Peeling Open Los Angeles

January 1, 1970

by Cayla Penenberg

Peeling Open Los Angeles

By Cayla Penenberg 

Mapping Los Angeles

In N Out, Paru’s, and Mashty Malone’s.  What do these three eateries have in common?  They are all restaurants and dessert shops found in Los Angeles, California, United States of America.  Drive thru’s and boutique dessert shops line the streets of this large city I’ve called home for the past 26 years of my life.  Now what exactly makes up Los Angeles? Where are the borders of this gigantic city? One might ask. The international city of Los Angeles technically only includes a small percentage of the landmass of the greater L.A. area.  All of these famous sub-cities below make up the greater Los Angeles area which is why it’s difficult to determine its exact boundaries:  Santa Monica, Venice, Marina Del Ray, Culver City, Beverly Hills, Baldwin Hills, Brentwood, Westwood, Hollywood, Melrose Hill, West Hollywood, Koreatown, Mid-City, Cheviot Hills, Long Beach, Bel Air, Los Feliz, Echo Park, Silverlake, Downtown LA, Compton, Gardena, Torrance, Glendale, Burbank, Studio City, North Hollywood. The San Fernando Valley: Northridge, Reseda, Encino, Sherman Oaks, Woodland Hills, Calabasas. Malibu & Topanga. I’ve lived on the Westside, the Valley, Topanga, and just South of Hollywood.

la map

Map of Los Angeles

Los Angeles as a Car City

Originally, Los Angeles had a transportation system when my Grandmother was a young Angelina. The car companies took over and bought the metro system that used to connect the East side of the city to the Westside. They took it all down so that people would buy cars and create the best traffic in the nation, which they’ve undoubtedly succeeded at.  Nowadays we have ‘The 405’ and ‘The 101.’ Freeways. These are the main arteries that connect the Northern and Southern parts of the city. ‘The 10’ freeway connects the East and West sides and ‘The 110’ is a confusing freeway encircling Downtown L.A.

New Public Transit System

This month they’ve just finished a two year building project for a new metro system that connects the East side from Downtown Los Angeles all the way to the Santa Monica ocean. It’s about time Los Angeles. I’m hoping that this will make the large city feel smaller and more connected. For a city that has a strong car culture that is known for its traffic, this should make us less dependent on cars and become more community oriented. When we begin to use and share more of our public spaces for transport, everything about Los Angeles will change hopefully for the better.  Most people I know have not used our public transportation system in the past.  Hopefully this transport system will also help clear up some of the smog in the coming years. We have smog because L.A. is a valley and air comes in from the sea getting trapped in this valley creating the famous smog that many local tour guides are forbidden to talk about. It doesn’t only come from the billions of nice cars and trucks driving through the city at all times.


Photo of Los Angeles Skyline by Cayla Penenberg

L.A. is Actually Located in a Desert 

This city happens to be located in a natural desert, which is why we have droughts. Most people do not realize this because of the plethora of grassy lawns people have and also because of the paved roads covering up the dry earth. However, if you drive east about two hours you hit Palm Desert where you can immediately see the dryness of the land, cacti, and lack of natural water.


Photo of The Hollywood Sign by Cayla Penenberg


Photo of The Hollywood Sign by Cayla Penenberg


Photo of The Hollywood Sign by Cayla Penenberg



The Hollywood Aspect

The idea of ‘Hollywood’ is everywhere in Los Angeles.  The entertainment industry practically runs this city. I’ve lived both outside of it and within it. I used to work as a nanny and I had barely any direct contact with the industry. Then in 2013 I became an extra for film and television, which happens to be a very popular job in Los Angeles.  It was in this particular industry where I really discovered the value of being a native of Los Angeles.  Most people who work in the entertainment industry are from all over the country and even the world and these people are considered, “transplants.” When I would tell them I was from L.A. they would be in shock and try to imagine someone growing up in this thick “Hollywood” culture and not really understanding that people live relatively normal lives in L.A. and that not everyone wants to be completely caught up in style, child beauty pageants, and plastic surgery.  Although this superficial culture is definitely surrounding if not underlying everything that goes on in this large city.  Fame was literally around me all the time.  Every kid I knew had a famous persons’ child going to their school and that was normal.  I didn’t wear makeup or straighten my hair in High School when everyone told me I should. I only started wearing it and doing my hair when I worked as an extra and they said to come “hair and makeup camera ready” all the time with my three different wardrobe outfits in hand.  Modeling, acting, music, dancing, and screen writing are popular career paths to take in this world.  Many Los Angeles residents don’t have traditional 9-5 jobs and are usually populating restaurants, shops, and the beach at all times of the day.  Actors rely on auditions which means that their schedule will vary from day to day.


Los Angeles has many night clubs and themed bars such as Good Times at Davey Wayne’s in Hollywood which is the best 1970’s living room turned venue. The Hollywood Bowl is a large music venue where people can bring their own wine and cheese picnic baskets and relax on grass and watch their favorite artists.

Concerts & Shows

Tons of amazing bands perform in this city. Both local & international artists come from all over the world to play shows in L.A. We get all types of musicians, which is great because most of the indie bands help us create our pretentious attitudes about music. We get so many underground artists performing first in L.A. and also Television and film screenings before anyone else around the country or even the world.

