Photos and text by Luke Y. Thompson

“On June 6, 7 & 8, we’ll swing the doors to Downtown LA wide open!” Thus spake the full-page ad in the recent Weekly, and who was I to doubt, or to need a better excuse? I always enjoy myself downtown, yet the last time I spent any time there was a year ago, ostensibly to find my blogger friend Ben Sullivan a brand new cowboy shirt, but also to bid an L.A. farewell to myself and Matt Welch, who were scheduled to move away shortly thereafter.

Matt’s expecting his first kid soon, settled in a new home in Washington D.C. I, on the other hand, could not stay away.

Prior to that, my previous downtown stint had involved searching for suits in the fashion district in preparation for a job interview with World Wrestling Entertainment (yes, for real – who knew Vince McMahon was such a stickler for formal wear? But he is). With the aid of my far snappier-dressing friend Jaye, we had scored two nice outfits and found the one and only Carls Jr., so far as I know, that serves beer on tap (it’s on Olympic, but I forget the cross-street).

But throwing the doors wide open? That sounded even better than all the previous visits combined, save for the absence of friends. Naturally, it all turned out to be a clever marketing ploy: those wide-open doors, which represent various lofts, bars, and restaurants, are in fact always open. The thing is that since so many Angelenoes aren’t aware of this, we need a bunch of booths marked with streams of purple balloons to remind us, and drum up a li’l downtown business.

Said booths were in the back of the 7th+Fig shopping mall, and most were handing out freebies, whether it be pens, tiny brownie bites, or (most commonly) water. Religious aqua from the New City Church, came complete with a Bible verse about the water of life. Upon hearing that I distrust all organized religion, the man with the Northern Irish accent at the booth assured me that “this is really more of a disorganized religion.” Casual, and “Bible-believing,” but he said they try not to judge anyone. Any guy from Northern Ireland has probably learned his lesson about where excessive judgment gets you.

The LA Weekly booth proved most convenient of all, as it was handing out free shopping bags, in which to insert all the fliers and crap that everyone else was handing out. The Weekly, of course, is free; most everything else being showcased was way out of my price range. Even some “very reasonable” apartments were being offered “as low as $1800.” Gee, even if I hadn’t recently lost my full-time salary, that’d be something to merely dream about. And this is why I voted against prop. 98 – you’d all be looking at this otherwise.

When a steak restaurant called e3rd gave me a coupon for $20 off a $45 tab, I determined that would be my source of lunch for the day. It sounded near – 734 E. Third couldn’t be that far, could it? Rookie mistake: I confused the concept of E. Third with W. Third. But once through the Third St. tunnel, there’s no turning back. Past the stores that sell nothing but bongs, warehouses of replica samurai swords and realistic toy guns, beyond the Little Tokyo Shopping Centre, and… there it is. And it’s closed. What was that about wide open doors again?

I bought new shoes just the other day, and thanked my own good sense that I hadn’t gone for the combat boots, which would have been peeling layers of my feet like an onion by now. Instead, my $30 G-Unit sneakers were holding up well.

So no cheap steak, but an excuse to have sushi at the Little Tokyo Shopping Centre, in a place called Sushi Go 55 (don’t you hate it when dead raw fish exceed the speed limit?). I’m no Jonathan Gold, but let’s just say the shrimp was still wriggling when the chef ripped it in half, the Toro so oily that it left my fingers greasy, and the hands of the chef as dextrous as those of Mr. Miyagi waxing on and off.

Overheard conversation at the sushi bar: “So it’s gonna be Obama against – what’s that white guy’s name? McCain?”

Only in Los Angeles.

Photos and text by Luke Y. Thompson

LA Weekly