Museums Afloat

USS Midway Museum
Festival of Sail
Maritime Museum
San Diego Harbor

Bob has had a couple of very nautical weeks recently. He visited the USS Midway Museum in mid-August, and then attended the Festival of Sail on Labor Day.

The Midway was just named as the sixth most popular museum destination in the United States by TripAdvisor’s reviewers. Included with admission is an audio tour that is self-activated and keyed to locations on the ship. There are three main themes to the tour: On the Roof — the flight deck, island, and most of the aircraft; Man and Machine — hangar deck, engineering, and air wing; and City at Sea — crew living spaces and the infrastructure to support a crew of thousands. Bob found the tour very interesting and the audio clips well chosen. The clips were both informative and poignant, often including voices of former crew members recalling their service—loading bombs, flying aircraft, or simply doing the laundry. The USS Midway was in commission from 1945 until 1992. The museum opened in 2004. Visiting begins at 10 a.m. Bob served as an engineering officer in the US Navy, so he started his tour of the Midway below decks. As he could not spend as long on board as he might have wished, by the time he got to the flight deck it was too late for him to wait in line for the guided tour the bridge — and the museum warns people that the line may close at 3:30 on busy days. So if you get aboard first thing in the morning, you should head to that spot first. There was really no waiting for the tour sites anywhere else on the ship.

Admission is $20 for adults. There is a gift shop and food is available, though he did not check those out very closely. He saw signage for elevators to help those with mobility difficulties, but we imagine that a ship is not the most friendly environment for visitors with those challenges. Bob also did not explore the flight simulator rides, which cost extra. One other fine thing about the museum is the large number of docents, knowledgeable former Navy men, who were in every space open on the tour.


The Maritime Museum of San Diego is several blocks north of the USS Midway Museum on the waterfront west of downtown. The museum has a permanent collection of eleven vessels, ranging from the largest -— the Star of India, a sailing ship built in 1863 — to the smallest, a Vietnam War era “Swift Boat,” PCF-816. We have been to the Maritime Museum many times over the years; the museum was founded in 1948. We have also been to the Festival of Sail a couple of times before, first with our daughters when they were younger, and then again with our German exchange student Lisa who lived with us during the 2009-2010 school year. The festival has become an annual event and takes place over Labor Day weekend. Added attractions at the festival, aside from food and other vendors along the wharf, are visiting sailing ships, a display and firing of a number of cannon on the museum’s pier, sailing excursions, and staged “cannon battles” between some of the smaller sailing vessels. Tickets for the festival were $7 this year. Participation in the excursions and “cannon battles” cost extra.


Bob liked the engineering spaces on the ferry boat Berkeley very much; a docent was explaining the boiler and engine systems to a couple and operated the machinery to show how it would have worked. A new attraction that Bob also liked very much was the recently launched replica of Juan Cabrillo’s flagship San Salvador. Cabrillo was the leader of the first European expedition to visit San Diego Bay, and building the replica has been a huge project led by the Maritime Museum over the last several years. There was a short line to wait for the introductory lecture, led by a ranger Bob recognized from the Cabrillo National Monument (another favorite place we take out of town visitors). One item of particular interest to Bob was seeing the renovation project that is underway on the Star of India. She is an iron-hulled vessel, but the superstructure is wooden and thus in need of constant attention. The current project is replacing the weather decks. As of Labor Day, a few sections of the project were complete but moving forward one could see the work in progress. The volunteers are removing the old deck to expose the underlying iron framework, preserving that, and then laying down an engineered wooden laminate deck that will be waterproof, the planks of the new deck, and then finishing the work with caulking, sanding, and coating.

The museum is open year-round and admission is normally $16 for adults, so seeing it during the Festival of Sail is a real bargain but also probably more crowded than on a normal day. Again, though there seems to be an attempt at accommodating all visitors, ships and boats are not the most wheelchair friendly. The museum has a gift shop and a small café.

