How to Celebrate the Moon Landing's 50th Anniversary - United Hub
Hemispheres

How to celebrate the moon landing’s 50th anniversary

By The Hub team , July 09, 2019

Story by Susan B. Barnes • Hemispheres July 2019

10 ways to commemorate Neil Armstrong's giant leap for mankind.

10. Walk like an astronaut

A picture of an astronaut

Long before liftoff, all of the astronauts who would walk on the surface of the Moon trained in the desert and forest around Flagstaff, Arizona, from 1963 to 1972. Join a three-hour guided hike through the Bonito Lava Flow in Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument to experience firsthand the places where the astronauts learned to drive the Lunar Roving Vehicle (or moon buggy) and to pick up tiny pebbles while wearing clumsy space-suit gloves.

9. Cheers to 50 years

A cocktail to celebrate 50 years

Sommelier and mixologist Sean Beck developed a trio of cocktails for three Houston restaurants to celebrate the milestone. “I'm a history buff and always enjoyed the study of space," he says, “so it was easy to find inspiration for such a monumental event." At Xochi, his Tranquility Base Margarita features a moon rock–inspired ice sphere made from crème de violette and Oaxacan poléo tea. The “moon" also appears in Backstreet Café's We Came in Peace for All Mankind (pictured), a riff on the classic Last Word cocktail that's named for the final sentence on the plaque placed on the moon. Finally, at Caracol, the Michael Collins Remembered is an ode to the third Apollo 11 member, who stayed on the command module during the moon walk. “Michael Collins was quite simply the loneliest man in the universe when he was on the far side of the moon, out of communication and view of our planet," Beck says. “He doesn't get nearly enough attention. When I think of him, I think of being crazy-brave, passionate, and so calm and in control." The spin on an old-fashioned captures Collins's passion through the use of Glenfiddich Fire & Cane Whisky and is served with an ice cube studded with toasted blue corn kernels, which hover in the drink like little moon rocks.

8. Party like it's 1969

The moon landing celebrations that took place 50 years ago

“As we approach the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission, I am still in awe by the fact that I walked on the moon," Buzz Aldrin recently said. He and a slew of other astronauts—along with the retired Air Force One that carried the Apollo 11 crew on a post-mission world tour—will appear at the “black-tie/white-spacesuit" gala at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, on July 13. In Washington, D.C., meanwhile, the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum will hold its culminating celebration on July 20 at 10:56 p.m. (the exact time Armstrong's foot touched the moon). And Space Center Houston will cap its festivities with a '60s-themed Splashdown party on July 24 to honor the successful return of Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins, whose command module floated down to the Pacific Ocean with the help of three enormous parachutes.

7. Where to see moon memorabilia

Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, Washington, D.C.

Thanks in part to a Kickstarter campaign, Armstrong's Apollo 11 spacesuit goes back on display on July 16, for the first time in 13 years.

The Museum of Flight, Seattle

The command module Columbia is the centerpiece of the exhibit Destination Moon: The Apollo 11 Mission (through September 2), which features a 3-D tour of the module's interior made with high-resolution scans from the Smithsonian.

Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, Merritt Island, Florida

The newly refreshed Apollo/Saturn V Center houses one of the three remaining Saturn V rockets, which propelled the Apollo 11 crew into space, and the Astrovan, which transported them to the launch pad.

6. Hop onto a spacecraft

Spaceport America in New Mexico

Although space tourism is still a thing of the future, more than 700 people have reportedly already signed up for a $250,000 commercial flight into orbit that will eventually blast off from the sleek Spaceport America, deep in the New Mexico desert. Until then, check out the Spaceport America Visitor Center, which is housed in a historic adobe building in nearby Truth or Consequences, to test your mettle in a G-force simulator—the perfect training for young space lovers who might be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Mars landing in the not-too-distant future.

5. Houston, we have restoration

Scenes from the Apollo Mission Control Center

On June 28, Space Center Houston and Johnson Space Center debuted a totally restored—down to the last scrap of wallpaper and carpet—Apollo Mission Control Center. The goal? If a scientist who worked there in the 1960s arrived today, he or she wouldn't be able to tell the difference.

