Skating, sledding and a Joni Mitchell song at Pershing Square in Los Angeles

Ice skates for the whole family are for rent.

Every winter there is ice skating in downtown Los Angeles and this year the activities for children were expanded. The temporary ice rink is set up in Pershing Square by a group that calls itself the Holiday Ice Rink, but I am not certain who brought in the bouncy-houses, miniature merry-go-round and kid-size train..

entry to Pershing Square downtown Los Angles
Christmas festivities at Pershing Square in downtown Los Angeles.

This expanding event probably does not make the Pershing Square Restoration Society very happy. They want to return the Square to something similar to its park-like original configuration over 100 years ago.  Mostly it would be grass and trees and statues if they had their way.  I am not sure where the urban ice skating rink would go in their plans, not to mention the children’s playground and the dog park lined with tall pink concrete cylinders and bougainvillea.

The Pershing Square dog park is ideal for the loft and apartment dwellers downtown.  Helps keep the streets clean, too.

The current configuration of Pershing Square–and there have been 5 redesigns since the beginning–was done in 1993 by the famous Mexican Modernist architect Ricardo Legorreta,  landscape architect Laurie Olin, and artist Barbara McCarren.  And as the years have rolled by the playgrounds were added in recognition of the growing number of families living downtown.  I used to favor restoration, but no longer. Grand Park, just a few blocks away, has plenty of grass and trees and some statues, too.

Okay…enough of this rant.  On to what I saw.

These beginning skaters may have never seen real snow, but they are learning to ice skate and, who knows, may become L.A. Kings hockey fans.
What a great day for a family outing.  Lots of sunshine and penguin helpers for the kids.
There was a long line of parents and children waiting to ride this Merry-Go-Round.
Hot dogs, tacos, kettle corn and a Micky Mouse poster.  Street vendors have recently been legalized in Los Angeles after decades of selling food on street corners “illegally”.  I don’t think street vendors were arrested very often.  They provide a useful function in the city.
A staff member waits until one sledder is down the slope before she sends the next customer up to the top.
If you don’t like to ice skate there is always sledding.  This Dad and daughter are ready to go.
Lemon tree and sled slope Pershing Square 2018
I love the real yellow lemons in the tree behind the artificial sledding slope!  I noticed that throughout the Square the lemons were only high up on the trees.  No doubt the lower level ones had been picked already by nearby residents. The temperature was about 72 degrees F.
This new building has risen over the parking lot that Joni Mitchell made famous in her song “Big Yellow Taxi”. Before this high rise began to reach skyward, the space was for decades a parking lot which had replaced the old building that was home to the Los Angeles Philharmonic.  They tore down the beautiful philharmonic building and “paved paradise and put up a parking lot” sometime back in the 1970s.  The Pershing Square Restoration Society should take note that “Change Happens”.
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Food for the dead on the altars in Grand Park Los Angeles 2018

Food for Grandmothers Dia de los Muertos 2018
I love the photos of the two grandmothers, the two abuelas, surrounded by peanuts, a bowl of mangos and flowers.  Both the roses and the fruits appear artificial or waxed.

In the ancient Mayan/Mexican tradition, favorite foods and flowers are left for the dead on their graves in the cemetery.  In Los Angeles today, foods are left on the altars memorializing the dead.

To see other photos of the Dia de los Muertos event in Grand Park go here.

Here is some of what I saw on altars in Grand Park for Dia de los Muertos.

Foods on the Yemeni altar Grand Park 2018
On the Yemeni altar were foods from the Middle East, including flat pita bread, baklava, hummus and yogurt.

chilis on Dia de los Muertos altar Los Angeles
Chilis for the dead.  I think those white objects are tea candles.

Bread and tamale wrappers for the dead 2018
Bread and tamale wrappers in front of this altar. Tamales are more closely associated with Christmas Eve in Los Angeles.

Peanuts, salt and corn husks on Dia de los Muertos altar Grand Park
Corn husks and peanuts were on many more altars than I can remember from previous years. The salt on this altar is considered to be a purifying agent.

black beans from South Central Farm Day of the DEad altar
From a community garden in South Central Los Angeles comes this altar with a “carpet” of black beans in front of it. The two figures made of white beans represent the snake deity Quetzalcoatl who bridges between the dead and the living. The pumpkins are definitely Halloween!

Day of the Dead food on an altar
Bottled water, corn, the ubiquitous peanuts and sugar skulls appear on this altar. Persimmons and pears, too.

 

 

Dia de los Muertos altars as political protests, including Yemen!

