10 Things To Know About Downtown LA
Today marks the one-month anniversary of my love affair with Los Angeles. Just thirty-five days ago I was sitting in Orlando bored out of my skull, waiting for this new great adventure to begin. [Note: Orlando is not a boring city necessarily. It’s just that I had become complacent after nearly spending my entire life there.]
Since my boyfriend Cory and I moved into the downtown LA area, a place no one lived just a few years ago due to its scuzziness, each day has become quite an adventure. From a fire hydrant explosion to an undercover cop pulling out a gun in the middle of the street, living in the city provides plenty of entertainment. Here are a few things I learned just this month.
10 Things To Know About Downtown LA
1. Ding Dongs are the new cupcakes. [Insert perverted joke here. You know you want to]. But really, if you haven’t eaten a homemade Ding Dong I feel sorry for you. [Insert more jokes here, just because you can]. For those who don’t know what a ding dong is it’s a chocolate cake covered in a hard, chocolate shell with tasty whipped icing in the middle, and it’s so delicious I bet Little Debbie creamed her pants at the sight of it. I promise once you try a Ding Dong, you’ll wonder how you lived without it. [Note: Someone in Orlando, jump on this trend now.]
2. Dinners are not as expensive as you might think. The biggest difference between Orlando and LA dining is that you leave the LA dining experience feeling satisfied, both in your belly and by your wallet. Cory and I were always spending $60-80 on dinners in Orlando and leaving like, “Eh.” Here, you may pay the same amount of money when the tab comes but leave happy and feeling like it was totally worth it. Here are a couple restaurants we love already: Bottega Louie, Mas Malo, The Gorbals, LA Café (mainly because they delivery to our doorstep at anytime, even at 4 in the morning, not that we’re ever up that late but in the rare case we were, the LA Cafe has our back).
3. Cops are not afraid to use their guns in the city. Leaving the Walgreens on 7th street the other day, I couldn’t help but notice a younger Asian guy and elderly African-American woman across the street fighting over a bag. Unsure what to do, people at the crosswalk began to shout, “Stop!” and “Don’t do that!” Stunned that a scene like that actually existed, I sat there motionless with my mouth wide open and starred like the tourist I was. That kind of shit just doesn’t happen in Orlando. But before I could register what was happening, an undercover cop—a woman who was a badass I must say—jumped out of her unmarked car (that just happened to be stopped at the red light) and screamed, “FREEZE!”
She was lunging over the door and pointing a gun at both parties. The Asian guy raised his hands, like any sane person would do when a gun is pointed at him/her. The African-American woman did not. Instead she slowly put the bag down on the ground, looked to her right and then to her left, and then scuttled around the corner in an attempt to flee. She was quickly taken down by two other officers that arrived on the scene, which had me thinking, “Wow, even the take downs here are like watching the movies.”
As it turned out, the Asian man was an employee at Rite Aid and was trying to retrieve what was unrightfully taken from the store. He wasn’t stealing the woman’s purse, which most people—like myself—had originally thought. He was protecting his corporate business. Good for him. He must love his job.
No one was shot that day. But two weeks later, a block down the street and in the jewelry district, another under cover cop shot a different robber in the butt while his other two friends got away in a Cadillac. The getaway vehicle was found just blocks away with flat tires… from bullets.
4. There are always sirens blazing in the streets. If someone is not pulling out guns, or robbing jewelry stores, others are causing messes, like the woman who was training to be a bus driver. On the first day of the job, she sadly took the corner of Los Angeles and 5th too quickly and ran over the adjacent fire hydrant. Consequently, we had the opportunity to witness a city geyser, where water spouted out of the concrete and up eight stories high into the air.
It took firefighters and the water works truck about fifteen minutes to arrive and solve the problem. But it made for good impromptu entertainment. There were no sirens necessary, but still the sound of screaming horns blazed on down throughout the streets, like they do every single night. I can’t even imagine what happens after we go to bed. Fortunately, the sirens have become like a white noise machine for us.
