>If today does not count as jam-packed, than nothing does. It began at 4:30 AM New York time, when I got up to go to the airport for my business trip to San Diego and Los Angeles. I left my apartment at 4:50 and discovered it was pouring rain. Fortunately, a cab picked me up before I was completely soaked, although I did forget my umbrella in the backseat. One less $3.00 umbrella in our absurdly large crappy umbrella collection, I guess. Worse things could happen.

The flight was mainly uneventful. I slept for about 30 minutes. My original plan was to begin reading Far Pavilions by M.M. Kaye so that I will finish it by June 25, when Book Club #1 is meeting to discuss it. The book is a mere 955 pages long. However, I could not resist reading Magnificent Corpses, a book about one woman’s travels to 22 cities in Europe to view saintly relics. As noted in my previous post about my visit to the St. Francis Xavier Cabrini shrine, this was right up my ghoulish alley. Plus, I figured I could learn some great places to go when I hit Rome in two weeks with Dr. P and Future Dr. H.

The book was 90% highly entertaining, 10% extremely annoying. The author, Anneli Rufus, spends too much time mocking people and places around the church. Sometimes she was just too mean. (Hard to believe I am saying this, right?) Mostly I just didn’t care and wanted to get to the goods (the saints). Also, she used too many fucking similes, which began to drive me insane. Rufus did get some major bons mots in, though. To wit:

  • Example 1: “Three Italian pilgrims… are taking turns posing in front of it for photographs. Standing before the glass that shields Thomas’s fingerbone and a thorn from the Passion and splinters of the True Cross, they grimace, unsure what expression is appropriate. They are happy to be there… Yet they know it might not be right to smile next to nails that pierced Christ.”
  • Example 2: Set in a will on the waxwork’s left is a niche. Mounted within… is what appears to be the detached head and shoulders of a corpse… Swathed in a cowl, the taut-skinned head tilts as if listening lightly to music… Its cheeks and chin are gaunt but well-defined, its lips partly ajar, half-smiling with eyes closed as if to say Oh well, I’m dead. It must be awkward, though, to cut a body just below the shoulders.
  • Example 3: Some devotees say that God chose to render Germaine’s body incorrupt in order to teach a lesson that ugly girls are really beautiful inside. If any country needs to learn this lesson, it is France.

Yes, mere snippets of the great snarkiness that is contained in this book. Others involved describing preserved body parts (hearts, tongues, etc.) as resembling sausage patties, puppy chow, or “a small exotic cactus.” At any rate, this book passed the time on the plan and if you are a horrible, sacrilegious, bad person like me, you would probably derive much pleasure from it as well.

I arrived in San Diego around 9:45 and was at my hotel by 10:30. Unfortunately, checkc in time was not until 4 pm. I dumped my stuff off and grabbed a cab to the zoo and Balboa Park. I am sorry, but I will never complain about the price cabs in NYC again after this little jaunt. The ride was maybe 15 or 20 minutes, but the fare (including tip) ran me $24 there, and $30 to get back (slightly more traffic). What kind of criminal enterprise is this?!?!

I did have a great time, though. The zoo is awesome. I saw a hippopotamus (one of the most dangerous animal in the world, responsible for more deaths in Africa than any other animal; seriously) up close as it sat in its pool next to the Plexiglas viewing area. I believe it was a female, and seeing it made me feel better about my whiskers. Damn, that thing had course snout hairs! I also particularly enjoyed the elephants. People can stand exhilaratingly close to the pen. The giraffes were also cool, but I’m jaded now because I once was given a behind the scenes tour of a zoo in Boston by a friend’s wife, and I actually pet a giraffe. (I’ll post pictures when I get home at the end of the week.) The koalas and pandas also rocked.

I will say that zoos are a tad less fun when you are by yourself. The main problem is that when I said things like, “What a cute meerkat!,” I was talking to myself. The slightly smaller problem is that no one seems to go to zoos by themselves, and I was slightly regarded with suspicion. Commenting out loud about the animals did not help. At all. (Side note: I did not understand why a child’s meal that came with burger/cheeseburger/chicken fingers, animal crackers, raisins, potato chips, and a small carbonated beverage in a souvenir cup, all in a souvenir bucket, cost $6.95 while a regular burger with fries cost $7.75. After paying $22 to get into the park, that seemed like an absurdly good deal. I enjoyed it immensely!)

I wandered the zoo for a little over four hours and as I was leaving, realized that I should have put on sunscreen. Ooops. By that point, it was late afternoon and too late, so I wandered over to the amazing, stunning, and beautiful Balboa Park. There was a big Earth Day celebration taking place, with dozens of vendors/special interest groups. I figure the entire liberal population of San Diego must have been there. As I explored the park and the festival, I discovered that the San Diego Model Railroad Museum is in Balboa Park. I could not resist checking it out before I headed back to the hotel.

Thanks to Earth Day, admission to the museum was free. There were four huge historic model railroads on display. It was pretty damn cool. It reminded me of the giant model railroad at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. They also had an interesting little exhibit/sidebar on the role of women in the railroad industry with some cool pictures from World War II. As for the gift shop, I was a bit disappointed. They had some cool shit, but the one thing I totally loved – a reprint of a Barnum & Bailey Circus poster boasting how many cars were on their trains – was $40. I also considered buying Husband an expired RR bond as a small part of his 30th birthday gift, but decided that it was not clever enough as part of a gift to warrant $15.

I arrived back at my hotel and checked into my room at 4:30, and now I await the arrival of my coworkers. I hope we go to the Gaslight District for dinner. One thing is for certain: I will sleep hard tonight.