Thursday, July 06, 2006

The 4th

A late report on our 4th of July activities: We were unsure whether we wanted to possibly watch fireworks and music in the rain, which was said to be coming, but decided to chance it. As it turned out, that was the right decision.

We headed out through some exorbitant, immobile traffic after noon, and eventually exited the freeway (which served us well in all our other vacation escapades but not this time) to take surface streets. On our way, we ate tuna sandwiches. The strategy was to park cheaply and conveniently in the parking garage (we're Conglomeration Museum of Natural History members so we get a discount), tour some new exhibits, see an IMAX movie, eat a quasi-dinner, then trek up to the top of "Hippy Hill" to watch the patriotic concert and fireworks. Now I've spoiled everything; that's what we did.

We've already seen BodyWorlds 3, which was fantastic, so this time we headed first for the Treasures of Ur exhibit. This was fantastic as well because I've seen so many of these artifacts in archeology books and now -- there they were! Ur, of course, was an important Sumerian city. One of the first great modern archaeologists, a gentleman named Woolley, excavated it in the 1920's, bringing up eye-popping royal treasures.

Ur was located on the 3rd floor where we usually have our Inca and Mayan exhibits. There was a brief movie to orient you and then I was actually walking beside Queen Puabi's delicate headdress and the Ram Caught in a Thicket sculpture (which isn't thought to be connected with the Abraham/Isaac story anymore). The Ram was much smaller than I thought -- maybe a foot and a half.

After that there was a new dinosaur exhibit we wanted to see as well, but it turned out we were deluded and it actually cost extra. We had purchased IMAX tickets to Mystery of the Nile though, and had about an hour before that came on at 5:00, so we wandered downstairs to the "hands-on" science. The Son and Daughter ran around maniacally while Wife and I went through a King Tut exhibit backwards and took pictures of this mummified cat. Then I found a cushy couch and rested my feet.

The IMAX film, it turned out, concerned an expedition that spent 4 months becoming the first ever to navigate the entire Blue Nile -- the source of most of the Nile's water. They were almost killed several times in various ways, and the photography was breathtaking, so it was an exciting movie.

It was now 6:00 and the museum exhibits were closing. We wiled away some more time at the gift shop, but except for the daughter -- who loves high priced rock candy -- we didn't buy anything. With their posh, artsy gift shop at the other end of the hall and a third dedicated to BodyWorlds 3, the regular giftshop caters more to toys and kids books these days.

Finally we left close to 7:00 for our car so we could eat quasi-dinner. This consisted of meat, cheese, snack mix, tropical fruit drink, and candy -- ad hoc, but it filled one up. Now it was up the hill.

We're old hands at climbing the hill. Wife took a camera and her backpack/purse, Son and Daughter took their patriotic Texas folding chairs, and I took the cracked, cheapo digital camera and chairs for Wife and myself. And a bottle of flavored water for each. Cresting the hill we could see there was still plenty of space this early in the evening, so we unlimbered a choice spot.

Interesting aromas wafted by. Babies screeched and cooed. A chihuahua puppy wrestled happily with two larger dogs as their human did her best to control them. We moved our chairs from the choice spot to a choicer one when 3 women with larger folding chairs than ours chose the choice spot in front of us, blocking the Children's view. The Children decided to buy funnel cakes, and I went along in hopes of getting a piece. I did, as did Wife -- A small one.

At 8:30 the Conglomeration Symphony Orchestra took the stage of Miller Outdoor Theater (at the bottom of Hippy Hill) and began churning out patriotic tunes. Will Makar, one of the American Idol top 8 and a local boy, showed up after a very long intermission and performed God Bless the USA -- the second national anthem -- and 2 other songs, getting a rousing standing ovation. Then they finished it off with the traditional 1812 overture, not missing the requisite cannons blasting back and forth over our heads.

In the past our fireworks at the park have left quite a lot to be desired, not the least being a discernible beginning, middle, and end. But this year it was over the top with beautiful, choreographed explosions sychronized to music. The rain never came, and when the last airborne charge had detonated we came away really and truly feeling this was the best concert and fireworks we've enjoyed in years. Even the one in 2002, after... you know.

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