So Go Downtown…

“Just listen to the music of the traffic in the city
Linger on the sidewalk where the neon signs are pretty
How can you lose?
The lights are much brighter there
You can forget all your troubles, forget all your cares”

Downtown, Petula Clark

Sunday has become our day to explore our new biome (fun diction credit: my 8-year-old son’s vocabulary word last week). Our urban biome, that is, and yesterday specifically it was to explore downtown Los Angeles.

The five of us spent the first part of the day lazily around the house, and left for downtown around 4pm. At that time of day, the freeways were jam packed – not at a standstill, but crawling thickly like metallic slugs. I wondered where everyone was headed on a Sunday afternoon; there was no Lakers game or convention. Out for a Sunday drive I suppose.

We took the Olympic exit and wound around to Chick Hearn Street (once Siri directed him, my husband clucked “the Chicken!”) We parked and crossed the street to the unassuming Grammy Museum on Flowers Street.

The museum is open late by museum standards (6:30pm on a Sunday) and it was well attended yet not crowded. Super interactive; cool exhibits with headphones and touch pads that relay mini music lessons related to the history and events of the time period. There’s a room with instruments to play, exhibits on Tupak Shakur, Ravi Shenkar and the Supremes…and of course the Taylor Swift Experience. There’s almost an entire floor dedicated to Swift, the young musical phenom and now cultural icon. Our three-year-old daughter had fun dancing on the light up cubes to the video “Shake it Off!” and I foresaw my future life with a teenage girl.

After the museum we walked two blocks to treat ourselves to a fancy family dinner at The Palm. My husband and I had skipped lunch to afford the calories we planned to consume.

The maître de was so kind, taking our littlest by the hand and letting her pick out our booth. He comped us a plate of homemade chips, which satiated our museum-ed-out and starving boys. For the kids, they ordered a plate of butter pasta and chicken strips (not so creative) and for us we started with sharing their “Gigi” salad, and I had the swordfish and my husband had the New York Strip. Naively, I ordered a side of Three Cheese Potatoes Au Gratin, which was large enough (and designated for, apparently) the entire family. We finished off the hugely satisfying meal with key lime pie, donuts and chocolate cake! Wha? Then we rolled home to bed. And promptly got up this morning for a 5-mile run (um, yeah right).

On the 2-block walk back to the car in the crepuscular light, a breeze blew between the tall buildings with their flashing video screens. We walked by LA Live and I was surprised to see so many out on the sidewalks, or eating al fresco at the restaurants.

Cranes and construction sites were on every corner, building high-rise condos for the influx of Angelenos moving to the increasingly hip downtown. I don’t want to move there, but I’m glad to live so close. I miss the city of San Francisco, the feeling of condensed buildings and pedestrians and good music, food and drinks offered from long-standing venues. Downtown LA will be my newly adopted downtown, fulfilling my need to feel the heart beat of a thriving metropolis.

Our first day venturing out in downtown together was more that of a tourist’s sip than a unique taste test. But it was a baby step and I look forward to a deeper exploration of all that it has to offer.


Photo Credit: shehan365 via Compfight cc

So Go Downtown…

Los Angeles – the Wild Life

Griffith Park
Griffith Park

While we were still living in San Francisco, but in escrow with a house in Los Angeles for our upcoming relocation, my husband visited our new house with a friend. He only wanted to drive by and show his friend our pending slice of LA when he noticed news vans parked all along our street. A helicopter hovered overhead. He and his friend decided a young, tortured actress must have offed herself in her home and so started scouring the Internet for news about our street. That’s where he learned about P22.

There was a mountain lion, or cougar, in the crawl space beneath the house across the street from us. Right- it was not under our house, phew, but still across the street is miles closer than we want to be to that kind of animal (especially with three kids, one being three years old). More on him later.

You can imagine how nervous this all made me. We were leaving the Bay Area with mixed emotions, and what I would miss most (after friends) would be the natural beauty of Northern California. Yes, we lived in the city proper but you could easily drive 15 min any direction to get the quiet Redwoods on Mt. Tam, or a fog-laden beach at Half Moon Bay, or the deliciously sunny and warm climate of the East Bay.

We weren’t moving to the beachy side of Los Angeles, with its long stretches of sand and palm trees and coastal canyons. We were moving to East Los, and my preconceived notion allowed me only to project concrete, suffocating heat, and freeways.

But I was wrong. We live near one of the largest urban parks in North America, Griffith Park. I’ve only known it in the summer, when it’s dusty and the foliage is parched. But apparently the park gets very green (please, rain.) In our backyard we have hummingbirds and dragonflies, woodpeckers and Blue Jays. We have a vast amount of lizards, and I’ve seen one beautifully alien-esque Praying Mantis.

afternoon walk

The wildlife continues to get larger and more thrillingly scary. Neighbors have warned us about rattlesnakes in our backyard. When our kids go out to their playstructure, we’ve been instructed to take a stick and go verify it’s reptilian-free. This morning I went for a walk in the park and was a little startled to read a sign warning me of rattlers.

And there’s the coyotes; its population in the park alive and well. I’ve heard many stories of coyotes attacking small dogs, even a woman walking with her stroller, and not always at dusk or night. I’ve seen only one coyote in the three months I’ve lived here. I was driving up our street right before dusk and there he was, trotting down the sidewalk as though he had a bus to catch, not looking particularly shaggy or underfed. Definitely not having any qualms about trotting through a human neighborhood. Late at night, every single night, there’s 60 seconds of howling. It starts with one or two and escalates until it sounds like the hills are chock full of werewolves. I’ve grown to love it, while safely tucked in my bed with children behind locked doors, but I don’t know if I would feel the same if I encountered one out in the open.

This brings us back to P22, the largest predator (besides us humans) in the area. He’s a beautiful mountain lion, tagged P22 by researchers and scientists who are monitoring his life. He is a local celebrity, even featured in National Geographic, and his trek to Griffith Park is astounding. P22 was born in the Santa Monica mountains, and he traveled about 20 miles toward downtown LA looking for a soul mate. He crossed not one but two major, eight-lane freeways. He ended up in Griffith Park, and continues to live there. Back in April at our neighbors house, after hours of being “hazed” with beanbags (and other humane methods),  the relatively docile cat finally left on his own the following morning.

Los Angeles has pleasantly surprised me with its natural side. It is dangerous and wild, both probably appropriate metaphors for its human side, too. But I’m ready to tentatively welcome it, and say goodbye for now to its tamer cohort known as Northern California.

Los Angeles – the Wild Life