Monday, August 21, 2006

One of the most improbable nights ever

Wow. Last night was... unique. It was like West Side Story meets acrobatics meets a Roshashana parade. And let's not forget the barnyard animal theme.

As usual I had been out at the gymnastics park on Santa Monica beach all Sunday afternoon. As the sun started going down the usual beach crew starts making plans to grab dinner together. I'd been wanting to spend more time with all these friends that I generally only see on Sundays, but until now I'd been totally tied up with classes. So when dinner was suggested I was thrilled to realize that I had more than enough free time to join them.

While the ten of us are waiting for a table at Buca di Beppo, we see all these twenty-something-year-olds going in dressed in animal costumes. There are even two people dressed up as a cow (2 legs x 2 people = 4 legged cow). Okay, weird. The animal group fills the whole back section of the restaurant - maybe thirty people altogether.

Meanwhile we get seated and gorge ourselves on food--everyone was starving. We take our time digesting, hanging out, and having a good time. Alicia announces that it's time to hit Third Street Promenade and start doing some public acrobatics (a recent post-dinner tradition of sorts, apparently). As we stroll down the Promenade, looking for a good spot, we come across a huge group of people who kind of playfully give challenging looks at our "gang". I'm not sure how this was all communicated, but it was immediately clear to us that we had to stop right there and show them what's what (our intention, of course, was to wow the crap out of them). But how this moment wasn't misconstrued as a potentially aggressive/dangerous posture I'll never know; I don't know if we look dangerous, but you generally don't want a group of people stopping and taking notice of you. Perhaps the part where everyone was slightly drunk and in a good mood carried the moment.

Then we realize that they have a guy in a chicken suit with them. And then a girl in a bear suit saunters up. They are, of course, the group from the restaurant.

So the thirty of them, adorned as they were, are all gathered up in the middle of the Promenade. We're all in a friendly, rowdy mood. I'm pretty sure one of them even said, "let's see what you've got." I think maybe they were expecting some kind of break dancing/chicken dancing impromptu dance off. But boy were they in for a surprise.

We immediately start busting out our stuff: Eddie lifts Alicia into the air and they start doing their balancing routine (various one-arm lifts, thigh stands, a handstand on his forearm, etc); muscleman David and Bruno start doing a few stunts; Aaron, Ian, and I start walking around on our hands. The barnyard animal group explodes with cheers and hoots. They can't believe what they're seeing or what they've just walked into; one of them asks if we're from a traveling circus.

Can you picture it? Thirty half-drunk, screaming fans dressed as farm animals are cheering us on in the middle of the Promenade while we show off our best acrobatic tricks. I can't believe I didn't bring my camera!

Quickly the farm animals start urging their own members to show us up. The chicken busts out a handstand. Two of the others try (and fail) to do a thigh stand. The huge group starts clapping in rhythm and shouting some incomprehensible cheer--turns out they were all camp counselors this summer and this was their farewell dinner party. The two-person cow rejoins the group late and thirty people start chanting, "we've got a cow! We've got a cow!" Okay, they've got us there. We didn't have a cow.

It was amazing how friendly and fun they all were. Each group was challenging the other but we were all genuinely thrilled with each other's efforts (I mean a chicken doing a handstand would make any evening totally awesome). It was like both groups were old, close friends and yet we were total strangers meeting in the middle of the night. It would have been so easy for one crass or crude person to spoil the mood, but there was only joviality, warmth, and encouragement.

For the next half hour or so we keep doing our acrobatics stunts, using the Promenade as our equipment wherever we could: David climbs a tree and does a flag (muscle trick holding his body straight out, horizontal) off the branches, I start doing press handstands, David, Aaron, and I hold "V"s, Eddie's lifted Alicia up in the air again as she strikes poses on her back or supported by her thigh, Aaron's doing some break dancing, we do some two-man levers, Bruno climbs up and stands on one of David's shoulders. All the while the farm animal/camp counselor group can't believe what they're seeing and keep cheering us on and trying to find new ways to outdo us.

