My husband Frank had the brilliant idea that we should take Alexander to see the King Tut exhibit in Los Angeles for the Veteran's Day holiday weekend, since there was no school. We had a few commitments over the weekend, so we decided to do it as just an overnight trip, driving down on Thursday night and returning Friday night. I guess he forgot that Los Angeles is 400 miles from where we live, but he's just that "hey gang, let's hit the road!" kind of guy. I reluctantly agreed because the exhibit is leaving for Ft. Lauderdale in a few days, and we are going to Egypt in March as part of a solar eclipse cruise we're taking.
We got a late start, but luckily by then there was little traffic. At the Pacheco Pass, we stopped at the Casa de Fruta to buy snacks. This place is kind of like the Mall of America of roadside fruit stands. I could have been in there for hours, but quickly managed to choose some fruit, trail mix, popcorn and other goodies for long drive ahead. Evidently, this started as a little fruit stand on the side of the road in 1908 and has turned into a huge Casa de Conglomerate, because all around were other buildings with signs like "Casa de Sweets", "Casa de Wine," "Casa de Restaurant," and "Casa de Gas Station." It's like a little village of shops catering to truckers and insane families driving from San Jose to Los Angeles in the middle of the night.
We plowed on through the night and luckily Alexander soon fell asleep, after singing along to a few CDs we brought along. I believe he might be one of the only five year olds in America who now knows all the words to Bonnie Raitt's "Angel from Montgomery," which he calls, "the angel song." We made it to our hotel at around 12:30, due to some speedy driving by Dad. Our hotel, the Park Plaza Lodge, was not the best hotel we've ever stayed in, nor was it the worst. It was simply adequate. The main reason Frank chose it was that it was ostensibly located near the museum. On the map, it looks like the museum is one block away, but there is the matter of this huge, walled-off apartment complex that makes it more like 10 blocks away.
My husband, being the diligent and thoughful travel-planner that he is, ordered tickets for the exhibit on-line before we left. He selected the "8 am" entrance, but when he got the receipt, it said "8 pm" on it. He called the museum to find out what was going on and they told him that there was no 8 am entrance, that it all started at 10 am, but was sold out until 8 pm. We didn't want to stay in LA that late, so Frank asked they guy what to do. He was told that they have tickets reserved for new members every day, so the best thing to do would be to go the membership desk when they opened at 8 am, sign up, and get the free tickets.
So, Frank dutifully got up early and signed us up for a family membership in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and for $75 we not only got tickets to the King Tut exhibit at 9 am before the big crowds, but also free entry into other LACMA museums and 10% off at the gift shops as well. You just can't beat that with a stick.
Frank picked us up and we had a quick coffee shop breakfast and headed to the exhibit. There was no line in the huge tent they had set up as a holding area for people with tickets. We picked up a couple of audio headsets, which Alexander was fascinated with for about 5 minutes. Before we entered, I told Alexander the Rules of the Museum. They are: (1) no running; (2) no yelling or talking loud; and (3) no touching. As always, he had to stick with mom and dad and had to be sure that we could see him at all times.
We entered the anteroom to the exhibit, where they showed a brief film about the treasures of King Tut and how they were discovered. In the first room, Alexander looked around a bit, listened to the head set (featuring the voice of Omar Sharif), and immediately started yelling, "Where is the gold? I want to see some gooooollllddd!" I told him to pipe down and reminded him of the Rules of the Museum. He said quietly, "But Mom, I want to take home some treasures. All I see here are some pots and statues. Where are the treasures? Where is the gooollllddd?" I told him that the treasures were coming up, but that the ones he could take home were in the gift shop. We made a deal that if he followed all the Rules of the Museum, he could have $5 to add to the savings from his allowance that he brought with him to buy treasures and toys. Yes, that's right-- bribery is a part of my parenting repetoire and I'm not ashamed to use it.
From there on out, Alexander followed the Rules of the Museum very nicely, but I believe he set some kind of land-speed record for museum viewing. We zipped through room after room, stopping briefly to look at some maps of Egypt and whatever weaponry was on display. He was mildly interested in a projecton of Tut's mummy that showed the placement of a dagger, scythe, crown, and breastplate. "Ooooo bones!!" he exclaimed. Morbid though it may be, I thought there might be an actual mummy or two in the exhibit, but there weren't any. Just a lot of statuary, urns, artifacts, and a sarcophagus or two. Frank was disappointed that the funerary mask that appears in all the advertising did not seem to be in the actual exhibit. I wouldn't know whether it was there or not, since I spent most of my time chasing Alexander in his mad rush to get to the gift shop.
We finally made it to the gift shop and Alexander purchased a tiny sarcophagus with Tut's mummy inside wearing the missing funerary mask, along with an Egypt-related card game. Afterwards, we headed to the Boone Children's Gallery next door, which is an interactive museum with books, games, and arts and crafts. Since June, the theme has been "Pharoah's World" and related to Egypt. He had fun building a huge pyramid of large foam blocks with some other kids and crawling inside and generally running around with them. We colored a bit and put beads on a pipe cleaner to make an amulet. "I like this King Tut place!" he exclaimed.
We spent an hour or so there, then had a wonderful lunch at the Pentimento Restaurant at the main museum, with a delightful waiter named Robbie. Waiters in LA seem to have a great deal more enthusiam and charisma than anywhere else in the world, maybe because they are really actors pretending to be waiters. They never know who might be some big studio exec who can give them their big break, so they are always camera-ready. Robbie and Alexander seem to hit it off extremely well, particularly after Alexander showed him the little sarcophagus, explained that King Tut was the boy king of Egypt and told him that we were going to Egypt in March, "where there is no water and you have to ride on camels for days." Robbie pretended to be wildly amused by all of these tidbits of information. For us, nothing spells "big tip" more than someone humoring our kid.
After lunch, we visited the other part of the LACMA complex to see a Mayan Civilization exhibit and beautiful Japanese art exhibit. We stopped at the La Brea Tar Pits Museum to see the prehistoric creatures that got stuck in the muck. Alexander was a bit more interested in the Tar Pits Museum because of the animals and bones on display, but was pretty restless by then. Unfortunately, he got a couple of time-outs for running away from us and generally not remembering the rules of the museum. I found some of the depictions of sabre-toothed tigers and wolf packs eating horses to be somewhat disturbing, so I'm not sure I'd take a more sensitive child there. I think Alexander had the most fun of the day rolling down the grassy hill next to the museum with some other kids. He someone managed not be one giant grass stain afterwards, so I was pretty happy with that, too.
On the long drive up I-5, we ran into Greg, a friend of ours who lives in San Jose, as we entered the Harris Ranch Restaurant for a big beef dinner. He was also driving home from LA and just happened to be making a pit stop at the same time as we were. It was kind of weird and took me a minute to recognize him. The dinner was good, and we had a nice time in the gift shop. I think I should write a book called, "Fabulous Gift Shops I Have Known," since that is usually the highlight of any trip for me.
In the car, Alexander started spontaneously singing a song about King Tut. Here are the words:
A long time ago in Egypt
There was a boy king
His name was King Tut
He was the king of all the boys
But then he died
An they took out his brain
Through his nose.
He had a lot of gold
And lots of treasures
So they put it in his pyramid
In case he needs it later.
He's no Steve Martin, but hey, he's five. I guess he was paying more attention than I thought going through the exhibit, since he remembered that they removed Tut's brain through his nose. That's more than I got from the exhibit. But, the gift shop was fabulous.