So You’ve Decided to Go Metro

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Hollywood/Vine Red Line Station across the street of the Pantages Theater

Congratulations!  You’ve chosen to join the diehard L.A. explorers and go rugged–that is, using public transportation, your own two feet, and perhaps a bike, skates, or a skateboard to navigate through the city.  Be you a visitor, a regular pedestrian, cyclist, or motor junkie, trying out L.A.’s buses and light rail can be quite daunting.  According to your personal standards, “daunting” can range from “confusing” to “disgusting.”  Granted, L.A. Metro is not the most user friendly transit system a major city can have, but it is usually bearably maintained.

I had just moved back to L.A. and had totaled a brand new car.  My bike was stolen a few weeks before I had moved.  I was certain that I was confined to the one Metro route I was familiar with (Line 45) and whatever ride I could bum off a friend.  That was far from what I had wanted.  After all, I was back in the city as a college grad with a job; I needed to own up to the independence this brought.  It was time to go Metro.

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Ciclavia, June 23, 2013

My first solo experience was a thrill!  It was my first me-date in L.A. (my second one in my entire life!).  Not that it was the most memorable destination or ride; it was the gratification of an urban discovery and the triumph of my first Metro Rail trip.  This was no easy feat for me.  Lacking knowledge on the Metro system and in utilizing Google Maps to pinpoint stops, in additions to  my severe geographical ineptitude, I went through a painstaking process of figuring out the location of the place I wanted to go to and finding the closest Metro Rail station.  The one time I had used it was years ago, and I had followed a group of friends and was unaware of how I had gotten there.

Grand Central Market outside the Pershing Square Station

Grand Central Market outside the Pershing Square Station

Since then, my car-free journey has enhanced and enriched my L.A experience. In the ten months I’ve been here, I’ve learned how to make the most of public transit system.  Eventually, I bought a new bike, which truly takes me the distance.  First time advice to anxious and enthusiastic Metro rookies comes in 6 parts:

  1. Study the routes
  2. Ask questions
  3. Have TAP card loaded and accessible
  4. Pick immediate destinations
  5. Attend events and meet-ups
  6. 5 Items see https://lawanderer.wordpress.com/2013/06/06/top-5-items-to-take-on-the-metro/

Study the Map It is amazing how far the light rail and bus route can take you.  Don’t be shy; be one of the many local travelers, tourists, and old women standing in front of the big maps on the platforms.  I still do it!  Learn the different lines (Purple, Red, Blue, Gold, Orange, Silver, and Expo) and take note of the stops.  Every time you glance over a map, L.A. becomes more manageable.

Google is an ideal tool to utilize when planning trips into the urban unknown.  Google Maps shows users where the Metro Rail Stations are located, allows users to look up driving, biking, busing, and walking directions.  These directions are usually clear and reliable.  I have found it more efficient than the Metro Trip Planner.

Ask Questions If you find yourself lost of confused on a platform, brain, or bus, ask questions; I will answer.  If not me, then someone like me will.  It’s true, I’ve been all too eager to butt in from across the car and answer a flustered passenger asking a bewildered passenger, “This is the PURPLE LINE!  You want the Red Line.  CHECK THE SIGN!)  If available, speak with a Metro employee.  They are more than glad to help you out.  This way, you will get accurate and detailed information.

Get 4oz tasters of craft beers for $1.50-$2 each, straight from the tap at the Stone Company Store in the same plaza as the Del Mar Gold Line Station in Pasadena.

Get 4oz tasters of craft beers for $1.50-$2 each, straight from the tap at the Stone Company Store in the same plaza as the Del Mar Gold Line Station in Pasadena.

TAP Card Have your TAP card loaded and accessible.  Latches will no longer open without valid fare (and as I’ve contended before, I’m all for paying due fare.)  TAP cards a $1 and are reusable.  If you know that you will be traveling often throughout the day, week, or month, you have the option to purchase $5, $20, and $75 passes, respectively.  If you are not sure, you can preload your card.  For example, you can add $20 toward fare at the regular $1/25 per ride.  In addition to purchasing fare and tapping your card at turnstiles, try to create easy access to your card.  Having your TAP card in an ID holder can help you feel more at ease.  Digging through my bag in a rush can be a nightmare!

