Cinco de Mayo on Olivera Street in Los Angeles and on Hollywood Blvd
My constant shooting companions, Ed and Stuart, and I decided to go downtown to Olivera Street in the historic El Puebla de Los Angeles. The authenticness of the Cinco de Mayo celebration there would make for a good evening of shooting after work. First the rush from the office to the Orange Line stop in Woodland Hills to charge our TAP cards and board the express for the Metro station in North Hollywood. I have posted images of this station’s entrance before, but at the time I took those photos, I had no appreciation of the artistry represented by the tile work there.
The ride on the Red Line from North Hollywood to Los Angeles Union Station is fast and easy, but provides a nice amount of time to do a quick gear-check and get ready to shoot as soon as we come up from the Red Line platform. A quick trip through the beauty of the station and into the real world.
Crossing the street to Plaza Park we merged into the crowd and did a quick circle to get a feel for the festivities. There was the normal shopping proceeding undisturbed on old Olivera, but the Plaza was packed with a crowd awaiting the arrival of a band to the bandstand and officials were giving some sort of speech, but it was inaudible over the sounds of the crowd (at least to me). They finally surrendered to the music and the crowd broke into Dancing at several spots around the bandstand. This guy was low, slow, and smooth….
The site I enjoyed the least was these two kids dressed up for the celebration, and one of them (at the very least) was not enjoying himself. They had even drawn a “soul patch” and moustache on him in what looked like Sharpie. Hopefully his day improved…
I am a tad bit agoraphobic and took a quick break by ducking into the far less crowded shopping area on Olivera street and taking a moment to look at the Dia de los Muertos skulls and masks. For the large fraction of the world that celebrates the Day of the Dead, these skulls are not scary, nor are they meant to be. They celebrate the a time for loved ones to visit dead children’s souls in the graveyard on Hallowmass eve bringing Marigolds and small ofrendas of their favorite foods and drinks. In Mexico, the 1st is referred to Día de los Inocentes (“Day of the Innocents”) or Día de los Angelitos (“Day of the Little Angels”). I find the concept utterly fascinating. Time is made the next day, All Souls Day, to visit with the souls of adults. The 2nd of November is the actual “Dia de los Muertos” in Mexico.
Skulls are a common decoration, but masks are sometimes shown instead of the skulls. Most are artfully done, and frankly beautiful. I am not sure how practical they would be to wear…
After the break, it was headlong back into the crowd where the scene was getting interesting at points. There were a lot of personalities from the local Latino TV and radio stations there, and they were playing to audience. This lady was evidently some sort of media personality and had her own entourage of still and video camera crews following her and recording her antics. Interesting to watch, but I was happy to be a little way back.
By this point, the sun was low in the sky and we wanted to be able to shoot on Hollywood Boulevard by sunset if we could, so back across the street to Union Station, and back onto the Redline to Hollywood Boulevard.
One thing I always love to watch on the subway is that there are at least two distinct classes of riders. Those that are in a hurry to get to wherever they are going next, and those that are not in a hurry. They even stand apart on a photo of the platform. The bustlers rushing out ahead of everyone else trying to make their next appointed round….
The next stop was the Hollywood and Vine station. This famous intersection is one of the more unique stops on the entire Metro system. Each station’s art is unique, and intended to highlight the history or culture of the area surrounding the stop. This station has old movie reels covering the ceiling, and is decorated with old carbon-arc projectors. Having had a high school job as a projectionist, I remember these beasts and when the carbon rods broke during a movie, we put on asbestos gloves and fought to pull the 2000+ degree stubs from the holder and thread new ones on and get the movie rolling again.
Coming up out of the underground station, you seen the ever-present homeless. The cops chase them away during the day, but by evening, like moths, they return to the light of the streets. They are not a “blight”, nor a source of horrific difficulties, but they are ill-served by the places and situations they find themselves in, and many are in need of substantial medical and psychiatric help. The best folks like me can hope for on a evening forray like this is that we can do something that makes their existance a little nicer without making their situation worse.
Up out of the Metro station and into the night air we emerge directly across from the old Pantages Theater. This beautiful old landmark has been here since the early 1930s, and hosts traditional theater productions like Lion King, Wicked, Oklahoma, Phantom of the Opera, etc., plus music concerts (Shakira, Foo Fighers) and as a set for movies (Stop Making Sense).
The Hollywood Blvd scene is a visual feast, day or night, but not everything is the stuff of post cards. The neighborhood is developing with lots of upscale bars and night spots, but there remains a section of seedy, older places back when this was a rougher neighborhood. Both can be great to photograph, you just have to make up your mind what you are shooting this night. Tonight was the nicer side….
The Cinco de Mayo “Hollywood Blvd Pub Crawl” was supposed to have started at the Pig ‘N Whistle, so that is one of the first places we headed for. It was not clear whether the pub crawl had come and gone yet, but the place was busy, and the streets were beginning to fill.
The crowds waxed and waned as we strode up Hollywood Blvd toward the Chinese Theater and finally reached respectable density by the time we reached Highland.
After miles of walking, and tons of making images, we finally decided it was time to get headed home. Fortunately, the Hollywood and Highland Metro station was right there and we were able to start the long ride back to the car.
In the end, this was a long evening, and we were tired, but all of us came away with quite a few “keepers” (I finished the night with 17 picks in my LR folder for this evening. The ride home was uneventful, and four the cost of a $5.00 day fare on our tap cards, we got in a LOT of shooting. I highly recommend it….