los angeles river

All posts tagged los angeles river

I’m finally getting back to posting these and I owe it all to J. Balvin. I heard his song “Safari” (that is a YouTube link; this is the Amazon link) on the radio and the voice of the man singing “Vente conmigo. Solo conmigo” sounded so damn familiar. And it turned out to be Pharrell Williams, which reminded me why Pharrell’s voice sounds so familiar. This project.

Lots of people dancing up the river for the first hour but not many landmarks, so we’re getting two hours for the price of one here.

Next up, the rest of 6:56, followed immediately by 7:00.

7:00 We’re on the Los Angeles River now and likely to stay here for a long time. Looks like after 7:04 we start walking north along the river. At around 7:19, we pass a sign that says “Equestrians prohibited” which makes some kind of sense, since the horse chestnuts would probably be difficult for bikers to avoid. But then we pass a “horse crossing” sign and now I’m totally confused. I also don’t buy that this is 7:00 am because (a) the direction of the shadows makes me think that the sun is to the west, and not the east, and (b) cars are actually able to drive on the 5. If I recall correctly, by 7 am traffic is at a standstill on the freeways.

7:56 We move to the actual river itself, rather than the bank. It looks like the place where they filmed the race scene in Grease. And it doesn’t just look like it. This is the same place. The bridge in the background is the 7th Street Bridge in Grease, and today there’s a kind of low-lying building with lots of windows up on the bank. You can see the same building (or a substantially similar one) on Google Street View. Stretching that corner of the polygon out that far brings us to 21.58 square miles. So now we have 163 Hours of Happy.

8:00 We’re still in the LA River. This part of the river has a current. I was not expecting that. Pharrell walks down the dry edge of the river, up the berm under the next bridge, and around what looks to be some homeless person’s shopping cart. Hey, loving a city requires you to accept some of the less pleasant aspects (even if you aspire to change them). We end up in some kind of tunnel.

8:04 So this is fun. We dance through that tunnel and out onto the street. You can see that we’re near a bridge, but fuck if I can tell what bridge we’re near. Finally, after 8:08, we dance past a sign saying “590santefestudios.com” so I use that as my signpost to find our location. The closest bridge to that sign is the 4th Street bridge, but that wasn’t right. So I did some digging and found that the 6th Street bridge wasn’t demolished until 2016. So it was still there when the video was made. So I hit Google Street View, and there, in November 2015, is the bridge. And there, from under the bridge, is the building that our 8:08 dancer is passing. Then I took a step forward and the bridge and building are both gone. I couldn’t find the exact spot again, but I found one close to it and went back and forth “Now they’re here” “Now there gone” for a while. That’s always fun to do on Google Street View.

We make a left onto Willow (the building she dances past is still there in October of 2017). She covers a lot of territory in her four minutes. I didn’t expect her to get nearly as far as she did on Willow. We make a right onto Mateo and then another right onto Palmetto and a left onto Santa Fe.

8:20 We’re at a bridge again. What bridge? Dunno. Wait. We’re at the 4th Street bridge. How do I know that? Because with the disappearance of the 6th Street bridge, I was looking around the 4th Street bridge back at 8:04 and I recognize that building behind the dancer. We then follow Santa Fe Street northwards-ish to Mateo, make a right onto Mateo and then a left onto 4th Place, I think?

8:24 We skip ahead a bit to Molina Street and make a left and then a right onto Palmetto and then another right onto what I think is probably Colyton. “Colyton”? That looks like a typo, but it’s really the street name.

8:36 We return to Hollywood for the appearance of some kind of fighter or other (Youtube comments say that it’s Urijah Faber?) and a young woman who is apparently his sister. We start on Argyle Street just north of the W hotel and make a right onto Hollywood Boulevard.

8:40 I don’t know. Probably back where we were before on Colyton, I guess? No, we’re definitely somewhere else. I see the number “500” and the word “Enterprises” but unfortunately they’re on different buildings. This is no help. Oh, good. “Enterprises” is apparently 439. Wait. We are still on Colyton, only at the other end of the street. And, yep. There’s “Enterprises” on Google Street View. The other side of the sign reads “Lidderdale.” We make a left back onto Palmetto.

8:48 Now where are we? Okay. Now we’re going down Hewitt, which we skipped before for some reason. I wonder if the road was blocked off before. Huh. There’s a police car back there. I wonder if he (or she; can’t tell at this distance) has noticed our little guerrilla music video. I used to have long hair and it never swung like that. It always kind of moved in a big chunk. Does the 8:48 dancer use any kind of product to get that or is she just lucky? I go back and forth between watching her hair and watching that police car, which pulls to a stop right behind her as the song ends. I wonder if we find out what happened next? Well, I guess the police officer was just parking. We get to the intersection of Hewitt and 4th and then turn back around and head back up Hewitt. At 8:55, the 8:52 dancer goes right past that police car and we can see that it’s a sheriff’s car. For what that’s worth.