“[The restoration] will not only help share our history with visitors from around the world," says Jim Thornton, the restoration project manager, “but also remind our current employees who are planning missions to send humans back to the moon and then further, to Mars, that anything is possible, and we are standing on the shoulders of giants."

The museum took every detail into account: After workers uncovered original wallpaper and carpeting, curators tracked down the manufacturers and had them replicate the 1960s look. They also hand-stamped the ceiling tiles with original patterns and ordered a period-appropriate coffee pot on eBay.

Old machinery from the Apollo Mission Control Center

“We're using modern methods to make things look old," says historic preservation officer Sandra Tetley. The original flip tops on the Visitors Viewing Room ashtrays, for instance, had vanished over the years—likely taken as souvenirs—so Tetley's team had new ones 3-D printed. Meanwhile, a team at Kansas's Cosmosphere is restoring the flight control consoles to the original Apollo configuration (they had been modernized for space shuttle launches). These updates have a purpose beyond aesthetics, says Space Center Houston president and CEO William T. Harris: “The accomplishments of the Apollo era inspired people and spurred innovators to chase impossible dreams. We hope experiencing the restored historic Mission Control will spark curiosity and fuel people of all ages to join the science, technology, engineering, and math pathway."

4. Kids in space

This summer, let your budding astronauts get in on the action. During Discover the Moon Day (July 19) at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in D.C., visitors can follow a route that's roughly the distance the Apollo 11 crew walked on the moon (about 3,300 feet), stopping at informational stations along the way. On July 20 at the Cosmosphere in Hutchinson, Kansas, kids can sketch their own space-suit designs and make suit components from household materials. And Denver's Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum hosts an Apollo-palooza (July 13–20) with speakers such as NASA flight director Gene Kranz, who was played by Ed Harris in Apollo 13.

3. Shoot the moon

Photography of the moon

The moon has served as a muse since the earliest days of both art—the 15,000-year-old Lascaux cave paintings contain a lunar calendar—and photography. Two newly discovered 1840s daguerreotypes, believed to be the earliest existing photographic images of the moon, form the centerpiece of Apollo's Muse (through September 22) at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art, which is also displaying cameras used by the Apollo crew. At the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., By the Light of the Silvery Moon (through January 5, 2020) includes glass stereographs taken more than a century apart: some captured by British astronomer Warren De La Rue in the 1850s, others by Armstrong and Aldrin on the surface of the moon in 1969. Finally, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston's Shooting the Moon (through September 2) includes works by Ansel Adams, Garry Winogrand, and “remix artist" Cassandra C. Jones (pictured).

2. Lunch with an astronaut

An out-of-this-world experience—with an otherworldly price tag that starts at $10,000—awaits at The Post Oak Hotel at Uptown Houston. The two-night Space Center Houston Package includes travel via helicopter to Ellington Field (a former NASA training center), a private tour of Johnson Space Center, and a private lunch with an astronaut. Afterward, return to earth with the hotel's Ritual of Five Worlds treatment.

1. ...We have liftoff

Huntsville, Alabama—aka Rocket City—is the home of the Saturn V rocket. To honor its place in history, the city's U.S. Space & Rocket Centeris launching a record 5,000 model rockets at the exact local time of liftoff, 8:32 a.m., on July 16. The organization has also tasked everyday space lovers with launching their own model, stomp, and makeshift rockets and posting photos with the hashtag #GlobalRocketLaunch.

