Fathers, Sons, and Fixies

Father & son fixies at Buster's
Father & Son Fixies at Buster’s
Now it’s time for some of that heartwarming crap….

My son Jack is so deeply immersed in law school now that he needs to breathe through a snorkel, but the semester finally came to an end, and he had a couple of weeks of free time before starting his summer internship, or externship, or whatever the hell it is when they make you work for brownie points but no pay to gain experience. So, after recovering sufficiently from the obligatory round of post-term parties, he called me up and accepted a previous invitation to come along on a Tuesday ride to South Pasadena–which of course took us through the heart of Flying Pigeon LA territory.

We took it easy–he pointed out he’d been sitting in an office twelve hours a day for most of the last few weeks–and headed out from Hollywood about 9:30 yesterday morning.

The first part of our route took us through East Hollywood and part of Silverlake, worthy ‘hoods both but both also quite familiar to the lad, but once we heaved over the little hill between Silverlake and the river and neared NELA, the city became more interesting–and I began to see my familiar route with the eyes of someone unfamiliar with the neighborhoods.

I took the kid along the LA River path from Fletcher to Riverside, prompting numerous stops so he could take pictures with his iPhone, rolling quietly by other riders and neighborhood flaneurs of all ages out enjoying a clear and gentle morning. The riverbed was full of reeds, trees, and birds (and schoolchildren on an outing), and the shaded pocket parks attracted residents of all ages to their benches and lawns. I admit I usually zip down that stretch too fast, simply because I can, but this was a really nice change in pace that I thank my son for.

Once off the path we rolled up Figueroa, right past the Pigeon (unfortunately closed on Tuesdays), onto York, across the bridge and onto South Pasadena’s new bike lanes. Then came narrow Hawthorne Street by the Gold Line tracks, with its sweet little two-story clapboard houses in blues and soft greens, and its porches and tiny yards, which brought us to Buster’s Coffee, our destination for the day.

At Buster’s we met Chuck Schmidt of Vélo Rétro, keeper of bike lore extraordinaire, with a profound knowledge of the history of cycling, bike racing, and Northeast Los Angeles. He also keeps the Rose Bowl Vintage Ride going, as well as selling bike-themed T-shirts, copies of vintage bike catalogues, and reproductions of classic Italian racing musettes (made for him by us at Bicycle Fixation). Jack had come on the vintage ride once, but this was the first time he and Chuck had gotten to talk for any great length of time. Chuck gave him a long and amusing overview of the area’s history, from its beginnings as a resort for East Coast industrialists in the late 1800s, through the glory days of rail when South Pasadena could boast an elegant Santa Fe Railroad station, on to the time when famed Route 66 passed through for a while before being re-routed, illustrated with descriptions of some of his own rides out to Claremont or up Mt. Baldy. All helped along by some of Buster’s fine coffee (now sourced from Hel-Mel’s Cafecito Orgánico) and equally fine breadstuffs, either house-made or obtained straight outta Homeboy Industries downtown, served up by Buster’s friendly baristas.

Eventually, though, we had to leave; I had business meetings Downtown, and Jack had friends waiting for calls, so we saddled up and headed home. I toured Jack around the inexpressibly tranquil tree-shaded streets of South Pasadena, then took him through Highland Park again, detouring first along Monte Vista with its colorful storefronts, and then down Marmion Way alongside the Gold Line through Cypress Park and Lincoln Heights till we got to the river at the North Broadway bridge. Once again, I saw my usual route at a slower pace, and realized it was even nicer than I had always thought, a real community with homes and businesses of deeply individual characters that have both grown out of and shaped their neighborhoods’ personalities.

At Chinatown the kid and I parted ways. NELA had done its part to give us a happy day together, so I must say, Thank you, Northeast Los Angeles!

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