|A duck to water: Florentijn Hofman's "Rubber Duck" oversees|
the revels at the 2014 Tall Ships Festival LA at the
Los Angeles Harbor.
Attending the Festival with two of my best friends, Shiho and Jason, added to the experience. I was a bit perplexed by the posters I had seen around town for weeks: announcements of the Tall Ships Festival with an image of a rubber duck, photo-bombing at the margin. Jason, who had seen photos of the sculpture on display all throughout Asia, solved the mystery for me.
The 54-foot inflatable sculpture, titled simply "Rubber Duck," is by Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman, who has also created other gargantuan icons of childhood nostalgia that have been shown all over the world. Outsized stuffed rabbits, a concrete bear carrying a pillow, and an inflatable frog wearing a party hat are just some of Hofman's fanciful menagerie. Created in various sizes, "Rubber Duck" has been on display across the globe, including showings in Australia, Brazil, Japan, China, and Europe. San Pedro is only the third location in the United States where he (I've decided it's a "he") has radiated his sunny yellow glow.
|Live chaat: India Jones Chow Truck proves once|
again that it's a small world after all when it comes
to great street food, with this Mexican-Indian collaboration.
Yellow was indeed the hue of the day, as we all toasted "Rubber Duck" with mango lassis, a drink that would beat out Starbucks Frappucinos any day. Imagine if Ganesha was on the coffee shop's logo instead of a mermaid.
There were other notable sights at the Tall Ships Festival that depicted a sense of nostalgia. The International Guild of Knot Tyers had their own booth, where they showed off examples of nautical practicality and knicknacks made of thick ropes. And the current incarnation of the Oscar Meyer Wienermobile (the original was created in 1936), was on display at the end of the Cruise Terminal. Hordes of kids were posing for photos in front of it - kids whose well-meaning parents probably only feed them hot dogs made of soy. Nevertheless, who can be mad at a giant frankfurter?
|Holy nitrates, Batman! The Oscar Meyer Wienermobile|
celebrates two great American traditions: cars and
The artist's statement on Hofman's website declares that, "The Rubber Duck knows no frontiers, it doesn't discriminate people and doesn't have a political connotation. The friendly, floating Rubber Duck has healing properties: it can relieve mondial tensions as well as define them." This was evident in the way that the crowds venerated the oversized duck like it was a giant golden Buddha (no offense to practicing Buddhists). The imposing but friendly golden deity truly emanated a peaceful feeling of calm and happiness.
Even at night on Harbor Boulevard, "Rubber Duck" still has had numerous visitors, who can't get enough of his glowing personality, even in relative darkness, with some street lighting and the happy smiles of his fans. And those of us who are Duck-obsessed are in luck: after a two-day hiatus in Wilmington Harbor - and a deflating misadventure - "Rubber Duck" was reinstalled after Labor Day weekend, near the L.A. Maritime Museum where he continues to bask our collective adulation until Sept. 6.
|Lucky duck: Our resilient friend|
survived a deflation mishap and will
continue to grace the L.A. Harbor until Sept. 6.
Seeing "Rubber Duck" in person, as opposed to the thousands of photos online, is unforgettable in a way that defies description. At the very least, the experience got me to post on this blog after nearly a year's hiatus. I'm still floating (no pun intended) from the euphoria that the whimsical sculpture has given Downtown San Pedro and the L.A. Harbor, areas that can be less than idyllic, despite some admirable efforts. I will miss him when he goes off to new vistas and more delighted viewers. And I hope that San Pedro locals - myself included - will see our hardscrabble town as capable of greater resiliency in the future - kind of like a deflated 54-foot duck that can rise again.