When Did Downtown LA Get So Lively?

It isn’t necessarily how many hours I have been staring into the computer or television screen or book that motivates me out of the house, but how restless I am feeling. I strap on my iPod, put on some walking shoes, go wandering, and have a soundtrack to the surreal that unfolds before my eyes.

There were a couple of events going on that I actually wanted to attend, but with my parking spot perfectly fine with me for the next few days, I felt no inclination to move the car in search of parking. So I walked. Headed downtown. I didn’t even look at the map that closely, half the fun being finding these places when you have never been to them before. I at least memorized the address. 1110 Seward. The second, fall back event, I knew where that was. Pehrspace on Glendale Blvd. The third alternative was my favorite dive bar, Bar 107.

First off, there were at least three separate things being filmed in downtown at 11 pm that I saw, with the big Star Waggons taking up space on streets and parking lots, with security guards standing by. That added to more people, more lights. A block away from a filming buzz of activity, my favorite bar looked far more crowded than I wanted to deal with, so I kept on walking. I wanted to be out among people, but in a quiet place, like that bar is usually on most other nights of the week. Everywhere I went in downtown, there were people walking, dressed more nicely than myself (though really, black on black always works everywhere) in heels or large, loud shoes and looking purposeful. Heading towards alleys with velvet ropes indicating some secret entrance, or bouncers staring down the riff-raff blatantly on the sidewalks. Me, I had on my iPod, and walked quietly in black. Stopped to take a few photos, like of the line of 40+ people in a parking lot, queued for a food truck. 10:45 at night in all of downtown, like there weren’t any restaurants open, starving nightclub going people waiting patiently for food. It might be the taco truck I read about, that is run by a chef and tweets where it will be on any given day, so its fans can always find it. No rent, no parking issues, and up with the latest technology to advertise its whereabouts. That ain’t your mama’s taco truck.

I could not find the place I was looking for. I asked the valet at the Disney Concert Hall,

Disney After Dark

Disney After Dark

and he couldn’t think where it was in downtown. I thought I was looking for someplace north of 2nd and Hill, or maybe east, but nearby. I saw 2nd and Hill on the map I glanced at. I know I did, because I was looking for street names I recognized, and Grand and Hill were there. I followed a few people walking their dogs, thinking that was a sure sign they lived downtown, perhaps they would know. I finally asked this one woman, lurking at a grassy area of a parking garage with her two tiny dogs, and she started when I asked my question.

“You’re kidding, right?”

“No….”

“That is so weird. My boyfriend’s band has a month long residency there. But Seward? It’s  in Hollywood, not downtown.”

“Well, I guess I’ll give up looking for it here then. What’s the name of the band your boyfriend’s in?” Did I not mention in a previous post how small the LA music scene was?

That’s why she had been startled, not me asking. It was the randomness of what I was asking and her intimacy with the subject being asked. Talk about synchronicity and serendipity.

Knowing that was now a dead and very flogged horse, I headed back towards home. But, maybe, that place I went to once with a visiting friend from Seattle, maybe that place would be quiet. I had to find it first. Library Bar. I remembered that the address given was completely not on the street the entrance actually was. That’s what I mean about the fun of trying to find places you’ve never been to before in LA. It’s a test to perseverance to find half these places. Wouldn’t want just anyone to be able to find them!

Nope, I did find it, and it was awful crowded too. Kept on walking. I remember the drinks being spendy anyway.

I didn’t cross east of Main Street, and I didn’t walk down much of Broadway, but I was surprised at how few homeless or obviously mentally unbalanced people I was seeing. Where were they all? That has usually been what kept me from downtown late at night by myself. Instead, the one ranter I heard, made everyone else turn and watch with amusement as he railed against the world, and none of us followed his path, giving him safe distance for unpredicatableness. Perhaps I have just never been in downtown late enough to feel the safeness of it. I usually leave at 8ish, when the clubs are barely getting started, so perhaps the sheer mass of incoming people is what makes it feel safer. And I usually leave before that influx.