Pick More Immediate Destinations Associating certain reactions to specific stimuli conditions the brain to feel emotion.  Therefore, leaving out as much potential for stress on your initial Metro trips may help you tolerate, if not enjoy, using L.A’s public transporation system.  In addition to advice number 1 to 3, try to start by picking destinations right by the station.  Some examples are Chinatown, Little Tokyo, Watts Towers, Exposition Park, and Olvera Street.  I started out by going to the places advertised on the walls at Union Station.  Choose places that interest you, do some research to find out about the neighborhood highlights, and take a notebook along.

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First stop on the Gold Line Tamale Crawl with the Meet-up group, L.A. Metro Adventures.

Attend Events and Meet-ups If you only come across Angelenos who have nothing nice to say about the Metro, exterminate them.  Just kidding.  Like any endeavor, however, growth and success is more attainable when you surround yourselves with open-minded, motivated, and positive people.  What truly expanded my mental map of the Metro and fueled my desire to travel by Metro was going on Metro-centered Meet-Ups and events.  Examples of the events I’ve attended are the Gold Line Tamale Crawl with the L.A. Metro Adventures (http://www.meetup.com/lametro/) group and the Expo Line Art Tour with deLab (http://designeastoflabrea.blogspot.com/).  Meet people, go on guided tours, have  questions answered, and discover the possibilities.

5 Items to Bring I wrote a brief description on the top five essentials to bring when riding Metro.  These are you TAP card, a positive attitude, diversion, hand sanitizer, and giveaways.  For more details, check out https://lawanderer.wordpress.com/2013/06/06/top-5-items-to-take-on-the-metro/

Well, I hope this did not overwhelm you if you were not overwhelmed already.  I am so glad that you have decided to take your first Metro adventure.  Power to you and happy travels!

Air Out This Summer

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Taken at MacArthur Park. I managed to capture the beauty that many Angelenos denounce. It truly is a colorful neighborhood.

Enjoy the sublime California weather this summer without hurting your wallet.  Take your kids, your friends, your dates, your pets, heck, take yourselves to some of the hundreds of free concerts, shows, festivals, and cultural events all over L.A.

Grand Performances at California Plaza (DTLA)

“Grand Performances presents free performing arts that reflect the best of global culture and inspire community among the diverse peoples of Los Angeles.”

View Calendar at http://www.grandperformances.org/calendar/

Get there via Metro Rail:

  • Take the Red Line or Purple Line to Pershing Square
  • Head up Hill St. toward W. 4th St.
  • Turn left onto 4th St.
  • Turn right onto Olive St.
  • California Plaza will be on the left

Levitt Pavillion Summer Concerts at Memorial Park & MacArthur Park (Pasadena and MacArthur Park)

“The Pasadena and Los Angeles Levitt venues are hosting pre-concert festivities all summer long.  Fun awaits for everyone!” 

Check out the Memorial Park schedule here:  http://www.levittpavilionpasadena.org/summer-guide-2013.html.  MacArthur Park schedule here: http://www.levittla.org/2013-summer-music-festival-calendar/

Levitt

From levittpavillions.org

Get to Memorial Park via Metro Rail:

  • Take the Gold Line to the Memorial Park Station
  • Head down N. Arroyo Pkwy toward E. Holly St.
  • Turn right onto N. Raymond
  • Memorial Park will be on the right

Get to MacArthur Park via Metro Rail:

  • Take the Red Line to the MacArthur Park Station
  • MacArthur Park is located across the street from the station

Chinatown Summer Nights (Chinatown)

“Part food event, part summer party, Chinatown Summer Nights presents an exciting hot spot for Angelenos this August. Taste the many culinary offerings of Chinatown and LA’s gourmet food trucks; sample the neighborhood’s wares; watch Chinese chefs perform cooking demonstrations; experience large-scale, outdoor video projections; take part in hands-on, Chinese cultural activities presented by local organizations and museums; sip on craft brews and dance in Central Plaza with 89.9 KCRW’s DJ’s!”

