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Butterflies, Burgers, and Bones: A Day in Exposition Park

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Some mornings, you wake up in a wandering mood: after a strong cup of coffee and a survey of the weather, we decided to peek beyond the veil of the early morning haze and venture southeast. We forsook the freeways for the more scenic route of Sunset Boulevard, through Hollywood east to Western, then south, south, south beyond the 10, through K-town and past endless strip-mall Iglesias de Dios and pupuserias. Wonderful! As we passed through at least six far-flung nation-hoods contained within fifteen or twenty colorful city blocks, I reflected upon the Easterners who imagine Los Angeles to be a bleached-out wasteland of pneumatic blondes walking tiny dogs.

We got to Exposition Park in a reasonable amount of time, and parked without a problem right next to the great classical hall of the Natural History Museum. The museum is full of happy families, and wasn't too crowded even on a sunny holiday weekend. Admission to the Pavilion of Wings exhibit is an extra $3 for adults, $2 for students, and $1 for the kiddies, but it's totally worth it to wander around in a cool, enclosed greenhouse filled to the brim with the floating, radiant little butterflies - some are bright orange, others zebra-striped, others large and pulsating with iridescence, and still others black with neon-blue wingtips. The docents are kind and vigilant about butterfly-safety even among careless kids, and MAN the giftshop is neat.

We spent some time on the main floor of the museum, mostly in the Ancient Latin American Hall - the great towers of Tikal were a familiar sight after our last winter's vacation in the jungles of Mayan Central America. We weren't there two hours before serious tummy-rumbling set in - but the museum cafe? Not so great. We couldn't wait twenty minutes and pay twenty dollars for cafeteria-quality food that had been sitting in fridges or under a hot lamp all day, so we decided that serious eats had to be procured.

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We tried going across the street to USC - we reasoned - "hey, they're students! They need somewhere to eat on campus, even on the weekend." But, being long-time UCLA students, we had forgotten that school was indeed out for summer, and apparently you Trojans don't hang out around campus that much in late May. Huh. Anyway. Ahem. Westwood is great, isn't it?

But don't worry - we soon discovered your secret to reliable holiday eats. We left the campus and drove north on Figueroa - and what did we see rise before us like some tantalizing culinary mirage? FATBURGER! Needless to say, a good juicy burger was a necessity after a hard day of walking around dinosaur bones and fragile insects. We shared a regular Fatburger with cheese, and a Double-Patty Fatburger With Egg, plus an order of fries and a few drinks.

Natural History Museum The museum also has some amazing exhibits of freakin' badass prehistoric creatures like saber-tooth tigers and mammoths and dinosaurs. Those T-Rex skulls were HUGE. The gem collection is even bigger. Many of the exhibits are captioned in English and Spanish. I like to entertain myself by figuring out as much Spanish as I can - and maybe all the other little blonde kids visiting will do the same.

The day wouldn't have been complete without a little Memorial-Day-preparation shopping. We stopped by the BevMo in West Hollywood (cue choir of angels) to pick up a liter of vodka and a couple cheap-but-tasty bottles of wine, plus some low-grade caviar and tiny French crackers. We swung by Amoeba Music so I could pick up the latest Feist and Amy Winehouse albums, and my honey could find an early Mars Volta album and "Threads of Life" by Shadows Fall, which apparently is a very loud metal band that I will have to tolerate for the next few weeks.

We were back at our place by late afternoon, satisfied on all levels - musically, culturally, culinari-li-ly, butterfly-ily, and now, drunkily. Nothing left to do but grill up some weiners and recreate Bobby Flay's Throwdown Nacho Dogs, play some good video games and maybe watch an old movie, and enjoy a cool summer night in a hot summer city.

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Photo by zeetzjones via flickr