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In L.A., sometimes waiting in line is the whole event

As a child, I hated nothing more than waiting in line at school. I remember not being able to go back to class from the school yard unless we were in a perfectly straight, unnaturally silent line. “Why?” I found the courage to ask my seventh grade math teacher once. She smirked with 30 years of knowledge on me and said, “Trust me. You will always have to wait in line.” Of course, Mrs. Willis was right, and at the time I thought she put a curse on me. But I’ve come to accept lines, especially in L.A., where they’ve become a part of the city’s social architecture.

From Mindless Behavior concerts at The Novo to Maru Coffee to Born X Raised Sadie Hawkins, I’ve found myself reeling in ridiculously long lines, planning my days and outfits around them, gawking at them when I couldn’t be bothered.

In the words of Virginia Woolf, “Time, unfortunately, though it makes animals and vegetables bloom and fade with amazing punctuality, has no such simple effect on the mind of man.”

People reveal the best and worst parts of themselves while waiting in a queue. For sample sales, for example, I get a little competitive. Surely, no one likes this brand like I like the brand. Except, of course they do. Why else would we make ourselves a part of a spectacle to passersby on a sunny Sunday afternoon on Fairfax?

Once that fact settles after hours, a sense of community is formed. We’re all eavesdropping on our line neighbors. We all hope that the coveted item from five drops ago is 70% off. We all need our spot saved to refill the parking meter. We’re marveling at how folks have assembled pieces we were either too broke or unsure to buy. It’s inspiring, even comforting.

In L.A., lines wield a transcendent power to reveal who we are, our desire to be seen and what we’re willing to do for them.

The line outside Courage Bagels on a weekend morning.

Courage Bagels, 10:06 a.m.

You can smell everything from down the block. The everything, that is — salt, onions, garlic, poppyseeds — all on a hot, freshly baked bagel.

I’d driven by Courage Bagels numerous times — on my way to afternoon open mics at the Lyric Hyperion or to a group show at Guerrero Gallery. And I used to roll my eyes and ask myself, what could possibly draw someone to want to wait in line first thing in the morning?

Contrary to the stereotypes, the city’s pace can be chill, but it’s not languorous by any means. So for many Angelenos, waiting in line for breakfast on a Saturday morning is a chosen moment of pause. It can be as much a retreat from the churn of the week as a weekend trip to San Diego.

Over the course of an hour, a Courage line stander is almost in a meditative state. Here, there’s an understanding that experiencing every second is what grants access to the next and eventually the ultimate boon: staring down that handwritten menu in the window. And folks have come ready for battle: securing allyships (couples and friend groups yap the hour away), wearing a suit of armor (Gymshark set, Moncler cap and New Balance sneakers on) and expecting the unexpected (a light removable layer in case of inclement weather).

Woman in a white skirt stands outside a line.

Even Shen wears Acne Studios jacket, Brandy Melville skirt, Bode T-shirt, the Row shoes, the Row purse.

Even Shen, fashion data analyst

Position in line: Seventh.

Time spent in line: 1 hour.

How often do you find yourself waiting in line in L.A.?

A lot, actually. We just came from this cafe in the Melrose area called Community Goods. I think we were probably 20-30 minutes for a cup of drink there. Every popular spot, you need to wait in line. We even got those portable stools.

At what point do you feel like you’ve had enough of a line?

On the weekends, I don’t have any events to go to anyway, so it’s fine to just chat with friends in line because the food is actually good. I feel like it’s worth it.

Man in brown shirt and black pants stands outside a line.

Michael Manos wears Maui Jim sunglasses, SeaWorld T-shirt, Arc’teryx pants, Salomon shoes.

Michael Manos, graphic designer

Position in line: 14th.

Time spent in line: 40 minutes.

I overheard your friend say that he’s not a “line guy.”

Yeah, my friend said, ‘Oh, I’m not a line guy.’ And I said, ‘Who is a line guy?’ I don’t think anyone’s dying to go wait in the line. I think it’s worth it, what’s at the end of the line. I’m a bagel guy. I’ll wait in an absurd line for a good bagel. I also think I’m an idiot.

Besides the destination, what’s the best part about waiting in line?

The line here is famously long, but I think anyone who comes to Courage knows what they’re getting themselves into. It’s almost part of the order. To get your bagel, you get a long line. If you come here alone and wait in line alone, it’s not gonna be that fun. But if you come here with your friends, it’s not a bad experience. It’s part of the experience.

The Courage line is misunderstood, kind of slept on. I’ve had some good memories in the Courage line. There was one time this guy came [down the line] just high-fiv[ing] everybody. True story. I think there’s some camaraderie to it, sitting in some insane line for a bagel.

Man in a green jacket stands with his dog on the sidewalk.