Stay updated here: http://chinatownsummernights.com/schedule/

Chinatown Summer Nights

From thesource.metro.net

To get here via Metro Rail:

  • Take the Gold Line to the Chinatown Station
  • Go up College St. toward Broadway
  • Turn Right on Broadway
  • Keep walking until you reach the “Old Chinatown” square

To get here by MTA (bus):

  • Take Line 45
  • Get out on Broadway and Bishop
Grand Park

From grandparkla.org

Grand Park Summer 2013 (DTLA)

“If you haven’t heard the peeps on twitter or spent hours spotting our hot pink furniture on instagram, we’ve been hard at work bringing you (drum roll please) GRAND PARK’S FIRST SUMMER! It’s one, large, eventful feeding frenzy.”

See what’s happening: http://grandparkla.org/calendar/

To get here via Metro Rail:

  • Take the Red or Purple Line to the Civic Center/Grand Park Station
  • Head up N. Hill St.
  • Turn left

Twilight Concerts at Santa Monica Pier (Santa Monica)

“LA’S FAVORITE SUMMER TRADITION AND PREMIER OUTDOOR CONCERT SERIES, THE 29TH ANNUAL TWILIGHT CONCERTS AT THE PIER, RETURNS THURSDAY, JULY 11TH! COME CATCH THE BEST CONTEMPORARY AND CLASSIC MUSIC WITH THE MOST AMAZING VIEWS
IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA.”

Take a look at the calendar at: http://tcs.dola.com/

From blogs.kcrw.com

From blogs.kcrw.com

Direct Metro Rail access does not exist (yet!), but the MTA Line 720 will take your right to the pier!  Catch it along the Purple Line or hop on from DTLA.  Plan your trip at metro.net.

Itty Bitty Gadabout cannot possible cover it all.  How do I find out about all the happenings in this great city?  Part networking, part wandering, part subscription.  I recommend getting on the mailing list of these L.A. news sources:

Here’s a super juicy bathroom reader of a list to check out from Discover Los Angeles:

http://www.discoverlosangeles.com/blog/100-free-things-do-los-angeles-free-summer-concerts

Grand Central Market Coffee Mug

Grand Central Market Coffee Mug

Do you like the Grand Central Market off the Pershing Square Station? Get your swag on with grocery totes, aprons, and mugs!* I got my coffee mug for only $3!! All hyped up now? Then GO to the the Grand Central Market and find the security guard sitting at the counter near Hill St. entrance just before you go down the steps to the produce section.

*Items can only be purchased with cash.

Tonx Demo at Kleverdog

To the average citizen, I am a coffee snob.  I’m the sensual type, always on the prowl for coffee houses with baristas who interact with my joe.  I’m into black, dark types, rich with low acidity.  I use terms like “low acidity.”  My morning is not complete if I have not ground and brewed my coffee manually (okay, I have an electric grinder, but I push the button all by myself).    Morally, it does not hurt to know that I’m not drinking blood coffee.  If you classify as one of those anti-Starbucks, above-the-office-coffee-maker-so-I-bring-my-coffee-apparatus-to-work coffee drinkers blending in with these normal folk, you know there are greater coffee artists than you. Thus, to keep up the act, and to become a better informed drinker, I continue to learn as much about coffee roasting, brewing, and politics as I can.

IMG_3974Last weekend, Kleverdog Co-Working celebrated its two-year anniversary with an Open House and 24-hour co-work-a-thon.  Hidden in Bamboo Lane, an alleyway between the Old Chinatown square and Phoenix Bakery, Kleverdog is a space for work-at-home individuals to come together to work.  In addition to offering classes and work space, many events for creative professionals and Meet-Up groups are hosted here.  To get there via Metro Rail:

  • Take the Gold Line to Chinatown
  • Walk up College St.
  • Turn right on Broadway
  • Bamboo Lane is located between Old Chinatown and Phoenix bakery.  Turn left here and Kleverdog will be on the left.

