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Diary: Walking (All of) Wilshire


I’ve long wanted to walk the length of Wilshire Boulevard, the closest thing the whole of Los Angeles has to a “main street.” The city does have a street actually named Main, which runs north-south through downtown all the way up to Lincoln Heights and all the way down to the port, but Main somehow never attained the iconic status Wilshire has. That, and the variety of well-known areas through which the boulevard runs — downtown, MacArthur Park, Koreatown, the Miracle Mile, Beverly Hills, Westwood, Santa Monica — make it the logical choice as the Los Angeles urban walking experience.


A few friends have taken it wholly upon themselves to walk Wilshire before, all sixteen miles from Grand Avenue to the coast, but I guess I needed a more specific impetus. It came in the form of a group walk led by Tom Carroll, host of the Youtube series Tom Explores Los Angeles. I’d appreciated Tom’s videos for a little while already — at first because I’d never seen anyone so closely examine the Triforium, as I told Tom himself when we happened to be walking alongside one another for a mile or so — but didn’t hear about the walk until a couple days beforehand. One of the prime benefits of a flexible schedule like mine: if you want to spend an entire Wednesday walking down a street, you just clear the day’s calendar and do it.


We set off as a group of about thirty from Grand Avenue at 9:30 in the morning, and ended up on Ocean Boulevard, after some fell away and some joined along the way, as a group of about twenty at 6:00 in the evening. We took an hourlong lunch break among the food trucks that line up outside the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and not long after that paid a visit to the Los Angeles office of GOOD Worldwide, on the seventeenth floor of a nondescript Miracle Mile office building, to refill our water bottles.


I harbor a vague admiration for GOOD without quite understanding what they do. I mostly know them for their eponymous magazine, which re-launched a few months ago. They co-sponsored the Wilshire walk alongside something called Sambazon, a blended juice product of which we had several opportunities to grab free bottles out of coolers. I drank one while taking in the view from GOOD’s office windows, which offer a perspective on the built environment just north of Wilshire I rarely get to see. (Park La Brea looked really striking from there.) It seemed like one of those benevolent, Millennial-filled work environments, though I guess that’s the idea. An employee cranked up the chiptune electronic dance music on their office speakers as soon as we entered.


Though Millennial myself, I didn’t fare quite as well, physically, as some of the group’s maturer members. While I did make it to the end, I’d started hobbling and fell to the back of the line halfway through Santa Monica. Every time I sat down while waiting for a red light to change presented a realer and realer challenge to my getting up again. Yet the sexagenarians, septuagenarians and (I couldn’t tell, maybe even) octogenarians who held out took it literally in stride. Maybe it’s all the power-walking older generations supposedly do to forestall decrepitude; most of my exercise comes from my bike.


I kept thinking of The Long Walk, a dystopian and faintly homoerotic novel Stephen King wrote under the pseudonym of Richard Bachman (and, according to King himself, the first book he ever wrote) which, in adolescence, I read over and over again. In it, a hundred teenagers have to keep walking and walking until only one remains. (Laggards get shot by soldiers following in a half-track.) Supposedly the last boy walking gets whatever he wants most in the world, though the story’s ambiguous ending — not a technique I necessarily expect from Stephen King, under any name — stops short of revealing that promise as genuine or a sham.


For our part, we Wilshire walkers got a carbo-loading afterparty — pizza, pita, fries, sweet potato fries, beer, chicken wings, all of which kept coming — on the roof of the Shangri-La hotel. We couldn’t resist taking the stairs. Having dragged myself up there, I pitched Tom an idea for next time: why not Pico?