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Farewell to Jones Grain Mill (1974-2015), the latest Grand Central Market legacy tenant to be evicted, from our Instagram feed.
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Gentle reader... 

We found ourselves in Grand Central Market on Thursday, meeting with a journalist about a preservation cause close to our hearts.

It's not a place we visit often, because it's hard to nosh when you're upset. Every visit reveals another longtime vendor gone, and the vacant stalls, like missing teeth in a once-brilliant smile, break our hearts. 

Even approaching Grand Central Market is problematic. If we choose to enter from the Hill Street side, we can't help but agonize over the fate of Angels Flight, the beloved funicular railway that no longer delivers souls to Bunker Hill, and the shady yet inaccessible Angels Knoll, fenced off after merchants complained that vagrants were using the space.

Over on Broadway, we have to see blatant signs of the misguided road diet in the form of shaded dining tables on a patch of kitty litter spread over what was, until recently, a lane of traffic. On the corner, the offbeat Botánica ticks out the last months of its decades-long lease, which won't be renewed due to gentrification. 

We'd recently heard that the Broadway-facing liquor store was closing, and indeed, the proprietor told us that after thirty years of trading, this would be his last week. We believe this is the liquor concession once owned by the Gold family, where a young David Gold (99 Cents Only stores founder) learned retail and marketing in his father's business, and conceived his discount store empire. What a shame that such an important piece of Los Angeles retail history should vanish without notice.

Now when we visit the market, dotted with brand new concept-driven food stalls, we appreciate the variety and creativity at play, but can't help feel a sense of loss, and a deeper disorientation.

In years past, when visiting the market, it was with a feeling of familiarity and contentment. We knew the layout of the stalls, and the path to take to reach places we liked to eat. Winding among the narrow aisles by muscle memory, we'd register the changing pattern of smells, from fresh juice to to chow mein, then strawberries, carnitas, sawdust, fresh fish, warm tortillas coming off the conveyer belt and subtle wafts of herbs and spice.  

The presence of the market's legacy vendors, who are mostly gone now, made us feel nostalgic and safe, for we understood that behind nearly every counter stood an owner-operator who knew the ebbs and flows of the market's functioning like their own body. All was right with the world on their watch.
There's no rule book, but to us it seems so obvious that to maintain a landmark business like Grand Central Market, a property owner must learn how to manage benevolently, changing with the times, but not too quickly or too much. A visitor to one of the world's great food markets ought to be able to return after a decade and recognize the place. Sadly, a traveler returning to the rebranded Grand Central will not have that experience anytime soon.    

When the chips fall a few years from now, when Downtown will have several purpose-built gourmet food halls competing for the same audience, we think Grand Central Market's owners will discover that they've squandered something irreplaceable: the old-school family vendors who were 100% invested in the place. What has been lost with the wave of evictions is literally priceless: one cannot purchase the years of experience, good will and familiarity that is being traded for the shiny and new.  

And that's something no amount of foodie press buzz can eclipse. So excuse us if we don't take advantage of the truly impressive range of dining options in the new Grand Central Market. We just don't seem to have much of an appetite for such extreme, short-sighted change.

We're back on the bus this Saturday, with a once-a-year tour of singer-songwriter Tom Waits' 1970s haunts and havens. Get on the bus to explore a lost Los Angeles of romance, redemption and reinvention, with our special guest tour host, David Smay--join us, do!
SPECIAL EVENT: CRAWLING DOWN CAHUENGA: TOM WAITS' L.A. - SAT. 5/16... In our very occasional guest tour series, a delightful excursion that only comes around once a year, the Tom Waits bus adventure hosted by acclaimed rock critic David Smay (Bubblegum Music is the Naked Truth, Swordfishtrombones). This voyage through the city that shaped one of our most eclectic musical visionaries starts in Skid Row and rolls through Hollywood and Echo Park, spotlighting the sites where Waits was transformed through the redemptive powers of love and other lures: the Tropicana Motel, Francis Coppola's Zoetrope Studios, the raunchy Ivar Theatre and so much more. Join us for a great day out in 1970s Los Angeles celebrating the music, the culture and the passions of Tom Waits. (Buy tickets here.)

EASTSIDE BABYLON - SAT. 5/30... Go East, young ghoul. Come visit Boyle Heights, where the Night Stalker was captured and a mad dad ran amok. Roam the hallowed lawns of Evergreen, L.A.'s oldest cemetery and home of some memorable haunts and strange burials. Visit East L.A., where a deranged radio shop employee made mince meat of his boss and bride--and you can get your hair done in a building shaped like a giant tamale. Explore the ghastly streets of Commerce, where one small neighborhood's myriad crimes will shock and surprise. Visit Montebello, for scrumptious milk and cookies at Broguiere's Farm Fresh Dairy washed down with a horrifying case of child murder. That's Eastside Babylon, our most unhinged crime bus tour. (Buy tickets here.) 

BLOOD & DUMPLINGS - SAT. 6/20... Forget Hollywood, babe, 'cause the quintessential L.A. town is definitely El Monte, its history packed with noirish murders, brilliant thespians, loony Nazis, James Ellroy's naked lunch and the lion farm that MGM's celebrated kitty called home. See all this and so much more, including the Man from Mars Bandit's Waterloo, when you climb aboard the daffiest crime tour in our arsenal, and the only one that includes a dumpling picnic at a landmark playground populated with fantastical giant sea creatures. Not frequently offered, you won't want to miss this ride. (Buy tickets here.)

