Monday, May 12, 2008

L.A. Without a Car: Day Seven

I almost rented a car today, but happenstance kept me to my goal of using only public transportation on this trip. There was a convenient transit schedule for reaching our old church in Pasadena in time for worship: Gold Line from Union Station to the end of the line, then a bus that delivered me across the street from Faith Lutheran ten minutes before the service began.

We attended this church when we first came to California after our marriage, and our two children were baptized here. I've kept in touch with Sylvia, who was a long-time member but now attends a different Lutheran church. I'd emailed that I was coming to the Los Angeles area and would like to stop in and see her. She graciously invited me to lunch and found out the time of the service at Faith, alerting several other older women who remembered us and were still members there. I had to adjust my thinking about the ages of these old-timers. Since I'd always thought of them as considerably older than me, and it's been 40 years since we moved away from southern California, I wondered that they were still around. Now I realize they're about a half generation older than I am --- in their 80s or early 90s. So I sat with Betty, Bess, Lillian and Dorothy, our old pastor's widow.

The church has fallen on hard times, due in part to demographic changes in the neighborhood, in part on a controversy (which I was unable to understand) that split the congregation, and on the general demise of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. There were 17 people in attendance, including the pastor, the organist and me. The pastor is a retired man who for the past five years has come just on Sunday to preach. I don't know if they have anyone in the office during the week. A pre-school may rent the facility and provide enough income to maintain the property.

I didn't stay long for coffee hour since I was due at Sylvia's for lunch and she had to leave home in the early afternoon to attend a concert. It was a short walk up the hill to her house, she was waiting, and we enjoyed a good lunch and conversation. I know from her periodic emails that she spends a lot of her time working on her house, and it looks wonderful: spotlessly clean and fresh, unlike the homes of many older people which become tired and cluttered. Sylvia looks good, too. She also takes care of herself.

Leaving Sylvia's house, I trekked up the hill on Michillinda to Fairview, our old street. (I seldom walked up when we lived here --- it's a steep climb!) I knew that our old house was gone, and saw that more than half the houses on the block have been rebuilt. The only thing I recognized on our former property was the sycamore tree that was outside our kitchen window; it's now a grand old specimen.

It was an easier walk down Sunnyside to Sierra Madre Boulevard. I knew where the little town library would be, though I'm not sure it's the same building. Arnold's hardware store is still there. It was a wonderful store. I could always get repair advice from Mr. Arnold himself. When we arrived in Sierra Madre in 1961, the Welcome Wagon delivered gift certificates from various merchants in town. Arnold's gift was a big stainless steel mixing bowl which is still my favorite mixing bowl. The little Sierra Madre hospital, where John's finger was stitched after I accidentally clipped it with the hedge shears, is now boarded up. I recognized the diagonal street configuration in the center of town at the intersection of Sierra Madre Boulevard and Baldwin, but none of the shops were familiar.

On the train ride to Pasadena and Sierra Madre, I'd had the idea of renting a car for the afternoon and driving around the area, covering more territory than I could do on foot or by bus. But when I phoned Enterprise from Sylvia's house, they were closed for the weekend. After my walk to the center of town, I realized I'd seen enough. So much has changed in the 40 years since we'd left that it would be like driving though any town. So my resolution to use only public transportation has been kept.

After a rest at the hotel, I walked across to Olvera Street, the center of El Pueblo de Los Angeles historic park. It's the weekend of Cinco de Mayo, and there's a carnival set up at one end of the park. The place has been quite crowded the whole weekend. I waited until after 7:00 pm, when the crowds had thinned a bit, and stopped in for a few minutes at the Church of the Blessed Sacrament. Then I ate supper in one of the restaurants: taquitos and a marguerita.

The first part of the day was overcast, but by noon, I wished I'd brought my sunhat.

Oregon pedometer - 13,200 steps


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