Sunday, August 17, 2008

Nisei Week

I used to LOVE Nisei Week. Back in the day, (that's what old people say), it was a place to people watch. Okay, so the people I watched were girls, I admit it. We always went to the "Carnival." There were no rides, it featured booths run by Church groups, Youth groups, Clubs, Fraternities, Sororities, and some businesses. There were "home-cooked" food booths, games of chance booths, and booths that sold things like t-shirts and other merchandise.

Usually, the "grown-ups" went during the day, and the young adults, or kids, went at night. We were there to impress, or tried to impress, and check out all of the opposite sexes that were also checking us out? Heck, for all I know they didn't even notice us.

One of the highlights of the night would be the cruising. We all brought our cars, fixed up or not, and drove around the block that the carnival was held on. People had Imports and American Muscle cars. I once told a friend that my era created the "Ricers" that permeate the car shows now. But the most we ever did was put rims and tires on, lower them a bit and add Koni shocks. Very few tuned the engines on their Imports. How could we? There wasn't many aftermarket parts for them.

Only the Muscle cars were "fixed up," and they were usually "ugly." You see, the Imports were new, and we tried to make them look better with the money we spent. The Muscle cars were older, and the money went into engine parts, not the paint job or body work. My friend had a 67 Ford Mustang that he ran on the strip every so often, and another had a 65 Ford Falcon with a V8 in it. I had a 1980 Datsun 200SX. What's a Datsun? Well, back in the day................... never mind. It had a two-toned paint scheme, black on top and bottom, with silver sides and trunk. The rims were chrome with a gold colored middle. Hot! Not? Anyway, I did "race" my car a couple of times against a friend's friend who had a big mouth and went to a rival High School. I beat him twice, and almost a third, but he "canceled" the last race, because he thought he saw some Police cars. We left right away. He still owes me $40.

Another highlight was the Nisei Week parade. The parade featured Japanese dancers, marching bands, dignitaries, Beauty pageant contestants, etc. I was in a Japanese marching band and played for about 8 years, and never missed a parade.

Now, somehow, Nisei week has turned into 2 weeks, and the Carnival is no more. The parking lot it was held on, has been built over, and not much space is left anywhere else to hold it. Because of Health regulations, no Church or Youth group have booths anymore. They have been replaced by "Professional" food booths and merchants. It seems like you see the same booths over and over at any festival or carnival in the Los Angeles area. And cruising has been replaced by a Car show. It's just not the same. In my opinion, Nisei Week has lost some of it's "Community" feel.

Well, there's still the parade, and I'm still in it, almost every year. I ride on the Fire Dept's antique Fire Engine. I do it to show some Civic pride, and to let people know that there are Asian Firefighters, and maybe I can inspire someone to become one. Last I heard, Asians make up only 2 percent of our Fire Dept, so we could use some more.

Another good thing is now, I get to meet all of the Beauty pageant contestants. I have for the last 12 years. Unfortunately, I keep getting older, and they stay the same age, 20-25.

I always seem to be a dollar short and a day late.

There may be a Community Center built on a currently empty lot. It may be designed to hold a Carnival. Though it really isn't that bad right now, maybe Nisei Week will return to it's "Glory days" if that happens. Let's hope.

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