Friday, July 05, 2013

Day in L.A. Part 2: Ecosystem and Bitty Babies...

After checking out the space shuttle Endeavour, we enjoyed the rest of the California ScienCenter. Will, my 11-year-old, is very much in to ecology, thanks to his 5th grade teacher last year. So we checked out the Ecosystem exhibit, which was quite interesting. For those of you who can't remember back to high school freshman Earth science here is the definition of ecosystem:

So, we examined the sample ecosystems the ScienCenter provided, such as the ocean, desert and arctic.

My Mom and my boys
My Dad was asked to take a photo of a family with an iPad. I could have stepped in and offered to handle the technology, but I was too amused by Xan, 7, coaching grandpa on how to work it.
An ice wall in the arctic ecosystem exhibit. 
There was actually an exhibit called the Rot Room... this pig carcass housed flies and maggots.

The boys were completely fascinated by this display and I had to drag them out of it so we could stop by the Natural History Museum before we left Exposition Park to get some lunch.

Military readers: The L.A. Natural History Museum allows military families to get two adults and two children in to the museum for free... a savings of about $45. Just show your military ID. And there is a lot of great stuff kids love... such as dinosaur poop. Which was the only thing Xan remembered from his visit to the museum when he was 4. Not the dinosaur skeletons, not the stuffed elephants... petrified dinosaur poop. Sadly, I did not get a photo of the dino defecation... all the more reason for you to visit the museum yourself.

One of the things that I found fascinating as a child was Megamouth, a large, rare shark that was caught off of nearby Catalina Island. My kids thought it was cool... and I remember it as being bigger.

Here is proof I was actually there... Usually I am behind the camera.

I have always enjoyed the dioramas of stuffed animals the museum has had on display. Here are a few of my favorites:

One of the halls in the original museum has a domed foyer and this is the stained glass in the ceiling:

My favorite dino, Triceratops (with a T-rex breathing down its neck):

The boys checking out dinosaur howls. Turns out that some of them had anatomy that worked a lot like a trombone.

The museum also featured an "edible garden" with grapes, artichokes, etc. But they had a security guard in it so that you didn't eat anything. That just doesn't seem quite right to me. If you can't eat it, then it is not edible, is it?

With the 20-minute drive to lunch and the hour or so we spent in the Natural History Museum (and we definitely did not have a chance to see everything!), I had some time to get the pig carcass out of my mind before I chowed down. My parents love to eat at The Gumbo Pot in the old L.A. Farmer's Market whenever they are in the city, so we stopped there to eat... and to get my niece birthday presents at the American Girl doll store at the nearby mall, a place I would never otherwise venture in to.

The farmer's market is more than 75 years old and truly started out as a farmer's market before L.A. grew in to the hulking metropolis it is now. From what I have been told, it has not changed much.... relatively speaking.

Once my belly was full, I was much more inclined to stomach the American Girl store. Now, I do not have daughters, nor was a much in to dolls as a child. But I can appreciate the American Girl brand and what they have accomplished from a social scholar/marketing perspective. Any company that can get parents to spend more on doll clothes than they do on their own kid's clothes must be doing something right when it comes to American capitalism.

So, here is the front of this doll business phenomenon... iconic Barbie couldn't even get her store in Shanghai, her only store, to last more than two years. American Girl has 15 stores across the U.S.

Of course, as you would expect, you can buy an American Girl doll that looks like you... or one that you would like to look like, whichever you prefer. This is a step up in diversity from Barbie, where Barbie is blonde with blue eyes. If you want a Barbie that looks like you and you are not blonde and blue-eyed, you'd have to settle for Midge, P.J. or Miko. I was blonde and blue-eyed, so it wasn't until I was in high school where I realized that is might effect the psyches of other girls. Regardless, it has been proven that none of us have Barbie's figure, so, regardless of hair,skin and eye color, Barbie is a fraud.  I am pleased to report that the American Girl dolls are more realistic in their proportions.

Take a look at the photo below. I really want to know what possesses a man to work at the American Girl store. If I hadn't been trying to actively avoid all the pink splashed everywhere, I might have thought to ask him at the time.

Aside from the dolls, accessories and matching girl and doll clothes that cost more than the average trip to the Natural History Museum for a family of four, there are a few attractions that American Girl devotees and their daughters can enjoy WITH their dolls (so if you visit, be sure to bring yours. Unless you are buying another one, then you might want to leave the first one at home, due to jealousy. Or, if it's like buying a second dog, maybe you want to bring your first doll so that you can be sure that the old doll gets along with the new doll. I'm not sure, as I do not have experience with this. Your prerogative, of course.)

First off, if your doll is hurt or sick (such as your brother ripped the head off your doll) you can visit the hospital the moment you walk in the door of the store. No joke, before you really encounter anything else, the Doll Hospital Admissions is front and center was you walk in. I looked for the Doll Ambulance and Doll ObamaCare, but, alas, they were no where to be found. The Doll Nurses (seen behind the desk) were quite friendly, though.

You can also get an official store portrait with your doll. But, first, you want her to look her best, so take her to the Doll Hair Salon for a new 'do.

After your doll is fixed, primped and photographed, you can head to the American Girl Cafe where you can get a table-side booster seat for your doll so she can eat with you. I am not sure what they feed the dolls, but the human cafe menu looked pretty kid-friendly.

The insanity continued upstairs as we encountered the historic dolls, the ones that portray girls' lives at different times in American history. This is the area I actually found interesting. Educational dolls. Sweet. Hopefully these will help girls score higher on history tests. But, since Mattel (owner of the Barbie brand) has purchased the company, education has gone out the window.

As any good marketing professional will tell you, promotions that encourage repeat purchases are essential. American Girl excels in this area. Every year a new girl is created and promoted. You can only buy her in the year she is introduced. She comes with accessories, books, movies and a coupon for a discounted tattoo of her face. Just kidding about the tattoo, but I betcha someone has an American Girl tattooed on them somewhere. Someone in Louisiana, is my guess.

Saige is the girl for 2013 and, as signs around the store explained, you can only buy three of of these $189 dolls per household. I did not purchase three, or even one, but I did make my sons take a photo with her in her hot air balloon so they could show it to their three female cousins in Illinois who, last I heard, were big American Girl fans. The boys made me promise I would not post the photo on Facebook. This is not Facebook so I have kept my promise. Ha!

Apparently this annual doll thing has been a tradition since 2003. Here are all of the annual dolls you can no longer buy new:

Of course, every American Girl starts out as a baby, so there are Bitty Babies to collect, as well. This is the type of doll my almost-3-year-old niece, Cheyenne has.

My father's comment when we got this far in to the store: "It's like a cult, isn't it?"

Mmm... I'm not sure. I have not joined a cult yet, so I have nothing to compare. I reserve judgement but my instincts are leaning toward "yes."

Of course, if one Bitty Baby at a time isn't enough for you, you can get Bitty Twins. These were the only boy dolls I saw in the whole place. I did not see any named Ken, though.

After making the necessary birthday gift purchases for Cheyenne, my family drove back home to Orange County, where, in about 28 hours I would discover that I was not going home to Japan as planned...

No comments: