2017 marks the tenth anniversary of my explorations of the neighborhoods and communities of Los Angeles and Southern California. In the past decade I managed, although not planned, to explore and write about exactly 100 communities for my California Fool’s Gold series.
When I began writing about Los Angeles neighborhoods, there were a few others exploring aspects of Los Angeles and writing online, including Avoiding Regret, Big Orange Landmarks, Blogging Los Angeles, Brown Kingdom, Creepy LA, Green LA Girl, History, Los Angeles County, L.A. City Nerd, LA Observed, L.A. Taco, Los Angeles Almanac, Los Angeles Past, Metrorider LA, The Militant Angeleno, Modern Hiker, Streetsblog Los Angeles, A Walker In LA, and Walking in L.A. Although a fan and follower of several of them now, I don’t believe that at the time I was yet familiar with of any of them. Not long after I began, however, I came across LAist’s Neighborhood Project (2007-2008), which I found inspirational… as I did non-internet explorers like Huell Howser and Jonathan Gold.
In October 2007, my then-partner sent me to Granada Hills to buy a rug. Whilst there, I decided to research and write about the San Fernando Valley community, the attractions of which turned out to include a Christmas Tree Lane, an Eichler Tract, and O’Melveny Park. When my partner and I went to Montebello to attend the baptism of a friend’s son. Researching the community I learned of the Armenian Martyrs Monument and Montebello Town Center Mall (since renamed, in insufferable fashion, “The Shops at Montebello”). The final episode in that first year was focused on Alhambra, again undertaken as a side project during a relationship-related errand.
My second year of exploring brought me to Rosemead and San Marino when the fear arose in me that if I only explored whilst running errands for or with my San Gabriel Valley Girl-friend, I might eventually become an an expert on the 626 but know nothing of the actual city of Los Angeles. To remedy, I created two polls, one for Los Angeles Neighborhoods and the other for Los Angeles County Communities. The first to rack up a few votes (four) was Morningside Circle. I wasn’t even sure where it was but an acquaintance who lived near Florence and Normandie thought he’d seen the blue LADOT signs around there. When I found it, I noted the neighborhood signs’ locations and made a simple map of the neighborhood’s borders to focus my exploration.
In my third year, my relationship began to slowly but irrevocably fall apart, which left me miserable but gave me more time to explore, and that year I visited and wrote about nine more communities. A therapist encouraged my to explore in order to create new memories for a city suddenly flavored with bittersweetness as a form of recovery. I explored another 30 communities, often accompanied by new and old friends, and opened up my explorations to Orange County, where I often found myself thanks to a Vietnamese New Wave revival then resurgent in Little Saigon.
In 2011, I decided to open a gentlemen’s shop in Silver Lake, a few doors down from my residence. I loved aspects of running the store — going to trade shows and meeting the talented women and men who designed socks or made belts, wallets, neckties, &c but it seriously cut into my adventure time. Meanwhile, the maps I’d been making for the explorations began to receive some media attention and were even featured in an art show.
After two years of weekends mostly spent ringing up (and sometimes befriending) customers I decided to close shop and devote more time to exploration. In 2014, after being commissioned to map Little Italy in San Diego, I decided to open up my explorations to all of Southern California. In the past couple years, the episodes of California Fool’s Gold have slowed — but only because I’ve been writing more about other aspects of Southern California which intrigue me — the streets, bridges, creeks, mini-malls, hills, parks, office parks, ethnicity, trees, bars, and more. Time flies, as they say.
This year I’ll continue to explore for California Fool’s Gold (Newport Beach and Balboa Island are currently leading in the polls; followed by Jefferson Park, Ladera Heights, Los Angeles International Airport, San Pedro, Seal Beach, Topanga, Torrance, West Hollywood, Westwood, and Whittier)… but I also have been thinking about forming a group to visit churches (for the architecture, music, and communion wine, natrually), bicycling more, dinner and karaoke parties, &c.
Since it’s been ten years, I plan on revisiting those communities that I explored in that first year: Granada Hills, Montebello, and Alhambra — albeit after dark — in a new series titled California Fool’s Gold – Nights. And finally, I hope to accompany fellow explorers on their adventures… so if you’re a SoCal Explorer, let me know if that appeals to you!