My life in Los Angeles rarely involves walking. I don’t take leisurely walks here like I used to in Boston, or Philadelphia, or New York. Here, you drive places as if on a mission. You don’t just go pick a street and walk until it ends. You don’t get off a train and just figure on finding your way back. I miss purposeless walks, where you just pop into shops and find new things.
Today, my mom decided we should take the Gold Line train at Avenue 26 into Union Station and start a walk at Olvera Street and end it in Chinatown. We had a daytrip unlike any other we’ve ever shared to this place.
I’ve been to Olvera Street more times than I care to count. It used to be we went a couple of times a year to get documents we needed for trips to Mexico from the Mexican consulate. Then I went on school trips to learn about the Mexican roots of this city. As an adult, I’ve only gone when near downtown and in need of food. I haven’t been there, just to wander, in a number of years.
I have been missing out. The smart alecky t-shirts, action figures, and other Latino-themed items in the shops kept my mom and I laughing for quite a while. T-shirts with slogans like “Chanclas–the travesuras eraser” or “Esta es mi camisa negra” or drawings of beloved characters from Mexican television shows abounded. Our own purchases of action figures and t-shirts with Lucha Libre masks on them made us laugh. They made others laugh as well.
As we walked from Olvera Street to Chinatown with our Chapulin Colorado and Ñoño dolls, a boy who looked about eight-years-old saw us standing at a street corner and caught sight of the dolls and started laughing hysterically. His mother yanked him across the street, but he kept turning back, jumping and pointing, as if his day had been made by the sight of our brightly colored action figures. We had the same reaction from a four-year-old while watching the Aztec dancers in the plaza at Olvera Street. We then gave a group of high school students, who were walking from East L.A. to Santa Monica to raise money to combat hunger, the same approving laugh when we saw a group of them taking their contributory stroll while wearing Lucha Libre masks they’d purchased on the Street.
It all just made me think that sometimes a day out, with no purpose, with your mom and el Chapulin, really shakes the dust off old memories and imbues them with new life.
© Laura Genao 2006