Tour of East LA and Hollywood

First, I got shot in East LA. Did I say shot? I mean vaccinated. It’s so easy to get those confused. Now that I’m eligible for a COVID booster, it seemed a good idea to get one before leaving civilization. So I took care of that today. I’d planned to take myself, but Carolyn wanted me to see the market in East LA, and brought along Reuben (our resident Spanish speaker) to translate. It wasn’t far from the hospital where I got my booster, so they drove me there, picked me up afterward, and took me to the market.

Like the mall in the Blues Brothers car chase, this place has got everything. I don’t care what it is, they probably have it here. Reuben took lots of pictures of me and Carolyn, probably for some future exhibition which I’ll call “Los Gringos en el Mercado.” While most definitely geared toward the Hispanic community, I in no way felt unwelcome, either. Everyone we dealt with was happy to speak English to us if we wanted to. While it no longer has the dueling mariachi bands inside the main building (seriously), it was a fun cultural experience to take everything in.

Next, Reuben took us to El Tepeyac Cafe, one of his old haunts. I don’t even know what food he ordered. All I know is it was very very good. I even liked the guacamole, which I normally don’t like.

Then we visited Echo Lake Park. As if dinner wasn’t filling enough, Reuben brought us to this street vendor who roasts corn on the cob in a shopping cart, stabs a stick in the bottom, then adds mayonnaise, cheese, and chili (if desired) to make a surprisingly tasty walkaround snack.

As the sun went down, the swan boats’ lights turned on. It looked like a super slo-mo version of the light cycle chase from Tron. It’s a beautiful park. I never felt so calm or at peace in the middle of a big city before, not even Boston Common.

Reuben told us about the recent forced eviction of a large homeless tent city pretty much right where we were hanging out. LA has a big homeless problem, which I’d also heard about from Trisha’s abbreviated visit there. The Grand Canyon sized chasm between the rich and the poor is extremely apparent there.

From there, we took a cruise down Hollywood Boulevard. Yes, that one. Before getting to the famous stuff, though, we stopped at the Wacko store. This place has all kinds of books, toys, mugs, novelties, and candy you haven’t seen in years. “We specialize in candy you haven’t seen in years,” said an employee who overheard me saying that I hadn’t seen candy cigarettes in years. I thought they were banned, but apparently someone is still getting away with making them.

We spent quite a while exploring the place. It’s a good match for the wacko sense of humor and style the three of us share. In fact, Carolyn found several items and books there that she has already acquired from other sources. I also found the ultimate holiday gift that every van lifer needs, a hand sanitizer seemingly made just for us.

Our trip down the more famous portion of Hollywood Boulevard was somewhat abbreviated, as the road was closed. We did see many of the places I’ve been hearing about all my life, like the Roxy, Whiskey a Go Go, the Comedy Store, and more. It was a bit dark to appreciate the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and there was nowhere to park, get out, and enjoy it. We discussed perhaps taking the Metro down here sometime so we wouldn’t have to worry about parking. (Of course, motorcycles are another option…)

Finally, Reuben took us to the art district. There are many studios available here for artists to live and work. A great deal of art is visible on the outside of the buildings, too. These are a few of my favorites.

Photo: Reuben Livas

This one, though, is my absolute favorite. Two pairs of wings are here specifically for people to pose in front of them, and I love how Reuben’s picture turned out. It’s not only artistic, it also represents how I’ve found my wings and spread them since my journey began. This includes the physical travel, of course, but also the personal growth this journey has brought me. I certainly didn’t look, or feel, this confident a few months ago, broken and aimless from the breakup with Trisha. But here I am, as I am today. Thank you, Reuben, for capturing the emerging me that I didn’t fully realize was there until I saw this.

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