Saturday, March 30, 2013

WTH is happening downtown??

So it's been a while since I've posted. But I've been drawn out of my writer's block over a saddening trend I'm seeing downtown. Restaurants are cropping up like Starbucks throughout the city. This is excellent news, for the most part. I'm happy to see our downtown thriving and growing and drawing people to our historic city-central to enjoy the nightlife, appreciate the vibe, and take advantage of public transportation. But after living here now for 3.5 years, I'm disappointed with the sense of urgency to grow and "be cool." Food trends are picked up and repeated to the point of boring; menus are written with every good intention, but the food is completely flat and tasteless. In the rush to open and earn back the likely enormous financial investment (the full story-high wine room, wood leftover from rainforests, and too many eager staff hires), some places are falling totally flat, buried by their corporate desire to be the next best thing. They are far from it. At a newish restaurant tonight, the experience began to fail almost at "hello." Our drink order was delayed, then brought out in pieces, and then given to the wrong people. Our fried oyster sliders were mushy; the marinated octopus tasted only of the grill.  Don't call it a "Flatbread" to be hip with the new lingo if the damn thing is just a pizza. Call a spade a spade. We don't care. Neither does the pizza. But if you're going to call it something different, at least make it edible. And use your seasonings. Don't display 15 different spices for all the world to see if they are never opened and used. And please cook your meat, for godsakes. A lovely server with a great smile approached our table with 3 fancy and delicious looking drinks. They weren't ours. The bloated runner scalded his fingers trying to open the lid on a steaming pot of mussels. The only reason I was watching him was because earlier I had seen him taste food behind the counter, in the kitchen, with said fingers. I was charged the bottle price for a glass of sparkling be discovered after our cards had been run through.

Thankfully, a few diamonds have sparkled in the rough - Bestia, of course. One of the better meals I've had in a long time. It's so cool it's slightly intimidating. Bar Ama. Turned tacos on their head by making theirs "puffy." Baco Mercat. I left wanting more but couldn't get back in because the waiting list was so long.

I'm proud and thankful to be a downtown resident, but it's high-achieving freshman status has given way to a petulant, unruly sophomore looking to score with a senior cheerleader. It's moving too fast, growing too quickly, and trying too hard to BE something. It doesn't have to do anything - it's already cool. Downtown has the incredible luck to have found itself again, and I often boast that the reason it's so popular is because it's still undiscovered. It has no reputation yet. No people or culture mucking it up. It's fresh and unknown still. And I wish restaurateurs would spend a little more time focusing on their mission, allowing a space and menu to mature, grow, and blossom into something special. To match the rebirth of our once very grand downtown.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Downtown by bike

I participated in CycLAvia this past weekend. I'm embarrassed to admit that I didn't even hear about it (so much for being an informative blog...sheesh) until a friend asked if I was going. I immediately ran through the list of bikes I had access to - my mom's, a friend's beach cruiser, or my own, rusted, Burning Man-ruined mountain bike that clicked awkwardly. While mine comes equipped with a handy basket, left over sparkle tape, and a cute flower, it would be impossible to ride. So I opted for mom's, made the arrangements, shoved it in the back of my car, and was all set.

CycLAvia started in Bogota, Columbia to combat the overcrowded streets. Now it's part of everyday life. And while biking seems naturally appropriate anywhere in Europe or South America, it's downright odd in LA. Walking is weird in LA. Nobody walks in LA, remember? And yet, thankfully, for one day, people did. They skated, they walked, they ran, they cycled, they cruised, and they had a blast. It was the most amazing 7.1 miles I've experienced in 2 hours. Riding a bike through LA allows one to stop, observe, and take it in the sights in a whole new way. Not from the window of car, but from the open air wonder of a bike. People were lovely too - helping each other out, saying hello, waving, smiling. Small kids would stumble and total strangers stepped in to help. People cheered when unicycles, or boomboxes, or anything rigged to a bike rode by, simply because it was crazy and wild and fun. One kid cruised the streets with one skate on his right foot, a sneaker on his other foot, and a trumpet in his hands, which he loudly played while whizzing by. It was incredible.

The route took us from downtown, up Spring Street, over the 4th Street bridge, into Boyle Heights. The turnaround spot had t-shirts, water, food trucks, music, you name it.

Back over the bridge, through downtown, over 7th Street, back up to 6th...
and through MacArthur Park and just under the 101 Freeway.

I ventured into neighborhoods I've never been to before, simply because I have no need. But I got to see great LA architecture, culture, a few soccer games...

