One Hundred One

Back in June my wife and I flew down to Los Angeles to attend the Mixed Roots Film & Literary Festival. This is the annual event put on by the dynamic duo Heidi Durrow and Fanshen Cox, whom I wrote about back in April. The festival took place at the Japanese American National Museum in Little Tokyo, downtown Los Angeles. Little Tokyo is just one Metro light rail stop away from Olvera Street which commemorates the original site of El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de Los Ángeles de Porciúncula.

CIMG1180Olvera Street isn’t literally the spot where Los Angeles was founded as a dusty little village in 1781 but it’s not far. It does contain the oldest remaining house in the city, the Avila Adobe. The city maintains Olvera Street as its historic district so it is bedecked with historical markers and the look and feel of old Mexico. It’s bustling with tourists, but across the street is a quiet little patch of grass, Father Serra Park.

It is a tribute to Junipero Serra of course and has a statue of El Padre Presidente holding a cross and a tiny mission. A few yards away is an El Camino Real bell. I had a vague recollection that there might be something special about this bell, and when we got home, I confirmed it. This is the first El Camino Real bell.

CIMG1182Sadly that’s a bit of an exaggeration. The first bell was placed by Mrs. A. S. C. Forbes on the other side of Olvera Street in front of the Plaza Church on August 15, 1906. That original bell hasn’t survived but a new bell was dedicated in the same location in 1998. To celebrate the centennial of that first bell, the Father Serra Park bell was erected on August 15, 2006. Read the L.A. Times’ story about the centennial celebration here on the web site of the California Bell Company which continues to forge the bells over a century later. I regret that we didn’t get over to the church to see the original bell site, but this centennial bell is very special in its own right.

As you can see from the photos, it was getting dark while we were in the park and we had to skedaddle before our light rail passes expired. The next day we took the $0.25 LA DOT DASH bus (“dot dash”…get it?) from our hotel in Chinatown back to Little Tokyo for the second day of the festival. I knew the shuttle was going to pass in front of the Junipero Serra statue so I held my camera phone up to the bus window to try to snap a picture in passing, just for fun. As we drove past this is the picture I got:
It’s basically a picture of the sun through a gap in the trees. Somehow the sun, the Earth, me, my camera, Junipero Serra, and the centennial bell all lined up perfectly in the split second my finger released the shutter aboard a moving bus. It’s not much of a photo but it was a thrilling moment. Illumination can come when you least expect it.

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