Rancho Bernardo History

Rancho Bernardo History Museum
Bernardo Winery
August 21, 2016

Meredith met up with some girlfriends for a wine tasting at the Bernardo Winery. She arrived before her friends and had some time to kill, so looked through the History Museum which is located at the entrance to the winery complex. It is a simple one room museum, run by the Rancho Bernardo Historical Society and dedicated to local history. It has been at that location since 2013. The exhibits are not extensive, but they are well laid out and informative. The centerpiece is the newly built “mud wagon,” a replica of the wagons which ran daily on the stage route from Escondido to downtown San Diego and back, from 1887 to 1912. A map of the stage route is displayed in front of the wagon. Stages left at 8:00 a.m., one southbound and one northbound. They stopped midway for lunch and to change horses, then arrived at their respective destinations around 4:00 p.m.


Entry to the museum is free. It is open Tuesday 9-12; Friday 10-3; Saturday 1-4; Sunday 2-4; and by appointment.

The winery itself is fun to see. It bills itself as the oldest winery in Southern California, established 1889. (The friars who brought wine grapes to the California missions might quibble about that!) In addition to the tasting room, there are event rooms, a restaurant and a coffee shop, and a number of small shops. On Fridays there is a farmers market on the grounds.

G.I. Film Festival (Upcoming)

G.I. Film Festival
September 14-18, 2016
San Diego

This film festival is scheduled for September 14th through 18th. The organizers promise us that the festival “brings the stories of America’s military to life through film.” The festival will feature screenings of over two dozen movies, including local films. There will also be panel discussions, a family movie night, and an awards ceremony. Tickets for all screenings and events are now for sale on line. Most screenings are priced at $10 per ticket, with discounts available for active duty military and veterans.

We plan to see the documentary USS Indianapolis, at the Ultra Star theater in Mission Valley. The festival describes it as follows: “World War II heavy cruiser USS Indianapolis sank as a result of a devastating torpedo attack. After 5 days stranded in the Pacific, surviving members of the crew were rescued and their stories are told through a series of interviews.” We don’t vouch for the historical accuracy of the account given in the movie Jaws (1975) — this upcoming documentary will give us the facts — but we cannot forget Robert Shaw’s powerful monologue about his (fictional) character’s survival of the wreck of the Indianapolis, and the shark attacks in the days that followed, until the crew was rescued.

The film festival includes several other historical documentaries, like the Indianapolis film. There are also films touching on the experiences of current service members and recent veterans.

Hail the Poetry of Gilbert and Sullivan

Hail Poetry!
Opera A La Carte
Soka University
July 17, 2016

We thoroughly enjoyed the world premiere of a new musical, Hail Poetry! The music itself is not new — the shows features 25 Gilbert and Sullivan songs over the course of two acts. The songs are taken from Trial By Jury, HMS Pinafore, The Pirates of Penzance, The Gondoliers, and The Mikado. In this new production, we see Gilbert writing the lyrics and arguing with his collaborator Sullivan. The show follows the original company rehearsing and producing the works for the first time. The songs were well sung and the acting was first rate.

Meredith had seen a brief note in the Los Angeles Times, announcing the show, but it was not a full review. We thought it was some sort of Gilbert and Sullivan revue or compilation. We did not realize until we actually saw it, that is an entirely new show.

It was exciting to be a sort of beta test group for the show. After it ended, we stayed for a session with the cast and writer, who fielded questions from the audience and explained how the show had been put together. The production was funded in part by a Kickstarter campaign. The company – Opera A La Carte, based in Pasadena — would like to take it on the road. Look for it in the future and don’t miss seeing Hail Poetry! if you get a chance.


The musical was performed at the Soka University Performing Arts Center. The Soka campus is beautiful, worth a trip in itself, and the theater is first rate.



Meredith, her sister, and our middle daughter have been going through family photos and putting together photos of Margaret taken throughout her life. Meredith is fond of this photo of her mother, taken at the Getty Villa in the winter of 1980-1981. (It was the only Getty institution then and was just referred to as the “Getty Museum.”) Meredith was working in Connecticut at the time. She came back to LA on vacation, and she and Margaret spent a pleasant day visiting the Getty.

at Getty approx 1981_1

Rest in peace, Margaret

Our hearts are full today. Meredith’s mother Margaret died Monday. She had suffered a major stroke a few days before and passed away quietly Monday evening, without regaining consciousness.