8:56 We’re somewhere else now. I see a sign that looks like it says “Music Center” with an arrow pointing left. And upon looking it up, it seems that “Music Center” is something that a sign in Los Angles might say, so we’ll go with that. Another sign that says “Grand” and Grand is a street near the Music Center, so we’re making progress. We’re shooting looking up at this dancer for some reason. I just accidentally found our location. We’re in an underground parking garage at 4th Street and Grand Avenue. I wish I could figure out why Google Street View will suddenly send me underground or beneath streets when I don’t mean it to, even if it worked out in my favor this time.

Okay, let’s cast our memories back. Back, back, back. Farther than that. Okay, are you to 1978 yet? If not, we’ll wait.

Are we all here? Jimmy Carter is in the White House (I’m a big fan). David Berkowitz is tried and sentenced (I am a bit of a true crime geek). We had three popes, including the eerily prophetically named John Paul I, who really did put the “I” on his name (also a religion geek). And the top-grossing movie for the year? Grease.

If you’ve seen Grease, you’ll probably remember the drag racing scene. Remember the street they’re racing on? That’s not a street. It’s a river. The Los Angeles River, specifically.

There was catastrophic flooding along the Los Angeles River in 1938 and to fix the problem, they completely destroyed the river’s ecosystem. They dug the river deeper and widened it and covered the whole damn thing with concrete, as if that doesn’t add insult to injury.

In past visits, I’d seen the river occasionally, and it was just as heartbreaking an eyesore as you’d expect. I couldn’t believe that there ever had been a healthy river there.

In recent years, however, I’d been hearing that they’d been working on restoring the ecosystem. I’d heard rumors that there was enough water in some places that people were actually kayaking. This, I wanted to see with my own eyes. I spent quite some time trying to figure out exactly where the improvements had been made and how to get there. Finally I found an article in the Los Angeles Times giving directions that involved parking by the tennis courts in Griffith Park and walking behind the soccer fields. There, you’ll find a bridge over the Golden State Freeway which will lead you to the river. So, we did just that. It certainly was an experience, and on an early Monday afternoon in late July there aren’t a whole lot of people out and about, which made Alex very nervous. We got some fantastic pictures and got to watch an actual blue heron in the water of the river.

After a few blocks, Alex had enough. So we took what turned out to be the Alex Baum Bicycle Bridge back to Los Feliz, took Los Feliz back across the 5 and returned to our car. I’m glad I got the chance to see the revitalization of the river, even if it was kind of creepy and deserted, and I hope to get a chance to explore more (maybe on a weekend when there will hopefully be more people there) on future visits.

Also, coming back on the bridge is why I began my 24 Hours of Happy project. I was watching the video for Happy and noticed that Pharrell is on the Alex Baum Bicycle Bridge at one point. The end of the video directed me to the 24 Hours of Happy site and then I found the individual hours on Pharrell’s iamOTHER channel at YouTube, and it was all downhill from there.

Los Angeles River between Glendale and Los Feliz, 2017

Look at that. From this angle it almost looks like nature. And someday it will hopefully look completely like nature from all angles.

But back to our final day. Traditionally when someone from our pharmacy goes on a trip, they bring something back for everyone else in the pharmacy — magnets, food, pens, whatever. I hadn’t found anything yet, so I looked up souvenir shops and found that most of the best ones are in Hollywood. We hadn’t been to Hollywood yet on this trip, so we figured why not?

We found a parking lot not too far from Hollywood Boulevard and hiked for maybe a quarter or a third of a mile. But what a quarter or a third of a mile! We walked down the Walk of Fame looking at all of the names and watching the people looking at all of the names. I noticed, by the way, that Betty White’s star and that of her late husband, Allen Ludden, face each other, which I thought was sweet. We also went past the establishment formerly known as Grauman’s Chinese Theater. You may be familiar with Grauman’s. It’s the place where all of the actors’ hand- and footprints are in the squares of the sidewalk. I dragged Alex from actor to singer to director just agog and I managed to restrain myself and only take one (not very well framed) picture of Bette Davis’s square. Finally Alex dragged my attention to the task at hand and we continued to the souvenir store. I resisted the temptation to stop by again on our way back to the car, but we needed to get on our way to the airport to return to Texas.

We got our souvenirs and made it back to the airport in plenty of time for our flight. Unfortunately we were seated on the “wrong” side of the plane, by which I mean the side that faced out onto the ocean. As it took off, the plane circled around the Palos Verdes Peninsula, and from that side of the plane I could have maybe gotten one last picture of Cabrillo Beach, the lighthouses, Seal Beach Pier and the Queen Mary. Well, now I know. We need to be on the left side of the plane on our flight back next time.

And there will be a next time. Not in 2018, and maybe not even in 2019, but someday.