As a beach dweller, when out-of-town friends ask “how’s L.A.?” I often have to answer “I have no idea.” So I was really happy to turn my coverage of last Saturday’s pro-labor union rally into a mini-tour of Downtown Los Angeles, where I was able to check off several places on my “to do” list.
This past March, hot on the heels of Downtown’s years of resurgence and months of teasing, we welcomed back the “World’s Shortest Railway” – Angels Flight. What sat for nine years as a sadly locked-off, abandoned wonder that I yearned to experience (or at least climb onto like a kid whose city is her entire playground) on the north side of Angels Knoll park was finally real.
Now I can really feel it – I feel the wooden seats that remind me of historic streetcars other cities have been spoiled to have. I poke at the hanging light bulbs I probably shouldn’t be touching. I feel the car rattling up the steep incline, and the California sun beating on my shoulders through the open windows. I drop a quarter into the old-fashioned fare box, save a souvenir ticket for my collage, and run my fingers along the woodwork outside the little building housing the operator, overlooking California Plaza.
I make sure to ride on each car – both Olivet and Sinai, whom I’ve come to know as individuals via their ridiculous Twitter Account.
The railway may have moved a bit from its original location 100 years ago, but it acts like a little time machine. Moreso than the new downtown skyscraper on the site of what once was, or a snazzy, remodeled loft inside an historic piece of architecture, the simple ride makes me feel as if I’m inside those black-and-white photos of Angels Flight I downloaded from library archives, and transports me to the Bunker Hill of yesteryear – when one might take the funicular to get back to work up the steep hill after a lunch date. I think of how I need to get around to taking this ride at sunset, who I need to bring along with me next time, and out-of-towners I should take here on their next visit. It connects us to the rich history of Downtown L.A., the kind you don’t get anywhere much further away from the river on which this city was founded.
And just like that, after a few brief moments, the ride is over. But it’s only a quarter, so why not take it back down the hill again?
Check out the rest of the L.A.’s Greatest Landmarks series here.
Today is the 101st anniversary of John Fante’s birth, and if you’re downtown this morning, you can join councilwoman Jan Perry and others for the dedication of “John Fante Square” at 5th and Grand. The formal dedication, at 11, will be followed by speeches from members of Fante’s family (his children, perhaps?), scholars, and public officials; a trip on Angels Flight; and a walking tour of Bunker Hill that ends, appropriately enough, at a bar.
If you love L.A., it’s hard not to love Fante: “”Los Angeles, give me some of you! Los Angeles come to me the way I came to you, my feet over your streets, you pretty town I loved you so much, you sad flower in the sand, you pretty town!”
And perhaps my favorite Fante line, “I have wanted women whose very shoes are worth all I have ever possessed.”
An aside: were I going, which I am not, since I will be on the other side of the planet in Chatsworth, I would build in time to walk a half dozen blocks for a maple bacon doughnut at the Nickle Diner and I’d take one of their pieces of salt peanut chocolate cake to go. Seriously people, peanut butter and crushed potato chips are involved. It is the best cake ever.
(j/k lolz‘s Ask the Dust picture used through a Creative Commons license)
When you get on that swanky new bullet train at Los Angeles Union Station for a weekend excursion to San Francisco, here is what your destination might look like.
Curbed SF has the new renderings for the Transbay Transit Center, which will feature “fountains spurting whenever a bus passes by underneath,” and San Francisco’s modern day version of our own Angels Flight (which may, or may not be re-opened by then). Look for it in the simulated animation at 1:32.
Continue reading High Speed Rail: Arriving in San Francisco
Angels Flight was operating at Third and Hill as The World’s Shortest Railway. And one didn’t have too far to go to find a good vegetarian cafeteria.
The year was 1910.
Photo from USC Digital Archive