How to solve a murder and spend a perfect afternoon in LA

March 3, 2013 · Print This Article

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Today is a truly gorgeous day in Los Angeles. It’s sunny and warm. The sky is blue, the traffic is light and the brunch crowds are friendly, enjoying another beautiful weekend on the left coast. In fact, most days in LA are relatively gorgeous. We really do have excellent weather and blue skies with an unreasonable consistency. It’s early March and Los Angelinos are in t-shirts and sandals, enjoying our comfortable 80 degree weather while much of the rest of the Country suffers through a frigid Winter. So what do we do with our delightfully sunny and pleasant weekends? We lounge. We go sunbathe at the beach or stroll around the Farmer’s Markets. We hike Runyon Canyon and walk in Griffith Park. We go to the dog park (because everyone in LA has a dog) or take our adorably well dressed kids to the zoo. Or, if you are a super sleuthing wanna-be detective, art lover (like I am) you go to a Murder Mystery Scavenger Hunt at the J. Paul Getty Museum that sits high in the rolling hills overlooking the city.

Now, I’ve been to the Getty before. Lots of times in fact. It is an impressive museum that apparently houses some beautiful and valuable works of art, but that is not why people flock to this particular museum. The Getty itself is a work of art. The architecture, the landscaping and the views it offers are all breathtaking. The buildings are slick white stone with fountains and water fixtures in every courtyard. The trees are planted and pruned in perfect symmetry, a veritable geometry lesson in right angles and perfect squares. The garden is a spiral of creeks, flower lined paths and footbridges, and the lawn is a stretch of perfect, almost neon green grass, sprinkled with picnic blankets of romantic couples and adorable families.  There are also hidden secrets that a guided tour of the museum will enlighten its viewers about. A leaf stamped into a stair is there on purpose because, I don’t know, Getty loved leaves or something…I don’t remember, I took the tour years ago. And admission is free!  It’s a magical place and I love to share it with out-of-town visitors. And so, last weekend, when a friend from New York came out to visit we went there, but not just to gaze at the spectacle of the Getty, but to take part in a Murder Mystery Scavenger Hunt that a friend of mine signed a group of us up for. I thought this would be a perfect activity, and extra bit of fun as we walked around the Getty and took in a little art and culture.

What is a Murder Mystery Scavenger Hunt, you wonder? Well, let me tell you. A company called Watson Hunts sets these games up in cities all over the Country. Basically, you and your team wander around the museum solving clues about the works of art in the different wings of the museum and fill in the answers on your work sheet. Then you analyze not only your answers but also the clues themselves (left by the murdered museum curator…duh!) to piece together who murdered the curator and why he (or she) had done it! You have two hours to complete this task, and come up with a clever team name.

My team, the  Van Gogh-Get ‘Ems were determined to win, and so we set off, racing through rooms, solving codes, whispering answers together and manipulating other teams to throw them off our trail. My friend from New York was an inspired asset to our team. She was practically a ringer, solving the clues and decoding the anagrams in a matter of seconds. And before we knew it, our two hours were up, the sun had set, the game was over and we had won!

Later that night I thought about our afternoon at the Getty and was struck by something. I had brought my out-of-town friend there so she could see one of the best sites that LA had to offer, and we had neglected to appreciate any of it. We were so busy rushing around, determined to win, that we hadn’t really looked at any of the art, except to locate the next clue. We hadn’t appreciated the 360 degree views from the balconies. As we raced from one building to another, I would occasionally yell out to my friend, “hey friend…look at that view! Isn’t it great? Now hurry up!” and we would rush through a courtyard, ignoring an enchanting fountain, back inside to solve the next clue. In fact, as the sun set over the ocean, we were gathered inside at the café (which is pretty gourmet for a museum café) to analyze our answers and solve the murder. We missed the sunset. I’m told it was glorious.

This is the problem with life in LA, sometimes. We take the beautiful things about living here for granted. We spend all day in our cars, or in our offices, in writers’ rooms or on a dark sound stage (but mostly in our cars) and we don’t stop to watch the sunset, or dare I say it, smell the flowers. We take an hour or two on the weekends to hike, or walk our dogs, or go to a museum and then spend it rushing around trying to beat the other team. Maybe I’m wrong. I do know some people who are super outdoorsy and settled and teach yoga and eat Organic and all that good California stuff, and they are living the hell out of their Southern Californian dream (like Katy Perry in her California Girls music video) but what I seem to hear people grumbling about most often while I wait in line to buy coffee or at the bank is how cut throat, competitive and insular their LA life has become. I know what they mean. I wanted to show my New Yorker lawyer friend how beautiful life outside the mad rush of the Big Apple could be, but we spent most of our time running around a museum and sitting in a dark corner at a wine bar where the exposed brick and dim lighting seemed much more suited for her city than mine.

Maybe this is not just a LA phenomena. Maybe this is true of every great city. Maybe this is why people move to the country…to make sure they are living the most lively of lives. Maybe I just feel more regret about not being outside more in LA because the weather is so nice. So you see, it is not my fault that I am busy inside trying very hard to be successful instead outside enjoying my life. It is LA’s fault for being so sunny all the time and making me feel bad about it. (As I write this I can feel my yoga teacher friend shaking her head at me…”you just don’t get it…and maybe you never will”)

So the lesson that I chose to take away from this experience at the J Paul Getty Museum is that in order to be a truly happy Los Angelino you should arrive for your treasure hunt early enough to show your friend the art, the views and garden AND THEN kick the other teams’ asses and walk away victorious! A Perfect Afternoon! Now, if you will excuse me, I have to slip on my sandals and drive to brunch, where, if I’m lucky, I can get an outside table.

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