Gus Grissom: The issue here is monkey.
John Glenn: What?
Gus Grissom: Us. We are the monkey.
Deke Slayton: What Gus is saying is that we're missing the point. What Gus is saying is that we all heard the rumors that they want to send a monkey up first. Well, none of us wants to think that they're gonna send a monkey up to do a man's work. But what Gus is saying is that what they're trying to do to us is send a man up to do a monkey's work. Us, a bunch of college-trained chimpanzees!
—The Right Stuff (1983)
Those of you on the East Coast know that, since the weekend, the weather’s been pretty miserable. This, in turn, has made Spring Break pretty miserable. Between Wee One getting sick and the crummy weather and other family-related events, this meant that the day trips that I was considering taking the family on were looking more and more remote. So when the weather broke yesterday and Wee One, for a change, didn’t sound like she’d just escaped from the TB Ward, I said The Hell With It and decided to take her down to Our Nation’s Capital.
Naturally, there was a fly in the ointment. Shortly after I’d made the decision, Wife called. She was off in Eldersburg on a scrapbooking jaunt, and her school called. A change we’d made to our Direct Deposit hadn’t worked and the school system issued her a paycheck instead. If we wanted to see it before Monday, I had to go and get it from the school, which is at almost the polar opposite of the city from where we live. I put Wee One in the car and we hit the Beltway. Forty minutes later, we had Wife’s paycheck in hand.
Now, I didn’t want to drive around DC with a payroll check, so I figured that depositing it would be the best option. Also, it was getting close to noon and we were both hungry. So naturally we headed to the Bank of America located at Caton Avenue and Washington Boulevard. “Naturally” because, diagonally across the intersection from the BoA is Baltimore institution Polock Johnny’s. Usually I go to the PJ’s at Lexington Market, but I haven’t been in that part of town in awhile. So this was a nice break for both of us. (Having said all that, the Lex Market dogs are a little cheaper, but the fries aren’t Boardwalk-style. So there’s a tradeoff there.)
From Morrell Park, we were finally ready to head south to DC. I hadn’t been to the Air & Space Museum in awhile, and I thought that Wee One would get a kick out of it, especially since all I told her was that we were going “to see a spaceship.” This, naturally, led to about four thousand questions, all of which I deferred.
Kings Park Class of 1981 might remember the field trip we had to DC sometime in Junior High, when we went to the Air & Space Museum, which had opened very recently and only the center atrium was open to the public. There were some aircraft hanging from the ceiling and a few other goodies at floor level, including the original Air Force footage that spawned this:
Too bad that’s gone, now. The huge mural to the right of the entryway is still there, though. Incidentally, Robert McCall, the artist who painted this mural and at least one other in the building, died just a few weeks ago.
Wee One was suitably impressed by pretty much everything she saw there, but she was especially taken with John Glenn’s capsule and the Apollo 11 capsule which were on display, especially once I was able to show her, using other models around the museum, how this six-foot cone was all that was left of the huge (363 feet tall) rocket that propelled it into space in the first place. She was also taken by the mockup they had of the Hubble Space Telescope, especially inasmuch as they’d recently discussed it at school. We spent nearly three hours wandering this one museum, and of course when it was time to go, we had to stop in at the museum’s gift shop. She wanted to pick up some freeze-dried ice cream (which is available in several Smithsonian museums, but when you buy it from the source, that’s a little different) and a couple of other souvenirs. I, however, had one more exhibit in mind.
If you go into Air and Space, go into the gift shop and, at the back, there’s an escalator to a lower level of gift shop. Go almost to the back of that and you’ll see this:
This was the original filming model of the Starship Enterprise from the first Star Trek series. The plaques to the lower left of the photo contain pretty much all the information you’ll see at the Smithsonian’s webpage devoted to the model. So now Having said that, it’s pretty cool to see regardless. If you go around to the other side, you’ll see very little ornamentation below the saucer section; in fact there’s a hatch in the forward connecting pylon and another in the bottom section, to give access to wires and such for controlling the lights on the model. (This is also the reason we usually see the Enterprise traveling from left to right on screen.)
Wee One, who thinks Captain Kirk is dreamy (and that Denny Crane is creepy, go figure), was totally enthralled by this, possibly more than anything else she saw the entire day. She knows that Star Trek is fictional, so no fantasies shattered here. I told her that this was the filming model for the show, showed her the access hatches and stuff, and did a mini-lesson on matte shots. This was a great way for her to end the day.
Of course, I didn’t have the heart to tell her that the episodes that she’s seen are the Remastered Series, and that the Enterprise that she’s been watching is entirely CGI. It’s bad enough that Santa Claus, et. al. are on the verge of crumbling for her.