Karen Tei Yamashita (b. 1951, Oakland, California, USA)

Written by Karen Tei Yamashita

Tropic of Orange, 1997

Despite everything, every sport event, concert, and whatnot was happening at the same time. l.a. marathoners slouched by the droves across the finish line at the Coliseum. At the Rose Bowl: ucla versus usc; the Bruin mascot had been carried off the field with heat stroke, and the Trojan horse was tied up after throwing its sweaty riders. The Clippers were attempting a comeback in overtime at the Sports Arena. It was the end of the seventh-inning stretch, and Nomo fans at Chavez Ravine hunkered down with their cold beers and Dodger dogs. Scottie Pippen fouled Shaq who sank a freethrow for the Lakers at the Forum in the last seconds. The Trekkie convention warped into five at the l.a. Convention Center. Bud Girls paraded between boxing matches at the Olympic Auditorium. Placido Domingo belted Rossini at the Dorothy Chandler under the improbable abstract/minimal/baroque direction of Peter Sellars. At the Shrine, executive producer Richard Sakai accepted an Oscar for the movie version of The Simpsons. The helicopter landed for the 944th time on the set of Miss Saigon at the Ahmanson, and Beauty smacked the Beast at the Shubert. Chinese housewives went for the big stakes in pai gow in the Asian room at the Bicycle Club. Live-laughter sitcom audiences and boisterous crowds for the daytime and nighttime talks filled every available studio in Hollywood and Burbank. Thousands of fans melted away with Julio Iglesias at the Universal Amphitheater. Robert McNeil and The Jubilee Choir were jumping gospel at the Greek, and movie music nostalgia brimmed from the Hollywood Bowl with John Mauceri conducting. King Tut had returned to lacma; Andy Warhol to moca. The aids walk 5/10k run was moving through West Hollywood. Andrei Codrescu read from “Zombification” at the Central Library. Surfers kicked butt with punks in leather and chains at the Lollapalooza in Orange County. Chicanos marched from the Plaza de la Raza down Whittier to César Chávez in solidarity. Volleyball teams vied for titles all along the beaches from Malibu to the Hollywood Riviera. Street fairs and food fairs and farmer’s markets bustled with gawkers in every park and parking lot. Endless lines extending down major freeways waited to get into Disneyland, Knott’s Berry Farm, Magic Mountain, Universal Studios, and Raging Waters for their half-price specials. Drag races were underway, deafening the Pomona Raceway, and across the way, a 4-h demonstration of cow milking gathered a crowd at the Los Angeles County Fair. Japanese Americans re-enacted the historic 1942 relocation of thousands of legal aliens at the Santa Anita Racetrack. Sin Ying Chang and his wife waited in a line five blocks long for the long-awaited premiere of a new Spielberg film. Political rallies and benefit dinners at $1,000 a plate for several Republican presidential candidates clapped themselves toward dessert at the Sheraton, the Hilton, and the Bonaventure. The middle-class clamored in malls for summer sales; the poor clamored at swap meets. Chris & Qris inquired at will-call about orchestra seats for Pizzicato 5 at the Japan American Theater. Across town, the Cirque du Soleil was back for the umpteenth time at the Big Tent at the Santa Monica pier. Meanwhile, Stomp stomped trash cans at the Waldsworth. And the horses were running neck and neck at Hollywood Park.


© 1997 Karen Tei Yamashita; Minneapolis: Coffee House Press

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