A makeshift rocket with three men inside at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center

A message from our CEO Oscar Munoz on the anniversary of September 11, 2001

By Oscar Munoz, CEO, United Airlines , September 11, 2019

Today, we remember the colleagues, customers and every single victim of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

I know each of us in the United family marks this difficult moment in our own way. Still, we all share a common commitment to honor how our brothers and sisters left us and also celebrate what they gave to us during their lives. We remember their professionalism and heroism. We cherish their camaraderie and friendship. We carry with us the examples they set forth, especially in the heroism and bravery displayed by so many on that terrible day. Above all, we understand a simple truth: While thousands of our fellow human beings lost their lives in New York City, Arlington and Shanksville, the attacks of September 11th were aimed at all people of peace and good will, everywhere. They were attacks on the values that make life worth living, as well as the shared purpose that make us proud of what we do as members of the United family: connecting people and uniting the world.

We may live in times scarred by discord and disagreement, and we know there are those around the world who seek to divide us against one another. But, on this day – above all – we come together, as one. We affirm our core belief that far, far more unites us as citizens and fellow human beings than can ever divide us.

Let us embody that belief as we go about serving our customers and one another – on this day and every day – as we continue to help building a world that's more united. Let that be our memorial to the sisters and brothers we lost, eighteen Septembers ago.

Humbly,
Oscar

Hemispheres

Three Perfect Days: Los Angeles

By The Hub team

Story by Justin Goldman | Photography by Tanveer Badal | Hemispheres September 2019

No one comes to Los Angeles without having at least a little foreknowledge. If you're a film geek (like me), you know where the heist crew had breakfast in Reservoir Dogs and which building was Nakatomi Plaza in Die Hard. If you're a music geek (like me) you can name the clubs Guns N' Roses welcomed to the jungle and the streets Dr. Dre went rollin' in his '64. If you're from New York or San Francisco (like me), you probably hate LA on principle—for the smog, the Lakers fans, the fame-seeking ethos of Hollywood. And yet, no matter how much you think you know the City of Angels, there's always something more to learn, something real to find. LA County, after all, comprises more than 4,000 square miles and 10 million people (including the largest Mexican and Asian immigrant communities in the U.S.), with a GDP of $700 billion. It's impossible to make an LA guide for everyone, but if you (like me) are a fan of Chinatown and Charles Bukowski, beaches and bowling alleys, Michelin stars and micheladas, here's one for you.

Day 1

Beaches and speakeasies on the Westside

I'm in Los Angeles, so of course I'm eating breakfast by the pool. More specifically, I'm in the lovely atrium at FIG, the poolside restaurant at the Fairmont Miramar Hotel in Santa Monica. In the water, a couple of kids are splashing around in unicorn floaties. On the wall above, Muscle Beach's best-known lifter, Arnold Schwarzenegger, flexes in a mural. On my plate is a scramble chock-full of fresh produce—tomatoes, asparagus, peppers, spinach—from Santa Monica's famed farmers market.

The pool may be Hockney-worthy, but these flip-flops were made for walking. Five minutes down Ocean Avenue, I cross a bridge over the Pacific Coast Highway and onto the Santa Monica Pier, passing the Route 66 sign, caricature artists, funnel cake stands, and carnival rides on my way to the end of the pier, where fishermen toss their lines in the water and tourists snap photos of a sea lion barking for scraps. The sharp salt smell of the ocean beckons, so I backtrack to the sand, where I roll up my jeans and watch the surf slide over my feet. I lose my thoughts in the rhythm of the waves, until a big one crashes in. Reverie over.

A prideful lifeguard tower on Venice Beach

A prideful lifeguard tower on Venice Beach

Going wheels-up at the Venice Skatepark

Going wheels-up at the Venice Skatepark


I watch the surf slide over my feet, losing my thoughts in the rhythm of the waves, until a big one crashes in.

I keep flippin' and floppin' my way south toward Venice Beach, the epicenter of Southern California's grungy, punky beach culture. Snatches of the Doors leak from surf shops and sunglass stands on the very strip where Jim Morrison and Ray Manzarek formed the band. Are you a lucky little lady in the City of Light? Or just another lost angel… I kill a few minutes watching skaters ollie along the undulating walls of the Venice Skatepark, and then I exit the beach, going a few blocks inland to the Venice Canals. Developer Abbot Kinney built these narrow waterways in 1905 to evoke some other Venice, and while I don't see any gondoliers, the homes lining the canals make for a fun self-guided architecture tour, veering from glass-walled Modernist structures to mosaic-tiled hippie bungalows.

