Sat, 27 Mar 2004


mt hollywood

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God only knows what possessed me to climb Mt. Hollywood today. OK, I'm overstating. I drove up to the Griffith Park Observatory (which is currently closed for renovation) which supposedly has an elevation of 1,135 feet. I then proceeded up the trail to the peak, which I've read has an elevation of 1,640 feet. So I climbed about 500 feet and walked somewhere between 1.25 and 2.5 miles. It had a really good 360° view of Burbank, Glendale, Eagle Rock, Glassell Park, Echo Park, Downtown L.A., Koreatown, Mid-Wilshire, Century City, and Westwood, but unfortunately it was one of those inversion-layer days, and the basin and the valleys weren't all that visible beneath the trademark L.A. smog. If it weren't so smoggy, you could probably see Mt. San Antonio (AKA Mt. Baldy), which is, I think, still snow-capped despite it being 85° in the basin today. I could make out Pasadena, Mt. Wilson, and the hills of Palos Verdes, but I couldn't really see the ocean at all. Hopefully the sky will clear up before I have to go back to Chicago, and I'll try to get better pictures.

I don't know why I'm so obsessed with knowing the names of places. I figured out that the transmitter I can see outside my window is in fact Mt. Lee, the peak that the famous Hollywood sign adorns. I'm not entirely sure which peak is Mt. Hollywood, but I can see the Observatory. I want to figure out if the hill my parents live on has a name, as well as the peak I can see north of Glendale. I think it might be Verdugo Peak, but I haven't seen it on any maps.

Standing up on Mt. Hollywood, I found that the San Gabriel Mountains really awed me. They are like some gigantic, impenetrable wall. I felt like a kid trying to get a glimpse over the lip of the kitchen counter. I'm really tempted to try the Verdugo Hills next, but maybe after my quads recover.

I could trace the sleek curve of the 134 West to 2 North connector, and the way the 2 North was artificially carved into the San Rafael Hills, an unnatural straight line like a scar across the side of the hills. I could follow the 134 all the way to Pasadena, abutting the southern edge of those hills, and I could see the actual Eagle Rock out in the distance, although I couldn't make out the actual eagle. I could see the hill my parents' house is on, and it looked like a paltry ant-hill from the peak of Mt. Hollywood.

Admittedly, the skyline of Downtown L.A. is kind of pathetic when compared to Manhattan or Chicago, but maybe it's only because of all these mountains. There is something vertiginous about looking south towards the city, tracing the chrome lines of Vermont Ave. and Western Ave. leading all the way down to San Pedro, because there are no points of elevation in that direction. There is something bizarre about seeing the clusters of high-rises suddenly springing up in Koreatown (which kind of looks like a westward curling tail of Downtown L.A.) and then in Mid-Wilshire. Then there are the shadow cities in the west, Century City, and Westwood. The twin towers of Century City have, I think, haunted my dreams. I can actually see them from my parents' hill from certain angles. Somehow, there is a clear line of sight above the hill directly east of here, and through the Hollywood Hills, so that you can see Century City gleaming in the sunset. Growing up, I never knew where there those buildings where, and because I can't see them from different angles off this hill, I sometimes thought that I was hallucinating, or seeing into another dimension, or experiencing something akin to what happens in "Brigadoon." There is something audacious about calling a place Century City, but for some reason, the name fits, and I can't help associating those twin towers with the future, even though the turn-of-the-millenium has come and went, and it is unlikely that high-rises will pop up to fill the voids between Koreatown and Mid-Wilshire, and Mid-Wilshire and Century City.

And, frankly, I've grown to despise the Westside, because of the pretentiousness of the celebrities and of the Bruins, and the fact that non-Angelenos think of the Westside first when they think of L.A. (Non-Angelenos including OC'ers and various denizens of the San Fernando and San Gabriel Valleys.) Growing up on the east side of the City, I've grown fond of the hills and reservoirs, the freeways nestled in the narrow valleys, the L.A. River and the Arroyo Seco. The beautiful bridges that cross these once free flowing rivers. Over the L.A. River glides Hyperion Ave, Fletcher Drive, the Arroyo Seco Parkway (AKA the Pasadena Freeway), Broadway, Spring Street, 1st St, 3rd St, 7th St. Over the Arroyo Seco crosses York Blvd., Colorado Blvd., and the Foothill Freeway. They may not be as magnificent as the bridges of the San Francisco Bay Area or those crossing the Hudson and East Rivers, not even as grand as the Vincent Thomas Bridge in San Pedro, but they hearken to a bygone era, before the freeways caused the Southland to explode spatially but implode temporally—the former manifesting as urban sprawl, the latter demonstrated by the mass displacements caused by the freeways, and the starvation of once-booming communities now bypassed by what my high school history teacher likes to call the "vanilla freeways" where the pretentious Westsiders can forget about the ghettos and the barrios.

I imagine that the Colorado Blvd bridge was what alerted the westward-seeking Chicagoan driving down Route 66 that he had in fact reached Los Angeles, that the York Blvd bridge once marked the entrance into Highland Park. Hyperion Ave linked Glendale and Hollywood, Fletcher Drive once had state highway status, Broadway was the main thoroughfare entering the city from the north.

I suppose every city has ghosts, the hidden, forgotten histories that lurk in every hillside. Driving down Solano Avenue through Chavez Ravine, staring at the gigantically empty parking lot of Dodger Stadium, I pondered. Unlike Wrigley Field in Chicago, which is embedded in a very happening neighborhood, Dodger Stadium sits lonely and mournful, over the grave of a once-teeming community, even where a game is on. Things like that.

But despite the new things I discover every day, or more accurately, the old things I grow reacquainted with every day, I'm not ready to stay here quite yet. I'm glad that this is the place that I started from, my hometown, the place where my story begins, but I'm not quite ready to call it Home (with a capital "H") yet.

21:05:25 27 Mar 2004 > /unrealcity > permalink > 0 comments


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