One of my favorite new magazines (and yes, there are still new magazines) is AFAR, which I’ve written for a few times, thanks to my awesome editor Julia Cosgrove. AFAR is ostensibly about travel but it’s not about chintzy hotel deals and “expert” packing tips, it’s about meeting locals and getting lost and eating foods that come in colors you thought were only possible in Play-Doh.
I tell people it’s not a travel magazine, it’s a magazine about traveling.
I always pick it up at the airport when I’m going somewhere but somehow I missed it during my last trip out of town. So I had to read this story—which will probably remain my favorite story of 2012—online. (I’m still going to buy a copy; you should, too.)
Aimee Bender is one of my favorite writers. Her prose is effortless and witty and true—she is the writer I aspire to be. But I suppose I never really put it together that she lived here in LA. And I am glad she does because she’s written an absolutely gorgeous essay for AFAR about what it’s like to buy a bike and board a bus and discover this whole other world just waiting for you in Los Angeles. She writes about what it feels like to realize you live in a very walkable neighborhood. She talks about how you have to be “taught” to see LA in this new way (so true). Basically, she manages to capture all the same sentiments I have—and a few I didn’t know I have!—for why, exactly, I climbed out of the car.
And then, because she is Aimee Bender, she does it better than I ever could have.
Some of my favorite moments: She rides with a Brit she met when she was complaining about the bus, who changes her mind about LA’s transit through a multi-modal adventure through the city. She embarks upon bus and rail “field trips” that artist Christine Louise Berry organizes as site-specific artworks for her friends (sign me up!). Finally, she visits David Kipen at his bookstore Libros Schmibros, two of the most important people and places in this undiscovered LA (although by now I think they’ve both been quite discovered).
As she wanders through Boyle Heights, one of my favorite places to explore on foot, to Guisados Tacos, one of my favorite places to explore on tongue, I found myself smiling as I read her words. I had so been there—filled with good conversation and spicy stewed beef, quietly sailing home on the Gold Line.
Please: pedestrians, drivers, bikers, bus riders, roller skaters, pogo-stick users—I beg of you. Stop what you’re doing at this moment and take a few minutes to read her piece “Another Angle on LA.” And be sure to marvel at the shots by incredible photographer Bryan Sheffield, who offers some of his outtakes from his wanderings around LA. The words and the images, I guarantee, will change the way you think about the city. Again. Which, really, is all I could hope for on this sunny Wednesday morning.