Saturday, March 12, 2011

Hollywood Fete a Tete: Ripley's Believe it or Not... Birthday!

It's our son's 12th birthday and I was a little worried about it.

We had loosely planned a day at Hollywood's Ripley's Believe it or Not! Museum. Two days before the day, I checked out  a review on Yahoo! and it said it was "boring". Wow. No parent wants to label their child's birthday as "boring".  My son isn't the jock type with lots of friends or the super student with tons of As to impress other children. He's sorta in between. I know he's secretly brilliant, he just hasn't decided to show it yet. I also know he's super athletic, but nature is taking its time. Meanwhile, my chess-loving, book-loving, Harry Potter fanatic son is looking forward to a great birthday weekend his mother planned...which is now in danger of being "boring". He's in sixth grade. You see the problem?


I had a secret meeting with my husband at some time between dinner and midnight, and we had made tentative Plan Bs... a trip inside the Capitol Records building which my husband might be able to make happen... a walk down the Hollywood strip (yes, I was desperate, sorry...)... or I would push for a fancy (yikes! throwing money at the problem!) restaurant in Hollywood.

We set out, teetering in our new/old white van and followed by our very old Nissan Maxima. When we arrived, I was grateful for my husband's fluid handling of Hollywood. Since he works there, the traipsing transvestites, which I hoped the boys missed --- they did --- and the interesting store window displays, which I hoped the boys would ignore --- they didn't ... "eww!"  "eww!" "eww!" --- he manuevered as well as he could, with a trail of children and a slightly desperate wife-caboose. I was convinced there were child-snatchers everywhere. Why did I create this event? Potentially dangerous. And worse, possibly BORING.

We finally arrived at Ripley's. The attendant was kind, helpful and informative. I was impressed because I had been convinced there was a street wise hooker outside checking out my daughter. He was so nice he made me forget the dubious surroundings.

There IS a gift shop. Stupid Yahoo! reviewer, I said mentally. Not much, but there is a gift shop.( I've developed this habit over the last two birthdays of eschewing birthday bags of junk and funk to carefully selecting a momento --- cough, inexpensive --- to purchase for our guests). He offered his 2 for $5 books. Then he offered his $2.00 Visitor Guides. Perfect! I snatched up eight of them. I was so tickled I didn't mind the extra money.

We entered the museum. Fearing BORING, I stood at each doorway passage inbetween sections, determined to make sure that the children would see every SINGLE ONE of the interesting displays. It looked like a short visit, so I was panicked.

I was grateful for the gross human hair bikini and the gruesome human skull cup which had once been filled with a mixture of blood and wine. Twelve year old boys love this stuff. I made them read walls. "What's that? What's that over there?". By the third stoppage, I was thrilled: shrunken heads, eyes that pop out of a skull, spiderweb paintings, toothpick bridges, scultptures of money... things that tickle a young man's funny bone.  There was even a tiny theatre and a movie midway to watch about weird stories. In our modern electronic age, this was a neat trick for the public. I was beginning to relax.

There was an awkward stop at a surprisingly scary section of "wax"? figures with stabbing pipes and swords through their skulls and chests to illustrate surprising survival stories. The museum added wind and rain sound effects and gravestones and it was quite chilling to one of our guests who I swiftly walked through the display. I wished the management had given me a little warning. My third grade daughter was just old enough to check out the horrific displays without too much of squabble but I worry about parents of younger children. Avoid that section if you've got one of those.

The whole tour ended at a Love Chair (are you cute? hot? sexy?) which caused some jokes for the boys. I made them pose in it. There was also a wild "star room"? We don't know what it was about, but you walked across the bridge in the dark and the stars spun around. You felt like you were being spun, not the room. An optical illusion, I think.

We ended our afternoon with lunch at Juicy Burger, a very clean, quick joint. It was perfect for a group of kids. The kids ordered their meals via a check out form, and my husband took the form up to the counter. He didn't take the kids. He also wisely said: don't order fries. He ordered "three fries" and these HUGE containers were more than enough for our group of 10. The meal was about $100 for 10 people, which isn't bad considering it's Hollywood.

We headed home and our son said the best words a parent could hope to hear: "Mom, this was the best birthday EVER".

Whew. All I wanted was "not boring." 
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