In a day dominated by selfies and soccer, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti decided to take a detour Tuesday during a spin through the city to mark the beginning of his second year in office.
He’d planned to visit Crenshaw, Koreatown, Boyle Heights and North Hollywood by transit, but interrupted his schedule to watch the U.S. battle Belgium in the World Cup.
Turning in to a Buffalo Wild Wings on Crenshaw Boulevard, he donned a red-and-white USA jersey over his collared shirt and joined a group of Marines at the crowded restaurant, snacking on mozzarella sticks, his eyes fixed on a giant television screen.
The fans appeared to notice the mayor only when TV news cameras lighted up the darkened room. Garcetti said watching the match was another way to connect with Angelenos, but he mostly just wanted to catch some of the moment himself. He said he decided to adjust his plans after noticing early Tuesday that his staff “scheduled back-to-back stuff during the biggest game.”
“The World Cup got in the way of my big anniversary, but I’m happy to share,” he said.
On one Belgium attack and near-score, Garcetti froze, his fist clenched in the air as the ball appeared headed into the goal. He exhaled in relief as the ball rolled just outside the goal, and the bar erupted in cheers.
Jedidiah Lobos, watching at a table behind Garcetti, stepped over to get a photo with the mayor during a break. “I think one of the best things that anybody could do in his position is hang out here with everyone,” said Lobos, a microbiology teacher at Los Angeles Trade Technical College.
Garcetti intended to ride Metro trains from one location to the next. But he was running late after the game stop and opted to take a car for some of his tour.
After a quick trip to Koreatown, he moved to Boyle Heights, where he was greeted by a mariachi band. He then boarded Metro for a cross-city train ride to North Hollywood.
On the trip, Garcetti lamented getting “stuck in City Hall,” saying quick, unplanned encounters with people help him gauge people’s concerns and can build trust with residents, particularly in his early years as mayor. “Most people don’t want a half-hour meeting with the mayor,” he said.
On Tuesday, few of those he encountered seemed interested in discussing city issues. Most just wanted a photo.
Juan Montenegro ran in front of Garcetti to snap a picture as the mayor descended on a Union Station escalator.
“I just like the way he expresses enthusiasm on the Kings game,” Montenegro said before rushing off to catch his train. That appeared to be a reference to Garcetti’s much-discussed use of the F-word during a downtown celebration of L.A.'s Stanley Cup win.
“They have to get to know you,” Garcetti observed later, leaning against the door of a Red Line car packed with rush-hour commuters. “You drop an F-bomb. You ride the Metro.”