It is hard to find words to express what she meant to us and how we feel. Margaret was fond of John Donne’s poetry, including this famous one, which she could recite in large part from memory, so we offer it now:

DEATH be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadfull, for, thou art not so,
For, those, whom thou think’st, thou dost overthrow,
Die not, poore death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleepe, which but thy pictures bee,
Much pleasure, then from thee, much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee doe goe,
Rest of their bones, and soules deliverie.
Thou art slave to Fate, Chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poyson, warre, and sicknesse dwell,
And poppie, or charmes can make us sleepe as well,
And better then thy stroake; why swell’st thou then;
One short sleepe past, wee wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die.

Beer and Cannibals

Museum of Man
Balboa Park
May 30, 2016

We went with our middle daughter and her husband to the Museum of Man in Balboa Park. Meredith had visited that museum recently by herself, but she had not been in to see the special exhibit about cannibals, and the rest of us had not been there for many years.


We first explored the Beerology exhibit. It chronicles the history of beer making around the world. Many different cultures, using a variety of grains, have made beer. Each region has a separate display case and write up. Various ancient artifacts are displayed in the cases. Our son-in-law is a home brewer and was particularly interested in that exhibit.

We also spent considerable time in the special exhibit about cannibals, Cannibals: Myth and Reality, which is located in the separate exhibit space across Laurel Street from the main building. It is not a permanent exhibit, but it will run until 2018. The displays include interesting artifacts, videos, and explanatory displays. We were taken a little aback, though, by the moral relativist undertone to much of the exhibit. It is best summed up by a button Meredith picked up when leaving, which said “Cannibals are people, too.” Extensive space is devoted to survival cannibalism by Europeans and people of European descent, such as the Donner party, shipwrecked English sailors, and the plane crash survivors in the Andes. Little differentiation is made between survival cannibalism and ritual cannibalism. Neither the reasons for ritual cannibalism nor its relation to human sacrifice are explored in any depth. Our guess is that the curators were so leery of giving visitors unfavorable opinions about ethnic groups whose ancestors practiced ritual cannibalism, that they missed an opportunity to educate. The exhibit is entertaining, and at times informative, but it is not enlightening.


The adult admission price for the museum and cannibal exhibit combined is $20; for the museum alone it is $12.50. There are discounts for seniors, military, students, and youths. Parking is free in Balboa Park, but visitors may need to park some distance from the museum and walk or ride a shuttle.

Leonis Adobe 2016

Leonis Adobe
May 28, 2016

On this visit we took Margaret to visit the Leonis Adobe in Calabasas. We have been there before. The site is well laid out and maintained. In addition to the two historic dwellings – the adobe which dates from the mid-19th century and the Plummer House relocated from West Hollywood – there are livestock and plantings typical of what would have been found on the Leonis ranch in the 1880s.


The adobe is furnished with period furnishings and artifacts, some of which are original to the site. The costumed docents are quite helpful and generally well-informed. (Bob was able to explain to one docent that an unusual artifact in the pantry was a butter churn, of atypical design, because his mother had an antique one of the same type.)

As with many historical buildings, the adobe building is not completely wheelchair accessible. We took Margaret around the grounds and into the ground floor of the adobe. Bob went up the steps to see the second-story rooms while Meredith stayed downstairs with Margaret. Much of the site can be seen by a wheelchair patron though, including the outbuildings, with old wagons and farm equipment; the livestock and gardens, as well as the main part of the adobe and the Plummer House, so it was well worth the visit.

We purchased a small bag of hay in the gift shop when we arrived, and fed some of the sheep and goats. Margaret enjoyed both feeding and petting them. We admired the horses and longhorn cattle from a distance; visitors cannot get close enough to touch the larger animals.


