Two events stand out from my final two days in Los Angeles. One was a bus ride downtown out of Venice Beach. And the other was a surf; my first since leaving home and only one while travelling. The only other times I’d even considered surfing was while I was in Oregon, and in Brighton. (I guess it might have been possible while in New York, too.) But I can’t remember which came first. Whether I surfed on Sunday and went downtown on Monday, or the other way around. Actually, I distinctly remember how peaceful LA was while I wandered around its city streets. Plus one street was blocked off by a market, which probably wouldn’t happen on a Monday. So that settles it: I’m heading downtown, presently. You might recall that I’d barely made it out of Venice Beach, much less downtown, during that first week in California. (And I never bothered with Hollywood. Why on earth would I? Would have been nothing but plastic people and fat tourists.) But I had at the time heard other backpackers mumbling to hostel staff about how to get there. Downtown, that is. Turns out it was a simple matter of walking one minute from Pacific Avenue along Windward to a bus stop near the roundabout connecting it with Main Street and Grand Boulevard. Too easy. The bus took a while, but I wasn’t exactly on my way to work or anything so couldn’t have cared less. Plus, true to Venice, there was both street art and wind-drifting rubbish to admire while I sat there sucking down a couple of Marlboros. So that’s what I did – surveyed and smoked – until the bus stopped in front of me. I got on, put a dollar fifty in the receptacle; and sat down the only white person among otherwise exclusively blacks and Hispanics all stopping somewhere along the about 45-minute Venice Boulevard route downtown.
This is where things get tricky without notes. Guess I’ll just not bother going into too much detail. I got off the bus somewhere pretty far to downtown’s south. And then, as I had in so many other places, just started walking. Photos help. One of the first interesting buildings I saw was a rather featureless, large, multi-storied factory and/or office building that looked as though it had been built in the ‘50s. The Anjac Fashion Bldg(sic). So I guess, yeah, it would have had a lot of industrial-scale sewing machines inside. (I’ve since realised the structure I’m talking about was actually behind the Anjac building. So there you go.) The interesting, or more weird, really, thing about it is that cresting the top of its drab exterior was a gothic, church-esque square steeple that fit with the appearance of the rest of the building not at all. I kept walking. And quickly gained a sense of how to define downtown Los Angeles: it’s a sprawling, disordered central business district with a character that seems conflicted about just which time period it belongs in and what style it’s aiming for. Whether its buildings were very old, or very modern – and there was a chaotic mix of both – they came in myriad different styles, with no apparent pattern. Much like Brisbane, the city seemed less planned than planted with a million different architectural seeds and simply allowed to grow how it pleased. A true concrete jungle; even more so than New York, because at least that city had a consistent sense of style. Downtown LA seemed right then to be the real America: liberal and free functioning, if also typically savagely unequal, in every way. There seemed to be rubbish everywhere, too – either floating around on the street and between buildings or in huge piles of bulging black plastic bags. Then again, Christmas had been enough days ago to have been literally discarded, and garbage men probably didn’t start their pickups again until the next day. Not a lot of bums, downtown, though. Guess they preferred hanging by the beach. Makes sense to me.
A lot of things I wasn’t interested in passed by as I walked. Such as a basketball stadium (which I believe the STAPLES Center(sic) was) and a train which descended underground while I walked in the same direction beside the tracks. I had no desire to ride LA’s underground – not just because I couldn’t think of a worse place to be when the inevitable big earthquake struck, but also because I was happy walking and hadn’t noticed any stations nearby my base at Venice Beach. And you couldn’t have paid me to waste time watching a basketball match. Eventually, I found a park with an ice-skating rink. I was surprised to find it, because it really didn’t seem cold enough to support such a pastime. In Edinburgh I’d never gotten the chance to ice-skate. There was one in its Winter Wonderland, but it always seemed so crowded and I guess I was just always busy doing other things. Certainly it wasn’t at all from a sense of longing for Emma that I wished to skate, because I had gotten over her rejection of me at least due to putting 10 or 20,000 kilometres between us. Pretty sure I’ve already mentioned this a bunch of words back, but skating was a great substitute for surfing. The gliding motion and the way I could manipulate my enjoyment of it through various movements of my legs really connected it with its liquid salt-water sporting sister. Other than that, there’s not a lot more to write about. I walked all the way up from the Santa Monica to just above the Hollywood Freeway, and back again. The sensationally Spanish-influenced Union Station was impressive. An interesting and potentially embarrassing thing happened in Little Tokyo – just south of the station – after I’d apparently drunk and eaten too much coffee and Mexican food. I’m sure you can easily guess what I’m likely to write, but I’ll leave that for the next, and possibly final, post.