0580 California Culture (USA 099—new)

Inglewood Travel Blog

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The flight from Frankfurt offers some amazing views as we cross Canada, down along the Rocky Mountains… past beautiful Lake Tahoe…

The fellow next to me is an engineer who just finished a job in the Persian Gulf.  He’s headed straight for the California desert to spend New Years in a nudist colony… Some people love contrast, I guess…

 

Going through customs, I get some raised eyebrows about the fact that I’ve visited 23 countries since I was in the US last time… but after a few more questions they let me through, and I started looking for the quickest and cheapest way to escape from yet another airport.  I figured I’d grab the free shuttle to the nearest subway station and begin my California adventure from there.

 

I’ve got half a mind to grab a train to downtown Los Angeles, so I can add it as a notch on my belt… but I know I don’t have the time to do the city justice… so I’ll have to leave it for another time.

  I figure I’ll just focus on a couple of suburbs right near the airport.

 

I get off the shuttle underneath a wide elevated freeway.  Not far off is an enormous tangle of an interchange that’s a whopping five layers high!   Right in front of the freeway is waving American and California flag that say…

Welcome to California.

 

I’m excited.   This is the first time that I’ve come to my native country as a tourist.  So even though I’ve lived in Southern California before, I’m determined to see it with new eyes--  with the eyes of a discoverer coming to see what is unique about this part of the world. 

 

Of course, the first thing I notice is that The Freeway is King here… Nothing shall stand in the way of the convenience of being able to drive without stopping from point A to point B…

 

The second thing I notice is how wide the streets are.

  In contrast with Northeast USA, most of California was developed after the automobile came along, so streets were laid out with lots of room to spare… The average side street is about as wide as a 4 lane highway in Pennsylvania…

 

I wander up through a warehouse district… not a person in sight anywhere.  But, it is nice that there are sidewalks everywhere--  I feel like they were made just for me!  Some of them have perhaps never been walked on before…

 

Finally I reach a modern strip of high rise hotels, restaurants and stores that cater to the airport crowd… and to my right, the street goes under the freeway and into what looks like a city…

 

Inglewood.

 

Never made it down here during my 6 month stay in Los Angeles back in1999, so this will be a new discovery…

 

As soon as I start walking under the freeway, I feel like I’m entering another world… I spot an older African American couple crawling though a hole in the chain link fence arguing with each other… A fellow at the end who smells like alcohol shows me his veteran ID and asks for some money… Almost above his head is a sign that reads “Welcome to Inglewood, City of Champions”

 

I’m excited about the chance to explore my first California “hood”.

Now “the hood” here in California is completely different from “the hood” in Northeast USA.  Back there, the hood consists of narrow alleys past dilapidated hundred year old industrial buildings, ugly high rise apartment blocks and beautiful old mansions that now sit abandoned…

 

Here “the hood” has very wide streets… single family homes with yards and scrappy miscellaneous shops and little strip malls well spaced apart… and needle like palm trees reaching for the sky…

 

Personally, I prefer the density of Northeast cities--  so much more to see in a short distance.  All the same, I’m determined to appreciate California the way it is…

 

This stretch is clearly a Latino neighbourhood--  and I notice that, even though this is Christmas Eve, everybody’s still working--  the car wash, the mechanic--  the barbershop has a line of people waiting to get their Christmas haircut…


Although the streets feel a bit unfriendly, inside the dollar stores and taquerias there’s a cheery neighbourly vibe…

 

I head north up one of the side streets to appreciate the architecture of the homes.

  Mainly single floor small homes, many built in traditional Southwest style--  stuccoed walls, flat roofs… it’s nice to see something different… All with small but well trimmed lawns...

 

One thing Inglewood seems to lack are parks… I’ve walked for quite a distance without a single suitable spot to play my guitar… Finally, worried that I might reach the end of the city without finding a place, I pull out my guitar at a bus stop bench and strum a few songs…

No really decent backdrop either--  everything is so spread apart that you can’t really get the gist of the place in a single frame…

 

Finally I reach what Inglewood City Hall--  a midrise concrete and glass building.  Nearby is a little “Art Park” with murals depicting the culture and history of the city… Nice spot for another clip…


On the other side is a sort of “Main Street” that feels more like the heart of the city, with shops clustered closer together and more of a “big city” vibe.

