Ever-Changing 'Hood: Heat Wave...

In Search of Big Rock in Cooler Climes


We’re having a heat wave… a tropical heat wave...

Well, we are as I’m writing this article in my air-conditioned office, and it’s been baking our world for two weeks now.

It started the day after my birthday with the arrival of my brother and sister-in-law for a week’s visit. They’re from Sacramento, a town known for summer temps of over 100, and even they thought our ‘hood was way hot!  And HUMID!!! Hey, the Valley is a desert!!! Translation: DRY heat. What’s with this humidity? Valley-ites don’t “do”  tropical heat waves.

Changes in the weather alter our ‘hood and our collective “mood.” Fauna are migrating into the hills or into our pools, and our colorful flora is wilting, often turning “tan.”

How do you entertain guests when the temperature is 104? Air-conditioned movies only last a couple of hours. What do you do after that? Walk around the outside mall? Nope, not happening. Swimming in the pool works. We did that – a lot! But, we needed to find new and cooler climes that didn’t include spending hours in air-conditioned local restaurants eating our way to bloated-ness or drinking ourselves into a stupor.

Sometimes you just have to leave the ‘hood. So we planned a staycation day “over-the-hill.” We decided to go in search of Michael Heizer’s 10 million dollar, “Levitated Mass” environmental sculpture – a/k/a “the big rock.”

In our best hot weather explorers’ garb, we levitated into my SUV and trekked into the city hitting LACMA at 11:30 AM. We didn’t know what awaited us in the light of day outside my air-conditioned hybrid, so we grabbed our bottled water (our version of desert canteens) then bravely rode the elevator out of the cool, dark underground parking garage, silently praying that the Valley’s suffocating heat wall hadn’t invaded the city only to blast our faces when the doors opened onto the museum plaza.

We let out a huge sigh of relief when it didn’t. It was warm, but it was dry warm. We had escaped the heat wave. There was even a pleasant breeze. We walked over to and under the rock. It’s big! 680,000 pounds big! And it really was just hanging there over our heads. I mused, “What arrogance to have this kind of display in earthquake country.” Yeh, I know the engineers swear it’s earthquake proof, but isn’t that what they say about the houses that have fallen down mountains during earthquakes? But I digress…

Ever pessimistically optimistic, I walked around it, then strolled down the walkway and stood under the rock as we took the requisite pictures. Thirty seconds later, however, my pessimistic optimism was over after hearing the rumble of a distant truck (we all know that rumbles don’t always mean trucks?). I was out of there! I checked my watch. It was 11:40. My ground-rumbling adrenalin-rush made me warm (but it was a “dry” warm), so since our search for the “Levitated Mass” was officially over, it was time to broaden our search by exploring the beauty and culture inside the air-conditioned museum.

As a member of LACMA for a zillion years, I’ve been inside its walls a zillion times, but like our ‘hood, it’s ever-changing… so, not only was the museum new to my brother and sister-in-law, it was new again to my husband and me.

We explored ancient artifacts (even a mummy) and European paintings from medieval times. We reveled in the works of the Impressionists and Asian artists. I was particularly happy to see the American artists’ exhibit, including Winslow Homer, a personal favorite.

We had a quick bite at the brand new café where we replenished our water bottles, then continued our art safari, ending in the Eli Broad building with its visual and avant garde paintings and sculptures.

It was late afternoon by the time we finished - time to head back to Studio City and a relaxing dip in our pool with a mint julep over crushed ice.

All-in-all, it was a cool day, literally and figuratively. A wonderful, inexpensive staycation day.

Sometimes to experience change, we need to leave our hearth, home and ‘hood.


** Check out the LATimes “Levitated Rock” review:


MickMil August 21, 2012 at 05:10 PM
Good way to deal with the heat. I drive across Sixth St. very often and I've been wondering what that rock was doing just sitting there. Now I know it was put there to make people nervous. I couldn't help but think of James Franco with his hand crushed under the rock in that movie last year. But thanks for enlightening me. I think I'll just keep driving across Sixth!
Ilona Saari August 21, 2012 at 05:23 PM
Nooooo don't, Michael. It is worth the 5-10 minutes to view it up close and personal. Just keep an ear out for ground rumbling.
Richard Camp August 21, 2012 at 06:34 PM
It's a Big Rock. Not really levitated. Supported. A Supported Levitated Mass. Ten million bucks. Hmmm... seriously, if I had ten million bucks, one of the last things I would think to do with it would be "hey, let's move a 340 ton megalith from point A to point B. But I'm not an artist.
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