It's 5 p.m., and already there's a crowd gathered around the alley entrance to the Edison, a 1920s-styled speakeasy on the edge of what was once Skid Row in downtown Los Angeles.
An elegant, reservations-are-a-must lounge by night, the Edison nods to budget-conscious Angelenos on Thursday afternoons with a 35-cent happy-hour drink special in the refurbished, century-old power plant.
A hostess points the way to a flight of stairs leading to a basement boiler room furnished with sofas and antique tables scattered among hulking generators.
Silent movies flicker on two large screens as waiters dart about taking orders in the dim light. Tonight's special (one per customer) is the "Diablo," a tequila, lime juice and ginger-beer concoction that pairs well with the $5 Kobe beef slider and sweet-potato fries.
A few blocks away, gourmet food trucks, selling mac-and-cheese sandwiches and miniature whoopie pies, fill parking lots along Main Street for the monthly Art Walk.
Inside the newly expanded Los Angeles Center for Digital Art, a Hollywood winery pours chardonnay as people gather around a pile of chocolate-chip cookies stacked in the corner, wondering whether they're art or edible.
If you haven't been to downtown L.A. in a while, it's time for a visit. Read about it here in The Seattle Times travel section
By the way, I've become a big fan of Airbnb.com, the Internet site that links locals with rooms in their condos or apartments with travelers looking for inexpensive lodging. Here's a picture of my Airbnb host and his guest room (private bath included) where I stayed in downtown L.A.