I am about to fly back to New York from Los Angeles. I lived in LA in the late 90’s, early 00’s, and it is a city that many people around the country love to hate. I’d get on a public bus in Seattle and strike up a conversation with the driver, and then mention Los Angeles, and it was like I’d pushed the venom button in the back of his neck. Los Angeles does have its drawbacks: the traffic, the sense of alienation that results from driving everywhere in mental thought bubbles, the Hollywood narcissism (“I’m a writer.” “Oh, what studio do you work for?”). But there are joys to be found too. Here are 5 recommendations.

The Museum of Jurassic Technology on Venice Boulevard in Culver City. This is a great, small, one-of-a-kind museum with a great exhibit on superstition, complete with dioramas and poetic explanations. Afterwards you can eat great Cuban food at Versailles.
Beyond Baroque Literary Arts Center on Venice Boulevard in Venice, half a mile from the ocean. Since 1968, Beyond Baroque has hosted readings and workshops, (the punk band X formed in one), and a few years back added a press and literary magazine, the new issue entitled Truth Etc. (edited by Fred Dewey just came out. Before or after a reading at Beyond Baroque, you can wander around the corner to Abbot Kinney and have tea at Abbot’s Habit. (Abbot Kinney is the guy who made the Venice Canals, in Venice California—also worth visiting.)
Sawtelle Boulevard, just north of Olympic. This is a great, little strip of (mostly) Japanese food and culture. Check out Giant Robot for toys, books and comics from Japan. Have udon at one of the noodle shops, or Japanese pasta at Hurry Curry. Go to Pinkberry afterwards for some of the yummiest yogurt ever.
Go to Koreatown, which I believe is one of the largest Korean neighborhoods outside of Korea. Go to Soot Bull Jeep on 8th Street for no-frills Korean barbecue, or if you’re feeling more upscale, check our Woo Lee Oak. And if you really want to indulge, go to Beverly Hot Springs that taps into a natural hot spring and features body scrubs with seaweed.
Get out of town and revel in some of the region's overpowering nature. Drive 2 hours west and spend a day hiking in Joshua Tree: (imagine the desert and the moon made love and a child.) Or drive up the windy, cliff-hugging Highway One to Big Sur, and lose yourself in redwoods.

Originally Published: March 23rd, 2007

Jeffrey McDaniel is the author of five books of poetry, most recently Chapel of Inadvertent Joy (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2013). Other books include The Endarkenment (Pittsburgh, 2008), The Splinter Factory (Manic D, 2002), The Forgiveness Parade (Manic D Press, 1998), and Alibi School (Manic D, 1995). His poems have...

  1. March 31, 2007
     Lynda L.

    Cool! I'm always looking for new places to see in L.A. A fav. book on weird places in L.A. is "L.A. Bizarro" by Anthony R. Lovett and Matt Maranian. A great place I found in this book is the Bob Baker Marionette theatre located at 1345 W. First St. (at Glendale Blvd.)I took my little cousins there and they loved it. I loved it too!

  2. April 1, 2007

    Hi Lynda,
    I don't know the Bob Baker Marionette theater. I'll have to check it out.
    For a second I thought you wrote Bob Barker, and I was thinking "wow, that's kind of random".
    Another LA book worth exploring is City of Quartz. He's a quasi-sociologist, and the book explores the sinister side of Los Angeles under the surface.