It was a sunny Saturday afternoon in Echo Park as crowds of visitors browsed vendor stands at the July 12th Lotus Festival, buying everything from bonsai trees to decorative parasols. Kids played on blowup obstacle courses and families picnicked on the grass overlooking the lake, while others enjoyed the worldly music, a wide range of performers, and the delicious assortment of ethnic food. The festivities were in full swing, but something was missing.

Where were the lotuses? No one seemed to know. For the first time in 31 years, they were nowhere to be seen. A city report listed 13 possible causes, ranging from poor water quality to pests and disease. But we all know the water quality in Echo Park Lake has never been great, so why the increase in disease? Something wasn’t making sense. Did a lotus bandit steal the flowers and sell them on the black market? Did a pack of coyotes suddenly develop an appetite for flowers? Were the lotuses just suicidal because of high gas prices? The possibilities were endless.

So I decided to do some investigating and get to the bottom of the lotus mystery. Surely one of the many festival-goers would know what really happened…

I approached this man, as he sifted the water for remnants of the plants, in what used to be the prime spot of the famous lotus garden. “The turtles ate the stems,” he said, “ And then the wild dogs ate the rest.”

LAPD Officer: “I’m not sure, but I think Recreation and Parks killed the flowers. Or maybe it was the toxins.”

Bearded Man with straw hat: “I’m disappointed. Now that the lotuses are gone, the point of the festival seems a little silly. But the whole thing has turned into a bunch of corporate stands of nonsense anyway.”

The Thunder Dragons, post dragon boat race victory: “We can put a man on the moon, but we can’t save the lotus flowers?”

This detective work was beginning to wear on me. So I stopped to watch a Hawaiian rendition of “Cotton-Eyed Joe.” I was entertained, but the cheerful song and dance routine provided no clues about the missing lotuses. It was time to get back on track.

But first I need some Thai chicken on a stick to help clear my head.

Hipsters: “Wait, the lotuses are gone? Weird.”

Inebriated Hipsters:

Man biting straw: “The lotuses are DEAD. I haven’t seen a lotus, I haven’t smelled a lotus, and I definitely haven’t heard a lotus.”

Guy next to him: “That’s cause lotuses don’t make noise, idiot.”

Straw Guy: “Whatever, this place rocks anyway.”

I left the Lotus Festival with a rekindled appreciation of Asian culture, a full belly, and absolutely no solid answers about the missing lotuses. But at least I met some interesting people along the way.

Rest in peace, lotus flowers. Maybe I’ll see you next year.

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