Homer's Travels: Olvera Street & Chinatown

Monday, October 16, 2006

Olvera Street & Chinatown

On Sunday we went down to Olvera Street down in Los Angeles. Olvera Street is the site of the Pueblo, founded in 1781, that grew to become modern LA. The one block area is now a pedestrian market where you can find all sorts of Mexican crafts, clothes, and leather goods. El Dia de los Muertos (the Day of the Dead) festival will be taking place there on 1 - 2 November and the marketplace was decorated with skulls and skeletons, symbols synonymous with El Dia de los Muertos. We strolled through the shops and the wife purchased a couple shawls and a gnarly bag with skulls and roses. We also found some magnets to adorn our fridge.

After completing a couple of circuits around the market, we found a place to eat before moving on to Chinatown. Chinatown is only a few blocks from Olvera Street so it was convenient. It was strange passing Chinese restaurants, their signs all in Chinese Lettering, with Mexican mariachi music blaring out the windows. The melting pot lives on.

We headed towards the old entrance of Chinatown which has a bunch of interesting little shops. The area is decorated with paper lanterns and fountains. There was a group of old Chinese men playing some game I didn’t recognize. The board was similar to a checker board and the pieces were round but it didn’t look like checkers or mahjong. We visited some shops and did some more shopping – a few scarves and another shawl/blouse thing. We also got a cool stamp that is supposed to say "Homer" in Chinese. Of course, it could say "Stupid American" for all I know.

We were walking through the common area when a lady comes up behind us, saying “Hawli! Hawli! Don’t go yet! There a show at 2 o’clock! Don’t Go Hawli! Not yet!” We were both a little spooked since she looked a little crazy and she kept tugging my shirt. The wife thought she was saying a butchered form of our last name - it did sort of sound like it. The shirt I was wearing was a t-shirt that I had bought on the big island of Hawaii. She was actually saying Hawaii and it turns out that there was a show at 2:00.

At 2:00 a crowd gathered around the Hop Sing Tong Benevolent Association’s front door where a troop of teenagers did a Lion Dance. There were poles 4-6 ft tall with small, 12 – 18 inches in diameter, platforms on them. Two b
oys in the Lion costume (similar to the old comedy horse – one person in the head and one person in the rear) danced around and then jumped up on the small platforms and danced to the sound of booming drums and crashing cymbals. It was very impressive and fun to watch. Thank you crazy Chinese Lady!

On the way back to the car we passed a man playing “Oh Susanna” on an electric Erhu – Surreal.

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