It was a classic I ♥ LA moment.
Over the years, the big, bad City of Angels has occasionally been known to band together, to unite in a common purpose. Usually, it's over a showbiz event like the Academy Awards (back when they used to be on Monday nights, everybody took off work early to get to their watching party), a sports event (the Lakers in the finals, the 1984 Olympics), a natural disaster (earthquakes, fires, mudslides) or a crisis (riots, 9/11).
But on Friday, the whole damn city came together over...SCIENCE.
On Friday, the Space Shuttle Endeavor, after a three-day cross-country trek, made it's final flight to it's new home here in LA at the California Science Center. And we all went out to watch.
The CA Science Center is so lucky to get the Endeavor! But it's truly fitting, and a testament to Southern California's incredible impact on the aerospace business, and the fact that the shuttle was actually built out here. So I guess, after 20 years of service in space, she was coming home.
The Endeavor made her way across the country ferried atop a 747. And the pilots must have been having blast, because they put on some show!
The news said that she was supposed to arrive over LA airspace about 11:00, so BIG DORK here got in the car about 10:00 in search of a primo location to watch the flyby. I knew that they were supposed to fly over both the Hollywood Sign and the Griffith Park Observatory, then south to downtown, which would have had them fly pretty much directly over our house, but I was afraid that there was too much tree growth around us and I wouldn't get a good view. So I headed for high ground. Unfortunately, a couple of THOUSAND other people had had the same idea! The whole area around Griffith Park was gridlock. Forget Carmageddon, this was Endeavorgeddon. Half of LA had ditched work and headed into the streets!
After driving around for about an hour, listening to the AM radio news which was giving us updates on how close Endeavor was getting, I ended up in the weirdest spot, which was kind of a stroke of genius. I parked my car on a side street, and walked to the center of an overpass right in the middle of the 101 Freeway. Not particularly scenic, but quintessential Los Angeles, and a great open space with a view of the airspace above all of Hollywood.
With me on this loud, ugly overpass, was the most random and diverse group of people! Several middle-aged dudes with really nice cameras on tripods, some high school kids who were no doubt ditching school, a Korean couple with their very old grandmother (was was as delighted as a little kid), a family of tourists with their 4-year old, a homeless guy, a weird Russian man who wouldn't stop talking to me. One guy had a transistor radio clasped to his ear, and periodically he'd shout out an update "It just flew over Malibu!" Then we'd all cheer.
Finally, one of the guys shouted "There she is!!" and we all started snapping away with our cameras, as the plane flew past us THREE times.
We were all jumping up and down squealing. Everyone was close to tears. And it was the same all over the city. HUGE crowds at the beach, the Queen Mary, Disneyland. All the kids at Jude's little school got to stand out on the playground while Endeavor flew over just a few blocks away. The Vietnamese ladies at my nail salon told me they had all gone out and stood in the middle of Beverly Blvd.
I really can't explain why this whole Endeavor thing got everybody so excited and moved. All I can say is that it was just so damned COOL. This beautiful old ship who had served our nation well in OUTER SPACE on her final voyage, her swan song. She's something we Americans can truly be proud of. And it's as if we all just kind of thought she deserved a special reception.
Now I can't wait to get to see her up close when her exhibit opens at the Science Center. If anybody's planning a trip out to my fair city, you MUST make a plan to stop by. The California Science Center is an amazing museum anyway, well worth a visit.
And it will be much more comfortable than standing in the middle of the Hollywood Freeway.