I organized a handstand distance walk contest. The chicken was the only handstander they had, but it was tight race between Aaron, David, and I. Poor Alicia was afraid of crashing on the cement and didn't even get off the starting line. I was practically sprinting on my hands--on the low-lit Promenade street which I could barely see--and I was sure no one could possibly be anywhere near me (I've never hauled ass that fast on my hands). I got tired so I bailed out, but when I looked up Aaron was still going strong. He beat my fifty feet by another fifteen or so!

Eddie wanted to try doing a gut lever on David's head (holds himself horizontal, propping his weight on one arm that's jammed into his stomach, balancing himself in that way, on top of David's head!). We start positioning spotters. The farm animals see that this is going to be a bit dicey (and exciting) so they swarm around them, all raise their arms, and all start repeating, "spotters ready!" in great fun. So there's a sea of farm animal spotters surrounding David and Eddie while they attempt the trick. Lots of group "Ohhhhs!" and "Whoaaaaas!" going on. Eddie could have crowd surfed right off David's head if he wanted to.

Eventually the farm animals start building a human pyramid. They finally get the last guy on top and are feeling pretty good about themselves, everyone screaming. But right then a cop car cruises up, not sure what to make of this rowdy bunch of freaks in the middle of the Promenade at 11pm on a Sunday night. We weren't exactly breaking any laws (I don't think) but we weren't really keeping the peace either.

We're not sure what the cops are going to do. We're just kind of staring at each other. But Alicia gets the idea to make way for the car and let it pass between us while we give it the cheerleader pompom bridge treatment (arms angled up, fingers twinkling). Everyone gets the idea, splits to either side of the car, raises their arms, and makes a human tunnel of sorts for the car to pass through. The cops stare at us for a second, consider, then start to roll slowly through our silly tunnel, laughing their asses off, slapping high fives to the crowd as they go.

The cops get the biggest cheer of the night as they drive off and let us be.

The camp group starts getting into more organized camp songs and dances and Ian figures out that they're singing in Hebrew. I then astutely observe that there's no one dressed up as a pig. It all makes sense. We all join in on a few of their dances and organize some group activities--like the group sit (everyone gets in a circle, faces right, then everyone sits at the same time so that everyone is sitting on the knees of the person behind them).

The party's about to break up but they start chanting "one more trick! One more trick!" So David lies on his back with his forearms raised and I grab his hands and do a handstand on them (while wearing the bunny ears that a nearby bunny handed to me). With plenty of helpful spotters surrounding us, he then pushes his arms (and me!) off the ground so that his arms are fully extended upwards as I hold the handstand. Mad strength.

The Hebrew camp/farm animal revelers depart, but not without many cries of "you guys rock!" Hugs, fist-taps, and high-fives ensue and then our two street gangs part in high spirits.

I wish I'd had my camera, but I'm just glad I was there. That's got to be the coolest, strangest, most unexpected thing I've ever experienced. It's nice to know that there can be two roving gangs of rowdy people who all know how to have fun and can get along as well as we all did.

Seriously, if Hebraic farm animals and beach acrobats can get along in peace and cameraderie, I don't see why everyone else shouldn't be able to get along as well...

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Closonotron?? Dustonetion??

My final paper for my survey class of English Lit from 1660-1832 was very well received by the TA, Sam. However, his handwriting was a bit of a challenge to read. My sister and I spent a shocking amount of time trying to figure out one word in particular:

(click for a bigger view)

Here's the full surrounding text:

(click for a bigger view)
(even bigger: full-size scan 1.14MB)

My sister's best guess was "closonotron" which, sadly, does not exist in the dictionary. My best guess was "dustonetion" which ain't in the dictionary either. And that was with the help of using her pocket magnifying glass (see right).

After about twenty minutes (and much laughing at the absurdity of it) we figured it out. Can you?!