Saturday, August 13, 2011

Interacting with LA

Going to LA is always an interesting experience for us in the hinterlands--aka, the glorious suburb of Los Angeles that stretches all the way to Vegas and Phoenix.  We are subsumed by this city.  If someone asks us where we are from (like they did when we were in Yellowstone this month), we don't say the name of our town.  We say "oh, about an hour east of LA."  They nod, because everyone knows where LA is, but nobody (well, hardly anyone) knows where our city is.

Our city is no slouch of a place, population-wise.  We're pushing 300,000 folks according to the official freeway signs.  If we were in the middle of Wyoming, we would BE the big city.  Or Utah.  Or Iowa, maybe.  I don't know.  But we ACT like the little sister, with few restaurants of a non-chain variety, a weak cultural vein of entertainment to mine, and downtown library that is a bit of an embarrassment, when compared to Salt Lake City's glorious edifice (I'm still impressed from when I was there two years ago).

So, we don't head to LA much, other than to visit Michael Levine's fabric emporium.  But now I'll have more reasons to go there: my husband's niece is going to USC grad school.  She and her mother (and a new dachshund puppy) arrived in a U-Haul truck, pulling Heidi's car behind on a hitch.

They spent the night, then we ditched the hitch at our local U-Haul place and drove into LA to move her into her place in the Big City: El-Lay.  We caravanned: me in our car, then Heidi in hers, then Dave and his sister Janice (Heidi's mom) in the U-Haul truck.  Tricky in traffic, that's for sure.

Imprint in the side of the freeway divider.  I could take this photo because it was the 101-Hollywood Freeway and at noon on a Friday, we were in stop-and-go traffic.  Welcome to LA.  We made our way to her apartment building, and by some miracle, both Heidi and I found parking places; Janice parked the U-Haul in front of the building.

She's here!!

Dave and I, keeping an eye on our time, started to help unload the truck.  Janice and I traded turns digging out the boxes from the truck/running the stuff to her apartment (first floor, blessedly!).  Within two hours, it was all unloaded, our faces were red, we were tired, but Heidi was moved in to her studio apartment.  It was 2:20 and Dave and I jumped back into our car and drove home, catching some of the Friday traffic, but mostly ahead of it.  I didn't get a shot of her apartment, filled with boxes, some furniture and a bicycle, but imagine something like this:


More like this.  
While we were there we got to see the underground economy at work: Two men, one older and graying (named Juan) were transporting scads of bottles, cans, etc. in giant plastic sacks down to the front of the  building.  A few more men with these bags filled with recyclables showed up as well.  Soon, another truck showed up, collected these bottles and cans and paid the men.  Juan offered to help us a bit, carrying a few lightweight things up to Heidi's apartment (she has seven steps to go up), a kind gesture for a new neighbor.  The helados (ice-cream cart) man who was passing even brought up some planter boxes of hers to her apartment, his gold-teeth glinting as he smiled (not in a sinister way).  I suggested to Heidi that she may want to learn some Spanish, as nearly everyone in her building had a foreign-sounding last name, coupled with the fact that her landlady barely speaks English (the landlady had brought her daughter to help translate).

Los Angeles has been called a "great big freeway" by some.  But I think of it more as a place where there are lots of little neighborhoods, each with their own flavor.  This idea is common in many big cities, but somehow when we think of LA, we tend to ignore this idea, focusing instead on Hollywood, or the numerous freeways, or its sprawl.

But yesterday I got a chance to focus in on the human side of this place, to see a neighborhood in action, to participate.  It was lovely.

Welcome to Los Angleles, Heidi!!


Judy said...

Prior to having a son in LA, I rarely went there, and when I did, it was with fear and trepidation. I have come to love LA through my son, who has a passion for the city and its many ethnic neighborhoods. We'll have to make some trips together!

Donna Smith said...

It would probably be good if everyone took a turn living somewhere out of their comfort zone. LA, Boston, New York...all way out of my comfort zone, but probably lovely places to live once you acclimate and learn the flow!