Saturday, April 19, 2008

L.A. Excursion, Part Three

On to the third installment of our weekend Metro trip. This was our destination after leaving Olvera Street.

We make a pilgrimage to Philippe's every couple of months. You line up in front of the counter, and order your food and watch your server make up your sandwich right there. Then you take your tray and go search for a seat at one of the communal tables. Most people tend to settle on their favorite Philippe's french-dip sandwich and stick with it. I love the french-dip lamb with bleu cheese, and a side of the pickled beets (don't knock it till you've tried it!) and a glass of red wine. This time, though, we were still full of pastrami from Langers, so we just stopped in to buy a couple of jars of their killer mustard from the cashier at the old-fashioned candy counter.

As you can see from the photo, the sky was growing dark, and a rainstorm was looming. We walked up the hill to Broadway, which is the main thoroughfare of Chinatown, and strolled up the street, looking at the gift shops, the food shops, the live poultry and fish shops, the herbalists, and the stalls with knock-off designer handbags. Lots of restaurants, of course, both Chinese and Vietnamese.

You can also buy the contraband Chinese "ant chalk" here - look in the crowded alley markets, where its displayed discreetly. Here in the canyon, we get invasions of tiny ants that march in lines stretching yards and yards across the floor or countertop ins earch of protein or water. Once Halloween, a line of them came down from the ceiling and across the floor, ending up in the dogfood dish. One stroke of "ant chalk" across their pathway kills them and breaks up the olfactory trail they follow.

I have no idea what's in the ant chalk. It's illegal in L.A. County, which is why you have to seek it out in Chinatown. Some people say it's mild boric acid; others say it's dreadfully toxic chemicals you shouldn't bring into your home. I once asked Brother One, who is fluent in Chinese, to translate the label on the box for me. He said it read "Best Insecticide" - so I still don't know what's in it. It works so well on the ants I use it anyway, but for precaution I never use it around food.

A trip to Chinatown for ant chalk and dim sum is always a good excuse in preparation for the hot dry ant-infested days of autumn.

On this trip, though, our goal was the Chinatown stop of the Gold Line - which connected back to the Red Line at Union station. My camera ran out of juice at this point - but the Gold Line is an elevated train, with a green-tiled Chinese style roof. We waited on the platform while the chill wind from the storm to the north blew in on us. We transferred quickly to the Red Line at Union Station for the trip back to North Hollywood.

The abrupt chill from the approaching storm was quite dramatic by the time we came out of the tunnel, and as we waited for the bus at North Hollywood, we huddled against the wind. Some of the passengers wore tank tops, and were freezing! Finally, the bus came.

Among our fellow passengers were a group of teenagers who were returning from a Hollywood Peace Rally. They had phrases written on their skin in Magic Marker. They alternately gossiped together and withdrew to their Ipods. Their earnestness and their hip posturing was heartbreakingly sweet to see - it made me think of My Son and his firends.

About halfway through our trip back to Canoga Park, the storm broke, heavy rain pouring onto the bus's bubble-like windshield.

At one station - I forget which - a police car was parked where the bus pulled up. Then I noticed another car a few yards away. And in the Park & Ride at least 5 police cars parked. What was going on? Semed a little heavy for a fare check. An officer entered our bus and walked the aisle. We all reflexively looked in our wallets for our Day-Passes, but then he left without checking tickets, and the bus moved on. Although unexplained, the incident lent a sense of darkness to the remaining trip.

By the time we reached our stop, the rain had dwindled. We got to our car without getting wet. We were tired, and happy from our adventure - but, hey now we were hungry! I could really use a french dip sandwich or a banh mi!!


Marita said...

Wow, french dip lamb with bleu cheese sounds amazing. And I love pickled beets - my mom cans jars and jars of them every year.

Hmph. I'm jealous.

SUEB0B said...

My Chinatown rec - the Mayflower, which is on kind of a side street. Amazing, cheap, authentic (beef tendon, sea cucumber, whole fish...anything basically. Their fried rice is lovely and fluffy. Portions are HUGE though, so don't over-order.). It is super busy with tables full of 20-member families chowing down.