Saturday, October 06, 2007

Chinatown, Downtown Los Angeles or My Birthday Project #21

I got home from work early as we're moving offices from Beverly Hills to Bundy and Olympic (Yay, won't my commute from Atwater Village be even more fun!) and was checking out some of my favorite blogs when I stumbled on this post about a free tour today of Chinatown written by the Militant Angeleno.
Now, I love downtown and I love Chinatown, but I don't know all the ins and outs. So, I debate internally through the evening and then the morning while I'm at the gym and decide that, yep, I want to do it. So, I rushed home from the gym, drove over to Cypress Park Gold line stop (5 to 10 minutes, depending on traffic, from Atwater) and take it one stop into Chinatown.

I walked the few blocks over to the Studio for Southern California that is supposed to do the tour. Nobody's there It's only 9:30, so I figure it's early, I'll grab a bite at the bakery around the corner. I grabbed eggy custard item, a dense coconut pastry and a cup for coffee. The coffee came out of a machine that might have been built in the 18th century and the coffee, for that matter, may have been brewing since then. Don't know why I thought I would be able to get coffee in Chinatown and not tea.

I loved that the bakery had pictures of all of its baked goods with descriptions in Chinese, English and Spanish.

Around a quarter to 10 and with a bunch of old asian ladies eyeing and pawing my bakery table, I head back to the studio. Still nothing. I then walked over to the Chinatown branch of the Public Library, go online to the Militant and confirm that the tour starts at 10. I rush back. Nothing.

Now what. Well, I was there, so I might as well do it. I walked through Chung King Road and West Plaza and see the familiar Fongs and other such sights. Most of Chung King seems to have been turned into galleries. Interesting. West Plaza has some dynamic buildings and some additional gentrification. But it all feels soooo themed and planned.

And then I hit Broadway. What a difference. Just like Broadway on the other side of City Hall, this Broadway is thriving. People clog the sidewalks, ducks and pigs hang in windows, live fowl are sold, live large, jumpy fish are thrown from tank to tank -- this is Chinatown.

I was delighted to have decided to stay.

After my delight, hunger attacked. Luckily, I was on Ord and Broadway and I did what any rational man could do. I headed toward Phillipe. At 11a, I grabbed a delicious beef french dip with blue cheese, sat down with fellow Angelenos and stuffed my pie hole.

With hunger abated and knowing that all museums in the city were free today (thank you KCRW), I walked up Main St., behind (or is it in front) of Olvera St., took in the Placita where it seemed a thousand little boys and girls were dressed to the nines, waiting to get their first communion, up to the Cathedral (which still makes me mad that it is gated and not kept open 24/7) and down Grand to MOCA.

MOCA had all sorts of weird shit going on -- none of which really appealed to me. I stayed about five minutes and then walked across the street to Disney Hall to see how their garden had grown(another public space that is hard to get to -- up 3 flights of stairs).

A side note: Hey city planners, stop building public spaces that are hard to reach or that are only accessible by the privleged. They don't make the city better. They're more isolating. Build them more like the new park at Taylor Yard and the Cornfield. Thanks.

With that, my Downtown tour was ending. I hopped back on the Metro at Civic Center, transferred at Union Station and was back at the Cypress Park station in about ten minutes. There, I was stopped by deputies and was asked to show my ticket. That's never ever happened to me in L.A. I gladly showed by day pass and walked off to my car.

A good day in downtown L.A.


Militant Angeleno said...

Nice report, Miles. And you get bonus points for going Militant-style, taking the (M) (though you still had to drive from the AWV to the Cypress Park station, tsk, tsk...j/k the Militant knows not everyone lives within walking distance to a Metro station, unfortunately). Maybe the tour guide was on Los Angeles Time/ California Time/ _(Insert_Ethnicity_Here)_ Time.

Oh yeah, get ready for the Mess Hall, about to launch soon...

Miles said...

Thanks MA. Never would have done it yesterday without seeing your post. I was considering taking a bus on San Fernando, but I didn't want to miss the alleged 10a starting time.

AVN said...

Commuting to Bundy and Olympic? Ugh. We're not going to lose you from Atwater someday, are we?

Miles said...

Lord, I hope not. Other than a couple of locations (La Seranata on Pico and the explosion of ethnic food choices on Sawtelle), this area of the city is an island of banality.

Anyway, It took me 80 minutes this morning to drive in, with every single major boulevard (and I know them all) clogged.

This move is supposed to be temporary, with a move to Century City. While the drive (and bus ride) to Century City will still be worse than my former one to Beverly Hills, it will not be nearly as bad as Bundy and Olympic.

All of this is probably way too much info...

AVN said...

I was offered a gig that would've had me commute from Atwater Village to Barrington & Olympic. It was easy to get there during the day, 10-ish to 2-ish, for prelim meetings with them. But now I'm really glad I don't have to schlep across town during rush hour!

Miles said...

It took 74 minutes today as I decided to try the freeways. Though, I didn't come to a stop as many times, it was a very slow crawl on the 10.

You made the right decision!