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The Predator, the Prey, and the Protector (22nd Installment)

December 20, 2018 08:31PM
Sorry it's taken so long. Without going into details, real life has been intrusive. And I've had other writing commitments to meet. And, to be honest, I've been a bit blocked on this one, but the logjam seems to have broken, at least to a degree.


The trip from the Grand Canyon to Los Angeles, mostly on what Michael called “I-40” and “I-15” (which, Jane gathered, were what the multi-laned roads were called) took six or seven hours. They booked a couple of rooms at a motel that, he said, was about half-way between the two places he wanted her to see.

They were up early the next day, not even eating breakfast.

“We’ll have a good, leisurely breakfast when we get there,” said Michael. “Right now our top priority is avoiding the rush hour.”

They didn’t quite avoid rush hour, which Jane understood to mean the great crush of cars carrying people going from home to work in the morning, but they did bypass enough of it to arrive at about 8:30. They broke their fast at the Café Sierra, a restaurant located in a large hotel owned, Michael said, by a family named Hilton. The place was comparatively expensive but was what Ada called an “all you can eat buffet.” Jane found that she was quite hungry and enjoyed a heaping serving of bacon, sausage, and what Michael called “scrambled eggs,” along with a tall glass of orange juice (to which she was becoming quite addicted).

They took their time enjoying the leisurely meal. Michael, determined to get his money’s worth, went back for seconds and thirds, Jane asked questions about the area. Michael, whose mother was from California, and who had lived in the state in his early childhood while his father was still in the Navy, answered them all quite comprehensively.

When they were done, they went to a huge complex that Michael called the Universal Studios.

“Universal’s one of the biggest movie-making companies in the world,” he said. “And one of the oldest. And they give tours of the place.”

“What is a ‘studio,’ Michael? In this context, I mean.”

“The place where they make the movies. Here’s where they have sound stages, and make-believe streets, make-believe jungles, and all sorts of places that a given movie’s crew members can make look like whatever they want. Remember I said how that movie we saw the other night, Edge of Eternity, was filmed on location, which was unusual? Well, location filming isn’t as unusual now, but most movies are still made in studios. It’s usually cheaper, and less trouble, to mock up a location then to go to the actual place. They also give public tours, so this is a way you can get to see how movies are made.”

California had existed under five different flags, the Spanish, the Mexican, the Russian, the independent Republic of California (though that was more a wish than an accomplishment), and the United States. If it had actually managed to attain independent nationhood, its economy would be the fifth largest in the world, all by itself. And it would be a very populous country as well. Nearly 40 million people lived in California. The major industry, surprisingly, was agriculture, though entertainment and tourism also ranked high.

At around 9:30 they left and headed to the public entrance of Universal Studios, where, after entering, they were all seated in what looked rather like a train, but was, apparently, several open air trailers with seats pulled by a large car (Michael said it was more of a truck) through the various places they would see.

First they went past a long series of what the guide called “movie posters,” advertisements for the many films that had been released by Universal over more than a century in business. Then past the exteriors of many “sound stages,” office buildings, etc.

The first of what Michael called “ride attractions” was a long tunnel. Just before entering, they were asked to put on a pair of goggles that, apparently, enhanced the experience. Once inside they witnessed what seemed to be a fight between a giant, ferocious chimpanzee and a gigantic lizard of some kind.

“This is merely a movie, isn’t it, Michael?”

“A sort of movie, yes.”

“Are the animals real?”

“They’re created by a type of animation. Real gorillas don’t grow as big T-rexes.”

“Gorillas? T-rexes?”

“That’s right. They haven’t yet been discovered in your time. Gorillas are a type of giant ape, similar to chimpanzees, which they have discovered in your time. Maybe you’ve seen illustrations?”

“I have.”

“Gorillas are much bigger, but they generally avoid humans. No way a human could stand up to ‘em, at least an unarmed human, but they’re mostly vegetarians, so if you leave ‘em alone, they’ll leave you alone. But they don’t grow nearly as big as King Kong up there. The other animal, the tyrannosaurus rex, is a dinosaur, an animal that existed on earth before the dawn of recorded history. They died out well before humans ever appeared on the scene.”

“Died out?”

“Became extinct. In your time, the fact that they ever existed won’t be discovered for another six or seven years. It’ll be British scientists that suss ‘em out, though. A married couple. the Mantells, are going to discover a huge jawbone that’s initially believed to be part of a giant iguana. He was a physician and a geologist, and she assisted him in his work. More fossils will be found, and scientists will extrapolate, from the skeletons that are put together, that these animals seemed to be reptilian. So they coined the term ‘dinosaur,’ from the ancient Greek words, ‘deinos,’ for ‘fearsomely great’ and ‘sauros’ for ‘lizard.’ Hence, essentially, ‘giant lizard.’”

“You know a lot about them.”

“Most boys in my time go through a period in which they’re intensely interested in dinosaurs. That’s why there’s so many movies about dinosaurs who’ve somehow survived into the current era.”

Soon they were going through an exterior “set” where an artificial rainstorm was created. In another interior set, they were treated to an artificial earthquake. In still another, they were attacked by a giant shark on an artificial island called Amity. Jane, at first, was very scared ‘til Michael assured her it was just a machine controlled by the filmmakers. The tour ended with what Michael called a “car chase” in which the train appeared to be part of the pursuit. It was rather convincing, but Michael assured her it was all part of the show.

