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The Downtown LA by Rie Rasmussen via VOGUE Italia

Posted on 01 March 2016

The stunning Rie Rasmussen stopped by the boho lair recently while traveling through DTLA working on a piece for VOGUE Italia essentially A day in DTLA.

photo by Rie Rasmussen

DTLA aka Downtown Los Angeles writhes in the baking Sun year around, nestled between 4 of the busiest Freeways in the world, Korean town and East LA, it’s the latest new art community exploding in L.A.. Here you can still  taste the stink of old LA, sweat, gasoline, decomposing trash and burning concrete. Reminds me of the 90’s. Over the last 6 years DTLA has been steadily building its way to being the ultimate cool but has not yet been gentrified, it still promisees a long road to go before that happens. When you walk the streets it becomes obvious why. Not only are you trapped in Downtown because of relentless traffic that extends like a giant poisonous snake swallowing the entire area in it’s paralyzing slow death grind but you are also dealing with the issue of Skid Row.

– Skid Row is a neighborhood spanning about 10 x 10 streets, where American health & societal politics collide with the ‘American Dream’ and then beautifully illustrates the actual nightmare. Los Angeles’ homeless, with a large mentally illl percentage, all congregate here. There is a small clinic that tries it’s best to sporadically medicate serious issues that merit more consistent care.

   The neighborhood is littered with their shopping carts full of weathered belongings, small tents or temporary cardboard structures are everywhere surrounding Skid Row, the streets are populated with a constant flow of men in various wwws of dirty, talking to themselves or to each other in smaller more sane groups; some women stick out in the masses. In the day you can walk through but you shouldn’t be female or alone, at night you take the long way around. Some are of course harmless men who are down on their luck but many are alcoholics, addict and have serious untreated personality disorders, and yes, most are of black and brown skin color because it is that much harder to not be white in America…. Though a few blocks away are many flourishing business neighborhoods. Literally 5 streets over you have Grand Avenue, Grand avenue the exact opposite of Skid Row, it’s cultural mecca. You have 2 of my favorite museums, The MOCA & The BROAD, the shiny Walt Disney Concert Hall designed by Frank Gehry in stainless steal stands tall reflecting the constant Sun in the already inhumane Concrete Jungle temperatures, CalArts, Philharmonic, Opera, Performing arts Center, the Library, Master Coral and many more arts and performing arts venues and schools, it’s not named Grand avenue for nothing.

– You always have to start a good fun museum day with a hearty breakfast! And there is no better place than the GRAND CENTRAL MARKET, it’s a big open bottom floor of a warehouse with about 38 food booths serving everything from sticky rice and tacos to expensive organic juices & imported cheese. The market has been in operation since 1917.

– My friend Stephanie’s favorite place in the world to get breakfast is the highly popular EGGSLUT they make fast, egg dripping undeniably delicious egg sandwiches.

photo by Rie Rasmussen

– It’s 3 blocks to the museums, but before you start on your way up the hill you, of course, have to stop at the back end of the market where there is nothing like the coffee served at G&B coffee, it’s almost European good, with delicious new age variants and served by tattooed boys and girls with cool hairdos. I never skip this stop.

 – Now I always liked the MOCA, it’s a small somehow intimate museum, with exhibitions from street art & fashion photography to the impressionists. On their wall it’s written in a frantic scrawl “I will not make any more boring art” it’s from a John Baldessari Lithograph, 1971. Though most artists wow not to loose their way I am reminded of Bukowski’s musings on aging artists ‘As the Spirit Wanes the Form Appears’ meaning once we loose our young and fiery inspiration obvious structure takes it place trying to cover up the diminishing passion! Interesting though not always true. I also love that they have Diane Arbus portraits and one of Marlene Dumas gorgeous fluid bodies. It’s an interesting little trip to the MOCA and now you can pair it with a trip to my favorite new museum, the Broad, pronounced more like Road with a B in front of it, the bRoad. This is my favorite way to spend my morning in DTLA. I’m not a precocious Museum goer. I’ve been going with my mom since I could walk, to every museum in every country and city we ever went to, so I’ve learned to walk through quickly, note what I like and look up the history later, if needed… Though if you go with the right kind of person you don’t need to look anything up! If you go with artist Hannah Vandermolen, you’ll get a personal art history tour, from a gorgeous girl nonetheless, way better.

