good cells alone. You know I’m a humanitarian scientist.”
Not having anywhere to go with that, I stayed quiet.
“Unlike that Swedish redhead floozy you’re always panting after. . .”
“Are you still mad because of that one time she slipped me the tungsten?”
The blonde stuck hers at me, then giggled. “I love how you always play along.” Then she let out a sigh that was different from all the other ones I’d heard recently. “I need exact timing. One minute, forty-three seconds. . . exactly.”
“Exactly?” I thought about it, rejected the obvious sex joke, then grinned and went over to the microwave.
Less than two minutes later she was muttering, “There are no experimental failures, just more data.”
I leaned over, now that the smoke had cleared, and wiped the soot from her face with a harsh napkin. Luckily she’d been wearing goggles, so at least her blonde eyebrows were clean. “Science strikes again, huh?”
“Hey, you scientific imbecile!” She jabbed a new test tube at me, for some reason. “I could show you some cells that would have you crying in wonder! Now sit in the corner and ponder your mistake in not being supportive to your girlfriend. . . of the day.”
“C’mon, at least of the week. And can I ponder your ass when you bend over the scope?”
“That’s what I meant.”
“Instead I’m gonna go talk to security.”
“Ooo, wait, I wanna go! Time to learn something new.”
“So it’s not only when you’re unclothed?”
“My curiosity knows no bounds, no matter the subject. After you, dearest.”
We made our way down quickly, and for a change I was the one who led, since she’d never had cause to visit the security office before and therefore had no idea where it was. The people who normally inhabited the room were cold to the interlopers, but not more so than usual. Well, maybe the women, on seeing Shannon and particularly her perkiness, but on the plus side it did defrost the guys a bit.
Unfortunately, the liaison to the investigation was female. Fortunately, I knew how to do some defrosting of my own, which in this case meant nothing more than treating her like a fellow professional. Women seemed to like that.
“It’s been confirmed,” she told me as soon as she saw I wasn’t going to be a typical male superior asshole. “Surveillance cameras show no sign of him coming in through the three main entrances.”
“Are there any other doors?”
“Yes, but they can only be opened from inside.”
“So he called someone to open it.”
“There are security cams on each door.”
“No gaps?”
“No sir. No one used the doors all day.”
So the security people weren’t completely useless.
“What about windows?” Shannon piped, causing the female to roll her eyes and the males to think she was just adorable. Too bad she had a rule of not playing with people where she worked, or she might have been able to knock another fantasy off her list.
“But there is video, as well as witnesses, that have him coming out, right?”
The security lady admitted this was so, though you could tell it pained her.
“Okay. Thanks.” With a sigh I led the way out, Shannon making the guys, and even the woman, laugh as she pretended to be following her master out, leash pulled and tongue panting. She was quite a ham.
“As long as we’re here, let’s take a look around the areas accessible to everyone.”
“Luckily I don’t have a supervisor who checks in to see if I’m actually doing what I’m paid to do,” she mused, then realized we were right next to the cafeteria. “How ‘bout lunch first?”
“Now you’re thinking like an investigator.”
Chortling to herself, she led the way. “You know I’ve always been a dessert first kinda girl. As you found out last night.”
“That may be why your taste buds don’t discriminate anymore.”
“The problem with eating dessert first is that it makes the rest of the meal taste horrible in comparison.”
“Ah, I see.”
“There is one logical way out of that trap, though.” I let her think about it as I looked over the menu above the ordering area.
“Nope, don’t get it. What?”
“Eat only dessert!”
“Wait, they seriously want more than four bucks for a burger?”
“My treat today.”
“Doesn’t matter. Maybe I’ll just have dessert.”
“Then try the meat loaf sundae. It looks like a brownie sundae, but it’s made with meat loaf, mashed potatoes, and gravy.”
It made me think of a beautiful musician who used the phrase “brownie sundae” in one of her songs. “Don’t like meatloaf, though.”
“Ah well, let’s gorge on the desserts then.”
Which we did, for unlike the burger, the desserts were oversized enough to justify the price. Thus fortified, we were able to start the first preliminary search.
The basement, in addition to having the cafeteria and security office, was also home to the members’ lending library, work lockers, and staff lounge, along with the cultural part of the museum’s mission, which consisted mostly of the history of California.
