Planes, buses, and automobiles
Hey Chris, loving the work. If you want to get more shell-shocked by tech one day, ask ChatGPT to write a travel article in the style of Chris Arnade. I did it with my name (former traveling magazine writer) and it spat out a completely passable article in a voice resembling mine in 12 seconds. Yeesh
If you want actually good tacos, Yuca's on Hillhurst in Los Feliz is THE place.
Im so very moved by your writing! I went down the rabbit hole and watched the interview you had on c-span it brought me to tears! I’ve been obsessed, well I guess that’s not the right word... overly concerned with the homeless since I was a little girl. Very worried. Wanting to help but not knowing where to start. I also grew up in a town of 2,000 people and we didn’t have homeless there. Anytime I ventured out of my tiny town usually the 6 hours to Portland OR I might see the homeless person and wonder why... And wonder how can I help! Thank you for your beautiful and inspiring gift of writing and walking. 🙏🏼💗🙏🏼
Really enjoyed this one from you, Chris. Over the past many years I've made more time to come down and just see more of LA as it is, rather than bringing the very common baggage of what some part of my mind wishes it were, and that has made all the difference. It is a wondrous, strange, and sublime place — with the last word having both positive and negative connotations to me (like the place!)
One thing I'll share for myself: I love walking cities (though not the itinerant walker you are) but also found biking around LA to be of a different rhythm in a good way than most other cities.
When I came to LA a few years ago, I dedicated 2 weeks to such on-bike exploration, and found that the sheer expansiveness of LA makes the variation one sees on a bike sort of start to approach the variation that one sees walking the same amount of time around a much more compact city.
A lot of what you wrote here (and part 1) really hit on what of LA I've found folks from here get at a gut level, and which comes out over time in drips and drabs of conversation, but your words are among the better I've seen in concisely expressing this very odd, big place.
Thanks for writing and sharing this, Chris.
My grandmother came from Korea, and her American name is also Maria. It makes sense when you owned and ran a small market in South LA like she did. She speaks Korean and Spanish. Her English isn’t as good because she didn’t need it.
When you first mentioned hedges, I thought you were talking about privacy hedges, which I wanted to point out are also popular because in a lot of places in LA you can’t build a fence taller than 6’ because of code. But when I then saw your photos of the shaped hedges, I knew exactly what you were talking about.
Lastly, I lived in NY for a few years, and one of the things I found shocking when I moved there from California was that I couldn’t find a decent cheap donut. Even further out in Queens, the closest thing was a pastry at a bodega or from a cart, which wasn’t the same. Nothing like a donut shop where you can get a few in a pink box.
Anyways, thanks again. I look forward to reading more from you.
for what it's worth, i plugged your question about hedges into GPT-4 (the new, much more powerful model) -- similar answer but presented with more detail. the nested lists are where i nudged it to continue its answer after it stopped mid-sentence.
Los Angeles is known for its shaped hedges, which can be attributed to a combination of historical, social, and environmental factors. Some of the key reasons include:
Spanish influence: Los Angeles was founded by Spanish settlers in 1781, and their architectural and landscaping styles had a significant impact on the city. The tradition of shaping hedges can be traced back to Spanish and Mediterranean gardens, which featured carefully manicured plants and shrubs.
Hollywood glamour: In the early 20th century, Los Angeles became the center of the American film industry. The city's wealthy residents and film stars sought to showcase their status and wealth through their homes and gardens. Shaped hedges became a popular way to create lavish landscapes that exuded glamour and sophistication.
Mild climate: Southern California's Mediterranean climate is well-suited for a wide variety of plants, including hedges. The mild temperatures and ample sunshine provide ideal growing conditions for shrubs, making it easier to maintain and shape them.
Influence of landscape architects: Several prominent landscape architects, such as Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. and Florence Yoch, worked in Los Angeles during the early 20th century. Their designs often featured shaped hedges, which helped to popularize the trend throughout the city.
Privacy concerns: As Los Angeles grew in population and density, residents sought ways to maintain privacy in their homes and gardens. Shaped hedges provided a visually appealing solution to this problem, offering both privacy and aesthetic value.
Ongoing trend: Over the years, shaped hedges have become a recognizable feature of Los Angeles landscaping. The practice has been passed down through generations,and has evolved into a distinctive aspect of the city's identity. As new residents arrive and existing homeowners update their landscapes, the trend continues to thrive for several reasons:
Status symbol: Shaped hedges have long been associated with wealth and status, and this perception persists today. Maintaining these hedges requires significant time, effort, and financial resources, which further reinforces their association with affluence.
Diverse plant palette: Los Angeles is home to a wide variety of plant species, both native and imported, which provide a diverse palette for creating unique and visually appealing shaped hedges. This allows landscape designers and homeowners to experiment with different styles and forms, adding to the city's eclectic aesthetic.
Artistic expression: Shaped hedges offer an opportunity for artistic expression and creativity, which resonates with Los Angeles' thriving arts and culture scene. Homeowners and landscape designers can use topiary techniques to create intricate designs, ranging from geometric shapes to detailed animal figures.
