Thursday, July 27, 2017

Altadena to East L.A. to Pasadena or East is East and West is West

There was only one Obon this past weekend and it was close by, a great situation as I did not have to drive all over town. But, wouldn't you know it? I did drive all over town. After doing some unplanned yard work. What happens is that something bothers me on a low level for a while. Then, for no particular reason, I loose my mind and can't take it anymore. I grab a saw, or a rake, or pruners, whatever will help solve the issue and get to work. This is what happened Saturday morning when I innocently went out to put some trash into the receptacle. I ended up doing three hours of hard work in the already hot sun. 

Rather than kicking back and relaxing until Obon time, I decided to head south to East L.A. I am on the mailing list for the Vincent Price Art Museum at East Los Angeles College. An exhibition was having its closing reception along with a panel discussion. The exhibition was "A Decolonial Atlas & Yreina D. Cervántez." I knew Yreina decades ago and haven't seen her for maybe the last of those several decades. So at 11:30 AM, I decided to take a shower and try to get to the museum by the panel discussion start time of 12:30 PM. Against all odds, I actually made. Did the discussion start at the appointed time? Don't be silly. Did it start 10, 15 minutes late? You're being too conservative. Somewhere around 1:00 they got going. That was fine, I wasn't planning on going to the Obon until dance time anyway. It was a good presentation by the show's curator, Pilar Tompkins Rivas, and the four artists included in the presentation: Yreina D. Cervántez, Carolina Caycedo, Raul Baltazar and Morton Robinson. The event has better attendance than many such presentations. I have to say that towards the end I got a bit antsy. This state could not be attributed to the artist, rather to the fact that during Pilar's welcoming statement, she mentioned that also happening on campus would be performances by Chinese groups starting at 2:00. I wanted to see what I could of that and we were well past that starting time. I stuck it out just the same, but then rocketed over to the campus theatre and caught a couple of acts. 

I should have headed straight home after that, but there was a Daiso store that I've never been to in the lot of the mall I had parked in. I had to have a walk through there. Then, since heading north from East L.A. College meant I had to drive through Monterey Park and seeing that I was low on Shou Wu Chih, it would have been silly not to have stopped at Wing Hop Fung. So I did and thus got home quite late. 

Here is where the Obon being close to home is an asset. It was the Pasadena Buddhist Temple, about a three - five minute car drive. I had just enough time to get there for part of the taiko performance, then the beginning of the dancing. The other asset of closeness is that I don't feel pressured to spend a lot of time there. I can show up, have my chili rice, do a dance or two, then head back home. Whereas if I spend an hour or more getting to the festivities, I'm going to need to hangout so as not to feel like an idiot. Consequently, I went to the Pasadena Obon both Saturday and Sunday. 

The artists, left to right: Raul Baltazar, Yreina D. Cervántez,
Carolina Caycedo and Marton Robinson.

Now across the quad to the campus theatre.
Guzheng and Pipa.
 Dancing in good costumes.

The Obon at the Pasadena Buddhist Temple

You've seen this taiko group before.

Richard, who prefers the faster dances seeks a seat on which
to rest as he eats his Spam Musubi.

Richard had the Spam, but you know what I went for.

Inside the temple. It is more humble than some.


Thursday, July 20, 2017

Festivals, Fires, Fortes 4

I had a long day on Saturday, July 15. I had an early morning mission on the extreme west side of town. Since my plan was to go to the other Obon in Venice that evening, I wanted to avoid going home in the interim. I know myself well enough to realize that if I went home there was a good chance that I would leave to head out west again. Fortunately, Echo Park was having its Lotus Festival that weekend. So I stopped there after my first errand. I got there real early, so had to kill some time, but I managed. 

I used to take tuba lessons in that area when I was a kid. I lived there in the 1980's - '90's. I would do my running around the pond. Those were the days I could run. Miles and miles of running. Now I can hardly walk, but I'm getting better. They call it Echo Park Lake, but I say it is a pond. Lakes are big, Echo Park has a pond. One morning when I was running around the perimeter, there was a body in the pond. It was swimming. It wasn't breathing. Too much excitement. The Lotus Festival highlights Los Angeles Asian cultures. This year the focus was on Bangladesh. 

The festival was happening to the degree that these things happen. I had all I could take well before I needed to head out west. I left anyway. It took the streets to eat up some time. I stopped at the Hamburger Factory, a neighborhood food joint in the West Adams neighborhood. It has been on my list to try for reason that I won't go into. I ordered a hamburger, even though it was clear the food to buy there was from the Mexican menu. The deal was, if I bought from the Mexican menu, I'd still have to go back to have the burger. Said burger was as I expected…your normal thin, industrial patty, cushioned by lettuce, tomato, pickles, secret sauce and bun. That said, it was satisfying. B flat. Honest. Humble. 

Back to the streets and onto the Venice Hongwanji Buddhist Temple. Which I got to very early. I mean it was open and happening, but long before the dancing started. I did what I could to keep myself entertained, but ultimately considered going home. Instead I gave Michael Vlatkovich, who lives nearby, a call. He scooted by in his Alfa to keep me company. He had never been to an Obon, even though he has two of the better ones in walking distance from him. The time passed much faster. He didn't dance, but a great time was had by all. A long, long day. 

Sunday, July 16, was Rev. Tom's Obon at the Sozenji Buddhist Temple, in Montebello. I have participated in music collaborations with Tom Kurai over the years, starting back in the 1980's. He is the Reverend at this temple. It is a small Obon and is only one day. What is especially special about it is that they have a live traditional shamisen ensemble and singer for the dances. I haven't run into this anywhere else. Last year there was a very good and fun live group at the Higashi Honganji Obon, but they were not a traditional group. It is worth driving to Montebello to experience this ensemble. Mind you, they are not professional, but they are good. 

Looking at Echo Park from the stairs to the street on which I parked.
Even though I was very early, other people were earlier and parking
was a problem.

It is a Lotus Festival because the pond in full of lotus. It is not as
glorious as Ueno Park in Tokyo, but good enough for this weekend.

Looking north from the south end of the park.

These are the stairs I had to descend (no problem), then ascend (less of a problem
than I feared) to get from/to the auto.

This is a group of ukelele players/singers that was paddling around
the park making music. I don't know what it was all about. They
seemed to know only one song. 

People from Bangladesh singing their national anthem.

The burger from the Burger Factory.

I got to the Venice Hongwanji Buddhist Temple so early they hadn't
even prepped the street yet. That was fine, I was happy to see them
set it up.

The first dance.

You know what this is.

Rev. Tom's Obon.

The real deal.

Setting up for the dance.

Check out those shoes. Very stylish!

A maker of dragons.

Rev. Tom Kurai. 

There is a fire station across the street. They got a call.