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A Los Angeles Primer: Atwater Village

On the northwest side of Glendale Boulevard, Kaldi Coffee, which boasts a signature brew from beans “roasted locally in Atwater Village,” hosts a long-sitting procession of the unconventionally employed, customers in sometimes dire need of both caffeine to power their brains and electricity to power their laptops. (Indeed, it once provided all the material for a Los Angeles Times human-interest story on the lives of aspiring to mid-level screenwriters.) On the southeast side, Proof Bakery, though it also serves a fine cappuccino and an even better scone, offers neither outlets nor bathrooms, encouraging their clientele, and their precocious young children often in tow, to move briskly through. Such specialization of the already specialized now happens in this neighborhood way up in the northeast, which some rank as the “hippest” in Los Angeles, some either dismiss or applaud as a “brunch zone,” and some describe as the closest experience the city offers to the professionally lighthearted, indie-everything sensibility of Portland, Oregon.

Some may explain their move to Atwater Village by admitting that it lets them live a mildly suburbanized life without having to actually move into a suburb. Throughout much of the twentieth century, the whole of Los Angeles held out this same promise: maybe, just maybe, you could here have the cake of a comfortable lifestyle, while also eating the cake of culturally robust and environmentally stimulating surroundings. To this day, nobody has quite figured out whether to declare that an oasis or a mirage. But those seeking that elusive midpoint between crowded but exhilarating city center, and comfortable if sense-dulling bedroom community, have lately found their moving target hovering around the northeastern corner of Los Angeles, where Atwater Village perhaps stands as the frontier.

Read the whole thing at KCET Departures.

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