Coming to the US for college was my first time entering this country, and my eager mind was filled with preconceived notions and images of this place, notions created through a childhood diet of Sesame Street and American Idol. Los Angeles was a fantastical place for me, a glamorous city filled with celebrities in sweatshirts walking down sidewalks drinking Starbucks (or, as the tabloid magazines will tell us: “Jake Gyllenhaal casually walking his dog on a Sunday – looks fabulous!”).
So you can imagine my surprise when I visited Hollywood Boulevard shortly after starting college, and saw that it was not what I had thought it would be. This did not seem like the place that eager American Idol contestants would shed tears of joy to come to, and where were the CELEBRITIES? Why do I need to pay $47 (yes that IS the actual price) to peer at their homes behind tall walls? Why is Captain America harassing me to take a photo with him? Why did a group of old men just tell me to repent in the name of the Lord?
This surprise slowly turned into a sense of disappointment, a feeling often shared by my friends from home or from other countries when I bring them to Hollywood Boulevard. Prior notions of Hollywood gets shattered as they realized Hollywood Boulevard is pretty much a tourist spot.
For a while during freshmen year, I came to dislike Los Angeles. I felt unsafe in some parts of the city, the public transportation system was a mess, streets were dirty, and traffic on the freeway is always so aggravating. Compared to the comforts of spruced-up Claremont, Los Angeles didn’t hold much appeal.
However, in the fall semester of my Freshmen Year, the lovely Professor Jill Grigsby brought my Introduction to Sociology class on a fieldtrip to Downtown Los Angeles. After taking the Metrolink there, she enthusiastically talked about the history of LA Union Station, led us through Olvera Street, took us on a walk amidst the tall buildings of Downtown LA, showed us around Grand Central Market, and ended the trip with a ride up to Bunker Hill on Angel’s Flight (before it closed for good!). This trip gave me a hint on how much history and culture there was in this city seemingly devoid of heritage. [Read more…]