Children imprisoned at the border altar Grand Park 2018
As I write this children who have been ripped from their parents are still being held at our border with Mexico. This altar is to remind us of them and the little children who died in the desert crossing at the border. 

The dead cannot march on the capital in D.C. or on City Hall in Los Angeles, but their voices, calling for justice, can be heard in these altars in Grand Park for the Day of the Dead.

For other photos of the Dia de los Muertos altars go here.

Coffin altar, homeless altar Day of the Dead 2018
Side by side were two altars: one for the 831 homeless people who have died  on the street in Los Angeles in the past year and another, a coffin, for teenagers who died too early.

Yemeni altar Day of the Dead Los Angeles 2018
The Day of the Dead goes beyond borders with this Yemeni altar. This is the first I have seen for people of Muslim faith. Los Angeles is the most multi-cultural city in the U. S. and in keeping with the Mexican/Mayan tradition, there are flowers and favorite foods–marigolds, hummus, and baklava–on this altar.

Day of the Dead Yemeni altar Grand Park LA
Favorite clothing, favorite foods of the Yemenis who have died in a horrible war.  You can see photos of the foods in my next post.

Cesar Rodriguez altar Grand Park 2018
The statement beneath this altar explains who Cesar Rodriguez was and how he died.

 

Dia de los Muertos altars in Grand Park Los Angeles 2018

Children playing in water in Grand Park Day of the Dead 2018
Lives beginning and lives ended. Children play in the water fountain while a few feet away are floating altars in memory of the dead. The children are oblivious! Fun in the sun on a hot Sunday  in October is all they care about. The yellow floating altar that reads “Natalie” actually includes a photo of Natalie Wood.

Real marigolds and paper ones decorated the altars.

There seemed to be fewer Day of the Dead altars this year in Grand Park in downtown Los Angeles. While they varied from massive works of art by professional artists to intimate memorial altars created by a family member, they all had one thing in common: masses of orange and yellow marigolds.  Marigolds became part of this tradition because their vibrant colors were considered to be a signal–a signpost–to the dead of where to return to visit family members at the cemetery on November 1st, All Saints Day. This ancient festival in Mayan culture pre-dates the arrival of Europeans in Mexico. The timing of November 1st was a compromise between the old ways and the “new”.

I am breaking up the photos I took into three parts.  This is part one.  Tomorrow I will do the Political Day of the Dead altars including one very very surprising altar.  And in the Third Part I’ll show you close-ups of what is actually included on the altars.

Meanwhile you can see photos of Dia de los Muertos at historic Olvera Street on this site.

The altars will remain in Grand Park until November 4th.  Go see them!  There are many more than I am showing here.

Dia de los Muertos altar for abuelita
This altar in memory of a grandmother, an abuelita, is very traditional family altar.

What Abuelita loved
These are some of the things that abuelita loved: knitting, black beans in a brown pot, her family, maybe the Mexican lottery?  There is a horse pinata on the left as well as a banana and orange and even a mango on the right side of this altar.  The yellow paper heart reads Rest in Peace in Spanish. Overall this is a very personal altar.

Dia de los Muertos altar by Self Help Graphics
This grand altar was created by artists who are affiliated with Self-Help Gallery. Self-Help is a gallery and serigraph studio founded decades ago by the late Sister Karen to offer a venue for the works of local Latino/Mexican-American/Chicano artists who were excluded from the art world in Los Angeles.

Dia de los Muertos snake Grand Park 2018
The two headed serpent is a powerful deity in Mayan culture and a creature that bridges death and life. This representation by Heriberto Luna is part of the Self-Help Gallery altar.

Painted skull by Eric Scuds
Eric Scuds, an artist affiliated with Self-Help Gallery, painted this skull as part of the massive art installation in the plaza at the top of Grand Park. Surrounding the skull are  the corn husks used in tamales.

Day of the Dead altar for motorcyclists
In the past there have been altars in memory of people killed in auto accidents, but this year the only one I noticed was one for motorcyclists.

Miniature motorcyclists on Dia de los Muertos altar
Miniature motorcycles were added to this altar memorializing the death of 2 cyclists. Notice that the RIP stands for Ride in Peace.  (There will be more details from the altars in Part 3 of this series.)

 

Saintly bride Dia de los Muertos Grand Park 2018
Obviously the work of a professional artist, this “altar” struck me at first as a bride. Then I noticed the “halo” around her head. So maybe a saint? Now I am not sure what or who this represents.  The Los Angeles City Hall is behind this figure.

Altar for baby Grand Park 2018
An altar for a baby.  Those yellow pieces of paper are notes written by visitors in memory of  their own dead children.