L.A. Hipsters

People who are not technically in the industry but still have pretentious attitudes about music, art, film, and TV are considered “hipster.” This is a popular subculture in L.A.  Don’t worry about these Silverlake inhabitants, it’s completely normal to act like a know-it-all and then actually have no idea what you are talking about when it comes to film, TV, and music.  Also, to be a perfect hipster you must:

  • Act like you don’t care about anything
  • Wear really expensive vintage clothes that look cheap
  • Shop in thrift stores on Melrose
  • Ride a Fixie bicycle
  • Be a vegan
  • Eat at Cafe Gratitude and Native Foods (trendy vegan restaurants)
  • Shop at Whole Foods Market

Yoga Subculture

These are just some of the things Los Angeles has made fashionable and trendy in the yoga health world. To be a L.A. yoga hippie you must:

  • Go to yoga classes at least twice per week and treat it like its your religion
  • Do juice cleanses
  • Eat coconut, carob, and vegan desserts
  • Exclude sugar and dairy from your diet
  • Wear yoga pants all the time
  • Buy yoga clothes at Whole Foods Market
  • Wear Birkenstocks and/or Tevas
  • Drink coconut milk and use coconut oil for cooking
  • Buy expensive mainstream health food brands from Whole Foods Market
  • Drink chlorophyll and protein shakes

From The Beach to Mid-City

Santa Monica and Venice are touristy but beautiful beaches all at the same time. You can get tattoos there as well as souvenirs. Third Street Promenade is great for shopping and watching street performers of all kinds.  Melrose & Fairfax has vintage clothing shops and tattoo parlors galore and a flea market every Sunday.  Also Larchmont Village is great for shopping and food.  The Hollywood Farmers Market has fresh fruits and veggies from local farms all over California come to sell their produce every Sunday in the heart of Hollywood.  At the 99 Cent Store you can buy random items for under a dollar here. Sometimes they have a good produce section and yogurt as well.

In N’ Out Burger

The best fast food burger joint in the Southwestern U.S. by far. Freshly cut French fries and a secret sauce, I think In N’ Out Burger is a staple of any city in Southern California. They have expanded their business to more cities but before you could only eat these great burgers in Southern California, which only made the draw more inviting. There are only two food items on the menu, a regular burger, a double double burger, fries, and drinks, but regulars know to order from the “secret menu” which includes extra items such as animal style fries, animal style burgers, root beer floats, and protein style burgers. People feel like they’re in on something when they know about the “secret menu.” The double double burgers taste amazing with animal style fries on the side and a vanilla milkshake!  In comparison to McDonald’s and Burger King, In N’ Out has become the fast food choice for health freaks who want healthier meat options and less oil and fresh cut fries. Therefore people claim that it’s not really “fast food” and that it is way healthier than McDonald’s. This doesn’t stop people from eating at both places but In N’ Out is definitely something special with its huge cult following.

Whole Foods Market

A healthy corporate supermarket for the upper middle class. A bit pricey for your average student or minimum wage worker. If you can afford your six dollar and up ice creams, $12 sushi platters, and whole cooked chickens for around $11-15, this place is going to be your best friend.  They also have salad bars priced by weight, health food shakes, and fresh organic fruits, and if you’re vegan or vegetarian, they have endless options for meat replacements.

Latino Influence

L.A. has the best Taco stands and the best Mexican food ever! Being only three hours away from Mexico, a huge part of the population of Los Angeles is made up of Latinos from all over the Americas.  These cultures are embedded in L.A. culture and life. Spanish is an integral part of this city with most street names being in Español.  Many people celebrate traditional Latin American holidays such as Dia De Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) and Cinco de Mayo (The Fifth of May).

International Influence

Many people move from all over to the world to Los Angeles and some people create restaurants that have become some of my favorite places to eat in the city. Here are three different restaurants/ dessert shops I absolutely love:

  1. Paru’s: A Southern Indian vegetarian cuisine in East Hollywood.
  2. Mashy Malone’s: My favorite Persian Ice Cream shop in Hollywood with assorted unique flavors including orange blossom and rose.
  3. Porto’s: A Cuban bakery in Burbank and Glendale. Known for their Guava pastries, cakes, and cheap but tasty Cuban food.

Parks & Hikes

Since the weather is usually sunny and clouds are barely ever in the sky, its usually hiking weather all the time.  Many people hike and run at Runyon Canyon in North Hollywood, Griffith Park above Hollywood, Will Rogers Park in the Westside, or the Angeles Forest, which is a little outside of the city in the North West.

Books and Films Related to Los Angeles

  1. Kim Gordon- “Girl in a Band”
  2. James Franco- “Actors Anonymous”
  3. Judd Apatow-“Sick in the Head”
  4. “Straight Outta Compton” the 2015 film
Cayla Penenberg

By Cayla Penenberg

My name is Cayla Penenberg. I have been traveling in Southeast Asia since the end of February. Before that I lived in Australia for seven months, part of the time in Melbourne. I'm originally from the United States, particularly from Los Angeles, California where I worked as an extra in Film and Television for two years. In 2009, I lived in Botswana, Africa for four months where I studied abroad and focused on training in traditional African Dance. Then in 2011 I traveled again in Africa but in West Africa to again study traditional West African dance with a Dance Company there. Throughout my life I have traveled to 37 different countries.


Leave a Comment...