Friday, August 24, 2012

Museums Galore in San Diego

My first task on Tuesday morning was to drop off Guyana at San Diego Station (I seem to be making a habit of this) and afterwards I intended to visit the USS Midway, an aircraft carrier come museum that sounded right up my kettle of awesome. However it didn't open for an hour so I went for a mooch, called some family members, baulked at a $5 charge ATM and was mildly satisfied when I found a $3 one.

This seems to be a trend in the USA - there are hidden charges in virtually everything - and often they are not stated at the start. You want a hotel room? Don't forget the service charge and taxes! You mean you want to withdraw your own cash? $5 please. What do you mean you don't tip hot dog vendors in the UK?! Here, have a free CD, oh let me autograph it for you, now you gotta pay me for a signed copy.... It's definitely a cultural difference that I'm not a big fan of, and it makes it remarkably easy to bleed money in the States.

This internal dialogue (yes there were two voices) was interrupted by spotting one of the filming locations for the best flying-related movie ever. Here, Goose and Maverick serenaded their ladies with a piano before being told to 'take me to bed or lose me forever'! Remember?

Then I headed back to the USS Midway. WHAT a ship she is, take a good look here:

It was $18 to get in, which in retrospect was a really good value, though I could have saved a paltry dollar by getting the ticket from the tourist info shop about 200m up the promenade (note to future SD tourists). Also $10 parking from 9am to midnight was a good deal as well. So basically I spent all day on board this ship, which had been restored fantastically well with all the original equipment. Accommodation for all classes of sailor, messing, healthcare, flight operations and boat stuff were free for you to wander around with a very well-thought-out route and plenty of explanations and side stories. Also, use of manequins (animated and still) as well as sound effects really added to the overall experience. It was probably one of the best museums I have ever been in

Spot the difference between the enlisted sailors' and the admiral's accommodation...

When performing major or delicate surgery, the surgeons could request that the captain steer a course which minimised the effect of swell.

'A floating city with its own airport'! The ship would house over 4,500 personel while on operations.

There are plenty more photos of the ship, which I won't bore you with here, but will try and bore you with when I get back to the UK. I can also bore you over Skype if you're really desperate. But I cannot recommend this museum highly enough, do check it out if you're anywhere near San Diego.

After spending over 5 hours on the ship, I wandered along the quay side and once again thought about the homeless people I was encountering. It made me think about the situation in the UK, and the way that we treat our homeless people. There are SO MANY more of them on the streets of the USA cities, and the majority of them are literally begging - you know, cardboard signs saying that they are sober, or hungry, or anything else to try and get you to donate. I've had some experience working with the homeless in the UK, I have volunteered for a morning cooking in a shelter (thanks John for arranging this) and I have tried my best to learn more about these unfortunate people by chatting to the other volunteers and researching online. In the UK we are renowned for having a welfare state - yes this means that there are people perfectly capable of working who try and fleece the system, but it (and other charities) also provide a mechanism for those who really are in need to get the help they need to help themselves. The result is that many homeless people in the UK can get into a shelter, or even become Big Issue vendors, which is of course a 'job' that they can be proud of. Here, begging seems to be the default option. And it's actually not in anyone's best interests to give money to those begging for it. Homelessness, and how it is tackled, will be something I will be studying with interest during the rest of my trip - in Seattle, Beijing, Hong Kong, Singapore, Delhi and Kathmandu, I imagine each destination will be quite different.

Something else I've noticed since being here is the number of people who are quite clearly mental, shuffling round the streets muttering, talking, or shouting to themselves or their invisible companion. Sometimes talking about the other pedestrians around them! Whether it is because our preventative mental healthcare is better, or people can get help easier through the NHS, or just the environment and the economy of the UK breeds better mental health, it is something I have only seen very rarely in the UK. But I've seen tens of people talking to themselves here - most of whom are African-American. I am not sure what the link is yet.

Anyway - essay over, and I was on the bus in central San Diego on the way up to Balboa Park, having been given (quite literally - passed to me, to look after, by a total stranger) a Japanese girl on her way to the zoo. Not much Engrish but enough for a simple conversation. Hopefully she got there OK - I got off a stop before she was supposed to, so I passed her on to yet another random stranger!!

Balboa Park is a haven of museums and exhibits in NE San Diego and includes a model railroad museum, natural history, the zoo, astronomy, and so much more. I would love to spend the whole day there some day. Unfortunately, my fascination with the Midway meant that I got to Balboa Park after most of the museums had closed, though I was still able to spend 15 minutes in the lobby of the Air & Space museum and grab some cheeky photographs.

I have a Global Hawk hat now! Now everyone knows I am a UAV-geek. Especially the young family I persuaded to take this photo.

Also in Balboa Park is a huge organ, which unfortunately I did not manage to hear playing. However, the stage in front and the amphitheatre around is often used for evening concerts, and I was lucky enough that on Tuesday night was a local Blues Band playing, purely voluntarily, a great fun set of slow and fast numbers. I was able to get about 20 minutes of music in before getting picked up by Brandy, and I also bought a bag of popcorn and chatted to an attractive local about her dog. It was a lovely evening!

On the right (and left, but mainly the right) of the stage was an area clear of chairs. As soon as the music started up, couples and singles of all ages leapt to their feet and started dancing in the open areas. It was so lovely to watch, I had such a smile on my face, these people really didn't care who was watching but just enjoyed having a dance to some good music.

Then Brandy picked me up and we drove down towards Petco Park - this is the home of the San Diego Padres baseball team. Brandy employed her Car-ma to get us a free parking space nice and close to the action (I don't know how she does it, every time...) and we got tickets for one of the cheaper areas of the stadium. Brandy knew, though, that we could go and sit on the balcony of the bar, much higher up and closer to the action, for the duration of the game - so we need! And we had wine and hot dogs. Here is Colin with some wine and a hot dog inside.

The Padres did quite a good job of not losing to the Pittsburg Pirates. There were some really good plays which event I could appreciate, for instance a really quick return of a ball hit by a Pirate deep into the field. A very efficient pass of the ball all the way back to the home base prevented one of his team-mates from scoring a run and then proceeded to get out another player on his way to second base. Even I could appreciate the beauty of that! The rest of the game went fairly well, I could vaguely follow what was going on, and we left after the 7th innings (of 9) when we were in a convincing lead. Mind you, the game had been going on for over 2.5 hours at this point! Every now and again there was some additional entertainment to keep the audience engaged - someone driving round the arena in a Lexus, everyone standing up and singing a baseball song, people in the crowd randomly appearing on the big screen, and one moment where everyone won a free taco (voucher-redeemable) which I still have yet to claim. The San Diego's weird mascot 'The Padre' kept making his weird appearances, appearing weirdly in his weird clothes and dancing weirdly while throwing weird gifts into the wired crowd.

Anyway we then popped back to the Midway to pick up my car:

And then I followed Brandy back to her house. At least, I thought it was Brandy. I got a bit confused when she pulled over in a residential and turned her lights off at least 2 miles from La Jolla and then looked nervously at the car which she had suspected had been resolutely following her for the last few miles.... I left this poor woman alone, got out my phone and sat-navved my way back to the real Brandy's house, to find she had already opened the wine and was wondering whether I had missed the exit... :-)
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1 comment:

  1. Haha, your adventures always seem to attact the strangest of people/happenings. Sounds like you're having a fantastic time, that museum looked amazing!

    Are you thinking about going back to Balboa Park or is it a bit too far out of the way?