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A Los Angeles Primer: Melrose Avenue

Architecture and design observer Frances Anderton mentioned loving not just Lincoln Boulevard but Melrose Avenue, two streets that would, at first, seem to have little in common: Lincoln, the oft-derided, “unplanned” linear heap of clashing commercial enterprises; Melrose, the world-renowned destination and longtime bastion of “alternative” shopping culture. And Melrose’s six miles seem almost manageable by comparison to Lincoln’s ten, though, like most of Los Angeles’ east-west streets, Melrose lays out an even more striking study in textural, cultural, and economic shift per mile traveled, and sometimes even per block. A visitor may expect a particular sensibility, but unless they target that visit quite specifically, they’ll find nearly all the sensibilities Los Angeles has to offer.

Hence the tendency of so many to entrust their experience to tour companies who, all day long, run various eye-catching vehicles, including London-ish red double-decker buses, through relevant stretches of Melrose. They pass close to institutions of current or former importance to the entertainment industry, stopping at the densest clusters of high-end shops, and slowing down for historic sites of celebrity misbehavior, confirmed or alleged. Their routes on Melrose usually go from west to east; if you travel the other way across the street’s entire length, an intriguing metamorphosis occurs before your eyes: dogs get smaller; signs advertising marijuana dispensaries and “gentlemen’s clubs” fall away; signs identifying the source of coffee beans rise up; stores offering old furniture, clothing, and objects in general grow ever more curatorial; hair salons decline slightly in number, balanced out by establishments dedicated specifically to eyebrow grooming.

Read the whole thing at KCET Departures.

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