March 31, 2003 - UCLA Hammer Museum - Westwood, CA

We drove into Westwood on Sunday and I was reminded of the adage - "If you're not moving forward, you're coasting -- and if you're coasting, typically you're going down hill." Was it Dr. Phil who said that?

Westwood Village is a small, Southern California enclave situated near Bel-Air, Beverly Hills and Brentwood, and known mostly for being the college town of UCLA. Driving through the familiar streets on our way to the Armand Hammer Museum, I was struck by how...tired and run-down it has become.

Back in the late 70's, as a high school student, Westwood [above] was considered the place to hang out. We would make the 45-minute drive from Thousand Oaks, and spend an evening hanging out in we thought was a pretty hip and happenin' place. Not as tacky and scary as Hollywood, It had just the right assortment of interesting shops, fun restaurants, bars, movie theaters, and a crazy assortment of weird, trippy people roaming around.

Stan's Donuts, Copeland Sports, Ship's coffee shop, aahs!!, Westwood was an 'Old Town' before the concept of converting an aging downtown was an urban solution. Even through the mid-eighties, it was a place where you could see fraternity brothers, bikers, robed Hari Krishna, punk rockers, freaks, geeks, homeless, and every type in between - all walking the streets together - and with very little incident. It didn't seem to attract gang members or crime, but it had enough of an edge to seem sort of decadent and strange. It was fun.

But then something happened. Some say it was a riot in the early 90's, some say Westwood simply lost its appeal to other shopping destinations like Melrose Avenue and Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica. Movie premieres moved on to other cities. And merchants started leaving. Whatever it was, Westwood started to slide -- to coast.

Flash forward to 2003, and on a Sunday afternoon in March, perhaps it should come as no surprise that the UCLA Hammer Museum, which sits on the north end of Westwood Village was slow. Really slow.

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