Because it is such a short flight from Seattle, and one that remains in the same time zone from beginning to end, it's hard to accept that coming to Los Angeles means entering a whole other universe. Even in the placid neighborhood of West Hollywood, where I would sleep for the next five days, sharp sunlight cast tropical shadows and the sky was a piercing blue, accented by the fronds of palm trees. Flowers that I usually see in Bangkok were part of the landscape and when I went for coffee on my first morning I was hit by the fragrance of dok gau--a whole hedge of those fragile white blossoms.
There were surprises--the silence of the residential area where I stayed, with so little traffic that this small dude ruled the street.
And flowers that had to have been invented by Dr. Seuss--bottlebrush flowers that are usually found in Australia and India.
I was in this part of town just long enough for contrast; soon after my arrival, my friend the L.A. Resident took me to one of the city's oldest neighborhoods, Eagle Rock. Next door to the bowling alley that was an integral part of the beginning of Reservoir Dogs is a corral of food trucks and an assortment of chairs and tables. More of a community picnic than an outdoor food court, accessorized by craft booths selling distinctive and pricey jewelry, the space was heavily populated with families of small children and gentrification seemed at a minimum.
In fact, according to an Eagle Rock blogger, who moved to the area with the hopes of turning it into Pasadena, the food trucks are discouraging the economics of gentrification, along with the neighborhood pot shops and the carloads of Armenian gangmembers. (Yup. that's what she said.) Her fancy coffee shop is often eclipsed by a food truck selling shaved ice and the local Trader Joe's is suffering too. I don't know about you but that would be enough to keep me patronizing the food trucks every night of the week. Plus the food is damned good.
On the way there, we passed miles of small businesses whose signs were in Spanish. On the way back signs written completely in Thai gleamed through the dark blue night. The air was cool and when I reached my room, I pulled a down comforter around me, closed my eyes, and was dazzled by memories of neon without translation and the fragrance of small ghostly flowers.