Christmas in colorful Chinatown is a Los Angeles tradition

Main plaza L.A. Chinatown 2015
Quite a few of the buildings in the heart of old Chinatown have been painted colorfully for decades. This photo was taken in 2015..  The “After” photo, taken in 2017,is below.

In the melting pot that is Los Angeles two local holiday food traditions stand out.  One is eating tamales during the Christmas season which obviously is inspired by Mexico and the many Mexican restaurants around the city.  Even one of the local fast-food hot dog chains offers tamales during the holidays.

The second tradition is going to Chinatown to have dim sum (Chinese bite-size noodle/pastries) for mid-day dinner on Christmas Day which seems to have originated in the Jewish community.

Blossom apartments chinatown (
This new apartment complex called Blossom seems to have inspired other building owners in the area to paint bolder and bolder!

Other people, including my non-Jewish family, have begun doing Christmas-in-Chinatown, too.  No long hours in the kitchen and no leftover turkey for us!

So if you decide to visit Chinatown for dim sum (or any other reason) and haven’t been there recently, you will see color gone wild on buildings around the area.  I think that the new Blossom Apartments next to the Metro station instigated the painting craze.

See more photos of Chinatown here.

repainted building chinatown
This is the “After” version of the photo at the top of this post. I loved the many shades of green that it had originally, but this color combination of yellow and deep blue-ish purple is interesting, too.
Hot yellow building chinatown
The bright yellow color on this brand new apartment building located on an alley hurts your eyes it is so garish. It is the latest addition to colorful buildings in Chinatown,
Building in Chinatown 201
Tucked back in an alley, the colors on this building are favorites of mine. I’ve always loved Chinese red. And those fake palm trees are a perfect L.A. touch.

 

This building painted mustard gold with red pillars has been around for a while.
Pink building on plaza chinatown
Another building  has colors inspired by Mexico, rather than China.  Located on the main plaza it has been the brightest, most colorful building in Chinatown until recently.
Woman and god in Chinatown
If you go to Chinatown on Christmas day you may not be able to find this altar which is hidden inside the Swap Meet building– which really isn’t a Swap Meet, BTW.  All the little shops carry new  and very inexpensisve merchandise from China.

 

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Beautiful Day of the Dead altars in Grand Park, Los Angeles

Day of Dead 2017 Grand Park skulls
This massive altar was created by Lore Productions. On each level of the altar were hundreds of note written to deceased family and friends.

This year a group called Lore Productions “curated” some of the large altars for Grand Park.  Their altars were large and professional in appearance, like the one at the top of this post.

skull curated by Lore Productions
A close-up of one of the skulls in the altar at the top of this post.

This year I didn’t see an altar by artist Ofelia Esperanza, the most famous altar creator in L.A. but the community altar this year  was built by Self-Help Graphics, one of the old art studios for Chicano artists.

There was also something entirely new: the floating altars with La Calavera Catrina, the Queen on the Dead.  With a little research I discovered that La Calavera Catrina was a figure developed in the early 20th Century that has become very popular for Day of the Dead during the last century.

Today was the last day for the altars in Grand Park.  Here are some photos.

Notes to the dead
Hundreds of notes were left on the altar.
Community Altar by Self-Help Graphics
Self-Help Graphics created this community altar. Many Chicano artists got their start through Self-Help.
Commuity Altar gifts
The bottles of beer and tequila are not unusual on the altars.  On family altars favorite foods of the dead being honored are often placed on the altar. This is a detail from the Community Altar created by Self-Help Graphics.
Altar of Oaxaca Grand Park
Across the street from City Hall was the Altar of Oaxaca by Lore Productions and a group of people on a tour of the altars.
Family altar 2017
A family altar — much more modest in size and personal than the massive ones lower down in the park.
Altar honoring women
A detail of another one of the smaller altars. This one honored Mexican-American women with significant achievements in politics and entertainment.

 

 

La Calavera Catrina Queen of the Dead
Part of the children’s wading pool was closed off to make room for La Calavera Catrina on her boat with blue waves. At the edge of the pool were smaller floating altars, some commemorating well-known people who had died in L.A. in recent years.  This sophisticated display was also produced by Lore Productions.  
Gifts for the dead bananas
An offering of food complete with a sugar skull on one altar. The small bananas are so much sweeter than the ones you can buy in the supermarket.  I know–I used to have banana trees in my back yard. The dead will appreciate them.
Masked mother and son 2017 (
These paper masks were given away as part of the Grand Avenue free entry day which was also happening on Saturday. This mother and son slipped them on for just a minute.

