Wilshire Boulevard: Through the Jungle of Los Angeles
Wilshire Boulevard begins in downtown Los Angeles and highlights the diversity in the city on its way west and into Santa Monica. The title came to me based on a question I answered on Quora:
Which street is the jungle of Los Angeles?
I don’t know what truly lay in the mind of the person who asked, but I Wilshire was the primary street that came to mind. Perhaps the one asking wanted something more like Manchester, a street moving through South Central LA.
However, a jungle is filled with variety and I felt that Wilshire has those traits. Turn up the smooth jazz and travel with me on this famed boulevard.
High rises in downtown LA are filled with financiers and techies, adding an image of affluence and upper middle class attitudes to Wilshire Boulevard. The street is familiar to me because it was near the start of the Los Angeles Marathon, that I ran 13 times.
I’d gather with other runners in the Wilshire Grand Hotel before making our way to the start.
In recent years, I frequently drove briefly on Wilshire and headed east and then either north or south to referee soccer in the densely packed blocks just east of downtown.
Trucks made colorful by vendors selling fruit, tacos and fresca dotted the neighborhoods. Music poured from windows and the aroma of carne asada filled the air.
As Wilshire moves toward Alvarado, the scene becomes what you might see in a place like Mexico City with crowds of men, women and children moving in and out of discount stores and selling their goods on the sidewalk.
What strikes me as distinctly LA is the color — of the clothing, the shops, the sky, the surrounding of MacArthur Park and the sun glimmering off downtown’s tall buildings.
MacArthur Park has a crowded playground area and small soccer field with homeless tents regularly popping up as Wilshire Boulevard rolls along into Koreatown, site of the former Ambassador Hotel where Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated at the age of 42.
The property was torn down in recent years and now boasts the RFK school where I’ve also reffed soccer.
Mid-Wilshire has a distinctive urban tone in this financial and corporate center that reflects Asia’s prosperity with the brand names of banks and restaurants selling uniquely Korean dishes.
Wilshire Boulevard moves along toward the famed Wiltern Theater. It was on this stretch that I got back in shape during my 30s to run the Los Angeles marathon, having run long distance in high school, college and with a run across the United States.
But as I turned 30, we had a family of three and I was packing on the pounds when finishing their lunches and dinners. This part of Wilshire became my incentive to get back in shape.
Now, Wilshire continues its march past a landscape dotted with trees, a synagogue, homes and offices with little distinction in the landscape until the boulevard takes you into Beverly Hills, home of the Petersen Automotive Museum among other destinations.
Winter is another distinct time in this part of Southern California when the sun shines after a rain and a hint of snow is visible on the mountains. It’s warm, comforting and the world seems like it should be perfect.
After all, this is Beverly Hills and Century City morphing into West LA, just below UCLA with the scholarly brilliance of academics and the prowess of undergrads studying near the world’s largest media headquarters where entertainment deals are conceived and consummated.
But when is the world perfect?
Life’s sobering reality reaches you when you pass below the 405 freeway and to the north is the graveyard of warriors and the veteran’s hospital where the wounded have gone to heal physically and emotionally.
And then you reach Santa Monica, crawling through the crowded streets on the way to the Pacific Ocean.
You’ve survived the Jungle of Los Angeles on your 25-mile journey, seeing a diversity in people, cultures and landscapes. A drive along Wilshire Boulevard is certainly part of the Southern California experience.