A visit to the “Old West” with my favorite six and seven-year old

Summer is the perfect time to indulge in little adventures and among my favorite are times shared with granddaughters Sophia and Karina. Even though I now work with young adults, I will always think like an early elementary teacher, and summer creates the perfect space to augment or strengthen the girls’ contextual learning in advance of their late August leap into the first and third grades.


Great excuse to visit the Autry National Center of the American West, also called “The Autry Museum,” but I wondered if it would offer anything of interest to them.

When I was their age my school years and formal education were filled with the language of Manifest Destiny and Conquest, rather skewed history fueled more by images from popular culture and television westerns than actual timelines and events.


Our trusted friend Wikipedia reminds, “A western television show is a television series which takes place in the Old West and involves cowboys, cattle ranchers, miners, farmers, Native Americans, Spaniards, swords, guns and horses. It was the most popular genre of TV show in the 1950s and 1960s, when several hundred were aired.” I watched more than a few. I doubt Sophia and Karina have seen even one.


The Autry opened in 1988, the vision and direction coming from Gene Autry, ‘America’s Favorite Singing Cowboy,’ and Monte Hale, American B-Western film star and country musician. With the focus on western heritage, the museum’s holdings fulfill Autry’s mission of showing how the West “influenced America and the world.”

We enjoyed a lively conversation as the girls wondered what it would be like to leave the comfort and familiarity of home to travel by covered wagon across the country to an unknown territory. We looked at saddle bags from the Pony Express era and asked the question,  “Do you think when the first Pony Express riders left Missouri for California they could imagine that 155 years later people would be sending messages and letters without paper?”

The girls indulged my questions and attempts to stimulate thinking, but in the end, they are two little city girls. A life-sized replica of a horse still puts a smile on their face. I’m so glad they aren’t too sophisticated for that!

I treaded lightly, but couldn’t completely side-step the questions about “robbers” and the general lawlessness of the new frontier!

They can read, so it didn’t take them long to figure out that the “wild, wild west” had its violence and I learned they didn’t know the word “outlaw,” but did relate to the word “criminal. ”

We shared a lively discussion about Billy the Kid and Black Bart, but without sharing the more sensational  details there wasn’t much interest, I don’t think, and I was also relieved they were more fascinated with standing behind bars than looking right behind them. They didn’t seem to notice the enlarged archival photo of the entire Dalton Gang dead and laid out in a row following a failed bank robbery in Coffeyville, Kansas, 1892.

The Autry has a very extensive firearms collection highlighting the history of pistols, shotguns and rifles, and although undoubtedly there is a lot we could learn about weaponry, my learning curve is too steep to even think about trying…


…and the girls have no firsthand exposure to firearms of any kind. I looked for anything we might talk about.

One of my laugh-outloud moments came while showing them the intricate tooling on leather holsters. They could see where the pistol would fit in the holster, but what were those loops along the belt?

There weren’t any bullets in the display cases but I coaxed them towards thinking “ammunition.”  After some thinking, Karina suggested the holster loops were for “lasers,” and Sophia guessed “bombs.” There are so many things to learn in life.

Since visiting the Autry, Sophia has developed quite an appetite for reading from a great series of books that teach children about what it would have been like to live in different historical periods. If You Traveled West in a Covered Wagon” is just one title in a great series of books, providing excellent learning context.

And speaking of context, I was interested in this particular display.

We quickly passed by costumes worn by John Wayne, The Lone Ranger and Tonto, and then I stopped, interested in items of modern western wear once worn by Michael Jackson.

As I paused, behind me came the question, “Who’s Michael Jackson?”




View from the top of the Ace Hotel, OR, We were packed in like sardines

When last I left you I mentioned that I would share my experiences from a week ago at the Ace Hotel rooftop bar. I said I’d tell you about my experience with “clubbing.”

Working in a university provides an education and ease with many “twenty-something” cultural references and I can keep up with the language.  But I thought to be absolutely certain I was using the term “clubbing” accurately–I have a reputation to protect– I’d better check with another source.

Here’s what the Urban Dictionary has to say about clubbing:

“A favourite activity of the moronic majority, this involves being shunted like cattle into a converted warehouse… sadly not to be slaughtered, but to wear ridiculous trendy clothes, listen to crap eardrum-shattering music, try to pick up brainless members of the opposite sex, and generally stand around aimlessly in a desperate but pointless attempt to show how cool you are.”

Gheesh! A little harsh, don’t you think? We weren’t in a converted warehouse…we were at the top of pretty spectacular building.  We’ll get to “eardrum shattering” in a minute.

