I had been looking forward to Glow all week and arrived at the Pacific Palisades Park giddy with anticipation. Perhaps, though, I should have taken this overheard comment as a fair warning: "Omigod," said a girl as she passed me by Saturday night, "Nothing is glowing."
"Yah, right," I thought. "You just haven't found the art yet."
Sadly, she was kinda right.
I got to the festivities early—9:30-ish, and like many locals, chose the bike as the evening's transportation. My friends starting showing up around 10:30, thus beginning the Text Messaging nightmare (which we will get into later.)
At first things seemed promising: the info booth was stacked with Glow-ing paraphernalia, yes, including glow sticks and glowing necklaces, glowing yo-yos, and the like.
There were throngs of people, not yet hordes. They were admiring the view. There was a sense of energy and anticipation in the air.
I parked the bike, and headed down the Pacific Palisades overpass (with a few hundred other people) to the beach.
People were certainly in the spirit of things. (Certain people seemed to be on another plane altogether).
One woman lit up her feather boa.
Another guy channeled Tron.
There was the old light saber effect.
These guys were at the Downtown Art Walk, too. I just called their work, "Glowing Penis."
After trekking through the darkness, we came to a white, bubble-looking object that was, yes, glowing.
Inside, children were jumping up and down. I thought, "Don't they have these at raves and amusement parks?" Except there, they are called Moonwalks, not Art.
A few feet away towards the ocean, there stood a moving tent of balloons and a crowd of people gathered around what appeared to be a glowing cobra-like figure. Everyone stood around, transfixed.
Moving on, we headed toward the Pier, toward Usman Hague's project, "Primal Source."
On the way, we found an interactive piece, which was essentially candles in paper bags aligned in a curvy fashion. We were encouraged to move them around.
Another, more elaborate, interactive piece was Nova Jiang and Michael Kontopoulos's "Moon Theatre." It was a riff on the old throwing shadows on the wall game. I saw the results, quirky cartoonish figures projected on a circular screen, first.
Then, only after stumbling away from it did I realize the origins of the shapes—a round light box where people could throw shadows.
This was pretty cool.
Next, I stopped in front of Usman's piece—which was remarkable.
A giant spray of water that shimmered and shifted with different colors, the piece was the most noticeable of those at the beach. It also got more impressive as the crowds grew—because it was interactive and reacted to the sound— the colors would shift more dramatically later in the evening, when 44,000 (20,000 more than the organizers anticipated) turned up.
Glow could have used more pieces like this—and could have benefited from putting more of the pieces closer together and tying them together thematically.
After slogging my way through the sand, which is always deceptively physically exhausting, I arrived at a huge line waiting to get in to something that was underneath the pier.
I asked a couple of girls what everyone was waiting in line to see.
"Um, it's like, an art show, called Glow?" said, one girl, gum snapping, eyes rolling.
"Um, omigod, I know that, the whole beach is an art show, but what is the specific thing you are waiting for?"
She stared at me blankly.
I did not add, "like, duh," though, I should have.
It turned out they were all waiting like cattle to see Shih Chieh Huang's ultra cool collection of light sculptures, which can only be described as a bizarre combination of being alien, jellyfish, and insect-like in their appearance. They shifted and changed shapes, whirled and blew upwards, and turned inward. One even had a pair of LED-screen eyes. Unfortunately, my pictures of these awesome creations are total crap. Apologies.
Upstairs at the Pier, breakdancers cavorted under a projection screen to the hip hop and dancehall beats of KCRW's Garth Trinidad.
But good luck finding anyone in that crowd.
It was around this point when various friends started arriving, resulting in a Brechtian text messaging nightmare.
"This is confiding and weird."
"OK. Meeting friends at DJ screen."
"Aborting. Crazy here. Going to find friends at DJ."
"If you're wearing a long skirt, we just passed each other on the sand. If not, you've got a doppelganger."
"I'm at the bottom of the stairs on the beach near there."
"We just arrived, is it just bits?"
"It's nuts, that's what I was saying."
"Man, there are an insane number of people here."
"Word has it they are shutting down the pier."
One hour later, with one friend found, we struggled to exit the masses of humanity. (We heard they shut down the pier and stopped the music way earlier than promised.)
But, first, we stopped for a look at the ocean, which had been roped off like we were in line at the world's largest VIP club.
Then we saw them: little tiny flopping, shiny fishes. Many, many fishes, flopping happily in the sand. It was the grunions themselves, on a grunion run! (No photos, so just close your eyes and imagine).
They kept inching over to us, ever so closely. We could almost touch them. Then some asswipe went running over the line to them and chased them, trying to catch one. And let me tell you those little fishes ran! They ran away from him, but then the asswipe caught one and raised his fist in victory. But he had chased all the grunions away. It was sad. So it was time to go away from Glow.
In the end, the most Glow-riffic thing about Glow was the Ferris Wheel, which you can see every night of the week.
So, I got on my bike and rode into the night.