Face-painted girl family altar Los Angeles 2018
During October it is not at all unusual to see people, especially young girls, walking around the city with their faces half painted with skulls and with flowers in their hair. Sadly, this young girl is now a memory, but a beautiful one.  I will show a close-up of the ceramic figure at the top in Part 3 of this series.

Women celebrating Day of the Dead at Olvera Street

The Olvera Street Merchants were the first group to launch Dia de los Muertos celebrations this year on October 6th. And the women of Los Angeles definitely got into the spirit of this ancient and now very popular holiday.

It is almost a month until Dia de los Muertos or All Saints Day, as it is also known, on November 1st, the day after Halloween. These two holidays have run together here in Los Angeles into one huge party.

So here is what I saw:

Painted ladies Day of Dead LA City Pix
Women of all ages were caught up in the festivities.  These two painted designs on their faces without the usual white mask, seen below.

ArtGirlCathy Day of Dead LA City Pix
Cathy Mejia, AKA ArtGirlCathy, told me that there were 20 other Dia de los Muertos events in October.  She and her friend are going to be very busy. 

 women red and purple hair Day of Dead LA City Pix
Flowers in their hair.  I like the color co-ordination of the woman on the left with a skirt that matches the touch of yellow in the floral headband and the shirt that matches her hair.

Butterflies Olvera St. LA City Pix
I really love the headbands with flowers. I knew one woman in Pasadena who wore hers regularly year ’round and she was not a Latina. She just liked wearing it.  

Day of Dead face painting LA City Pix
Two face-painters were busy at their booth. Half-faces seemed to be the rule of the day this year.  Perhaps because of the price?

Folklorico dancer Day of Dead LA City Pix
This woman seemed to be the leader of the young Folklorico dancers but she also danced on the bandstand by herself.  She posed for me and other photographers while the young father watched it all.

Red hair Day of Dead LA City Pix
As usual, there were young Folklorico dancers and Mexican music DJs on the bandstand entertaining the crowd, including this woman with red flowers in her red hair.

Lady in White Day of Dead LA City Pix
This woman in white and gold was clearly celebrating Day of the Dead.

Woman in spider dress Olvera St. LA City Pix
Seeing her spider webs dress I was not sure if it was Halloween or Dia de los Muertos she was honoring.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

According to one vendor there are 20 other Day of the Dead events in Los Angeles this year. The two big ones I intend to go to are at Grand Park in downtown L.A. where the large colorful altars will be unveiled on October 27th and 28th. Then on November 2nd – 4th, there will be altars in stores and Halloween events in Old Town Pasadena.

The historic La Placita church has fresh paint on its 204th birthday

The cornerstone for the church commonly called “La Placita” church in the historic district of the Pueblo of Los Angeles was laid by Franciscan Luis Gil y Taboada in 1814 on the ruins of an older church founded in 1784.  It is the oldest church in Los Angeles.

Our Lady Queen of the Angels church Los Angeles LA City Pix

Our Lady Queen of the Angels Olvera Street
This photo of the  La Placita church was taken about 10 years ago.

And, much to my surprise, La Placita has recently been painted all white…well, except for one wall on the side by the cemetery so perhaps the painting is not complete. Quite frankly, I preferred the beige and red colors of the previous exterior paint.  Because it is a parish church and Sunday services were being held I did not see if the interior has been repainted too.

This church faces onto the historic plaza at the end of Olvera Street near downtown Los Angeles.

 

The Annunciation on La Placita church LA City Pix
A closer view of the painting above the front entry. In fact, parishioners enter the church from a doorway inside the courtyard at the side of the church. While this artwork remains, the name of the church over the archway entrance to the side patio has been painted over.  I assume the name will be restored,

 

 

Cemetery by La Placita church LA City Pix
The dark green fence surrounds the old cemetery. The remains of more than 680 people are in this graveyard where native plants have been allowed to grow. The beige wall on the left side seems to be the only one that has not been repainted white..

 

 

 

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A Bride and Groom in Union Station while the world walks by

Bride and groom Union
Light from a skylight flooded the area where the bride and groom were being photographed. I hope they live happily ever after.

On my way to an art/music festival at Grand Park I came across this couple having their wedding photos taken in Union Station.  A few of us watched, but many other people simply walked by, each involved with his/her own life.

I love the fact that the bride is wearing an elegant beige gown. Before Queen Victoria got married in a white gown brides did not wear white. I wish more brides would give up that 200 hundred year old custom and start wearing colors again. Another argument against white bridal gowns: in some parts of the world white is the color of mourning.