Tuesday, March 05, 2024

A Little Los Angeles

[Composed 10/29/2023]

A handful of business meetings landed Shira and me some time in the colorful city of Los Angeles. While we didn't really have time to play tourist (next time, tar pits!), we did get a chance to explore downtown and a bit of Griffith Park. What we found in the city itself was a mishmash of contrasts: new construction a few blocks from run-down historic buildings; a diverse collection of architectural themes; a map that promised a mighty Los Angeles River, yet bridges that spanned a trickling spillway; and feelings of safety that ran the spectrum from family-friendly to "we're absolutely definitely getting mugged here" (spoiler alert: we were not mugged). And then there's the graffiti. Or, do they prefer to call it street art?

Either way, I kept raving to Shira about how impressive it was. Every surface seemed to be covered in colorful, detailed creations. Like, seriously, when you stop and think about it: how does one go about creating on an 8 x 12 foot canvas that's situated along the side of a freeway or positioned far out of reach? Factor in that the artist only had the resources he or she could fit into a backpack and the clock of discovery always ticking and it becomes all the more impressive. We stepped into The Broad for a proper art experience one evening, and it was nice and all. But I'd argue that with little effort you could find examples in the neighborhood that were superior.

Shira was not as taken by the graffiti scene. Where I saw renegade artistic genius, she saw the destruction of public property. As this article underscores, local street artists would be the first to agree that not all paint on a wall should be considered street art.

We were fortunate to get some nature time in Griffith Park. We started our walk at the base of the park and hiked up to the observatory. As our luck would have it, the observatory opened shortly after we arrived, so we got to see glimpses of the telescope as well as the exhibits within. I found the whole thing quite impressive. We even caught a Tesla Coil demonstration, which naturally I found, well, electrifying.

After touring the museum, we perused a number of trails in the area and took in the sights of downtown LA from a wide-angle vantage point. Between the trails, views, working observatory, historic architecture and free-to-enter world class astrononmy musuem, Griffith Park has to be among the nicest city parks we've ever visited.

We had a number of fine meals during our stay, including one from Green Leaves Vegan and one from Tulsi Indian Eatery, but the clear winner from a culinary perspective was Donut Friend. On impulse, we stepped in and ordered some fancy donuts and ice cream. It was delicious. And then we realized it was all plant based, or as they call it secretly vegan (OK, it's not really a secret). We returned multiple times, including before heading to LAX to pick up donuts for the road. Nothing eases the hassle of waiting around in an airport like yummy donuts. We worried that TSA might confiscate some of the cream-filled creations, but they let them through without incident.

Thinking of iconic cities we've visited: NY, Boston, Philly, Chicago I find myself wondering if LA really is as unique as it seemed in the moment. Was the graffiti really that much more extravagant? The architecture that much more varied? The vegan options that much more plentiful? Maybe. Or maybe LA was just great at delivering that feeling. Either way, it was a great place to visit and I'd relish the chance to explore the city further.

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