My LA to Z: Janet Fitch

The author of White Oleander and Paint It Black tells us about her favorite stretch of the 134 Freeway and where she buys her tarot decks



Photograph courtesy Claudia Kunin

L.A. native Janet Fitch is the author of Paint It Black and White Oleander. She teaches fiction writing in the Master of Professional Writing Program at USC and often features the city in which she lives and works in her books.


The Coffee Table on Rowena Avenue—home away from home. The Americano and the no-cell phone policy, great food, lots of fellow writers.

The view as you come around from the south on West Silver Lake Boulevard and look north, across the lake, and catch the San Gabriels. I also like the views of the amazing new Russian Orthodox Church off Fountain Avenue and the old Ukrainian Orthodox one on Melrose Avenue near Los Angeles City College.

Onion domes and the Hollywood sign give me a thrill, as does the sight of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church on Sutherland in Elysian Park, seen from Echo Park Avenue or Morton Avenue. (Russia is on the brain right now.)

As for architecture and public art in L.A., Disney Hall, duh. All the art around the Central Library as well as the building itself. I’m particularly fond of the Mulholland Fountain, at Riverside Drive and Los Feliz Boulevard, when it turns colors at night. The installation of L.A. street lamps in front of LACMA is fantastic, and I adore the Shakespeare Bridge at the end of Franklin Avenue.

I’m partial to Spaceland (The Dead 60s) and the Echo (The MC5), and I think the Music Box @ Fonda theater is a great place to see music (Marianne Faithfull). The Greek Theatre in summertime. (Saw my first concert there: Crosby, Stills & Nash opening for Joni Mitchell. Thanks, mom.) 

Best-kept secret: the Ventura Theater (Patti Smith).

Favorite place to see a movie? I despise places where you have to have an assigned seat. Makes me feel like I’m at the airport. The Vista is the best movie theater in L.A. Stand alone, first run, great seats, legroom, and in the neighborhood. Though the Cinerama Dome is—(sigh). (Saw 2001 there. And I’ll admit it, I was there for It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World when the Dome opened in 1963.) And the New Beverly Cinema is a national treasure. Silents at the Cinefamily.

The Hollywood farmers’ market when I can get my rear in gear. The Sunset Junction street fair. Sunset Junction in general, and specifically Furthur and Wacko.

Camellia time at the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. Ladybug season in Cooper Canyon, off Buckhorn in the San Gabriels. Spring paddling on Echo Park Lake. Summer at the Hollywood Bowl.  

LACMA, but I wish they’d open the Ahmanson Atrium, the way it had been in the ’60s!

Fish tacos at Grand Central Market

The rotunda at the Central Library, the cathedral of my childhood. 

The sound of the carillon from the Wilshire United Methodist Church, at Wilshire and Plymouth. When I was a kid, this was the most beautiful sound on earth.

The Bodhi Tree Bookstore (you can never have enough tarot decks).

I like going toward downtown from the airport in the carpool lane, the skyway transition between the 105 and the 110. On a clear day coming back into town, or especially bringing someone who’s never been here into town at sunset—what a rush! 

Going south on Hope Street downtown and seeing the shining pyramid of the Central Library tower framed between two office buildings.

Driving the 134 between the 2 and Pasadena—seeing the yuccas on the unspoiled hillside, the folded blanket of houses and hills toward downtown, the old Colorado Street Bridge over the Arroyo Seco.

My perfect day would be to go on a picnic up Mt. Wilson with Christopher Isherwood, Greta Garbo, Aldous Huxley, and Bertrand Russell. 1938. (There’s a letter in the Huntington’s Isherwood archive describing it.) Can you imagine? Brilliant company, a never-to-be-repeated moment. They say Bertie was a hell of a dancer.

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