A few more blocks up Venice Boulevard, I reach the town's main drag, Abbot Kinney Boulevard. I'm having lunch at Gjelina, which for more than a decade has offered the sort of farm-fresh cuisine and casual-yet-sceney vibe that the rest of the world thinks is LA. I sit at a distressed-wood table and chow down on California king salmon tataki; grilled peaches with burrata, prosciutto, and chicory greens; and a perfectly cooked black bass with olives and heirloom tomatoes. If this is what people associate with LA, I can see why everyone wants to move here.

My feet are flip-flopped out, so it's a good thing my college buddy Matt, who lives in Hermosa Beach, has loaned me his car—a cobalt Chevy Volt we call the Blue Dragon—to help me navigate this unending city. Fortunately, you don't need to be a Targaryen to ride this dragon, so after retrieving the car from the Fairmont valet, I fly up the 405 to the J. Paul Getty Museum, which stands on a hill above the most heavily trafficked freeway in the U.S. I park and take the tram up, then meander through the Robert Irwin–designed Central Garden, following a trickling waterfall to a reflecting pool and an X-Files-esque azalea labyrinth. The scene is so transporting that it's easy to pass a couple of hours without even entering the galleries. Oops.

No time for regrets, though. The afternoon has begun to wane, so I drive back to the Fairmont and take a seat on my balcony to watch the curtain fall on another day in America. Once night has settled and the lights have come up on the pier, I walk over to the Third Street Promenade, an outdoor mallwhere fairy lights twinkle and purple jacarandas bloom above shoppers and buskers singing Justin Timberlake. At the food court, I go up an escalator and tap a code into a black door marked "private." When it opens, I enter Dialogue, an 18-seat tasting-menu hideaway that was one of just 24 restaurants in LA to receive a Michelin star this June. As he passes me the gorgeous plates (21 of them!), chef Dave Beran explains how the Roots' album …And Then You Shoot Your Cousin inspired his menu.

"I reached out to Questlove, and he told me they wrote that album over the course of the last year of their manager's life," Beran says. "It's essentially their progression emotionally. You had to experience that album the way they intended it, and that led us to the idea of writing a tasting menu that had to be experienced the way we intended. Just as the seasons look forward and backward, the dishes do as well. Every dish has something in it from the last one and something to look forward to in the next. Your snapper had a ginger mist on it, which went into the ginger-rhubarb foam, which leads to a rhubarb chip with matcha and lilac pudding, followed by a cucumber-lilac soda. None of our dishes are intended to be complete thoughts as much as completing each other's thoughts." Food for thought, indeed.

The landmark Venice Sign at sunset The landmark Venice Sign at sunset

After dinner, I'm buying Matt a drink as a thanks for lending me the Blue Dragon. I take a cab to Abbot Kinney and meet him at the restaurant Scopa Italian Roots, where we tell the maître d' we have a reservation at Old Lightning. He promptly confiscates our phones and leads us around to the side of the building, through an unmarked door, and into LA's premier bourbon bar. The glass case along the wall taunts us with shelf after shelf of nigh-impossible-to-find vintage bottles. Matt leers covetously at a collection of limited-edition Willett, while I pine for the Pappy. I tell the bartender, Jesús, that I love the wheated flavor profile of the Van Winkles but can't shell out $3,000 for a flight. He brings me a more affordable sampler: a delectably corn-sweet Old Taylor 6-year from 1980; an Old Fitzgerald made by a legendary Kentucky warehouse manager who stole from his stores to create his own sought-after blends; and a 101-proof Evan Williams 12-year that's normally available only in the Bluegrass State. "I hope you didn't drive," Matt deadpans, although I think he's just trying to confiscate my Old Fitzgerald. Not a chance, pal.

