Anthony Bourdain, Barack Obama, California, Cultural Revolution, Diane Feinstein, Hanoi, Joan Huang, Kamala Harris, LA International New Music Festival, London, Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, Sir Ian McKellen, The Women's March
“I just wish more American’s had passports.” CNN’s Anthony Bourdain to President Barack Obama in Hà Nội, Việt Nam.
All of us in Los Angeles aren’t surprised that our City of Angels had one of the largest turnouts in the United States on Saturday January 21, 2017 for The Women’s March. Our County, which has a population larger that 42 states in our country, is represented by a female majority of Supervisors, effectively making them equal to many U.S. governors. Our State is represented in Washington D.C. by Senators Diane Feinstein and Kamala Harris, whose parents are Jamaican and Indian.
And if you thought Los Angeles only lives in its cars, you didn’t ride the Metro yesterday!
We had a dinner the night before with friends William Kraft and Joan Huang. Along with 66,000,000 other Americans, the November presidential election didn’t turn out the way we had hoped, though California’s own result was resounding and never really in question.
Because even if you don’t have a passport, if you live in Los Angeles (city or county), you are living your life at the gateway of Asia and Latin America. Yup, the food is off the charts any day of the week. The spread out geography encourages diversity, so if you’re looking for something, you’ll find it here, somewhere.
Meet my favorite American citizen, composer Joan Huang. Born in Shanghai, she and her family endured the full effects of Mao’s Cultural Revolution. She holds no grudges but embraces the opportunities of being in California with her husband, iconic composer/conductor William Kraft. She loves China and she loves America. Los Angeles is a perfect place to do both.
Her father passed away earlier this month in the UK, as they were able to settle there sponsored by a family member. So she is jet lagged, in mourning for her dad, and still confused about the direction of the United States. At the first evening free, she came over for a dinner to share thoughts and be amongst best friends. Food is life. And she of course brought us delicious dim sum shu mai dumplings to start the evening.
To delineate our dinner from a normal get together, I asked Joan if she would appreciate lighting incense from China to keep her father’s memory with us all night. She agreed easily. What’s charming about the incense holder you see above is that once lit, the incense stick represents the time of a student’s lesson, a charming time piece for a teacher. So much reaches back into childhood, and China reaches into mine, as I was often baby sat by a kind man from Hong Kong, Harry Woo (you can search him for his own blog post).
During our long evening talking back and forth, sharing stories and hearing more and more about her family odyssey because of the Cultural Revolution, Jan and I told her we’d be going to the Women’s March the next morning. Joan was at first undecided when they left, but, sure enough, my cell phone buzzed at 7 AM with a text saying she’d be at our house and we could go together.
Travel Tip: when you are going on a super crowded Metro, have as your friends people from New York City and Shanghai. One result of the 750,000 people going to the Women’s March in Los Angeles might have been an overwhelming day for LA’s Metro system, which stitched the town together.
“This is normal day in Shanghai!” said Joan.
We shared stories with everybody around us. If they only knew her story coming out of the Cultural Revolution. Other fellow Angelenos also joined us with a version of “If you’ve not been to Tokyo, you have now!” Encouragement was important, at each stop platforms were full and we’d all yell “Don’t give up!”
It became apparent that getting off at Union Station, the main hub of our system, to transfer to Pershing Square (gold line to red line) was a fool’s errand. Though Jan grew up with New York City and Joan with Shanghai, I was born in Los Angeles and came up with an alternative to take us through Little Tokyo. None of us knew the size of the crowd would be reaching 750,000!
I’d encouraged Joan to make her sign in English on one side, Chinese on the other. None of us saw any other Chinese signage all day, so Joan felt she’d spoken up for her home town of Shanghai in Los Angeles.
We walked up 1st Street, past City Hall. Finding the crowd wasn’t hard! I’ll let a running photo gallery tell the story from Los Angeles.
Los Angeles is not an easy city to organize but on this day, we certainly showed up together. The energy was uplifting, because I’m not really convinced that even most Republicans are thrilled at the next four years. But the point one marcher made when we all wondered what was coming next was perfect.
“We are here to create photos that will go around the world.” The Women’s March created authenticity around the globe. So much for thinking global connection was demolished by slim electoral outcomes.
I’ve been encouraged by all these reports internationally and in particular with London, which bears the similar burden of Brexit. Perhaps these three women deserve an Honorary Academy Award for Best Costume and Sign?
My mom was fired and not promoted because she was a woman during her career. I do not have cousins in Los Angeles because my Aunt endured a back alley abortion in the 1930s in Minneapolis, so there you have it. The two of them left Minnesota together and never looked back. They both met their husbands at the Biltmore Hotel, where they worked, so that was in my mind heading toward Pershing Square. And they would have of course recommended our detour via Little Tokyo.
This being Hollywood, where happy endings often turn up, I’m going to share another photo from London yesterday.
Help is on the way!
To know Gandalf, who is proudly gay and saved the world in The Lord of the Rings, is on our side is a big morale boost for those of us allergic to the incoming administration. Inspiration indeed, white horse required!
We are all in this together. Governments can build barriers, but you can’t keep us apart. I know that from Joan’s story reconnecting with her family in the aftermath of the Cultural Revolution.
Focus on friends and, together, the storm will pass. For one sunny day in LA, 750,000 people helped each other get back to work on Joan’s message: Equality, Peace, Respect.
Thank for reading and be well in 2017 and the coming Lunar New Year of the Rooster. Wouldn’t you know it, that’s Joan’s Chinese zodiac sign!
Best, best, best,