tradition


As I’ve done for many years now during the Memorial Day weekend, I get on my bike and make a solemn sojourn to Los Angeles National Cemetery. Late last week, in response to an inquiry from KPCC as to who or what their listeners would be thinking about and doing for the occasion, I recorded my thoughts for them via SoundCloud:

My Memorial Day Ritual by wildbell

It was a beautiful day and a beautiful ride, and as you’ll see in the video, I did my annual duty in righting a whole bunch of individual flags that had fallen. But I pedaled very pensively the way home, thinking both about the freshest graves I found there of soldiers killed in Afghanistan in August and September of 2011, and of those undoubtedly to come.

For pretty much every year since its inception in 1985, the L.A. Marathon has taken place on the first Sunday of March, and for the last 15 of those first Sundays I’ve gotten my ass up at some ungodly hour, and gotten my ass out there either to jog/walk the marathon, ride the bike tour, or on three of those Sundays actually do both events.

Late last summer when the marathon was sold to a group that includes Dodgers owner Frank McCourt, the city bowed to pressure from a coalition of Koreatown and South Los Angeles churches and made the sale conditional upon a “never on Sunday” clause. These churches had long complained of the impact the event’s street closures had on their congregations that day, and so to placate them the City Council forced the new ownership to move it to a different day.

After initially choosing February’s Presidents Day, it was quickly realized that wouldn’t work and thus relocated it to Memorial Day. This is wrong on a couple levels. First, it’s a three-day holiday weekend, which means people are more interested in getting away — be it to the beach or to their barbecues — so marathon attendance is likely to suffer. Second, barring some meteorological anomaly, the last Monday in May is historically much warmer than the first Sunday in March. This will not only further deplete participation, but will increase the chance of people actually dropping dead on the course.

All because some churches (some of which are no longer impacted by the marathon thanks to the marathon’s current A-to-B course implemented in 2007) got all righteously indignant. Interestingly enough, church-rich Pasadena is staging its first marathon and bike tour the third Sunday this month and worked in conjunction with those houses of worship along its course to offer alternate routes to their congregants to get them in the pews. Imagine that: a cooperative effort that works a solution instead of creates a new set of problems.

Anyway, that long preamble rant is because earlier this week I decided that with or without the marathon, I wasn’t going to let what would be my 16-year-old tradition pass without me getting my ass up March 8 at some ungodly hour and going for a long “Not the L.A. Marathon Bike Tour” bike ride. I charted a rambler of a 34-mile course that included visits to the Watts Towers, Boyle Heights, the L.A. River bed beneath the 6th Street Viaduct, Union Station/Los Angeles Historic Plaza, the Disney Concert Hall, MacArthur Park, Alvarado Terrace, and the Pantry for breakfast.

Trouble was this morning I realized March 8 isn’t the first Sunday in March. That was yesterday. For the first first Sunday in March since 1994, I slept in. I’m feeling both lame and bummed that I let my personal tradition flitter away unawares.

Oh, it’s still on for next Sunday. Might even add a meandering streets tour of the West Adams district as penance that pushes the route up near 50 miles. If anyone out there wants to come along for all or just part, let me know. I plan to depart from the SilverSun minimall at Sunset and Parkman at 6 a.m.