Day 19, Part 1: Welcome to the Getty Center

Yesterday afternoon we went to a “Chivalry” themed festival at the Getty Center. It took some effort to persuade the elder flopsy-duckit to come, even though the thought of going to this festival was largely for his enjoyment.

“I’m not coming,” he announced.

“But, it’s chivalry,” I protested. “You love chivalry!”

“I don’t love chivalry.”

I switched tack. “It’s weapons and fighting. You love weapons and fighting! They have a real blacksmith who’s going to show you how to make weapons, and there will be people doing sword-fighting demonstrations.”

The elder flopsy-duckit looked slightly tempted at this, but tried to mask it.

“What, you just want to stay here and do Legos all afternoon?” asked He-Who-Must-Be-Preserved.

“Yes,” replied the elder flopsy-duckit.

After the requisite period of tears and door-slamming, a détente was reached. The elder flopsy-duckit hurled a note wrapped around a Lego piece down the stairs. The rest of us gathered eagerly around as He-Who-Must-Be-Preserved opened it. “Wait, this is in French,” he exclaimed, confused.[1]

“The other side!” yelled the elder flopsy-duckit down the stairs.

On the other side, the elder flopsy-duckit had written, “Let’s go.”

He loped a little sheepishly down the stairs and issued the following condition. “When we get there, we have to separate. Because what she’s wearing is ridiculously weird and I don’t want to be seen with her.”

The younger flopsy-duckit, unperturbed, continued to flit around the room in her butterfly wings.

The condition was swiftly acceded to.

Whenever the duck-rabbit arrives at the Getty Center, and is ushered into the waiting area for the electric tram, the distinct feeling descends upon it that it has just entered the headquarters of SPECTRE.

As we waited in the waiting area for the waiting area for the tram, the elder flopsy-duckit played with a plastic toothpick that he had retrieved from his lunchtime burger. He poked it into my leg.

“Can you feel this?”

“Hey!” I protested. “Put that down! See, it says no weapons can be taken on the tram,” I pointed out, gesturing towards a nearby sign prohibiting firearms and other dangerous objects. The elder flopsy-duckit regarded the sign skeptically.

“But you said they would have weapons here,” he pointed out, reasonably. “How did they bring the weapons in if they’re not allowed on the tram?”

As I pondered this conundrum, He-Who-Must-Be-Preserved was ahead of me, “Well there are exceptions,” he explained to the elder flopy-duckit. “For example,” he went on, mock-seriously, “my bare hands are deadly weapons, but I’m allowed to bring them in.”

By now the turnstiles were open and we filed from the waiting area for the waiting area to the waiting area for the tram.

“And my wit is a deadly weapon!” I added. “It’s razor sharp!” I added, lamely, the dullness of the utterance plainly refuting its own claim.

My son gave me a withering look.

“Your face is a deadly weapon,” he countered.

“You set yourself up for that one,” murmured He-Who-Must-Be-Preserved.

“What????” I protested, turning in mock-indignation to the elder flopsy-duckit. “My face is a deadly weapon???”

“Yeah,” he replied, grinning. “Because when anyone looks at it, they’re petrified.”[2]

“Touché, touché,” I conceded, as we stepped onto the tram.

Fairly recently (I think it’s only been in effect the last two times I’ve visited the Getty), a recording has played on the tram as it ascends smoothly up the hill to the Center. This recording truly enhances the entire Getty Center experience. The doors of the tram slide shut and with a tiny lurch the tram begins its ascent. That’s when you hear on a loudspeaker three chords that sound like they’re being played on a tinny eighties synthesizer. Then a male voice announces himself as James Cuno, President and CEO of the J. Paul Getty Trust. I’ve looked in vain online for a transcript of the audio so the following is my attempt to reproduce it from memory. I can’t promise that’s it’s entirely accurate.

Ding … Dang … Dong!

Hello, and welcome to the Getty Center. My name is James Cuno, and I’m the President and CEO of the J. Paul Getty Trust. [Pause. Sound of throat clearing.] You may be wondering why I’ve gathered you all here today. [A sudden silence descends upon the tram. You could hear a plastic toothpick drop.] As you know, the Getty was established as a large-scale communal research compound. Each of you brings to the Getty skills and experiences that make you uniquely equipped to help fulfill the responsibilities associated with our Center. I will be giving you a simple set of instructions that will enable you to get the most out of your time with us. Upon disembarking, each of you will be given a number by one of the Getty Center Staff members who will greet you at the entrance to the Center. It is extremely important that you commit this number to memory immediately. This number is your own personal code and you will need to repeat it upon entering and exiting the Center’s various sectors. The Getty staff members will also present each of you with a set of robes. Please do not switch robes. Adults, please don your own robes before assisting any children who may be accompanying you. Infants need not be robed but should be swaddled with the blankets that will be provided to you by Getty staff. Please remember that all Getty staff are fully versed in the Center’s protocols and that protocol must be followed exactly as specified in order for your own safety and that of others. Once robed, all visitors should proceed to the sunken garden and await further instructions. [Pause.] I have no doubt that you will have an extraordinary experience here at the Getty. You will be astounded by the zeal and dedication of our staff, and by the pristine quality of our facilities. When your time here comes to an end, as it inevitably must, you will leave refreshed and inspired. Thank you in advance for your service and for your ongoing commitment to our mission. Please note that it is imperative that you pay for parking before you take the tram back to the parking structure. Thank you and enjoy your time at the Getty!

In our next installment: discover what lay in store for us when we got off the tram …


[1] It was a page from Voltaire’s Lettres Écrites De Londres Sur Les Anglois Et Autres Sujets, which I had printed out from ECCO, and which had then become part of the children’s paper stock.

[2] I was so impressed by this comeback that later I pressed the elder flopsy-duckit, “Did you read that somewhere?” He looked at me, disgusted. “No. I made it up.” He paused, clearly thinking that he had been giving me way too much credit and that further explanation must be in order. “Uh, it was a reference to Medusa?”


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