People often tell me they like when I write about my Metrolink trips. This used to be a frequent topic but rarely is anymore. (I also don’t ride nearly as much as I used to.) When I was caught short for Sunday’s column, though, I decided on a whim to write about the jaunt I’d taken last weekend. Hope people like it.
Metrolink restored service to nearly pre-pandemic levels as of Monday. Alas, that comes about three weeks too late for me, as I had to resort to alternatives to get to dinner in DTLA for my birthday. Also: a Joyce Carol Oates short story concerns Leslie Van Houten, who recently lost her latest bid for parole from prison in Chino, and an Orange County history book is published. All this is in my Wednesday column.
In Union Station recently, I examined a fun display in a kiosk about passenger rail history around L.A. and noticed mentions of Riverside, San Bernardino and Redlands, as I’m wont to do…not to mention a (gasp!) transit conspiracy theory. Also, items about murals, the Riverside YWCA, a community read and more, all in Wednesday’s column.
Remember how I used to write now and then about taking public transit to LA and doing something interesting? Sunday’s column is one of those, and the first one in quite some time. I ate lunch at a new restaurant, went to a record store and got frozen custard, while reading newspapers and a novel. It was a nice day.
I take a trip via public transit for the first time since mid-March, riding Metrolink and the subway and walking around Union Station and downtown L.A. It’s a different world, and that’s the subject of Wednesday’s column.
The Hollywood and Vine station of the Red Line subway was produced in 1999 by pioneering Chicano artist Gilbert “Magu” Lujan. He spent some of his later years in Pomona. My 2004 interview with him is in my book “Pomona A to Z.” I’m a fan of his subway station, which I’ve seen dozens of times. I took photos on a couple of recent visits.
The piece is titled “Hooray for Hollywood” and pays tribute to the fantasy of the movies in various ways. Above, the tiles form a pattern that is probably meant to evoke the Yellow Brick Road from “The Wizard of Oz.” At top, a couple of vintage movie cameras stand near pillars resembling palm trees.
Dozens of hand-painted tiles on the walls meld movie and Chicano imagery, especially cruising cars, a particular interest of Lujan’s.
Note the film strip-like molding around doors.
The ceiling is made up of film reels. The effect is kind of hypnotic, isn’t it? On the platform, walls seem to have film sprockets and stars (see below). That touch had never occurred to me until I was looking closely. Ditto with the music notes that are part of the decoration on the stair railings.
In an appreciation after Lujan’s 2011 death, L.A. Times arts writer Christopher Knight concluded: “Luján’s unexpected vision of cinema as mass transit yielded one of the most engaging stations on the Metro Red Line.”
If you’ve taken Metrolink’s San Bernardino Line, you may have noticed the neat silhouettes of lions and tigers atop the platform shelters at the El Monte Station. I knew they were a nod to the old Gay’s Lion Farm attraction.
A few weeks ago I drove to El Monte and checked out the station in person (10925 Railroad St., north of Valley Boulevard) rather than for a few seconds out the window of my train as it stopped.
Each of the four shelters has a slightly different piece of art.
Some mix in a movie camera, a microphone on a stand or a director’s chair with megaphone. Animals from the farm were loaned out to Hollywood, including Numa, a performing lion who was in Charlie Chaplin’s “The Circus.”
A well-worn bench has the years of operation and a ballyhoo quote about the attraction, obviously long gone. In yet another fun touch, paw prints are laid into the concrete.
Artists Victor Henderson and Elizabeth Garrison created the station art in 1996, according to a very readable history of the farm by KCET in 2015, “El Monte’s Wild Past.”
I pulled off an evening Metrolink trip on Monday when rides were free. That, plus a couple of short items, make up Friday’s column.
A community meeting Monday night on a proposal by Metro to close the city’s Metrolink station drew some 300 people, all of whom were opposed. A decision may come in January. In the meantime, my Wednesday column covers the meeting.
I’ll add that frequent blog commenter SAWZ (Shirley Wofford) was among the speakers. The Montclair resident couldn’t support the idea of diverting Claremont riders to the Montclair transit center. “I use the Claremont station for a reason,” she said. “It’s a more comfortable, more fun station to come to.”
Metrolink ran its first trains Oct. 26, 1992 — 25 years ago. I explain how the system started and what happened the first day in Friday’s column.