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Diversity Events of note People Photography

Pridefest

Pridefest 2005 Today’s outing to the St. Louis PrideFest 2005 parade did not begin auspiciously–we were hit from behind by a lady driving an SUV. Luckily my roommate, who was giving me a lift, drives a larger van and we could drive away after the insurance cards were exchanged.

(I hate the sensations of a car wreck: the screeching tires, the metallic thud, and the fast jerk as your car is pushed forward. I dislike more my roommate’s car being damaged because he was giving me a ride.)

Anyway, he dropped me off at the parade route, and I found a spot in front of a light pole in a little bit of shade, right next to a large group of gay women. Ironically, it was the group the lady who hit us was joining. That poor woman became the butt of several of her friend’s jokes, and one bad pun from me (“Nice running into you again.”)

They were a marvelous group to stand with : every time any car, float, or group went by they would cheer and cheer. Their exuberance added much to the event.

The Parade started right on time, and they kept the pace up, probably because they wanted to finish quickly. It was in the upper 90’s and humid and the air quality was horrid. The conditions were more than compensated, though, by the parade participants. They were a wonderful group, and more than once, I found my eyes stinging a bit from the gentle pride, and absolute joy you could see on their faces.

A Mother's Pride

There were participants from several companies, including several real estate firms. I gather that gay money, at least, is welcome in the housing market. Even in Missouri. Politically, the mayor was there, as was the fire chief and a couple of aldermen, and Ross Carnahan, a Democrat. There was even a small contingent from the Log Cabin Republicans, though they marched at quite a distance from the one somber entry, aptly named “Fear”.

Fear

There were some fun and flamboyant participants, but most of the marchers wore simple cotton shirts in various colors, with the word “Pride” over the chest. Even though they live right in the middle of that part of the country which condemns everything about them, they can still smile at, and throw pretty beads to, a crowd that has consistently voted down many of their rights. I think next year the St. Louis Pridefest organizers should consider adding the words “Courage” and “Determination” to the outfits.

Truth

Reflection in Glass

Everywhere

Categories
Events of note History

The 1989 Hare and Hound Race

The program for the race yesterday featured a story about the 1989 balloon race, the only one where the balloons actually took off and landed in the same place (lack of wind). The story was so funny that I re-printed it here…with a photo. Of course.

A small issue with balloon “races”–of the Hare and Hound variety, such as the Great Forest Park Balloon Race–is that spectators rarely get to see both the beginning and end of the event. The balloons tend to fly away.

That wasn’t the case in the 1989 race. In fact, the balloons never left the park–they just flew from the Balloon Field to the eastern edge of Forest Park, near Kingshighway. Winds were extremely light. Hare pilot, Ted Staley, rightly judged that the balloons would never clear the city, or even make it to the Arch grounds, it was so calm.

The Hare landed across a lake. The hounds gently floated to the target. Some, literally. The ingenious pilots tried it all: Steve Lohr used the Slighshot Approach, with his crew swinging the basket of his flying seven-story balloon across the water to the ‘X’. Gene Grace tried the Cleopatra Crossing. His crew swam the lake, haulted the tethered balloon lines across, then pulled the basket to the target.

The race was contested greatly. Some heated exchanges were recorded. Then all were reminded that the trophy was a broken toaster, and protests weren’t allowed anyway because there is no protest procedure for the Great Forest Park Balloon Race (as noted by Ballooonmeister Henry Fett at the pilot’s meeting every year).

The result: Grace was awarded the win because of the damp effort of his crew. One balloon ripped through the trees, hit near the ‘X’ and was cited for second place and dim judgement.

I think you can see now why I enjoyed this race so much.

Categories
Events of note Photography

A tale of two festivals

Normally I don’t attend festivals with lots of people about, but I made exceptions for two events this weekend: the St. Louis Air Show and the Japanese Festival. The weather was wet and stormy, but held off raining for the most part. However, it was very hot, very humid, and there was little breeze.

I attended the Air Show and county fair on Saturday, surprised at how few people were there for the big mid-day show. I was able to find a place next to the fence easily and pick off some pictures, difficult because the sky was a blinding cloud white for the most part.

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This was a more modern show with planes from World War II and Vietnam, as well as modern stunt planes and jets. There was, at different times, an F16 and an F18 flying about but I couldn’t get a good photograph, they moved so quickly. And loudly, too.

