If you have reading The Endless Further for a while, you may remember that I live in the section of Hollywood USA known as Thai Town. Yesterday was the annual Songkran Festival celebrating the Thai New Year. Hollywood Blvd was closed down for a mile in order that one and all could enjoy “the most delicacy of Thai sophisticated culture and tradition.”

Songkran is a Thai word derived from the Sanskrit samkranti, which means “to cross into” and refers to the day when sun passes from one astrological sign to another.

An important ceremony of Songkran is throwing water. Tradionally, Thai people will pour water on the hands of elders and Venerables and ask for blessings. This often includes bathing statues of Buddha. Apparently, in Thailand they go all out with this – roaming the streets with water guns and other containers, hiding on the side of the road or behind bushes to throw water on each other. I didn’t see any of that going on yesterday but I did get hit by some wayward bubbles from this little girls bubble gun. Fortunately, I survived.

It was chilly, partly cloudy day, with some light rain in the morning, but that didn’t put a damper on this year’s attendance. Here are a few of the pics I took and there is a link to the complete gallery below:

This young woman is playing the Koto Guzheng Chinese Zither Harp

Here’s a close up of a guy playing the same instrument.

This man had to be the worst Elvis impersonator I have ever heard (or seen). He couldn’t carry a tune to save his life. It was excruciating to listen to.

This fella agreed with me.

The “Place for Buddha Worship” is not bad for just lounging around, either.

The ceremonial procession of the Man on Stilts

View the entire gallery here.

Don’t come to my part of Hollywood to eat unless you like Thai Food. I mean, really like it. Because that’s all we have now. Five solid blocks of Thai restaurants. I haven’t counted them but there must be at least 25. Maybe more. Don’t get me wrong, I like Thai food, but I like variety too. Taco Bell moved out several years ago. Maybe that was a public service. There’s a Thai place there now. Sizzler left last summer. The salad bar was pretty good. It’s standing empty at the present time, but I am laying odds as to what it turns into. And the last bastion of Americana, Daily Donuts (run by a Thai couple) has been replaced with, guess what?

Well, this is Thai Town after all, but it’s also kind of overkill, if you ask me. And no one has. The epicenter is a strip mall where the aforementioned donut shop was, and there used to be a handy Laundromat, too. Now it is a strip mall with a Thai massage parlor, a Thai perfume shop, Thai insurance, Thai restaurants and valet parking.

One Saturday a month, people gather in the morning at the Thailand Plaza next door (it’s not really a plaza, just a Thai grocery store with a Thai nightclub above it) to offer food to monks from the various Thai temples around town. Not being that intimate with Theravada or Thailand, one time as I watched the rite, I asked a Thai guy who looked like he might speak English, “What do you call this ceremony where you offer food to the monks?” He replied, “We call it offering food to the monks.”

Actually it’s called Tak Bat which means “alms giving”. By offering rice, soft drinks, cakes and so on, people are doing good deeds or Tham Bun. This is a daily ritual in most Theravada countries. I don’t know about Mahayana. I don’t recall ever seeing Mahayana monks do this, although I have see them receive offerings in a temple setting. The alms giving/receiving, of course, is a tradition that dates back to the Buddha’s time.

The ceremony is very short, only about an hour. The people show up, set up their tables, and wait. Then the monks show up and they wait until everyone is there and then they begin their procession, holding their alms bowls, accompanied by someone with a shopping cart for the overflow. After the food has been distributed, one of the monks gives a short talk, followed by some brief chanting, and then everyone goes home. Short and sweet.

Here some photos I took from this month’s Tak Bat with a link to the full set at the bottom. Saturday was nice and warm. It climbed up to 80 in the afternoon. Some monks came in from as far away as Riverside, and there were monks from Wat Thai in North Hollywood there, as well as Dharma Vijaya over on Crenshaw.

“Did you hear the one about the two monks from Laos . . .”

“Hey, dude! How ya doin’?”

Dancing while the monks are talking is usually frowned upon.

I wasn’t the only one snapping pics.

