Saturday, August 23, 2008
I realize it's a terrible shot, but it was taken merely as a souvenir of where I stood during an incredible show. There were quite a few people onstage at the time, several of whom appeared to be professional photographers and individuals with press passes. I was rather shocked just to be there, and didn't exactly jostle for position when it came to taking pictures. A few days ago, during some random clicking that stemmed from a search for who knows what, I came across the Flickr album of a photographer who apparently stood a few feet to my left and captured a much better shot of the same moment:
photo credit: "Undisputed Wes"
I don't have anything terribly interesting to say about this. I just got a kick out of it.
Just like that. Candles, crosses, flowers and metallic balloons in a morbid little bunch under the overpass, right under the spot where homeless people piss. A boy died there.
When we moved to Artesia (1988) a fifteen year-old was murdered in gang violence right around the corner from our house. Things like that happened pretty often for a few years, then it calmed down. Apparently it's picking up again (economic patterns neatly parallel the ebb and flow). Still, for the most part, Artesia's a really nice place to live. Even back when that fifteen year-old was shot, most parts of Artesia were perfectly safe to walk around in at night. They wouldn't usually bug you unless you were from another gang.
Yet to watch local news coverage right now is to think that Artesia is crawling with murderous thugs. North Artesia especially is a bloodbath. There's a subtext to every local TV station report that paints the people under and around the freeway as savages. This image really bothered a relative of mine, not for the sake of the north side but for the city's reputation as a whole. "They're making Artesia sound like some crazy, dangerous place," he complained. "Like it's Watts or something." I asked if it had ever occurred to him that maybe he only thinks of Watts that way because the news coverage of Watts has always been just like it is right now for Artesia. "Oh, well, yeah maybe," he replied, "but you know what I mean."
Yeah. I know what you mean. (...sigh...)
Friday, August 15, 2008
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
-McCain opposed ethanol and now favors it.
-McCain opposed Bush’s tax cuts, and now supports them.
-McCain now opposes the campaign finance reforms that he brought to the table with so much fanfare a few years ago.
-Remember when McCain was absolutely opposed to any form of torture? Yeah, me too.
-McCain once criticized Bush for visiting the notoriously racist and anti-Catholic
-McCain was pro-choice, but has since gone pro-life (just in time, too!)
-McCain fought tooth and nail to prevent
Monday, August 4, 2008
I was up, I think, because of allergies. I haven't the slightest clue what I'm allergic to, but for a week now something has been causing me to sneeze and cough throughout the night and then wake up with a sore throat in the morning. Yesterday one of my coughs was apparently a bit past my throat's limit, causing irritation that resulted in a pretty bad coughing fit that didn't let up until around 5 am.
It was around 8 pm when I got home from the Chariot Festival and I was exhausted. I was thrilled by the prospect of getting to bed early and being productive. I was going to get a full night's sleep and wake up at six. I was going to go to the gym (belly's going soft), I was going to do quite a bit of reading, I was going to type something thoughtful on here about the recent uproar over Obama "playing the race card." But I didn't sleep. I coughed. I got up and typed a blog about Venice Beach. I tried to sleep, but just coughed more. I gargled hot water with salt, drank chamomile tea, tried sleeping sitting up.
I woke this morning with a swollen throat, having slept about three hours. I paid my rent, and I've been a zombie ever since. So now I'm turning my phone off and hoping that tomorrow I can be a real human being again.
Saturday night checked out the Orange County Fair and, while standing in line, saw a woman that went to my high school. She was a few years older than me, although I think she had a brother my age. If memory serves me correctly, she used to dance at a "gentleman's club." She's stunningly attractive.
It's difficult to overstate how crazy the fair is, with its deep-fried everything (avocadoes, Twinkies, Snickers, Oreos, broccoli, tomatoes, mushrooms, zucchini, battered potatoes, etc.), its enormous livestock (worth the $1, believe it or not--they're really big), and its orgy of gaudy lighting in every rusted corner. I love it. The highlight for me is always seeing people make their way through crowds wielding outlandish prizes. One guy had a five-foot tall blue plaid Scooby Doo doll, another deftly balanced two mountain bikes while giving directions to his kids, who led the way excitedly. Both men had the same look on their faces, a sheepish mix of accomplishment and practical dilemma: does a giant stuffed dog fit in the car?
Sunday was still more interesting: the Chariot Festival of Venice Beach, which celebrates Lord Krishna's return to Vrindaban. Having grown up a couple of blocks from the stretch known as "Little India," I can't say that I've ever felt like my life has any lacunae in need of being filled by experiencing Hindu festivals, but this one definitely looked like something new: basically, two flatbed trucks are decked out lavishly in colorful, florid patterns and adorned with statues, pictures, etc. Then a ceremony is held around the floats, and an entire festival--food vendors, ethnic performances and the like--takes place in the general vicinity.
Had I thought more about the thing, I may have factored in the location. I'm glad I didn't, as the surprise provided for half the fun of the experience.
Upon arriving, the people we met told us right away that the Indian food served at the festival was terrible and we'd better get something to eat at another place. So I had a gyro. It wasn't very good, but not terrible. Then we proceeded to the site of the festival, which was literally only what I've described: two decorated flatbed trucks (I should note, they were very well-decorated), a stage where a group of young girls performed a very impressive traditional dance, and lots of shops selling everything from authentic Indian fare to New Age-y trinkets to Bob Marley t-shirts. For the first twenty minutes I saw many Hare Krishnas, countless women in saris, but not one person of Indian descent. It was essentially a gathering of old hippies and Phish-heads.
We did finally run across a contingent of “real” Indians, all gathered together sitting on a little knoll, apparently as bemused by the spectacle as we were. In front of them, somewhere in between Govinda’s International Imports and the Hawaiian Shaved Ice stand, a tall Caucasian man painted blue calmly explained Vishnu’s virtues to an apparent skeptic. Back near the boardwalk, stationed in front of another float under the watchful eye of the police, three men held signs high in the air condemning us all to hell for defying God and Jesus, while their associate yelled through a bullhorn that “You should be eating cows, not worshipping them!” While I was clicking a photo of him, he picked on a Hare Krishna adherent standing next to me and bellowed, “Does grass have a soul?” Then without letting the guy answer, continued, “The tents you’ve erected today are sitting on grass! You’re hurting the grass, you hypocrites!” As we left the scene I could hear him work up to a fever pitch and yell, “God hates you all and will send you all to hell, because you’re a nation of homo lovers. That’s right! You’re all nothing but a bunch of homo lovers!” This was met with uproarious laughter and even some applause from the crowd.
We proceeded down the boardwalk to find a spot on the beach. A guy in a turban with a visor pulled over it rode rollerblades and played the electric guitar. Aspiring rappers attempted to sell their CDs to passersby. Booths along the way sold a rendition of Shepard Fairey’s iconic Obama poster that substituted the Rasta color scheme for the red, white and blue. Caricature artists, tattooists, calligraphers, blown glass, tongue whistles, fortune tellers, body builders, well-trained pit bulls, the "Venice Beach Freak Show."
Following some time spent soaking up UV rays on the sand, and after two or three beers at a nearby bar, we headed back through it all one more time on the way out. Close to the scene of the festival, an Indian family—mother, father, one child, one set of grandparents—sat bewildered on a bench in front of a head shop watching people shop for bongs as a woman stood out front distributing cards and yelling, “Medical marijuana, upstairs! Come see the doctor!” In the spot where we had all been condemned to hell’s eternal flames, three men still stood with signs, but they had no vociferous spokesman and their signs read “SURFING! SKATES! BIKES!” and “SUNGLASSES! $5!”