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10 Things We Learned About L.A. That Made Us Love It More

"Curves and Zigzags" by Claudia Comte | Still from Desert X AB s9
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Ask a hundred passers-by on the street what their Los Angeles is to them and you'll likely get as many answers. The second most populous city in the United States, Los Angeles is an adventurer's dream. It's where a 15-acre Buddhist temple may be hiding the best vegetarian food around or a family of Mexican printmakers can revolutionize the art world. This past year, we've been lucky enough to come across many more reasons to love Los Angeles. Here are just a few:

L.A.'s Thai Town was the first in the nation, and it played a huge role in popularizing Thai food.

Dishes from Noree Thai | Noree Thai on Beverly
Dishes from Noree Thai on Beverly | Noree Thai on Beverly

L.A.'s Thai town is only a half-mile stretch in East Hollywood, but its influence is outsized. It is the first officially recognized Thai Town in the nation. It is also located in a city with the largest Thai population outside of Thailand. Over the last half-century, this density of Thai-descended people has given rise to a market that caters specifically to the many flavors of Southeast Asia and chefs who are willing to share their specialties to an American palate. 

The Latino love for pastrami exists because of the Jewish presence in Boyle Heights from the 20s to the 50s.

Canter's bakery section | Courtesy of Canter's MKs3
Canter's bakery section | Courtesy of Canter's

From the '20s to the '50s, Boyle Heights was a center for Jewish political and cultural activity. By the 1960s, the demographic changed. The Jewish population started to move towards San Fernando Valley where there weren't any restrictive covenants on Jews, but their culinary legacy remains in the now Mexican American-dominated Boyle Heights in the form of pastrami. 

This city is where icons like Frank Lloyd Wright found the freedom to begin again and experiment.

In our premiere episode of "Artbound" this season, writer/director Christopher Hawthorne, architecture critic for the Los Angeles Times, explores the houses Frank Lloyd Wright built in Los Angeles. He also puts forth a provocative theory that these homes were also a means of artistic catharsis for Wright, who was recovering from a violent tragic episode in his life.

The Joshua Trees of the Mojave desert might have proliferated with the help of giant sloths.

Carl Dennis Buell's painting of Chris Clarke with his dog Zeke accompanied by Nothrotheriops shastensis — the Shasta ground sloth. | © Carl Dennis Buell.
Carl Dennis Buell's painting of Chris Clarke with his dog Zeke accompanied by Nothrotheriops shastensis — the Shasta ground sloth. | © Carl Dennis Buell.

The Shasta ground sloth, a cow-sized animal and committed herbivore, seems to have adapted specifically to live on Joshua tree fruit. Its eight-inch claws is a great defense for saber-toothed cats and other predators, but also makes for great grappling hooks to bend the spiny branches of the Joshua tree, giving it access to the tree's precious fruit.

It's a city that could foster a sense of kinship between Asian Americans and African Americans through hip-hop.

"Heart Learns" by Erin Yoshi in "Don't Believe the Hype"
"Heart Learns" by Erin Yoshi in "Don't Believe the Hype" | CAMLA

Instead of cooking or classical music, Asian Pacific artists found community and connection in a genre once dominated by African-American and Latinx artists. “The aesthetic of hip-hop… is freedom and authenticity,” said Chinese-American rapper Jason Chu. “It’s a powerful force. It’s a beautiful thing.”

L.A. is home base to the Lula Washington Dance Theatre, whose mission is to fill the racial void in dance.

Lula Washington dared to become a dancer at a time when there were little or no role models for an African American woman to follow. Now, the programs at the long-running dance studio allow African American children to express themselves and see their futures as professional dancers in a heavily white-centric field.

In East Los Angeles during the '60s and '70s, young adults started a revolution.

People never think the youth are able to affect change, but with little or no resources at their disposal, a group of young activists used tools like writing and photography as a means for community organizing, providing a platform for the Chicano Movement in the form of the bilingual newspaper/magazine La Raza.

It's a place where even strange alien-inspired ideas can take flight.

The Integratron, Landers, CA. | Kim Stringfellow
The Integratron, Landers, CA. | Kim Stringfellow

Out in the desert, there exists a faction of alien-obsessed mad geniuses, it seems. Their flights of fancy have led to a two-room home that sits underneath a boulder, telepathic messages from bizarrely-named benevolent aliens and the building of an energy machine called the Integratron.

In L.A., nature isn't apart from humans, it is a part of them

Laura Aguilar, Grounded #111 , 2006 | Courtesy of the artist and the UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center. © Laura Aguilar
Laura Aguilar, Grounded #111 , 2006 | Courtesy of the artist and the UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center. © Laura Aguilar

It is easy to set oneself apart from nature, as if it were something that humans could easily get remove themselves from. Such is the work of early plein air artists, whose oeuvres invariably showcased human-less landscapes, but in the work of artist Laura Aguilar, her nude, female, Chicana body is boldly inserted into the frame. It's as if the artist were declaring that she too was a California native alongside that of the trees, plants and animals around her.

Top Image: "The Circle of Land and Sky" by Phillip K Smith III | Still from Desert X 

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