L.A. Story: Levitated Mass, Metropolis, and Giant Spaghetti Make Our Day at LACMA

Thanksgiving vacation is a week away. If your child is lucky enough to be in the furlough-day-filled LAUSD, you’re looking at a full week of vacation, followed soon after by three weeks of Winter Break.

If you don’t have travel plans: don’t worry, rejoice! You live in one of the greatest cities in the world, and you can spend a wonderful day rediscovering some of the best L.A. has to offer.

With the day off for Veterans Day today, my younger son and I got a preview of vacation in the city. I plied him with great ideas (I thought): Getty Villa to see the Pompeii exhibit? Getty Center to ride the tram and roam the spacious grounds? Tide pools in Malibu? No, no, and no, thank you. What did he want to do?

“Stay home, play and watch TV.” He wants down time. I get it. But I need up time. So I decided we’d split the day in half. My half first. We dropped his brother at a friend’s birthday party, which was destined for Woodland Hills’ Sky High Trampolines (another fun vacation day outing), and I steered my car to LACMA, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Oh yes I did.

I know from experience that the utterance, “LACMA,” from my mouth does not fill my children with tickles of delight, but with dread. “Lackma” sounds like a cleaning product, or worse. It doesn’t do justice to the mind-blowing, full-body experience we were in for. So I didn’t tell him we were going to LACMA. I told him we were going to see “the world’s most ginormous rock,” weighing “thousands of tons,” and that we were going to walk under it.

He moaned anyway.

I trusted that it would be okay, and that if I was wrong, we could still head home and do his bidding. But it was better than I’d hoped for.

The walk through the grounds of the La Brea Tar Pits toward the “ginormous rock” warmed him up a little. But he is as stubborn as his mother, so he continued to insist that he was tired and just wanted to go home and rest.


Until we saw this.

Then everything about our day changed.

This is “Penetrable” by Jesus Rafael Soto. It beckoned us to its center. We walked into it, and didn’t leave for 45 minutes.

We played hide and seek and tag. We walked in circles. We stopped and asked each other, “Why is this so fun?”

We were were simply walking in circles through rubber tubes hanging from above. But there was something addictive in it. Why was it so fun? The heaviness of ropes pulling against our shoulders as we leaned forward. The “plunk” of the tubes falling against each other. The trying not to bump into people. The delight of feeling like a tiny ant in a bowl of spaghetti. Why was it so fun? Why did it keep us for so long? Some things may always remain mysteries. This is one.

I said yes to a chocolate milkshake at LACMA’s “Coffee and Milk” cafe, part of the Patina group. (I’m no dummy; I wanted to stay longer.)

While we sat there enjoying the benefits of a day not spent at home, we noticed a digital clock of sorts on the wall, reading “53.347.”

Every fraction of a second the hundredths place ticked up. What was it measuring? We noticed a plaque on the wall, which told us this was a piece of art created by an engineer, to measure the percentage of the day between sunrise and sunset that had passed. Would you believe me if I told you that it prompted my eight-year-old and me to talk about the artifice of time, how differently it can be measured and thought about, and how there is really only ever “right now” and “right now” and “right now”?

“So how do we know when it’s time to pick up Aaron?” he asked.

Back to the giant spaghetti.

While standing there watching him continue to delight in this inexplicable entertainment, I asked another mom what else she’d recommend to do there. “Have you seen Metropolis?” she asked. I offer you a huge thanks, whomever you are, because I hadn’t seen nor heard of Metropolis, but it kept our interest for another hour.

It is this.

The contraption of Matchbox Cars, electric trains, tracks, and stunning block and erector set architecture is turned on for an hour, then off for an hour. We arrived early, and Emmett flipped out, in a good way. “What if this cost $150, would you buy it for me?” This piece filled a space larger than our house’s downstairs. “Of course, I would.”

Emmett studied it at rest. He waited with great anticipation to see it go from rest to movement, and after twenty minutes of watching it moving declared that we had to stay until it transitioned from movement to rest. In other words, another forty minutes of watching the cars and trains go around. Thrilled by his excitement for the place that I’d dragged him to, I said absolutely.

At last, we made our way outside to Levitated Mass, the big draw. “It’s smaller than I thought,” I said. Emmett replied, “It’s bigger than I thought.”

We approached it from the tunnel built for it, and felt an adrenaline rush as we walked under it, because, you know, something could happen.

Like the best of travel, the highlights of our day were not the things we set out to see, but the unexpected discoveries. Or, in Emmett’s words while he twisted through the adventures of a day spent not at home doing the ordinary, familiar things, “This is a lot better than Disneyland.”

6 thoughts on “L.A. Story: Levitated Mass, Metropolis, and Giant Spaghetti Make Our Day at LACMA

    1. Thank you! It has an amazing collection for ALL kinds of audiences. What we passed up included a new Caravaggio exhibit and a Stanley Kubrick retrospective. And we didn’t even begin to paint or make art in the Kids Studio.

    2. One more thing — all kids get free “NexGen” membership, which allows them AND ONE ADULT free admission. Which means, families are always free. Emmett said that if I brought two kids and only one adult, they should pay me.

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