Whatever. However, I did find plenty of the sleeping homeless as I wended north out of the city, above Third. Usually in groups, and frequently with one on watch. Now it all made sense. They were asleep, that’s why I usually saw more at 8 than now at midnight. Asleep like plenty of other decent folk, looking to stay out of trouble. Next destination was my fall back other event at Pehrspace. I walked along Temple to get to Glendale Boulevard, admiring the run down and other timely buildings of the neighborhood, on the border of Angelino Heights. These houses and storefronts had seen many years, endured much, and seemed waiting, expectant for a new re-surgence. Perhaps. Or maybe it would remain a quiet pocket just outside of downtown, ignored because it backed up against a freeway, most streets dead-ending and few even knew it existed. It reminded me of New Orleans, sleepy-quiet, patiently waiting, beloved by some, and reviled as disintegrating by others. I was here at night time, and I could imagine the buildings slumbering uneasily, aware, but in no way able to control their futures. Would they be torn down, made into giant apartment buildings, or would they continue to be allowed to slumber, awaiting for some new glory days?

I walked by Pehrspace, heard no music and saw a small crowd drinking bottled beers out front. Perhaps all the bands were done. It was almost 1 am. Again, I passed. It made me happy to know others were out and about, having enjoyed live music.

I now faced the gauntlet. The quickest, most direct way home was via Alvarado. But at this time of night, the trawlers for prostitutes were out (or is that trollers?), and being on a major street was a situation ripe for misinterpretation for a single woman walking by herself. Where did Glendale Boulevard lead to heading south? I would find out.

It turned into Lucas. Hopefully it ran all the way south to a street I needed.

LAUSD has an annoying habit of building schools that interfere with normal traffic flow, causing streets to dead end or turn away from their school grounds. So it was again. But along the quiet streets, there were empty lots of overgrowth, and intriguing staircases leading to former glory. The city of LA could do a lot with a concerted in-fill project, filling those empty lots with new houses, breathing new life to some neighborhoods with skyline views and proximity to downtown. But in the meantime, the temperature difference of a grass and tree filled lot, with the smell of fresh, moist dirt exposed was pleasant. (Exposed dirt? Who was digging in these frequently fenced lots?)

The Unknown Wilds of Abandoned LA Properties

The Unknown Wilds of Abandoned LA Properties

Almost home, I was walking along Union. The closer I got to the Staples Center, home to Lakers and Kings games, the more traffic, the more people, the more prostitutes.  A club I had walked by earlier on my walk was now disgorging bands loading their gear into waiting vehicles. Everyone out on the sidewalk was wearing black. The iconic Misfits image was plainly visible, as were other skulls too. I had no idea this club did live music. A club near me with live music? I had seen the velvet rope numerous times before, but with its closed doors and no sound leakage, could not determine what sort of club it was. I only ever saw men walk in, so I had not held out the best of hopes. Upscale in its presentation, but until I saw a woman walking in there I was doubtful I would be walking in by myself. Tonight was the night. A couple ran up, black and skulls adorning them, but cheerily talking. The sound coming out, was metal. I’ll have to keep an eye on this place, see what else they play. And so close. Really want to support them, but unfortunately, not on metal night.

Well, I was home. The lobby clock told me it was nearly 2. Of the three possible activities I had thought of doing, I had done none. I also hadn’t spent any money. I was, however, exhausted from the walking. There are numerous hills in the vicinity and I had definitely gotten my exercise in the four hours of wandering about I had done. I selected a new book to read, and crawled into bed, not even managing to get through chapter 3, and the chapters in this book are very short.

But I had learned more about my community, and seen LA is coming closer to the thriving, busy, downtown nightlife I have hoped for for years and was happy to see that. As much as I have wanted it, I just didn’t want to participate and encourage it with my dollar support, sad to say, “in this current economy.” Just not that night. However, the very fact I bought in the downtown vicinity is pretty loud and clear economic support for the community, when you come down to it. Can’t get much louder than that.

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