Like the rest of his year, Tavis Smiley's summers are busy. In addition to hosting the L.A.-based NPR public affairs program "The Tavis Smiley Show," which will soon be heard locally on KPCC-FM (89.3), he's a writer, reporter and commentator for CNN and ABC News. So when it comes time to unwind in the summer, he starts close to his offices, in Leimert Park:
Lucy Florence Coffee House: It's a great place right in Leimert Park, which is ... in a sort of renaissance phase. Weeknights, when I'm working late, I can walk a few blocks down the street from my office, hear great jazz. They also have comedy several nights a week, so depending on your mood you can get some jazz and be very chilled out, or walk across the hallway and get your laugh on.
Earle's Grill: The best hot dogs in the city can be found at Earle's, right on Crenshaw. They're grilled, not boiled. It's run by a couple of folks from New York, though they've been here for many years. But they do it the old-fashioned grilled way.
Magic Johnson Theatres: Most theaters don't look to serve a particular cultural group. But at Magic Johnson Theatres, you can see any big release, and they also reserve a couple of screens for smaller films--sometimes documentaries--that have a cultural relevance and that are important to people of color. Whether it's a big blockbuster or a smaller budget film, I appreciate not having to drive miles. It's right in the middle of the 'hood--with all the amenities.
Marina del Rey: There's a place in the marina where you can park your car or bicycle and watch the boats come in and out of the marina. When I want to relax and veg, I can pull my car up right up to edge of the water, put money in the meter and totally relax. Then in the distance you can see the planes taking off. If you watch, you can count it, about every two minutes you see a plane taking off.
Baldwin Hills Public Library: We have a brand-new, state-of-the-art library that just opened here. It's not too often the community gets a chance to welcome this kind of facility. It's phenomenal--great research tools for anyone trying to improve their lot in life.
Earle's Grill, 4326 Crenshaw Blvd., L.A., (323) 299-2867.
Magic Johnson Theatres, 4020 Marlton Ave., (323) 290-5900.
Via Marina, south of Washington Street, Marina del Rey.
Lucy Florence Coffee House, 4305 Degnan Blvd., L.A., (323) 293-2395.
Baldwin Hills Branch Library, 2906 S. La Brea Ave., L.A., (323) 733-1196.