For the original eight, the fountain tour was something of an epiphany. As the Mommas and Papas explored downtown, they realized something: At night, the city opened up to them. They suddenly had free rein on the roads, the freedom to discover L.A. on their own terms. They could pass through the richest and poorest neighborhoods in a single evening.
It wasn’t the compendium of facts in the chapter “Water! Water! Water!” or indeed in the entire book. It was that Carey McWilliams wrote about Southern California with sensibilities my eye, ear, and nose recognized. Along with Chandler he made me feel that he’d not only walked down the same streets and into the same arroyo-he smelled the eucalyptus, heard the humming of high tension wires, saw the same bleeding Madras landscapes-and so a sense of deja vu was underlined by a sense of jamais vu: No writers had ever spoken as strongly to me about my home.
Monterey Park became the first suburb that Chinese people would drive for hours to visit and eat in, for the same reasons earlier generations of immigrants had sought out the nearest urban Chinatown. And the changing population and the wealth they brought with them created new opportunities for all sorts of business people, especially aspiring restaurateurs. The typical Chinese American restaurant made saucy, ostentatiously deep-fried concessions to mainstream appetites, leading to the ever-present rumor that most establishments had “secret menus” meant for more discerning eaters. It might be more accurate to say that most chefs at Chinese restaurants are more versatile than they initially let on—either that or families like mine possess Jedi-level powers of off-the-menu persuasion. But in a place like Monterey Park, the pressure to appeal to non-Chinese appetites disappeared. The concept of “mainstream” no longer held; neck bones and chicken feet and pork bellies and various gelatinous things could pay the bills and then some.
Kogi didn’t take off overnight. After Choi’s friend and Kogi partner (eight people run the company) Mark Manguera came up with the idea of mashing up Korean BBQ and Mexican tacos, the Kogi truck began heaving through the streets of L.A. It was slow going at first, more a curiosity than anything else. But then […]
After Michael Mann set out to direct Collateral, the story’s setting moved from New York to Los Angeles. This decision was in part motivated by the unique visual presence of the city — especially the way it looked at night. Mann shot a majority of the film in HD (this was 2004), feeling the format […]
Mulholland began looking throughout Southern California for an alternative supply of freshwater, but it was Fred Eaton who came up with a solution. On a camping trip to the Sierra in the early 1890s, Eaton had gazed down upon Owens Lake and thought about all the freshwater flowing into it and going to waste. Yes, […]
On riots and race. What has changed, and what’s still bubbling under the surface, 20 years after the riots in South Central Los Angeles: The L.A. Riots (or uprising, civil unrest, or rebellion, depending) are often considered the first ‘multiethnic’ riots. As a pivot point of race and urban relations, they constitute a resonant moment […]