Eastside 101: Hollenbeck Park

June 3, 2007 at 12:41 am in East Side

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Ed Fuentes of View from a Loft pointed out a new publication to hit LA, a monthly that imagines itself as “a meaningful upscale magazine” for the Eastside. A quick look at their site and it suddenly feels more like a slap; their Eastside is nowhere near to the one I grew up in, that vast expanse of mostly Latino humanity on the other side of the river. Ugg. Here we go again, the re-imagining of our city in a historical vacuum. A cultural demarcation by terms. Just have a damn flag planting ceremony already, make a few decrees about the new Easternmost territories held by the Westsider Cultural Empire, declare East LA to be inconsequential (until further notice) and call this vision the new LA. At least that way we will have something to work with, or something to fight against.

I’m tired of this “debate” since it mostly consists of Eastsiders fighting to preserve a semblance of place, informing newcomers from the far off West or beyond that we, on the other side of the river, do exist, and that (at least to ourselves) we do matter. Before I raise my army for the coming culture wars, and before the divide between the two LA’s gets even wider, I figured I’d do some preliminary bridge building: I’m going to embark on an occasional series of posts to highlight aspects of the Eastside that I know. Mostly it’ll be about places you can visit but sometimes there’ll be posts that are based on the map of memory. Maybe it’ll help some out there to take us seriously. (Ha, ha!) But even if it has no effect, and people still insist on erasing our identity, it’ll be a record of the Eastside that actually means something to me, the place I call home.

For our first lesson, turn to the page marked Hollenbeck Park!

Built in the past (how’s that for relative historicism?) Hollenbeck Park came to be around the same time some of the other major city parks began to dot the LA landscape: Central Park (now known as Pershing Square), Eastlake Park (now known as Lincoln Park), and Westlake Park (now known as MacArthur Park). Central, East, West, seems quite simple to me.Click here to see some old postcards of how the park used to look.

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Unfortunately, Hollenbeck has been reduced from its original size, since a freeway was built right over it in the 60′s. If you could see thru concrete, you might recognize this park: it’s the one you drive over when you’re switching from Interstate 5 to the Santa Ana Freeway, or vice versa. What a coincidence that freeways were often built over or through the neighborhoods of working class Mexicans, a truly remarkable case of hilarious bad luck!

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Underneath the freeway, the trees.

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I was baffled and disgusted to see the famous lake bridge cordoned off by a huge black gate. That’s just fucking shitty. This was THE site for many a quince√±era or wedding photo shoot, what numbskull ordered this closure? Whoever they were, a big F U to them.

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I caught my first and only fish underneath that now inaccessible walkway bridge. My cousin dropped the tiny fish back in the water when he was taking the hook off, que menso.

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You can see that the lake has lots of ducks. Be warned, they only speak Belizean Spanish.

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And sometimes you can spot some not-so-ordinary birds.

Here’s a short clip of that crane doing it’s thing.

Yes, a very unremarkable park (except for that lovely hum of the Interstate overhead) but I’ve heard (ahem) that’s it’s been the choice spot for many a school ditcher or young lover to get away from the prying eyes of the city. And really, what can beat the tranquil roar of the freeway while you laze away the day?

Hollenbeck Park 415 Saint Louis Street. 323.261.0113 Over the river, corner of 4th and St. Louis. You can’t miss it.

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