Remember that episode of Seinfeld where Kramer was moving downtown for a girl and it was like he was moving to another country? It’s very easy to replicate that experience here in LA, which, by its very nature is a tapestry of extremely different neighborhoods, cultures and peoples sewn together. This past Saturday, I did something that I hadn’t done anytime in recent memory. Rather than sit in my domicile and catch up on the dozens of hours of DVR goodness in the comfort of glorious central air, I ventured out into the 100-ish heat we had going on, hopped the lone subway out here and hit Downtown LA, a place I hadn’t gone to kill an afternoon since about two address changes and half a decade ago.
You ever see those great b-roll shots of a glittering LA metropolis dominated by the US Bank Tower (it’s the really tall one that that snake dragon coiled)? Well that’s what it looks like from the air. Down at street level, it ain’t so glittering, except for the costume jewelry dug out of a dumpster by a sixty-something homeless woman who smells like she dug a piece of costume jewelry out of a dumpster. Anyway, by the time I get down there, the mercury’s pretty much busted its way out of the thermometer at that point. It was so hot the hookers were sinking into the pavement.
The main reasons I was looking to go downtown are two-fold: there’s an arcade (yes an actual arcade) on Broadway between 7th and 8th Streets that used to have some hard-to-find games; and there’s a shopping area called Santee Alley that’s a narrow street market where you can get some bootle– uh…shoes. The arcade was just as I remembered it: nestled between some Hispanic jewelry joints and down the street from one of those old theatres that went under years ago. Unfortunately , most of the vintage games I was looking for were replaced by soulless upgrades. However, it did have a nifty pool table section that was being manned by both migrant-worker looking types and kids who were probably conceived around the time that The Lost World came out. Also, there was the lovely smell of BO and piss. Good times. I hit up a Cruisin’ Exotica machine with a broken steering wheel a couple of times and bounced.
So once I peeled myself out of that place, I ventured over to Santee. They call this the Alley for a very good reason…it’s an actual alley. And it’s a place where tourists and people (myself included) who generally can’t afford to go to better places to shop like the Beverly Center go to find a wallet with an Air Jordan logo for about the price of a latte. Plus there’s the…shoes. In Santee, the humanity is packed in like sardines, and in 100+ temps, generally not a place you want to hang for very long. So when I couldn’t find any shoes I wanted, nor anything else for that matter, I left. I walked back the mile or so to the subway, took it back to the valley, got in my car – which is pretty much all steel and had been baking in the sun for a couple of hours – and went home. And that was my field trip to Downtown LA.