created by john shannon


Where to take an out-of-town friend for a nice weekend day.

Tour 1: Angel's Flight: the Big City Experience.

This is Jack's favorite. Start in late morning by parking free on a side street northeast of the Wilshire-Western area and then ride the Red Line in to Pershing Square station. Take the north exit, marked To Grand Central or To Angel's Flight. Come out and glance south at the wonderful trompe l'oeil windows on the big building across 4th. Then stroll right through Grand Central Market to Broadway. Spend a while strolling up and down Broadway and imagine you are in a barrio of Mexico City. Check out the magnificent Bradbury Building at Fifth. Return to Grand Central, and find the pupusa stand in the middle of the hall for a light lunch. They make some of the best pupusas in L.A., and don't forget to use the spicy cabbage sauce. Then, if Angel's Flight is up and running again, ride it to the top of Bunker Hill. It faces the west exit of the market. If not, walk up and turn right along the long reflecting pool to MOCA. Take in a show. When you are tired of art and sight-seeing, walk two blocks west and then two blocks south on Flower to the Bonaventure Hotel. Ride the elevator up the red tower to the rotating bar and sit there with a nice drink while all of downtown passes beneath you. Try to ignore the great embarrassing hulk of the Belmont Learning Center, which has cost us hundreds of millions of dollars of waste. If you are up for a bizarre supper experience after all this and the weather is okay, stroll another block south to the Central Library. Adjacent, on the grass, is Café Pinot. It's not cheap, but eating out on their patio after dark, in your own small grassy park surrounded by huge lit-up skyscrapers, is as strange a big-city L.A. experience as you can get.

2. Jack's Hometown Tour: San Pedro and the Peninsula

There are a lot of hyper obvious "sights" in town, and I'll only mention these--the Maritime Museum in the former Ferry Building, the John Olguin Marine Museum at Cabrillo Beach, the hideous and decaying Ports o' Call tourist trap--and why did a New England fishing village drop from outer space onto the wharf right here, bringing lots of bric-a-brac shops with it?

Now for the real stuff, that mostly only locals know. Start by taking the graceful Vincent Thomas Bridge over to Terminal Island, then make your way south to the decaying fish harbor, once a bustling center of Tuna canneries, in fact the place where the process of making tuna edible and attractive to Americans was invented in the early 20th century. Some of the buildings remain, but nothing at all remains of the village of 3,000 Japanese who lived just north of the big square bay on Wharf Street and were moved out to be "relocated" to Manzanar in the Eastern Sierra in 1942. The fishing boats moved to San Pedro Slip (see later) after the war and all the canneries went to low-wage Pacific Rim sites like American Samoa. Now, the surprise, continue south on Seaside at the west of the square bay, toward the federal prison (yes, Al Capone and Charlie Manson were both held here at times). On your left you'll see a Torii gate, plus a sculpture to honor the Japanese fishermen. Get out, climb the plinth and look back at Fish Harbor through the etched glass memorials with scenes of what it used to look like. One of the nicest memorials to what is now gone that I can think of.

Come back across the bridge (free both ways now), and come south on Harbor Boulevard, then at the ferry building jog to your left and head down Sampson Way (past the unmentionable Ports o' Call) to the top end of San Pedro Slip where you see all the fishing boats. You can sit outside at Utro's here and have a beer and watch the boats and then stroll alongside and watch net mending. Note that many of the old tuna clippers have huge lights affixed on their sides now. The tuna business has been long destroyed by Japanese long-line fishing, but some of the boats have turned to squidding. Shining the lights down to draw squid up at night and then running their purse seine nets around them. Only a tiny fraction of the old tuna business, but most of the captains are still Croatian and Italian. Crews are often Peruvian now.

Wend back to 6th street (at the Ferry Building). Nearby (on 5th) is a plaque on a big stone marking where Upton Sinclair got himself arrested in 1923 reading the Bill of Rights on Liberty Hill to support a maritime strike. Not much to see as even the hill is gone, along with much of the old downtown, crushed by urban renewal. Drive up sixth to see the old Warners movie house and the shopping arcade across the street, and the rest of the old town remaining, plus Williams, one of the oldest bookstores west of Boston. If you are going to eat, this is the place to do it along here. Suit yourself. Just south of here, there are many Victorian houses and even older ones, but nothing so stunning to be worth a trip.

Then head south (left) on Gaffey Street. Stay on until it dead-ends at Point Fermin. If you look over the railing at the cliffs to the left of the old lighthouse you will see what is known locally as "Sunken City," a bunch of roads that started subsiding down the cliffs in the 1920s and just never stopped. Along here Jack Nicholson watched the illegal dumping of water in Chinatown. There is another storied old bar here across the street, if you're thirsty.

Drive west along Paseo Del Mar until you reach White Point.  Either drive or walk down the cliff to some of the greatest tidepools in the world, if the tide is low.  Also, further west are the ruins of patios and some palms planted early in the last century by the Japanese for a resort hotel called Royal Palms centered on some hot springs.  The earthquake of 1938 killed the hot springs, and the war did the rest.  Just past White Point is the bottom end of Western Avenue.  Take Western north to 9th street. Just to the left on 9th is a road up the hill to Friendship Park where you have stunning views of the area. Come back down 9th to Dodson. Turn right to where you hit Averill Park and stop. This is the finest small urban park in the United States, and well worth a stroll. There is a waterfall at this top end, and a series of ponds with weirs, a bridge, with wonderfully rusticated cement log railings, islands, hills, ducks, etc, all thanks to the WPA and the Depression.

If you're a real hiker, you can take Palos Verdes Drive around the entire peninsula to Lunada Bay and Rocky Point. Paths down the cliff here will take you to the rusting remains of the Greek freighter Dominator that went aground and then broke up when I was in high school (i.e., long ago.) On the way, it may be worth while to stop at Wayfarer's Chapel, a lovely little semi-open-air church built by Lloyd Wright, the son. Jayne Mansfield and many others were wed here.

3. East L.A.: Habla Ingles?

Coming soon . . .

4. Duh Valley: Duh, There Must be Something Here.

Coming soon . . .

5. The Orange Curtain: Skip Disneyland for Little Saigon.

Coming soon . . .

Copyright © John Shannon 2015. All rights reserved.