Day 2

Artful architecture and swinging nightlife in DTLA

Los Angeles may have an underrated metro system, but the city's true essence is found where the Blue Dragon and I now sit: in bumper-to-bumper traffic on the 10. I pull up my rush-hour playlist, and Guy Clark sings, If I can just get off of this LA freeway, without getting killed or caught…

Eventually, I reach the center of the city, which the Spanish founded in 1781 as El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles but has in recent years been rebranded simply as DTLA. I'm starting the morning with a bite at Grand Central Market, a 1917 building that's home to all sorts of hip food stalls. I stop at the G&B Coffee counter and get an almond macadamia latte to sip while I wriggle to the Clark Street Bread stand, where I order avocado toast. It tastes like California.

On the other side of the market, I spot one of LA's signature architectural sights, the Bradbury Building. The interior of this National Historic Landmark, which was built in 1893 and features five floors of ornate iron railings and elevator shafts climbing toward an expansive skylight, looks both stunningly vintage and eerily futuristic. It's little wonder Ridley Scott chose it as the setting for the climactic scene of Blade Runner.

I exit through the side door and gawp at the Pope of Broadway, a soaring mural of Anthony Quinn on the former Victor Clothing Company building across the way, before continuing on through DTLA. This area was once so rundown that it wasn't much of a leap for Scott to imagine that by 2019 it would look like a post-apocalyptic dystopia, but over the last decade it has become the reenergized hub of the city, thanks to places like The Last Bookstore. This temple to the written word is probably best known for its second-floor book tunnel, which tourists and wannabe influencers line up to snap selfies in. I ask a clerk what he thinks is the definitive LA novel, and he points me to John Fante's Ask the Dust, which local literary god Charles Bukowski called "a wild and enormous miracle."

It's a good thing I picked up the reading material, because I'm going to have a wait at my next stop. One of the wonderful, contradictory things about this wonderful, contradictory city is that some of its best restaurants are in run-of-the-mill strip malls. One of these is Sushi Gen, in DTLA's Little Tokyo, where a long line has formed before the doors even open. I take my spot and read for a few minutes—Los Angeles, come to me the way I came to you, my feet over your streets … you sad flower in the sand—before I'm seated at the sushi bar, where a chef slings slices of Tsukiji Market–quality fish (buttery tuna, briney sea bream, sweet shrimp, creamy uni) at me until I wave my napkin in the air like a white flag.

The Pacific Seas bar at Clifton's The Pacific Seas bar at Clifton's

The afternoon sun is beating down and bouncing up off the pavement, so I elect to walk off my meal indoors, at The Broad Museum. The four-year-old building, which entrepreneur Eli Broad and his wife, Edythe, created to house their 2,000-piece collection, stands like a square of honeycomb next to the flamboyantly curvaceous Walt Disney Concert Hall next door—a contrast that associate curator Sarah Loyer tells me was very much intentional.

Jeff Koon's "Tulips" at the Broad Museum Jeff Koon's "Tulips" at the Broad Museum

"Where the Disney Concert Hall reflects light, our building draws light in," she explains. "The ceiling has 318 individual skylights that light the collection gallery. At peak sun hours we have all natural light." We ride the escalator up to the third-floor gallery, an acre of column-free space where pieces by Jeff Koons, Takashi Murakami, Yayoi Kusama, and Kara Walker are on display. I'm particularly struck by Deep Blue, an expansive mixed-media canvas by Los Angeles artist Mark Bradford. "It's inspired by the 1965 Watts Rebellion," Loyer notes. "You can see the map of the city grid, and the different dots and colors represent historic losses from that event."