Urban greenery: As urbanization continues to expand and green spaces become more valuable, shaped hedges offer a way to incorporate greenery into the cityscape. They can serve as living sculptures, providing both beauty and environmental benefits, such as improved air quality and natural cooling.
Overall, the historical reasons for the prevalence of shaped hedges in Los Angeles have evolved and expanded over time, becoming an integral part of the city's landscape and cultural identity. This enduring trend reflects the region's climate, history, and social values, as well as the ongoing desire for beauty, privacy, and artistic expression in the urban environment. Some additional factors contributing to the popularity of shaped hedges in Los Angeles include:
Preservation of tradition: The history of shaped hedges in Los Angeles has fostered a sense of tradition and pride among residents. As a result, many homeowners and landscape designers continue to incorporate this distinctive element in their gardens and landscapes to pay homage to the city's past.
Landscape design education: Several local institutions, such as the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), and the University of Southern California (USC), offer landscape design programs that teach students the art and science of maintaining and creating shaped hedges. This helps to perpetuate the practice and ensure that future generations of landscape designers have the skills to continue this Los Angeles tradition.
Influence of media and pop culture: Los Angeles is a global center for entertainment and media, and shaped hedges have often been featured in films, television shows, and other media. This exposure has helped to popularize the practice beyond the city, inspiring homeowners and designers around the world to incorporate shaped hedges into their landscapes.
Tourism: As a popular tourist destination, Los Angeles attracts millions of visitors each year. The city's unique and well-maintained shaped hedges contribute to the overall appeal and visual experience, enhancing the city's reputation as a place with distinctive and beautiful landscaping.
In conclusion, the historical reasons for the abundance of shaped hedges in Los Angeles are multifaceted and deeply rooted in the city's culture, history, and environment. Over time, these factors have combined to create a unique and enduring landscape feature that is synonymous with Los Angeles and continues
The BBC ran an interesting story a while back on why all the Doughnut stores are run by Cambodians. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/stories-54546427
This love letter to the favourite city we’ve ever lived in just shows what an extraordinary range of appeals it has.
I’m afraid we were those people that drove pretty much everywhere (when we weren’t hiking in one of the many wilderness areas that also mark this place out as special and in mitigation we did live several miles up a canyon, without any form of public transportation)!
Nevertheless we really did feel we got under the skin of this heteropolis by making the most of the panoply of cultural and food experiences it has to offer. Like Chinese food? Don’t feel confined to the usual quartet of Taiwanese, Mandarin, Cantonese and Szechuan eateries. You can just as easily find Uighur, Hakka, Shanghai or Hunan dishes or pick up the appropriate ingredients to make them yourself at home. Feel like a Chinese, Filipino or Vietnamese massage after you’ve eaten in the appropriate restaurant? Chances are there’ll be a place a few doors down in the same strip mall. Have a hankering for some Hindustani ice cream while you’re sari shopping in Westminster? Chances are there’ll be a Kulfi vendor nearby. Want to peruse the latest Manga comics, Japanese Goth Fashion or browse for a Bonsai tree after a bowl of steaming Ramen or an eye wateringly expensive Kaiseki dinner? You’ll find them all on Sawtelle in West LA....and so on and so forth.
Just returning from LA by rail. Union Station alone worth a trip. I loved the variety of nations in LA: Korea, Peru, Argentina- that’s just drivers I met using LYFT. You mention no homelessness; there’s many people in deeper trouble. At least the new Mayor did ; put it at the top of her list. Bicycle and scooter driving is dangerous and common; on side walk and street.
For the existence of poverty and wealth coexisting, LA deserves attention but not praise.
El Tacontento is such a great name!
I am going to be subscription poor. Is there a way to contribute once in a while by Venmo or something? Currently considering stopping some subscriptions that I don't read much.
Loved this piece, as usual with yours. I’d be interested in learning more about your process of writing these, capturing photos, notes, etc. Kind of a meta interest thank your usual posts but I’m curious. I imagine it varies, maybe you already have an angle before visiting or you end up scrapping it and improvising the entire post.
Oh, and speaking of crazy cities to walk in (15-20 k per day) have just done Kuala Lumpur, Manila & Addis Ababa....make LA seem pretty easy 😂
I lived in L.A. a good part of my life and just learned things I never considered.
First time reading your work, Chris! As a lifelong Angeleno, I think you really nailed the vibe. I loved everything about this piece, from the stuff with Maria, to the observations about hedges, desert light, and the bus system. I have a car, but I try to get around without it when I can (easier said than done when you live in the valley). You’re right, at it’s most granular LA reveals so much about itself. What’s wild, to me anyway, is how so many locals, especially the wealthiest and most prominent residents of LA, ever see the granular side. I hope they get out of their cars and walk, but failing that, I hope they read your work! Thanks for this one!
Perhaps because I'm an American or a West coast guy, but I just can't imagine exploring LA. I lived there once for eighteen months and just hated it. Too hot, too sunny, and too too many cars.
But Maria sounds like a trip.