“Resist” reads the sign at a Metro Gold Line station in Los Angeles

Resist sign along Gold Line
This sign speaks to everyone passing by on the Metro Gold Line going northeast from Union Station.  I also suspect it speaks the voice of almost everyone in this neighborhood.  (The photo was taken through the window of the Metro car so there are reflections. Sorry.)

Shortly after Trump was inaugurated the huge RESIST sign went up on a fence across from a Metro station that is surrounded by angel sculptures high up on pillars.  As Trump rampages through American democracy trying to create his own hideous dictatorship, I hope guardian angels protect us all.  Oh, the artist who designed the station, Teddy Sandoval, called the figures ‘guardians’ rather than angels.

SW Museum angel on pillar
This Guardian Angel is closer to eye-level, although still on a pillar.
SW Museum angel Metro sign
The station artwork was conceived by the late Teddy Sandoval and executed by Paul Polubinskas.
SW museum Metro seating
3 of the angels on pillars are visible in this photo. This Metro station has the quirkiest seating of any of the amazing ones created back in the early 2000s for the Gold and Red Lines.  Sadly, Metro stations being built these days are boringly uniform.

Shepard Fairey, skateboards, and plastic sugar skulls in Chinatown

Concrete Playground Shepard Fairey
Skateboarding is the sports of teens in Los Angeles — at least it used to be before smart phones came along. This skateboarder by Shepard Fairey is in the Eastern Projects gallery in Chinatown.

On a shopping trip to Chinatown I stumbled across an art gallery  called  Eastern Projects that is participating in the Pacific Standard Time LA/LA exhibitions.  The gallery is located on the street level of those new brilliant red buildings that almost overwhelm the old structures of Chinatown.

Slick skull head
A classic Mexican image is the skull, here interpreted in plastic by the artist named Slick.

Works by Shepard Fairey (of the famous Obama ‘Hope’ poster), Locos, Dusters, Slick and others vaguely followed the Pacific Standard Time ‘theme’ of Latin American art in Los Angeles.

I was especially intrigued by the skateboard and skater images in the show.

 

Skateboards by Locos and Duster
The skateboard installation at the Eastern Projects gallery in Chinatown.
Skull head skateboard
Another version of the skull head image on the bottom of this skateboard.
Locos Duster skateboard wave
A cooperative endeavor between Dusters and Locos in the Masters of Style show.
Locos skateboard mouse ears
Not only do skateboards hang on the wall in this exhibition, there are videos too.
Slick cross
Visually interesting cross by Slick. The whole show is being promoted as Masters of Style.

Angels Flight “railway” finally reopens in downtown Los Angeles

Angels Flight rail car Los Angeles
The two rail cars named Olivet and Sinai once again climb up the steep side of Bunker Hill in downtown Los Angeles.

Visitors to downtown Los Angeles can once again ride the steep one-block long railway named Angels Flight from Grand Central Market on Hill St. up to the top of Bunker Hill.

(Be sure to check whether or not Angels Flight is actually working.  It sometimes closes for maintenance.  Here is the link to the site.)

Billed as the “world’s shortest railway”, it was built in 1901, but was shut down and removed in 1969 during a frenzy of urban development on Bunker Hill.  Finally in the late 1990s, it was dug out of a warehouse and reinstalled in its current location. The railroad was closed 4 years ago after a serious accident. Several safety upgrades have been added.

Angels Flight station Los Angeles
Riders pay for the trip at the station at the top of Banker Hill.

And the price for a one-way ride on the funicular cars named Olivet and Sinai has gone up to $1!

Also added: a sculpture of a California condor near the bottom stairs that parallel the rails. This appeared a few months ago and I am not sure who did it or why.  But it’s there–see below.

Angels Flight cable car inside
Looking down the track through Olivet toward the station at the bottom of the Hill, across from Grand Central Market
Olivet Sinai Angels Flight
Both cars, Olivet and Sinai, run on one cable system so they will travel at the same speed and not crash. into each other.  
Cable wheels angels flight los angeles
In the station at the top of Bunker Hill are the cables that control the two cars.

