La Brea Avenue

La Brea

Photos: Joshua Spencer
Words: Adam Johnston

Before my last friend here left Los Angeles for good – not because he didn’t love it anymore, he said, but because it didn’t love him – he once told me that if he were to get a tattoo he would get one of La Brea Avenue. He described a long, single line with few curves or angles running along the inside of his forearm; a hand drawn map of the north-south street coursing through the center of this city with no center. He just loved it, its people, its shops, its roadside attractions; the oil fields and tar pits, as if from another place and time – who knew la brea meant tar?


A long, single line with few curves or angles coursing through the center of this city with no center


From Inglewood to Hollywood, Kermit in a tux and the hot dogs at Pink’s, the jet plane scream and the gallery hush. Everywhere he looked there was high and low art, runway and street fashions, fleeting celebrity sightings and people waiting for the bus, forever. He couldn’t imagine anything more perfect for his imperfect home, a reminder of what he could never forget. And isn’t that the reason we usually get tattoos: for love and for memory.


Go walk it on a busy day or go drive it on a quiet one. Bring a camera and some money. Stop by 165 South and make yourself at home, at least for a little while.