Friday, November 30, 2007

Old Haunts

Jeanette and I met and fell in love as art students 27 years ago in Los Angeles. Now that we’re here again, we’ve been visiting our old haunts to see how they’ve changed.

When we were engaged, we moved into the Golden Palm apartments in Highland Park. The Golden Palm, or “GP” as we affectionately called it, was a favorite apartment building for students at Art Center. The top floor was occupied almost entirely by art students, and the bottom floor was all working people.

It was no beauty then and it hasn’t gotten any prettier. Our apartment was next to a dumpster. Every morning a mother would lift her son into it to fetch out cans for recycling. They’d then crush the cans at six in the morning by driving back and forth over them with an old Chevy Impala.

When we stopped by yesterday, the grass was tramped to dirt, and we saw broken furniture piled up along Benner Street. There were bars on the windows, and dented vans parked outside with bumper stickers that said “Yo Soy El Army.” Like other places we’ve seen all across America, the rich places have gotten richer and the poor places have gotten poorer.

In the old days after sketching in downtown LA, we’d grab a bite at Philippe’s, home of the famous French dip sandwiches and five-cent coffee.

We expected it would be erased by time, but it was exactly as we remember it, with the sawdust on the floor, the long communal tables, the pickled eggs, and the circus posters. There were only two changes we noticed. Now they have wi-fi and a website. And the coffee now costs nine cents.


K. W. Broad said...

That's always fun to go back and see how locations from the past have stood against the test of time. You know that restaurant is doing something right when the only changes are so minimal after so many years. When I moved out of my hometown, there were certain areas I'd known growing up that were completely foreign upon my return after only an absence of three years.

It's amazing how things can change while you watch, but you don't always notice until you look away.

Wendy said...

What is a 'French dip' sandwich?

David Derrick said...

Thanks for showing up at Dreamworks Yesterday- Great lecture- very inspiring work.

Dik Pose said...

I was at the Dreamworks talk yesterday... I came back to work CHARGED with inspiration. I talked to anyone that would listen about the lecture... Thank you so much...

I had some questions I was going to ask you, but I have totally forgotten them now... I will remember later I am sure.

Again, thanks!

trowbridge chronicles said...

I read this post with special interest. I went back to L.A.last year to see my old Art Center haunts, just as you just did. It was a real memory lane experience, which included lunch at Tommy's Hamburgers. I've enjoyed your posts.

Ken said...

I recall Philippe's lowered the price of coffee from .10 to .09 when the sales tax went up.

Your talk at the LA Library last night really inspired 5-year-old Fionn. It was past his bedtime and he would have normally fallen asleep in the car on the way home. Instead he chatted away, asking when he might be able to attend Art Center, and if he couldn't have his cousin put on a T-Rex suit so he could have a dinosaur at his upcoming pirate-themed birthday party.

When he got home he grabbed his drawing pad and followed your advice to draw a picture with both spaceships and dinosaurs. If you're interested in seeing the results I posted it to

Thanks for the wonderful world you've created for us and our kids!

Ken said...

... oops I mean to see Fionn's picture.

.kate. said...

This post makes me miss the west coast even more! I attended art center for two years and have recently moved out to Boston- will you be doing any book tour things out here in Beantown?
ps they only have the new book at barnes & noble and none of the others! disappointing, really.

Tom Zhao said...

Hey James,

thanks so much for coming to Art Center the other night. I really enjoyed the lecture which was very entertaining and you gave some wonderful advice to us aspiring illustrators. You also recommended some books we should check out and I didn't have a pen and paper at the lecture so could you remind me which ones they were?


James Gurney said...

Thanks, everybody.

Tom, please check out the post on this blog from September 20th, where I list and describe them all, and there are some more great books mentioned in the comments.

A French dip is a sliced meat (usually beef) sandwich on a hard roll dipped in the roasting juices.

Stephen James. said...

Interesting story, always fun to go back to the old stomping grounds I guess.

Anonymous said...

Excellent lecture at Dreamworks!!!
All of us at the Matte Painting dept were super charged after your talk. Really appreciated you openness to your whole work process.
Was a great pleasure to finally meet you after following your work for so many years!
Hope to see you at Comic Con!