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Saturday, December 29, 2018

The Last Bookstore: 5th & Spring, Downtown Los Angeles

I thought I'd finish out 2018 with a final post featuring The Last Bookstore. 

In January of this year, my wife, teenage kids, and I - along with my in-laws - were in Downtown Los Angeles, to go ice skating and grab dinner.  

We had some time before skating, so my son and I walked over a few blocks from Pershing Square to The Last Bookstore. 

The Last Bookstore is located on the corner of 5th and Spring Streets.

The entrance is located off of 5th Street. 

The bookstore occupies a former bank, and at an incredible 22,000 square feet, is apparently California’s largest book store. 

Incredible selection of vinyl records as you walk in. 

Lots and lots of different categories upstairs. Let's take a look. 

View from the second floor of the main entrance area. 

The Last Bookstores very famous, and very photographed, tunnel of books. 

So cool. 

Another view of the outside. 

Apparently, the tunnel of books is a huge Instagram magnet. Got got started blogging ten years ago using Blogger. Meanwhile, my 19 year old enjoys Instagram, my 16 year old Snapchat. 

People were walking around taking photos. 

More photos. Which is what we were doing, too. But next time I'm back, I'd like to buy a book - or two or three. 

Love this place, but I'm also aware that it only stays in business if people like me actually make a purchase, not just take photos. 

My son, at time a High School Senior, posing for an obligatory Instagram photo. 

The bank's old vault is used to house horror (and I believe crime) themed books. 

The second floor has a small section dedicated to artwork, apparently for sale. 

There are also several small sublet spaces for featuring local art and other niche products. Really great.

Yet another creative use of books.

Another look at the main entrance area.

While I'm generally not a fan of people brining their dogs into stores, it really seems to fit the vibe of Downtown Los Angeles. Plus - and this is important - this is the dog owner's neighborhood, not mine.

Lots of big, comfy chairs.

A final look inside in the main entrance area. I like the way the effect the lighting makes, which was just accidental. 

I came across this outstanding video on The Last Bookstore on Vimeo. 

Worth watching. 

We were pressed for time - I hope to come back sometime soon. 

We walked over to Pershing Square to go ice skating. Here's a link

We didn't make it to Downtown Los Angeles this Christmas break. Too bad. We're tentatively hoping to get down to both the Rose Parade in Pasadena, plus maybe the Huntington Library, and ice skating Downtown the first couple days of January 2020. We'll see if that happens.

The Last Bookstore, Los Angeles, located in the (1914) Spring Arts Tower on the corner of 5th and Spring. Their tag line is "What are you waiting for? We won't be here forever." 

Here's a link to their website.

Happy New Year from Experiencing Los Angeles. 

© 2018


Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Christmas in Los Angeles

Just a few throwback photos on how our family celebrated Christmas during our five years living in Los Angeles:

Nativity Scenes in Santa Monica.  Dating back to 1953, these outdoor nativity scenes were a fixture along Ocean Avenue at the bluffs Palisades Park for 50+ years. After years of legal challenges, they were moved to private property in 2011 and currently located at the corner of 20th and Broadway.

The Salvation Army, Compton. We tried (with varying success) to involve our family in some aspect of service to greater community during the Christmas Season. We appreciate the chance to serve alongside The Salvation Army - which does an outstanding job meeting both the physical and spiritual needs of men, women, and children in the area. 

Downtown on Ice. Every year we went ice skating just before Christmas in downtown Los Angeles at Pershing Square with extended family. If you're in Los Angeles, or just visiting, it's a fun experience. In fact, we had a chance to visit again this past January. 

Back to Bethlehem. For our family, and millions of others around the world, Jesus Christ remains the central focus of Christmas. We so appreciated the annual Back to Bethlehem event sponsored by The Church at Rocky Peak in Chatsworth. Staffed entirely by volunteers, this event had an amazing 30 year run, which - sadly - just ended. A google search should bring up similar events in the Los Angeles area. 

Santa Monica Pier. Finally, I'm including an extended family photo from back in 2004 - when our kids were really little, and before we had even moved to L.A. This was taken at the Santa Monica Pier a few days before Christmas. Say what you will about Los Angeles, the weather is pretty stellar.

Merry Christmas from Experiencing Los Angeles. 

originally posted on 11/24/11
© 2018


Saturday, December 22, 2018

Pershing Square Ice Skating Rink & Grand Central Market - Downtown Los Angeles

Downtown on Ice is a seasonal event sponsored by the Los Angeles Parks and Recreation. My family and I have enjoy this since our kids were very young. This past January we were back in town and took time to enjoy it. 

The rink is located in Downtown Los Angeles' Pershing Square. Apparently, after years of being sponsored and run by the City, this year it's run by Bietak Productions. 

Walking around beforehand, an artist was working on a mural on the northwest corner of Pershing Square. 

We were actually there fairly early and my son, now age 19, and I took time to walk a few block over to explore The Last Bookstore. More on that in a future post. 

By the time we were actually on the ice, it was dark. Which actually made for a more fun experience. Here's a link to the Pershing Square Holiday Ice Skating site. 

Below, my in-laws (minus my niece, studying at Calvin College in the Midwest). They lived a mile northwest of USC for several years. Then five years in Shanghai, China. Now back in greater Los Angeles. 