Jeff Forrest wears a Buck Mason T-shirt, Bleu de Paname button-up, Universal Works pants, Industry of all Nations underwear, Adidas Stan Smith shoes, Luum Jewelry necklace and ring. Charles wears a Marfa, Texas, Gift Shop bandana.

Jeff Forrest, designer

Position in line: 24th.

Time spent in line: 45 minutes.

What’s been your experience waiting in line in L.A.?

We’re happy to wait in line. We meet really interesting people in line. Because of the dog, we get a lot of attention, and chat with other [dog] owners and talk about the city.

L.A. is a really closed-off city. I come from Toronto, and a lot of my work is in New York, too, so I’m used to the hustle and bustle of being around people. When I’m here in L.A., I don’t get that a lot. We live in Studio City. Silver Lake is a little bit of a different story. But we don’t have random run-ins a lot of times, like we would in a walking city. So when we come to Silver Lake, we like it because it reminds us of back home, and the line is kind of the epicenter of it, in a way.

The line outside the Gustaf Westman pop-up.

The line outside the Gustaf Westman pop-up.

Gustaf Westman pop-up shop, 1:22 p.m.

Past the brunch rush, the sunlight starts melting the clouds away. Ceramics enthusiasts file in for the Gustaf Westman pop-up shop in Echo Park, pressing themselves against the store to hide away from a nosy sun.

The Swedish designer’s first solo pop-up shop graces Sunset Boulevard, beckoning hundreds of local fans to score the TikTok-famous cups, plates, mirrors and seats found in the homes of Yung Lean, Emma Chamberlain, Reign Judge, Matilda Djerf and Tyler, the Creator.

“If you know, you know, and we definitely know” is definitely the vibe here.

“What’s the line for?” a Patagonia-vested tourist asks, and a Miu Miu bag-touting baddie completely ignores him.

Within the first two hours of the shop opening, the sunk-cost fallacy is in full effect. “Dude, let’s just go,” mutters a guy to his friend. Excitement grows into restlessness. There’s only so much satisfaction you can glean from watching people pose with their pink paper bags in triumph.

Sometimes, it’s not just about the journey. It’s what you have to show for it.

Rico Nasty stands line.

Rico Nasty wears AKILA x Bricks and Wood sunglasses, Maison Margiela top, Maison Margiela pants, Maison Margiela Bag, Louis Vuitton boots and Apple Airpods Max Headphones.

Rico Nasty, rapper

Position in line: 12th.

Time spent in line: 1 hour, 40 minutes.

Are you a patient person?

No. I was complaining the entire time. [Her friends] were like ‘Oh, this is what your fans do for you.’ And I was like, ‘Wow.’ I don’t know how they love me so much, but I definitely see them in a different light. My legs hurt.

You are Rico Nasty. Why are you in line?

I don’t know [Gustaf Westman]. I just feel like it shows respect. Like, I respect him. I just feel like you can wait in line for s— sometimes. Everything doesn’t have to be, ‘Hey, I’m a celebrity. Let me in.’”

A family waits in line.

Nicole Duque wears Celine sunglasses, the Frankie Shop dress, Nike x Bode Sneakers and Porter-Yoshida and Co. bag. Matthew Yuguchi wears a Nike Supreme hat, Nike x ACG shirt, Moscot glasses, Goros and Miansai necklace pendants, Vintage pants, Tom Sachs x Nike shoes. Theo Yuguchi wears Adidas soccer jersey, shorts, socks and shoes.

Nicole Duque, fashion merchandising buyer, Matthew Yuguchi, executive creative director, and Theo Yuguchi, aspiring soccer star

Position in line: First.

Time spent in line: A little under 2 hours.

How does it feel to be at the front of the line?

Nicole Duque: Ready to go. We’re really excited to head in.

How often do you find yourself waiting in line?

ND: I grew up here and so it’s not something that I love to do. Rarely do I actually have the patience to do it. But there’s a really cool vase in there, also maybe a little book stand. There’s also a table stand. Those are definitely some of the items that piqued our interest.

How’d you guys pass the time?

ND: Well, they went to eat. I stayed here [Laughs].

Two people pose beside a line.

Amelia Moore wears Tigran Avetisyan dress, Urban Outfitters hat. Quartz sunglasses. Dr. Martens shoes, Simon Miller purse, Acne Studios and Flea Market rings. Ti’lien Dallas wears a Vintage shirt. Vintage pants. Asics shoes, Flea Market rings.

Ti’lien Dallas, administrative assistant, and Amelia Moore, musician

Position in line: On the other side.

Time spent in line: 2.5 hours.

What was your line strategy?

Amelia Moore: I got here 15 minutes before it opened, and the line was down the street already. I was planning initially to get here earlier, but I just got lazy and got a coffee to make myself not hate myself in line. But we waited. We committed.

What did you guys get?