I stopped by at the open house for more information about Kleverdog, casual networking, and above all, the free coffee demo. Nick, co-founder of Tonx (https://tonx.org/) was wrapping up his demonstration when I had arrived.  Laid on the conference table was an assortment of pretty, shiny coffee-brewing instruments and pots of coffee.  Luckily for me, Nick was stuck there for another hour, and I finally had my chance to talk with a bonafide coffee expert without feeling intrusive.  I felt like a preschooler learning how to play Duck Duck Goose with different words (“pig…pig…cow!”).  By the way, I work with preschoolers and let me tell you, it’s a concept that rocks a four-year-old’s world.  Nick used five brewing methods to brew the same coffee beans.  For the demonstration, he used Tonx Chelba-Yirgacheffe, Ethiopia.

IMG_3981French Press Nick has forever changed the way I use the French press.  After letting the coursely ground beans steep in the carafe for a bit, he agitated the grounds (mixed it by gently breaking the crust).  This helps extract the oils and solids (the good stuff) from the coffes beans.  With a spoon-like utensil, he skimmed the top, getting rid of any residual foam.  He then pushed down the plunger, leaving some space for the grounds to steep and most of all, to brew the cleanest cup of coffee as possible.  The result was well-brewed, sediment-free coffee.

Pour Over Hario V60 is a special coffee funnel called a dripper.  This requires finer grounds and some attention–this method takes about 2-3 minutes.  Begin by pouring near-boiling water over the filter to rinse it.  This gets rid of the taste of the paper and helps the filter stick to the dripper.  After pouring enough boiling water over the grounds that they are saturated, agitate the grounds and wait until the water has drained.  Slowly pour the remaining water, making sure the water is never higher that the grounds.

The Chemex is a pour over apparatus.  Simple in design, it is a glass carafe that hold a cone filter at the top.

Cold Brew This was not actually demonstrated, only sampled.  Nick says it’s a easy as wrapping the grounds into a cheese cloth and soaking it for 12-24 hours.

IMG_3982Aeropress I felt honored to be trusted with the aeropress, a hand-held, coffee brewing syringe.  For this method, you need the press, paper filters, a stirrer, and a scoop.  A funnel is optional.  First, I finely ground the beans in a manual coffee grinder, which takes some elbow grease.  Nick wet and set a circular paper filter onto the brew chamber.  After grounds were added to the press, he poured water to about 3/4 of the press.  Doing this results in a concentrate.  He then agitated the grounds and filled the press to the top, diluting the coffee.  We waited about 2 minutes.  Nick explained that the finer the grounds, the shorter he brew period.  After that, the plunger was placed into the press and with a considerable about of steady pressure, I pressed down over a coffee pot until the contraption hissed.  The batch came out a bit too acidic for my taste, so he prepared another batch, grinding the coffee even finer.  All in all, it’s a lot of work of a single cup of coffee, but it’s ideal for travel.

At the moment, I await my free 2 0z sample in the mail.  Aside from having fresh, locally roasted beans delivered to me, what makes Tonx stand out is the reclamation of coffee.  In a paraphrase of Nick’s words, Tonx does not try to be so fancy with their brewing methods, making having a great cup of coffee accessible to the public.  To top it all, I watched their quotable video clip (I’m a sucker for heart string puller advertisements).  “It’s your first creative act of the day, so you want to get it right.”

Top 5 Items to Take on the Metro

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Whether on your daily commute or the single time a year you use L.A.’s public transit to avoid traffic toward the Rose Parade on New Years Day, these 5 things are a must.  As a frequent passenger, blogger, and occult fan of the Metro system, I’ve ranked these items by subjective, yet credible, importance:

  1. Tap Card
  2. Positive attitude
  3. Diversion
  4. Hand sanitizer
  5. Giveaways
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My TAP card is secure yet easily accessible

Tap Card: It seems so easy to slip through the Red Line turnstiles, what more to hop on the Gold Line, without paying for the ride.  Why bother paying for fare?  I eavesdrop on many passengers who talk about the need for the Metro Rail to expand, the lack of security on trains and buses, the questionable sanitation, and on and on about the Metro’s other shortcomings as a public transit system in a big city.  Annual costs for construction alone soar well in the billions of local, state, and federal taxes.  With all the efforts of zoning, planning, construction, and the daily salaries of Metro employees, it would be a nightmare to find out what price the city and its Metro riders would have to pay for mass lack of fare purchasing.  Thus, in my humble opinion, every passenger should be paying for every single ride.

