I was going to write about this when it happened. And then my birthday extravaganza took place. And then the Stay in Place orders came.
So, today, I will write about it, though it feels like a lifetime ago.
My dad sometimes drives these senior tour groups and on this particular week, the group was in Los Angeles.
They were going to be at the Griffith Observatory one evening. It had been awhile since I had been up there at night. One memory of the sort was when I spent the day with a friend’s kids (twin boy and girl) who were around 10 years old. We explored Hollywood and had lunch and then found ourselves at the Observatory at dusk. On this particular evening, the twins and I saw a line for the Zeiss Telescope. We joined the line and weren’t too far from the front but the line wasn’t moving. The telescope would be open soon, they assured us. This was good, since I hadn’t planned to have the twins out so late on a Sunday. But we waited and waited. Whispers among the adults. Apparently, there are only a handful of people in the world who know how to operate this telescope.
The guy that whose shift was about to begin wasn’t there. And he wasn’t answering his phone. And he seemed to have disappeared. His back up lived kind of far, but they were trying to get him there. The kids were restless but not enough so to want to leave. FINALLY, someone arrived (not sure if it was Operator #1 or his back up) and we took our turn at stargazing through the giant telescope.
As we were leaving, there were several people on the lawn who had their own, personal telescopes out for the public to look through. We wandered up to one guy.
“What is is your telescoped aimed at,” I asked.
In a voice like the comic book store dude on the Simpsons, he replied, “Star Cluster.”
Twin Girl asks, “What’s a star cluster?”
But he heard, “Which Star Cluster?” and proceeded to tell us the numerical name with a manic smugness.
Twin Girl confused by his answer, asked, “What’s that?”
Telescope guy replied, “It’s a STAR CLUSTER!” and proceeded to laugh at his own humor. Twin Girl looks at me. I look back at her with an expression that says, I don’t get it either. We look through the lens at the star cluster. It’s a cluster of stars. It’s pretty cool. As we get in the car, we can’t stop laughing.
We make fun of this interaction for years. FOR YEARS!
Back to current day (pre-Covid Shut Down).
Shaka and I arrive at the Observatory before my dad and his group do. I am shocked that you have to pay for parking up there now. And not just in the lot, but along the road, even if you are quite away down the hill. Parking went from being free to $10/hour. It threw me. So much so, that when I am putting my money into the meter and choosing how long we want to be there, I promptly forget how much it is per hour and I put in 3 hours. Oh well…I mean, I don’t love that I did that, but what’s done is done. I take the parking slip and put it on the dashboard.
We wander up to the lawn where we see several people with their telescopes set up for the public to look through. That part hasn’t changed. What is different, is that each telescope has a little e-board letting you know what they are aimed at.
I gasp. I grab Shaka’s shoulder. There is a little e-board that says, “Star Cluster” and I start laughing. I get in line. I can’t tell if it’s the same guy or not. A woman in front of me asks him about something bright in the sky. “What is that?”
And in that same voice we have been imitating for nearly a decade, he says, “what do YOU think it is?”
She guesses. He says, No
Another person guesses. He says, No.
And yet, another person guesses. He says, No.
As he slightly giggles to himself like Rumpelstiltskin, I blurt out (not sure if I am correct or not), “That’s Venus,” and I take my turn at the lens and look at the Star Cluster.
“Well, yes…that is Venus.” I feel a little bad, but not not a lot bad. I ask him why he loves the Star Cluster.
He says, “My friends make fun of me since I go on about them, but I mean…how can you not? It’s a CLUSTER…of STARS!”
I guess he’s right. When you think of how many of our suns would make up a cluster, it’s pretty cool. I think of the synchronicity of things coming together and joining up to create that experience.
My dad shows up and we wander around the inside and the outside of the Observatory. It is busier than I would imagine. Its not a holiday. It’s the middle of the week and the parking is $$$$. But the crowds are here. I start snapping the evening skyline below us with my dad’s phone (at that point, I was having phone envy with everyone’s newer devices).
My dad was trying to wrangle his group who had already had a tour-filled day. They were heading back to their hotel. Shaka and I decided we would head out too.
My dad’s bus wasn’t too far from ours. He hadn’t paid for his parking and in typical fashion for him, no ticket.
We get in our car with a good amount of time remaining on our parking pass. Up ahead, I see my dad’s bus pull away and another large van park where he had been. We see the driver of the van get out and look at the signs. I could almost feel his disappointment at the prices, as I watched his shoulders slump with a sigh. We pull up next to him.
We ask if he’s planning to be there awhile. His foreign accent is thick and he tells us that his job brought him down here from Seattle and all he wanted to do was see the Observatory but hadn’t had time all week. He was leaving in the morning.
“Not sure how long you wanted to be here, but here’s our parking pass with an hour and a half left on it. Hopefully, you will get to see something you wanted tonight,” Shaka says.
His face lights up!
“Thank you so much! I hadn’t gotten paid on the job yet. Bless you both!!!!”
He fist bumps Shaka as we drive away.
I never felt so good to overpay for parking.
As the city twinkled below us and the stars twinkled above us, we made our way back home.