Evans is on a mission: to get you to love L.A. Sheís
come up with a jam-packed itinerary to show off the
not-always-obvious magic of this sprawling, jumbled-up
city ó a hidden garden built as a labor of love by an
Iranian immigrant, a taco stand that may or may not be
able to serve you, a mini-train ride that gives you a
glimpse of Walt Disneyís barn.
right now sheís lost.
around this tidy Atwater Village neighborhood with its
square front yards and tired landscaping, thereís an
entrance to the L.A. River ó but where?
one of those summer days when the thermometer reads 88
before 11 a.m., and her companions are starting to wilt.
"But," she says, running back from yet another
dead end, "I promise it will be worth it!"
the end of the third street she tries, she finds it. Not
a dusty chain-link fence, but a lush, watery oasis
flowing below her ó a thrilling strip of real live
nature running through the parched city landscape.
and her boyfriend, Jona Bechtolt, hold hands as they
cross the narrow pedestrian bridge over one of the only
unpaved stretches of the L.A. River.
deep into L.A. can be exhausting, but for these urban
appreciators, itís worth it to see something totally
unexpected in the city they call home.
Instagram-era Huell Howsers, Evans and Bechtolt are
wide-eyed L.A. explorers, their love of the city fueled
by a tireless enthusiasm and often expressed in
exclamation points. Their mantra might be: "Get
pair, members of an indie pop band, are dressed
appropriately for their day of adventuring. Evans, tall
and thin with short, platinum-blond hair, wears a
T-shirt featuring the local punk legend X. Bechtolt, who
has a ring of star tattoos on his right arm, wears
rolled-up jeans and an Angelyne T-shirt bought from the
self-created celebrity out of the back of her hot pink
rewards curiosity," says Evans, 29. "Itís a
big city and not everybody wants to go tromping all
around. But if you allow yourself to cut out and through
and across and between all these little micro-pockets
and mini-cities, you feel like you are traveling through
the universe, like you are a space explorer."
case youíre feeling grumpy ó "I already knew
about the L.A. River," "Iíve ridden those
mini-trains," "Who are these hipsters?"
ó letís be clear: Evans and Bechtolt are not
authorities on the city, and they donít claim to be.
both grew up in Oregon, not Los Angeles, and theyíve
only been living here together for three years.
(Although, to be fair, Evans went to Occidental College,
in L.A., so she has logged an additional four years of
even if L.A. is in your blood, itís a tough city to
wrap your head around. Tom Carroll, known for his
YouTube series, "Tom Explores Los Angeles,"
has lived in these parts all his life, and he still
struggles with contextualizing the city.
I can find these very specific locations and ideas and
really focus on them and research them, and I do that
over time, then maybe these will be anchor points that
start to connect to each other, and give a broader
picture of the city," he says. "At least it
allows me to see it from different angles."
and Evans are doing something similar. Over the last
year theyíve taken a break from making new music with
their band, YACHT, and have been making an app instead.
It is called Five Every Day, and as the name implies, it
tells users five new things to do in Los Angeles every
day. (The app is free.)
was just being completely disappointed by all the alt
weeklies, event calendars, and all of the websites being
too broad and not having any voice," Bechtolt said.
"It was too many options for a city that is already
who also works as a freelance writer, is responsible for
the adjective-laden copy.
has kind of become like a meditation now," she
says. "The daily practice of loving L.A."
day begins with a failed attempt to get breakfast
burritos at Tacos Villa Corona on Glendale Boulevard (a
sad sign in the window says they wonít be taking any
more orders for 30 minutes), and a stroll through the
Atwater Village Farmers Market, where clementines are
purchased and a warm and pungent Korean broth is
and Bechtolt live in L.A.ís Silver Lake neighborhood,
but this morning Atwater is teeming with their friends.
On the way to the market they run into Ben Jones, a
video artist and fan of their app.
I donít have the self-confidence or time to know what
Iím supposed to be doing," he says. "They do
it for me."
lunch at Thank You for Coming, an "experimental
food and art space" that makes large vegetarian
sandwiches, with beautifully colored hibiscus sodas, and
then a walk back to Tacos Villa Corona where, this time,
they get lucky.
it isnít until the river is found that it feels like
the adventure has really begun.
A grey heron! Running water!
the river has been appropriately appreciated, itís
time to walk back to the car and head to Griffith Park
for a ride on a mini-train.
points out that there are three mini-train experiences
in the cityís largest park ó including the popular
Travel Town ó but the one at the Los Angeles Live
Steamers Railroad Museum is their favorite.
set up like a large-scale miniature train set, and the
10-minute trip takes riders through a fake abandoned
mine, and past an assortment of meticulously restored
railway cars and the Disney barn, where he once ran
switches for the private mini-rail system that went
around his home in Holmby Hills.
your arms inside," says the old man who collects
the tickets. "I donít like to clean up
the ride starts Evans turns back to her fellow riders.
"Itís like pure joy," she says.
joy is a hike up to Amirís Garden, a hard-to-find spot
that Bechtolt and Evans first heard about on an old
episode of "Visiting ... With Huell Howser."
The garden was created by the late Amir Dialameh over
the span of 30 years, and sits on nearly five acres of
what was once a fire-ravaged hilltop in Griffith Park.
the half-mile trek straight up the hillside is a bit
grueling, and by the time they reach the top Bechtolt
and Evans are out of breath. But the garden is shady and
green and dotted with benches and picnic tables.
minutes later, Bechtolt and Evans are looking for
parking in Chinatown. Their original itinerary included
a stop at Roy Choiís restaurant Chego for more food,
but no oneís hungry enough for giant rice bowls, so
they head to the newly opened Chinatown branch of the
ice cream shop Scoops, known for its unusual flavors,
like "brown bread."
up: the Velveteria, a newish museum in Chinatown devoted
entirely to velvet paintings that Evans and Bechtolt
have been meaning to check out.
potent smell of burnt sage is a bit overpowering at
first, but it dissipates over time.
listens as museum founder Carl Baldwin talks about the
various artists featured in the gallery, and the role
velvet paintings have played throughout the years. In
the meantime, Bechtolt has discovered the black light
you ready to have your mind blown?" he asks.
ó no ó I think so," Evans says.
checking out a room of velvet paintings of naked people,
and the bathroom (filled with velvet paintings of people
on toilets), Evans and Bechtolt head back to the car.
are still a lot of items left on the itinerary ó the
Lotus Festival at Echo Park Lake, an amazing cosmetic
shop in Little Tokyo, maybe dinner somewhere in Monterey
Park. But Bechtolt has to get home and showered for a
show that night at the Mint. The day is coming to its
there is time for one last stop, at their favorite
picnic spot: the palm tree garden in Elysian Park. As
large family birthday parties wrap up in the field down
below, they talk about other tours of L.A. they might
could have done a Westside day ó hiking in Malibu
Canyon and going to the beach," Evans says.
we could have done a Valley day," Bechtolt says.
could do a day for every part of town," he says.
"Thatís the part that makes it so great ó it
takes multiple days, weeks, months, years to know a
fraction of the cityís offerings and its