5. The weather in downtown LA is perfect each day. In the mornings, since LA is so large and suffers from urban sprawl the weather is shown on the news in seven parts—Coast, Metro LA & Inland Orange County, Vallies, Inland Empire, Mountains, High Desert, Low Desert (and yes, it means they show seven different weekly forecast each time the weather report is announced). Thankfully, where we live (Metro LA) it’s 75 and sunny every day, literally. It hasn’t rained once, not even a drizzle. I am in heaven.
6. The diversity downtown is thriving. Without a doubt, there is someone walking the streets of downtown LA right now that is [creepier, fatter, skinnier, hairier, taller, weirder, just add any adjective here] than you. We once saw a homeless woman who thought she was Betty Boop and flashed her ass every three steps she took. We’ve also seen nine blocks of characters roaming the daily flea market on Maple Street. If you ever worry about fitting in, there is a place or street in LA for you. In fact, you can bring a tent and camp on the end of Spring Street with the other nightly campers.
7. Gone are the days of Escalades and Chihuahuas, small cars and big dogs are what’s in style now. I assume Californians use smart cars and eco-friendly cars now that gas is almost $5 a gallon, which is also convienent considering parking can be difficult for larger vehicles unless you’re willing to whip out $5 for a spot in a torn up parking lot.
I also noticed people don’t tote their animals in their arms like a football here. They can’t. Every person downtown is donning a big dog. In fact, Riley is one of three St. Bernard’s that lives downtown. Crazy, huh? And we were fighting to keep her in our condo in Orlando. Please. Other dogs seen regularly on walks are Great Danes, Dalmatians, Labradoodles and large mutt mixes. The only sad thing is there isn’t much grass in the city. So the animals often wear booties and are spotted peeing and pooping on concrete. Ick.
8. There is such a thing as community. I’ve discovered that downtown LA reminds me a lot of Orlando in the way it craves community. In Orlando, the people are incredibly creative and have presence but the gripe is the city’s lack of architecture and culture. In LA, you have all the culture and design with the pop up art galleries in beautiful historic buildings. The city just needs more people to appreciate it. Not many people are brave enough to move down here yet. Although it should be noted, the people that have committed to city living are incredibly nice and supportive of one another.
9. You must be friends with people in your same zip code. Traffic on the highways can be a bitch, especially when you don’t know where you’re going. Another problem is streets are not marked well. It’s super easy to miss an exit or end up on a highway you don’t want to be on. Not to mention that California has carpool lanes and meters to merge and when asking for directions, the response often sounds like a locker combination: “Oh, take the 710 North, to the 405, to the 110 to 6th… oh wait you want to go to Santa Monica? Take the 5th, to 10 west or 5 back to the 405.” Say what?
If you want to make new friends, I suggest take extra rides in your building elevator. At the very least, you’ll learn the scoop about your alcoholic neighbors.
10. You never know whom you’re going to see in LA, so always be prepared. When I didn’t live in LA I was obsessed with running into famous people. Now that I’m here, I rarely think about it until Cory points someone out to me. Often, without Cory’s help I would never have noticed we were sitting/standing/driving by a celebrity.
Thankfully he has a photographic memory and crazy talent for finding famous people. So let me dazzle you with all the famous people I’ve seen in the past month. [Warning: it’s an underwhelming list. But still legit for someone from Florida who is used to seeing boy band members.] I’ve seen Conan O’Brien and Andy Richter having lunch at Lucques. Brigitte Nielsen (sans Flavor Flav) at Lowe’s. Mai Whitman from Parenthood at Ikea. Al Pacino filming in the street by the bar, Villain’s. The tall, goofy guy from Veep at Barnsdall Art Park wine tasting. Jason Ritter at the Silver Lake Jubilee. Ragan Fox from Big Brother 12 at the dog park and the restaurant TOI (which is kind of cheating because he’s Cory’s friend). And finally, last night at dinner we saw Ilan Hall, winner of Top Chef Season 2, at his restaurant called The Gorbels.
How’s that for some name dropping? I’m already right at home here.