Just by happenstance, I had two projects on the same topic — the series of walks dubbed #LA4Corners — culminate over these past two weeks. First a little backstory. Between 2019 and 2020, I helped organize a series of walks hosted by Los Angeles Walks that retracted the original four borders of Los Angeles. We walked the north, west, south and east borders (each about 6-8 miles) in the company of so many amazing storytellers and participants.
For KCET, I wrote an article about some of the history along these four borders that was published last week. And for the Los Angeles Walks “Spring Forward” fundraiser on April 22, I shared four audio slideshows using all the audio interviews I recorded during these walks. At that fundraiser, I was grateful for the opportunity to publicly thank the Los Angeles Walks team, especially Carmina Gomez. If it wasn’t for all her work and her gentle ability to keep us all moving forward, these walks would’ve remained a fun idea discussed among our historian friends. Needless to say, I’ve been immersed in the first square-shaped border of the City of Los Angeles for the past month.
While I helped to organize the overall series, I co-led the walk along the eastern border with the amazing James Rojas. And I just really wanted to take this opportunity to acknowledge and thank those storytellers who joined us on the walk down (mostly) Indiana Street.
Anthony Manzano launched our walk at Debs Park, sharing all his in-depth research about the Rose Hills area. Under the huge steel butterflies at Soto Street, Huntington Drive and Mission Road, Aaron Thomas explained how North East Trees was working to restore native trees, grasses and perennials to El Sereno’s Ascot Hills Park. Near the Cinco Puntos intersection, Inclusive Action’s Lyric Kelkar gave updates about issues facing the city’s street food vendors. While resting at the Indiana Street Station, the walkers were treated to the poetry and storytelling of Mike Sonksen and Ruben Guevara. Sonksen performed his “I’m Alive in Los Angeles” from his collections of poems “Letters to My City.” Guevara shared stories about the recently reopened Paramount Ballroom and the historic Japanese Hospital in Boyle Heights. And a huge thank you to James Rojas who took over the walk once we all reach El Pino.
I also need to acknowledge that much of the initial development of these walks came from a number of discussions with those with a deep knowledge of Los Angeles history. In 2015, Lila Higgins, Daveed Kapoor, Nathan Masters and I attempted to walk the original border after discussing it around a table at an LA History Happy Hour with a bunch of folks in 2014 (Lila Higgins even sketched a map). Conversations with Eric Brightwell, Elson Trinidad, Meredith Drake Reitan and Bob Inman come to mind. I also consulted with the LA City Archivists who shared an engineering document used by the Los Angeles City Historical Society when the organization placed the four plaques 30 years ago. And map librarian Glen Creason offered his expertise and shared the 1981 publication “Four Square Leagues: Los Angeles Two Hundred Years Later.”
It was hard to keep a steady focus on a history walk from over a year ago, considering all the heartbreaking news over the past month. But listening to the audio interviews, hearing participants articulate their earnest interest in the history of Los Angeles, the neighborhoods of Los Angeles and just the joy of coming together with strangers … well, it was a well-needed reminder of what I hope we can soon return too.