Sandra Tsing Loh ventures to LA's Westside... and likes it.
Having monitored the cultural life of Los Angeles since the 1980's, I believe I've finally seen it all.
I recall a time when quote-unquote no one would venture east of the 405. Or, when no one would go to the Valley. It was a time when people used the Thomas Guide. When HP was known for its calculators. When HBO was all about boxing, remember that?
I recently came to grips with how much things have changed when a friend invited me to see the new documentary on sleight-of-hand genius Ricky Jay. The film sounded great, I'm a huge Ricky Jay fan - and the screening was Friday at 7:30 in Santa Monica. And I live in Pasadena. Oh! Jeez. Wow. Let's check JetBlue.
Since there were no flights then, we decided to leave no later than FOUR, three days earlier - now, I'm kidding - of course - but yes, we did leave at four that day, and weirdly... weirdly... the 101 to the 405 south just WASN'T THAT BAD. "Oh my God," Mary and I found ourselves exclaiming, over and over. "It's not that bad!"
We were so dangerously close to arriving in Santa Monica at five that now it appeared we would actually have to have dinner before the movie. Out comes the iPhone, and a tentative YELP... "It's the coast - should we eat seafood or something?" A many-starred restaurant called "Tar and Roses" comes up - "What is that?" "I have no idea!" "Sounds trendy, probably hopeless!" But no, they take our 5:30 reservation. And you know what? The food is great, the décor is cool, the restaurant is full, and they are NICE! I text another friend. "OMG - having dinner at trendy restaurant in Santa Monica, and they are NICE!"
And - of course - then there's the great Nuart Theatre, where I saw Rocky Horror Picture Show for the first time like 30 years ago.
"I can't believe it," we were saying to each other on the surprisingly swift drive back. "We went to the Westside and didn't hate it!" And we realized to what extent LA's Eastside and Westside have become like Israel and Palestine.
Of course, when I praised the movie and exhorted people to go, my Facebook friends showed the same Westside aversion. Said Jim, "When I go over there, it has to be a whole lunch, dinner, movie, late night snack, midnight show, get a room, drive home the next day kind of thing." Said Pamela, about the movie, "Maybe I'll put on some Kevlar and a helmet and head over." Said Jan, "You went WEST of La Cienega? And broke the 405 curtain? Oh, the horror! The horror!"
Yes, Jan - I did. P.S., six words: "Can't we all just get along?"
Don't make it a Westside Story.