My inaugural ride on the Gold Line tram in 2003 took me back in my mind to train trips from my childhood home in Kansas to the motor city, Detroit to visit a relative. This Zephyr whispered out of Pasadena and chugged silently over a trestle then serpentined through the tree-lined Arroyo, past rolling hills and skirted by a trickle of water slithering around small boulders lying in a concrete bed.
I gazed out the window at the blurry intermittent clatter of redwood fences defending homes from voyeuristic passengers and rubbernecking conductors. The train dove into an abridged John Henry tunnel, then emerged as swiftly as it entered. After it made its final stops in Chinatown, it came to a gradual halt at Union Station. I flung my paint kit over my shoulder and made the short walk to Olvera Street.
I pitched my easel in the old plaza of El Pueblo de Los Angeles, the symbolic heart and actual birthplace of Los Angeles. Aztecan Indians drummed before an appreciative audience. Shadow from the crowd darted over my initial plein air pen & ink sketch and then the watercolors as I painted Engine Company #1, the cities first firehouse.
I worked alone in this bustling setting until a young couple from Finland stopped by to watch me paint. They were in L.A. for only the day, then were flying off to South America. The young man asked if I sold my paintings. I told him that I did, but that I was there representing Jesus. We talked for a moment, but I could tell he wanted to move on so I gave him a ‘Talent Search’ tract.