So it’s been a week since I arrived, Sunday morning I alighted from the train feeling pretty ok, and found my way through Union Station to the baggage claim area, found my bag and went to the clerk and asked if I could leave it for the day together with my rucksack, sure but I will have to charge you $5 for the rucksack, deal I said. Last time I left a suitcase in left luggage at King Cross it cost me, well CGI, £13. So it seems like a bargain to me, no charge for the baggage which was checked. I could have checked my rucksack to, but I am a bit paranoid about losing luggage... so I had kept it with me. I never used to be paranoid until I travelled to St Louis in Feb, for five days, and my luggage finally arrived on day three. I was attending a funeral so needed to buy clothes, underwear, toiletries but also my jewellery was in the suitcase. Some precious lessons learnt that trip.
My first view of Los Angeles coming in on the train and the bandstand.
Free of luggage I wandered around the station which is very palatial, well preserved, built in 1939 and I was a little awe struck to be honest. I was sitting outside for a while with a coffee, and then took off for a little explore. I found a lovely square to sit in with a bandstand. There were some men moving all the benches around in the square, putting them into rows. After a while I decided to go and have a look in the Chinese American Museum which was a stones throw away. It was a gem for two reasons. Firstly it had the history of the Chinese people immigrating to the US, lots of interesting facts. There were periods when no women were allowed in and at one point only 4.6% of the Chinese population in Los Angeles were women. Secondly there was an exhibition on called LA/LA. Los Angeles and Latin America. I enjoyed that enormously and in particular there was a film on which was about Jamaica, and Jamaicans, and the fact that many of them have a very mixed heritage but they all live as one. One of the Directors was also interviewing and dancing in the film. I just enjoyed the whole thing so much. Another thing I learnt was that the Chinatown area, which is where I was, was knocked down to build both the Union Station and the freeway in front of it, which obviously had a huge impact on the Chinese community.
I came back outside and heard music coming from the square I was sitting in earlier, needless to say after all the bench moving earlier I had to go and investigate and discovered live music and dancing. So I took a seat for a while and watched the proceedings. It was clearly a regular event because men were approaching women to dance and no words were exchanged. There was one women in particular who was dancing and looked exactly like Edith Summers from Newcastle, even down to the way she wore her hair. I have checked with Edith, she said she was definitely at home. I started to think about food at this point so wandered off in search of something that wasn’t Mexican. I stumbled across a church, full to the brim and some sort of church gala going on outside it also heaving. Well it was Sunday but we don’t see that often in the U.K. these days.
Finally I circled back to Union station and went into a bar/restaurant there and had a lovely Caesar salad and couple of glasses of wine. There was a baseball match on, the Dodgers were playing. Just in case you don’t know that’s the Los Angeles team. So the station and the bar I was in started to fill up with Dodgers, luckily I was wearing blue so didn’t look too out of place. Then the time had come to reclaim my luggage and find an Uber to take me to my home for their next five nights.
I had split my stay into two locations, I wanted to be near the beach for part of my stay, so was staying in West Los Angeles not far from Santa Monica. The second part of my stay was more Downtown Los Angeles, because I was trying to find somewhere nearer to where my cousin’s daughter Elizabeth lived. More of that later.
So I arrived at my first place and was greeted by the owner. She showed me my room which was very big with its own bathroom. The first thing I had to do was sleep, I think I had done very well to keep going considering I had slept so little on the train. After a nap she suggested I could find some food in Sawtelle street which apparently has some of the best Asian restaurants in LA. So off I trotted and eventually found a place that wasn’t heaving got some food and brought it back. Well tried to, I had inadvertently turned left two roads too soon, and after walking up and down a couple of times trying to find 11570 I realised I wasn’t in the right street. That will teach me not to wear my glasses at night! Finally back in the place I ate my food and went to bed again almost immediately.
The next morning I went and did a bit of shopping, I saw a sign for Starbucks and thought oh good I can get breakfast there. It was in the building where there was a supermarket, I walked all the way around the supermarket just to discover it was by the front door. Breakfast purchased I sat outside in the sun to partake and I was joined by an old dear done up to the nines, a bit like me I suppose only older. She carefully laid out newspaper on the table and the seat and then sat down and had a cold coffee, one of those Starbucks ones you buy in a bottle and some food, but she was messing about for ages organising herself her bags her paper. I was exhausted just watching her. Then off to do my shopping in a different supermarket around the corner.
I got back to the condominium, such a silly word what does it mean? “A building or complex of buildings containing a number of individually owned apartments or houses”. Block of flats then. Did a bit of writing with the intention of going to the Getty Museum in the afternoon. I decided it was time to get a move on looked it up and lo and behold it was closed on a Monday. Oh well I decided to get on with the writing and have an easy day instead.
