My wife Heather dragged me along to Red bull’s Flugtag a few years back for lots of wacky fun, so when we heard about the Soap Box Derby, we were an easy sell. Accordingly, last Saturday, Heather and I dragged another few cohorts down the hill to Los Angeles to take it all in. Fellow photogs Jackie Jordan and Jonathon Redman were navigator and bombardier to our pilot and co-pilot. None of us are Red bull drinkers, in spite of it being handed out like water to many a thirsty hipster.
The event was at 5th and Grand, a diabolical choice of venue, where gravity and one nasty turn served to foil contestants and entertain the masses. One might have chosen a more gentle grade or a lesser turn, but what fun is there in creating a course where the majority of contestants actually complete it unharmed? Skyscrapers of the jewelry district stood watching over the silly festivities laughing quietly to themselves. Inside were many curious executive types welcoming the distraction. They reminded me of Caesar but gave no thumbs up or down. Residents of the local Hilton looked down from what seemed like a hundred stories, leaning on glass balconies, clutching drinks.
They even brought in a few celebrities to “spice” things up. On hand were : Paul Rodriguez, Jillian Barberie and even Erik Estrada was there signing CHPs shirts and casting judgement on the bruised and beaten teams of soap-boxers with cards reading 1 – 10. There were cameramen on scaffoldings and emcees choking on the mic. Almost as if planted at every crowded event, there were teenagers and twenty-somethings and even drunk thirty-somethings climbing into the sky on whatever they could find. Perched in trees and traffic signals and street signs, they kept the cops busy and gave them something to do. There were jumbo-tron type screens displaying the games for the short or poorly placed and not too far from the free Red Bull, they were selling Red Bull and water for $3. Yeah…theres a certain ugliness to an event like this. It sort of turns us all into stock animals, sharing fluids and bacteria. I looked to the pro photogs and thought, “how do I get press credentials?” They were in there own little zone that had the best views, a crowd-free space in which to work and of course free Red Bull.
Among the wheeled death machines were every manner of rolling nightmare: a fire truck from the FD, a giant PacMan, Lonestar’s RV from Spaceballs, a piano and even a giant brain from my current schoolmates at C.S.U.N., which did very well I might add. Nothing quite measured up to the almost flawless replica of the Mach 5, complete with Speed Racer. The seasoned driver took the Red Bull branded berm like it was 2nd nature. I mean it WAS Speed Racer after all. Actually I hated the cartoon. How strange is it that the greatest incarnation of this awful Japanese cartoon was in a soap box derby years after the fact and not in a multi-million dollar feature film?
The event was so crowded that it wasn’t too easy to find a decent view of the course. This was frustrating me for a little bit and we all sort of split up and found what vantage points we could. We all ended up pretty close to each other struggling for line of sight as best we could. Heather is far better with crowds than I and her set of photos shows it. Jonathon got some great video. All in all, we had quite a good time. We are seriously considering building a soap box derby car for the next event. Anyone want to lend a hand?
The crowd dispersed faster than you can say tear gas. We were out of there in a hurry and due to a few wrong turns, we found ourselves chasing food and architecture in Chinatown. Every time I visit L.A., I am forced to concede that my outdated, all negative, Jack-Kerohuac-On-the-Road view of Los Angeles is more than likely unfair. I find something fine and something sad every time I come to the City of Angels. We happened upon a Chinese temple of some kind just before sunset and closing time, just soon enough to snap a few shots of the amazing structure. Art and creativity were everywhere on the property and it made me wonder why we so seldom build for beauty’s sake here in the West. Our Churches pale in comparison to the temples of the Middle East or even South America. We have so much ability and so many resources, why don’t we put it to better use? Our pyramids land on Mars and create nuclear energy which is great, but I want a real pyramid-type monument for my age. Any thoughts?
In other news, a few people are starting to get their hands on the much-coveted Canon EOS 7D. The results look good so far and it looks like I’m on track to have one in the next couple of weeks. In the mean time, I’ve found a few nice links with some info on this machine. Visit Rob Galbraith’s site for a great write and up and preview. I’ve been finding quite a bit of results from new owners at DPReview, which is one of my go-to sites for all things digital photography. Also, I found the video below from Digital Rev which outlines some of the great new features I hope to be enjoying in the near future.