The Los Angeles River runs through the entire LA basin, from the Valley to Long Beach where it spills into the Pacific Ocean. In the late 1930's, all 51 miles of the river were lined in concrete, by hand, after a huge flood claimed 113 lives and cost the city $40 million in damages which roughly equates to A LOT nowadays, possibly $500 million. During the 40's and 50's a total of six large dams were also built to help control the flooding of the river.
My whole childhood I heard only negative things about the river. That it was gross and dirty (it is) and an eye sore and embarrassment to Los Angeles (it isn't). It is associated most, from what I remember, with traversing through run-down and broken areas of LA. The river is nothing less than a cultural icon. Every LA politian and environmental group have a plan for the river. Many LA artists have been inspired by it. I've recently fallen deeply for the river.
The part of the river that I see regularly now is about a 7-mile colorful stretch east of downtown. It takes my breath away for reasons I'm still exploring. I find it visually exciting and beautiful. It is messy and crazy. The area always seems abandoned. I never see one soul down there or near there, but the art is left to speak saying, We Are Here, We'll Be Heard Somehow. The walls of the river trap a heavy, dark energy that is eased only a bit by the complicated graffiti. The art is bananas. It's written in a language that only taggers understand. Every time I pass the stretch, I read as many words as I can make out, knowing they don't make sense to me, but I just say them anyway like poetry: GOZO DOX. FAULT & LENT. ERIAK BIG. TRIGGAZ ELUDE. SAGE FUME. TRIGALI. TREY-GEE-FAZE. The pieces are huge too; letters over six feet tall to nearly two stories. That's what I love the most. Such big, bursting thoughts. So much to say, and no one understands.
I tried to take some photographs yesterday, but I couldn't capture the exact beauty I see in my mind. I couldn't translate that onto the pictures. It's like the images I see don't trust me yet. The moving train didn't help. The shitty camera didn't help. I hinted about going down there physically and Husband said HELLNO. I'd be afraid to go, to be honest, as much as it lures me. I told you about the wet, weighted energy full of secrets down there which I can feel even from an encapsulated, moving vehicle.
I posted some of the photos anyway. Maybe something will come across in, what I feel, is a flat blandness of these: Something in the gang of bright shopping carts in photo #2. Something in the forefront tag in photo #4, but even more in the tag lurking behind it under the bridge. Something in the last photograph that is alive with frustrated scribbling.
Many photographers capture the river way, way better, but in a way I wouldn't. Many of the professional photos of the river mainly show it as an entity -- with a life of its own -- flowing between monstrous and gentle. Personally, I'm fixated on the secret human interaction that weaves and leans on the river and uses its banks as canvas, as release.