Hey, I just realized that the Griffith Observatory’s initials spell GO, which is what my wife and I did Sunday and something you should definitely do someday soon, but not without some sound bits of advice. See, all this pre-opening invite-only coverage we’ve been inundated with is all well and good for showing off how GOrgeous and shiny-spanky new the 70-year-old landmark is, but you can’t really guage from that what it’s going to be like once all the masses start huddling up there. Like yesterday.
So after the jump here are my following helpful hints — mind if I call them “observatoriations?” — that might better allow you to enjoy your visit (should it take place in the near future):
1) The unbearable slowness of busing
2) Straight To Video
3) Tickets Please
4) You Are What You Bring To Eat
5) Grift Shop
6) The Final Frontier
Or just go check out the photoset of the day on Flickr here.
1) The unbearable slowness of busing — I’d like to hope that we boarded the slowest or most worn-out bus of the so-dubbed “Galactic Express” shuttle fleet, but “Glacial” express might be far more appropriate and maybe they all just creep along at less than 10 mph at the slightest hint at of an incline. Seriously our bus was so slow it would’ve taken us two hours to watch “60 Minutes” (rim shot). So if you end up stuck in the same transport hell as we were, bring along for the ride some stoic patience, a couple deep breathing exercises and perhaps Stephen Hawking’s “A Brief History of Time,” which if you’re a quick enough reader you could finish by the time you arrive at the anticipated destination.
2) Straight To Video — On your particular shuttle there might or might not be a monitor displaying a video full of perky people offering various tips. If not, don’t sweat it, although it is worth seeing the loud tie Councilman Tom LaBonge is wearing in his enthusiastic spot. But if your crawling conveyance does come equipped with one, the bus is so noisy you can’t really hear what’s being communicated, so chances are you’re going to return to your deep-breathing techniques or the the intellectual accessibility of Hawking’s work right after Tip No. 1 flashes on-screen, which is catchily phrased “West Is Best!” and attempts to brainwash you and your fellow travelers into believing the the new west entrance to the place is the coolest way to get inside.
This is patently not true. First off, should you proceed down to the west entrance (either via the new stairs or the new elevator) you run the chance of encountering the huge crowd of grumpy and hungry people who’ve been waiting in line for upwards of 40-freaking-minutes to get the only available food at the new Douglas Adams Memorial Eatery By Wolfgang Puck, which is entirely understaffed and underprepared to deal with the throngs of crashing blood-sugar levels that people are trying to stabilize with some moderately expensively and not-really-worth-it food items, such as an anemic $7 “Caesar Chicken Wrap.” No, not a “Chicken Caesar Wrap,” mind you but indeed: a Caesar Chicken Wrap.” That Wolfgang, he is such a card. Secondly, who the hell wants to go into this glorious place through the service entrance? Not me! And it shouldn’t be you either. So you should eschew the “West Is Best” dictate and march defiantly through the thick crowds up the steps past the place where Sal Mineo’s character died in “Rebel Without A Cause,” and head through the doors into the atrium and marvel upon the pendulum pit for the first time in the four long years since you last had the chance to do this.
3) Tickets Please — Once inside, the very very first thing you should do if you’re even remotely interested in seeing the “Centered in the Universe” planetarium show (and you should be because it is awesome!) is get tickets to the next available screening, either by going back outside and standing in the long line to buy tickets at the ticket window, or by going to one of the automated ticket kiosks situated around the place. My vote is for the kiosks, except that you do stand the chance of getting behind someone who is automated-kiosk/touch-screen challenged which can be almost as maddening as the slow bus trip. But not quite. Whatever you do, resist the urge to help.
4) You Are What You Bring To Eat — In all the planning that undoubtedly took place in preparation for all this immediate public inundation and enthusiasm, it would’ve been nice if Wolfgang Puck had stopped selling his signature line of cooking utensils on QVC or HSN or wherever for a half a day and stormed one of the meetings to tell the powers that they damn well better set up a bacon-wrapped hotdog stand — hell maybe even a fresh fruit or churro cart? — out front because there’s no way in the universe his restaurant at the end of it is going to be able to keep up with the demand that will be placed on it these first couple months. Or maybe he did and the Observatory peeps just shrugged him off and said “Oh Wolfie, don’t you know we’re too busy right now figuring out how to make people pay to visit this place by coming up on craptastic squirrel-powered buses that can barely make the uphill climb?”
Whatever the failure to communicate or act or anticipate, the result is that during peak high-density visitation periods you’re gonna go hungry either from an unwillingness to wait in the pathetically slow line, or from a willingness to do so (return to Item No. 2 above for additional details). So the simple solution is this: stuff a backpack with your own grub and grog and set yourself free. Not only will you better enjoy your time, but you’ll be the envy of all the rest of us standing around slowly starving because there’s only one fucking place to eat!
5) Grift Shop — I’m a sucker for souvenirs. Wherever I go I usually bring back something to remind me in my old age that I’ve been there. Be it a shirt, a refrigerator magnet or some other mostly meaningless and overpriced trinket or bauble it’s a given I’ll get it. But not this time — and it’s my fault I guess. Instead of heading right to where the small and easily rationalizably priced stuff was I deviated right to the shirts, which the observatory has the nerve to charge $24.99 for. And I’m not even talking some semi-nice embroidered polo-style shirt. I’m talking a middle-of-the-line Hanes model tee with a one-color screen. Twenty and Four and Ninety and Nine?!? That’s freakin’ astronomical and not in a good observatory way!
So here’s how you avoid that outlay and come away with a custom keepsake. First browse the gift shop then leave and when you get home go do a Google search looking for images of the observatory, preferable illustrations of the iconic structure (but this one will do). Open it up in Photoshop or whatever image manipulation program you have available and goof around with its size and contrast and such until you got a design you’re satisfied with (such as this quick-‘n-dirty one), then go to Cafepress.com and set up an account for free and build your own magnet or sticker, or wall clock or t-shirt for substantially less than this department’s store prices. Then take the money you saved and make the reservations for your next trip back up. Or go and a you see “Borat.” Am I genius not?! High five!
6) The Final Frontier — Even with all these smarmily described drawbacks (and I didn’t even get into the various interactive exhibitry that’s already out of order — or perhaps was never in order to begin with), none of them either singularly or as a sum was enough to destroy the pleasure of seeing the Observatory shining once more or to weaken the wonder for the great beyond that the place provokes. But it’ll certainly help being prepared for the next time — and there will be a next time.