“Most people don’t know that there’s stuff down here,” she ruminated as she led the way into a small temporary gallery which today housed a collection of ship-filled bottles. I let her ooo and aaah and wonder how they managed to stuff those ships through the narrow openings–a really simple trick that I had seen once, but also something most people didn’t know–as I checked the temporary walls of the exhibit. There did seem to be enough room to put something up there, since the walls didn’t reach to the roof, but it was too high to do it on a whim, and there were docents/security wannabes/whatever they were called watching everything carefully. I made a mental note to check later and followed her out, telling her I wasn’t going to explain the ships into the bottle thing until she’d had at least a day to cogitate on it.
The corridor leading past the elevators and to the work locker room had several doors, but all were secured very high-tech-wise. Again I left that as a last resort, thinking that unless the guy had everything planned out from the beginning, there was very little chance he’d gotten any access codes for these rooms. An arrogant guy like that–had to be full of himself for no reason, if he worked at that play school across the street–confident he would never be found. . . very doubtful he would have thought that far ahead.
No one had reported their lockers being broken into, so I stood up on the benches to see the top of the lockers, finding all manner of stuff but none that was useful to the investigation. Shannon spent these moments revisiting the new fantasy she’d thought of last night, but luckily wasn’t given enough time to put it into the planning stages.
The big room down here lodged the History of California exhibits, in chronological order if you started at the right place. Not much on the pre-nineteen hundreds, which wasn’t a surprise, but it did have the biggest exhibits sizewise, what with huge prairie schooners and the like. On the side I spotted a 3-D montage of downtown several decades ago, but it wouldn’t do to take things out of order, so I continued on century by century.
Next to the conquistadors exhibit I spotted a very old looking door, which didn’t look at all like the ones I’d previously found that led to the back stairs. I noticed scratches on the rudimentary lock, but that could simply mean the key had been lost sometime in the past almost-hundred years. Picking the lock easily, I looked into what turned out to be a janitor’s closet. Still checking everything closely, I got out of there with clean hands as well as the certainty it had nothing to do with the case.
Walking along, she happily pointed out one of her favorite exhibits, but I found my mind wandering to its more usual musings. “Check out that mom. Nice.”
She checked, and agreed. About twenty-five, dark blonde, slim. One cute little girl walked next to her as she pushed a stroller. “That coulda been me,” she mulled.
“Still could be.”
“Doubtful. Do you really thing I could go through all those months of not having sex while I was pregnant?”
Rather than pointing out ways around that, I settled for, “You have such a tender heart I’m sure you’d adopt.”
“Now that’s a lovely thought!”
Done with the basement, for now, we mounted the stairs to the main floor, sharing an amused glance at the tiredness in our legs. I told her we should concentrate on seeing things from the bad guy’s point of view, and since we had no evidence yet that he was in cahoots–she called it “Cahooties!”–with anyone in the museum, that meant basically a tourist’s viewpoint. Besides, I didn’t want any curious visitors to wonder why these people, who were dressed just like them, got to go to restricted places and they didn’t.
Not mentioning that she had no other way of thinking about it, not being a trained investigator, she tried, “I suppose that means checking back after closing hours if we don‘t find it before?”
“If necessary, yes.”
“Had I known it would involve all this walking, I woulda just lay back and let you do all the work last night.”
“Then I’d be too tired to do the job. You’re not saying you’d be better at it, are ya?”
She didn’t bother answering, figuring I was joking again. So far nothing had happened to make her feel like she was contributing to this case, although she did enjoy the few times we’d busted in on people hard at work and she got to say “Security audit,” with a wink.
Hours and seemingly miles later, starting to feel a little bored, she looked at the lit she’d collected off the internet, where she’d been crossing off the places as we checked them out, but now she was actually getting around to reading the stuff.
Not asking if I wanted to hear it, she read aloud, paraphrasing when it would do the most good. “The museum’s mission is to inspire wonder, discovery, and responsibility for our natural and cultural worlds.”
“Hmmm, someone’s thinking outside the box, not saying ‘resources’ at the end.”
