Saturday, December 31, 2011

We Do One for the Gipper

December 29,  2011

Today’s big event was our visit to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum, an awesome 100,000 square foot temple where the Party faithful come to worship the Great Communicator (known in prior incarnations as the great Gipper and the Great Governor).  The library’s lofty site—100 mountaintop acres with spectacular panoramic views--represents the “shining city on the hill” that the President so often invoked. 

Our President’s temple has many rooms – 24 to be exact – and each gallery has a burnished golden tablet expressing gratitude and praising the works of the wealthy and influential friends whose generous contributions made this flashy place possible. Boone Pickens funded the world’s most beautiful airplane hangar and relocated Irish Pub, where Airforce One is now parked and accepting visitors.  Merv Griffen funded the reproduction of the White House Rose Garden out back.  

We hardly know what to say about the place.  We were struck by how much the country’s travails at the start of his presidency paralleled our current state of affairs – an economy in the dumps, people disillusioned with government, troubles in the middle east.   The story according to Reagan is that he solved all these problems, plus single-handedly conquered Communism and made the world safe for democracy.  Boy, could we use another dose of Reagan now!  

Some of our favorite parts of the visit:  a very good lunch out on the terrace overlooking rolling rural hillsides dotted with orchards, and the ocean in the distance; a portrait of Reagan made from 10,000 jelly beans (very much out of keeping with the decorum of the rest of the museum); a walk through Air Force One;  an exhibit of some of the extremely ornate belt buckles the President was given as gifts (he got 372 in total);  

a case full of 3x5 cards covered with aphorisms, adages , and anecdotes that Reagan wrote in very tiny writing and filed away for future reference (his writing was so tiny we couldn’t read much, but the sheer volume was impressive).  Standing behind the presidential podium looking at the teleprompters, Reagan's optimism must have really inspired Dick, because he had a very strange visiion that if only he had Reagan's hairline he could have been President!

More than any other presidential library we have visited, this one portrayed everything about the President, from his boyhood to his passing, in the most highly positive light.  It isn’t hard to see why people like President Reagan—he was a nice handsome person with a positive and upbeat demeanor, a great sense of humor and a big friendly smile.  And, a lot of things did get better during his administration, although perhaps not solely due to his efforts.  

In these troubling political times, when the Republican Party is struggling to find a viable--if not likeable--candidate for President, Reagan is very much on the minds of our populace.  When we arrived half an hour after the museum opened the parking lot was 90% full, and when we left mid-afternoon visitors’ parked cars lined both sides of the street for over a mile down the hill leading to the museum.  Many were the pilgrims visiting the shrine to Reagan this holiday season.  

Friday, December 30, 2011

California Dreaming Is Becoming A Reality

January 29
Los Angeles and Woodland Hills
We are on our way to experience the Tournament of Roses Parade live and in living color, broadly and deeply, behind the scenes and in the bleachers.  But first, we will add an installment to our Presidential Library tour sequel with a stop at the Ronald Reagan Library.  Then, after all the Parade festivities are over, we will drive up the coast for another week of California adventures.
Our flights from Savannah to LAX were unremarkable, save for the dramatic contrast between our quiet, sleepy, empty intimate-sized airport and the crowded confusing hectic impersonal urban transport jungles of Atlanta and Los Angeles.    

As if to emphasize the point that Los Angeles is operating in a different universe from  sweet Savannah, we spotted this building straight out of "The Jetsons" as our shuttle drove us toward the rental car outpost.  (Amazing that I got this picture through the tinted window of the shuttle while it was moving, eh?) We almost expected to see George Jetson land his hovercraft on the roof.   

A little online research revealed that this place, known as the “Theme Building,” was completed in 1961 as part of a Los Angeles Jet Age Terminal Project, and is now designated a City Cultural and Historical Monument.  Those 135 foot high parabolic arches supporting the structure were a big design first in their day.  The building houses a restaurant now.   

On the way to our hotel in Woodland Hills, we passed another notable example of curvilinear architecture that caught our eye, due to the 32 foot diameter donut on its roof.  (The photo is from Randy's website--I couldn't snap it from the rapidly moving car.)  This architectural gem dates back to 1953 .  We were so intent on getting to our hotel after hours on the plane that we didn’t even exit the freeway to sample a donut.  That is just so unlike us! 

Chalk it up to freeway madness.  I know I got my share of cardio fitness today through all my heart palpitations experienced as Dick masterfully drove and dodged in the densely packed quickly moving herds of cars dashing home during rush hour.  The need to concentrate was so intense that we could not adequately ogle the many expensive cars zooming about us—a couple Ferraris, assorted Porsches, lots of big black Cadillac Escalades, and so on.  

Nonetheless, we made it to our hotel, got the car parked safely, were assigned a fabulous room with a panoramic view of the mountains, and were off to dinner without incident.  

Our notable discovery of the evening was that there must be some law here requiring restaurants with fixed menus to divulge the calorie content of their offerings.  This information is very disconcerting.  After seeing how many calories were in stuff I would normally order, I navigated to the less exciting (and very small) section of the menu featuring meals under 600 calories.  We came here to learn about the Rose Parade, and I fear I may get some unwanted nutrition lessons in the bargain.