We rushed through the MOCA (in a paranoic kind of way) I love the feeling of breezing through. And then we skipped 100 meters along Grand Avenue to stand in line at the Broad. We wait in the ‘no reservation’ line. Since it’s a new museum many people reserve time to arrive at the museum so they are ensured entry, we stood baking in the Sun compromised line with the other ‘last minute’ people, the younger and less well put together people. Art reservations made months ahead? Who even knows where they will be 2 months from now? I ponder as I look over the well dressed line waiting in the shade, the line that made appointments months prior. We, of course, also didn’t have a reservation for the ‘Mirror Room’ that has been sold out for months already, as is the Rain Room at the LACMA, and it occurred to me while standing here waiting that the people who go the see the art, the serious museum goers are the structured and organized kind of humans, as opposed to the artist, the influence makers, the young who create what hangs on the walls in every museum; they are the unorganized chaotic ones who by not following the rules break the structure of status quo and therefore can make GREAT ART, out of the chaos, in opposition to the mundane… SO even the lines going into the museum seem to be a form of social art in their organic structure.

Somehow I am ominously reminded of the eternal L.A. poet, Charles Bukowski, aka HANK, the rebel poet, and one of his best (in my opinion) poems; ‘The Genius Of The Crowd’, especially the ending quoted here:

(cont) …

not being able to create art
they will not understand art
they will consider their failure as creators
only as a failure of the world
not being able to love fully
they will believe your love incomplete
and then they will hate you
and their hatred will be perfect
like a shining diamond
like a knife
like a mountain
like a tiger
like hemlock
their finest art

While meandering through the extremely crowded Broad museum (for a random Thursday in January it’s remarkable) I turn a corner and I am confronted with the mannequin of a GIANT LADY in a pink suit and next to this seemingly Superhuman installation is an elderly Woman in a wheel chair, after asking to take her portrait it so happened that the wheelchair bound  women was a Hungarian Holocaust survivor who had been in Auschwitz and on this day when we collided on our visit to the museum it was the actually the 71 st anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. Her name is Eva Balo and she is 94 years young. She told us about coming home from Auschwitz  & how they had to clean up after the war, putting the dead soldiers’ bodies that lay strewn around her home town in wheel barrels and taking them to the cemetery for burial. As it all seemed very gruesome then she leans forward, smiling and with a twinkle in her bright and lucid blue eyes she says confidingly “You know it wasn’t all that bad because the man who helped me was a very handsome young man, and you know what? Three months later we were married!” and then she laughs! Her story took me from a deep dark low to high bright hope, young girls are wonderful, I think to myself, they find love and beauty even where men bring destruction and gruesome murder… We need more females in this world… I think if at least 50% of all governments were women we’d be much better off.

We also met a young and very intriguingly stylish man named Billy Spencer. A sort of piece of art himself, walking among the Basquiats. Love Museums.

After the a healthy dose of large white walls and sensory overload we meander outside, Hannah is looking for a cigarette and I want some ice cream, seems reasonable in the 80 degree January weather. We find and unattractive 7/11 with more bums than shoppers and get moving toward the LAST BOOK SHOP, Once a Grand old bank (1915) it is now built into a lavish bookshop with a long mezzanine running along 3 quarters of the store giving the 60 foots ceiling the impression of a two story Book bonanza! Arm chairs and lamps, cool art and more books that you could ever dream of are artistically coordinated throughout the book sanctuary. They are also connected with the Spring Arts Collective Gallery if you want more art! This is in itself a 1/2 day adventure, or more, but we breeze into the art & photography section still buzzing from the museum so Hannah can show me some things she was talking about etc. I move us along quite fast since I have a lady I want to see about some clothes!

Maya Reynolds is CLADEMAN. Her brand of custom designed men clothes made mostly out of robust leathers and thick knits makes you think Roadwarrior meet Matrix but with an unmistakable Bohemian feel. Her treatment of the fabric is artistically Organic, she let’s the imperfections breathe and gives her leathers a post apocalyptic feel, a sense of Freedom, but a dangerous freedom. She is without a doubt one of my favorite designers and until this year her designs have been solely for men, which didn’t stop me nor Hannah from wearing them, of course, but now we are celebrating her debut in women’s clothing! She herself is a strong but agile women, a Tango Dancer nonetheless, with a head of redish curly hair that invokes the Irish planes, her store is like a snapshot of long ago history, though still very modern. She serves delicious Green Tea, she does it all herself and her atelier is right there in the back of the shop. She is a powerhouse of woman and sitting with Hannah and Maya I pinch myself in happiness at the awesome female company I am in. 


