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14 July 2007

my last 48 hours have been full of eclectic culture. here’s the run-down, in brief (i’ll write more about a few of these later):

thursday evening:

  • incredible ethiopian food for dinner at merkato in l.a.’s little ethiopia.
  • followed by a run up beverly and sunset to the echo where we hoped to catch dr. dog in concert. the show was, unfortunately, sold out. but driving through the neighborhood and hanging out in front of the club for an hour gave me a taste of the l.a. hipster crowd.
  • topped off with a conversation about the relativism of cultural values and right and wrong.


  • a day spent perusing photos ranging from the 1930s to the 1970s. just think of the biggest game of concentration you’ve ever seen, in which i try to remember miniscule details in order to sort a few hundred photos of people i don’t know. it was an interesting tour through 20th century clothing, interior decorating, and automobiles.
  • dinner at the house of blues, with a predominately southern flair: pan-seared voodoo shrimp with rosemary corn bread, cajun meatloaf with mashed potatoes, sweet potato fries, chocolate cake, and raspberry apple breadpudding (and a few samplings of ribs, fried chicken, and jambalaya).
  • stephen stills in concert at the house of blues with a crowd made up mostly of aging hippies and 60s protesters.
  • ending with a middle-of-the-night stop at the kwik-e-mart at venice and sepulveda. alas, they were out of buzz cola and krusty-o’s, but we did enjoy blue squishees and pink donuts with sprinkles.


  • a drive across the west side of l.a. and into downtown.
  • my first trip to a raumen shop. daikokuya in l.a.’s little tokyo (the geffen contemporary is in little tokyo). it’s supposed to be the best raumen shop in l.a. i loved it.
  • followed by a stop in fugetsu-do for mochi. this place has been in business, owned and operated by the same family, since 1903. i got one white mochi with strawberry inside and one lime mochi. delicious.
  • another long drive across town, this time ending up at the beverly center. think enormous shopping mall. i wanted to try on a dress JP pointed out to me in a catalog. found the dress but it fit funny, so i didn’t indulge.

you can see that it’s been a wild mix of foods, places, and experiences the last few days. as i was driving back across town this afternoon, i was thinking about the simple variety of experiences and it struck me that such variety is perfectly representative of l.a. as a city. i’ve spent a lot of time in london (lived there for four months), boston (lived there for a year), d.c. (visited so many times i couldn’t count), and new york (annual visits for about five years running). and i don’t think any of them is quite as eclectic as l.a. while they certainly all offer amazing diversity and a huge variety of experiences–as much variety as l.a.–, they all have something of a unified feel to them. boston is historic. new york is colossal. d.c. is governmental. london is cultured. los angeles is eclectic.

now i realize none of those cities can be reduced to a single word. i know they’re all wonderfully various. but none of them has quite the same feeling of hundreds of disparate elements together forming a single metropolis that l.a. does. i love that about l.a. the diversity that is just there without necessarily calling attention to itself. like a city cobbled together out of anything at hand, refusing to be classified or even to fit an idea of what a city is.

9 Comments leave one →
  1. 15 July 2007 4:52 am

    sounds like you have had a fun weekend! can’t wait to see you soon. I also agree with your descriptions of the cities! love ya

  2. 16 July 2007 1:32 am

    like randy newman says, “i love l.a.”it’s got so much more than people give it credit for. in fact, it’s got just about everything any of those other cities have (in its own way). you can’t replace one with the other, but people need to be more adventurous and explore l.a. because it’s a great place. and if you need some ideas, i have a few.

  3. 16 July 2007 11:49 am

    I don’t know…I know its impossible to fully describe a city in one word…but after living in the DC area for nearly 6 years….the area where the city flourishes, the neighborhoods besides the antiseptic governmental center, the suburbs, are nothing like the “governmental” center of the city. A little seedy, a little dirty, a mix of yuppyism, characterless big-boxes, and yet there’s so much diversity, ethnic neighborhoods, southern charm—-history, mid-atlantic flava, southern rednecks, the baggage that comes with straddling mason-dixo….all jumbled into one. I know you’ve been here many, many times but you’ll probably agree you don’t really know a place until you live there and get yourself lost in the city’s charms time and time again.

  4. 16 July 2007 1:14 pm

    oh absolutely, sherpa. it takes living in a city to really know it. part of my calling d.c. governmental comes from listening to my brother talk about d.c. and the way the political grapevine works there (he’s lived in d.c. neighborhoods for a few years and northern virginia for 15 years). part of my assessment comes from my own experience. and i don’t mean to imply that the diversity is missing in d.c.; just that it’s different in kind from l.a. so d.c. is more than just governmental; it’s also incredibly diverse. i have about as much experience of l.a. as i have of d.c., in spite of having lived near it for so much of my life. it feels totally different driving across d.c. than driving across l.a. and thinking about it, that difference strikes me as being that while all of these cities are equally diverse, it’s much harder to characterize l.a. it really defies the kind of quick characterization that can be done of other cities, no matter how much those characterizations obscure diverse realities. i could think of several quick characterizations of d.c. they would all conceal some of its diversity. but i can think of them and they would be accurate to a certain extent. i can’t think of any characterization of l.a. other than eclectic.

  5. 16 July 2007 3:22 pm

    ummmm…..what makes “voodoo” shrimp voodoo??? Do they poke it over and over first?love youtashp.s. check out our goodnews on our adoption blog!

  6. 17 July 2007 1:05 pm

    Amelia- sometimes its the places we know the most, that we feel the most for, that we have the hardest time classifying. All classifying and categorizing is a way of simplifying phonemena and putting it in a way we understand. Personally, I think that’s what you’re really saying about LA. Amelia, I don’t doubt your knowledge of the town even though you’ve never lived here. That being said, second hand knowledge and visiting a city…isn’t the same as living there and soaking in the city day in and day out.

  7. 17 July 2007 2:57 pm

    the thing is, i actually know l.a. less than any of the other cities i mentioned except perhaps new york.but you’re right. the things we know well are certainly harder to categorize. and while i don’t know l.a. as a city all that well, i certainly know california. which i’m sure informs my experience of l.a.

  8. 18 July 2007 3:37 am

    A few days after our visit to J-town, I was talking over it with E, one of the nurses I’m precepting at work … and she went on the rampage. Seems that a lot of the mom-and-pop shops that have there for decades and give it such a small-community feel are moving away (to Torrance), to make way for more development. Revitaliation, or redefinition?

  9. 18 July 2007 7:41 pm

    that’s horrible, dora. i wonder how long they’ll last…i’ve been craving mochi since i ate mine saturday afternoon. mmmm, yummy. it would be a tragedy if that shop got pushed out.

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