hobbling through the Getty museum
Sunday, March 12 2000
Today the plan for Kim and me was to take a bus from La Jolla with a bunch of art-fanciers to go see the new Getty Museum in Brentwood (adjacent to Santa Monica in the Los Angeles area). Months ago, during the height of a brief artistic infatuation, Kim had joined La Jolla's prestigious Atheneum art society and signed both of us up for the Getty tour. Not knowing whether she'd actually be able to get me to go along, she'd signed us up under her name and "guest of" her name.
Since we'd be leaving Sophie back at the house for the entire time of our Getty trip, we took her for a big walk down to the beach before we left.
As we usually do for excursions like these, we smoked some pot on the way up to La Jolla. Somehow (and I think it's because I waited a long time to exhale for one of the hits I'd inhaled), I became extremely stoned for a brief period about fifteen minutes after we were done smoking. By this point we were already on the tour bus, and suddenly I felt a wave of nausea sweeping over me. More troubling, there was a rising hissing sound in my head as my sight dimmed and filled with colorful television picture noise. Environmental sounds became muddy and distant. I was fully conscious of all of these phenomena and it was terrifying. Is this what it felt like to die? I came very close to passing out, and had to put my head down on Kim's shoulder. As I started to regain my strength, I could feel cool sweat dampening my skin all over my body, especially on my face.
Part of my trauma stemmed from an unusual condition that has been gradually growing worse since February 24th. Though it's been normal in all other respects, my left testicle has been in a constant state of low-level pain since that time. At first the pain was merely an occasional distraction, a vague presence. But now it's as if someone has just kicked me in the left nut. It's a pain I cannot drive from my mind. During the entire bus ride both to and from La Jolla, I found myself shifting around in my seat trying to get comfortable, mostly to no avail. Then, walking around the Getty museum, the discomfort was a continuous distraction. I never managed to get comfortable throughout the entire day. The best peace I could manage was to keep moving. Walking up and down stairs actually helped my condition for some reason.
Naturally, I'm concerned about what is wrong with me. My trouble seems to coincide with a large increase in sexual relations with my girlfriend (who is currently suffering from a bladder infection). Either I'm under assault by bacteria or I've simply been slamming my balls around too much. In any case, I have no health insurance until May 1st, so I hope this trouble works itself out on its own.
Amongst the well-heeled La Jolla crowd with whom we rode to the Getty, we were by far the youngest people. I'm pretty used to Kim being particular, but this crowd took the cake with their fussiness. One moment they'd be complaining about the lack of air circulation, the next they'd be bitching about the herky-jerky driving style of our youngish female driver (the only black person on the bus).
Kim and I were in a joking mood as we overheard the complaining, so I started writing Dan Reitmanesque dialogue on my Psion:
Em, excuse me but there is no air coming out of the vent!
This would appear to violate city ordinance 123.45b section 56.
I would appear, it would seem, to be annoyed.
I thought, em, that we were leaving promptly at 8.
As we approached a park and ride in Encinitas to pick up more people for the Getty trip, I wondered why anyone would be so foolish as to leave his car at such an isolated parking lot. But there, on the edge of the lot, was my answer. Goodwill had an "attended donation station" consisting of three tractorless trailers and a lonely guy with not much to do but stare blankly across the parking lot. Built-in security! I wondered if anyone had ever given him tips to take extra special notice of any particular car.
The grounds of the new Getty Museum in Brentwood are divided into two clusters of buildings. One cluster, the museum itself, runs along a ridge overlooking the 405 freeway as it begins its northward ascent of the Santa Monica mountains. The other, smaller cluster sits at the base of the ridge adjacent to the freeway and consists largely of parking structures. People park at the bottom of the hill and then ride the cable-powered hovercraft tram to the top. There are plenty of staff people at all the crucial places to make sure the crowd moves along in an orderly fashion.
Once we'd made it to the museum proper, Kim and I separated from the others in our tour group and went about our business on our own, walking through the museums and gardens. There was a lot to take in, if one wasn't overly distracted by personal problems. While on the one hand there was the museum grounds and the boxy "modern hospital" architecture of its buildings, on the other there was the art housed within, an impressive collection of important western art works spanning a period starting with Greek sculpture and ending with a large painting by James Ensor. Currently, there is also an interesting ensemble of works on display by modern Los Angeles artists, each based on older works in the museum.
As for the museum buildings themselves, the most interesting thing about them was the sheet rock of their outer surfaces. It was rough-split travertine, all from the same Italian quarry where rock for the Roman Coliseum had been mined. The tour map didn't bother to mention a very interesting fact about travertine, that it is accumulated limestone built up over æons by the dripping of water in ancient caves. This particular travertine had a good many fossils in it; I even found an imprint of a leaf on one museum wall.
An ongoing show entitled "Edible Art" was lame; I wished we'd skipped it and spent more time with the medieval paintings instead. Normally I love the folksy carnal brutality of medieval paintings, but today it just made me hurt. In my opinion, the most remarkable painting in the entire collection was one that had been cut in two somewhere in its history and only recently reunited after xray photographs revealed the two halves do indeed belong together.
The gardens of the grounds of the museum weren't especially impressive to me, mainly because there was no provision for large trees, shade, or consequential obstructions of the view. It was too two dimensional for my taste. But the views beyond of the Los Angeles basin were noteworthy, despite the fact that the spires of downtown LA were almost entirely lost in the smog.
Wine was served during the ride home and I was the only person to drink two glasses. As Kim pointed out later, it was a fine Chardonay, but for some reason it tasted cheap.
The travertine beige of the Getty compound, viewed from the south.
A cavernous fountain above the central garden of the Getty.
Kim in the garden with others.
Whimsical planters in the Getty gardens.
The central gardens of the Getty, viewed from a building above.
Travertine sheetrock on the outside of Getty buildings.
Small cacti in the cactus garden at the Getty.
An overview of the cactus garden at the Getty.
Looking south down the I-405 corridor towards Long Beach from the Getty. The clump of tall buildings to the left marks downtown Century City.
Looking along the I-405 corridor as it crosses the Santa Monica mountains north of the Getty.
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