The show ran several World War II planes at the same time to show how they would work together. A B32 bomber (I think it was a B32, I’m not that familiar with planes) was flying about with a P51 “little buddy” beside it, making an interesting Mutt and Jeff appearance. The bomber didn’t see action in the war, as it rolled off the line the day after the war ended. However, a TBM-3 “Avenger”, also flying, did see action in the last weeks of the war. Over Japan as a matter of fact.

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According to the sign next to the plane during the static display after the show, the VT88 had the following combat history:

July 18: Attacked Battleship Nagato, Yokosuka Naval Base

July 24: In the morning, Kure Naval Base, targets at Nishinoni Shima Ships: Haruna, Ise, Hyuga, Tone, and Oyodo. In the afternoon: Kure Naval Base, dropped frag bombs on the Haruna

July 25: Attack SW coast Honshu

July 28: Kure Naval Base. Ships: Haruna and Settsu. Aircraft took anti-aircraft damage through engine.

July 30: North shore of Honshu, Targets: Tsuruga seaport on sea of Japan. Hit freighter, factory, and RR.

August 10: Iwaki Airfiend, West coast of Sendai Koriyama, Bombed town of Koriyama

August 13: Target: Tokyo Shibaura Electric Plant, Bombed small ships SW of Yakosuka

August 15: Target: Tokyo Shibaura Electric Plant Called back – Japan Surrender

I was surprised at the number of air attacks directly against Japan at the time. Combined with the atomic bombs, the firebombs, and all the other bombing, we damn near bombed that country into the stone age.

I was thinking about this yesterday – how not? – when I went to Japanese Festival. The differences between the two festivals was like the difference between walking in down town New York during rush hour and a gentle stroll through a garden.

Sunday morning I watched a Japanese street entertainer, Mesaji Terasaw, known as the “Candyman” as he delighted audiences with his magic and his humor. He spun dragons out of candy, which he would give to the people as part of the show, having each do something different with their sticks, such as weaving them up and down. One woman, he put a lit stick of incense in her candy, and she thought it was a firecracker at first. The Candyman laughed, she laughed, everyone laughed.

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After walking around a bit I decided to watch the Tazan Ryu/Okinawa Deigo Kai dancing in the main auditorium. The local St Louis Japan Society had brought in a special performer to dance for the audience, an older woman who had performed for years. As I watched her and the other performers, all with their heavy stage makeup, I was struck with how each performer’s movements became more graceful, and sure, as the performer’s age and experience increased.

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I noticed a celebration of beauty in older women throughout the festival, and don’t know if this because the Society members are older, or if this is a part of the Japanese culture. If it is, I’d like to visit there someday. How refreshing to see the label beauty applied to someone who isn’t 21 and taut as a drum. Unfortunately, along with a celebration of age, there also seems to be a celebration of height, too, because I don’t think any of the women came up past my breasts in height. If I did visit, I think I would be horribly conspicuous.

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After the dancing, I walked about a bit more and then wondered over where an ice carving demonstration was going to occur. Several people were standing about and I stood next to one person in front of a long reflecting pool. As the assistant to the ice carver was getting suggestions from the audience for subjects, the people to the right of me starting sitting down on the sidewalk and I heard a man yell at me “Sit down! You’re in our way!” I looked behind me in confusion because there was no one behind me, and then over into the face of a man about 50, white, and angry, you never saw such anger.

I started to explain that I couldn’t sit down on the ground because of problems with my knee and back, but he shoo’d me away with agitated movements and I could see there were people to the side of the pool who were sitting down on the pool edge. I started making my way through the crowd to the side and a lady about my age, tight lipped with anger said, “You were here first. You didn’t put yourself in anyone’s way. You should stay.”

Instead of ice carving, I went to watch the Omikoshi procession, first checking carefully to make sure no one was behind me.

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Finding places to stand and take photos was a problem with both events. Saturday, the early evening air show focused on military planes and featured the Harrier Jet and an F18 flying about the airport. It also featured something new, something I hadn’t heard of before – a recreation of a ‘typical’ Vietnamese air support and strike against the Viet Cong.

As I was walking through the area I’d been in the for the earlier show, I noticed that more people were seated on hay bales drawn up to the fence. I started walking about trying to find a place to stand, stopped every once in a while to watch the preparations. About 20 minutes before show starting, I stopped in one place to take a photo of the ‘Cong’, when I heard a guy yell at me to move, I was in their way for the show. I looked down into face of a guy about 40, white, long haired. Angry.