 

Angels Flight entrance Hill st.
The entire length of the Angels Flight railroad can be seen in this photo of the lower entrance across from Grand Central Market in downtown Los Angeles.  Notice the column that is to the left of the stairs.  It was bare when I took this picture a while ago.  See below for how it looks now.
Condor statue at Angels Flight (
A sculpture of the very endangered California condor perches at the top of a column beside Angels Flight.

 

 

Hockney at the Getty and some amazing furniture, too

Hockney's Pear Blossom Highway photocollage
No photos were permitted at the Hockney exhibit so I took this photo of the ‘Pear Blossom Highway’ from a book of Hockney’s work in my  personal library.

The Getty Center decided to celebrate painter/photographer David Hockney’s 80th birthday with two galleries of his work. One  contains self-portraits over his lifetime; the other houses a selection of his ‘photographic’ paintings done back in the 1980s.

His masterwork photocollage entitled ‘Pear Blossom Highway’, which was originally commissioned and then rejected by Vanity Fair magazine, is in this show.  For those of you outside of So. California, there really is a highway north of L.A. called Pear Blossom Highway. On the map it appears to be a fast way from the Valley and West side of L.A. to the 15 highway to Vegas. In reality it is/was a narrow desert road–not faster at all and quite scary to drive.  It was widened some years ago but is still a dangerous route through the Mojave desert that eventually wanders off into the mountains.

Since the Hockney show was relatively small I went into the South Pavillion where I had never been before. Don’t know how I missed it, but I had! And was surprised by extraordinary French furniture from the 17th and 18th Centuries.  Here are just a few items in the collection.

blue French bed
While the pink sofa, below, may have been more for show than use, this canopied bed was actually slept in. Very grand!
Pink French sofabed
While this appears to be a huge sofa, this ornate pink item is probably a bed — or simply a grand piece of decorative furniture for a royal palace public room. More for show than for actual use.

 

REd chest Dutch East Indies
This chest with its ormalu trim depicts members of the Dutch East Indies Company apparently in China. At least the buildings depicted appear Chinese.

Funny soap box racers tear down a hilly street in Elysian Park

Yellow submarine racer
After the wild ride down the hill, the handmade race cars were parked nearby. Children, especially little boys, loved getting into the battered racers.

Red Bull has sponsored 19 soap box races around the world in recent years, but this was the first in Los Angeles I think.

In addition to the requirement that all the vehicles in the amateur category be handmade, each ‘racing team’ had to perform a dance at the starting line and they were judged on the quality of the performance. For those of us at the finish line, the silly and hilarious dances were shown on a huge jumbotron.

Will Smith head Soap Box Derby
I have no idea why a tall, skinny white guy brought a Will Smith head to a soap box derby. Hmmm. Maybe he was part of one of the racing teams?  Maybe a dancer?

After the brief performances came the timed runs down the narrow winding street where almost every one of the handmade racers suffered damage. Pieces of the cars fell off along the way or the race car driver ran into the straw bale barriers lining the route or crashed into the bales at the finish line.  Fastest time was under one minute.

Okay.  Here is some of what I saw.

mule train racer aug 2017 (
This “mule team’ racer didn’t get up enough speed to make it all the way down the hill. It stalled at one flat curve and got human assistance to continue its run. I like the design even if it wasn’t a speedy one.
Two soap box racers August 2017
Two of the handmade race cars parked on the sidelines after each finished its run.  The rocket ship racer was damaged at the end when it crashed in the hay bales.
Pizza slice racer
Even a ‘big boy’ got a kick out of sitting in the pizza racer after the event.  His girlfriend was taking a picture of him.
Watching the racers
Cameras at the start line and along the way allowed viewers at the finish line to see the start-line dances and wobbly runs downhill.
Finish Line Red Bull Derby
Thousands of people lined the narrow street in Elysian Park to watch the races.  The ‘official’ record of the finish came from the cameraman stationed at the end, behind the hay bales.

 

Red Bull Minis at Soap Box Derby
There was free parking for the event at Dodger Stadium and a dozen shuttle buses took the thousands of people over the hill to the event. Red Bull Mini-Coopers had the best parking spots.