When Chad told me that seventeen people (25 now) had been killed in a train crash in Pasadena Friday night, we almost pulled the plug on our train-to-LA adventure for Saturday; but then using the logic that lightening doesn’t hit the same place twice (or a bomb land in the same place twice – as in All’s Quiet on the Western Front, which Bella is reading for school), we decided that we were probably safe. Yes, so the day after that terrible crash, Chad, Christian, and I blithely hopped on a train in Irvine to LA Union Station.
It was our first time ever to use public transportation to get up to LA and it was simpler than we had imagined. And at $12.75/ person round trip it was even cost effective with gas prices what they are. (Weekend prices are 25% less than the commuter fares on the weekdays.) The train was comfortable and the view was actually fascinating – you see the backside of Los Angeles, as it were – you pass oil derricks bobbing up and down in the middle of parking lots, abandoned airforce bases, and lots of traditional smaller suburban homes.
The best part was that I could hold Christian in my arms the entire way and nurse him whenever he wanted. Getting to LA these days has been difficult because Christian has become extremely anti-car. I can hardly blame him, I mean, from his perspective, he’s strapped into a seat and then abandoned by his mother for an indefinite amount of time. I’d cry too. In any case, it’s making even the quick run to pick up Bella and her friend from school every day a trip of misery. Christian always finishes the trip hiccuping desperate sobs and with dampness all along his teeny eyelashes. Poor guy.
So, the train works perfectly for us.
The only confusing part is that Amtrak and Metrolink run on the same track and we got on the wrong train at first – well, and the second time too. First we got on a train going to Riverside, not LA, and so we got off in Orange (along with a half dozen other people who had made the same mistake) and then we all got on the next train, which turned out to be an Amtrak train not a Metrolink. Strangely the Amtrak train is not as nice (as clean) as the Metrolink, but the fares are more?? In any case, the conductor came through and told us not to worry about it.
It is too bad that there aren’t more trains running this route; only two or three trains to LA in the morning (7:10, 8:29, 10:37) and just a couple in the evening too (4:30, 8:45), so you have to plan your day carefully. And we could have caught the train from Laguna Niguel, but for the extra 4-5 bucks it was going to cost, it was just as easy to leave from the larger Irvine station where there is a brand new parking structure.
We arrived early at the station (nothing was open) and spent some time on the three-story high overpass. The station was adjacent to an abandoned military base and some fields, which were crawling with rabbits and ground squirrels. We were so high up they didn’t even know they were being watched – they were all so active and going about their business so normally, I felt like we were watching the nature channel.
We got to LA Union Station in very short order and discovered that it was free to take the subway (the metro) in any direction. We went to Chinatown first (the station there is a pagoda!) only to realize that none of the galleries were going to be open before noon. We briefly considered going for dim sum, but weren’t hungry enough to make it worthwhile, so we headed on foot to downtown. We just kept the library tower in view and headed south.
Walking in Los Angeles is not like walking in any other city I’ve been to – in many respects LA is pedestrian un-friendly. Which means that cars dominate the city and you get lots of highway views like this. Pedestrians are also generally confined to specific areas of LA – so Chad, Christian, and I looked like complete tourists crossing from Chinatown to downtown on foot. But on foot you get to see things I’ve rarely ever seen close up. Most of the buildings in downtown LA I’ve only seen as I’ve whizzed by in a car. In any case, I don’t mind being a tourist in my own town. It makes me see everything fresh, like I’m visiting.
And while every Chinatown I’ve ever visited has been crowded and cramped – LA’s Chinatown is somehow dwarfed by the wide streets that run through it. You can still get snappers (those tiny firecrackers that are great for throwing at stray dogs when you’re jogging) for 5 packs/ $1.25.
We got to several galleries downtown before we got hungry enough to turn around and head up to Phillipe’s on Alameda near Union Station. We got there right at the end of their lunch hour rush – but their famous French Dip was worth the wait. Don’t be intimidated by the crowded front – there is actually plenty of seating room upstairs and around the back. Chad got the regular French Dip with Jack cheese, I got the pork with Swiss ($5.65 each), with coleslaw and potato salad ($1.10 each), and lemonade and iced tea to drink. DELICIOUS! Great atmosphere too, with sawdust on the floors and short wooden stools along great long picnic tables running the width of the rooms.
Well, I didn’t get to writing about the art this post, but perhaps my blurb about Jesse Bercowetz will make it into the October ArtScene. He was the only one I ended up writing about after visiting about a dozen galleries that day.