Places in Books: Sidewalking in Mid-City


Mid-City, Los Angeles

As I have mentioned before in this blog, I am one of the many who are surviving without a car in Los Angeles. There are a few people here that are trying to dispel the myth that L.A. is anti-pedestrian. From the people who organize events to explore the hidden steps of Echo Park, CicLAvia, the blogs A Walker in LA and Hidden L.A., and local author David Ulin.

I had the chance to read Ulin’s recent release Sidewalking: Coming to Terms with Los Angeles, which is a microscopic look into L.A.’s  mid-city/miracle mile neighborhood as part of a book club I belong to. The person whose choice this was has been a resident of this area for several years. The more we talked amongst each other in our little group we realized that many of us had done a stint or two here, including me who called this place home from 2008-2010. The choice to live here  is likely because this area is one of the most walkable in the City. The Grove, El Rey, and The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) provide entertainment. Two Ralph’s, a Trader Joes, and a Von’s supplies all of your groceries, not that you need to cook because this area is teaming with restaurants of all price points and points of the globe.

In case I use these names interchangeably, Miracle Mile, Mid-City, and Museum Row are all names for this area, La Brea to Fairfax, Olympic to Beverly.

To get a sense of place or perhaps to relive some nostalgia, we turned our meeting about the book into an urban hike hitting the places in the 3 square mile area focused on in Sidewalking. Los Angeles is an ever changing city, I was curious to see how much of the neighborhood changed since I moved.

We started at the adobe church on Dunsmuir that Ulin so lovingly describes in the book’s first pages and started north through the residential neighborhood with sculptural cactus gardens in front yards, noticeable but beautiful additions to the L.A. Landscape due to the water shortage.  These places early adopters to the option to pull up grass and put in drought resistant plants before the city’s funding ran out. We pass the Little Bar, on La Brea, where I spent many nights answering various questions of the various in hopes of getting a free bar tab. I was glad to see its familiar face.

A break west showed the progress being made on the Purple Line Station on Wilshire and La Brea which was where I once rented movies from a now closed and demolished Blockbuster. This extension has several years before it connects downtown Los Angeles to UCLA and onward to the ocean.


Wilshire Blvd

Walking into the wind that blows east from the Pacific we decided to make first pit stop at the neighborhood favorite Milk Jar Cookies. The place was packed and pretty cleaned out, only crumbs and a few cookies left on beautiful cake plates. We waited until new batches were made and then it was onward down Wilshire hopping over the tar that bubbles up on the sidewalk by the park that contains the La Brea tar pits. On our way there I learned that the park on 8th where I used to sit and write had evicted all its turtle residents. The pond had become so full of unwanted turtle pets from people abandoning them there.

At LACMA we take a break from our walk to take pictures of Chris Burden’s Urban Light, one of the most instagrammed places in Los Angeles Much of Sidewalking is dedicated to Ulin’s conversations with LACMA’s director and the idea of the neighborhood as a catalyst for a connected future city. A trolley was proposed running up and down Fairfax connecting Museum Row to the Grove. Another Purple Line Subway station is in the works where the Architecture and Design (A+D) used to be on Wilshire and Spaulding.


Urban Light, Chris Burden

We walk through the museums BP entrance and pose under Micheal Hezier’s Levitated Mass, which I along with thousands of Angelenos watched pass through the city stopping traffic and inspired block (rock?) parties in 2012. I thought that it would look more like it was floating mid-air than a rock covering a tunnel.

Our second pit stop was at the Farmer’s Market for a beer and a pastry at Short Order not knowing that it would close for good the next day. Not even a peep from the workers there. The middle bar of the Farmer’s Market used to be a favorite and I see that it got a facelift and now has a mile long craft beer list.

A tipsy walk through Park La Brea cut out trip back in half. We learned that there is a serious food fight problem there.


Do not disturb, busy making the world better/Do not throw Lasagna

In the end it was great to give a sense of place to this book. I wonder if I pick it up in 2, 5, or 10 years if any of what is written about will still be here.

[Getting here: 20/720, 28/728, 212, 217, 780, 16/316]


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