Student Writing Wednesday: Katherine’s “The Real LA”

I heard so much about the beach, but not the street and when I saw it, it was so beautiful.

It was January and I had just arrived in California. I was visiting my grandma and decided to take a tour to get familiar with the scenery. The tour started at the Santa Monica Pier. I got there early just to look around and explore before I started the tour and I was flooded with facts. As soon as I got there, I saw the lights and people and how they looked so happy and pleased. They looked like they had never seen something as great as this. I then spotted this sign with big bold letters that said “Tour for $20” and “See the real LA.” I was intrigued so I walked over and said to the guy, “This is a scam, right? I mean, do you really show people the true LA?” He answered, “I don’t know, but you could find out for only $20.” He stuck his hand out like he expected me to give him $20, but instead he got a question which was, “How do I know you won’t rip me off?’’ “You don’t,” he answered. I gave him an eye roll and said “Why should I waste my time and money for something that might be a rip-off instead of the real thing?” He replied, “Because I can show you the parts of LA that most people might not notice and if it helps you can give me the money after the tour.” “It does,” I said. I followed him and we soon arrived at the Santa Monica Promenade. Then, he told me that this might be what everyone else sees, but they always focus on the stores, not on the outside of all of them. He showed me the people dancing and laughing and trying to get money for themselves or their family. I thought how funny it was that I didn’t even notice, even though it happens in my home, street, and town every day. I realized something sad, I didn’t notice and if I didn’t notice, who else didn’t? I then started realizing why it was $20. I told him to continue the tour and he did.

Before I knew it,  I was at Venice Beach. I heard so much about the beach, but not the street and when I saw it, it was so beautiful. There were all different kinds of people there and different stores. I noticed how Santa Monica had stores that were all over the place and Venice had stores you would only find at Venice. I then realized that is how they attract people from all over. I started walking into stores and seeing all the cool stuff I could buy as a reminder of this day. “It’s cool, right?” he said. “Yeah,” I said. “I grew up with people telling me Disneyland is LA or Santa Monica is LA and then I decided to tell people what I think LA is, not what they think” he told me. “You know, I don’t even know what your name is and you already told me a story that makes me feel like I should,” I said. I heard, “My name is Aaron and what’s yours?” “Well Aaron, my name is Danielle, but you can call me Dani” I replied. He said, “You know, the tour is over now.” I replied, “No, I didn’t know that, thanks for telling me.” I gave him the $20, but he decided not to take it and so I secretly put it in his pocket. We said goodbye and see you later and for some reason, I really hoped I would see him again.

L.A. isn’t just THAT is a book is about Los Angeles, about the nitty-gritty of everyday life: its freeways, its street art, its shores. It’s about taking a closer look, digging deeper, experiencing the world from a young Angeleno’s eyes. Evening tutoring students at 826LA in Mar Vista will give you the inside scoop on Dodger games and food trucks. Others will tell you what they imagine Los Angeles will look like in the year 2049 through their utopian and dystopian tales. Of course, we can’t forget Hollywood. Be delighted by students’ very own screenplays and video game scripts. But LA isn’t just “that”: Beverly Hills, Hollywood, or Santa Monica. LA is the stories depicted in this chapbook.

Read more about 826LA’s tutoring program and volunteer opportunities here

You can purchase L.A. isn’t just THAT at the Time Travel Mart here.

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