We ride the Broad's escalator up to an acre of column-free space to see pieces by Jeff Koons and Yayoi Kusama

I thank Loyer for enlightening me and then zip over to the recently restored Hotel Figueroa, which features works from a new artist—often a Southern California woman—every quarter. I valet the Blue Dragon and take a few minutes to peruse Topanga-based painter Sophie Kipner's blind-contour portraits before stretching out on a poolside lounge chair with a Bohemia beer. When I mention to the waitress that something about the pool seems odd, she tells me it's shaped like a coffin. That seems like a bad omen for tonight…

But hey, if I gotta go, there are worse places to have my last meal than Nightshade, Top Chef winner Mei Lin's much-hyped new restaurant in the up-and-coming Arts District. A taxi drops me at a converted warehouse space that's an Instagrammer's dream—blond wood, white brick, mint and emerald green upholstery, and hanging plants—surpassed only by the presentation of the dishes: Hokkaido scallops in a coconut vinaigrette, chicharrón chunks with a bright green coconut and trout roe dipping sauce, prawn toast that tastes like Vietnamese spring rolls, Szechuan hot quail served atop Japanese milk bread (à la Nashville hot chicken). If the atmosphere is heavenly, that last plate is hellish; my eyes start burning upon its arrival, and it takes an extra glass of grüner to cool my mouth after its departure.

Let's keep turning up the heat! Clifton's is a DTLA institution, a Depression-era cafeteria that fed 10,000 people a day, eventually fell into disrepair, and was ultimately reborn as a four-story nightlife bazaar following a 2015 renovation. I climb past the giant trunk of an (admittedly fake) redwood tree to the top-floor Pacific Seas tiki bar, where I sit in a wicker chair under a mermaid statue and sip a Scorpion Bowl (rum, gin, cognac, orgeat, and god knows what else) that is, yes, set on fire by my waitress. Before I get stung, I descend one floor to the Brookdale Ballroom, where dancers in Gatsby-esque getups swing to a New Orleans jazz band. A woman sashays by me in a peacock-feather outfit, but she's gone before I can ask her if this is real or if I've been consumed by the flames of Szechuan pepper and Polynesian mixology.

Day 3

Hollywood history and Eastside eats

It was all real, and I'm paying for it now. Good thing I know the perfect place for a clean-living kind of breakfast. Sqirl is on the edge of East Hollywood, in an area that's still dotted with 99-cent stores, but the line of part-time models waiting outside betrays its hip quotient. I make my way to the counter, order an Horchoffee (vegan horchata shaken with a double espresso) and a Crispy Disco (brown rice with mint, cilantro, cucumber, scallion, avocado, fried egg, and sausage), and grab a seat at the sideboard. The restaurant's sprightly owner, Jessica Koslow, brings over my food and gives me a playful punch on the knee as she takes the stool next to mine.

"It was a lot of pressure to be this funky place and be like, 'Here's what's happening in Los Angeles,'" the Long Beach native says, recalling the rapturous reviews she received after opening in 2012. However, she does take pride in being an evangelist for SoCal cooking. "There are so many different pockets of LA that [its cuisine] is hard to describe, but if you want a neighborhood restaurant for LA, you're here."

The Angel of Breakfast gives me a hug and waves me back to my food. After devouring the Crispy Disco, I head to The Hollywood Roosevelt hotel. Upon checking in, I rendezvous with Tours by Locals guide Jasmine Jia, who takes me on a winding drive through Griffith Park to the Griffith Observatory. The triple-domed Greek Revival building is one of LA's most recognizable—it can be seen in Rebel Without a Cause and La La Land—but Jia tells me it almost didn't get built. The city turned down funding from tycoon Griffith J. Griffith in 1912 because he had infamously shot his wife (who survived) a decade earlier. "There was a sensational trial," Jia says. Griffith re-donated the money when he died in 1919, and the Observatory was completed by the WPA in 1935. Today it's both an interactive astronomy museum and a spot from which you can see the Pacific Ocean, DTLA, Dodger Stadium, and the Hollywood sign.

The soup bowl–size chalices of salty, limey beer are garnished with shrimp, and the straws are even crusted with tamarind candy.

Now, the question every tourist in LA inevitably faces: Should I take a picture with the sign? As we drive over, Jia tells me it was erected as a real estate advertisement in 1923, when it originally read "Hollywoodland." "The land was sold, and the sign should have been taken down," she says, "but it became associated with the movie industry and LA and became a landmark." It was later shortened to Hollywood—better to fit the photo Jia snaps of me from the vista point in Lake Hollywood Park below.

