This Is the Part of Los Angeles County That Most People Know

Although I have lived in the Los Angeles area for over half a century, there are parts that are almost totally unfamiliar to me. Today, I had a chance to visit one of them as I drove Martine to a ophthalmologist appointment in Lakewood, which is a place I have whizzed past on the freeway, but never stopped to visit.

The part of LA that is most unfamiliar to me are the so-called “Gateway Cities” in the southeastern part of the county. I am somewhat familiar with Long Beach, which I regard as part of the tierra cognita of my experience.

The City of Los Angeles occupies much of the center of the county. Then there is a narrow corridor of the city that stretches down to San Pedro and the Port of Los Angeles. To the right of that corridor are a number of independent cities that include such names as Bell, Bell Gardens, Bellflower, Cudahy, Downey, Hawaiian Gardens, Lakewood, Lynwood, Maywood, and presumably other -woods.

Here is a map of the Gateway Cities:

Los Angeles’s “Gateway Cities”

When you remove the dark blue of Long Beach, you are left with a bunch of small, tightly squeezed together communities that for all intents and purposes have little of interest for people visiting Southern California. There are a couple of colleges, no major museums, only one ethnic community (the Indian and Pakistani enclave along Pioneer Avenue in Artesia), and a couple of historical places, mostly in Whittier. Other than Long Beach, the only community people outside of California are likely to have heard of is Compton, mostly as a high-crime place to avoid.

Martine is due for another appointment in Lakewood in a couple of weeks, so I should probably learn a little more about this apparent black hole in the city where I dwell.

And where do I live? If you look at the top map for Santa Monica slightly to the left of center, look for the number oval 2, which indicates Santa Monica Boulevard. I live right under that oval 2.

L.A. and L.B.

Looking Across the Harbor at the Queen Mary

Looking Across the Harbor at the Queen Mary

At least a couple times a year, Martine and I like to spend a day in Long Beach. We park the car in the Aquarium parking structure and walk on the path surrounding the yacht harbor and along the ocean, halfway to Belmont Shores. Usually, it’s in conjunction with a visit to the Aquarium, but I prefer to go there early before all the strollers armed with ankle-killing spikes show up. Today, we just enjoyed the sunshine and the nice weather.

I always like to see the Queen Mary across the harbor, always remembering that in 1937 it brought my mother back to the United States by way of Cherbourg, France, and Southampton, England. Fortunately, I was able to take her to see the ship docked in Long Beach Harbor, where she was able to tour the luxury cabins which, as a steerage passenger, she and her grandparents never had a chance to see on their passage.

The beach city has been interesting me more and more since I started reading the Long Beach Homicide detective novels by Tyler Dilts, namely A King of Infinite Space and A Long and Broken Hallelujah. (That leaves only The Pain Scale before I’ve read his entire opus.) As I wrote in his review of A King of Infinite Space:

It’s good to think that noir has a future in Southern California, where it was born under the skillful pens of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett. Tyler Dilts teaches writing at Cal State Long Beach. He comes to the genre with an extensive background and a rich frame of reference. In addition, he has such a good ear for the Long Beach area that I feel like dropping in at some of the restaurants he mentions and checking them out.

Long Beach has some nice areas; it also has some heinous slums. But then, I guess that goes for Los Angeles as well.