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Requiem for a Science Museum

by vmbrasseur on July 31st, 2013

Madagascar Day GeckoSoon after I moved to San Francisco I purchased a basic membership to California Academy of Sciences.

A year later I renewed my membership, but because of my love for the Academy and the work they do I increased my membership to the Friends of the Academy level. If someone’s doing good work, you should do what you can to support it.

That happened to coincide with my leaving my most recent “real” job to work on my own projects. The timing couldn’t have been better. When cooped up at home, researching/thinking/writing your brains out all day, what could be a better escape than a trip to see the fishies at Cal Academy? Sure, I could’ve done the same with a basic membership. But with the Friends membership I knew I was helping them do science to things. And I liked that. I liked that a lot. Yay for science!

Cal Academy Friend ButtonsOver the past year I’ve visited Cal Academy twenty-one times. More than 80% of those visits were me accompanying a friend—mostly from out of town, if not from another country—and his or her kid(s). I’ve honestly lost count of the number of people whom I’ve introduced to the Academy over the past year.

Today, July 31st, my membership expires. I planned in advance and took the day off so I would have plenty of time to visit and say goodbye. I’m grateful that a friend was in town from NYC to accompany me. It turns out I really needed the company. This was a very difficult visit for me and I needed the support (and distraction) of another person. I didn’t get to do everything I’d have liked (no visit to the planetarium for me), but I did get to visit the exhibits which have meaning to me and for that I’m thankful.

Claude the Albino AlligatorI’d drastically underestimated what Cal Academy had come to mean to me over the past year or so. It was freedom. It was escape. On a bad day I could always run to see Claude and his snapping turtle friends, then wander down to The Moss Room for a drink and a bite and a chat with the friendly staff. Problems do not exist when you’re watching the cuttlefish. You cannot remain upset when you have a butterfly on your hand. When a tiger tree snake looks you in the eye, a lot of things come into perspective. There is the “real” world. The world outside. The world of meetings and obligations and concerns and deadlines. And then there is the world of Cal Academy. Snakes and frogs and fishes and stars and the magic of the world.

For many (currently unimportant) reasons, I’m unable to renew my Cal Academy membership. I now know just how much I will miss the place. The peace I found there, despite the throngs of children shouting about how they’d “Found Nemo!1!” at the coral reef. The delight I felt when they released some orb weavers to build their webs in a small area of the rainforest. The wonder the first time the coconut octopus reached back when I touched the glass of its tank.

Thank you, Cal Academy. You’ve been a good and dear friend and will always be close to my heart.

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