Union Station

Union Station

Photos: Helen Nishimura
Words: Tiffany Chan

Remember that one time I picked up you and dad at Union Station? You decided to take a red eye bus ride in less than 48 hours, texted me about it, and there I was 6:30 in the morning waiting for you.

You decided to do so because it’s what me and my young foolish self does every couple of months, to see you.

I don’t think we’ve ever gotten to walk through Union Station together — it’s mostly been you running to the restroom, or that one time Aunt Amy visited and you guys spent a good half hour taking photos while grandma and I waited in a makeshift parking spot out by the back. There was another car waiting in front of me — that made two of us, hazards blinking, while a staffer stood taking his 10 in the distance. I had handed grandma a bouquet of astrid stargazers fresh from the flower market that morning, their fragrance filling the car. I tried to capture it by taking a picture.

Next time you’re in LA again, 345 miles away from now, let’s go back. You’d like the Spanish architecture, and the neatly lined palm trees. The light streams from the tall windows by the foyer almost Grand Central Station-like, but with fewer people. There are massive leather and brass Art Deco armchairs, block-like and immovable, in the Amtrak lobby.

The outdoor courtyards are great too, especially at night. There is something about trees and the quiet there, and the sound of the fountains too, from what I can remember. The evening sky is usually a nice dusky blue backdrop.

Next time you’re in LA, 345 miles away from now,
let’s go back to
Union Station.

As for the people, though — the people watching is beyond good. Especially on weekends. There are people from all over: tourists, tired Angelenos, newcomers testing out this public transportation thing. It isn’t flashy but you can walk through the main walkway that funnels to all the places beyond: San Diego, even Texas. When it’s rush hour the walkway is packed and bustling; it is maybe one of the most metropolitan feelings when in LA. But if you’re looking to relax, we can catch the Surfliner and whiz along the crystalline Pacific.

Before we do that though, you have to see the east side of the station where there’s a domed, kaleidoscoped ceiling. Right below you can find the City of Dreams/River of History mural, one of those classic portraits of Angelenos by Richard Wyatt. The atrium is best at night, when the space is calm again and the sound of footsteps and suitcase wheels echo high and soft.

All of this will change soon, I’m sure, with the way the city is centralizing downtown. They’re reworking the station and plan to reach the river from the back. There will be shops, there will be performance spaces; it will be busier.

So come when you can. It’ll be good, old or new, because this is a place for all people: tired, traveling, moneyed, or not. We can figure out where to go from here.