The Leonis Adobe Foundation put together the Passport 2 History program, and we have used that booklet and website as a guide to many of our outings. There are over 80 participating museums and historic sites throughout Central and Southern California. A few months ago we misplaced our physical passport, so we bought another one ($3) on this trip.

Admission is free, but donations are encouraged, and we made sure to drop a contribution in the box.

After we had seen all that we wanted to see, we went next-door to the Sagebrush Cantina for lunch. Meredith’s sister Kathleen joined us, and we had a nice time catching up. We all enjoyed our lunches. The menu is predominantly Mexican food, but there are other choices as well. Margaret enjoyed wild mushroom tacos with goat cheese.

Since our visit fell on Memorial Day weekend, we made it a point to stop at the Veterans cemetery in Westwood. After we dropped Margaret off, we stopped for flowers, then visited the grave of Meredith’s stepfather Eli. The entire cemetery had been decorated with miniature flags by each grave; quite a sight waving in the breeze!


Getty — Cave Temples

Getty Center
Sepulveda Pass
May 15, 2016

We took Margaret to the Getty Center, primarily to see the new exhibition, the Cave Temples of Dunhuang: Buddhist Art on China’s Silk Road. History is one of her main interests, and she had very much enjoyed the Silk Road exhibit at the Natural History Museum when we saw it several years ago, in our pre-blog period, so this exhibit was a “must see.”


We first heard about this exhibition through the Getty 360 email newsletter which the Getty sends us each month, and we then saw an Associated Press article about it in the San Diego Union Tribune: Getty Center Recreates Elaborate Chinese Caves. It runs through September 4, 2016.

The caves of Mogao near Dunhuang were carved out in stages over nearly a millennium from the 4th to the 14th centuries, by Buddhist monks and others. The cave temple complex served those traveling on the Silk Road. The area is situated in northwestern China, on the eastern edge of the Gobi Desert, north of Tibet and south of Mongolia. Roughly half of the approximately 1000 caves have some decoration, and many of those feature elaborate and beautiful religious sculptures and paintings. Many caves fell into disuse during the Ming Dynasty of the 14th to 17th centuries, and the complex seems to have been used only as a local religious center after that. Sand drifted over the site and obscured many of the grottoes and the wooden facades of the cave entrances decayed. Early in the 20th century, Wang Yuanlu, a Daoist monk, discovered tens of thousands of ancient documents and other artifacts that had been sealed in one of the caves. In 1943 the Dunhuang Academy was established to explore and conserve Mogao. Since the 1970s the caves have become a tourist attraction, and the number of visitors has made conservation a critical need. For the last decade, the Getty Conservation Institute has worked with the local institute to stabilize, preserve, and restore some of the cave paintings.

The Getty exhibition has three parts. In the Research Institute building, which we visited first, are displayed actual historical artifacts such as sculptures, parchments, paintings, and drawings. Margaret particularly enjoyed a large embroidered silk tapestry showing a life-sized Buddha, called the Miraculous Image of Liangzhou. It was made around 700 A.D. (It enjoyed a shout out in the AP article linked above.)

Right next to that exhibition there is a small movie theater showing The Cave 45 Virtual Immersive Experience, a short film in 3-D of one of the restored caves, explaining the details of the statuary and the paintings in that particular cave.

The third part of the exhibition is a tent that has been set up especially for this purpose on the entrance plaza at the Getty Center, right near where the trams drop arriving visitors. Within that tent are replicas of three of the cave temples, with docents available to answer questions.


Due to capacity limits, there is timed entry to the replica cave tent. We had the bad luck to time our visit to coincide with a very large group from Riverside which had blocked out some time in the early afternoon. When we first tried to get timed tickets, right after lunch, we were told there would not be any given out for an hour and a half, so we went off to look at the new Rembrandt (see below). When we came back, the earliest timed tickets we could get would have had us waiting at the Getty for nearly an hour and a half, and Margaret was already fatigued at that point. We asked at the information booth if any accommodation could be made for her, given her disabilities, and a supervisor helped us to the front of the line both for the replica cave and the movie, with just a short wait for each. He was gracious and helpful; we were relieved and grateful. If we had been there on our own the wait would not have mattered, and we could have toured other galleries in the meantime, but Margaret has very limited stamina these days.

