“WORST PARADE EVER”
Echo Park, LA – The story thus far; on a weekend trip to LA specifically to attend Mike Jasoka’s comic book release party for That Bike, I have tasted great neighborhood pizza, picked up a new Memoirs reader, partied briefly with my neighborhood hipsters, and re-upped my 420 goodies. Now, on a St. Patrick’s Day Sunday, the LA Marathon is running less than a hundred feet from my adopted door. I set my phone for 6:30 AM and hit the sack, snuggling up to the foot-warmer commonly known as H.P. Lovecat, a 20 lb. Morris tabby, on my borrowed couch.
The five hours later seemed more like 30 minutes but I got my act together and was out the door by 6:45AM, recalling an earlier conversation about the lights over at Dodger Stadium. Turned out the lights indicated a celebration dedicating the LA Marathon which would start at the stadium shortly. The race from the Dodger turf would include an early start for amputees entered into the event, and would run 26.2 miles to the ocean surf at Santa Monica, the fabled end of Route 66.
Walking up from the intersection on my side street to the marathon route, a main boulevard with two bus routes and a second bus company transfer intersection, the neighborhood has a number of commercial businesses along the thoroughfare, all ‘Ma ‘n’ Pa’. In front of one street corner market that features fresh veggies and is under new management from a 20-30s couple/family, stood two long tables end to end, stocked with clumps of fresh bananas. At first I wondered if they meant to sell that many to the crowds watching the runners, then it dawned on me. The bananas were for the runners even though we were only 5 miles into the course.
After surveying my block I strolled down the hill to the next wide intersection, crossing the street to get a better view of the route. It was here that the first amputee roared past me, arms extended, riding a recumbent style wheeled vehicle. A few seconds later a pair using their arms to power them rushed past my vantage point. I started walking back toward the fourth mile which meant walking down the hill they were racing up; to walk up the hill that they raced down before starting up the hill I first saw them on.
The sight of these men and one woman, some with only half a body, propelling their selves in such a courageous effort after being through global battles on foreign lands, brought emotional tears to my eyes, and as I passed another person walking along the route, he too was wiping away a tear. That has never happened to me before though the last race of this type that I saw was The Bix, which isn’t a marathon.
Winding up at the corner of Temple and Grand, which is a few blocks past Hill around the 4-mile mark, my vantage point was excellent and the crowd, few and far between, usually consisted of some camera person. At this point the last of the last amputee racers save one had passed and the marathon for the non-injured group which started a half-hour later, reached my area.
The first person who ran past me wasn’t a person at all but a group. I knew without knowing, it was ‘the Kenyans’. Tall, slender, mahogany smooth and mahogany skinned, a group of men running as a unit in a bunch and in unison it seemed, went by me almost without a sound, before I could set and aim my phone camera. ‘Wow’, I thought to myself, ‘no wonder they always win.’
Two more groups of male runners a half minute later passed me separated from each other by a solitary white runner like a county mountie in freeway traffic before the group of professional women runners ran past more hunched but just as bunched as the Kenyans. After that the fittest and most trained started through. I turned and started to walk back to where I was staying, now a mile away.
As I walked home slowly, a pulsating wave of people ran past steadily. They continued past me as I walked past the 1218 ½ Temple venue for That Bike release party. They continued past as I saw the family of the market wade out to offer cut chunks of banana to passing runners passing the intersection through the mix of blaring Latin/reggae rhythms coming from two PA speakers. They continued past small groups/families holding signs of support for friends as I walked by one family holding signage that read, “Worst Parade Ever”.
The runners continued past my side street in full throng for another hour and a half, as I periodically stepped out on the balcony to witness the progress. Finally the flow dwindled to a few walking stragglers and I wondered about the long walk ahead for them. The marathon went from Dodger Stadium going through downtown, winding through Echo Park, Silverlake, heading west along Sunset Blvd before culminating at the Santa Monica Pier, the end of Route 66. The pier was still poppin’ when I stopped there for a sea bass burger [yummy and recommended at Pier Burger] on the way out of town.
You got to hand it to a town that not only rolls out the red carpet, but also takes the pains to do it on your neighborhood doorstop. Ivan of The Vault remarked after reading the article review about Scoops, “You always find the underground, Mr. Pete” but in truth, the underground finds me. I love LA, and I have a tee shirt to prove it, lol.