.. Still I find the super wide streets rather disconcerting--  it feels like neighbors who live across the street from each other live a long, long ways apart…

 

I was kind of hoping to be able to do 2 suburbs today, but Inglewood is too big… so I head on back towards the airport, stopping of course for a couple of tacos--  seems to be the appropriate thing to eat while exploring Inglewood.

An older African American lady calls out a cheerful greeting--  and I pause to chat a bit about our Christmas plans… A pleasant end to my first day of experiencing California…

 

Not so fast…

 

Back at the airport, I wonder what I’m going to do when I reach Tucson late at night.  There’s no way I’m paying for an expensive hotel... hopefully they’ll let me crash in the airport lobby until morning…

 

Soon my worries are laid to rest.

  My flight has been cancelled due to mechanical issues.  I’ll be put up at the Westin for the night!  I try to suppress my exhilaration as the other passengers cry, shout and curse at the prospect of not making it home for Christmas…

 

But tomorrow there are no direct flights to Tucson--  so I’ll have to spend the day bouncing from airport to airport, unless…

 

“Could I get a flight for day after tomorrow? I really want a direct flight…”

 

They accept… unaware that what I really want is an extra day to explore Los Angeles!  This is about the luckiest flight cancellation I can imagine! 

 

I feel like a hobo walking into the Westin carrying my guitar and scruffy shoulder bag… and up to my room… to drop off my bag and the hurry off to look for the pool and Jacuzzi…

 

The Jacuzzi is closed?  The pool isn’t heated? What the hell?!  I want my money back!!

 

Oh… that’s right… never mind…

 

I head out to cash my 15 dollar dinner check given by the airline… wander the hotel strip near the airport… I guess I could do some late night exploring of Inglewood, but I decide against it.

Let’s save some adventuring for tomorrow…

 

Next Day

 

Next day I grab my stuff and head out at dawn, determined not to waste a single minute of my “Explore LA Day”.

 

Here’s my plan:  hike all the way from LAX airport to downtown, explore the South Los Angeles neighborhoods along the way… Then, maybe hike from there all the way to Hollywood and stay the night at the same hostel I stayed at back in 1999… tomorrow hike from there, down to Santa Monica, and down back to the airport just in time to catch my flight to Tucson…

 

Well see if I can pull it off.

 

I’m kind of putting myself to the test here.

  I’ll be passing through some of the most notorious neighborhoods in Los Angeles where I won’t exactly “blend in”…

 

It’s not exploring these neighborhoods that concerns me.  It’s exploring them while carrying a guitar, pockets full of cash and a digital camera… Kind of making me a very enticing target. 


But it’s a test that I must go through.  After all, if I can’t do my music thing right here in my own country, how am I going to be able to do it in some of them really dangerous countries?  So I clench my teeth and head out, fully aware that my new journey might have a really ugly start…

 

I head under the freeway and back into Inglewood… past the homeless folks sleeping under the bridge… to a stunning red and orange sunrise behind the pencil thin palm trees…

 

The east side of Inglewood suddenly switches from Latino to African American.

  “Merry Christmas!” a couple of young folks holler as I go past… And soon another Merry Christmas follows… There’s a jolly, festive atmosphere…

 

And then it happens.  A young fellow coming out of an apartment complex holding a cup of hot chocolate--  doesn’t look at all threatening… I nod a greeting…

 

“Give me a dollar” he snarls… I keep walking…

 

“What shit you got in that bag?  Give me what you got in that bag!”

 

I walk faster… he doesn’t follow me…

 

I keep going, suddenly feeling very, very vulnerable… profiling every person that approaches me… Maybe this hike through the hood wasn’t such a smart idea…

 

I made it through the rest of Inglewood without incident… Inglewood has a lot of simple but beautiful homes with a distinctive southwest style… and wide, palm tree lined streets… As far as other architecture, I did pass a couple of cool churches with Spanish Colonial elements… and the first of California fading theatres “The Academy” a throwback to the Golden Years of early California cinema…

 

But now things are going to get even more interesting… I’m crossing into south Los Angeles…

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Inglewood
photo by: nathanphil