So there I was today at 5th and Flower, the City National Bank building, covering the second annual PSOMAS Paper Yacht Challenge to benefit the Los Angeles Food Bank. It was 5pm, and the racing crowd was assembling while a live DJ played in front of the buildings’ entrance. First I checked out the competition; paper boats of all shapes and configurations on the tables set up behind the fountain. Then I bumped into Carmen Rodriguez, Assistant VP of City National bank, and we headed over to the silent auction table to have a gander. Looked like a good turn out with sponsors like Bark Ave, the Dodgers, Wolfgang Puck, the Grammy Museum, and Universal Studios.
I sat down to enjoy my wait and have something to snack on. Someone was blowing soap bubbles into the wind, and the crowd amused themselves watching the spheres as they wound around the red stair-like sculpture in the fountain. I almost crashed the paper yacht party when a stiff wind coming from the southwest threatened to launch my paper hot dog canoe into the fountain. Personally, I think it would have been pretty funny if the race’s surprise winning candidate had been the remnants from my lunch at the Famima stand.
Anyway, the race was just about to begin—and then my phone rang. The skies filled with dark and menacing cumulonimbus, an icy wind picked up, one of the pirates looked nervously into the distance and yelled— Thar she blows! Something had overshadowed the event, and it was as large as a whale. My personal life. I had to circle the building, away from the music, so I could hear better. Can I come right now and talk about this in person?
I hung up and went back to the fountain. I heard the blast of an air horn; the race had just begun. I had to stay at least to watch the first race.
I noticed a large fan had been strategically placed at the starting line to urge the boats forward across the surface of the water. And off they went! There were maybe 9 paper boats occupying the waters. Several small clippers, a few yachts, a sailboat or two, and one strange Epcot dome-shaped vessel that proved the most stubbornly motionless one of them all.
The crowds drew close, some hung over the lip of the fountain to catch the action. And by action I mean that most of the vessels melted within the first 30 seconds. The most excitement was when a few of the ships went rogue, and sailed right over the ropes and into the wall of the fountain. One got halfway to the finish line, but got stuck on the floating unfolded remains of a sunken boat. It looked pretty bleak.
Until we noticed a pirate ship! Making its way, in fits and starts, toward the other side! The rules stated that the boat had to touch the other side to be considered a winner, and this one looked like it might actually make it.
I pushed my way to the front of the crowd to watch as the pirate ship got closer and closer. People began to cheer. A woman began blowing frantically on the ship. Help me blow, she cried! The mast of the craft had gotten stuck on the yellow ropes. Together, we coaxed it forward by blowing. Finally it broke free! But instead of moving forward, it sailed under the rope and made a break for it right into no man’s land. The disappointed crowd began to disperse. A man bent over to fish his paper pirate boat out of the water. I went up to him. Did you win, I asked? No, he said pinching his thumb and index finger in the air—it was six inches away.
Six inches, I said? I shook my head. Man, I can sympathize, I’ve been kicked out of strip clubs for less than that.
Anyway, that was the end of the first race. It was a clever event, well attended and hopefully raised some funds for the FoodBank. But as much as I wanted to stick around, I had to go. I had an important reconciliation to attend to. So I said a quick hello to Jeff Haber, the GM of Chaya restaurant, who we will be doing a story on very soon, and a quick goodbye to Carmen, who was being lured in by the offer of a free slice of pizza from Drago.
When I got home that evening, I phoned an old friend of mine to chat and I said—hey, I was at a paper boat race today! That’s funny, he replied. Then he told me this story: When he was a kid in grade school, he used to strategically sit in the back of the class during math. Where the fun books were. One of his favorites was a Curious George title, where Curious George gets a job as a paperboy. But instead of delivering papers, he takes all the newspapers to the park, makes paper boats out of them and floats them in the fountain.
In the back of the book was an instructional on how to make your own paper boat. Which my friend took advantage of, making hundreds of paper boats during math class, instead of learning his multiplication tables.
And I was like…why is this relevant?
Anyway the reason it was funny I had mentioned paper yachts to him, was that he found himself in a reconciliation meeting with a client today, bored, and for the first time in many years, folded himself a paper boat.
I’d say it’s a sign: More peaceful waters ahead of us.