Los Angeles, CA
What a difference a night makes. LA in the daylight was transformed from a dark, teeming overwhelming uber-American city, streets filled with drummers, a rap battle between tattooed and pierced youths, a trumpter and occasionally an overpowering smell of urine, into a bright and sunny city with smiling natives, tourists taking photos and the sun glinting off theatres. And an occasionally overpowering smell of urine, but you can’t change everything.
I headed out for a run, heading north. When I looked at the map last night, all I could see were city blocks, but I noticed a park just north of Union Station. That was only a mile or so away, but after I’d run two I had only found Chinatown. I was on the verge of heading back and looped a city block to wait for the lights to change, but then remembered Lonely Planet’s words, that ‘distances in LA are vast’ and figured the park was further than it had looked. Along the side of a freeway and there, suddenly was a parched piece of land with a stiff climb up to a small park. Radio hill is a failed park, I think, visited mainly by a few homeless people seeking sanctuary and with drinking fountains long since knocked out of order. I pressed on, though, and ducking under the freeway I found myself in a noticeably nicer neighbourhood, much more ‘LA’ though still not in amongst the really swanky houses. Passing a school I noticed a sign to Elysian Fields park off to the right. The park has some great climbs in, lush grass and baseball diamonds for the Little League. One other runner waved as he headed out, and a student looking out over the city waved hello from his hilltop spot as a dog walker drove by, dogs ears waving excitedly from the window. “I like your office!” I should have said to the student, but thought of it too late. I nearly had a run of under 30 minutes but ended up being nearly an hour and a half, and I got a view over the Dodgers’ stadium to boot.
Changed, checked out and with luggage left at the Amtrak station, I walked through Grand Park, which follows the American tradition of literal naming in being definitely a park. It was busier than it had been when I ran through – with a sudden deviation of the “ooh! park!” kind – in the morning, people enjoying the sun and the view of city hall on a beautiful day. Perhaps the park is named for its view; if you make it up to the top end, looking away from the theatres behind looks over a gushing fountain to city hall with a green grass carpet in between.
I needed lunch and could only see a Subway, but then spotted that the policeman eating in the square I was crossing had sushi. Tutti Frutti advertises frozen yoghurt but does more than that and I had the LA roll sushi, feeling I was in the mode. Walking through Bunker Hill I skirted the edge of MOCA, the Museum of Contemporary Arts and explored the library, which was huge and funky, with a quirky gift shop to add to its appeal. It was too beautiful a day to be indoors for long and conscious that I would soon be in a potential dull British spring, bedevilled by people joking of any bright day “ooh summer’s here” or, worse “ha, did you enjoy summer, that was it”, I squatted in a pretty square. At one point my view as I crossed arias was of a long straight road, tower blocks to either side, as a school bus crossed and a police car turned behind it, a cop’s arm hanging out of the window. It was almost too American.
By 5 I was in the station, ready to hop on the train and begone. I’d barely scratched the surface of the city, but seen sights that will live in my mind. Sometimes whizzing through a place is a great way to give your brain a quick kaleidoscope image to remember it by.