Also, do not forget to tap!  Riders who don’t tap for a ride can be fined up to $250.  The same penalty goes for having an empty TAP card or lack of TAP card.

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Panhandler? More like live entertainment!

Positive attitude: Despite the wider use of public transportation in L.A., especially of the Metro Rail, there is still this misconception floating around about buses and light rail.  Yes, the vagabonds and giggling druggies abound.  There are panhandlers, trash-talkers, stalkers, and high schoolers you would rather avoid.  Most bus seats reek and some passengers just plain stink.  HOWEVER, it isn’t all that bad.  People of all walks of life go Metro everyday at all times of the day.  Being the stranger magnet that I am, I have spoken to men and women who are business owners, office workers, Trojan fans, artists, students, immigrants, college students, parents, bloggers, the neurotic, and yes, even the homeless.  Granted, getting to know the riders around you is not for everyone.  Although you do not have to get friendly with your seatmate, you can keep a positive attitude.  By riding the bus or light rail, you promote the Metro system, save gas, reduce your carbon footprint, avoid traffic, and are surrounded by the colorful characters of the city.

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Kick Ass the graphic novel

Diversion: Do you get bored of waiting?  Are the weirdos on the bus freaking you out?  Do as I do and bring a book and a journal.  Other passengers have the good sense to take out iPods, solve crossword puzzles, sketch, write, and play games on their phones.  Whatever you are into, its advisable to bring your own source of entertainment.  This way, not only does the time go by, but it helps to avoid undesirable situations around you like a verbal fight between a homeless man and an office worker, or that guy across from you snorting from a dirty rag and blowing fluids from his nose to the floor (this does not happen as often as I make it out to sound).  Just relax, stay cool, and use this time to escape into your own world.

IMG_4043Hand sanitizer: I am not a germaphobe.  There is no point in whipping out a bottle of anti-bacterial liquid every time you touch anything.  Hand sanitizer does not discriminate between good and bad germs, overuse causes some germs to become resistant to the sanitizers, and lack of exposure does not help build immunity.  There have been times, however, when I catch myself licking my fingers after holding onto the railing on the Metro (say, to eat a handful of nuts from my bag).  It does not taste pleasant, nor is it so good for me.  It helps to remember how many people do not wash their hands and how many unsanitary activities many people do each day; then think about how many of those people touch the seats, rails, and windows.  After every ride, I still need to remind myself to either wash my hands or apply some hand sanitizer.

IMG_4051Giveaways: I am not referring to t-shirts and key chains.  Although I have tried to convince you that not everyone on the bus is a bum, you WILL be asked for money at some point.  When this happens, offer food or toiletries instead.  This assures you that any donation you make will be put into good use.  You do not have to go out and buy snacks and soap for this purpose because I am sure you already have untouched goods laying around your home already.  This is the perfect opportunity to get rid of all those fast food condiments and napkins you like to hoard, pieces of holiday candy, the freebies you grab at work, leftovers, hotel toiletries, and whatever else you have no use for.  Giving not only steers riff-raff away from you quicker, but it feels good to treat your fellow human with dignity and goodwill.  Next time, please do not pretend you do not hear someone who is moaning of hunger or begging for small change.  Remember to bring along little items one person may benefit from.  It doesn’t hurt.

Riding the bus or Metro rail can be a wonderful cultural experience.  I cannot imagine a complete L.A. experience without the public transportation.  You encounter an array of people and oftentimes get off with a fantastic story to tell.  Although it is not always the most luxurious experience for most, remember to pack these 5 items to make the most out of your trips.

Can Dogs Go Metro?

Can Dogs Go Metro?

Eros has ridden on the Metro Rail a few times now. This picture of him on the Red Line was taken today after being groomed at Pussy & Pooch in DTLA.

