Saturday, March 1, 2008

My Love Letter to Los Angeles

The latest issue of Los Angeles Magazine has a feature story on “The 64 Greatest Things About LA.”

I love Los Angeles. With the exception of a semester spent abroad in college, I’ve lived in Los Angeles County my whole life (and in LA proper for five-and-a-half years). I’m fairly well-traveled, both in the States and abroad, and while I’ve fallen in love with other cities (Boston, London and Venice among them) I can’t picture myself ever calling anywhere else “home.”

Yes, the traffic is horrendous. The 405 was built by Satan. The number of bottle blondes, rich assholes, and pairs of fake breasts are higher per capita here than anywhere else (I’m fairly certain, anyway). The good parts of town are often a half-block from the bad (drive the length of 3rd Street if you want to see what I mean). And I’ve heard it all. LA people are shallow, they’re stupid, they only care about material things, there aren’t real seasons, you don’t belong unless you’re in “the industry.” I’m not so naïve that I don’t understand that all stereotypes spring from at least a little bit of truth.

However, there’s so much more to this city that people don’t understand unless they immerse themselves in it. LA has a mix of people, trends, cultures, and industries that you can’t find anywhere else. I never cease to be amazed by how this city never stops surprising me. I don’t think I could get bored by this place if I tried. It has almost a mythical quality to it; without fail, every time I talked to people when I was abroad and they found out where I was from, I got sucked into an awed, 20-minute conversation about the “amazing city of Los Angeles.”

Enough of my love letter. I’ve lived here more than 20 years and I feel like I’ve only scratched the surface of what this city has to offer me. Still, I think Los Angeles Magazine left a few things off of their list. So, what follows is my list of a few of my favorite things about Los Angeles, plus my commentary on a few of the things LA Mag did get right.


Dodger Stadium

This is my favorite place in the whole world, without a doubt. Nothing beats a summer evening Dodger game, sitting in the top deck (I’m poor, but there isn’t a bad seat in the house so it doesn’t matter) watching the boys in blue battle it out. I get my Dodger dog, garlic fries and Russell Martin t-shirt and enjoy three hours of pure bliss (listening to the legendary Vin Scully on the radio while you watch only makes it that much sweeter). New stadiums are soulless, corporate boxes without a bit of history or personality. Dodger Stadium has an aura about it; you walk in and you just feel it. The atmosphere is beyond description, but in my opinion it represents Los Angeles better than anything else.

The Venice (California) canals.

Venice Beach

Venice Beach is for the artists, the hippies, the hobos and the misfits. A stretch of sand and sea with actual “canals,” and beautiful beachfront properties that sit mere feet from a ragtag band of street performers, Jesus freaks, aspiring musicians and local artists. You can buy everything from a surfboard clock to a little glass pipe (for tobacco use only, of course). No other beach in Los Angeles is as full of dichotomous fun. It’s about as casual a place as you’ll find in a city renowned for being laid back and chill. Everyone’s welcome, everyone’s having a good time. Oh…and there’s the whole beach thing happening. I hear that’s fun.

Main Street (Santa Monica)

A few blocks of street just South of the Santa Monica Pier, Main Street in Santa Monica is home to some of the coolest pubs, bars and restaurants on the Westside. Finn McCool’s and O’Brien’s are two of my favorite Irish pubs, home to great pints (including cider!), live bands and trivia. The Library Alehouse is a great little bar with a huge variety of beers from around the world on tap (and not just the ones you’d expect). I’m not going to give away all its secrets…there’s even a Yankees bar where the head bartender sports a Dodgers cap (LOVE him). Plus, if you get that urge, the beach is only a few blocks away…and at night, it’s fabulous.

Back in the day, the center of the LA theatre world.

Pantages Theatre

Los Angeles used to have more theatres per capita than New York City. I’m not sure if that’s still true, since (sadly) many of them have fallen out of use and into disrepair…or have been turned into something else altogether. Still, my favorite of all the theatres left standing is the Pantages Theatre in the heart of Hollywood. The Art Deco architecture inside and out is gorgeous (especially since it was refurbished about 10 years ago) and it always manages to attract top shows: The Lion King, Wicked, Rent. The recent announcement by the Nederlander Group that they will add an additional 10 floors of condos, shops and restaurants to the two-story structure worries me; I’m afraid it will lose it’s Depression Era, Old Hollywood glamour. But it still remains, to me, the greatest place to see a live show in the city.