Literally down the street and around the corner lives another designer friend of mine, a real fashion and art eccentric, Victor Wilde! He is Dark and mysterious, wild and edgy and his female clothes is made for a Runway in the mid-90’s just out there cool and has a edge of Daryl Hannah in Blade Runner mixed with Cat woman! He is now an Official Candidate for the LVMH prize for Young Fashion Designers. Very exciting. Walking into his crowded loft with it’s art and tidbits of craziness everywhere I am already swimming in excitement the projects we could make with all this, just wonderful. Hannah is in love with a new jacket he made out of old Italian mail sacks, dyed black. Very cool (she’s wearing it in the photo). Now we are discussing trading a jacket for a pice of art, that is always a good conversation to have!

photo by Rie Rasmussen

So, you are gonna die from hunger if you don’t get your self some pie or lunch. The ultimate would be to eat Lunch at Zinc cafe and market and then have pie at the PIE HOLE. The cool thing about this neighborhood is that it’s full of street art, GIANT colorful murals paint the walls along the endless rows of old warehouses that now house ARTISTS of all kinds, this is the new Williamsburg NY, if you remember Williamsburg around year 2000. This is the epicenter of the COOL garde, why the rest of DTLA has contact-Hipster-cool-coodies. Now many of my older fiends complain about the Hipsters but I love it when they move in, it’s just like in the ’90’s wherever the gays moved in the neighborhoods would become instantly  awesome. Hipster or gay, I’ll like your neighborhood, or at least ill take it over straight and commercial. They have cool specialty shops, rad restaurants and fantastic aesthetics. They are a great social indicator of modern quality!

The Pie Hole by the way has THE MOST INSANE PIES, my favorite, the one I will travel 2 hour round trip to get, is the ‘Earl Grey Tea Pie’, TO FCKN DIE FOR! You cannot miss this.

While you are digesting you can shop in the ultimate cool Acronym, and basically you can buy your entire lifestyle here, a cool surfboard the right kind of vintage car and everything in-between. I was tempted to buy one of each item they had and go a weekend to Malibu, then try to return it all on the Monday after, maybe not that plausible BUT you’d be styling that weekend that’s for sure! It’s expensive as all fuck though if you are used to ABBOT KINNEY, NYC or PARIS (or Beverly Hills) prices this is just a normal store, maybe even cheaper than usual, for LA prices it makes you do a double take.  Now Acronym is owned by a Husband & wife and the Apolis next door is owned by the same Husband & his brother. This family has got good taste, expensive taste, but great taste!

For more in Budget, though not cheap, me and Stephanie always head over to Raggedy Threads, where you can find some of the best Americana vintage clothing in L.A.! I like this woman, she is something special, Jaime Wong has owned and run the store for years, she a Badass women with a sense for old cool fashion like no other! As we enter we are greeted with the new revelation that in 3 weeks time ‘Raggedy Threads’ is opening in the reputable neighborhood of Williamsburg NYC! What did I tell you about theses ‘cool of cools’? They are all linked, they must have an instinctive inner compass of the new and then they all congregate there. Not unlike the mentally ill group up around the free clinic on Skid Row, they know where to go, it’s all somehow a fix for their senses. Well, I must admit one always feels good in a likeminded community… among the ones just as fucked up as yourself, or perhaps just fucked up in the same way… 

Of course the local legend C. Bukowski has set the tone for our DTLA trip and he himself was also personally familiar with Skid Row and it’s inhabitants…

      “Some lose all mind and become soul, insane.

      Some lose all soul and become mind, intellectual.

      Some lose both and become accepted”

Our friend Daniel Salin stops by, he always stops by and chats vintage with Jamie Wong for he lives around the corner and he’s a ‘What’s New and Cool’ forerunner, one of the originals in DTLA and basically in… everything. He helped curate the art hanging on the walls of the L.A. Soho house, he produced Banksy’s LA art show, he also helps out JR do his LA actions, billboards and buildings, the list goes on, it’s impressive and the man could not be more humble! With an impeccable sense of style, always, he nonchalantly lives next door to Skid Row, in a giant open warehouse, his place is filled with antiques he has picked out from around the country. He either sells them or finds a place for them in his museum like space. Not one thing in his intimate surroundings is contemporary from the 1930’s fridge, to the LP player, his automobiles and motorcycles. Well, except for the impressive modern art, thats as cutting edge contemporary as it gets. The man’s got STYLE, in capitals. He drawls a few words and smiles crookedly, charming, but not as charming as when he’s on www crooning Americana country/blues songs in his band Owl Owl, oh yeah, did I forget to mention that he is a musician too? Of course he is AND he is opening the newest coolest bar downtown, ‘The Wolves’. This will fast be a ‘must go’ corner stone of DTLA’s cool happenings.

