Today was an awesome day. I made plans to meet up with a co-worker, a friend of hers from Melbourne who is in the midst of a cross-U.S. motorcycle odyssey, and Major Kong at the American Museum of Natural History, which is my beloved Temple of Science!!! Unfortunately, my co-worker had to bail, because she was suffering from a migraine and a bad flare-up of her allergies.
After a bit of a "hiccup", which saw me circling around the Kingsbridge section of the Bronx looking for parking near the "1 Train", I met Major Kong and our antipodean friend, who I will dub P.J. in the interest of brevity and his privacy, at the parkside entrance of the museum around twenty minutes past eleven o'clock. We made a bee-line for the fourth floor, to the halls of vertebrate paleontology, where I paused to explain how I made peace with the Hall of Vertebrate Paleontology being named after David Koch. The last time the good Major had graced these halls, the Tyrannosaurus rex was in its "Godzilla" posture, rather than the more accurate stalking posture in which it is now displayed. We then high-tailed it to the pterosaurs exhibit- longtime readers will know that the Major is the go-to authority on aviation. Ancient fliers, meet a current flier! I'm going to have to put up a post specifically about the pterosaurs exhibit. Right now, suffice it to say that the new reproductions of pterosaurs are a lot more colorful than the older ones- rather than the leathery lizard-bats of yore, the current depictions are of colorful, fuzz-covered (pterosaurs have been known to have fur since the early 70s) lookers. The variety of well-preserved fossils bearing all sorts of crests on their heads is a recent, lucky discovery... as I said, I'll have to compose a post solely on this exhibit.
The crown jewel of the exhibit is a reproduction of Quetzalcoatlus northropi, a giant with a wingspan of about ten meters (approximately 33 feet). Major Kong dubbed it "the B-52 of pterosaurs"- that pretty much sums it up. The exhibit also features interactive displays, in which one can "pilot" a pterosaur. Major Kong took a turn at piloting a Pteranodon longiceps, explaining the conditions leading to a stall. P.J. told us anecdote about his childhood home in Queensland- the conventional wisdom in this cyclone-prone region of Australia was to build houses with flat roofs, but certain winds would actually create lift, ripping off a flat roof, so his father built a new roof, pitched to create "stall" conditions.
After a good long time with our pterosaur buddies, we returned to the Hall of Vertebrate Paleontology, this time spending time with the mammalian fossils. We then headed to the planetarium where we strolled around the sphere for a while until we decided to bring things back to Earth, checking out the hall of earth science. We then made our way through the hall of North American mammals, the hall of human evolution, and eventually to the famous blue whale sculpture, which has been renovated to reflect a better knowledge of blue whale anatomy. The changes are minor enough so I could quip to Major Kong that some things haven't really changed since his last visit. We ended up our visit by checking the hall of meteorites and the hall of gemstones- the Star of India star sapphire being the most notable of the gems on display.
After our museum tour, which lasted over four glorious hours, we headed to the venerable Grey's Papaya for their famous hot dogs and fruit drinks. Fortified, we strolled east on West 72nd St, past the Dakota, and entered Central Park near Strawberry Fields- there were several acoustic guitars in evidence. Protip for emo college types, get your asses their now and play renditions of Beatles tunes, and you may be fawned on by cute tourists of whichever gender you wish to attract. A turn around the park, toward the Loeb Boathouse, and we were winding down the day. We parted ways at the "B,C" station at 72nd St.
It was a day well spent, hanging out with old friends, new friends, and ancient friends. Here's to friendship!