Harris in PVD terminal
Waiting Sunday evening in the Providence air terminal
for our first airplane (you can see a larger version)

Harris comes to California in February, 2011

Some time in Fall of 2010, I suggested to Diane and M’lyn that Harris might visit Mark and me during the kids’ February school vacation. Last time the family went for skiing in February, she couldn’t participate, and we thought that this would be a much nicer vacation for her. I have to say that there seemed to be some resistence on the parents’ part to my idea, nervousness about se­pa­ra­tion anxiety and maybe other issues as well.

Our travel days were Sunday 20 February and the next Sunday, by way of Cleveland both westward and eastward. On the outward trip, our flight was in the afternoon, getting in to Los Angeles in mid evening. We had only an hour’s layover at CLE, but our flight to LA was delayed, so we had time to grab some food there. It was snowing hard by the time we got on the plane, and we had to get deiced before takeoff.

Harris in the car
Click here or on the thumbnail
for a mid-sized view of this
image, or here for full size.

Mark was waiting for us when we got down to the arrivals lounge, and once we got our checked baggage, we were on our way home. Harris was pretty tired, naturally.

three walking beside the beach
On the pier, I
On the pier, II

Monday was a holiday, so Mark was home, and we decided to drive up the coast. We originally planned to go only to Ventura or so, but I remembered that my old friend Robert Kent was getting away from the Cambridge winter by staying in Santa Barbara. So we made arrangements to have lunch with him there, and walk around a little after that. At the left, you see Harris in the car, admiring the California freeway sights. It takes a couple of hours to get to SB, but Robert was waiting for us in the restaurant. Then we strolled, out to the pier. In the top picture to the right, the three of them are going along in the direction of the Santa Barbara pier (big image, small; you return by pressing the back button on your browser).

The sky was quite lovely, not at all cloudless, and when we were out on the pier, I made sure to get some photographs of it (upper of two: big image, small; lower: big image, small).

Taking leave of Robert, we drove back the way we had come, via Fillmore, where we picked up a huge carton of smallish navel oranges for the inflated price of three dollars, with the idea of squeezing them for juice. We really wanted Valencias, but the place we stopped at had only the navels. For supper, we stopped at Houston’s, where we all ordered ribs, and all put a share away for taking home. We also shared a delicious dessert of walnut-apple crisp. And then to bed for all of us.

Harris squeezes, I Harris squeezes, II

Tuesday, Mark took off from work, but I had some res­pon­si­bil­ities associated with the big anniversary party that the League of Women Voters of the Pasadena Area was getting ready to put on, so I had to stay home. Mark and Harris went out on the town, though, with a visit to Green Street, our dependable stand-by restaurant, following a trip to Vroman’s. Supper that night was leftovers from the dinner at Houston’s the night before, but with the addition of just-now-squeezed Meyer lemon juice for lemonade, courtesy of Harris, as you see to the left (left picture: big image, small; right: big image, small). Mark tells me that he didn’t take either of his cameras along with him on their travels, so maybe these are the only pictures we have from Tuesday.

Looking into the fishbowl At a display
Looking up at Mammoth Full mammoth skeleton

Wednesday was the day for the La Brea Tar Pits. I certainly meant to take my camera with me, but completely forgot, so had to manage with my cell phone. And iPhones are not at all good at photography.

under the Mammoth

At any rate, we drove to the Tar Pits museum and parked, and started looking the place over. There’s a “fishbowl” where people are working on fossils in a glassed-in room, so that the visitors to the museum can see what the work is like. That’s what’s occupying Harris in the upper-left picture in the block at the right (big image, small). Upper right there, she’s looking at one of the many informative displays (big image, small). At lower left, we’re in the room with a full mammoth skeleton on display, and Harris is looking up at it (big image, small). For a view of much more of the skeleton, but no Harris, the picture on the lower right: big image or small. At the left, you can see the big curving tusks and a close-up of the front of the skeleton. (Big image, small.)

going up a long escalator In the Water Court, I
In the Water Court, II waiting for a subway home

For Thursday, I didn’t have too many ideas of things to do, the kickiest was to take the Gold Line light rail to Downtown Los Angeles, ride the Angels Flight up the hill, wander around a bit, with lunch thrown in, and come home again. And that’s what we did.

