Playing Tour Guide: The Watts Towers

Back to the blogging mysteries… One of the reasons why I didn’t update the blog at all in May was because I was having too much fun playing tour guide. One of my Scottish friends and frequent partners in traveling crime, Alyson, came to visit for three weeks and I wanted to make sure that she got in as much of LA as she wanted to. However, despite doing a variety of stuff, when she left I felt apologetic for not doing more.

Luckily she told me via email that I had shown her tons of stuff, more than she could have thought of. I guess that speaks volumes about a city people often say lacks interest or culture. But LA has its hidden facets and you just have to know where to find the gems.

In playing tour guide, I was also able to revisit spots that I hadn’t been to in years, as well as go see new things I had never managed to get around doing. That’s one of the best parts of having out of town guests – you can be a local and tourist at the same time.

One of these for me was the Watts Towers. Built by an Italian immigrant starting in the mid part of the last century, the towers are an amalgamation of materials and shapes. The artist took various pieces of glass, metal, toys, whatever you could name and affixed them to his towers. One of those icons that could have easily fell into disrepair and disappeared, it was made into a historic landmark and trust.

In all honesty, I do not do the Towers justice in describing them. They are very surreal, Gaudi-esque in their strange shapes, and yet they seem somehow familiar and calming. They reminded me of more concrete sandcastles marching their way upwards in ever precarious designs.

Even though I had heard for years how cool the Watts Towers were, I had no idea I would find them so marvelous. Now having been there, I would recommend them to both tourist and native, with of course the one caveat: Watts isn’t exactly a neighborhood you hang around without specific business. As we were driving around, Alyson and I saw a veritable pimp at his corner store, costume and all, on the beautiful Sunday afternoon. Then again, I’ve seen stranger things in stranger places.

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