I live in an area just outside of Washington DC, that has been under constant redevelopment for what feels like an eternity (but seriously has been about ten years now). I frequently visit my sister in San Diego, and in her neighborhood construction cranes have also become a regular fixture. On a recent visit, we decided to go to L.A for the weekend. It had been many years since I had last been there, and I wanted to see places that always got left off the list on my trips, usually due to time constraints.
Even though my social media feeds had seemed inundated with content about the hot new places in L.A. (I’m looking at you, Goop), one of the first things I noticed as we drove around was the minimal amount of construction projects. Downtown L.A. notwithstanding, the sky was filled with palms trees, not cranes. Between our trips to Griffith Park, The California Science Center to see the space shuttle Endeavor, The Grove and Farmers Market, and the L.A. County Museum of Art, I enjoyed driving around and looking at all the old apartment complexes, restaurants, stores, and other buildings.
Now, I don’t mean “old” as a slight, but rather an appreciation. I feel that lately, my attention on travel media has been drawn to either what is shiny and new, or else designated historic. And maybe it’s because where I live is similarly sleek and modern or else a national treasure, but it’s refreshing to see a neighborhood that, frankly, has some personality.
The places we passed looked like they had stories to tell. We ate in a restaurant that had been around for eighty years. The food wasn’t that great, but I enjoyed drinking my coffee and wondering who else had sat in my booth, newly arrived in Hollywood and hoping for their big break. Or maybe, twenty years later, with dashed dreams but still drinking their coffee and debating if they should give it one more chance. So many apartment complexes had that 1970’s vibe, and having just seen a documentary on The Eagles, I couldn’t help but wonder which was the basement apartment where they were inspired to write “Hotel California.”
I know that economically it makes sense for a city to be new and modern, or else to promote its historical value. But I believe I’ve developed a nostalgia for the unremarkable, for the urban landscape that gives context to how people lived their lives at a moment in time. Los Angeles is a town that contains so many stories and dreamers. I suppose that as long as people like me keep sitting in old booths and wondering how many writers developed their screenplays in that spot, there is no need to knock anything down and redevelop.