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The Wanderer

By Ed Fuentes
Published: Wednesday, August 29, 2007, at 11:08AM
The Traveler Ed Fuentes

The alley known as St. Vincent Court, located off 7th St between Broadway and Hill, has tables hosting conversations that can change in mood and inflection with every sip of espresso. The alley has a Parisian motif that gives some a smirk, but what keeps it from being a manufactured European simulation is people like Baruch Gueron, 64, a master in the craft of table talk.

Gueron, who holds an MBA in Accounting from UCLA, came to the U.S from Israel as a child. He first lived in Paris and saw a city culture first hand, and then experienced New York before his family relocated to Lynwood when his step-father started working at Douglas Aircraft Company.

At 14 years old, he knew suburbia wasn't for him. Sitting in front of St. Vincents Deli he recalls, "I came to L.A. just to walk around Main St. I only remember how alive the street was."

The life of a city, he said, was what he fell in love with and wanted to experience over and over again. And he has, often traveling to Paris, Tokyo, Latin America and New York looking for for the perfect urban experience the way some look for the perfect cup of coffee.

Gueron has lived on Bunker Hill for 20 years, but first moved to Little Tokyo with his wife, a Japanese American he met in Beverly Hills. He remembers the Arts District circa 1984 saying "It was something special back then."

He now oversees two hair salons that run on their own, so he is able to continue exploring city life. Leaning toward me, he asks with a peering smile "Want to know how?" then whips out his Metro pass and states with broad hand gestures how public transportation almost works here, but compared to other cities L.A. is "primitive transportation" and adds the city missed a chance to have door to door rail public transportation from Union Station to LAX without a transfer.

For him St Vincent Court, with its cafes serving espresso, sandwiches and gyros, is a street that works. As a small car passes by, he says "That happens only at the end of the day. It's still a street with real activity," and adds with a smile "Not like those phoney shopping streets like The Grove. And I won't go to Starbucks!" And what about Grand Ave? "All hype! It's sterile! And that L.A. Live!" he muses as he shakes his head and folds his arms together. "No plans how to handle the added traffic on the freeway."

Clearly a man filled with life, and an extra shot of caffeine, he reflects fondly on one of his favorite urban places: Tokyo. "That's a city!" he says.

Do you still sense that there is a 14 year old boy exploring city streets? Now his wordly view makes St Vincent Court as authentic as he is. That may be the secret. A city is reflected by the company it keeps.

Baruch, Salut!


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