The time has come, the Walrus said

Posted by laura on Mar 11 2008 | Uncategorized

Let’s start with the ships.

We took a drive over to Alameda last weekend with my parents, to check out the insane flea market there – talk about many things! It’s always fun to look around there, but ultimately I was foiled, since I was hoping for square dance petticoats, but unwilling to spend $40 on them, when the last time I went I spent $5. We also had the kids with us, who loved it at the beginning but really only went for the kettle corn. So they weren’t the committed bargain hunters you need at at flea market. After a while we split and spent a couple of hours on the USS Hornet, which has been turned into a museum. A great museum.


Woah. I didn’t want to embarrass any of the volunteers who were clearly devoted to this ship, so I didn’t mention the fact that something this big clearly can’t float. It would have been cruel to burst their bubble. Dad worked on the USS Siboney, which was an escort carrier and apparently did manage to float somehow. He was so fun to tour the ship with, since he had real experience with these crazy things, and some great stories to tell. 


Up on the flight deck we met a great docent who had worked on the Hornet some time ago – he would have been WWII since he was a landing signal officer in the days before they had radio contact with the plane. Not being super familiar with these ships, it took me a little while to learn that the LSO would have to be a very senior pilot, and the job (particularly pre-radio) would have been on the dangerous side of things. To his credit, I didn’t learn these things from him.

He was kind enough to get his own signal paddles out (each LSO made his own paddles – or as another docent mentioned, his wife might have made them for him) and walk us through the basic signals. Both arms up meant ‘you’re coming in too high,’ arms out even meant ‘just right,’ and low meant – you’ll never guess this one – ‘you’re too low.’ There was the slash across the throat gesture that told the pilot to cut the engine and commit to that controlled crash onto the deck. The LSO would get some help from a fellow officer with binoculars who could see if there was something wrong with the hook, landing gear or flaps, which could then be signaled to the pilot. My favorite signal was a low rolling gesture to the side which our docent told us meant, “Lower your hook, dummy!”

The question I couldn’t quite shake was how this experience is built. As a pilot, this man would have learned a great deal about judging distance and speed from inside the aircraft. But wouldn’t it be a huge learning curve to stand on an enormous deck, looking at a smudge in the sky, and develop an understanding of whether that plane coming in was too fast or too high? When I ride bikes with the kids, I make them stop at every street we cross, even the tiny and quiet ones, because they don’t have enough experience to judge the speed of a car approaching the stop. But with experience, they’ll develop an understanding of speed and driving behaviors until they’ll understand when it’s safe for them to go, even though they might not even be aware of how they know. Maybe it works in a similar way for the officer on the flight deck. Only problem is that we can practice looking at cars at every intersection – how many times do you stand in the path of a landing plane?

Some other fun trips with my parents were to Chrissy Fields and the Warming Hut near the base of the Golden Gate Bridge. The Warming Hut is one of my favorite spots with guests – fantastic views of the bridge and the bay AND hot chocolate. Does it get better than that?


They reopened in December, after a fire did some serious damage last year. We’re glad they’re up and running – go and have a great lunch and pick up some excellent National Parks goodies while you’re there. 

We also took a trip to the rebuilt de Young museum in San Francisco. The new building is crazy cool.


The view from that tower is insane. Plus all the materials are incredible. Wood, concrete, glass, steel – all beautiful.


The art is pretty nice too. My daughter was completely taken by a sculpture by Cornelia Parker titled “Anti-Mass.”


This gorgeous piece tractor-beamed us in from the door of the next room over. As I looked at it, I felt as though time had just stopped – these pieces of wood, hung from the ceiling, created a suspension on several levels. Afterwards I learned that the wood had come from a church that had been burned down by an arsonist. It was quite powerful.

I also saw two pieces by glass artists I was fortunate enough to know as undergraduates at RISD. Right next to Cornelia Parker’s piece was one of Josiah McElheney’s mirrored glass installations. I didn’t get a photo of it, but there’s a great photo I found on a blog called Jumping in Art Museums (what an awesome idea) and Josiah is even in Wikipedia. Now that’s fancy. Great work by a really great guy. Then, upstairs I was psyched to see this piece by Karen Lamonte - 


You should absolutely check out her website - there’s a stunning photo of one of these dress sculptures on the home page and it will knock your socks off. Karen was my first TA in the glass department, and she was always just so kind and generous with her time. (She’s also the first person who told me that “when a glassblower goes to hell, it’s a deja vu!”)

I was just so impressed and pleased to see that both of these artists are doing such great work.

Now my parents have flown home and we’re all a little deflated. To say the time flies is such an understatement. I’ll miss just knowing when we all roll in from work and school that they will be here. I’ll miss walks and teatimes and discussions and consistently having enough people to really fill our dining room table – and that perfect feeling when you first wake up and you know something great is happening that day, but it takes you a second to remember what’s different. 

The kids will miss having the answer to “Can you play with me?” be “YES,” any time or any day. (Turns out you can be far better parents when there are four of you.) I’ll also deeply miss going to get dressed for work in the morning and coming back to the kitchen to find all the breakfast dishes magically cleaned and put away. I just don’t seem to have the knack for training birds and woodland creatures to do that stuff for me, so it was a real luxury, I tell you.  





4 comments for now

4 Responses to “The time has come, the Walrus said”

  1. Peter

    Wow Tom did the dishes for you!

    11 Mar 2008 at 9:50 pm

  2. laura

    Isn’t it great? He must just love to do the dishes on the days that our parents are in town…

    12 Mar 2008 at 7:57 am

  3. Joe

    Laura – the other funny thing about that whole story is that as a yoot I once put together a model of that very aircraft carrier. One of the approximately 2 models I ever did. It may still be lurking in the attic somewhere.

    13 Mar 2008 at 12:14 pm

  4. laura

    Joe – what a coincidence!! I had no idea – I do remember you only working on about 2 models, but couldn’t tell you what they were. I can tell you one thing – the real ship is a slightly larger scale model than the one you completed, so don’t come looking out here for any replacement pieces if you find the old one in the attic.

    23 Mar 2008 at 12:17 am

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