You can see the rest of the photos here.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that this is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. A good time to reflect on Dr. King’s legacy and the principle of non-violence:

Nonviolent resistance is also an internal matter. It not only avoids external violence or external physical violence but also internal violence of spirit. And so at the center of our movement stood the philosophy of love. The attitude that the only way to ultimately change humanity and make for the society that we all long for is to keep love at the center of our lives.

Martin Luther King, Jr.
June 4, 1957

Well, sort of.

Living in Hollywood, USA can be interesting. A couple of years ago, just around this same time in August, a film (“Powder Blue”) was being filmed up the block and one afternoon I shook hands with Kris Kristofferson just a few yards from my front door. Let me tell you that for a rock/country music fan like me, that was quite a thrill.

Later the same day, I watched Forrest Whitaker dressed in a Santa suit sitting and sweating (in 100 degree temperature as it turned out to be the hottest day of the year) on a bench at a bus stop on Hollywood Blvd. Filming a scene for the same movie which never made the final cut.

Yesterday down the street, they were shooting the pilot for a new HBO series, “All Signs of Death”, based on Charlie Huston’s 2009 great pulp fiction/neo-noir crime novel The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death. It’s about a twenty-something slacker who “stumbles into a career as a crime scene cleaner.” He stumbles into a mystery too, of course.

Now, this is obviously the vehicle they’re going to use in the series, parked around the corner from the filming, under a nice shady tree:

Notice there’s no phone number displayed. Who you gonna call? Somebody else, because these folks are fictional.

Actually, “crime scene cleaning” is big business these days. You can earn a six figure income in this profession. I wanted to know how one became a crime scene cleaner-upper. I went to a website run by Amdecon. They offer training and certification in just ten days! First step? Purchase the Amdecon training DVD program for $295.00.

Another company, Crime Scene Steri-Clean, LLC of California, like the fictional Clean Team, offers both commercial and residential services, and not only will they mop up all the blood from your crime scene, but if you have a need, they help with rodent removal, too. What’s more, Crime Scene Steri-Clean will also clean your car, no trauma required.

Here’s another view of the Clean Team vehicle. I didn’t check to see if the license plate is real. I have yet to see any vehicles like this on the block, but we haven’t had any murders, lately. A few rats, though.

I hope they don’t run huge vacuum hoses from these vans into the houses or apartments they service like those carpet-cleaning guys do. I hate that. What a racket. By the way, while I’m thinking about it, let me say, and I realize this is not really Buddhistic of me, that I am of the opinion that anyone who uses a gas-powered leaf blower should be shot on sight. No questions asked. Electric leaf-blowers, too. Besides, in Los Angeles it is against the law to operate those things within 50 feet of a residential building. A law that not a single leaf-blowing person has ever obeyed.

Anyway, back to “All Signs of Death”: I looked up the cast in case someone cool is going to be in it. I didn’t recognize any of the names. I guess I haven’t seen any of the television programs they’ve done. This guy here in the brown shirt is one of the actors. He might be somebody well-known. I don’t have a clue.

This next picture is how it looked from across the street. Elise’s has been in that location for fifty years. The tattoo parlor is a more recent addition.

In 1983, directly across the street here, the legendary director Ken Russell directed legendary actor Anthony Perkins in scenes for “Crimes of Passion” a much underrated and almost forgotten film that also starred Kathleen Turner. They put up a row of false storefronts, including a bar which they kept in place during the several days they were shooting scenes. After the first night, they had to post signs that the bar was not real. People kept trying to go in.

Well, another exciting day here in Tinseltown, and for this blog, a day’s respite from heavy stuff. At least in terms of this new HBO series, you can you saw it here first. Who knows, it might be the next “Dexter.”

The area around Hollywood Boulevard between Western and Normandy is Thai Town. It’s also Little Armenia and almost all of the business on those blocks are either one or the other. Most of the Thai shops, including the donut shop, have small shrines inside, usually on shelves like this:

Shrine in store

Here’s an interesting shrine outside of a Thai restaurant. Apparently making offerings to this one will not protect your car.

Shrine outside resturant

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