“You’re going to Hollywood!” – Simon, American Idol
If the heat greeted me in Vegas, the Chinese welcomed me to LA.
It all started with the bus ride from Las Vegas. I booked my ticket online for the USAsia Bus even while still home in Manila. I stumbled on the website while surfing “bus from Las Vegas to LA.” It seemed a better choice than Greyhound whose terminal was in the gritty part of downtown LA. There were several arrival points but I had asked Jeff earlier which was the most convenient one. Fortunately, one of the stops was near his place.
The cab I took from Fremont St. dropped me off at Harrah’s where the bus stop was. The female driver was surprised when I unthinkingly handed her a $10 bill. I had forgotten that in the US, a $1-2 tip was enough. No wonder, she readily carried my luggage to the curb and was all smiles. She either thought I was a stupid bloke or a really rich guy. Either way, I had made her really happy and made myself poorer. I dropped my luggage at the kept-luggage counter as I had enough time to go around. The bus wasn’t due in more than an hour. I big African-American woman tagged my bags and said, “Is there anything else I can do for you, sir?” “No more, ” I answered. She repeated the question. Only then did I realize it was a signal for a tip. Much wiser now, I took out a $1 bill and handed it to her. She thanked me and left.
Went inside Harrah’s to take a look. The lobbies of Vegas hotels are a tourist destination in themselves with their grandiose interiors. Harrah’s was funky and colorful. About 45 minutes before the bus was due to arrive, I was back at the pick-up point which consisted nothing more than a couple of wooden benches.
The doorman at Harrah’s referred to the bus as the “Chinese bus.” It soon became evident how it got its monicker. Waiting at the bench, I was soon surrounded by elderly Chinese. The bus arrived and it was totally Chinese from the driver to the lady conductor to the passengers! It did give me a sense of security to be with people of my own region.
We made a chow stop at Barstow where there was a food stall selling Filipino rice meals manned by of course, a Filipino, who recognized me as one of his racial brethren. There was adobo and lechon kawali. I just had an ice-cream stick as I wasn’t really hungry.
It was traffic in the Mojave Desert and we made quite a few stops to drop-off people. It was close to dusk when we finally pulled into Monterey Park where Jeff would pick me up. “Welcome to Chinatown!” Jeff greeted me as I got in his car.
According to Lonely Planet, LA ispopulated by 50% Latino, 30% Asian, and 10% white. With billions and billions born, it would be no surprise if that 30% piece of the pie was dominated by the chinky-eyed. My first-time in LA, and I was in Chinatown with its Chinese shops, restaurants, and groceries. Hollywood seemed so far away.
The Ms Universe Barbecue
It was a short drive to Jeff and David’s comfy Pasadena house. They were hosting a barbecue dinner with a few friends while watching the Ms. Universe finals night. We arrived in the middle of the semi-finals round where Ms Philippines was expectantly bumped-off. . Everyone was glued to the flat screen while I munched on vegetarian burgers and chips in the patio with the city lights blinking below me.
Thai in Hollywood, Chinese in Downtown, Filipino in Eagle Rock
I can survive on burgers, hotdogs, and fries especially if they’re from Scooby’s and In n’ Out but I gotta have my rice fixins at one point. Fortunately, with so many Asians in L.A. , finding rice is as easy as finding fries.
Sanamluang is a small Thai place at Hollywood Blvd in the area known as Thai Town where you guessed it, a lot of Thai’s live! The well-lit place with industrial tables and chairs typical of an Asian eatery was welcoming and manned by, what else, Thai people! It seemed to be enjoying good patronage even from the whites. I had a Pad Thai while Alex had a satay. Food was really good though a little short on the Thai-ness maybe to tone it down for the Western palate.
One late night, Alex, Manolet, and me headed downtown to Mayfair located in a darkened street. It was a typical Chinese resto with big round tables, staff that could hardly speak English, and the general Chinese feel that reminds you you’re there for the food and nothing else. There was hardly anyone there as it seemed to be nearly closing time. The staff were accommodating and we had very very good and tasty whole fried fish sliced very very thinly. It was unlike anything I’ve tried before.
“Ang taba mo!” greeted the server who had not seen Jeff for about a year. Welcome to Aling Gloria’s fastfood! What could be more Pinoy than being greeted with either “Ang taba mo!” or “Ang payat mo!”. After dropping-off my balikbayan box at LBC , Jeff was going to get some breakfast to go. That the strip of shops where Aling Gloria’s and LBC are located includes a Filipino grocery where Alex and I bought the balikbayan box earlier is proof that Eagle Rock is one place where Filipinos have not only landed but seemed to have splattered itself all over the place.