We got day passes for the Metro, after I drove to the Lake Avenue Station. Even though it’s only about a 15-minute walk, I was thinking of the slog home, when we’d probably be glad for a ride from the station. Now to the pictures: upper left, we’re riding the long escalator to the street at the Civic Center Station of the Red Line (big image, small). When we had walked to the lower terminus of Angels Flight, and then ridden up, paying our 25¢ fare, we found ourselves at Water Court, where Harris watched one of the fountains for a while (upper right picture: big image, small; lower left: big image, small). We stayed there at Water Court for a couple of slices of Pizza each, then walked by and into the Museum of Contemporary Art for a lemonade for Harris and a coffee for me, with a big cookie that we split halfies.

We walked by Disney Concert Hall, but of course I pulled no pictures of it (even though I was walking around with my camera either around my neck or in my backpack the whole while) and then turned down First Street to pick the Red Line up again. That’s where we were when I got Harris waiting for the train: lower right picture in the block at the upper left (big image, small).

Friday, Mark took off from work, and the plan from the outset was to go to Disneyland. No way I would take my camera with me, with all those high-g rides. And rain was predicted for the day, too. So you’ll see no pictures of all the fun we (mostly they) had on rides, and will have to check out Mark’s page for those: he did have with him the famous waterproof camera that we’ve owned since the New Zealand trip in 2007. I’ll leave it to Mark to describe the excitement of the visit to Disney, too, except that I’ll explain the pictures I did take with my cell phone.

Harris with monkey
monkey in tree monkey grasping tree
monkey closeup

Even though we had a reservation for 6:30 at one of the most acceptable of the restaurants at Disneyland, it took us about an hour to get a table. The food was pretty good, I thought, and the meal was rounded out by a balloon artist coming to the table to make any animal at all that Harris requested. She asked for a monkey, and what he produced was completely amazing: a tree (brown trunk) with four leaves on top (green) and a bunch of bananas (yellow) and a monkey (orange) hugging the trunk of the tree. You can see Harris admiring the artwork she commissioned at the left. Later, after Harris’s departure, I took pictures of the monkey at home, and three of them are to the right. Top left, a view of the whole construction; top right, you see how he clasps the tree-trunk; bottom, a close-up of his face, which the balloon man put on with Magic Marker. You can see a larger version of each picture by clicking the thumbnail.

Saturday! Biggest day of all! One of Harris’s express requests was to go to the Long Beach Aquarium (The Aquarium of the Pacific), and our plan was to go there in the morning, and take in a matinee of Cats in the afternoon. This show, a production of Musical Theater West, would be closing the very next day, so we were lucky that its run would fit in so well with Harris’s visit.

H & M wondering what to see at the Aquarium

This is the scene immediately after we got admission to the Aquarium. Harris is holding a map and guide, and now we have to decide where to go first. (Big image, small.)

Tropical fish, I Tropical fish, II Tropical fish, I
(Big image, small.) (Big, small.) (Big, small.)
Tropical fish, IV Tropical fish, V Tropical fish, VI
(Big image, small.) (Big, small.) (Big, small.)

Our first excursion within the Aquarium was to the Trop­i­cal Pacific. Nice big display tanks with lots of small-to-med­ium sized fish. I un­for­tu­nate­ly can’t identify any of them, ex­cept that in the second row, middle and right, both the or­ange and the black clownfish are Amphiprion of some kind.

Harris and the obliging fish-feeder

In one of the big display tanks, a skin-diver was feeding the fish, or maybe he was doing some kind of maintenance, maybe polishing the inner surface of the glass. He looked out at me and gestured to ask whether Harris was with me, and made it clear that he would mug for the camera. So I got Harris’s at­ten­tion, and asked her to make for a good snapshot. What you see at the left is probably the best of the several shots that I took. (See a big version.)

