My LA to Z: Aimee Bender

Writer Aimee Bender clues us in on her favorite beach and the mom-and-pop food court she frequents just across the street from USC



Aimee Bender, who teaches at USC. Her novels include The Girl in the Flammable Skirt and Willful Creatures, and she has contributed short fiction to GrantaMcSweeney’s, and The Paris Review.

1 Temescal

Temescal Beach

Right where Temescal meets PCH is one of the loveliest beach spots in the city—easy to park, easy to drive to, and just beautiful waves, sky, mountains.





University Village food court right by USC

I teach at USC and for some reason I love this food court. There are no chains, and most of the stands/cafes seem to be family run. Friendly, tasty, functional, good prices. With drawings by kids lining the walls.


3 huntington

The Huntington’s desert garden

Crazy cacti, gorgeous, lavish, funny botany.

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4 InsideOutWriters

Inside Out Writers

A great outreach program in the city that puts writers into prisons to teach classes.  The basis of Mark Salzman’s wonderful memoir True Notebooks

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The Cornerstone Theater

They go into communities to create theater pieces on religion, criminal justice, and more.

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6 smartgals

The Smart Gals Speakeasy

Christine Louise Berry’s community-building brainchild is held in the basement of a church in Los Feliz—part social mixer, part talk series, part performance, part who knows what. I’ve seen bellydancers, heard poetry, learned about public fruit tree gathering. It’s quarterly at the moment, I believe.

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7 mtwilson

Mt. Wilson

Miraculously, Mt Wilson—which houses two Hubble telescopes—now allows visitors to come for a night of star watching. You have to sign up months in advance, with groups of 20 to 25 suggested to diffuse the fee, but it’s a truly magical evening of planet and moon viewing.  Feels like an extraordinary privilege when that dome slowly opens. The newly done Griffith Park Observatory is pretty great too.

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8 jacaranda

Jacaranda trees in Silverlake in May


9 jurassictech

Museum of Jurassic Technology

In particular the trailer park dioramas which I find incredibly soothing. The whole place is a walk through the gray area: Is it fact? Is it fiction? Does it matter? A place built with true care. A gem in the city.

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10 nhm

The gem/mineral room at the Natural History Museum

More gems in the city, in a dark room, in rows of clear cases. All colors. Some look like they’re still growing.

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11 loteria

Lotería at the Farmer’s Market

The minty rice! And that sampler platter with ten tiny tacos of all different types. And I keep coveting the chilaquiles when I see someone else’s order come up. All eaten on a table that looks like a giant Mento.

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12 marouch


In particular the mekanek and the other dried meat and the amazing fool mudamas fava bean dish just soaked in garlic.

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13 sycamore

Sycamore Street, near Beverly and 1st

Old stone buildings tucked behind big sycamores, golden lights on inside, at dusk.



Images courtesy of (in order): (3) (4), (5), (6), (7) Flickr/by edbrambley, (8) Flickr/by miheco, (9) Flickr/by Clinton Steeds, (10) by, (11) Flickr/by xero79 

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