Friends often ask what they should see and do in Los Angeles. This is always tough to answer because the city constantly evolves, as do my own tastes, and that doesn't take into account the unique preferences of the asker. Nevertheless, when a family of Austrian friends planned to stop in Los Angeles last summer, I compiled a list of suggestions based on their interests (seeing the beach, experiencing iconic architecture, and viewing landmarks). With a few changes and updates, I thought I'd share it with you.
Did you know that aside from my writing I shoot many of my own photographs? Beginning today, I'm going to resume regularly sharing examples of my photography. Like what you see? Visit my photoshelter page to see more and order prints or digital copies of your favorite shots. And don't forget that you can always support my work here and follow me on Instagram and Twitter.
More than anything else, the expanse below me is familiar, forever within me, whether I want it to be or not. Even the city exploding over the hills and suffocating in the haze is home. Hundreds of miles north, I still feel it, this sense in my blood. Down below, the pure Californianess of it all, the golden hues, the marching oaks and the wrinkled mountains and the blankets of concrete. All of it.
Yesterday, I shared a picture from my portfolio of the Seattle Public Library. I'm still thinking about books today, and I'm often thinking about Los Angeles. So why not share another of my favorite pictures? This time, enjoy a glimpse of the Rotunda at the Los Angeles Central Library. Isn't it interesting that two of my favorite shots in my portfolio are of libraries? Like this image? Though I’m first and foremost a writer, I do shoot pictures when I can. You can see some of my favorite shots and even order prints if you like by visiting my Photoshelter portfolio.
Today brings a bloom of beginnings from a tangle of endings. Perhaps that's not surprising. I suppose beginnings and endings all occupy coterminous space. And as I write, I'm struck by how my own beginnings and my own endings weave around one another and, often, between two places — Los Angeles and Portland.
But I'm writing today to recognize one simple beginning: the redesigned, relaunched version of my website*, upon which, presumably, you're reading these words. I do so hoping to re-introduce the world to my own background as a writer and journalist and as a storyteller, and to re-pique your curiosity about Melville Jacoby, whose adventures, romance and experiences as a journalist in World War II-era China and the Philippines will be the subject of a forthcoming book.
By now, anyone closely following Melville Jacoby's story knows a little bit about Chan Ka Yik. Last week, a few members of my family and I met Chan's daughters for something of a reunion between our two families. As I've already described, that was itself was a lovely experience. But Chan was not Mel's only friend in China, nor was he the only Chinese man Mel met who later moved to the United States. My visit to Palo Alto also stirred up a fantastic coincidence. This is the sort of thing that can provide a completely different glimpse three quarters of a century in the past. Click the link to read about that coincidence, and to hear the fantastic discovery I made as a result of that visit.
More formally known as the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Agency, Metro offers more than buses and trains. It exudes personality, a personality interwoven with this vast community. Many claim Los Angeles has no public transit, but I know otherwise, and this afternoon's ride only cements my opinion. A bus driver stopping randomly alongside the road might not be the model of efficiency, but he embodies the charm of transit in Los Angeles. I've heard of bus drivers who croon Rat Pack hits as they carry passengers to and from their homes; I've watched flirtation blossom to affection on the platforms of the Green Line. I've watched drunken partiers stumble down bus aisles then politely strike conversation with late night commuters. I've even seen gangbangers politely offer their seats to elderly and disabled passengers.
It's becoming clear that the age of the automobile is coming to an end, or, at the very least, changing. Los Angeles, like other cities, loses billions of dollars each year just because of people stuck on the region's tangled roadways. Scholars, politicians, activists and numerous overlapping government agencies each offer often-competing solutions for how to get the region moving. All the while, the solution might begin not with expensive upheavals and construction of vast new transit networks, but instead with better cooperation, education and mobilization of the surprisingly robust transit network that already exists in the metropolis.
In the same moment a wave of familiarity washes over me here alongside the L.A. River. As the street lamps and billboards and taillights fade into the darkness I slip away from the Los Angeles I know, jostled into a new awareness by the thought of the path I am threading through the urban fabric.
I find myself all over the world. Now I am headed toward downtown Portland, Maine aboard the #6 bus, gazing at the B&M Baked Beansfactory standing starkly against the gray skies and grayer waters of the Casco Bay. A moment later I find myself on Portland Oregon'sMAX, where I see a net of concrete and steel and iron bridges crossing the same Willamette River I ride above. Then my thoughts shift and I cross the Rhine, I cross borders and history on the bus from France's Strasbourg to Germany's Kehl to buy Turkish Doner Kebab and American peanut butter. I find myself back in Strasbourg, listening to Tunisians and Moroccans joking in the center of Le Tram, the wide steel tube they ride day and night from the banlieuesof Meinau and Neudorf and Elsau toward the broad Place Kleber at Strasbourg's heart.
Familiar memories vector across my neural network, stitched together to form my life, as has begun to happen here, where I left my car at home, here, in L.A., the supposed Eden of automobiles.