All Hail, Reagan!
Chronicling my holiday trip to California, Ch. 5
previously on posts by gina:
Am I missing something? It definitely feels like it. There’s a noticeable gap in the way my parents treat me compared to the way they treat my brother. There’s a noticeable gap in connection. I can’t quite put my finger on it but… is this what being out of the loop feels like? Is this what happens when you leave home after high school and your brother stays put?
Let me clarify something before I continue. I am grateful for the opportunity to visit with family. I haven’t seen my parents in four years, and my brother in five. We were never very good at keeping in touch because of the distance and time difference between Japan and the East Coast (but I’m starting to think that was more an excuse than an actual barrier; and we were just that terrible at keeping touch). My parents bought my plane ticket to visit them, which I’m thankful for; and they continue to support me, albeit in a very hands-off way.
Despite not doing what I thought would be interesting, even after being asked about it, the trip wasn’t completely uneventful. My parents did take us to a few places. And there was dad being himself.
The Mecca of white conservatism
The first full day our visit, my parents took us to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, or what I like to call the Mecca of white conservatism. The snaking road — 40 Presidential Drive, named for Reagan’s service as the 40th president — takes you right up to the top of a hill. Isolated, like a beacon unto the world, exuding hope and nostalgia of a bygone era.
The car parked, we head over to the entrance and get our passes. Three adults, one senior. (Mom has graying hair, which I’m guessing is where the confusion was. Either way, that’s pretty messed up, Library staff.) At the first statue of Reagan, mom thrusts her camera out like a gunslinger. “Let’s take a picture!”
My brother obliges. I can’t tell if he’s embarrassed or if he’s really into this. That’s the thing with my brother, I learned. You can’t quite tell what the hell he’s thinking, but you know he’s thinking about something.
I politely decline getting my picture taken next to bronze Reagan. “No one will believe you were here!” quips dad. Nah, I’m pretty sure they will. Plus I’ll have other photos of the library to show as proof, if needed.
And the gun slinging camera frenzy repeats itself with every statue and overblown image of the king. I decline every request. My brother heartily gets in the frame. He even got on a half horse next to a magnificent image of horseback-riding Reagan. So majestic.
At the time of our visit, the library was running a special virtual reality exhibit. (I didn’t check if this was a limited run, so for all I know it’s been here a while.)
We make our way into the sci-fi area — I forgot how much of a sci-fi fan Reagan was. It’s kind of cool. It’s not Air & Space Museum quality cool, but more like a small, pop-up exhibit that might exist in one of its wings. It had a noticeable “basement” or “attic” feel to it, as though you were rummaging through your quirky uncle’s possessions of random electronics from years ago and fading sci-fi movie posters.
There were clusters of panels, similar to a school science show. There was a magnetic sand and imaging booth, where you can control the overlaid terrain map by digging around in the sand. You can also make it rain by holding your hands open about six inches from the surface. That was cool. But doesn’t hold attention very long though.
The rest of the space had your timeline series: lifetime of the mobile phone (Blackberries are a relic now!); lifetime of the computer chip (amazing how the huge processor is now the size of a dime, or something). There was also a life-size model of the Alien. Movie posters from as early as the 1950s (possibly earlier) were hanging or plastered on walls illustrating how some tools and equipment were used, such as a satellite in The Martian. Speaking of which, they had a dune buggy display, too, that explained what surface conditions are like on Mars and what travel is like a la The Martian.
Once we finish the first bit to the VR exhibit. I can’t remember if it cost anything extra to use the VR headsets but I remember my brother and I skipped the VR. A lot of kids were waiting in line. A little girl, who appeared mildly interested, was being talked down to by a woman I presume is her mother. That tone. That condescending tone. I felt bad for the girl.
We leave the science hall and make our way through the rest of the library.
A beacon in troubled times
I’ve never been to a library or museum dedicated solely to a single person. (I don’t remember going to one, anyway. Definitely never been to a presidential library until now.) Sure, I’ve been to the Lincoln Memorial, Jefferson, Dr. king, etc. But those are singular pieces. Commemorative. Other museums with exhibits about these men and other people are usually displayed within the context of a historical moment, such as the Civil War or the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. The structure is built around the moment or movement.
This library (and all presidential libraries, I was told) twists it. The structure is built around the person. The whole place is an unceasing stream of overly high praise. Reagan, when you read the placards, faced tough times but he overcame them all. He could do no wrong. He also fought communism, dammit. That alone should be enough for everyone to love and adore him.
The communism section was way over the top. But they had really cool poster replicas.
Christmas trees and things
What more is there to say, other than that my parents were insistent on getting a family photo in front of the “American” tree.
I’m too awkward for photos. Especially with family.
The trees representing the countries Reagan visited were interesting, though I noticed that many of them just looked the same. The Korea and Japan trees were near identical except for a few noticeable details of some ornaments. Many of the Europe trees were indistinguishable from one another.
There was Air Force One. Photo. Marine One. Photo. Another Reagan statue, photo. Half a horse? Photo.
At least the view was nice
Although interesting and (maybe) worth checking off that “tourist list,” I didn’t care much for the library. I don’t care much for Reagan and his politics. But the view of Simi Valley was beautiful, even with some overcast.
There’s something to be said for California’s landscape, even if it looks bland and desert-like. The patches of green squares among the dry and tan squares checkered the view. I was mesmerized. And I kept thinking about water and irrigation. And wild fires.
Originally published at ginacairney.com on January 13, 2017.