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Navigating Downtown LA with kids

Off-Ramp  commentator Jon Regardie reading his script in the Off-Ramp studio at the Mohn Broadcast Center.
Off-Ramp commentator Jon Regardie reading his script in the Off-Ramp studio at the Mohn Broadcast Center.

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(Off-Ramp commentator Jon Regardie is the executive editor of the Los Angeles Downtown News.)

Two things stood out the other day in the line waiting for a Clippers game outside Staples Center. One was the usher who was playing Sudoku. The other was the grown man and little boy playing “Ring Around the Rosie.” That was me and my 3-year old son George.

You don’t have to make your own fun downtown. There’s a lot for kids, as long as you don’t expect it to be a bubble-wrapped suburban playground. There’s the Central Library, Grand Hope Park, Grand Central Square and the summer concerts at Cal Plaza. We’ve seen Heidi Duckler’s site-specific dance company three times and we’ve eaten sausages and fries at Wurstküche. We’ve wandered through festivals in Chinatown and Little Tokyo, taking the Gold Line when possible.

Once, on the way to MOCA, we saw street performers dressed as Mary Poppins and Bert – that’s when the musical was at the Ahmanson. Our then 3-year-old Vivian had no idea it was not the Mary Poppins from the movie. She was so awestruck she couldn’t speak to Busker Mary.

Once inside MOCA, I told Vivian to let me know if she was interested in one of the artworks, and I’d lift her up so she could see it closely. That was a great idea for the splattered Jackson Pollock paintings. But it didn’t work so well for the photo of a junkie shooting up.

“What’s he doing, Daddy?”
“Umm …” I said, “He’s taking medicine.”

I took Vivian to her first Clippers game when she was 2, which in the pre-Chris Paul-Blake Griffin era might have been tantamount to child abuse. She made it through half the game and insisted on introducing herself to people next to us. She’s been to five games by now, knows who Griffin is, and, after yelling “De-FENSE! De-FENSE!” always asks, “Did I help the Clippers that time?”

The kids have also seen the Harlem Globetrotters at Staples, and while they laughed, they didn’t get all the nuances. Vivian was worried that the Globetrotters might lose.

I’ve learned a few things about visiting Staples Center with the under-5 set: you can’t get there early enough; you can’t underestimate how appealing the souvenirs are; and you have no idea exactly what will capture their attention. Vivian’s favorite part of her first Clippers game was the cheerleaders who, she said, “dance real hard.”

There’s another important thing I’ve learned about Staples and kids: The restrooms are nice. Unlike Dodger Stadium, which has metal troughs and conditions more fitting for Visigoths than visiting families, Staples’ restrooms are clean and well-lit.

George fared pretty well at his first Clippers game. He wasn’t very conversational with our neighbors, but he was intrigued by the Kiss Cam, and when other kids were shown waving on the Jumbotron, George usually waved back. He made it through the whole game, didn’t cry once, and the Clippers won. When I asked later what his favorite part of the game was, he answered, “Not anything.” But during dinner the next evening, he couldn’t stop chanting “De-FENSE!”