Best Armchair Travel for the Vacation Impaired

Now that the age of miracles is upon us, it is possible to go everywhere without actually going anywhere at all. The creators of invite viewers to sift through an extensive collection of minidocumentaries about different neighborhoods shot on digital video by professional and amateur filmmakers. Each tries to convey a local’s distinct sense of place.

The videos have an indie-film feel, and watching them is like spending time with a quirky, engaged and knowledgeable friend. Peter Hyoguchi, for instance, shows you his favorite ramen shop in Little Tokyo — after pretending to hara-kiri his belly through his Close Encounters T-shirt with a plastic samurai sword. Robert Sobul films “international rock star” Kennedy, who dishes about Silver Lake nightlife and one sushi bar in particular. “It used to be the place where you’d go when you couldn’t get a gig at Silverlake Lounge,” Kennedy confides. Neon-lit buildings whoosh by as his car rolls on.

Most of the docs fall into the three- to five-minute range. They are short and sweet. Or bizarre. Or melancholy. Spend an afternoon with a surfer as he and his buddies explicate the Malibu surf scene. Or hang out with residents Mike and Grace Lee, as they live out an ordinary day and night in Koreatown — eating Korean barbecue, playing pool, shopping at strip malls and seafood markets. Though there are videos on “Retro L.A.” and “Sexy L.A.” and “Gangster L.A.,” our town is not the only one represented. Dispatches have come in from all over the globe, from a small town in Sweden (which received a very big sculpture from Picasso) to a villa on the coast of Phuket Island in Thailand.

Ostensibly, the site is a travel aid, but in a pinch, TurnHere works nicely as a travel substitute. It’s a genius idea, really, equal parts commerce, DIY guerrilla journalism and artistic expression. Plus it’s free to watch. I may never leave my computer again, even for vacation. Thanks, guys. Thanks a lot.

LA Weekly