They spent the rest of the day riding on some of the attractions, seeing a special effects performance, watching an animal show, and finally, and this was Michael’s favorite part, going through the film museum.

Jane was rather taken with a portion of the public park devoted to a character named Harry Potter, a young schoolboy, who was also a wizard. Michael bought a DVD of the first movie, and a copy of the first book, to feature the character, both titled Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.

Finally, after a long, and enjoyable day, they returned to their motel rooms, where they ordered a pizza to be delivered, and watched the movie Michael had bought.


The next morning, they were again up early. This time they headed south.

“You remember those two Beauty and the Beast movies?” asked Michael.

“Oh, yes,” said Jane. “They were delightful.”

“Well, the studio that made them is called Disney, for the founder, Walt Disney. He started out specializing in animation, but branched out to live-action and television. Back in the 1950’s, he built what they called at the time an ‘amusement park.’ Only this one was bigger and better than any that had ever been built before. It revolutionized the whole concept of what an amusement park could be. He had actors in the park playing the characters from his cartoons. He had rides. He had shows. He had restaurants. By the time he passed, ten years later, it was one of the most popular tourist attractions in the entire world.”

“And this is where we’re going today.”

“Sure is.”


On the drive down to a place called Anaheim, Michael talked some more about the history of the park.

“It’s divided, basically, into five ‘sub-lands.’ Fantasyland, where all the cartoon and fairy tale rides and attractions are; Adventureland representing stories of derring-do involving things like pirates and explorers; Frontierland, celebrating America’s frontier heritage; Tomorrowland, which looks toward the future and suggests what changes progress might bring; and Main Street, representing everybody’s own home town. It might remind you a bit of Meryton.”

Upon arrival, they paid an admission fee which allowed them access to most rides and attractions anywhere in the park. Michael led them directly to Fantasyland, where they had breakfast at a place called the Red Rose Café.

“Why this looks like the tavern from Beauty and the Beast,” said Jane.

“That’s why Mike thought you might like eating breakfast here,” said Ada.

After a hearty breakfast, they began their tour of the park. They started out on what Michael called a merry-go-round but Jane called a carousel (“Same difference,” Michael insisted), with a King Arthur theme. Then a ride on moving teacups, and interactions with beautiful young girls dressed as Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Belle, and the Little Mermaid.

In Adventureland, they went on a ride that depicted a pirate raid on an Island settlement, went on a wild adventure with an adventurous gentleman named “Indiana Jones,” took a cruise through a jungle, and visited the treehouse of a British viscount raised by apes named Tarzan.

In Frontierland, they took a ride on a western-era train, a cruise on a riverboat, and watched as Michael showed off his marksmanship skills at a shooting gallery.

In Tomorrowland, they watched young children pretending to be trained as futuristic warriors called “Jedis”; rode what Michael referred to as a “roller coaster” called Space Mountain, that simulated a trip through outer space; and took another trip through space during an interstellar battle alongside a futuristic policeman named Buzz Lightyear.

Along the way, they had a hearty lunch at a place called the Hungry Bear Restaurant, and an even heartier dinner at yet another restaurant in the park called the Catel Restaurant.

By the time they got back to their motel that evening, Jane was exhausted, but, nevertheless, managed to stay awake to watch a DVD of what Michael said was Disney’s first “animated feature,” Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.


The next morning they got another early start and began heading north along a road that Michael called the Pacific Coast Highway.

“The PCH is only a two-lane road most of the way,” he said, “so it’ll take longer to get where we’re going, maybe eight to ten hours instead of six,” but it’s a much prettier drive.”

“Where are we going, Michael.”

“One of my favorite cities. San Francisco.”


They arrived after dark and went straight to a hotel where, as usual, Michael had arranged for rooms ahead of time.

They ate dinner in their rooms, and, all three very tired after the long drive, turned in early.

Over the next few days, Michael took them all over the City, and the surrounding region, which he referred to as the “Bay Area.”

“The San Francisco Bay is one of the largest natural harbors in the entire world. There are nine counties that abut the Bay, and those nine counties are collectively known as the Bay Area. Over a hundred incorporated municipalities. Nearly seven and half million people. Big cities. Suburbs. Rural, agricultural areas. And just plain wilderness. The Bay Area has it all.”

Being a coastal city with such a large natural harbor, the Navy had a large presence here. Michael had lived here for several years during his youth when his father had been a Naval officer, and later, after his father’s military service was completed, as an officer in the Merchant Marine, so Michael was particularly familiar with the area.

“I was born in Maryland, when dad was stationed at NAS Patuxent. But then he was transferred out here to Alameda NAS, which is an island in the Bay, closer to Oakland side, than to the San Francisco side, but we made it over here to the City quite often when I was a kid.”

Over the next few days, he showed them the Golden Gate Park, the Golden Gate Bridge, Coit Tower, a winery in Napa County, the towering redwoods in Sonoma County, and dozens of other sites. In the evenings they watched movies set in the City and its surrounding area, like Flower Drum Song, Bullitt, Dirty Harry, Vertigo, and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.

After several days, Michael drove them over to Oakland, turned in his rental car at a train station there, and announced that they were boarding a train that would take them to a city in the central part of the country called Chicago. From there, after a short stay, they would take another train to the biggest city in the country, New York.


The Predator, the Prey, and the Protector (22nd Installment)

Jim D.December 20, 2018 08:31PM

Re: The Predator, the Prey, and the Protector (22nd Installment)

Shannon KDecember 21, 2018 02:08AM


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