5 Good Streets 

Wednesday, Dec 26 2001

1. Pico Boulevard starts near a giant Coca-Cola bottle and ends up at a surfing beach, is a main thoroughfare of Central Americans, Koreans, Africans and Iranian Jews, and yet there’s almost always a place to park. You know how at some parties the living room is empty because almost everybody’s hanging out in the kitchen? Pico’s like that.

2. San Fernando Road. If there is an informal line in the city where Los Angeles ends and the rest of the West begins, that would be San Fernando Road, which in places looks more like Juarez or Oklahoma than like anyplace else in the Southern California Air Quality Management District, and where it still seems as if a Sam Shepard play is waiting to break out.

3. Las Tunas Drive. In the few miles from the point where it stops being Alhambra’s Main Street until it suddenly becomes Anglified as Arcadia’s Live Oak Boulevard, Las Tunas is Los Angeles multiculturalism made flesh (and beer, and noodles), a chain of mini-malls stuffed with restaurants and shops catering to the proudly unassimilated sons and daughters of a dozen mostly Asian nations, with better food, and none of the glitz, of the more famous Asian boulevards a couple of miles south.

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4. Montana Avenue has somehow preserved its sleepy, small-town groove even as its formerly middle-class surroundings have been transformed into one of the most gentrified precincts on Earth. Although, it must be said, you are never more than 100 feet from a place to buy a $600 sweater or a cappuccino.

5. Mulholland Drive. I am sometimes mystified that the city spent so much money engineering a road on which it is so damned pleasurable to drive at twice the speed limit with the top down and a half-finished tallboy in the cup holder, and one arm draped casually over the shoulders of somebody warm and nice, but all I can say is: Thank you.

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