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Category Archives: A Los Angeles Primer

A Los Angeles Primer: Universal City

For such a high-profile metropolis, Los Angeles has a curious relationship with the word “city.” Its detractors have, for the better part of a century, argued that the term doesn’t apply: witness the longevity of the quip calling Los Angeles six, twelve, nineteen, or (somehow, most often) 72 suburbs in search of a city, variously […]

A Los Angeles Primer: Rodeo Drive

I brought a friend visiting from Canada on one of my nighttime bus rides down Wilshire Boulevard. Halfway through the trip, he looked out all the windows in search of any feature that might identify the area around us. Finding none, he turned to me and simply asked. When I told him that we’d reached Beverly […]

A Los Angeles Primer: Torrance

“This section, to a greater extent than any other, is dependent on the automobile,” wrote novelist James M. Cain in “Paradise,” his 1933 essay on Southern California. “The distances are so vast, the waste of time so cruel if you go by bus or street car, that you must have your own transportation.” Many still […]

A Los Angeles Primer: L.A. Live

“Los Angeles is the most beautiful city in the world, provided it’s seen at night and from a distance.” You usually hear that line credited to the filmmaker Roman Polanski, but the observation at its core has proven so resonant for so long that the variations and attributions have multiplied. Often it comes delivered by […]

A Los Angeles Primer: Pico Boulevard

In the early 1980s, well before his doggedly exploratory restaurant criticism in the Los Angeles Times and the Weekly made him famous, Jonathan Gold gave himself a mission: “to eat at every restaurant on Pico Boulevard and create a map of the senses that would get me from one end to the other.” This rigorous […]

A Los Angeles Primer: Grand Central Market

I’ve taken my recent trips to and from Bunker Hill exclusively by stair, owing to the current shutdown of Angels Flight, the beloved funicular that, when operational, carries passengers up from Hill Street and back down again. It doesn’t go out of order often, but when it does it often stays that way for some time: a fatal […]

A Los Angeles Primer: Westwood

I often ask Angeleno acquaintances between forty and fifty years of age if they really, at one time in their lives, thought of Westwood as a place. Most reply that, especially during the early 1980s, they not only thought of Westwood as a place, but as the place. More recent arrivals such as myself have trouble believing […]

A Los Angeles Primer: Park La Brea

How many degrees could possibly separate any given Angeleno from someone who lives, or has lived, in Park La Brea? The well-known, highly visible apartment complex, located just north of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, seems to bring forth an anecdote from just about everyone. At a Q&A session after a screening of […]

A Los Angeles Primer: Old Pasadena

If we call the seaside Santa Monica, home of Third Street Promenade, one of Los Angeles’ major “satellite cities,” then we must also grant the title to Pasadena, which goes its own way in the opposite setting, under the San Gabriel mountains. Both incorporated in 1886, both boast populations around 100,000 (Santa Monica a few thousand […]

A Los Angeles Primer: Olvera Street

As an Angeleno, no matter of how brief a standing, you tend to want to steer visitors away from Olvera Street. I, for my part, have caught myself wanting to steer visitors away from Olvera Street without appearing to steer them away from Olvera Street. People who live elsewhere have heard of this set of […]