After a conversation with a Metro employee on the Red Line/Purple Line platform a few months ago, I was more confident about taking him on the train with me. The employee said that if I carried around a doctor’s note that stated Eros’s medical/psychological duty to be there for me, we should be fine. However, there does not seem to be any clear rule about having dogs on the trains and buses. Frequently, I spot canine passengers, especially itty bitty dogs. For that reason, I will not explicitly recommend taking your fuzzy wuzzy gadabouts with you on your next Metro adventure. I will say, however, that Eros enjoys riding the Metro Rail and he has always been a very good boy on our trips.

Portraiture Now

From now until September 22, the Japanese American National Museum is hosting Portraiture Now: Asian American Portraits of Encounter.  This exhibit features the work of seven visual artists, including CYJO, Zhang Chun Hong, Hye Yeon Nam, Shizu Salamando, Roger Shimomura, Satomi Shirai, and Tam Tran.  From charcoal scroll art to video self-portraits, these artists capture, expound, and further mystify the diversity of contemporary Asian American identities.

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Me

If you haven’t noticed, I am Asian American.  Although there were a few displays I could not relate to, and like in many contemporary art exhibits, cannot appreciate, the overall experience hit home.  I especially took note of Nam’s four-part video self-portrait, Walking, Eating, Drinking, and Sitting.  Rather than evaluating her work for production value, I examined her clips in relation to my own daily experiences.  Although amusing at times, it reminded me of both the unintentional and self-constructed discomfort and confusion caused in part by my Asian American identity.  In a country where categories are so important and race identity changes every time we update the national census, how do I situate myself in a way that includes my personal upbringing and the box I check for surveys, tests, and legal forms?

Growing up in predominantly Hispanic neighborhoods, I felt the sting of the stigmatic title, “china (chee-na)” my entire life.  I felt my “Asianness” and burned with misguided and silent estrangement.  As a child, I wished and prayed for a new pair of eyes, honey brown hair, and an extra foot in height.  I was embarrassed of my parent’s mannerisms, accents, and lifestyle.  To me, Chinatown manifested the stench of being Asian.

Of course, as I grew older, I was exposed to more of the world and the people around me.  I learned to embrace and share my ethnic, cultural, and personal uniqueness.  Being a first generation Filipino in Los Angeles, I began to realize that I was no outsider–that my people and my neighbor’s people have more history and culture in common than we are taught in school, that there are many Filipinos in California, let alone those “other” Asians, and that Asian foods are delicious!  To add to my identity reconstruction, I went to university and learned about Asian identity in the context of history, American culture, and campus life.  I began critically piecing  all the representations, stereotypes, and the reification of “Asianness” into the understanding of my own self.

IMG_3915Portraiture Now “demonstrates the nuances inherent to the Asian American experience (http://apanews.si.edu/2011/05/17/portraits-of-encounter/).”  Whether you are Asian, Asian American, or are one to expand your knowledge, this exhibit is only one of the reasons to take a trip to this museum in Little Tokyo.  Admission to the Japanese American National Museum is $9 for adults, $5 for seniors, students with I.D., and children 6-17.  Admission is free to members and children 5 and under and to all visitors every Thursday from 5PM to 8PM and every third Thursday from 12PM to 8PM.  Visitors receive a 10% discount at the Chado Tea Room next door with receipt.

To get here by Metro Rail:

  • Take the Gold Line to Little Tokyo/Arts District Station
  • Walk up 1st St.
  • The museum will be on the right

“Hello, all you happy people.”

I could not get a shot of this dog standing on her hind legs (damn slow, outdated Canon).  She salivated patiently as her owners ate delicious food from one of the international food stalls at Grand Central Market.  Totally one to judge, I say next time you’re taking your dog out to eat, bring a travel bowl for water and some of his or her favorite food.  Oh, and just in case you didn’t catch the reference in the title: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tzqt-ENnmHc

The Grand Little Things

How many men does it take to get a kite down from a tree?

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David Ladr, 28, waving his new kite at Grand Park

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Step 1: Shake tree with bare hands

My boyfriend and I were ending a nice Saturday afternoon in downtown with a stroll through Grand Park.  As we sat in the slowly fading sunlight to dry after playing in the water fountain, he spotted a little ladybug kite stuck in a tree. As Dave proceeded to shake the tree trunk , I stretched out and opened  a bag of Flaming Hot Cheetos.  He shook the branches from one side, then the other.  With determination, he strode away from the tree and past me.  Without turning, I continued to munch, lazily amused.  He came back clutching a folded umbrella, which of course he used to swat at the branches.  At that point, I just had to get up to get a better look.

