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After a spring cleaning, a new look at the Village

by John Pixley

I had bags of clothes. They were lined up on my futon. Perhaps that’s what happens when one goes, as I did, to New Jersey for a weekend in February, when I could see 300-year-old grave markers dusted with snow and a frozen river two blocks away. Perhaps it’s what happens after such a wake-up from a quick trip to such a different place.

It certainly was a jolt for me, waking me up. For one thing, there were those bags of clothes on the futon a month or two later in the spring. They were not bags of new clothes. No, these were bags of clothes I was getting rid of. It turned out the New Jersey trip got me to finally clear out my closets, or at least some of them.

Along with a bunch of Oxford shirts and hoodies among other items, there was quite a collection of overalls that I had built up over the years, primarily at thrift stores. I wear them regularly but, while I have gotten a kick out of guys writing proudly online that they “have hundreds of overalls,” it finally hit me this spring, after waking up in New Jersey, that having hundreds of overalls (actually dozens of overalls) doesn’t make sense. It was absurd.

Some of the overalls in the bags were quite cool. They were tye-dyed or bleached or they were unique cut-offs or interesting colors like yellow or had interesting prints. But they were too small or too big, or I have others just like them and never wore them. It was finally time to clear the clutter, free up some shelves (literally) and get rid of them.

I put aside two of the bags with the less worn, more unique stuff, thinking I could get some cash for them.  I also thought of going to Silver Lake, the Los Angeles neighborhood with a sophisticated but laid back artistic, hippie/hipster vibe. After all, I’ve been told I’m “very Silver Lake,” and it’s a place I feel at home on a visit. Even more so than a place like West Hollywood, where it feels like it’s all about what one looks like or what one drives.

But friends kept suggesting that I might try to sell the clothes at Deluxe, which sells second-hand and vintage clothes in the Village. These friends included a couple who have visited from LA, and they were saying, more or less, that Deluxe, along with other stores in the Village, is like Silver Lake. Or at least not that unlike Silver Lake. And it turned out they were right.

Not only did I get a good amount of cash for some of my clothes at the shop, but I also got another needed jolt or at least a needed reminder about the Village. Yes, I enjoy seeing movies at the Laemmle Cinema 5—I have written numerous times about how the theater has given Claremont and the Village a real boost—and I see the people sitting and talking in the plaza out front. And I see not only the stores that have always been in the Village, like Rhino Records and the Folk Music Center, but also new ones like Deluxe.

What’s more, there are times when I pass through the Village—with all those shops and restaurants, old and new, and the groups of people walking around—and I think it could be like downtown San Luis Obispo, which has gotten to be a downright happening place in the last 15 years or so.

But this is not just a wish. The Village is, indeed, like downtown San Luis Obispo. There are lots of attractive little shops and more and more in recent years there are bunches of people, at least on weekends. Many times, the restaurants are full and live music is heard coming out of some.

No, the Village is not just a place to pass through on the way to see a movie or on the way out of town to Silver Lake or Santa Monica or Pasadena. It isn’t just a sweet place in town, nice for the locals to stop by. No, the Village is a place where my friends from LA, and apparently lots of people from other places, like to come to and enjoy.

Really, going to Deluxe is like going to the cool second-hand store I used to go to in downtown San Luis Obispo or the one I discovered a few months ago in the Hillcrest area of San Diego. And eating at a restaurant like Junction, which has kimchi tacos and other intriguing Korean/Mexican street food mash-ups, is just as much of an adventurous taste treat as going to one of my eating spots, including the hard-core vegan ones in LA.

And, in some ways, it’s even better—and not just because there’s traffic or a long drive getting there. The Village may be like downtown San Luis Obispo, but it isn’t really like Silver Lake. And it isn’t like Pasadena or Santa Monica, which is for the best.

It is why my LA friends like the Village.

The fact that the Village is part of a small town at its heart makes it more than a series of shops and restaurants, and certainly more than just a place to pass through. Being this “happening place” with this small-town feel is what makes the Village the Village. Like I said, it’s why my friends from LA enjoy it here. 

It is why there is concern about the condos being built in the Village, with worries about more crowds and congestion. I understand these concerns, but they keep coming up every time there’s something new in the Village, as if there shouldn’t ever be any changes.

There was also the letter recently in these pages about an unfortunate confrontation outside the Some Crust Bakery. Sure, such an encounter is upsetting and may feel contrary to what should happen in a nice, small town (not that it should happen in other communities, including big hustling cities). But, in an effort to prevent them, we shouldn’t keep the Village from changing and becoming an ever-more vibrant and attractive destination.

A friend recently said that he would be out of town for the Fourth of July and would particularly miss the parade. He said he loves its “small town feel.” What is even better, and all the more to celebrate, is that our July 4 festivities, like the Village, are still small-town. Even as they change into something new.

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