Above, my wife, kids, and I. 

Below, a couple of throwback photos, when my kids were five and 2 1/2! This while we were still living in Arizona, before our family moved to Los Angeles.

After ice skating, we walked three blocks over to Grand Central Market for dinner. Here's a link to a previous visit on a crowded Sunday afternoon. The evening we visited in early January felt much more manageable. 

Sarita's Salvadorian Food. This is the exact spot were Sebastian and Mia had there first date in the 2016 film La La Land. I've eaten here before. Good experience, but I was looking for Mexican food. 

Fun when it's not crowded, and you can sit on the same stools that Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone sat on. 

Grand Central Market is a 100+ year old food hall, with entrances at both Olive and Broadway. 

My kids have memories of coming here when they were much younger, when it was less "upscale." 

Personally, I like the mix between the older, established places and the newer offerings. 

I ended up getting a huge burrito at Tacos Tumbras a Tomas. 

Here's a link to the Grand Central Market website. 

Merry Christmas from Experiencing LA. 

© 2018  


Saturday, December 1, 2018

Chinatown, Part 2

This time last year I was in Los Angeles, and took some time to explore Chinatown - located  a few blocks north of L.A.'s City Hall. 

The heart of Chinatown is the Central Plaza, opened in 1938. 

According this wikipedia article on Chinatown, "under the efforts of Chinese-American community leader Peter Soo Hoo Sr., the design and operational concepts for a New Chinatown evolved through a collective community process, resulting in a blend of Chinese and American architecture. The Los Angeles Chinatown saw major development, especially as a tourist attraction, throughout the 1930s, with the development of the "Central Plaza," a Hollywoodized version of Shanghai ... Chinatown was designed by Hollywood film set designers, and a "Chinese" movie prop was subsequently donated by film director Cecil B. DeMille."

Here's a link from my last post, with some additional photos and thoughts on the historical Central Plaza. 

Outside the Central Plaza, there's a lot more to Chinatown, including this relatively new apartment complex off of Broadway.

Most of Chinatown run along North Broadway, on the northern edge of Downtown Los Angeles. With it's long row of one and two story buildings, in so many ways, this could be almost anywhere in Los Angeles

Saigon Plaza. Unlike the historic Central Plaza, this is place is TEEMING with people!

It felt like swap-meet on steroids. 

Apparently, Saigon Plaza is three stories - and is one of four informally connected shopping areas. Here's an interesting 2017 article from Los Angeles Times highlighting both the history and challenges these indoor swap meets are currently facing. 

I'm not sure where the main entrance was (if there was one). I just sort of wandered in off the street. 

I like what one Yelp reviewer wrote: "It's like shopping in Asia, so be prepared to be bumped, jostled,  elbowed, and prodded. They're not concerned with personal space, because space is at a premium. Deal with it. Many Asian vendors (everywhere) are cash only, so be prepared with cash. Also, psyche yourself up to do a bit of haggling, but, you're still gonna lose."

I generally OK with crowds - but as the aisles continued to get more and more narrow, I decided to turn around. This place was crazy. I'd like to come back a bit more prepared, and with friends. How I did I live in Los Angeles for so many years and never know this even existed?

Back outside next to the street, vendors were selling fresh vegetables. 

Back out on North Broadway, a pick up truck was parked out on the street, with a vendor selling grapes and oranges. This is the kind of thing that drew men and women to Southern California 100+ years ago. And - at least in terms of climate - still continues to do so. 

By the way, up until 1954 Los Angeles' County Seal was a cluster of grapes. Orange County's Seal still proudly features - of course - oranges.

The City of Los Angeles' layers of bureaucratic red tape seem to regulate almost every aspect of life. Personally, I find it refreshing that someone can just set up shop on the side of road, and sell fresh fruit off the back of their truck. Rather than cranking down on stuff like this, how about the city make it easier for the brick and mortar establishments to thrive and succeed?

The businesses along North Broadway are pretty much what you'd find along most business districts around the city - however, with a distinctly Chinese flair. This is a pharmacy.

A couple of old ladies selling fruit on the side of the road. Maybe not as appealing as the guy selling grapes and oranges off the back of his truck, but they're just trying to make a buck.

I popped into white looked and felt like a grocery store. Most everything felt foreign to me. And, of course, familiar to residents in the neighborhood.

Pots and pans right out front.

More street vendors. I like the rainbow umbrellas.

T-shirts starting a 99 cents. People often complain how expensive Los Angeles is. Guess it depends where you shop, right? 

Hat, hats, and more hats.

Looks like the kind of stuff you stick in your yard.

Artificial flowers. Apparently, something is on sale for $19. No idea what.

More fruits, more vegetables. Love it! It seems like one of the easiest things Los Angeles could do to encourage more street life, especially along major thoroughfares, is more street level businesses, and making it easier for shops to display and sell their merchandise right on the street. 

Across the street, some new apartments buildings, with - awesome - some street level businesses. 

The twin dragons at the entrance to Chinatown. This is near the corner of North Broadway and East Cesar Chavez Avenue (Cesar Chavez becomes Sunset Boulevard a couple of blocks to the west). 

A final view of North Broadway, with a construction crane and Los Angeles' City Hall in the distance. 

© 2018