Atlas Obscura is coming to our store October 4, upon the happy occasion of the publishment of their book. I am obsessed. We will have not one but two posts focused on this illuminating, often uncanny, delight. Here is post 1. And please note the end of this post for our very first ever Dwarf+Giant… activity.
The amazing new book Atlas Obscura could just sit on your coffee table – it is a handsome object – BUT… it will call to you.
It is like the sailor stories that used to entice youth across the seas; a recruitment poster or a siren song; the call of the wild, like standing in the middle of your half-plowed acres and being buzzed by the first biplane you’ve ever seen, that silk scarf flapping behind like a beckoning finger; coming back to your moisture farm to find the charred remains of your aunt and uncle. Fuck it; I’m outta here.
Yes, I felt that deep, inevitable tug down in the steel of my guts, flipping thru the pages of Atlas Obscura, there on the porcelain throne. Go. Move. Engage.
But I didn’t want to go too far, on account of having to work and water my philodendron. I looked up what we had in Los Angeles. Club 33 – meh, too exclusive. Museum of Death – gross. Ahh… page 281, The Museum of Jurassic Technology…
[zooms in on map]
I had a helluva time getting to Culver City and finding parking (Trader Joe’s – 1 hour free), and going anywhere on the west side counts as travel for anyone based on the east side, but in the middle of the afternoon, heading west, it wasn’t too bad. (Going home would be hell, especially after the Black Lodge-type experience of the museum – but whatever followed me out of that place surely gave up when they saw I was going west on the 10 at around 5 o’clock.)
It’s hard to describe what happened to me in the MJT, and you can’t take photos inside, but even marginal adventurers, like myself, take notes and make sketches. I display herein the record of my excursion; it shall speak for itself. I have to admit that looking back over these notes now, I cannot remember all of it, and cannot explain half of what I do remember – but they are an honest record, embellished not at all. I would not go back alone. I would not go back
EXCEPT that I wish I would have bought one of the coffee mugs, as I am a bit of a collector.
(Even if you do not find these notes enlightening or even rational, please don’t forget to look at the special challenge issued at the bottom of this post.)
The unreality of the place hit me immediately, and I never really got my feet planted.
The MJT is hard to describe. It is a collection of items and exhibits from the liminal spaces of history and the sciences, very possibly an intruding bubble from an alternate timeline.
Late & I had to return to find my [parking] ticket lest I pay more than necessary – so I stumble into this jangle of lies & madness already in a fury.
The lounge in the Cosmodog room is creaky and stained. The portraits of 5 Cosmodogs hang on the walls. Calling someone a hero does not make it ok to kill them usually – even dogs – especially dogs. Russians can be evil. Do not trust them, if you are a dog.
A lesser known colleage [sic] of Laika
Fed (sic) 22, 1966
A casual woman (Russian?!) came downstairs exactly as I took a cookie, in the vaulted upstairs room.
“Would you like tea?” GENIUS
“Yes, please” I answered. Cookie was everywhere.
Gerard’s “The Herbal” hid behind what I thought was a pillar, but was really a small obelisk
(Later, the Russian sat here with a book, “reading”)
I retreated to the rooftop Aviarium, hoping the “diamond doves” would still my nerves.
But this place too was full of things I could not draw.
14 birds, plus one hiding, plus me, plus two humans having a “date”, I suppose.
We sat on Roman chairs like this
When I’d had enough, and drank the Russian’s tea to no immediate ill effect (time would tell), I descended.
DREAMS OF EARTH & SKY
The Ecstatic Journey of Konstantin Tsiolkovsky
This idiot. After a toboggan accident as a child he started reading BOOKS. This led him to believe that we should all be out exploring the cosmos (space) and greatly influenced Romanians, Americans and (later) Russians. He wrote about rockets, philosophy and so on. They said he was crazy at first. But ended up giving him a pension! Hated dogs.
This is his dumb rocket.
(furniture – in a rocket?!)
(cryo chambers maybe)
(olive oil? or power source)
I’m not sure all of these exhibits are even “on”.
Stay away from the cats [sic] cradle room, if you value your sanity.
There is choral music everywhere, in a foreign tongue. One guess.
You really can’t get away from the voices either.
Now, I’m hearing English & German – blessed relief – though I do not understand what they are talking about: “OBLISCENCE – Theory of Forgetting & the Problem of Matter” From someone called Geoffrey Sonnabend.
Oh – now I understand.
