Books and Artists in DTLA
We spent yesterday afternoon walking around downtown Los Angeles (DTLA). This is something my husband I do often, with cameras in tow so we can photograph the place, while admiring the vibrant community that has grown there over the last decade.
We didn’t take many pictures yesterday. I wasn’t especially keen to go this weekend. It has been hotter than hell the last couple of weeks; a situation I’ve been dealing with by getting all my errands finished as early as possible in the morning (while the temp in only in the 80s), so I can spend the rest of the day holed up in front of the AC vent.
Needless to say, I’ve been watching a lot of television (yes, even more than usual). And amazingly (for me!) it was starting to get old. The reason I got off my butt in the Valley and ventured in to the city was my kid, who wanted to attend an arts event in Grand Park (the same place where we enjoyed the fireworks this July 4). She and her friend were originally going to use public transportation to get there — which makes sense, as there is a Red Line subway stop just across the street. But her dad and I are still kind of protective and her friend absolutely had to be back in the Valley by 6:00. So my husband and I offered to drive them there.
He actually had a destination in mind: He had heard of a place called The Last Bookstore, located in the old Crocker Bank building on Spring Street and 5th. This is the kind of place that’s heaven for people who want to physically hold a book and turn its pages. It’s also kind of a hipster paradise, with lots of old, funky couches and chairs scattered around the neat, organized stacks of gently used, reasonably priced books. We looked around the stacks and found way too many interesting titles to be able to pick just one. I have a feeling we will be back, especially so we can explore the upstairs area called the Labyrinth, which showcases the work of local artists.
Spring Street was once the site of LA’s financial district. Today, it is the epicenter of DTLA’s arts community, which sprung up around the Los Angeles Theater Center. When LATC opened in 1985, the neighborhood was kind of a vast wasteland. I remember, because at one time in the late 80’s I held season tickets and going down there at night was always a little bit scary. Now, the buildings have been renovated into lofts and galleries, with people milling about the street in little sidewalk cafes and bars. We even passed a pet store there (which makes a lot of sense, for all the folks we passed who were walking their dogs). And we ordinary Angelenos can experience the best of the community on the second Thursday of each month for the Downtown Art Walk.
On a normal day, I am energized by walking the streets of DTLA. But did I mention that yesterday was downright HOT? Even though downtown is about 10 degrees cooler than the Valley, that just meant we were dealing with 90+ degree weather instead of triple digits. By the time we left the bookstore, I was absolutely parched. And the huz was hungry. We set about looking for an air conditioned spot to refresh. That meant forgoing the cute little sidewalk cafes and looking for an actual full-service restaurant.
We found it in Terroni: A gorgeously appointed Italian restaurant in another renovated old bank building. Everything about this place said style (which made us feel a little bit self-conscious in our ratty walking-around clothes). But they let us in anyway. My husband enjoyed an order of fresh gnocchi. I wasn’t all that hungry, so I ordered an appetizer of grilled radicchio, prosciutto and fresh Burrata cheese. This is what they brought me:
At $17 for an “appetizer,” I’m actually glad this turned out to be so substantial. I ended up skipping dinner because of it — and it was worth it!
My daughter’s art event in the park was just two hours long — so after getting our fill of nice, cold water and delicious Italian food, we headed back up to Grand. When we told her what we had been up to, she was dismayed. It turns out that she’s been wanting to visit The Last Bookstore for a while now (“It’s famous on the Internet!” she exclaimed) and we beat her to it. I guess she’s going to want to head back downtown. And I’m betting her dad and I will be happy to drive her there. Let’s just hope it’s on a cooler day.