Sunday, June 22, 2008

Out of the frying pan

The heat has been unbearable for the past week, so yesterday Sean, Norman and I decided to get out of town. We drove up the coast to Santa Barbara, where it was still pretty warm but had to be nearly twenty degrees cooler than L.A. Sean dropped Norman and me off on State Street near the point where the 34th annual Solstice Parade was about to begin. The theme of this year's parade was "Solar Flair."

Participants milling around before the parade got underway. The Solstice Parade has a laid-back, hippie vibe, very improvisational and casual. Despite the heat, the procession moved at a glacial pace, as participants seemed to pause and hang out whenever the mood struck them. Someone may have been in charge of keeping order and getting everyone to move along, but I didn't see that person.

A typical float. Unlike the floats in, say, the Rose Parade, the Solstice Parade's floats are not motorized and move by being pushed or pulled by people along the street. The "Solar Flair" theme meant lots of yellow, gold and orange.

I loved this float, which was made up of hundreds of handpainted wooden triangles suspended on a pole frame.

A stormtrooper. Because what kind of a parade is complete without a stormtrooper?

There was a whole stilt brigade.

This float was cool, too. The rays on the sun were mounted on two different circles, which turned in opposite directions. Norman feared for the safety of parade participants walking by the float, as there was nothing to keep them from getting poked by the revolving rays. Fortunately, we didn't observe any accidents.

A bunch of angels tossed white feathers at the crowd.

Satellite dish? Or giant homage to Jiffy Pop popcorn? Given the heat, I'd say the latter.

The melty clock at the base of this float suggests Salvador Dali, though I'm not sure what he has to do with "Solar Flair." Then again, melty = heat.

One of several dance troupes. Some performed to recorded music, others to drum corps.

This picture more or less sums up the Solstice Parade: people in pretty costumes wandering around aimlessly. These people seemed to have some sort of chicken theme going on.

Fly me to the moon!

This mask was great, though I bet the poor person in it was dying from the heat.

Another excellent mask.

The hula hoop troupe was fantastic. This young lady, in particular, impressed me with her muscular control: one tiny shimmy, and her hoop would spiral up from her knees to her waist. I told Norman I had been quite handy with a hoop when I was a kid but I can't do it anymore. "I think my curves go the wrong way now," I said.

The boy on the right looked miserable -- he was clearly being a dutiful son/boyfriend/brother/whatever.

Another dance troupe.

Proof that you don't have to be a teenage girl to be a member of a teenage girl dance troupe. Shake it, old man!

The heat was killing us, so Norman and I met Sean for lunch, then we all went to Sean's grandma's house. Grandma lives in a beautiful old house that's just a block from Shoreline Park; she doesn't have air conditioning because the sea breeze cools her home. She fed us apple cake and strong coffee and chatted with us for a while. Then, when we sensed her energy flagging (she is 90, after all), we went for a walk on the beach.

To get to the beach from Grandma's, you cross the street behind her house, then walk a few hundred yards down the sidewalk to the sand. We took off our shoes and picked our way past piles of kelp and swarms of sandflies, and then we were at the water's edge. By now it was late afternoon and a lot of the day's heat had dissipated; a cool breeze swept in over the water, and the icy, muddy tide lapped at our feet. I found a beautiful jade-colored rock that was perfectly smooth and glistened in the golden light; I slipped it in my pocket to bring home. We walked all the way to the harbor, then turned around and walked back to Grandma's.

We hung out with Grandma a little while longer, but it was getting late so we decided to drive down to the harbor and have some seafood for dinner before heading back to L.A.

This sand artist took 17 hours to create this sand sculpture. There have been a lot of anti-war art displays in Santa Barbara.

After dinner we took a walk along the pier.

The shoreline runs east to west along this stretch of California. It's easy to become disoriented -- it appears that the sun is setting in the north, but a compass painted on the pier proved we really were facing west.

Signs everywhere ask visitors not to feed the seagulls, but the birds are so calm around people that it's obvious nobody heeds the request. Sean was able to use his cellphone camera to take video of seagulls hovering only a couple of feet above his head. Fishing is allowed from the end of the pier, and signs there forbid overhead casting. Norman told me he once got hooked in the arm by an overhead caster.

This opening in the pier had an ominous look in the fading light that this photo completely fails to capture. It looked like a tempting place to dump a body.

Calm water to the east.

Pink clouds at sunset.

The saddest "NO" sign I have ever seen. Norman said it was the best day he's had since he moved to California nearly six years ago, and I'd have to agree that it was pretty wonderful.


Norman said...

I actually said it was one of the best "California" days (i.e., days engaged in distinctly regional activities) I've had since moving out here. And I make that adjustment only to suggest that perhaps some of our other days spent together have been equally or even more fulfilling.
In any event, it was a great time. Thanks for the, uh, memories.

Chris Hyde said...

Santa Barbara is such a great place! Glad you had a fun time there!