Wednesday, February 1, 2012

"Iconic L.A.": 5700 Wilshire

 "You will always be my friend no matter what. And if you go to Cali dreams of going to college in L.A. and writing for a magazine, I will come visit you and be a nanny there and we can live together."

 THOSE words have stayed with me ever since they were written in bubbly letters on a neon pink going away card from my friend Michelle before I left for school at LMU in 2008, terrified yet thrilled. Maybe that’s why, when I walked up to the corner of Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills, California, I stopped in the middle of the twin office buildings and did a complete turn all the way around, taking in every sight. After painstaking college essays, SAT re-takes, ACT study sessions, and the gut-wrenching anxiety that I would not get into LMU, or any college for that matter, (fueled in part by my mother, who told me condescendingly yet with caring undertones to “not get my hopes up”) I was here, in downtown Los Angeles. When I stood there in the courtyard, shaking and sweating before my interview at Us Weekly, an interview which I thought at the time would make or break my future, would change my life completely, for better or for worse, would propel me into my editorial dreams or send me plummeting regretfully down a new path, I thought, “This is the L.A. I envisioned. This is what I wanted to be apart of."

I should explain that when I first landed at LAX and headed down Lincoln Boulevard, I felt a wave of disappointment and fear because this loud, traffic-infested street was the complete antithesis of the glamorous Los Angeles I envisioned. Where were the palm trees lining the sides of the road, and where were the teenagers driving around in their jeeps listening to music with the top down? Where was this gorgeous school with a bluff overlooking Los Angeles and white letters proudly boasting “LMU” on the side? Luckily, when I arrived at LMU, this fear diminished because I realized that our school is in its own separate world, in the quiet neighborhood of Westchester, separated from the busy streets and loud noises of Los Angeles. However, every time I left LMU to frequent other areas of Los Angeles, I always felt a twinge of disappointment, that this was not the “real” Los Angeles that I had seen in movies, television shows, and magazines. I always felt as though there was something missing or something that I was not seeing.

5700 Wilshire Boulevard feels like that kind of "real" Los Angeles to me. If you were to view it from above, you would see huge office buildings enclosing a little cluster of restaurants that almost seem as though they shouldn’t be there, as if maybe they were there before the big corporate buildings were and refuse to move. Office buildings surround these eateries, including the one that contains Wenner Media, where I work for Us Weekly. To the right and high above all else is a building called Museum Square, which proudly boasts “Screen Actors Guild Awards” towards it’s sky-high top. There is a fountain to the left of Museum Square that would put the LMU fountain, as it almost doubles it in size and in the magnitude of water it constantly produces. These buildings stand overlooking a cluster of restaurants, including Marie Callender’s, The Counter Burger, Baja Fresh, Mix’t Greens, and of course, Starbucks. Almost every day of the week, I could have a different choice of food, from home-cooked, to hamburgers, to Mexican, to vegetarian. However, in between all of these varying places, the Starbucks remains, a daily reminder of the need for Angelenos to get their coffee fix. Starbucks is the consistent factor within this little hub of eateries. Busy corporate CEOS, producers, writers, and interns hoping to climb the ladder, like myself, start their day the same, with an often thirty minute wait for Starbucks, but choose which cuisine to lunch on when the time comes for them to break away from their offices.

The people on this corner are always busy. There are no leisurely lunch breaks, no cigarette bonding sessions outside, and no walking slowly across the street. I find myself hurriedly walking alongside the businessmen and women attached to their cell phones with their big bags and laptop cases because I feel as though walking slow means I am not worthy to be in such a busy world. These people are walking fast because they do not have a second in their day to stop or slow down. The fact that I might be taking my time crossing the street, sipping my coffee slowly, or sloshing my “mix’t greens” around in a vat of fat free dressing with a lazy smile seems almost inappropriate. Don’t I have anywhere else to be? The corner of 5700 Wilshire holds special meaning for me personally because of the memories I associate with it, as well as that epiphanic first experience, but I think that anyone else could appreciate it for the variety of venues it possesses, from small restaurants to huge office buildings, and hurried, posh, “I have somewhere else to be right this second” lifestyle that feels intrinsically L.A.

-- Caroline Queen 

photo: 5700 Wilshire
credit: Caroline Queen

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