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Step 2: Proceed to use tools

An older gentleman walked over and stood by me, craning up to examine the kite.

“Your kite is stuck?”

“It’s not ours, but he seems determined to get it down.”

“It’s wrapped in the branches,” the man continued.  He pointed upward, “See there?”

“Stand on a bench,” suggested the ever-supportive girlfriend, “or a table.”

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Step 3: Get closer to target

Zoned in, Dave wordlessly dragged over a chair and table under the tree.  Umbrella in hand, he climbed atop the Pepto Bismol-pink metal park furniture.  For a short time, he tried making overextended swings at the kite, like a small child at a pinata.  He then became more creative. He hooked the tip of the umbrella to a branch to shake the tree that seemed to be gripping onto the kite’s red tail.

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Step 4: Collaborate

“Maybe we could throw rocks at it, ” offered the man, reaching into his shoulder pack.  I glimpsed two sizable stones in his hand.  Strange people attract other eccentrics.  He speculated momentarily.  “Oh, that might make a hole in the kite,” he resolved on his own.

Dave continued to alternate between swatting at the ladybug kite and shaking the branches with the patio umbrella as a tall young man offered his hand.

“Oh, it’s not even ours,” I tried to deter the young man, whom later introduced himself as Mike.  “I don’t want anyone getting hurt over it.”

“Well, they’re making me do it,” he replied with traces of a valiant smile in his eyes, pointing at the two young women sitting across the field on a pink bench.

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Step 5: Take turns

Dave came down from the table and handed Mike the umbrella. Mike was just tall enough to touch the kite with its tip.  Taking advantage of his height, he swung at the kite, shook the branches, and was even able to hook the umbrella to the kite.  With all his might, he pulled so hard at the little ladybug kite that I was sure it was going to tear and the whole show would have been all for moot.  Dave, the older man, and I looked up, mouths hung open, eyes transfixed on the kite.  Seriously, I was holding my breath!

Well, like any Hollywood box office hit, it had a happy ending.  Mike was the hero who got the kite down, Dave got a free kite, and the older gentleman, the two young girls, and I got a bit of live entertainment on a beautiful Saturday afternoon.  The kite’s tail had been severed and may still be waving like a little red flag in the tree in Grand Park.

“What happened to the kite after that?” you ask, still at the edge of your seat.

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Step 6: Refurbish

Sunday afternoon, Dave gave the little ladybug kite a new life.  My beloved penny pincher extraordinaire tied the kite to cotton string he found at the corner discount store, using a cardboard tube from a roll of paper towels as a spool.  Finally, the piece de resistance; Without much thought, he tore at the red plastic drawstring of the garbage bag holding his recycling and voila!  The little ladybug kite had a new tail.

We took the kite out to the nearby MacArthur Park for a test flight.  It was not the windy day we were hoping for, but the ladybug had its chance to soar for a few short intervals at a time.  It was another late afternoon of simple pleasures and childlike ingenuity.

In all their grand simplicity, the parks in L.A. are ideal places for a respite from big city life.  Whether, it’s for a picnic, bird feeding, a jog, reading, or to cool off, parks offer community, solitude, and free play space.  I feel like I mention Grand Park (http://grandparkla.org/) and MacArthur Park (http://www.laparks.org/dos/parks/facility/macArthurPk.htm) in several of my posts.  Although the two are polar opposites on the surface, they both have much to offer their visitors, from big events to shady patches of grass.

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Step 7: Enjoy!

To get to Grand park in DTLA by Metro Rail:

  • Take the Red Line to the Civic Center Station
  • Head northeast of N. Hill St.
  • Turn left
  • Turn right
  • Grand Park stretches from the Music Center to City Hall

MacArthur Park is located south of Wilshire between downtown and Koreatown.  To get there by Metro Rail:

  • Take the Red Line to the Westlake/MacArthur Park Station.
  • The park is across the street