July 18, 2020
In a normal year, in a normal country, we’d be going on an epic adventure in the Bus, but this year, we are staying “Safer at Home” as the mayor of Los Angeles styles it (never mind the fact that being safer at home may not have kept us safer at home because we didn’t have a handle on this virus). So, one of the things we’ve done to deal with this is walk the neighborhood and walk the dog who was formerly a puppy and still often acts like a puppy.
But that is not what I want to talk about here. I want to talk about our walks. We leave early in the morning, between 6-7, and we are not fully awake. The walks are some kind of dream time when we transverse and traverse through time and space and walk in the fogs of LA, up and down hills, past the pastiche architecture that makes this place. Sometimes when we return I feel shocked to be back in my usual space, as though our journey should have transported me to another universe. I wanted to take pictures for the calendar we send out every year, usually us at beaches, nature shots, the Bus, but this year I started to photograph what was happening here.
Highland Park is a gentrifying or gentrified neighborhood in Los Angeles, a neighborhood with a rich history, a neighborhood we have lived in since 2008. It is a place of hills and hidden streets and stairs, of rich folk when you get near Pasadena, and working class folks in the flatlands. It is a neighborhood of intersections. These pictures are from all over Highland Park, from the flatlands to the highlands, from the Craftsman bungalow to the mansion. Here’s what matters: they all have the same message: Black Lives Matter.
Let me take a moment to acknowledge my privilege: I can walk these streets with my husband (very white) and my doggish puppy (very black) and myself (very white) wearing masks, taking pictures, and I am not afraid. I am ensconced in white privilege, and I know this, and to date the only person to confront me was a white guy who turned out to be my husband’s former coworker, so that was dealt with easily enough. And that matters, and it should matter, and while I cannot say I am thankful for my privilege, for I question it and it worries me, it is a fact. But it seems to me that the times they are a-changing.
I’ve never seen anything like this, ever, and I have walked these streets for years. Maybe not so thoroughly, and maybe not so far afield, but I have walked them, and the signs I’ve seen have usually been “Don’t let your dog poop here.” However, this is something new. I hope it lasts. I hope that the transportation I feel on the walks, the bending of space and time and place, may be a sign that we are all actually moving to a new understanding, but while I feel the need to call out my magical thinking and question it, I still hope it is so. We need to move to a different place in this country, but I am proud of my neighbors. What they say is true.
Link to Buffalo Springfield song:
Wear a mask! We do in Highland Park: