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LAist Interview: Eric Lynxwiler

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Eric Lynxwiler is the Indiana Jones of Los Angeles. He braves hostile bureaucrats, crumbling building sites and dangerous junkyards to ferret out Los Angeles's lost treasures. Characterizing himself as an "urban anthropologist," Eric shares his knowledge of the city's past with those lucky enough to get a seat on one of his Museum of Neon Art’s Neon Cruises, a nighttime open-air bus tour of LA neon signs.

Eric's latest research project is the book, "Wilshire Boulevard: Grand Concourse of Los Angeles," with text by Kevin Roderick of LAObserved.com.

photo credit: Tim Miller

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Age and Occupation:
Age 32. Graphic Designer by trade, Urban Anthropologist by training.

How long have you lived in Los Angeles, and which neighborhood do you live in?
I’ve lived in Los Angeles all my life. I grew up in the South Bay: Torrance, Hermosa Beach, and Redondo Beach. I still have many friends in the beach-y suburbs of Los Angeles, but after graduating from UCLA, I left for something more urban. I wound up in Wilshire Center and lived in the shadow of the Ambassador Hotel, just a quick trot from the HMS Bounty. A few years later I had to escape the congestion, none of my friends would visit me in Wilshire Center, so I moved to the Miracle Mile. It’s a great neighborhood for now, but I’m afraid the congestion is following me.

Why do you live in Los Angeles?
Los Angeles isn’t a choice. It’s my home.

What motivated you to participate in the Wilshire Blvd book project?

Long story. Several years back, a friend proposed we walk Wilshire, all 15.8 miles of it, from one end to the other. It would be his last hurrah before moving to Portland, Oregon and the penultimate Los Angeles achievement. Five of us made the entire trip on a weekday and it took about 9 hours or so. We began in downtown at Grand Avenue and ended our journey at the statue of Saint Monica at Ocean Avenue. The blisters and chaffing were well worth it as the experience changed my perspective of the city, and my life, forever.

By simply getting out of the car, the details of the boulevard came to life. I’d been exploring downtown LA, on foot, for years. Yet this experience stretched my boundaries and showed me that the city’s rich history wasn’t confined to its historic core. The details were stunning and quite rich.

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Of course, I shared the story of my urban hike with practically everyone, including my friends at the Los Angeles Conservancy who asked me to help with a new tour concept, Curating the City, which evolved into a one-day-only driving tour of Wilshire Boulevard. I lent a hand with researching the street’s history and architectural icons, but knew immediately that the story of Wilshire was larger than a tour pamphlet. I proposed a history book that went from the LAConservancy to the Los Angeles Times Books department. The LATimes supported the book and paired me with a writer, Kevin Roderick. Together we dug into the Wilshire tale and clung to the book as the Tribune shuttered the LATimes’ book department and a new publisher, Angel City Press, picked it up. Altogether, the book took over three years and it was well worth the time and expense. The final product is fantastic.