Although the Chinese cave art was the main focus of our visit, we did make time to see another new exhibit, The Promise of Youth: Rembrandt’s Senses Rediscovered. The Getty owns several Rembrandt paintings and has a couple others on long term loan, but the one which is currently the center of attention is on short term loan only until August 28, 2016. It is called The Unconscious Patient (Allegory of the Sense of Smell) and is one of a series that Rembrandt painted as a young artist illustrating the five senses. See more about the series, and photos of the paintings, on the Getty’s website: here. This painting, illustrating the sense of smell, is displayed between paintings illustrating touch and hearing. The backstory is one of those stranger than fiction stories; the painting was recently rediscovered, and its owners did not know it was by Rembrandt. We read the story of its discovery in an article in the Los Angeles Times. Adjacent to the three “senses” paintings are the museum’s other Rembrandt works.


Admission to the Getty is free, but those arriving by private car pay $15 to park. Parking is at the foot of the hill, and visitors ride trams up to the entry plaza. There were ample handicap spaces in the garage, and accessibility is generally good throughout the center. Finding the elevators is sometimes a little challenging, but all levels of the exhibit buildings can be reached either by elevator or (within the Research Institute exhibit space) by ramp. As we noted, the staff was very helpful with accommodating Margaret, so we give them high marks for disability services.

The café is arranged as a food court with half a dozen stations offering a wide selection of food. The food is good, and the prices are reasonable for a museum cafe. There is also a sit down restaurant.

Autry Revisited

Autry Museum of the American West
Griffith Park
April 30, 2016

We took Margaret to the Autry Museum in Griffith Park, one of our favorite museums. Its large collection explores the history and image of the American West from several perspectives. Downstairs, where we spent most of our time today, is devoted to the historical West. Several exhibits have been revamped since we last explored that section. We thought the Cowboy Gallery — a display about the cattle industry and cowboys — was particularly well done, and the full size chuck wagon displayed in that gallery was interesting to look at. Farther on in the historical section, Margaret enjoyed seeing both the well restored stagecoach and also the bison display.

We went on from the historical section to the movie section. This gallery has artifacts from Western movies and movie stars, all the way from the silent era to the present. We enjoyed seeing the short video with clips of singing cowboys, including Gene Autry of course. There is a larger video screen at one entrance to the gallery. Today it was showing a loop of clips from Autry movies, which Margaret very much enjoyed.


Upstairs there is a large gallery devoted to Western themed art. We did not spend a lot of time in it today, but we did make a point of seeing a special exhibition we had read about, California Impressionism: The Gardena High School Collection. From 1919 through 1956, the senior classes at Gardena High School each bought a work of art to donate to the school. The students made selecting the works a class project. In the process they acquired some very good works by artists who were young and upcoming at the time, many of whom are well-regarded now.

We ate lunch at the museum café, which serves excellent food. The menu is simple – burgers, sandwiches, salads, and several hot dishes. Margaret was in the mood for something Mexican, so she ordered the chicken street tacos, which Meredith had as well. Bob enjoyed the chili and half sandwich combo, and we all enjoyed the order of cornbread we shared. Prices are quite reasonable for a museum café.

The Autry is perhaps the most accessible museum for wheelchair patrons of all the places that we have visited. There are no interior doors separating galleries, which can be awkward at other museums, and it offers an impressive number of handicap parking spaces.

Adult admission is $10; there are discounts for seniors, students, and children. Active duty military get in free. The museum participates in the Bank of America Museums on Us program and also offers a discount to AAA members. Parking is free.

After the visit we took Margaret back to her board and care residence. Meredith’s sister Kathleen met us there, and the four of us sat outside in the garden for a while, visiting and catching up. It is increasingly difficult for Margaret to make the transfers from wheelchair to car and back, so we are trying to make just one stop when we go out, rather than multiple stops for lunch or coffee separate from the museum or other outing.