Tropical fish, VII Tropical fish, VIII Feeding broccoli to a ray
(Big image, small.) (Big, small.) (Big, small.)
Another shot of feeding the ray unintended feeder
First wide-angle shot of display tank
(Feeding the ray: big image, small; right upper, big image, small; right lower, big image, small.)

In the row of three, you just see tropical fish in the left and middle shots, but yes, the skin-diver is truly feeding broccoli to a ray in the right shot and also the double-sized thumbnail at the left. We learned later that when food is just thrown into the tank, some of the fish will get too little food, or the wrong kind.
I took a number of fish-eye shots of the display tanks. They repay closer ex­am­in­a­tion of the mid-sized and large versions.

Second wide-angle of display tank Third wide-angle of display tank Fourth wide-angle of display tank
(Big image, small.) (Big image, small.) (Big image, small.)

Three shots of the same display tank.

wide-angle shot of tidal-pool display wide-angle shot of sea-jelly display
(Big image, small.) (Big image, small.)

To the left, a shot of a tank with water sloshing back and forth to show a tidal pool—very in­ter­est­ing, but hard to pho­to­graph be­cause of the con­tin­u­al rapid motion. On the right, sea-jellies in a tank, looks great in the large version.

Lovely sea-jellies I Lovely sea-jellies II Lovely sea-jellies III
(Big image, small.) (Big image, small.) (Big image, small.)
Lovely sea-jellies IV Lovely sea-jellies IV
(Big image, small.) (Big image, small.)

There was a cylindrical tank with sea-jellies in, very well il­lum­in­ated, and the in­hab­it­ants posed most ob­lig­ing­ly for their pic­tures, of which I took a lot, I was so fas­cin­ated by them.

The two bottom pic­tures are not turned on their side, the an­i­mals were moving sideways. As you see in the bottom right pic­ture, one of them was even turned upside down.

But there was to be more. I haven’t mentioned it up to now, but when we were planning this day, Mark went on the web and dis­cov­er­ed the possibility of reserving a place in a tour behind the scenes of the Aquar­ium. At eleven in the morning, we gathered with some other tour-goers and a docent, and went through a couple of secret doors into the private depths of the system. At almost every stage, we had to walk through pans of strong bleach, so we wouldn’t carry mic­ro­or­gan­isms from out­doors or from other tanks into the section that we were entering. The whole thing was very interesting, but I rather wished that the pre­sen­ta­tion had been a bit more tech­nic­al and sci­en­tif­ic.

Looking down into a tank I
Feeding the critters below
(big image, small).
Looking down into a tank, II
They seemed hungry, but not
thankful (big image, small).

One of the last things that we did on this tour was go into the big open space above one of the display tanks that we had spent so much time gazing into before, and look down from above. It was noisy, with lots of pumps and ventilation machines going, but we stood there for a while, and tore little scraps of seaweed off the sheet that our docent had given us, and tossed them into the water for the fish to feed on. That’s what we’re doing in the pictures to the right.

When we did get out of the tour, there wasn’t much time for anything else in the Aquarium, although we really had seen, I think, less than half. It’s definitely the kind of place you want to spend a whole day at, or go back for more, several days in a row. A very beautiful and well-designed place, and I think I can say that all of us re­com­mend it highly.

For lunch, we didn’t have much time, and chose a touristy place whose name I think I won’t mention, since it’s not particularly re­com­mend­able. We did not have a lot of time for getting to the theater, so we probably chose our restaurant well enough.

Cats, the musical, was pretty good, excellent theater I thought, but no drama, since it really had no plot at all. I thought that the costumes were particularly good. We had good seats, and could hear very well, though in the ensemble songs, you couldn't usually distinguish the words.

Drive home to have dinner at Green Street, where we had an unusually long wait for a table (it was Saturday night, after all), and then to bed, for Harris and me to get up early for our flight back home to Rhode Island.

And so ended a fine week’s vacation. All three of us en­joyed it very much, and Mark and I are waiting im­pati­ent­ly for two other Greene-sters to come out, one by one, to visit us this summer.

Harris and the aquarium skin-diver

Return to the central page for family photos; to my home page.

Or check out Mark’s pictures from this week.