DSCN1863This shot is of the pool area and the bar extends from there to inside those gorgeous doors, with a larger bar and then out to another patio space.


There are no photos from our after hours party. There certainly was no room for me to take a photo. It was enough that I got myself in past the bouncers without making someone laugh.

I should have had an ear-trumpet, however. Free flowing alcohol probably contributed to some of the din; standing 18 inches from others in our group I still couldn’t understand more than a few words. I nodded enthusiastically from time to time and did my best.


No problem. I didn’t actually think I had the hearing of a twenty-five year old. I’m  also reasonably sure I was the only person eyeing the exits and thinking about crowd behavior if we had an earthquake. I always identify emergency exits, but in this case, there were too many people for me to strategize any reasonable exit plan.

I may have been somewhat out-of-place, yet I still had a good time. It was kind of fun to be in an environment that wouldn’t ordinarily have welcomed me and it is a bit of a hoot to know that I made it past the long, long line of hopefuls at the lobby door waiting for their opportunity to be invited inside. I was occupying crowded, but prime real estate.

At first I found the heavy, monotonous electronica really perplexing. I don’t know what a DJ actually does under these circumstances.  What I heard seemed to me a continuous loop of nearly indistinguishable pulsations.  A large screen reflected rapidly flashing images in sequence with each pulse.

Not my music. Not my crowd. But I enjoyed watching young people be young people. I’ve thought about my interpretation and the lens with which I made my judgments. I seem to remember that I was young once, too. It’s useful to think about that.

Pink Floyd’s “The Dark Side of the Moon” has a permanent slot in my car CD changer. For forty years I’ve loved this concept album with its steadily synethesizer-punctuated  unusual sound effects. The band is often referred to as psychedelic or techno-rockers. The album is considered a classic, listed 43rd on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of “500 Greatest Albums of all Time” (2012).

I’m pretty sure my parents and grandparents weren’t too impressed with Pink Floyd.

We stayed with the momentum for a couple of hours. Or maybe it only seemed like a couple of hours. And I was pleased to have made it through without causing a stir of embarrassment to myself or others.

It was very dark, so I don’t think anyone noticed when I had to scream over the crowd to get Jay’s attention and then use hand signals to indicate there was no way I could get myself out of the low-to-the ground overstuffed chaise that had saved me from standing in heels.

I think it was in my best interest that no photos were taken!

Some loose ends as we jump into a new week…and a few puddles!

Maybe it’s because we’re moving so quickly towards the end of the year, but I feel like I have too many things on my mind to focus. Waiting for inspiration to hit and then write a cohesive, well-composed post and I might be sitting here for a while. I’ll just jump in!

When I last left you I was planning to share my little collection of World War I “mystery objects,” but it feels out-of-place for the week before Christmas–not a very cheery subject. My personal items are actually quite “upbeat” considering subject matter, but I’ll get back to them in the new year. Still no guesses on what they might be?

I do want to thank each one of you who took the time to respond to my last post with very personal thoughts about the way the First World War is remembered outside of the United States, and some thoughts on why. I learned a lot from your comments and intend to follow-up on your suggested reading.

Tilly asked me if I was aware of the Christmas truce of 1914. I probably would not have known except that I did see the movie, War Horse.

One hundred years ago German and British soldiers left their trenches along the Western Front and shared Christmas Day without guns, instead, opting for football. UEFA–the official website for European football–created a video marking the centenary of the Christmas truce.

I’m only marginally familiar with ANY football players, American or European, but those of you who know English football, you may enjoy Wayne Rooney, Sir Bobby Charlton, Philipp Lahm and Gareth Bale reading soldiers’ letters from this unique moment in history. I think it’s worth a few moments of reflection.

I also wanted to thank those of you who contacted me to ask about the recent California storms. So you heard about the Pineapple Express? This storm dumped up to 5 inches of rain on Southern California and although it did bring havoc and chaos in some areas, we didn’t experience anything out of the ordinary and we just enjoyed!

Our local weatherman, Dallas Raines, shared this video on his Facebook page–just for fun! Here’s your opportunity to visit the Southland in under one minute!

Two more storms are lining up and set to bring more rain and mountain snow. For those living in mudslide areas this is not good news, but these next storms don’t appear to be as strong, yet may stay with us for most of the week. I can’t remember when I’ve heard that kind of forecast!

After more than three years without any significant rainfall, this is a great start!


If this keeps up I may actually have a reason to buy some rain boots! Imagine!