Wandering Mindfully in DTLA

The Millenium Biltmore Hotel on Pershing Square in Los Angeles

I am facing a change in my life relating to my relationship with Martine. It appears that, before long, we will not be together. The odd thing is that we still love each other: The reason for Martine’s desire to leave has more to do with how she feels about herself. There is a French expression bien dans sa peau: Feeling comfortable within one’s own skin. Ever since she got a pinched nerve in her back early in 2013, she has not felt well. Plus, she seems to just want to leave Los Angeles, which I cannot do at this time without quitting my job and running through my savings..

My first reaction was anger and sadness. The sadness is still there, but to make her feel even more depressed would be doing her an injustice. All I can do is hope she will discover that life with me is indeed preferable—even if it is in Los Angeles. My door will remain open for her.

How am I coping with this event? I will concentrate on my mindful meditation practice. I wandered around downtown LA (a.k.a. DTLA) after my meditation session at the Central Library. I ate lunch at the Bugis Street Brasserie at the Millenium Biltmore Hotel on Pershing Square. The red awnings at the lower right of the above photo is where the restaurant is located.

Then I stopped in at the Last Bookstore at 5th and Spring, looking for more Teju Cole books. Apparently they sold out. Then I took the Dash D bus to Union Station and waited for the Santa Monica Big Blue Bus #R10 to take me back home.

Home will be a different experience, but I am resolute about not poisoning the well.

 

Ecuador in Los Angeles

Flag at 18th Annual Taste of Ecuador Food festival

Flag at 18th Annual Taste of Ecuador Food Festival

I noticed that there was going to be an 18th Annual Taste of Ecuador Food Festival downtown today, so after I walked uphill on the treadmill for an hour at the gym, I grabbed the Santa Monica #10 Freeway Flyer Bus to Union Station. I had attended one of these events two or three years ago, so I knew pretty much what was going to be there.

According to the organizers, there are some 5,000 Ecuadorians in Los Angeles.

I ate a sanguche de chango (pork sandwich on a bolillo roll) that tasted pretty good, and washed it down with a licuada de sandía (watermelon drink).

Below is a typical menu from one of the stands:

 

Ecuadorian Menu at Food Stall

Ecuadorian Menu at Food Stall

Notice the reference to Inka Cola at the bottom of the menu. It is the most popular soda pop of Peru and Ecuador, though it tastes sort of like Mountain Dew on steroids.

On sale at a couple stands were Ecuadorian soccer football jerseys with the national colors.

It wasn’t much, but it’s a reminder that Dan and I are heading down to El Mitad del Mundo in a couple of months.

Hill Street Blues

I Am Talking About the Real Hill Street—Not the One from the TV Series

I Am Talking About the Real Hill Street—Not the One from the TV Series

Basically, I should have stayed in bed. I have one of those nagging, persistent summer colds characterized by a raw throat and coughing. Still, I decided to go downtown to the Central Library, have lunch at the Grand Cenral Market, and even stop in at the Last Bookstore at 5th and Spring.

It all started as our train approached the second last stop before getting to the 7th Street Metro Station. We were all let out some 15 blocks south of our final destination because a train from either the Blue or Expo Line was stuck in the tunnel. By the time I got to the Pico Boulevard station, I noticed that the trains were running again; so I boarded and made it all the way to the 7th Street Metro Station.

So far, not too bad. Then, after stopping at the bookstore, I took the Dash bus to Union Station. Instead of boarding the Santa Monica #10 Freeway Bus, I decided at the last minute to take the Red Line subway to 7th Street Metro and transfer to the Expo Line. But that was not to be. As the Red Line approached the Pershing Square Station, an announcement was made that because of “police activity,” the Red Line would not be stopping at 7th Street Metro.

I jumped off at Pershing Square and trudged several blocks south on Hill Street, even as I felt my sore throat becoming rawer and more insistent. When I got to 7th Street Metro, I saw that the whole area was cordoned off by the LAPD and that included the Metro Rail station.

That precipitated the second part of my afternoon trek. I knew that the Santa Monica #10 bus would have to make a detour around the police cordon, so I walked down to Grand Avenue and 9th Street, where I waited … and waited … and waited. Finally, a bus came and I got on, actually getting a seat, and made it home about an hour and a half later than when I planned—and in rush hour traffic.

When I searched the Internet for the nature of the police action, I discovered that someone had left an unattended package in the station, probably some homeless person jettisoning a part of his junk load. It figures.

99¢ Triple Features—All Night

The Palace Theater on Broadway

The Palace Theater on Broadway

During the late 1960s, when I was a film student at UCLA, I felt I had to catch up fast in my knowledge of American films. After all, it was foreign films like Carl Dreyer’s Day of Wrath (1948) and Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai (1957) that introduced me to what the film medium could do.

So I went with my late friend Norm Witty to see the 99¢ triple features at the remaining movie theaters on Broadway downtown. Most of these theaters are no longer showing films, though at one time it represented the highest concentration of movie theaters in the U.S.; it was called the Broadway Theater District. It included the Cameo, the Tower, the Palace, the Los Angeles, the Arcade, the Roxie, and the Olympic theaters (though the last one was located on West 8th Street). Most of them ran movies all day and all night, usually as triple features.

Even back then, most of the patrons were just intent on getting a good night’s sleep in a theater seat that wasn’t too sticky or dirty. The rest rooms were something of a horror, and the refreshments were pretty disgusting. The worst of all was the Arcade, which we went to only once.

Poster for Universal’s The War Lord (1965)

Poster for Universal’s The War Lord (1965)

Probably the best film I saw on these all-night excursions was a Universal picture starring Charlton Heston, Richard Boone, and a radiant Rosemary Forsyth called The War Lord (1965). Heston and Boone are two Norman knights who take control of a Saxon village. Heston falls in love with Rosemary Forsyth, a Saxon maiden who is betrothed to another villager. When he exercises the jus primae noctis (“the right of the first night”) and demands the right to bed her before her betrothed, the Saxons begin to mutter. But then Heston decides to keep her, and war breaks out. Franklin Schaeffner directed the film, which is still worth seeing when it comes around.

 

O Brave New World!

Downtown L.A. Financial District

Downtown L.A. Financial District

Don’t let anyone tell you he or she knows Los Angeles. Why? Because there’s too much for one person to know. There are broad swaths of the county which I have never seen, mostly to the Southwest, all those weird little communities along Interstate 5 like Hawaiian Gardens, Downey, Lynwood, Paramount, Bell Gardens, and Santa Fe Springs.

But thanks to today’s little safari, Martine and I know a little more about the area immediately to the Northeast of Pershing Square. We had three destinations and hit them all:

  • The tantalizingly named The Last Bookstore at West 5th & Spring with its grim motto: “What are you waiting for? We won’t be here forever.
  • The Grand Central Market at West 3rd & Broadway, which I’ve always wanted to visit but never got the chance to.
  • Across the street from the GCM is The Bradbury Building, built in 1893 and the location for scores of Hollywood movies, most notably Blade Runner (1982).

The big surprise was Union Station, where I arrived in Los Angeles on December 28, 1966, on the Santa Fe Railroad’s El Capitan train service. For decades, the station fell into disrepair and disuse as Amtrak hit the skids. But then the city decided to add a substantial suburban rail system called Metrolink, a growing network of subways and light rail lines, and a bus hub. Now its a busy place with new shops opening and crowds of people on the way to and from somewhere.

Tomorrow, the Expo Line will link Santa Monica to downtown L.A. with the nearest stop being a few blocks south of me at Bundy just south of Olympic.

It’s nice to know that, in this day and age, I can find something positive to write about without having to grit my teeth.