Last night I attended the Bowtie Project’s “Readings by Moonrise“, along the Los Angeles river, right next to the Glendale Narrows. The Glendale Narrows is a stretch of the river that is actual earth on the bottom, bot concrete like most of the river.
The Bowtie Project itself is run by a non-profit known as Clockshop, that is hosting some fun events along the river on an 18 acre former rail-yard that lies right next to the river. Along with California State Parks, Clockshop is hosting some really intriguing, really fun looking events. Last night, a warm Sunday night, was my first chance to come and take part in the fun.
We punched the address into Waze, and followed the directions through some streets in a part of town I had never seen before. This alone was interesting because I’ve lives not 5 minutes from the place my whole life, and it was like finding a hidden room in a house you’ve always lived in. We arrived at about 6:30 pm, with the sun beginning to set in the West, and the sky turning a beautiful rose color over the Griffith observatory in the distance.
Facing northeast from the Bowtie at about sunset time.
We parked in a large dirt lot, mostly clean and free of trash, which was nice. We walked over to the makeshift entrance, just two people sitting at a table with a list of those who had donated. We were on the list, so we were welcomed, and the people at the table pointed us over to the fun. As we walked toward a large fire pit dug into the ground, surrounded by people sitting in a ring around it. There were also some unoccupied black stools in the ring, and we took two for ourselves, along with one for the food we had brought, as the flyer for the event said to bring a picnic.
If you look closely, you can actually see the observatory in the background.
On the way to the fire pit, we passed by a few telescopes. The event was also attended by the Los Angeles Astronomical Society, and they were out letting folks peek through their lenses at Saturn, which was out, and also waiting on a rare event, a supermoon eclipse. It was still light out though, and the moon wasn’t all the way out, and was in fact, obscured by clouds, so we sat and listened to a poetry reading by Robin Coste Lewis, as the sun finally set.
The audience was captivated, and we listened to her poem for about 15 minutes. When she first started reading, a train passed by, forcing her to pause for a second, but she took it in stride and in good spirits. It seemed to add to the uniqueness of the event, and added a bit of magic to the whole thing. Another thing that was going on while she read was that Luis Rincon from California State Parks was setting up skewers in the fire to get them red-hot and clean, because after Ms. Lewis’ reading, smore supplies would be shared with the group. All this in the middle of Los Angeles.
When she was done with her reading, we took out our picnic which consisted of some Chicken Lula kebab we had made at home, along with some hummus, tabouli, pita and tzatziki, which we ate while everybody else was making smores. We had a nice dinner there, as the sky darkened and people milled about, some checking out the telescopes, and others just walking around the unique open space. After this intermission, Ben Loory sat at one edge of the ring of people, and got ready to take his turn reading.
His voice was very hoarse, but with the aid of a microphone, he told a couple of really awesome short stories. He had the crowd laughing at parts, and really engaged as they sat there listening, now in the dark, around the warm smoky fire. Toward the end of his reading, I turned around, and there, rising from the east, was the Blood Moon. When he finished reading, after a round of sincere applause, I said “Look at the moon”, and it seemed like everybody heard me because all at once the groups heads all turned around, and we all started to take in the eclipse.
The moon had taken on a reddish glow, almost the color of the desert clay, like the walls of the Grand Canyon in my opinion. The clouds were breaking up around it, and we started to get a really good look at the fullness and darkness of it. Where the moon usually beamed bright white over us, it was now dark and shadowy. It seemed to have a more 3D effect, and people began ooing and awwing over the spectacle.
After we finished our little picnic, and the reading was over, we packed up and headed over to the telescopes. We were able to look through 4 telescopes, all with different views of the moon. Some were zoomed way in onto a small section of the moon, while others framed the whole moon in the image, making for some really awesome sights. One of the astronomers had a large chunk of meteorite on her table, and we chatted and asked questions to learn more about the various setups we were stargazing through.
It was an amazing event, and I will definitely attend whatever upcoming gatherings I can. At one point, one of the organizers asked, by a show of hands, how many people were attending for the first time. It seemed like 99% of people shot their hands up. I do hope the momentum continues, and this smart, unique way of using our river space catches on. We could really use more activities like this in Los Angeles.