ARUN RATH, HOST:
From NPR West, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Arun Rath.
Coming up, the latest from Nairobi, Kenya, where officials say more than 30 people are dead following a brazen attack at a shopping mall. Many more are injured. That's in just a bit.
But first, an introduction. This is my first week on the show, and we have moved west. Every weekend, we'll be broadcasting from our new home in Culver City, California. It's an American archetype or cliche. For the better part of the last century from Steinbeck to the Muppets, you moved west to follow your dream.
(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE MONTAGE)
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Tickets for the West at this window.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: One ticket for the West. End of line.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Yes, sir.
UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: (Singing) Westward roll the wagons. Always westward...
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: The story of the man who blazed the way for the new frontier.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #4: With its spirited romance. A new life. Its lusty, old West conduct... The promised land.
JOHN WAYNE: (as Tom Dunson in "Red River") There'll be no quittin' along the way. Not by me and not by you.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #5: (Singing) And I'm on my way. Here's my beret. I'm going Hollywood.
RATH: But California and the American West, these places are no longer anyone's frontier. And life on this side of the Mississippi is much more complicated than any western could capture. There's no single icon in sprawling diverse Los Angeles, no White House or St. Louis Arch. But Angelinos consistently told us the one spot we had to visit.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: Go to Griffith Park.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: Griffith Park.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #3: Gosh, Griffith Park. Go to the observatory and look at the views.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #7: I love the Griffith Observatory. I think it's a great place to go.
RATH: The observatory, with a vantage high over L.A. And so that's where we came. It's that rare foggy day in Los Angeles. But from this high up, here at the observatory, you can see a sprawling panorama that stretches from the iconic Hollywood sign across downtown L.A. and all the way to the coast.
MANDALIT DEL BARCO, BYLINE: They film a lot of stuff up here. This is a perfect location for the movies.
RATH: Yeah. That's our guide to L.A., NPR's Mandalit del Barco, who's reported from this city for 20 years.
DEL BARCO: Welcome to L.A.
RATH: So right here, the city is laid out behind us beautifully. It's a little bit smoggy, but we can still see a whole lot of stuff in front of us.
DEL BARCO: And from here, you can see how diverse L.A. is geographically, economically and just with the people. You can see from the Hollywood Hills all the way to Venice Beach, from the inner city to the biggest port in the country, multimillion-dollar mansions, low-income housing, strip malls, the latest architectural designs.
DEL BARCO: So one thing you should know about L.A. is that half of the Angelinos are Latino.
DEL BARCO: You know, the city was first a Mexican settlement in the 1700s. And in the public schools, 74 percent of the kids are Latino. In fact, in the schools, they speak 93 different languages...
DEL BARCO: ...other than English. So many of those families have been here for generations and generations. But a lot of people have just moved here, like you have, from other parts of the world, other parts of the country.
RATH: And one of the great things about coming from other parts of the country is that because of all that diversity, you can find what you like here. Like I don't feel like I'm at home until I can find a nice samosa and a nice cup of chai. And I found out within about five minutes in L.A. And everything else in between, like Ethiopian food. Randomly stumbled across a Persian neighborhood where all of a sudden there were just Iranian bookstores and music stores.
DEL BARCO: Absolutely. That's not all. We have Little Saigon, Little Tokyo, Filipino Town, Little Armenia, Little Ethiopia, Little Bangladesh, Little Moscow. And there's also a part that's called Tehrangeles.
RATH: Maybe that's where I was, in Tehrangeles.
DEL BARCO: That's right. You know, here in L.A., we have hipsters, we have gang members, we have movie stars and we have what we like to call real people, so-called.
RATH: And you've talked to some people for us that you think kind of exemplify the feeling or the spirit of the city.
DEL BARCO: That's right. I want to introduce you to a few of them.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
ROY CHOI: Hi. I'm Chef Roy Choi. I'm from L.A., and I rep the Kogi truck. I love L.A. because you can be free. You don't have to live up to anyone's expectations or rules. And you can create a whole new life for yourself.
DEL BARCO: Like you did.
CHOI: Yeah, like I did.
DEL BARCO: You were one of the pioneers of the food truck movement, right, with your Korean tacos.
CHOI: Yeah. And the thing about L.A. is that the food trucks started here for the U.S.A. So, like, we were, like, the kids of the food truck movement, and we brought our own flavor to it, you know?
VILMA CHECO: You see New York. It's more better here. My name is Vilma Checo(ph). I born in El Salvador, but I live here in America. I am citizen. I live here for 43 year.
DEL BARCO: What's your favorite part of L.A.?
CHECO: Everything: work, the food, the people, everything. Disneyland, Universal Studio. The ocean is beautiful. Rodeo Drive.
DEL BARCO: Rodeo Drive.
CHECO: Yeah. I love Rodeo Drive because I working for Bel Air and in Beverly Hill for the movie star.
DEL BARCO: You worked for the movie stars...
DEL BARCO: ...in their homes.
CHECO: And babysitted their two kids.
IKE BARINHOLTZ: I'm Ike Barinholtz from "The Mindy Project," Tuesdays 9:30, 8:30 Central. I love Los Angeles because it is an actual city that thrives and exists because of art. Even though when I call myself an artist, I want to vomit. I still feel like I am a member of the community, and it really does exist because of people making television, movies and plays and writing books and music. So I think that's pretty special. I love L.A. as much, if not more than Randy Newman.