So the next day I was up early and walked quite a way to catch the direct bus to the museum. There was an old guy at the bus stop and I asked him if I was standing on the correct side of the road to get to the Getty, and I was, miracles never cease to amaze me. We got chatting, well he did and was regaling me with all sorts of stories about Hollywood, Frank Sinatra and various presidents. It transpired he was living on the streets, and had at some point in his life checked himself into some sort of clinic. Eventually he got fed up of waiting for our very overdue bus and took himself off on another bus. I have to say though apart from his trolly of bags, we was clean and well dressed, so it made me wonder how he manages but it wouldn’t have been an appropriate conversation to have with him.
Not long after he departed the bus finally arrived, I think I had been waiting some 40 minutes so I was soon being transported to the wonders of the Getty Museum. When you arrive you make your way to a small tram service which takes you up the hill. The view going up the side of the hill was amazing, and then the view at the top was pretty spectacular too. The museum is made up of many buildings, all painted white and there are spaces in between to sit outside and eat and drink as well as a building which houses a cafe and a restaurant. There are also two gardens, one is a cactus garden on a little peninsula outside of one of the buildings, and the other is a garden which you walk down a zig zag path to get to the main part, it has water running down it and the centre piece is a maze which sits in water, very beautiful.
My first port of call was the Hockney exhibition, there were two which were celebrating his 80th birthday. The first was a photographic exhibition which was showing some of his pieces of the houses he lived in, in Los Angeles, taken by Polaroid and then all the polaroids where placed together, as a composite, “Jerry diving ..“ was one of them. Amazing pieces of work, shadows changing on one of them because of the time it took to take all the individual photographs. There was also one of his most famous pieces “Pearlblossom Highway” again a composite but this time of chromogenic prints. Apparently this piece was commissioned but then never taken, it’s a really big piece and until you see it in real life you can’t fully appreciate the work that has gone into it. His second exhibition was one of self portraits throughout his life, with four very large ones he completed in 2012 when he was 75. I have always been a fan of Mr Hockney so this was a real treat for me.
I also viewed the other exhibits in the photographic gallery, some really interesting pieces. I went into another of the galleries after a bite to eat, and found the most amazing array of French furniture. There was also a sculpture section which when you walk into the gallery you have the most amazing views of Los Angeles itself, breathtaking. From that gallery I was able to see the cactus garden which I decided would be a little to difficult for me to visit as it was very high and on a sort of peninsula.
But it was now time to make my way down to the main garden and the maze. A zig zag path took you down there, there were a lot of grasses which had been cut back for the season. There was a small waterfall type feature running through the centre down in to the maze, and beautiful planting once you got further down. A very peaceful and beautiful place to spend a little time, which I did.
Although I didn’t see all of the exhibits, I felt satisfied with what I had seen and made my way back to my abode.
The next day was a beach day, I had a couple of errands to run which I managed on the way to the bus, finding the bus stop on the right side of the road proved a little testing to say the least but I got there in the end. I asked a man and he actually checked on me a little while later, probably just at the point I realised I was on the wrong side of the road. I have to say I have found people really helpful in general in regards to public transport.
There was not a lot to report on my beach day. I had brunch, rented a chair and enjoyed the sun for a few hours. I was surprised on my way back to find a network of canals, likening Venice in London to Venice Beach in LA. A lovely peaceful day. I am told that Venice Beach has something of a reputation, particularly in the evenings and at weekends, so I think even though it was by luck I was there during the week, and my experience was of a lovely peaceful day. Oh yes there was one incident, as I was walking down the street to reach the part of the beach I wanted to go to, I almost got knocked for six by a man on his skateboard, he flew past me, how he missed me I do not know and that was enough excitement for me.
The next day I ventured into downtown, the most difficult part of the journey was crossing a main road to get to the bus stop, no crossing and a lot of traffic. This bus was a Rapid Bus, that meant it went on the Freeway into Downtown LA and it still cost next to nothing. Although I have to say I found the Freeway very bumpy. I discovered later that the roads are all in a terrible state, and as a result they are pretty horrible to ride on especially on a bus.
I was heading for the MOCA, Museum of Contemporary Art. And well worth a visit I have to say, I have a few photos below of some of the pieces I particularly enjoyed. The building itself is also a piece of art.
In the neighbourhood I discovered the Walt Disney Concert Hall which is a masterpiece in steel. I had a coffee outside and watched all the people turning up there for work that evening. It’s the home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra and I was considering going to see them play but just decided that what they were playing I wouldn’t particularly enjoy and for 100$ it wasn’t worth it. But a week later I am still trying to decide whether or not I should go. Not that I find it difficult to make decisions!
So that brings us to Friday and my move to downtown, a different sort of space a room in a house built in the 1880s. But more of that in my next episode.