Walter Mencken 7 p.m., Dec. 10
One year ago I took a class at Cuyamaca College about identifying San Diego County rocks and gems. It lasts 6 weeks and meets on Saturdays for field trips around the county mining and collecting precious stones like garnets, tourmaline and quartz. The teacher's name is Bob, he has a lifetime of rock hunting experience that he is willing to share through stories and his exstensive collection of specimens. After taking this class I was interested in seeing the "All That Glitters" exhibit in The Natural History Museum. So off we go to Balboa Park.
We entered the museum and payed at the ticket counter, walked past the swinging pendulum and into an area way too dark for displaying gemstones. "Is this the All That Glitters exhibit?" I asked out loud as I spotted a giant, live iguana in an aquarium on the floor. A lizard loving museum patron suggested downstairs. I couldn't see any signs or clues leading to the shiny stones on display. Finally after walking down several, wide flights of stairs I found the the treasures buried in what seemed like the basement.
The exhibit is smaller than I was expecting. It included old and new jewelry and artwork. The cut and polished stones were arranged in a rainbow of colors. Behind a wall of glass a collection of man-made stones glint and shine like perfect replicas of their man-mined counterparts. A huge boulder of jade is like a magnet to curious hands. Touching is usually prohibited in museums but some stones here are meant for feeling their smooth, cold surfaces.
The small class at Cuyamaca gathered on Thursday nights to learn from Bob and pass around his amazing collection. The stones passed through our hands in a very un- museum-like way, dropping tiny, cut stones on the old classroom carpet. Bob used old, cardboard egg cartons to store and organize his collection. The egg cartons are Bob's Dewey Decimal system for stones. He would stand by his overhead projector and describe the contents before passing them around the class. He had rough and polished stones of all kinds and from all places. On Saturday field trips you could find Bob on the ground sifting through dirt while telling rock hunting stories. An audience of eager amatuers circled around listening for his tricks of the trade.
The trip to "All That Glitters" is worth it, especially if you use a coupon. The class at Cuyamaca College is unforgettable and inspiring.