Ti’lien Dallas: I didn’t really come to buy something today. I just came with her. If we have small tasks to do we usually just meet up, grab food and run all errands, chitchat. I just think there’s no better feeling than having to do nothing with friends.

Outside the Firmé Atelier show.

Outside the Firmé Atelier show.

Firmé Atelier’s “Til Death Do Us Part” show, 7:27 p.m.

“Oh there’s a line?” I hear on three separate occasions at the door of the Firmé Atelier show at John Doe Gallery. Inside, the atelier is showcasing a meticulous couture bridal collection in a museum-style exhibition. The line isn’t exactly inconspicuous. It casually flows under scaffolding. 11th Street is lined with sleek lowriders and old friends have reunited as the DJ spins ‘90s and 2000s R&B. It feels like a really well dressed block party. Whether asked in oblivion or in jest, once they step back to notice the queue of people behind the bouncer what follows is one of three outcomes.

Outcome 1. Look for your homie to get you in. While curious passersby and fans of the brand wait, friends of the atelier met with the line are escorted to skip it.

Outcome 2. Cut someone: Alfonso Gonzales Jr., who did not have to wait in line, commented, “You can cut, but there’s a respectful way to cut.” You have to have the audacity. Be stealth and steadfast. Commit. Go for it.

Outcome 3. Just go to the end of the line. A few folks who come straight to the door are turned away and asked to wait. In actuality, getting sent to the back of a quickly moving line isn’t as bad a condemnation as it seems. But I would be lying if I said we didn’t enjoy seeing people getting turned away and doing a kind of walk of shame to the end of the line.

Two people pose at twilight beside a line.

NoNo wears a Lilith Paris top, MSBHV bottoms, Moschino jacket, Frye boots, and Luar bag. Isaías Cabrera wears a Common Market top, Louis Vuitton bag, Levi’s jeans and Maison Margiela shoes.

Isaías Cabrera, a.k.a Blondchyna, president of Somos Loud LA, and NoNo, addiction and mental health professional

Position in line: Second.

Time spent in line: About 3 minutes.

So you just cut the line. I’m assuming you’re not ones for waiting.

Isaías Cabrera: To be honest, not to be conceited, but no.

NoNo: I mean, if these people behind us trip, I’ll just get out of line.

IC: I think it’s gonna be OK.

What are the rules or best practices for cutting the line?

IC: Go to the front of the line, and live in opulence. You own everything.

What if someone cuts you?

IC: I let them. Because I do the same.

Is there anything worth waiting in line for?

IC: I was just in line for a Heaven bag. I love Heaven. I love Marc Jacobs. I think it’s worth it.

Which bag was it?

It was the Blumarine collaboration.

Any other thoughts about waiting in line?

IC: We work hard. What are we doing lines for?

Two young men pose in all black outfits at night.

Alex Palma wears a Selfdestrct shirt, Selfdestrct pants and The Last Conspiracy shoes. Juan Carlos Palma wears Selfdestrct pants, Zam Barrett hoodie, Yeezy 950 boots.

Juan Carlos Palma, designer, and Alex Palma

Position in line: Fifth.

Time spent in line: 20 minutes.

What brings you out tonight?

Juan Carlos Palma: I follow the page @firmeatelier. I’m from New York/New Jersey and my brother lives out here in California and I came here because he graduated. I said, “Let me see some fashion events out here. Let me pop out.” I’m tired of streetwear to be honest, and this is really haute couture level.

How has your experience been waiting in line?

JCP: It’s cool. Because you see people with different styles. It’s interesting seeing L.A. fashion because I’m usually in New York. I just observe. What else can you do?

Alex Palma: I think the most interesting [thing] is how people style themselves to fit their personalities and say, “Let me show it through the outfits.”

Robert Aubert wears Sinners Saints hat, jacket, Sinners Saints pants, Christian Louboutin shoes, Nouvintage sunglasses.

Robert Aubert wears Sinners Saints hat, Sinners Saints jacket, Sinners Saints pants, Christian Louboutin shoes, Nouvintage sunglasses.

Robert Aubert, designer

Position in line: Fourth.

Time spent in line: “Too long.” (Couldn’t have been longer than 15 minutes.)

I saw you get turned away from the front. How does that feel?

I didn’t know there was a line. I was here earlier, then they told me I had to get in line. I helped with the production on the shirts, so I should be inside. I’m just kidding. But no, I’m here to support the show. I’m out here as a rider. It doesn’t matter how long I wait.

Would you consider yourself a patient person?

Absolutely not. It’s killing me to stand in line.

Astrid Kayembe is a writer from South-Central Los Angeles covering style, food, art and L.A. culture. She was a 2022-23 reporting fellow at the Los Angeles Times. Her work has appeared in USA Today, ABC7, L.A. TACO, The Memphis Commercial Appeal and Refinery29.


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