In 2016, Steve and I headed out to Los Angeles for a family wedding. The wedding, a three-day affair, was huge fun. LA is not, though, one of my favorite places. In fact, I sort of hate it. I have an unreasonable amount of scorn for it for reasons that I can’t quite figure out. I think it has something to do with the shiny, striving, suntanned hustle of the place – anathema to the remote, gray, pale, reserved (ok, snobbish) culture of East Coast cities. That, and the smog which, when I peer out of the airplane window while landing, looks as if it is actually, literally, in-the-moment strangling the trees to death.
So, after the festivities, Steve and I headed to Malibu. We like to try to hit museums when we’re in cities and after Steve’s choice of the Peterson, I wanted to go to the Getty – specifically the Getty Villa. The Getty isn’t without controversy – they’ve had to return art (rightly) to both Greece and Italy and have pieces still that should be repatriated to their home countries, having been acquired either by looting or illegal trafficking. But what remains (and there is a lot of it) is magnificent. I love sculpture and mosaics and Steve, as a history buff, loves the Greek and Roman artifacts. It was the perfect combination.
We spent a glorious day feeling like we’d been transported to Italy. The Villa and its grounds are gorgeous – we arrived early when it was still fairly empty and the effect was of being taken back in time. I easily imagined myself in some distant, ancient Rome, hair piled up and walking regally around my pools and herb gardens, relaxing under grape arbors (which delighted me – reminders of the vines my great-grandfather planted and that still thrive down the hill below my grandparents’ house).
We wandered for hours, ate a leisurely lunch at the very good cafeteria (specializing in Mediterranean food), and then wandered some more, giving up when our knee joints started creaking from so much time on the marble floors. I loved the gardens and the exhibits on the daily household items of women (the combs! the jewelry! the perfume bottles!). Steve loved the mosaics – a special exhibition. They were indeed spectacular – all pastel intricacies gleaming in the museum light. They were remarkably intact and looked as if they’d be crafted yesterday. Our favorites were of animals – bulls and birds and hares and deer and one with dogs that were unmistakably greyhounds. We couldn’t resist a childish exchange over that one (Look! Greyhounds! No, they can’t be. There are no stink lines coming out of their butts!).
The Villa and its collections are easy to photograph. So much cultivated beauty, everywhere. If you are ever in California and looking for a way out of the smog and slick of LA, take yourself over to Malibu and pretend that you’ve opened your extraordinary Villa to the masses, graciously waiting for them to leave so you can sit under the grape arbor and watch the sun set.