Figuring this was going to make wonderful snarking material for both of us, she read on in a more jovial mood, practically skipping along as I continued to check the surroundings. Though skipping made it hard to read accurately. “The vast and diverse collection has more than thirty million specimens and artifacts–”
“They must be counting each of your study molecules.”
“–Covering four and a half billion years of Earth and human history.”
I let that one pass without a comment, much to her disappointment. Apparently she’d forgotten she was going to snark too.
“ Free admission to school groups, community outreach programs, monthly lectures and classes, yada yada yada. Adventures in Nature, that sounds like it might be fun. Interactive Discovery Center and Insect Zoo, where children can learn first-hand about natural science and history.”
“Let’s leave the insect collection for the very last,” I begged.
“You’re the boss,” she reminded.
“Only when it suits you.”
Ignoring my latest lie, she read on. “Hey, did you know that big dinosaur exhibit actually has a name? ‘Dueling Dinosaurs!’” She beat me to it. “Hmmm, I was hoping for something a little more poetical than that. Sounds like a 50s movie.” Not getting any response, she tried, “Who do you think would win in a real battle between a Rex and a Triceratops, even though I think they’re not called that anymore?”
“I prefer descriptive anyway, so I’ll keep calling him that. This is the age-old sports question of whether offense or defense wins championships.”
She frowned. “When I played basketball in high school, coach said rebounding wins championships.”
“So he was obviously no help. But what about volleyball?”
“Kills as opposed to blocks and digs?”
“Don’t forget the serves. No, that doesn’t apply anyway. Try football.”
She tried, but it didn’t help her much. “So Rex, being mobile and fast, relatively speaking amongst dinosaurs anyway, is on offense. Three Top, being slow and heavy, but having armor and spikes, is the defense.” She shook her head. “I can’t believe this conversation has lasted this long! Moving on. . .” She checked her papers, wondering why she didn’t just use her laptop. “Three world-famous habitat halls that showcase African and North American mammals in their natural environments. Okay, we did all we could with that, but we’ll have to come back tonight and actually go into the exhibits, right?”
“Yep. That’ll be fun.”
“You say so.” She didn’t have to do her famous dubious face, since her voice conveyed it well enough, but it was fun to watch. “Hey, here’s something I haven’t heard of: Megamouth!”
“C’mon, don’t leave it so easy for me!”
“Hmmmph. You better smile when you say that, or I’m never doing that to you again.”
“Most women would have said no more sex of any kind. You are so different.”
“That would have been worse for me, and you like me being different, so anyway, Megamouth is a shark, the world’s rarest. This one’s over fourteen feet long and the only one of its kind on public view in North America. Yeah! Countin’ coup on my buddy at the Field in Chicago. Woo-hoo!”
“You take this more seriously than your college pride. Notice you’re not wearing purple today.”
“That’s because you gave me a green fishing shirt, silly. More than eight hundred pieces from the permanent collections of the Hall of Native American Cultures. . . hey, remember those beaded sneakers? Woulda loved to play in those! ”
“And slipping on the beads that came off?” Knowing that was far too logical for her–at least when she wasn’t in her lab coat–I quickly added, “They were beautiful, though.”
“Knew you’d like them,” she giggled, then uughed, “Madagascar hissing cockroaches! A fully-stocked refrigerator of insect delicacies and interactive displays? I can see why you didn’t want to go into Insect Containment.”
“Yeah, that’s one door I’ll never open. And they put that office so it comes out in the rotunda.”
“So if the insects escape, they’ve got the biggest empty space in the place to play wild goose.”
“Hmmm. . . remember that guy we met in England whose last name was Wildgoose?”
“He got married.”
“Changed his name to Wildgeese.”
“Liar!” She laughed and smacked me on the shoulder, luckily hitting her target this time. “So I guess you don’t like snakes either.”
“You suppose correctly, but how’d’ya know?”
“The pilgrims in an unholy land line from Indiana Jones. He didn’t like snakes. Plus you’re an archaeologist.”
“Only as a hobby. But the snake thing was from the first movie, and the pilgrims were in the third. Probably not the same writer.”
“So how come you don’t like snakes?”
“Most recent example? I was hiking in the Angelus Crest, on a slight animal path along the tall grass, when I hear a rattle.”