Diddy Riese

Three giant, delicious cookies for one dollar. In Los Angeles, where you’ll often pay 4 dollars for a small blueberry muffin, that’s damn near ridiculous. Lines form out the door and down the street for an ice cream cookie sandwich from the little shop in Westwood. In college at USC, I used to make specific trips out in to UCLA territory (the shop is mere blocks from the Bruin campus) just to get one.

Sprinkles Cupcakes

I’ve been to Magnolia Bakery in NYC. The cupcakes are indeed delicious. But they’re nothing compared to Sprinkles. The red velvet cupcakes alone are good enough to make you willing to pay nearly twice the $3.25-a-cupcake fee. The surprisingly unpretentious Beverly Hills bakery has a daily rotating list of specialty cupcakes to compliment their everyday staples…and every single one makes you believe in a higher baking power. My personal favorite is the peanut butter chocolate.

I’ll second the tip-of-the-hat Los Angeles Magazine gave to the following testaments to LA’s awesomeness:

Grauman’s Chinese: One of the greatest places to see a movie in the entire city. I dare you to try and walk through the outside entrance without sticking your hands or feet in at least one star’s cement prints.

Studio Back Lots: Tours are fun, but wandering around the fake New York streets by yourself or into buildings that used to house Marilyn Monroe and I Love Lucy is just plain surreal. Wandering past a backlot and almost running into Eddie Murphy (and almost getting run over by Kelsey Grammar in a golf cart) isn’t half-bad either. Come to Los Angeles! Get a job in entertainment! J Watching movies and television get made isn’t half as exciting as it sounds, but it’s still pretty darn cool.

Vin Scully: The epitome of sports broadcasters. There is absolutely no one better in baseball and possibly in sports. The voice of the Dodgers since 1950 (when they were still in Brooklyn), Scully is a throwback to a time where sports was pure (well, purer). Some call him old-fashioned, but no one can call a ballgame and weave anecdotes of times and players both past and present as effortlessly or engagingly as he can.

Farmer’s Market: Despite watching the city build up around it (and the ubermodern Grove crop up right next door) the Farmer’s Market at 3rd and Fairfax has remained remarkably untouched. Selling fresh fruit at surprisingly good prices and offering food from just about every country you can think of, no one (old or young, white or black, etc.) can resist its pull. Go have a meal at Monsieur Marcel’s…you can thank me later.

You can even see them from Dodger Stadium.

Palm Trees: Yes, I know, they were brought here. Nothing screams Los Angeles quite like they do, though. I love driving down wide, sunny streets lined on both sides with huge palm trees on a sunny day (preferably with my sunroof open). Awesome.

USC Football: There’s nothing better, baby. Deal with it. Petey Carroll and the Trojans own the heart of this city. We’ve got the history, we’ve got the hardware, we’ve got the superstars…and we’ll kick your ass. Go ahead, test us.

PCH: The drive up the PCH is perhaps one of the most beautiful drives I’ve ever taken. You can almost always see the ocean. The air is crisp, fresh and salty. It lifts the spirits and melts your troubles away (and in a city as mad as this one, sometimes that’s very, very necessary).

The Weather: Do I really need to explain this one? It’s the end of February and I wore my sunglasses out in 77 degree weather yesterday. Don’t pretend you aren’t jealous.


Anonymous said...

I'm not a big fan of Sprinkles Cupcakes because I'm not a big fan of "hard" frosting. Try Auntie Em's Kitchen in Eagle Rock (on Eagle Rock Blvd). The Red Velvet cupcake there is amazing.

danielletbd said...

Do you know how long it's been since I got Diddy Riese? Blasphemously long! Must rectify...

Anonymous said...

Next time you get the urge for a cupcake fix, check out Violet's Cakes in South Pasadena. I feel sorry for all those professing their love for Sprinkles - it just means they haven't tried Violet's yet. LA Weekly's "best place in LA for a sweet tooth fix."

DC said...

Did you know there's a Magnolia in Beverly Hills? There is! :)

I actually enjoy the fake-niceness of everyone in this quaint little town. It's part of the charm how everyone acts like they are a kind, metrosexual/sorority princess, with a rich daddy.