(Cone of Awareness)
explains even deja vu or premonitions (pre-remembering)
The collection of pipes is the best – though not the largest – I have seen. (From the Spence collection)
(approx 1 3/4″) (Dog Pipe) (pretty well worn, ie chewed)
There is an entire small room full of the original letters – handwritten or typewritten – from enthusiastic fools with their own thoughts and – one imagines – “insightful” questions about astronomy. They seem to all be Americans. One is written on the stationary [sic] of the New Hotel Rosslyn & Annex, in downtown Los Angeles, which according to the stationary’s [sic] header – are connected “By marble subway under Fifth Street.” I didn’t know that, and I have walked by the very spot upon many ocassions [sic].
This is its [the museum’s] symbol
Drawn by not looking much
Now with looking
It feels like someone is following me or in front of me
There is near this room, the tiniest projector of film I have ever seen, perhaps 2″x 4″, black and white.
There be a wall-full of antlers, the purpose of which I cannot discern. Perhaps just a good spot.
A Magnetic Oracle
Drawn instinctually, while barely looking and confronting a bout of the lazidoms.
Spheres, crystal in appearance or perhaps aquatic in nature neath a pyramid of brass and a banner athwart it. – each orb hath a humanoform, floating in it.
Past the oracle is the Bell Room; my favorite exhibit that is also maddening. Many of Pepper’s Ghosts are here, w/ pyramids of the southern type, Turris Babel, volcanos, Lotuses a bell wheel that will push you to the edge.
More people on a “date”.
Facing, a Tower of Babel that – oddly – stretches up from the Arctic Circle:
[the languages on the tower’s flags]
(Greek) (Persian or Arabic)
(Egyptian – or shorthand) (Hebrew again)
I must leave this place soon.
Here is a tiny secret garden, I wish I was in.
But around it are trailers, as are often towed behind trucks or might possibly be a kind of truck itself.
This is the limit.
I am not sure I can find the exit, but I must begin my search or abandon all hope.
It’s hard to write in this little book in the dark.
Succor. I have found a library. Here will I mend my torn psyche.
History, science of all types, music, Dictionaries.
There are a lot of books about Napolean. [sic] Ah, and a bust of him, young, I believe.
My first thought when I saw it was that it was of Sir Arthur Wellesley, [1st] Duke of Wellington, with whom I share a birthday.
This gives me courage. It will be a near run thing, but I will be victorious. Onward.
There are two dead mice on toast, next to a mice pie.
I hear a coyote on its mettle against a long dead foe.
the Prussians are coming, and they are never late.
There was a hallway barred. The sign said “Rotten Luck”
But I seem to have stumbled into the back way to that exhibit: luck charms & folk cures and superstitions of all types, usually involving the maiming of animals (esp. rabbits). (and mice.)
“One wishing ill to a bridegroom stands behind the happy man, and, holding an open pair of scissors calls his name. If the groom turns to answer, the scissors are snapped shut, whereupon the bridegroom is rendered…
…incapable of consummating the marriage”.
This is the evilest pair of scissors I have ever seen, and I shall not draw them.
“A woman after childbirth is the most dangerous thing on earth. All sorts of uncanny things are around the mother and infant, and if she goes to a river to wash, the fish will go away.”
Since when? I don’t remember this?
Art! Seen only thru a microscope!
I did make it out. I backed out, finding myself in the gift shoppe. I bought this:
Now, an Atlas Obscura-style quest for you, dear reader:
If you are the first person to find this item, a symbol of The Museum of Jurassic Technology, hidden somewhere in the Last Bookstore, take it, it’s yours. If you Instagram it in its location and tag both lastbookstorela & dwarfandgiant on IG, we will do a short blog interview with you (nothing weird, just about your fave books, reading habits, maybe a shelfie of your book collection, etc) & give you a $20 gift card. Yes: $20 gc, fridge magnet and 30 seconds of blog fame – all for wandering through the store w/ a sharp eye.
– It will not be in any restricted area. Do not go into any restricted area. Security will drag you out of any restricted area by your belt loops and/or earlobes.
– It will not be under or behind any books, so please don’t ransack our shelves.
– It will not be on, in, under, on top of, or attached to any of our installation art in any way shape or form.
– It WILL be in plain sight and easily accessible. You will not need spelunking, climbing, x-ray imaging or deepsea diving gear. Seriously. It’s just a cool little magnet, and this is just a fun way to explore the store and have a mildly amusing adventure. Have fun; don’t be a nutball.
– There is only one Item, so of winners THERE CAN BE ONLY ONE.
So, that was my Atlas Obscura adventure. I still don’t know what to make of it, but if an experience is easily digested, maybe it wasn’t worth the effort. If you’re looking for a little more out of your excursions than just air-conditioned shopping or being fed by strangers off a menu – Atlas Obscura will keep you busy – and maybe a touch unsettled – for a very long time.