People are always surprised when I tell them how much I love downtown LA. For the most part I am trying to convince everyone I talk to about the magic of downtown -- that it's more than just traffic, drifters and crowds of drunk people. You'll have to live here to fully understand. The beauty is in the synergy of the empty streets, the sun reflecting off the skyscrapers, and all of the wildly interesting people you meet along the way.
This weekend has reminded me of the unexpected magic this city has to offer and it's been the jolt of energy I didn't know I needed.
I'll start with my new friend Pat. She lives on the same floor as me and I've chatted with her briefly in the elevator and coming in and out of the building but nothing significant. As luck (or fate) would have it, I had an extended conversation with her due to technical difficulties of the building. Long story short, she's just amazing. She's 74 and has been a bad ass activist for most of her life (and still is in a different way). Having lived through (and protested with) the Civil Rights Movement, I was interested to hear her take on today's current events. I wanted to hear all her stories. She explained everything in the most graceful and soothing way, which makes you feel like your view is being widened. As we parted ways, she gave me her apt number and told me to come by any time to chat. So whenever I'm home early or need to slow down a bit, I stop by to see Pat and hit the 'refresh' button.
Saturday started off at the Unique Space for a 9am vendors meeting for their upcoming Fall show. Now, my respect for Unique LA and its founder Sonja Rasula runs deep, real deep. I attended my first Unique Show and met Sonja about 3 years ago and I owe a lot of creative drive from this environment Sonja has cultivated in LA. This part of the story can run a tad long and I think it deserves its own post but really all I can say is that this is a big deal for me. It is something that I've always wanted to do. And check me out, I'm fucking doing it.
Later that night, I went into The Last Bookstore like I do on most nights where I know I will be working late. I usually pick out a book and read until I get that kick of motivation to get the night started. That night was different. I walked into a crowded bookstore which usually means a book reading/open mic night is underway. It was a reading from the book After Grrl: Small Stories from Big Lives. I knew I would like it from the title alone. I decided to grab a good seat without any expectations on what was to come. I listened to 7 women tell their stories on love, pain, death, abuse, self- inflicted harm and most importantly, triumph. I cried listening to stories from women I didn't know and cried harder hearing how they turned their broken pieces into bravery. I was moved and inspired to say the least. I couldn't help but feel grateful for whatever led me to this event that night. Needless to say, it was the kick I needed to get my butt in gear.
CicLAvia was this Sunday and it's one of my favorite events. It's mostly biking but you can skate, run, walk as well. Many streets are closed off and it's just a fun way to get outside, bike and immerse yourself in the city. CicLAvia has become a fun tradition with my older brother and something I always look forward to. Unfortunately this year he was unable to make it and I planned on spending the day making jewelry.
When the morning rolled around, I took a quick trip to the farmer's market downstairs and saw so many people with their bikes headed to the start of the route. How could I not partake? It was so nice out and it was calling my name. I quickly ran up to my apt and grabbed my things and bike and headed out.
My tires were flat and my pump wasn't working so I figured I'd find someone with a pump along the way or I'd stop by the bike repair station that's located at the start of the route. As I walked my bike up Grand, I stopped a girl in a baseball cap and her bike in tow. She didn't have a pump with her but said I could walk with her to find someone. I told her I'd stop the group coming up the hill and if they didn't have one I'd walk with her. The group of 5 or 6 coming up the hill looked promising and most importantly they were walking their bikes up which made it less of a hassle for them to stop and help me. Sure enough, one of them was prepared with a pump. As my tires were inflating, one of the girls asked about my shirt. I was wearing a tshirt that said 'Huế Vietnam' with a graphic. I took it from my mom about 10 years ago and it is the city in Vietnam that my parents are from. Her parents are also from Huế and during the course of the day, another 2 people stopped to tell me their families are from there too. I said many 'thank you's to the group before jumping on my bike and riding down the streets of downtown.
The route was on Wilshire Blvd through MacArthur Park and into Koreatown. Along the way, I stopped at different set ups, food carts and groups of people playing music. I rode past the Line hotel where they had a DJ and barbecue set up outside playing 90's hip hop, I quickly made a U-turn and decided to stop for a drink and listen to tunes. As I checked in my bike, I recognized a girl that was walking towards the hotel. It was the same girl from earlier. The one that that I stopped to ask for a tire pump but didn't one. We said hello and exchanged pleasantries. Her and her friend were headed up to the pool and invited me to have a drink with them. We chatted, realize we had a friend in common, and talked about all the random ways things fall into place. I hung out with them for the rest of the ride and grabbed another drink along the way. It was great to meet people that were welcoming and inviting right off the bat. Like I was traveling in my own city. They were a breath of fresh air in what can sometimes be a very draining and superficial environment.
This wraps up my unexpected summer weekend in the city of Angels. File this weekend under 'serendipitous'. This is what living in the moment feels like and that's where I'm the happiest. I'm reminding myself that if I keep an open mind and heart and put good things into the world that it will come right back to me. Be open to the magic.