I have not had the privilege of traveling many places by myself, much less those that require a car, but my gander about downtown L.A. my second day in town was just delightful. Stationed in Little Tokyo, I had Japanese food for breakfast (also dinner the night before…and dinner later that night. I swear I've never eaten so much rice in my life.) and then took a walk around the area. The Japanese Village Plaza was right next to my hotel, done up in red and white lanterns, dotted with Japanese restaurants, and sprinkled with stores vending Japanese paraphernalia. So it was a little touristy, but I decided to embrace it because, really, I had no other choice! But it was a delight to roll up to a restaurant at around noon (yeah, breakfast at noon, I'm still a New Yorker at heart) and order Chicken Donburi, prefaced by green tea and miso soup. A couple from France next to me took pictures of their food as I sipped my earthy-and-wonderful-tasting tea. Seriously, I asked myself, why don't I drink proper green tea more often?
|"Go for Broke" Emblem on the monument|
Upstairs, I also learned about the history of the Japanese people settling in America--their triumphs and tribulations, the culture they created for themselves in America and, sadly, about Japanese internment during World War II. An older gentleman took a group of young girls on a tour of the museum just in front of me, and I listened as he explained the plight of the Japanese with great emotional intensity. It's something we don't really learn enough about when we study American history. Not everything about America is butterflies and rainbows. One part of this story that really resonated with me was that of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team (among others), the segregated portion of the military made of second-generation Japanese Americans, rescuing Holocaust survivors despite their questioned American loyalty after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Their motto was "Go for Broke," as in give it all you've got, and they did, not only proving their loyalty (and showing the government how wrong they were) but far surpassing expectations. I bought a magnet with the "Go for Broke" emblem on it and it's now on my fridge. Incidentally, the "Go for Broke" monument is just outside the museum, too. What a pleasant surprise, stumbling into a museum like this on a Saturday! And for free!
Floating in my delicious art-coma, I returned briefly to my hotel room to drop off some museum goodies I had procured and found a bookstore not too far from my hotel called The Last Bookstore, featuring not only used books, but records, too! It seemed like my kind of joint. Having brought less reading material than was actually necessary, I realized today would be the only day I would have to make sure I didn't just sit and twiddle my thumbs on the almost 6-hour flight back to New York. Walking to the store, even though it was still light out, I was unsettled--absolutely nobody walks around the streets of downtown L.A. on the weekend, apparently. Though it did make for nice picture taking of some of the buildings around (the Los Angeles Times building and City Hall among them). Walking down Spring Street (ha, we have one of those in New York, too!), it looked like if you took a snap of Manhattan, set a pastel watercolor sunset behind it, cleaned up the streets 'til they sparkled, and took all the people off of it. How strange to walk down a street decked out in lovely buildings with not a person walking in front of them! But I arrived at the bookstore eventually (with the help of a French gentleman who ran a cafe), and was instantly in love. Enormous glass windows painted with 'The Last Bookstore' in gold let me know I was in the right place, as did the shelves upon shelves of books and CDs and records bathed in golden light. White columns held everything up, grungy vintage furniture strategically placed nearby. Raunchy romance paperbacks sat side by side with football stories and pulp novels, DVDs arranged by color. I laughed at myself a little--this is a place I would find. After much deciding on books, however, I settled on An Object of Beauty by Steve Martin (yes, the Steve Martin) and The Rum Diary by Hunter S. Thompson. By that time, though, it had gotten dark--would it be safe to walk back to my hotel? I asked the clerk and was pleasantly told to just walk straight up Spring to 1st, as to avoid "the apocalypse" of a not-so-nice area. I did as I was bidden, stopping first for a hot beverage to warm my chilly bones on the way home.