Column: Los Angeles comes to life on the night of Dodgers’ World Series win
I get in my car, turn the keys, and over the radio I hear the sounds of the summer we never got to have.
Charley Steiner and Rick Monday are calling Game 6 of the World Series, and for a brief second, I actually feel normal.
Over the radio, I can’t tell if the crowd noise is a recording or see the players in face masks. Steiner and Monday are making salty remarks about advanced statistics and shifts in field positioning as they have since I started listening in 2014. They’re no Vin Scully, but their familiar back-and-forth, like a low-stakes game of catch, puts me at ease.
I head east on Venice Boulevard, window rolled down and the sun setting in a sky of pale peach. Tonight, I’m attempting something that has felt pretty impossible these days: I want to enjoy myself.
It’s harder than it sounds. When I leave the house I tend to fixate on the apocalyptic particulars of our current state of affairs and not just because I write about them. Getting takeout at a favorite restaurant just reminds me of how many of them have closed and will close.
When I pick up my once-quarterly No. 19 at Langer’s, I gaze longingly at the dining room and wonder if I’ll ever get to sit in those cushy coffee-colored booths again. For all we’ve discovered about how much of life can happen outdoors, I have to say, some of my favorite parts of Los Angeles were definitely the insides.
But tonight, I’m trying to reconstruct the experience of a Dodgers game outside, with some views, some tacos and, hopefully, some other fans.
I headed to Teddy’s Red Tacos on the train tracks off Slauson Avenue. I’ve fallen back in love with taco trucks this summer because the experience really hasn’t changed much, except now we wear masks and tacos often come pre-dressed with onions, cilantro and salsa.
When the tacos arrive — beefy birria de res on tortillas stained red with consomme —somebody named Gonsolin is pitching, and someone named Arozarena is on deck. I won’t pretend: I haven’t had the energy to follow the Dodgers closely this summer, especially without the prospect of a game at Dodger Stadium or a gathering at my favorite Koreatown bar, OB Bear.
As a transplant, I fell in love with the Dodgers for what the team showed me about Los Angeles. Dodgers fans introduced me to a whole new geography of fan haunts: Tommy Lasorda’s favorite Chinese restaurants; a Korean German place in K-town; and OB Bear, a bar named for a professional Korean baseball team.
The stadium offered epic views of the city mixed with intimate experiences with its people. This city is so vast, but in Dodger Stadium it feels like a small town, especially in Top Deck, where the cheapest seats often are and where you tend to see some of the same people. To me, baseball just wasn’t baseball without all of that.
The Dodgers go down one, the bullpen is pitching, and I head to the top of a hill in City Terrace that overlooks downtown Los Angeles. It’s so quiet I can hear fans yelling at their TVs in their homes.
The city during a pandemic is strange and ghostly. Familiar places feel vacant and foreign, and I often leave the house not knowing whether the place I’m going will still be there. A few months ago I tried to visit the scenic overlook on Mulholland Drive at night, but the short fence that people usually step over to enter the park after hours could no longer be crossed. I went to Atwater Village a few months ago, and the line for breakfast burritos at Tacos Villa Corona was still there, but everyone was wearing sweats and looked pissed off.
I head down the hill, and catcher Austin Barnes scores on a wild pitch. It starts to feel like the Dodgers might actually win, which sparks not joy but deep anxiety. I spot the glittering marquee of King Taco in South Central, pull over and stress-eat two cabeza tacos.
Then right fielder Mookie Betts beats a throw to home plate, and all of a sudden I’m trying to figure out where to go celebrate. I head to Tacos Don Cuco, a stand in a parking lot in Boyle Heights that serves adobada tacos on tortillas pressed fresh on-site. I know we’re close when the guys in front of me in line start proposing that they should get free tacos if we win. Fireworks start going off and everyone thinks it’s time to celebrate — but the fireworks are premature, celebrating Mookie’s home run in the eighth.
I’m on one of those quiet, ghostly residential streets in East Los Angeles when pitcher Julio Urías gets the last out and the Dodgers win the World Series for the first time since 1988. People start spilling out of their homes, screaming, crying and falling to their knees on their front lawns. I slow down to accommodate a kid biking around with a Dodgers flag stuck through his tire spokes. Fireworks explode everywhere, and I have to nose my way around several pyrotechnic shows in progress.
I look left, and a Dodgers fan is playing what looks to be a tuba, but there’s no song; just one, long, triumphant blast. A rusted antique car full of teenagers, equipped with a blaring siren, cruises past.
On my right, a whole family of 10, including grandparents and grandchildren, are in the street, doing ridiculous poses and screaming at passing cars until they honk.
I honk at the family, and suddenly I’m honking at everyone, because everyone is honking at me.
I head toward Dodger Stadium and join the celebratory traffic jam-slash-parade on Sunset Boulevard. I’ve never seen the city so full of life and joy.
A World Series in Los Angeles changes nothing about everything we’re facing in the coming weeks, months and years. Justin Turner testing positive for the coronavirus during the game and possibly infecting others during the on-field celebration reminded us of that. A pandemic is still killing us, and the uncertainty of a contested election looms.
But for one night, a lot of us got to feel happy to be alive. This World Series win may be the only thing about this year I never want to forget. And we have the Dodgers to thank for that.
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