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Walking Tour: Dragons Downtown

October 2, 2009
dragondowntown

Beneath the dragon's canopy

Everyone who knows me knows I don’t drive. Never have had a drivers license or owned a car. Have never wanted to. I’m a constant pedestrian. (Answers to FAQs: Yes, Paul drives; yes, I use public transportation; no, I was actually raised in the Inland Empire — Perris, California, not Paris, France.) I walk out of necessity, and for my health as a post-bypass patient. I really like walking for many reasons, not the least of which is because I get to see things that I would miss if I were driving. Occasionally, I’ll share some of the notable things I see with you here.

I work at the Los Angeles Times in downtown LA and take the train from Riverside each day. I’m deposited at Union Station and walk a variety of routes to the office at 2nd and Spring Streets. Behind Union Station at the corner of Vignes and Cesar Chavez, at the rear of the Metropolitan Transit Authority building, also known as The MTA Gateway, is this amazing collection of dracaena draco, or, as they’re more commonly known, dragon trees. Looking like throwbacks from a more primitive, prehistoric time they’re fantastic and seem to be reaching and writhing toward the sky.

dragons1

Dragons reach for the sky

I love these particular dragon trees because they beautifully show the unique way the tree develops. The very young tree is a single trunk with a shock of leaves at top, but as the tree grows and becomes more mature, the trunk thickens and smaller versions of the original plant appear. As the tree becomes older the process repeats, as those secondary trunks split off and produce their own leaves. And so on. A reader submitted this picture of a 300 year-old dragon tree she saw in Portugal. As you can see, the process of producing branches, splitting off and beginning again can go on for centuries; the tree will need the help of a support system to remain standing, however. Isn’t this tree’s support system almost as elegant as the tree itself?

dragonstrunkfoliage

Dragons writhing, reaching

Dragon trees live up their name by virtue of their scaly-appearing trunks and sinuous leaves. These specimens are very tall and they can almost seem menacing, like some primeval plant/animal that could reach out for an unsuspecting commuter rushing to the bus stop. I find them really beautiful. We’ve got two very small dragon trees at The Rancho but I’m sure I won’t be around long enough to see them reach this size. I hope whomever inherits the place down the line appreciates their reptilian charms like I do.

dragonsmosaic

Dragon's dramatic fountain foil

There’s lots of public art at the MTA center and The MTA Gateway features several. My favorite is the Gateway’s fountain by Elsa Chavez. It’s a mosaic tower encrusted with colorful and intriguing bits and pieces of ceramics, topped with a flaming bleeding heart surrounded with a crown of thorns, all in glass. This sensuous and exuberant tower perfectly matches the dragon trees planted around and near it. Both the trees and the fountain-tower are dramatic, organic statements that inspire thoughts of other times, places and emotions. You just have to slow down enough to stop, look and feel them. After all, there’s always another bus.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. Cherie permalink
    October 4, 2009 8:08 pm

    Certainly, as you pointed out there are many advantages to not driving, among them a slower pace that allows one to really enjoy where one is at present. The present must seem more vivid and detailed when one is not in a hurry to get some where via auto.

  2. Sheeba permalink
    October 5, 2009 5:40 am

    Its always better to be driven around!
    A very educational piece if I may say so ;P

  3. Elizabeth permalink
    October 5, 2009 8:37 pm

    Your writing style is just lovely, Reuben. What a unique voice you have.

    • reubix1 permalink*
      October 5, 2009 8:48 pm

      Aw, thanks, Ebeth… this means a lot coming from you!

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