Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Snippets #35: August 10, 1985 (first San Diego Comicon trip, part five)

San Diego Day 4

     This was our "day off", and we had a lot of fun. First we all went to eat breakfast at the Executive again, and who should be sitting there at another table but Roz and Jack Kirby. I considered going over to say hello again, but decided that I should let them eat their breakfast in peace.

     After breakfast, we took Alison's car to Balboa Park, which houses lots of attractions including the Museum of Natural History and the San Diego Zoo. The Museum was where Monica Sharp and Dave Garcia had told us there would be a dinosaur exhibit, so I was really psyched to see that first.

     The exhibit was on the second floor of the museum, and it was great! I was in seventh heaven. That had these near life-size replicas of five dinosaurs -- Stegosaurus, Triceratops, Tyrannosaurus Rex, Brontosaurus, and Trachodon -- and one prehistoric mammal, the wooly mammoth. The modeling of these beasts was superb -- they were done in painted latex rubber -- but what was neat was that they were all constructed with computer-controlled motor-driven armatures which made them move around and make animal noises! It was quite something -- the best one, oddly enough, was the Brontosaurus, which didn't make very dramatic moves or noises like the Tyrannosaurus Rex… but it had a way of snaking its long neck (surmounted by its tiny head) over towards you, and kind of looking you in the eye and cocking its head just so and opening its mouth and roaring… Well, you had to be there, I guess. 

     Of course, you can't have a museum like that without a gift shop, and they had two -- the regular one and one set up specially for the dinosaur exhibit. I went crazy in that one -- Kevin said later that he came in and found me wandering about with glassy eyes, stuffing dinosauria into a little shopping basket. I think I spent a total of about $150 on dinosaur stuff there, including t-shirts with dinosaurs on them, dinosaur tie-clips, pins, etc.. That whole museum excursion made my day.

     After that, we strolled over to the San Diego Zoo, and took the cable car ride over the length of the zoo (much too short a ride, though the zoo is pretty wide), then got off it and walked around. All the animal exhibits there are open to the sky, and there were some neat animals -- though how that shaggy musk ox took the heat, I don't know. A lot of the nocturnal animals were hiding in their enclosures (which usually had plenty of bushes and logs and stuff in them), which made them rather hard to see.

     We were determined to get to the beach and actually immerse ourselves in the Pacific Ocean. This took longer than it should have, due to our lack of familiarity with the local geography, but we finally made it to a beach called, cleverly, Ocean Beach. The waves were pretty big, and it was quite a kick to frolic in them. The water wasn't exactly warm, but it was hardly as cold as the water back in the New Hampshire ocean.

     After enjoying the beach and getting sand in everything we had carried with us, we took a cab back to our hotel (Alison had left earlier to head back to L.A.), then went out to dinner again at a Jolly Roger restaurant in the Seaport VIllage, and again stuffed ourselves. We did a little more shopping there, then wandered back to our hotel, happy as little clams. It had been a great day, and a wonderful way to end the weekend.

     The return trip was uneventful (and on an airplane, an uneventful ride is what you look for), and we got back into Bradley Airport in Hartford around 6:00 PM Connecticut time (we lost the three hours we had gained). The car started after five days in the parking lot (hurrah!) and it was smooth sailing all the way back to good ol' Sharon, CT.

I'm really glad that we went out to the San Diego Con, and would like to do the same thing next year, but a little differently. I think that next time, Kevin and I will go out by ourselves for the first three days of the convention, and"

(missing last page of letter)

     [I do recall quite clearly my delight in seeing that dinosaur exhibit in the Museum of Natural History at Balboa Park. It was the first time I'd ever encountered those animatronic dinosaurs, which now seem to be a staple of kid-friendly dinosaur shows. But back then, it was a thrill to see these things. It really spoke to the little kid in me. 

       The brief mention that "the car started after five days in the parking lot" might seem odd to anyone who drives a modern, reliable car... but back then, finances dictated that we drive some pretty awful old vehicles, and it was always a question if they would work properly... or at least well enough so that we were not stranded somewhere. 

       I think it was roughly a year after this trip that Jeannine and I bought our first new car -- a base model Honda Civic -- from a dealership in Torrington, and it was wonderful. -- PL]


  1. Mr. Laird, 15 years ago my brothers, dad and I met you at a Philadelphia Comic Show and your sketched us all four turtles faces and a splinter which we framed for my brother who is a big fan of the turtles since the 80's. It still hangs in his apartment and he refers to it as the best thing he owns. I was wondering (for a cost of course) if you could sketch a quick beebop and rocksteady for me to give to my brother for his birthday? thank you for your time (

    1. Noah, sorry, but I don't do sketches like that anymore, with the rare exception made for friends and family. -- PL

    2. thank you for the response, it was a pleasure meeting you way back were really a nice person to us

  2. I know just what you're talking about -- in my early twenties I went to the Museum of Natural History in New York and spent all day on the dinosaur floor. Amazing how much we've learned since then -- I look at the animatronic T rex in your photo and think "Oh yeah, we used to think they stood upright like that, before paleontologists worked out that they held their bodies parallel to the ground."

    I remember seeing the current IDW TMNT comic praised for putting feathers on the dinosaurs in a time-travel story -- I haven't picked it up, but maybe one of these days.