When toddlers attack

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Signs and portents

Does it augur ill or well if the sun is eclipsed while you're in Babies R Us?

I didn't hear anything about the annular eclipse that swept across much of the US and Asia until Saturday.  It was only 85 percent coverage in Los Angeles, but in California's far north, up around Mount Shasta, it was spot-on in the center of the sun.  I've never seen a near-total eclipse, and we would have gone up for the weekend if we'd known, but the news media here were too busy reporting about Kim Kardashian's latest case of crabs... or whatever it is that has everyone abuzzabuzzabuzz... to let me know I was about to miss my only chance at seeing an eclipse of that magnitude in my lifetime.  You know, without flying to Kiribati or Ouagadougou or something.
Can't see sh*t.  Maybe it's because I'm looking at the sun
In fact, I had forgotten completely about the eclipse until a woman asked me in an ethereal tone, just before our spinning class, if I knew there was going to be an annular eclipse that evening.  "You're not supposed to go outside," she said, as if anyone touched by dreaded eclipse rays suddenly would sprout compound eyes like the mad scientist in "The Fly."  "It's bad for your eyes."

"I think what's bad for your eyes is just... looking at the sun," I told her. 

"No, no... it's the eclipse, you can't look at it."  I gave up.
Fun with rubbish
So the eclipse caught us coming out of Babies R Us, where we'd gone searching in vain for microwave sterilizer bags for baby bottles. The sun looked normal if you looked towards it, but the sky was oddly dark considering how high it was in the sky.  We found a cardboard box in the parking lot, dumped a half-eaten hamburger out of it, punched a pinhole in a discarded fruit label, and voila!  Instant observatory!
A demon is eating the sun!
People walked by and around us as we crouched on the pavement, which offended me for two reasons:  one, that the phillistines couldn't take a moment to appreciate the celestial wonders overhead, and two... well, do we look like people who wouldn't rate a second glance crouched near a half-eaten hamburger in a Babies R Us parking lot? 

Meanwhile, over at Marina del Rey on the other side of town, my friend Myles was watching under leaden skies.  Normally at this time of year, anything near the ocean is blanketed under a thick coating of fog.  Sunday was no exception.  I gloated at our good fortune to live on the sunny side of town when Myles sent me a photo of a grey, woolen sky (since he lives overlooking the Marina and I live next to a freeway I have to gloat where I can).  Then the fog thinned just enough for him to snap a direct shot of the eclipse, something we could only see indirectly through the magic of garbage.
Who needs a summer when you have 30 seconds of eclipse?

The last time L.A. witnessed a sorta-kinda-almost-total eclipse was 1992.  No, I don't remember much about that one, either.  The human mind tries to find external signposts that mark major shifts in our lives; I'd like to say that that event ushered me out of my post-college years and into my transcontinental era as a TV reporter.  But I didn't get my first reporting job for another two years after that eclipse, and this one was a pretty flacid fanfare for what's just happened: nothing less than the most significant and welcome change of my life, the birth of my daughters.

So no, I don't know what witnessing an eclipse in the parking lot of a tacky big-box store portends, but I do know where I want to be the next time the moon's shadow cuts a swathe across North America:  traveling to see it with my husband and my girls.  They'll be five, old enough to remember it and that we saw it together.


  1. Not sure if I'm obsessed but does the last pic look like a foetus in the sky? I have seen a total solar eclipse in Australia in 2002... very magical. Def worth a camping trip with your fam. Another great post and Congrats!

  2. "You're not supposed to go outside"?? Ah, how I miss California - the crazies and all!

    Take whatever signs you can get - are you getting ready just to swim over yet?