TODAY I got lost, again and again and again. I really don't know how the roads in LA connect the city - so far, I've only learned about half of the freeways. I was trying to avoid the places I know and have been to before - Westwood, Culver City, Venice, Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, Downtown, West Hollywood and onwards - to find some place new.
I took roads I've taken before, but I took them in a new direction. I was surprised when I found myself in Koreatown when I didn't think I was headed in that direction. Living on the Westside, it's all too easy to forget that some parts of the city can take you far away from Los Angeles, where every storefront has Korean lettering and Asian imports. It's fascinating, how so few miles separate us but yet it feels like a world away.
I admired this wonder-world from inside my car, but kept on driving. It was not until I turned down an unknown street and wound up in Chinatown that I parked and hopped out to take a look around. I'd found myself on Yale Street at Castelar Elementary School.
I hadn't heard of it before, and it was seemingly insignificant - just another school. But through my walking I saw a "historic sign" that gives background information about the place you're at - and soon realized that Castelar was one of the first schools created in the LA school district. Suddenly, with contextual knowledge, the place I had found became more than what I had first thought.
Through my trip I was reminded of the beauty of culture; how although these streets and signs look dim in overcast, cloudy light, in my mind, today they seemed more vibrant than ever. It's always fascinating for me to see the ways humans have shaped their surroundings, and how their surroundings have shaped them. In this location, it was easy for me to find art or beauty at every turn, although the setting seemed particularly ordinary to those who inhabited it.
This unfamiliar place was unknown to me in more than one way; while I had never visited Castelar school before, I am also not of Asian descent, which set me as an outsider here. It was a pleasure to explore a culture other than my own within the city of Los Angeles, the name that unites and embodies all of us.
|Did you know LA had trolleys?? I didn't!|
|The two pillars at the left of the mural with written explanations|
I didn't know until moments later, when I got back in my car and drove a few blocks down, that I was actually very close to an area I was somewhat familiar with - Chinatown. I stopped by Homegirl Cafe for a salad and a funky green smoothie drink, and then soon headed back on my way to Loyola Marymount.
Photo Credit: Jennifer Pellerito