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. 

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