My Weekend: What could go wrong?

It was a weird weekend, My Weekend, one that started Thursday with me sitting with my adult son in the Greek Theater listening to Al Green. Now see, right there, I was thinking, this is gonna be a firecracker of a weekend because no matter what happens, I’ve got Al Green, and Al Green is not only the greatest singer alive but a man who, whatever his struggles—and he has struggled—exudes an unmistakable joyfulness, even when singing about heartbreak. What could go wrong?

And then, Friday. Friday went wrong.

On Friday, for reasons numerous and lame, Cal State Long Beach Friday decided it had no choice but to announce the results of its mascot search contest. I got a call that this was happening, Friday afternoon, and simply could not believe it. I couldn’t believe it because Friday afternoons are when big organizations like Cal State Long Beach announce things that they don’t want people to pay attention to, and the whole point of the mascot search was to get a lot of attention for the university.

Plus, given that the gender of a baby or request for a prom date, these days, cannot happen without some semblance of pyrotechnics and choreography, the idea that CSULB would dump the news that they would now be referred to as the Sharks with as much fanfare as announcing they were making a trip to Jiffy Lube, seemed incomprehensible.

Add to that the fact the announcement was not only met by the requisite anger that the university was jettisoning the 49er name and Prospector mascot, but that the athletic department, the one most affected by the new mascot, immediately let it be known that its teams would not answer to Sharks; that the baseball team would remain the Dirtbags and everyone else would identify as “Beach.”

Then the journalism department got into it, with mock-ups of “The Daily Shark”—the school paper is known as “The Daily 49er”—and then people started with the “Baby Shark” song parodies and pretty soon the whole thing had the air of being so poorly handled as to suggest this was all done on purpose, that someone at the school had said, “This mascot thing is such a no-brainer, no one could screw it up,” to which someone answered, “Oh yeah?” in one of those whiney, 1930s-era gangster movie voices.

“The Long Beach Hammerheads” by Long Beach native Alexander Villalobos.

As silly and small-time as the whole thing was bungled, I could not help but feel in some way responsible, having ginned the whole thing up. See, when I first got this job, one of the first things Asia Morris and I decided to do was hold our own, unofficial mascot contest for CSULB. The whole thing was done very much tongue-in-cheek and meant to provide a special insight into the school since we encouraged people to send us mascots that were unique to CSULB. In fact, I believe I may have initially proposed that whatever character people came up with, all mascots must be presented sitting behind the wheel of a car, glumly looking for parking.

But what we ended up getting was a lot of really good submissions, so good that we found ourselves saying “I could see that on a T-shirt” a lot. They were so good, that the school not only announced a similar set up for a contest but that the contest soon exactly mirrored ours, not only in its submissions but its winners, i.e. CSULB’s top five mascots, we’re our top five; its top two, were our top two.

I started feeling that we had in some way pushed them into this, into something they were clearly not prepared, or able to handle, when it suddenly hit me that that was about as Cal State Long Beach as it gets; this truly was the mascot that screamed Cal State Long Beach most of all.

Go Beach… Sharks… whatever.

With my son in town, I took him and my daughter to Bluff Park, Saturday. Though the kids were raised initially in Downey and then in Hermosa Beach, Long Beach has always been a big part of their growing up and one of their best memories is going to Bluff Park for impromptu picnics and throwing footballs, baseballs and bumping volleyballs.

It was a beautiful day, weather-wise, and one of my kids said it made them feel good, gave them a little faith that some things, like Bluff Park, never change. That’s when I told them about the terrorist plot. You remember, the terrorist plot where the guy was gonna blow up the white supremacists and when the white supremacists let it known they wouldn’t be showing, was gonna blow up whoever was around.

I probably could have passed on sharing that information. They tried to ask me more about it, but I was too busy checking updates on my phone from reporter Val Osier about a string of shootings in the city. I was the editor on-call on Saturday, which usually means you handle a little bit of crime, a road closure due to an accident and a little story about an event, maybe kids learning something about nature, after which you call it a day.

But Saturday seemed a never-ending string of shootings, in bars on streets, involving just about whoever was around. It was a relief, then, when we headed over to the East Village for the first LB Art Walk put on by the Arts Council for Long Beach.

Vladimir Noel does his painting as he performs at the East Village Arts Park during the East Village LB Artwalk in Long Beach Saturday, May 11, 2019. Photo by Thomas R. Cordova.

Now, if you’ve been paying attention, the Art Walk is at a critical moment in its existence, with some believing it could be an enormous benefit to the artistic community and city in general with the other side replying that this party is beat and it’s time to move on.

What went on Saturday provided evidence for either camp. If you are of an affirmative mind, the energy and goodly amount of people present at the live performances presented at the Arts Park was proof positive that there is a desire for this from those who produce and those who consume art.

But one had only to go about a block in either direction from the park to see a kind of wasteland that suggests the energy doesn’t radiate far beyond the park.

It’s clear that the Council’s first attempt had some positivity to it, but it’s just as clear that if this thing is ever going to work, it will only happen by figuring out a way to tie the whole thing together. Right now, it is so spread out that there is no feeling of connection from one event to another, any artistic energy seems to dissipate with each step. Can you imagine running a farmers’ market where, if someone wanted tomatoes, they were directed three blocks over, walking through completely barren neighborhoods?

I took my kids on a tour of the walk and they constantly kept asking, “Where’s the Art Walk?” When I’d tell them we were on the Art Walk, they’d say “Really? Where?”

When we got to the Dark Art Emporium or Fingerprints, both LB Art Walk participants, there was nothing announcing or connecting them to the art walk. And it seems obvious that this will be the challenge; that organizers will either have to find a way to physically bring people together, again, think farmers’ market, or find a way to tie the area together using things like art and performers stationed around to attract people and assure them this is the LB Art Walk. Really.

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Steve Lowery began his journalism career at the Los Angeles Times, where he planned to spend his entire career. God, as usual, laughed at his plans and he has since written for the short-lived sports publication The National, the L.A. Daily News, the Press-Telegram, New Times LA, the District and the OC Weekly. He is the Arts & Culture Editor for the Post, overseeing the Hi-lo.