WEIRD WEST ADAMS - SAT. 6/27... On this guided tour through the Beverly Hills of the early 20th Century, Crime Bus passengers thrill as Jazz Age bootleggers run amok, marvel at the Krazy Kafitz family's litany of murder-suicides, attempted husband slayings, Byzantine estate battles and mad bombings, visit the shortest street in Los Angeles (15' long Powers Place, with its magnificent views of the mansions of Alvarado Terrace), discover which fabulous mansion was once transformed into a functioning whiskey factory using every room in the house, and stroll the haunted paths of Rosedale Cemetery, site of notable burials (May K. Rindge, the mother of Malibu) and odd graveside crimes. Featured players include the most famous dwarf in Hollywood, mass suicide ringleader Reverend Jim Jones, wacky millionaires who can't control their automobiles, human mole bank robbers, comically inept fumigators, kids trapped in tar pits, and dozens of other unusual and fascinating denizens of early Los Angeles. (Buy tickets here.)

PASADENA CONFIDENTIAL WITH CRIMEBO THE CLOWN - SAT. 7/11... The Crown City masquerades as a calm and refined retreat, where well-bred ladies glide around their perfect bungalows and everyone knows what fork to use first. But don't be fooled by appearances. Dip into the confidential files of old Pasadena and meet assassins and oddballs, kidnappers and slashers, Satanists and all manner of maniac in a delightful little tour you WON'T find recommended by the better class of people! From celebrated cases like the RFK assassination (with a visit to Sirhan Sirhan's folks' house), Eraserhead star Jack Nance's strange end, black magician/rocket scientist Jack Parsons' death-by-misadventure and the 1926 Rose Parade grand stand collapse, to fascinating obscurities, the tour's dozens of murders, arsons, kidnappings, robberies, suicides, auto wrecks and oddball happening sites provide a alternate history of Pasadena that's as fascinating as it is creepy. Passengers will tour the old Millionaire's Row on Orange Grove, thrill to the shocking Sphinx Murder on the steps of the downtown Masonic Hall and discover why people named Judd should think twice before moving to Pasadena. (Buy tickets here.)

THE REAL BLACK DAHLIA - SAT. 7/18... Join us on this iconic, unsolved Los Angeles murder mystery tour, from the throbbing boulevards of a postwar Downtown to the quiet suburban avenue where horror came calling. After multiple revisions, this is less a true crime tour than a social history of 1940s Hollywood female culture, mass media and madness, and we welcome you to join us for the ride. This tour always sells out, so do not delay. (Buy tickets here.) 

Los Angeles seizes vacant, historic bank by eminent domain, then does nothing with it.

Too weird for the Masons is pretty weird.

A new landlord spells the end of Solley's Deli.

Meet the oleander's deadlier cousin.

A bloody business.

A plea to save a poignant piece of historic Japanese-American Altadena.

Roger Ebert on Chris Burden, who died this week.

Through the magic of internet archiving, the great Los Angeles Time Machines historic restaurant website lives!

Developer donations prove toxic for CD4 candidates.    

Secrets of 17th century pies unmasked!

Scenes from opening night for LAPL's exhibition of Bunker Hill photographs and ephemera.

As goes Cooper Union, so goes USC's Art and Design MFA program.
Kim and Richard
A great Southern California mystery writer enters the canon, with this handsome Library of America anthology edited by noir scholar Tom Nolan. Dig in to some of the darkest and most psychologically sophisticated detective fiction ever penned, in which the California dream proves fatal. Critic Maureen Corrigan muses on this fresh style of Suburban Noir.
A novel set in 1929 Los Angeles, starring the young Raymond Chandler, his devoted secretary and the real-life Philip Marlowe in pursuit of a murderous cult of angel worshippers. Available on all Esotouric tours, or direct from Esotouric Ink, from Amazon and for the Kindle.
A collaboration between illustrator Paul Rogers and our own Kim Cooper, featuring 50 iconic noir locations and packed with surprising lore and gorgeous artwork inspired by the vintage Dell Mapback mysteries of the 1940s. Available from Kim or Amazon, and on our tours. (Looking for Aaron Blake's out-of-print 1985 map? Click here.)
Four times a year, we gather in the teaching crime labs of Cal State Los Angeles under the direction of Professor Donald Johnson to explore the history and future of American forensic science. Your $36.50 ticket to the Serial Killer Summer Session presentation benefits graduate level Criminalistics research. Join us on Sunday, August 16. For more info, or to reserve, click here.
Now on the LAVA blog, video of Nathan Marsak's LAVA Sunday Salon talk on Richardsonian Romanesque architecture in Los Angeles. Click here to see.
In the latest edition of You Can't Eat the Sunshine, we peel back the curtains to reveal a day in the life of Union Station, and learn how fast-acting Downey folk managed to save their beloved Googie diner from an illegal demolition. Click here to tune in.
Help bring an L.A. icon back from the dead. Join the campaign to restore John Parkinson's 1910 design for our greatest lost park.
The LAVA Sunday Salon is our monthly cultural clearing house of new ideas presented by LAVA Visionaries, the most fascinating folks in town. The Sunday Salon returns on May 31 with Kristin Bedford's photographic odyssey into fascinating and seldom-seen spaces. Free, reservations required.
We discovered Raymond Chandler's most delightful literary secret. Now we need your help to stage his comic operetta in Los Angeles!
Need an L.A.-centric gift in a hurry? Visit The Esotouric Emporium of L.A. Lore, our curated guide to the best in regional books, films and artifacts. How about a gift certificate for a bus adventure into the secret heart of Los Angeles, a solo 6-Pack or shareable 12-Pack? We also carry vintage photos of lost Bunker Hill as well as earlier scenes, Charles Bukowski-inspired fine art prints, Raymond Chandler maps (vintage) or (contemporary) and 76 ball antenna toppers.
If you enjoy all we do to celebrate and preserve Los Angeles history and would like to say thank you, please consider putting a little something into our digital tip jar. Your contributions are never obligatory, but always appreciated.
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