Their progress marked by the rippling flights of yellow and white balloons, the Popemobile and its beaming, white-robed passenger sailed through seven miles of Los Angeles' streets Tuesday, flanked all the way--through high-tech and low-income vistas--by singing, cheering thousands of faithful.
From his arrival, when drivers on the San Diego Freeway pulled over to snap pictures of Pope John Paul II's motorcade speeding toward the parade start point, to the moment he descended from the Popemobile at St. Vibiana's Cathedral 40 minutes later with a final wave, the Pope was greeted with fond respect and near-tearful reverence. The throngs ranged from 20 joyous Franciscan sisters who won the convent lottery to attend, to a teen-age girl holding up a white cloth reading, "The Pope is cool."
"It's like liquor for some," said a thrilled shoe warehouseman, Raul Diaz de Leon, 53, standing on Broadway. "The more you drink, the drunker you get. I think we are drunk on the Pope."
At a McDonald's on Western Avenue, early breakfasters crossed themselves and prayed over their Egg McMuffins. In Chinatown, Altadena schoolgirls were selling papal miters fashioned from newspapers for 25 cents to earn money for Pope pennants. A group of 20 Boyle Heights parishioners walked the five or six miles to the motorcade route at 3 a.m. because "we believe in sacrifice."
The turnout, of somewhere between 150,000 and 250,000 people, in the city where the famous sign read "HOLYWOOD" for a few hours, did not meet the archdiocese's 2-million hope. But it evidently bested the 100,000 record, when one Angeleno in 12 turned out in 1935 for President Franklin D. Roosevelt's seven-mile motorcade.
Robert Snow, a Secret Service agent who had been along for five previous stops in the Pope's tour, called it "amazing . . . is there some kind of holiday today?"
People climbed atop anything for a good vantage point--low buildings, bus shelters--and at least one took the example of Zacchaeus, a short man who climbed a sycamore to get a good look at Christ, and clambered into a tree.
But Joyce Hallstead, a teacher who celebrated her 26th birthday by going to see the Pope, said, "More people show up at the Rose Bowl for football players than here for the Pope."
Parade route figures were swelled by organized church outings from most of the archdiocese's 284 parishes, coveys of excited nuns and priests, hundreds of children--some carried in arms--and more than a few people in wheelchairs or on crutches.
Felicita Lopez, 48, of Commerce, laid out a curb-side array of items for a papal blessing--two crucifixes, a ceramic dove and 17 pebble-sized gallstones that were removed from her in July.
'God Healed Me'
"These stones are proof that God healed me when I was sick," she said. "It may look crazy to bring gallstones, but I would have been very sick if they were still inside me instead of this bottle."
From her wheelchair at the corner of 1st and Main streets, Beatriz Perez of Pico Rivera tried to explain what the Pope meant to her, and began to sob. "Dispenseme (excuse me)," she murmured. "It means everything to her," said her son, Anthony.
Still, though the crowds were thin in spots, enthusiasm was unflagging, both inside the Popemobile, where the Pope waved ceaselessly to the crowd, and on the route that wound through a carefully selected core sample of the city: black and Latino, Korean, Chinese and Japanese, Yuppie, big business and lower-income, Catholic and non-Catholic.
Thomas F. Tanabe of Monterey Park, a retired Caltrans worker, came out of curiosity. "I'm a Methodist, but not a very good one. . . . I came so that I can say, 'Well, I've seen him,' " he said as he peeled two dollars out of his billfold so his niece could buy a Pope button.
Feast for the Senses
Parking lot attendant Quy Tran, 22, is a Buddhist, but "to me Buddhism and Catholic is the same. They both teach good things."
If John Paul II, accompanied by lanky Archbishop Roger M. Mahony and papal secretary Stanislaus Dziwisz, could hear through the Lexigard panels of the Popemobile, the trip was a feast for the senses:
There was the bleating of football-game horns, an accordion leading dazzlingly costumed Polish-Americans in hymns, the sprightly tunes of roadside mariachis, the tinny chiming of Hare Krishna finger cymbals, the rhythmic chanting "Viva el Papa, " fidgety Gardena children singing "Jingle Bells" as they waited--and the thwap thwap of a vigilant helicopter.
There was the fragrance of hot dogs, churros--Mexican pastries--and coffee. At Pasquini's, a cafe and espresso-machine importer on Olympic Boulevard, Angelo Pasquini was pouring bargain cups for 25 cents, delighted at his curb-side spot. "I lived in Italy for 25 years, but I had to come here to see the Pope. I'd seen everybody else--Hitler, Mussolini hanging in the square in Milan."