I started walking around, stopping every few minutes looking for a spot, and same reaction from the men in the audience – yells, snide comments, mean things, all from men in their 40’s and 50’s, all white, all with the same angry eyes as if me standing in front of them, even for a moment, was an invasion of their territory. What was more puzzling is I was moving, I was trying to find a place to stand, and the show hadn’t started yet.

I was, frankly, deeply embarrassed, trying to walk where I wouldn’t incur someone’s wrath, wondering if I should just leave. Luckily, in the corner of a fence, a couple of people waved to me – it was a group of people like myself, people standing up who wanted to take photographs. I quietly thanked the couple who had been the ones who waved me over. They were both unsmiling, looking at the crowd behind me. She was about my age, maybe a bit older, and I could see she didn’t want to be there.

At that time the show started and several Vietnam era planes and helicopters took off into the air, and it was interesting watching them, but the action was on the ground as several ersatz Cong moved towards machine guns. They started firing at the planes, with very realistic sounds of battle and gun fire. One man towards the fence turned around and walked away, just as one of the planes overhead dropped a ‘bomb’, with ground effects and accompanying explosive force strong enough to send a shock wave into the crowd.

I noticed that all of the men who had yelled at me had their children standing on their little bales of hay to better see the action, as one by one, the Viet Cong were ’shot’ and ‘killed’, and the US marines, the good guys, moved in.

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Behind me, late comers had arrived, dragging their bale of hay behind them – two men with one boy. One of the men grumbled to the others about us standing up and he didn’t know why we all just couldn’t sit down. I noticed that he was also wearing the same type of bandana that the League of the South men sometimes wear.

The show continued with much explosion and swooping down of helicopters, including a medivac come to haul off two men ‘injured’ during the warfare – all of the Cong being dead by that time.

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As soon as the re-enactment was over, during the Color Guard, I made my way up the side of the fence and left the air show.

I tried not to let the angry man at the Japanese Festival ruin it for me. After the Omikoshi procession, I sat for a time in the rose garden, and then went to see the Kimono fashion show. The colors of the kimonos were wonderous, and many of them had been handed down through more than one generation – one kimono was over 75 years old if I heard correctly. I found it calming, and how can one not be carried away by the beauty of the outfits?

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During the show, a demonstration was given of putting on a kimono – an operation that took two women in addition to the one being dressed. As they tied on I think it was the fourth, or perhaps, fifth sash, the demonstrator turned to the audience and said that if we ever had an idea that kimonos were comfortable, think again.

Things happen at a show of this nature – a mike failing, music CD gone missing, and a tiny little girl in an exquisite kimono, taking one look at the crowd, screaming in terror and bolting the stage. The woman who was providing descriptions didn’t allow any of it to phase her, and with a sharp sense of humor, kept everything going, smoothing over the bumps.

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There was a beauty at the air show that matched the beauty of the Japanese art – the grace and skill of the pilots, especially the acrobatic flying was extraordinary to watch. The show in the morning was a delight because the focus was on 100 years of flight and the joy of flying.

And there was a Wing Walker – now, everyone loves a Wing Walker.

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I munched on homemade potato chips and roasted corn at the air show, but late in the afternoon at the Festival I lunched on delicate Japanese pancakes and green tea ice cream.

The ending of the Japanese Festival for me was much quieter than the air show. I attended a Noh play, but rather than traditional Japanese Noh, this was modern Noh, a play called Lady Aoi, adapted from Tales of the Genji by Yukio Mishima. Some of the audience was disappointed not to see the traditional Noh, but the director of the play had a fascinating tale to tell of it, of the tradition, and of the playwright and famous author, Mishima. I was also able to chat briefly with the one of the main actresses afterwards, and found out that St. Louis is the only place in North America that is currently exploring Mishima’s works, a sign of surprisingly close ties between the city and Japan.

Oh, and following the Noh play – they showed the anime film, Spirited Away, and it was every bit as good as has been suggested.

As we were waiting for it to start, I heard people talking behind me about the movie, one asking the others what an-i-me was? A cartoon they were answered and they debated, loudly, about staying for the film. I found myself tensing, growing uncomfortable and thinking I should find a different place to sit. However, after 15 minutes of back and forth, they left to get food. During the movie, the seats stayed empty behind me.

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