“Oh no! That’ll do it!”
“Both my body and my blood froze, and I looked around for the snake, but of course didn’t spot anything because the grass was too tall. Then I heard it again and realized it was in my headphones. Why Libbie Schrader decided that was the best place to put that particular brand of percussion, I’ll never know. My heart started beating again the next morning; my shorts are a different story.”
She was laughing much too hard for the next few minutes to make a comment, gosh durn it. By the time she came back, the moment was long gone.
“I really need to check your music collection. You always know what I like.”
“Hmmm, if I hadn’t said ‘we have the same great taste,’ you woulda smacked me.”
“I must be more tired than I thought.” She rested her head on my shoulder, but only for a moment. “Hey, you still are buying CDs, right? Or do you just download now?”
“I’ve bought downloads, but only when I couldn’t wait to get a CD, especially if I’m in a foreign country. If your computer crashes or you lose the music somehow, it’s better to have the CD there just in case.”
“Good thinking. But what’s to keep you from bootlegging?”
“What’s to keep anyone from bootlegging once they’ve downloaded it?”
“Okay, I am officially too tired to even think! Let’s go to my office and rest.”
“Have we missed anything? Besides the insects? Run a check.”
She took a moment to throw me a mock salute, then went to the pages. “Discovery Center?”
“Chaparral exhibit?”
“Hasn’t burned yet.”
Giggling and happy I wasn’t going to let this get boring, she continued on down the list. “Marine Hall?”
“We came back up without getting the bends.”
“I’ll be bending over my desk soon enough, I hope. Ich. . . um, ichthy. . .”
“Don’t look so damned innocent!” she groused. “Like you know what it means!”
“Fish, of course. Your favorite animal even before you met Megamouth.”
Seeing she wasn’t going to win that one, she tried, “Herpetology?”
“Why’d it have to be snakes?”
A little chortle at that, nothing more. “Too bad butterflies are included with insects. I wouldn’t have minded checking those out.”
“You’ve never seen a butterfly up close, have ya?”
Best to ignore that, she told herself. “Marine mammalogy? I didn’t see any whales!”
“There was that narwhal tusk, but that was in the special exhibits, director’s gallery, or whatever it’s called. Mark that one to see later.”
“Okay-doke! Marine invertebrates? Biggest collection of West Coast watery no-spines in the world, crabs, starfish, water snails and worms from Antarctica to the Galapagos.”
“Yeah, check.”
“Largest catalogued vertebrate fossil collection in North America? And sixth largest invertebrate?”
“Not much room to hide a briefcase in one of those. Check.”
“Hey! According to this, there’s still an art collection here! More than five hundred works by American artists, though I don’t recognize the names on the painters. Drawings and prints by Currier and Ives, Audobon–”
“Well, that figures.”
“True. Western History Research?”
“Don’t remember it, so don’t check it.”
“What about the History Collections?”
“Didn’t see any room called that. Is it more specific?”
“Textiles, scientific instruments, armor, firearms, dolls, toys, games. . .”
“Could that be the basement stuff?”
“Could be!”
“Well, put half a check on it.”
“How do I do that?”
“It would look like a little v.”
“Oh, right!”
We passed through the dinosaur exhibit for the second time, the one that actually had its own room, not the big skeletons at the entrance. Having checked all I could on the previous runthrough, this time I was able to give my attention to the little workshop full of early instruments used by ancient paleontologists I’d given the skeletons and models as much consideration as I could, considering I was mentally running down as well.
Reaching the next exhibit room, I checked my watch as I saw the cleaning lady furiously squeegeeing the exhibit glass. “She’s getting an early start.”
“Think of all the glass she has to do.”
“True. Buenas tardes.”
“Como esta?” Shannon asked with her trademark pretty smile.
“Bien, gracias.” The lady smiled back and scrubbed all the harder.
“When did you learn Spanish?”
“Glad three years in high school retained something.”
I was prevented from replying to that by a pompous voice behind us. “This part of the museum is closing. Thank you for joining us today.”
She turned and laughed when she saw who it was. “Work on the sincerity, Brad.”
The guy scurried off.
“Now he knows he’ll never have you,” I sighed melodramatically, and walked away before she could say he already had. . .