Monday, December 1, 2008

exploring downtown LA

If you live in Los Angeles, you'll know that our downtown is unlike any other downtown of a major city. Generally speaking, no one ever really goes to downtown. It's not thought of as the desireable to location in our greater metro to live or hang out in. Don't get me wrong, there are people who live and hang out there and there are people who work there. But no one's really fighting to get into that neighborhood. Walking through parts of it in the evening or on a weekend day, it sort of feels like a ghost town.

The powers that be in this city are trying to change this up with some development and a rebranding of the area to draw money and business to our downtown (known as "Live, Work, Play downtown LA" or something like that). And there's a small gasp of gentrification in spots of downtown, but it's still by and large a run down part of our city. Which is too bad, because there are some beautiful old buildings and the public transportation for our city was built so that downtown is at the heart of all the subway stations and buses.

Well this weekend, M and I decided to explore our downtown a bit. M wanted to check out two things: the old theatres on South Broadway and Philippe the Original (birthplace of the French Dip sandwich). We parked near the Chinatown metro station and hoofed it up to S Broadway. On the way we stopped off at the Disney Concert Hall since M's never seen it in person. I used to work in the area and took walks during my lunch break around this area. The concert hall is beautiful and is also a great place to make a pit stop, just sayin.

It's also difficult to photograph. Also, it was bright out. So I just pointed my camera at the thing, fiddled briefly with the f-stop/aperture and clicked hoping for the best.

The inerior is also lovely.

Then we walked down S Grand Avenue to the Angels Flight staircase/railway, down the steps and across the way to the Grand Central Market. I didn't get a photo of the Angels Flight railway. It's the world's shortest rail? It was a means for the wealthy residents of Bunker Hill to get down to the shopping area of downtown back in the day. Looks like it's been unused for a while but they are throwing money on the project to get the two cars running again.

The Grand Central Market is small but colorful. I snapped a bunch of photos before I was asked to stop doing so by a passing security guard carrying his lunch.

I was photographing this candy stand at the time when I noticed the gentleman behind the counter waggling his eyebrows at me in a suggestive way.

He seemed to be saying: Well hello there, why doncha take a photo of me? So I did. And then I had to put my camera away.

We exited the market on the opposite side that we entered it and it spit us out onto South Broadway (I can't remember if it's a street or an avenue or a boulevard. Google maps is not much help either in this department). We immediately felt like we were in another country. Like Tijuana (which I've never been, but I've seen it on the telly and M's been before and he confirmed my comparison), but Tijuana with a bunch of gorgeous and decaying Art Deco buildings and less drugs.

The signage was awesome.

We went inside that arcade by the way. I was one of two girls inside (M and I were the only two of non spanish speaking descent). And at the rear of the establishment there were two or three pool tables with a string of very intent dudes staring at the tables. They were very quiet and just sat in lined up chairs along the wall staring at the pool players. Or at the pool tables. Or maybe at dust motes. It was a little strange. I wanted to stick around to see what would happen next but M wanted to move on. Who knows? They may still be sitting there sitting in their chairs staring. I found it fascinating.

This was by far the prettiest building.

Most of the buildings seem to be boarded up. Maybe the floor level units house a cheap retail establishment and maybe in a few windows up above you can see some sign of domesticity, but mostly these huge beautiful buildings seem empty.

It's so strange to see so much hustle and bustle on the streets and then nothing in the buildings above.

I liked this little detail in the stonework along the walls of the building. Like little flowers or something.

More Art Deco motifs.

This building is at the end of the South Broadway retail area. Seems it was completely inhabited. There was a security panel at the entrance with signs forbidding dilly-dallying of any kind.

More awesome signage.

I love the hand painted retail promo against the old neon signage for the former theatre space.

And a different kind of signage. Please do click on this to see a bigger version of this sign and read what it has to offer.

I found it amusing and sad at the same time.

Then we trekked aaaaall the way back towards our car to Philippe's. They were celebrating their 100th anniversary. We heard about this place from our friend Huell Howser. He'd warned us about the crowds so we tried to get there during a slow time.

It was still crowded. But at least the lines stayed inside as opposed to circling around the block (common during the rush periods). This gentleman in the photo above is enjoying a 9cent cuppa joe. A lot of folks at Philippe's were.

We were worried about seating for a minute, and I briefly considered sitting in the phone booths to eat our food.

I really hope this signage is original. Now that I look at it again, I bet they ordered them off of some vintage-sign making company. Too bad.

And lastly, the sandwich that we stood in line for.

Even more photos of this day on my flickr account.