Now that I have been living in California for 360+ days, I’ve gotten a little bit more comfortable. Most time spent here has been on the golf course or searching Yelp for a worthy Taco Tuesday destination. Occasionally its good to step outside of my comfort zone to see more of what Los Angeles has to offer. Saturday in LA was an adventure, and this is a Retro Diary of some of what was experienced.
11:28am – My mind was made up earlier in the week and I committed to it by staying in and low-key Friday night; I was going to embark on a solo urban adventure in Los Angeles. I had a few landmark spots to see and it was my goal to be home or elsewhere in front of a TV to watch Oregon vs Stanford. I left my place with an armful of recycling, took the stairs, made the dump, went around the block en route to the train station, and realized I was totally overdressed. It turns out 74° feels warm in November after all. Back to my apartment.
12:04pm – ALRIGHT! Lets try this again. De-layered and better prepared for a day of steps on the Los Angeles asphalt. I should have enough time to stop at the bodega for something to drink, then get on the Metro.
12:20pm – …but the train was at the station and ready for departure. Is it okay if I sit here? Can I sit down right here? I had my choice of any seat on the train. Long Beach is the first stop en route to Los Angeles and the second car was totally empty. Well, except for the one guy who asked if he could have the empty bottle of lemonade near my feet.
Soon after passing the Anaheim Street station (still within walking distance of home) an announcement was made on the speaker: “THIS TRAIN WILL DISCONTINUE SERVICE AT VERNON STATION. LAST STOP VERNON STATION. SHUTTLE BUSES WILL CONNECT WITH EXPO LINE. LAST STOP VERNON STATION…” It seemed simple enough. Just take the train to the bus to the train, or walk or Uber or figure some other way to get to city center.
12:34pm – Somewhere between Compton and Watts Towers, a man stepped onto the train and began playing his toy-looking guitar. It was some sort of lighthearted Sunday school tune, but I was wearing my ear buds and limiting all eye contact. At the next stop, another “gentleman” stepped onto the train with his acoustic Fender and started jamming. He didn’t ask for the other guy to stop. He didn’t try to play along in harmony. They just made the cacophonous noise together. Thankfully they earned a few dollars in loose change and moved onto the next car, each in their own different direction.
1:05pm – Okay. We did it. Off the train. Onto the bus. But which bus? Is it this line of buses pointed this way, or the other line of buses pointed the other way? I got on a bus. I stood in the middle, in the accordion section. It added some thrill to the experience, not knowing for sure if the bus (or my groin) would remain intact during any right turn. My sweaty palms gripped the greasy, available handle and I held on long enough to get to the next train connection. Anyone have any hand sanitizer?
2:16pm – After disembarking at Metro Center, it would be a mile walk to my first intended destination. This was the part of the trip I sorta knew, or at least planned for. This would be where I would get some excercise, see some of the City, soak up some of the culture of a place not yet experienced. I walked through some bizarre parts of LA. I could have purchased bootleg cologne or a rug or PhunkeeDuck, but remained focused in hopes of not wasting too much more time getting to Angel City Brewery. I found a barstool without too much trouble and thoroughly enjoyed my well-deserved Pilser and Marilyn Cream Ale. Onward.
3:30pm – This was another easy leg of the journey. A simple walk up Alameda from Angel City to Philippe the Original. Walking into this old-school delicatessen in Chinatown was like going back in time. I ordered my beef dip “single-dipped” with Swiss cheese and a lemonade and enjoyed the taste of nostalgia and texture of sawdust on the floor. The sandwich cannot compete with a proper Chicago-style Italian Beef, but it was nonetheless delicious. More adventurous eaters may elect to include the famous spicy mustard on board your beef.
4:37pm – Since public transportation was a disaster and I was even further from city center than where I started, I thought it would be wise to take an Uber back towards home. I still wanted to be somewhere to watch the Oregon game. I hailed a ride and headed towards Carson to Phantom Carriage Brewery. This had been on my wish list for many months but would be my first visit… If we could ever get there. The Toyota Corolla had all warning lights on the dashboard illuminated and we stat in traffic along with everyone else escaping LA on the 101. I shared about eight words of conversation with the driver before escaping the car at the front door of the tap room.
Once inside, it became clear that the game wasn’t going to be televised at Phantom Carriage. The TVs instead featured horror movies and various metal music. Totally cool, unique place, but not my mission for the early evening. I housed my MUIS (delicious!) and hailed another ride to get me the rest of the way home to Long Beach. This leg of the trip was much more enjoyable, more talkative, more interesting. Carlos was happy to share some of his preferred spots nearby for beer or whiskey… Just not in Long Beach.
9:52pm – It was a long day. I made it home in time to see the last 2.5 quarters of the Stanford loss, making the LA adventure that much sweeter. I devoured the last of the leftover chicken I commandeered from the office and tucked in early. Another adventure tomorrow…?
Chinatown is a neighborhood in Downtown Los Angeles, California that became a commercial center for Chinese and other Asian businesses in Central Los Angeles in 1938. The area includes restaurants, shops and art galleries but also has a residential neighborhood with a low-income, aging population of about 10,000 residents.
The original Chinatown developed in the late 19th century, but it was demolished to make room for Union Station, the city’s major ground-transportation center. A separate commercial center, known as “New Chinatown,” opened for business in 1938.
There are two schools and a branch library in Chinatown, as well as a city park, a state park and a medical center and hospital. Many motion pictures have been filmed in the area.
In the early 1860s, thousands of Chinese men, most of them originating from Guangdong province in southern China, were hired by Central Pacific Railroad Co. to work on the western portion of the first transcontinental railroad. Many of them settled in Los Angeles.
The first Chinatown, centered on Alameda and Macy Streets (now Cesar Chavez Avenue), was established in 1880. Reaching its heyday from 1890 to 1910, Chinatown grew to approximately fifteen streets and alleys containing some two hundred buildings. It boasted a Chinese Opera theater, three temples, a newspaper and a telephone exchange. But laws prohibiting most Chinese from citizenship and property ownership, as well as legislation curtailing immigration, inhibited future growth.
From the early 1910s Chinatown began to decline. Symptoms of a corrupt Los Angeles discolored the public’s view of Chinatown; gambling houses, opium dens and a fierce tong warfare severely reduced business in the area. As tenants and lessees rather than outright owners, the residents of Old Chinatown were threatened with impending redevelopment, and as a result the owners neglected upkeep of their buildings. Eventually, the entire area was sold and then resold, as entrepreneurs and developers fought the area. After thirty years of decay, a Supreme Court ruling approved condemnation of the area to allow for construction of a major rail terminal, Union Station. Residents were evicted to make room for Union Station, causing the formation of the New Chinatown.
Seven years passed before an acceptable relocation proposal was put into place, situating a new Chinatown in its present location. Old Chinatown was gradually demolished, leaving many businesses without a place to do business and forcing some to close. Nonetheless, a remnant of Old Chinatown persisted into the early 1950s, situated between Union Station and the Old Plaza. Several businesses and a Buddhist temple lined Ferguson Alley, a narrow one-block street running between the Plaza and Alameda.
“The original Chinatown’s only remaining edifice is the two-story Garnier Building, once a residence and meeting place for immigrant Chinese,” according to Angels Walk – Union Station/El Pueblo/Little Tokyo/Civic Center guide book. The Chinese American Museum is now situated in Garnier Building.
In the late 1950s the covenants on the use and ownership of property were removed, allowing Chinese Americans to live in other neighborhoods and gain access to new types of employment.