We ended up back through downtown...

and into Little Tokyo where we had lunch at Senor Fish. We finished off our day with fish tacos and a beer. Perfection. I will definitely participate in the next one...likely in 6 months or less.

It made me appreciate, yet again, how much I love this city. Sure, our Dodger fans leave a bad taste, but when we all get together in the sun, and forget our cares, and participate in something together, no matter how big this city might be, we feel a sense of community that is unlike anything else. My face hurt from smiling all day.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

The history of the Central Library

Interesting story on the site of the current central library in downtown. The Normal School, which eventually became UCLA, was allowed to cut off traffic flow and build itself. Who knew?

Great old photos of downtown.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Dowtown at Sunset

At the end of the day, downtown comes alive. At least in my neck of the woods. South Park pulses with the sounds of cars, sirens, parking lot attendants annoyingly trying to get every car's attention with whistles, shouts and flag waving (which makes a "chop chop" sound when done briskly), helicopters, name it. It's comforting sometimes. There's always something happening just outside my door. Tonight, it's the Clippers. Tomorrow, a concert (Lady Gaga celebrated her 25th birthday at Nokia Tuesday...Thanks, Lady!), Friday, the Lakers. Soon, the new LA football team. While I secretly dread this stadium coming to little tiny downtown, and the throngs of people (read: obnoxious fans), I'm also a bit excited for my property value to increase and the new storefronts, retailers, and possibly more restaurants within walking distance. An LA Times article in the Business section describes the rush of merchants looking at South Park as the next big thing. You can read it here:,0,1445479,full.story.

Sprouts Market and Fresh & Easy?? Urban Outfitters and H&M??? Target????? Yes, please!

Don't get me wrong. I'm not a retail-chain whore. But having simple amenities nearby would greatly boost my downtown experience, let alone the folks that just visit here. I'm excited. It will be amazing to watch the transformation.

In the meantime, I still get beautiful sunsets and sunrises. And as long as the Glass Tower doesn't get funding to build the 25 story monstrosity across the street from me, I'm still in good shape with the views.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Network After Work

Looking to make connections to improve your business? Need employment and desire to connect with companies or recruiters looking to hire? Want to sell others on your unique idea? I highly recommend the Network After Work event, being held April 5th, 6pm-9pm at J Lounge in downtown LA:

This event brings out all types - new business owners looking for partners or advertisers, sales reps selling their products to anyone who will listen, contractors hoping to expand their client base and knowledge, recruiters looking for new talent, and highly motivated unemployed (or employed) pavement-pounders looking for their next career move. It's an excellent networking event, coupled with free booze and tasty snacks. Bring a stack of business cards and a desire to smile and connect. Nothing is off-limits and everyone is willing to listen and share.

And as a bonus, the free booze turns a Tuesday night into something a little more flirty and fun. So that next business card exchange could be your next Friday night dinner date. Yeow!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Downtown is sexy

Look familiar?

And this one...filmed right across the street from my house, headed north on Grand Ave. They certainly spruced up the street. Those boxed planters don't exist, but I wish they did sometimes. Thanks, Honda.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Art, hip hop, and Chinatown

I was invited today to see an art show of a talented artist named Zoe Crocher. She has an archive of a call girl, Michelle Du Bois, who photographed herself and her aliases over a few decades, and once framed, these incredible photographs of this woman tell a story almost as surreal as the woman herself. Zoe also has a series of images taken from different hotel rooms near LAX. In each photo, a plane is flying by. They are snapshots of life; images we see and might not remember or recognize, yet once printed and on display, are forever captured in our mind's eye, giving them much more weight and significance than previously thought. Her work can be seen here -

As I wandered out of the Mandarin Plaza in Chinatown (a newly discovered little artist colony of studios, small storefronts and deserted offices), I weaved in and out of the crowds. Between Broadway and Hill Streets are small plazas that open up and invite you in.

There is nothing more amazing than the red lanterns. I love wandering through Chinatown, off the main streets, for this reason. The colors and sounds and the smells draw you in. There are a hundred stores selling trinkets and junk, shoes, lanterns, incense, dim sum, pastry, buddhas, bracelets, and robes. I even saw samurai swords. All cultures are celebrated.

Gentlemen playing a fierce game of chess....

with some of the locals cheering them on....

And at the center of all this was a hip hop festival, with record bins, live bands, incense and tacos. The gyrating beats seemed out of place with the swaying, fragile lanterns, but somehow it all works in Chinatown.

Beauty comes in all forms...