Aug 21, 2012

Our Trip to LA

My husband and I went to Los Angeles last weekend to visit a friend.  Our friend runs ARC Drivers (unrepentant plug for friend) so we got to ride around in his BMW 750 all weekend.  Nothing wrong with that.

We didn't do a lot of sightseeing but we happened upon the La Brea Tar Pits, which, if you're going to LA, you may want to skip. La Brea Tar Pits is a pond-sized opening in the ground, right alongside Wilshire Boulevard in front of the Los Angeles Museum of Art. The Pits resemble a pond in every way; there are marshy plants along the edges, for example, but this 'pond' is bubbling up black goo.  It's very underwhelming. Small. I thought there would be huge fossils of dinosaurs trying to drag themselves out of the glop.  Their skulls and forelegs would be straining forward but their legs buried in tar.  No such luck.  Just a pond. With cars whizzing by on Wilshire.

But across Wilshire, also in the midst of the car culture that is LA, is the most amazing installation: a section of the Berlin Wall.  I can't claim we knew it was there; we just happened upon it on our way somewhere else.  But it's part of the Wende Museum and Archive of the Cold War and it's the largest section of the Berlin Wall outside of Berlin. It looks like this:

The far side is covered with art, too. It was installed in 2009 to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the removal of the wall. The section in LA has some original work from activist artists in Berlin who painted their protests on the wall, and newer artists. There are paintings of Kennedy, who famously proclaimed he was a donut when trying to proclaim he was a Berliner (this is the difference between saying you're Danish and saying you're a Danish) and Reagan, who pompously claimed full credit for the removal of the wall after saying, "Tear down this wall," to Gorbachev in his angry voice.

But the wall is emotionally moving, especially the original graffiti from Berlin.  Like the Vietnam War Memorial in D.C. it feels important and bigger than oneself. I wanted to linger there for some time, to remember what divided east and west not so long ago. Many of us lived in a time when we did not know there would ever be an end to the Cold War.  The tearing down of the Berlin Wall was sudden and wonderful and emotional.  Stumbling upon this section of the wall in Los Angeles was, too.