Jia drops me back at the Blue Dragon, and I head to a far less touristed part of the city. Another college buddy of mine, Rob, was born and raised in Cypress Park, his parents among the tens of thousands of Mexican immigrants who settled on the east side of the Los Angeles River, and I've asked him to show me a couple of off-the-radar spots. I cross the concrete riverbed into Boyle Heights and meet him at El Tepeyac Café, an institution that serves old-school Mexican food. Rob points me toward the gargantuan chile verde–slathered Original Hollenbeck burrito, which is stuffed with rice and beans and guacamole and pork and comfort. Next, we zip over to La Chupería, in neighboring Lincoln Heights, where the bartender brings us two micheladas, soup bowl–size chalices of salty, limey beer (a Modelo bottle floats mouth-down in each cup) rimmed with chili sauce and garnished with cucumber, celery, and shrimp. The straws are even crusted with tamarind candy. As we slurp our drinks and watch a replay of the previous night's Dodgers game on the TV, I ask Rob what places like this mean to LA, and if he's worried about them disappearing as the city changes.

The busy lanes at Highland Park Bowl The busy lanes at Highland Park Bowl

"Gentrification brings restaurants and nightlife to areas that were overlooked, but now you have these immigrant-run mom-and-pop businesses, which have contributed so much to LA's cultural identity, operating under the threat of extinction," he tells me. "Without culture, LA risks losing its home too."

I thank the homie for the knowledge, and we split up with plans to meet later. I really need to stretch my legs, so I head to Echo Park. A popular walking path circles the lake where Jack Nicholson's J.J. Gittes snapped compromising photos of Hollis Mulwray in Chinatown, but today it's strangely calm: just a couple of teenagers lazily peddling swan boats and a few kids quacking at the ducks near the shore.

Feeling a little lighter, I get back in the car and cruise up Sunset Boulevard, shopping my way through LA's hippest 'hood, Silver Lake. I browse kid-centric bios of Prince and Bowie at MRKT, whip-stitched watchbands at Dean, and vintage rock 'n' roll tees at Sick City Records. Past the junction with Hollywood Boulevard, I make a pilgrimage to the swirling mural that appeared on the cover of Elliott Smith's Figure 8 album. The storefront has changed tenants several times—it's now a well-regarded Filipino restaurant—but most of the artwork remains, serving as a shrine where fans of the deceased songwriter still leave remembrances.

Echo Park Lake Echo Park Lake

We order frozen White Russians and 'Dead Flowers' comes on. I'm pretty sure we're in a Big Lebowski dream sequence.

Nostalgia makes me hungry. Dinner is at Majordomo, superstar chef David Chang's first California restaurant. I'm joined by Rob and Matt (who has come to reclaim the Blue Dragon) at a table beneath a skylit warehouse ceiling, and we go in on silky tofu topped with uni and avocado, dungeness crab mafaldine pasta, and a pot of boneless chuck short rib onto which our waiter slices a hunk of raclette. "Has anyone ever asked you to carve it straight into their mouth?" Matt asks. "All the time," the waiter replies.

We continue the impromptu reunion at another one of Rob's favorite spots, Highland Park Bowl. A diverse young crowd rolls strikes inside the 92-year-old bowling alley, LA's oldest, which is decorated with league championship banners from decades gone by. We order a round of frozen White Russians, a cocktail the bar calls The Dude Abides, and as we lace up our shoes, the Rolling Stones' "Dead Flowers" comes on. I'm pretty sure we're in a Big Lebowski dream sequence, but I don't see any purple jumpsuits, and the only thing that's nihilistic is the score of our game.

I hug my friends goodbye and hail a ride back to the Roosevelt, where I slip into a robe and look out the window of my suite. Hollywood Boulevard is asleep; the only stars sparkling are the ones embedded in the sidewalk. Good night, stars. Good night, moon. Good night, Los Angeles. I'll see you soon.

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