venturing out.

As you know, L.A. is notorious for its congested freeways and frightful traffic. It’s largely due to this traffic, and frankly, the overall careless driving on those freeways, that keeps me in my neighborhood. I park the car on Friday evening after work and, if all goes well, the car remains unused for the duration of the weekend.

Admittedly, I do have more anxiety about driving than most; however, the practice of finding a comfortable neighborhood, and then staying in it, is quite common amongst Angelenos. While the traffic does play a huge role in creating a physical deterrent from venturing out, the diversity of Los Angeles is also equally important. Dotted with distinct cultural pockets, it’s easy to find a place that feels like “you”. A friend of ours who recently visited from China likened our lifestyle to living on an island.

This past weekend however, with another friend in from out of town, we decided explore L.A. for the day.

Our first stop was one of our favorite restaurants for breakfast – Toast in West Hollywood. In the car we chatted about how long it had been since we had been there. A year? Two? It seemed like a long time. When we finally arrived it did seem a bit unfamiliar. The wooden tables were painted black and white and we only recognized a few of the workers. There was no sign of our favorite server who always graciously found a way to seat us at the best people-watching table in his section. We hoped that his absence meant that acting was finally paying the bills or that he had decided to move back to his hometown in the Midwest.

The menu was slightly different and the coffee mugs were smaller, a bit more expensive too.  That said, the food was just as good as we remembered and the two tiny cookies, with the melting chocolate chips, still showed up hugging the sides of our lattes.

After filling up on eggs, fried potatoes and caffeine, we headed off through the city to check out the “hot spots” that we’d heard mention of lately. Nothing seemed interesting enough to warrant the long process of finding parking to explore on foot, so we decided to delve further into the eastside – to the Fashion District downtown.  None of us had ever seen it.

As we followed the directional signs, we were actually quite surprised by the transition that took place.  It felt as if we had left one city and had entered another.  Abandoned buildings loomed over countless vendor stalls bustling with shoppers that perused bright colored dresses and sparkling fabrics.  Tiny worn out trucks (the original food trucks before the trend!) lined the street selling hot dogs, fresh fruit and ice cream.  I snapped a few photos and we moved on, continuing our tour.

We elected to take the scenic route of Sunset Boulevard back to the beach.  Directly out of downtown, that took us through Echo Park and Silverlake.  As we entered Echo Park, Clinton was reminded that a good friend had just moved to the area.  After sending her a quick text message we had made a plan to meet her at a Café Stella in the Sunset Junction shopping district of Silverlake.  For the second time that day I felt as if we’d stumbled into a different city.  The fashions and hairstyles were different, the vibe: hip and edgy.  We had a leisurely drink at the Café Stella bar, bloody marys and white wine, and caught up with our friend who was ecstatic to “see us in her neighborhood.”  An hour or so later we said our good-byes and agreed to see each other soon . . . maybe in our neck of the woods.

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