RATH: That was great, Mandalit. And, of course, as much love as we have for L.A., we know there's a lot to discover in the rest of the West. And since we've moved here, we've heard from a couple of other NPR folks with something to say about the other stories we shouldn't miss.
MARTIN KASTE, BYLINE: Here in Seattle, I'm Martin Kaste, speaking to you from the waterfront in downtown Seattle. You've probably seen this postcard before. There's the floatplanes flying over my head, the ferries crossing the Sound, a lot of people wearing fleeces. And if you pay attention when you walk down the street or through the parks, you'll detect a certain skunk of secondhand pot smoke. But the thing you have to understand about this area is that it's not all Portlandia. In fact, there's kind of a division here. It runs from west to east.
For example, here in Seattle, right now, there's a tight mayor's race between two liberal Democrats. But as soon as you drive over the Cascade Mountains, a funny thing happens. First, it stops raining, but second, the politics shift to red. Some people call this the Cascade curtain. You feel the Cold War vibe the most when there's a close governor's race in Washington. And it's a cultural divide too.
Living here in Seattle, I often catch myself saying "out West" when what I mean to say is east because, well, let's face it, east of here, things feel a lot more cowboy. But even that division can be too simplistic sometimes. People east of here are more conservative, but they're not predictably so. There's a libertarian streak. For instance, when Washington voters legalized pot last year, it passed in Spokane too. And it actually came close to 50-50 in a lot of the eastern counties.
So while there is a Cascade curtain in this region, you can also detect that certain funky odor wafting around on both sides. In Seattle, this is Martin Kaste.
TED ROBBINS, BYLINE: Hi, Arun. Ted Robbins here, standing in the sunshine at the top of Gates Pass in the Tucson Mountains. Turn one way, and there's civilization: homes, stores, offices and air-conditioning. Turn the other, and there's a fantastic landscape. Thousands of giant saguaro cactus, the ones with the arms, dot the mountainsides in front of me. It's the classic Sonoran Desert picture. A picture doesn't convey the main thing I'm feeling, though, right now: hot.
Even with October in sight, it's still 100 degrees out here. But it's a dry heat. That's the old saying anyway. I can see forever from here. Mexico is just 60 miles south. Border Patrol vehicles are crisscrossing the desert below me, as they do now all over the southwest. From here east through the New Mexico chili fields. North past Phoenix and Albuquerque to Flagstaff and Santa Fe, the desert gives way to forest. Cold takes over from hot. It's a diverse region, more diverse than most folks realize. In some places Latino, American Indian and Anglo cultures mix together easily - food, music, even politics. In other places, there's enough friction for protest marches.
As for the heat here, it'll be gone soon. While the northern and eastern U.S. are bundling up, I'll be getting on my bike or putting on my hiking boots to enjoy the sunshine, which turns from brutal to balmy for the next eight months. In Arizona, I'm Ted Robbins.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BLUE SKIES")
WILLIE NELSON: (Singing) Nothing but blue skies from now on.
WADE GOODWYN, BYLINE: This is Wade Goodwyn in Dallas. Arun, here's what you need to know about Texas. Texas is the land of stalwart conservative politicians. To borrow a phrase from our freshman U.S. senator: You're not going to find a bunch of cheese-eating surrender monkeys governing the Lone Star state, no sir. Senator Ted Cruz and Governor Rick Perry are leading the way to save the American people from the trainwreck that is Obamacare.
They say it's now or never because once people get health insurance, they'll get so addicted, they'll never give it up. But this is Texas, and we all know what's really important in life. Not politics. College football.
I'm standing here at the Cotton Bowl. How about that fighting Texas Aggie quarterback Johnny Hancock. Oh, no, no, I mean, Johnny Football. Darn it, I knew I was going to do that. Anyway, Manziel showed them Alabama boys last year was no fluke, didn't he? I thought Nick Saban was going to have a coronary in the fourth quarter.
Speaking of the Alabama coach, the big money donors at my alma mater, the University of Texas, have old Nick on speed dial these days. That's because in the last two weeks, the Texas defense gave up 275,000 yards rushing to BYU in old Miss. That's a school record. If Texas loses again tonight against Kansas State and goes one and three, it could make that whole Egypt brouhaha look like a Tri Delt sorority party. I'm Wade Goodwyn in Dallas. Arun, God bless Texas.
RATH: Mandalit, wherever our reporting travels take us, we'll have much to look forward to when we get back to our new home in Culver City.
DEL BARCO: Yeah. You know, Arun, you can find everything here in L.A. Everyone is youthful, no matter what their age. You can surf. You can legally smoke pot. You can do the latest yoga craze. We've got great food, great weather. And, Arun, there is no shortage of news. It's a really fun place to be a journalist.
RATH: Sounds like it. I'm really excited. And we plan on covering all of that, not just the West. We're going to be looking out at the whole country and indeed the world, just from a new vantage point.
At Griffith Observatory, I'm Arun Rath. Follow us out West and on Twitter, @nprwatc. This is NPR News.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.