River Rowing Team
Hits Rock Bottom
The beleaguered Los Angeles River Rowing
Team runs aground, goes on fast and vows not leave boat until city
demolishes river's concrete infrastructure.
by George Wolfe
DOWNTOWN L.A. — This stretch of the Los
Angeles River has seen more movie sets than boaters. Among other
films, Terminator 2 and Grease were shot here, with cars driving
along concrete river banks or screeching across the concrete basin.
But the doggedly stubborn L.A. River Rowers are
determined to change all that.
"Here in L.A., river rowing
isn't just about water. If the water is there, we'll use it; if it's
not there, we'll make due with what we're given."
Kraus Paterski, coxswain
Unfortunately for them, the river itself
isn't cooperating. While inland counties have received their share
of rain, Los Angeles County remains in a dry spell and the river has
been reduced to a trickle.
in L.A., river rowing isn't just about water," explains coxswain
Kraus Paterski. "We like to say we have a Zen-like, Phil Jackson
approach: If the water is there, we'll use it; if it's not there,
we'll make due with what we're given—and if that means we're
grinding on concrete, then we'll find a way to scrape by somehow."
Common sense, fatigue or shame might've quelled
these rowers' desires, but the contrarian-minded group has chosen
to use their grounding experience to call attention to the grassroots
"Take Back The River" movement through collective fasting.
"We were sitting here in the middle
of this dry basin, feeling pretty depressed," continues Paterski,
"when one of the guys, Raj Singh, says out loud 'What Would
Gandhi Do?' We all sort of scratched our heads, then ol' Singh says,
'Why, he'd go on a hunger strike!' And that started it."
Despite pleas by the crewmembers' various partners
at home, the crew remains committed to the fast — now in its
third day. The group says it won't eat unless the city agrees to
break up the concrete river within its jurisdiction. City officials
have issued decrees for the group to disband from their craft, but
the group hasn't budged an inch.
Mayoral spokesperson Linda Carlisle said, "We
acknowledge their right to protest, and in return we trust that
they will acknowledge our right to haul them away if they make a
big deal out of this — like one of them dying."
As of this late afternoon, amid ninety-five-degree
heat, several buzzards were seen slowly circling the famished group,
hoping for a few handouts.