Sunday, June 08, 2008

Tour of Downtown LA: An unexpected character building exercise

A walking tour of Downtown LA has long been on my list of 'Places to Go. Things to Do' before I move. Yesterday Denise & I headed downtown, starting at place #1 on the Los Angeles Conservancy's self-guided tour, the famed Biltmore Hotel. Once the largest hotel west of Chicago, the building maintained it's ornate Beaux Arts style as seen in the ceilings and walls.

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From there we walked to the Los Angeles Central Libary, which had an amazing children's wing, complete with minature tables and chairs, an amazing globe lamp and detailed ceiling and old-style card catalog (which I didn't capture, but Denise did!). With an entire room the size of Monrovia Public Library devoted just to picture books and a puppet theater, this would be fun field trip for those of you with young kiddos.

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From the library we headed to One Bunker Hill, formerly the Southern California Edison building where we saw the lobby. (Security clearance was required for any further touring.) This wasn't the highlight of the tour, but there was a cool mural across the street.

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We then hiked it uphill to Angel's Flight, a currently non-operational tram-like system. Other than discovering a cozy park and a plaza with outdoor concerts on the weekends, this wasn't the highlight of the tour either. We soon moved on to Grand Central Market, an indoor bazaar style market with stalls of varied ethnics products from Mexico to China, from fruit to pharmacy (and the fattest pigeons ever!). Although we did not shop, I'm sure there were bargains to be had.

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Walking through the market to the other side was like walking into a different country. Gone were the towering downtown structures, and suddenly there were street vendors selling icecreams, quincenera dresses, knock-off handbags, jeans and shoes, and electronics. And right in the middle of all of this lay the pearl, the jewel, the primary reason Denise and I embarked on this tour in the first place: The Bradbury Building. Several years ago I came across a photograph of this building, filled with skylights and iron staircases. It instantly captured my attention and I've always wanted to explore it.

In response to the asterisk on the tour website notating that some buildings were occasionally closed from tours for use in filming, I contacted the Conservancy a month or two ago to determine whether it was possible to know in advance, when certain buildings were closed. The woman assured me that filming was rare, usually done on weekdays. In her 6+ year in working there, the Bradbury Building has "never been closed on a Saturday."

Do you see where this is going?

Sure enough, as we approached the doors, eager to go in and see the magnificent, light and iron filled building with our very own eyes, we were greeted by computer printed signs on 8.5"x11" paper stating simply, "Closed due to filming."

Oh, the horror! The travesty! The immense disappointment! Outside the Bradbury Building we met a set of parents and their adult son, to whom I petitioned for their mutual disappointment and complaints. It turns out it is their other son who was inside directing the filming of "500 Days of Summer." Their apologies (after mentioning they'd been inside to see the building yesterday...), while sincere, rang hollow in the face of the annoyance we felt as I recalled the Conservancy lady's famous last words: "Never been closed on a Saturday."

It was at this time that the soreness in our feet and backs after walking for several hours began to penetrate and we petulantly decided to skip a tour of buildings 7-13 on the self-guided tour ("Who wants to see the stupid 'Farmers & Merchants Bank' anyway!", one of us vented maturely.), so we headed home, declaring the day a loss.

It wasn't really a loss, obviously. I got to experience a piece of Downtown LA, see parts of it I didn't even know existed, and build character in the face of disappointment. (You can bet your bottom dollar I. WILL. SEE. THAT. BUILDING. before I leave!) And best of all, I was able to spend time with one of my dearest friends as we tried to capture what we saw with our cameras. While not my favorite or best pictures ever, they will forever remind me of the day I learned not to trust the word of the lady at the LA Conservancy. And if one of us claims that the highlight of the day was lunch at the libary's Panda Express, just ignore us.

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1 comment:

TheWinnFamily said...

Love that second shot!!