We sauntered over to Kassia Meador’s cool artist loft where she comes to create her various ventures. Now Kassia is not only a special person in my life, she is a unique soul of the Universe. She is a creator of all sorts, a true dyed-in-the-wool bohemian artist with every medium at her fingertips. She has been the best female professionally sponsored Free surfer for a decade, She now has her own surf and life style brand, she makes Radical wetsuits and all cool things you can’t live without if you surf. She also takes GORGEOUS photos, and ONLY shoots film, she plays with in-camera double exposures and shoots her endlessly intriguing crew of friends, surfers, artists and model-actresses. In her wake you smell sun, sand, hikes and organic oils, maybe some surf wax, made by her own company as well of course, KASSIA SURF. She is a creature all of her own kind, an untamed spirit, a traveller looking for waves and creator with a wide open mind. The love I feel for this sentient being honestly has no real words, it can only be experienced. And Kassia is a lifetime of experiences…

There is one cool ass street in DTLA where I didn’t go to this time around and that’s South Broadway!  Broadway home to three remolded theaters from the turn of the 20th century. The ACE Hotel is the most famous of these and like good Hipster kids they have have kept the Vintage look of the www & the red velvet, 1,000 seat room and dutifully build their trademark, new & cool hotel around it. I have most notably seen the reading of ‘The Hateful Eight’ played here starring Quentin Tarantino as the eccentric and perfectly smooth talking narrator and his rumbustious cast from Kurt Russel to Samuel Jackson, THIS was one of the most delicious experiences of my long and eventful life!

DINNER, now there are a million places to go eat but Stephanie’s favorite place in the world is ‘Bottega Louie’ and for a perpetual skinny girl that lady like to eat! You can’t mess with her food, so I don’t. Located in the more commercial part of downtown, the building are bit taller, shiner and there are bigger business names on the bottom floors. though its just a few blocks from the always central Skid Row and just far enough away from the new cool Hipster area to not impose its commonalities on them. Here, though is a gem of food place, you can have french pastries that are DELICIOUS, yeah I said it, they are delicious and its in LA! I won’t say I’ve ever come straight of the plane from Paris and gone for dessert there but Ill say if you haven’t been in Paris yesterday, you’ll be very happy eating theses sugary marvels. BUT they also have great food and even better Italian thin crusted Pizzas that make you very happy while munching them down! You cant really go wrong here. GO early or reserve because getting a table here is a loud goat market of a fight! (Of course I didn’t reserve)

There are many cool bars in DTLA, many, but I’m not a bar kind of girl. Though I will go to Daniel’s Bar ‘The Wolves’ when it opens, at least to catch a live show, I love great live music. Still a 90’s kid. On that note I scrambled out of DTLA because this evening had a special treat for me, an dear friend, Sophie Auster happens to be in LA and is playing a live show in West Hollywood at the ‘Cafe Hotel’. I’m always dying to catch a glimpse of Sophie as she is extremely easy on the eyes and I think her company feels like how perhaps it would feel to pour liquid velvet down your insides, and that’s even before she steps on stage.  Even though I only caught the tail end of the Traffic Snake & it’s wrath I’m exhausted as I rush in but I am greeted by her enormous voice! HOW does such a petite and perfectly sculpted girl have such a giant voice. She is everything live, everything you want to experience emotionally at a live show, sweet, endearing & humble while belting a serious voice up from her depths and changing her attitude with each song. At one point I see her sneering and spitting her lyrics at the audience, obviously reliving a past breakup full of desire to tear her ex-partner’s intestines out and cook them for dinner, I nod in agreement with my own distant memories, and the next moment she croons like a 30’s actress or revokes the 60’s with a flawless voice channeling Peggy Lee. I’m knocked on my ass and all I can think is when do I get to make a video with this talented young women. Man oh man, do I know some amazing women with great talents! I’m one lucky lady and to quote the born and breed L.A. local Ice Cube: “Today was a Good Day”!!

by Rie Rasmussen


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