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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

I still have the headache that started yesterday. The state of panic from being trapped inside a building with thousands of other people and not enough time to turn around, much less breathe — thatís pretty much gone. But the headache lingers.

It all started with a good idea. Mom and I signed up for a bus trip to the newly remodeled and rebuilt California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco. The building was just as amazing as everyone said it was. It was the trip itself, and all those people, that turned my day into a nightmare that I was still dreaming when I lay down, exhausted, after getting home last night.

The bad part of the good idea was that yesterday was a school holiday, the first one since the Academy reopened. That meant so much traffic in, around and through Golden Gate Park that the bus couldnít even get close enough to drop us off for our scheduled early lunch, so we had to make alternate plans and get to the museum late. I donít mind sitting on a bus and letting someone else do the driving. As it turned out, that was the easiest part of the day for me, because there were only 24 people on the bus. I can handle a small crowd like that.

By the time we got to the Academy, we had an hour or so to look around before we had time to get in line for the planetarium show, and then about half an hour afterward to get back to the bus. The line for the one attraction I really wanted to get into, the four-story rainforest, was more than an hour long, so that was out. We walked through the African exhibit and saw the penguins, but we couldnít get close enough to see the underwater part of the display, and we never did find the aquarium or the albino alligator.

The saving grace (almost) was the planetarium show, which was far beyond anything Iíve seen in similar shows in the past. You really felt you were flying backwards out of the building and looking down on earth, and then soaring around the galaxies. It was entertaining and enlightening, and best of all, it was in the dark, with no one elbowing me or making any noise, for half an hour. Iím sure the rest of the Academy was wonderful, too, but this was the only part I was able to enjoy.

Okay, there was one more thing I liked. With help from a volunteer guide (and thank goodness for those folks), we found our way to the Living Roof. Itís designed with seven rolling hills, like the city itself, all topped with portholes and planted with native California species. It was not only beautiful but peaceful. There was fresh air, and not enough people had made it all the way up there (you have to take two elevators, or find the well-hidden stairway) to make it seem like a subway station at rush hour, the way the rest of the building felt.

11 November 2008

The Living Roof. (Click photo for more.)

Believe it or not, I would go back again. There are so many things I couldnít see yesterday, and Iíd never give up on something so extraordinary after one bad experience. However. I wouldnít go on a weekend or a holiday, and I would want to be assured that my time wouldnít be cut short by poor scheduling. Other than that, just drop me off and turn me loose.

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