Sunday, July 12, 2009

Old Fort MacArthur Days

On the weekend following Independence Day an interesting cast of characters descend on Old Fort MacArthur Museum each year. First and sixth century Romans, medieval warriors, pirates, Minutemen, Redcoats, Hussars, Union and Confederate soldiers, WWI infantry, WWII including Japanese Imperial soldiers, Marines from the Vietnam War and even a couple actual, active military men set up camp overlooking the Pacific Ocean in San Pedro.

The gathered hoard have encampments and reenactments. Small scale wars rage on the battlefield. Cooks prepare meals from their respective times and places. Vendors sell vintage military wares and reproductions. Fraternal organizations and historical societies disseminate information and shill for new members.

These are people that not only love history, but live it.

The Sons of the Union Veterans of the Civil War Encampment

Confederate Soldiers
preparing for the 1 o'clock battle

Roman legions preparing lunch

Revolutionary American Camp

Revolutionary British Camp

The armaments of the medieval warriors

Roman blacksmith

Sixth Century Roman Camp


Confederate Soldiers receiving instruction

Old Fort MacArthur Days is about three things - history, camaraderie and fund raising. It sometimes appears that the participants outnumber the public roaming around the grounds and I'd guess most participants would be okay if everyone there was dressed in some period outfit pretending that there's nothing strange about a pirate raid of a Native American camp.

Last year I was only at the event for a short while and missed most of the exhibits down the hill toward the ocean. This year I rambled around from our encampment to the other areas for most the day. The best way to experience the event is to just stop for awhile, pull up a chair and let the people pass you on their way to do other things.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

The Fourth

The weekend girls were back with activities for the long Fourth of July weekend. The highlights:

The Getty Villa
Along the Malibu coast J. Paul Getty commissioned the construction of a Roman villa to house his collection of Greek and Roman antiquities. After a harrowing (and exceedingly long) journey up the Pacific Coast Highway with a million of a our closest friends we arrived.

We were greeted by an array of statues with beguiling eyes (or were they just on drugs).

At some point, bored with our tour guides and a little punchy from hunger, we started pretending that we too were Roman statues.

BBQ and the Woman in the Red Top

Following our cultural outing we desired a meal that was more down to Earth. Again, we worked our way down the Pacific Coast Highway to Venice and Baby Blues Bar-B-Q.

We knew it was a perfect BBQ place the second we arrived. It was small, it was tight and it had a sort of greasy, lived in quality. Serving a more or less Carolina style barbecue the food was wonderful. Ah, but it was really about the wait staff, especially our waitress, heretofore known as the woman in the red top. I expect my share of grief at work on Monday.

The Best Fireworks West of the Mississippi

Saturday, we were off again on another outing. We headed to Pasadena for fireworks at the Rose Bowl (described repeatedly as the biggest in Southern California).

Camille served up a picnic of pulled pork sandwiches, beans, coleslaw, corn on the cob and apple pie. We sipped on ice tea and broke a city ordinance (unwittingly) by drinking Mike's Hard Lemonade (and from a glass bottle!).

Fireworks were preceded by two hours of drum corps which while reasonably entertaining did involve far more interpretive dance than I was expecting or ever cared to see. We were also reminded that these were the biggest fireworks not only in Southern California, but in the western states and then later they were even the biggest west of the Mississippi River.

Amazingly enough, all the hype did not disappoint. Oddly, as I've gotten older the fireworks aren't as much the source of delight they once were. Instead, I revel in the people around me - from the preppy high school boys behind us to the slightly ridiculous couple with their star shaped hats to the weekend girls flanking me, each in turn oohing and giggling their approval. It was not lost on me as I looked at our little trio lit by the sparkling lights above and listening to the soaring music, quiet gasps and delighted laughs that we are what makes this place special. Only here, I thought, in this place could this be.