Stop Hating on the Rain: An Ode to the L.A. River, the Trickle That Becomes a Torrent – L.A. TACO

When it rains in Los Angeles, especially for long periods of time, the experience can be frustrating, boring, and life ruining. It is mostly experienced inside a house or an apartment, or even worse, in dizzying traffic, even slower when wet. Gray skies, the condos looking uglier than usual, all the other irritated drivers with their long exasperated sighs fogging their windows, brake lights flickering in a wet blur.

In the river, however, quite the opposite. Action. Rash. Excitement.

People often make fun of the river, especially those who are new to the city, perhaps seeing it for the first time in its weaker, flood-controlled reaches.

"Calls that a river? it's barely a stream.

And those concrete benches! So it's like, what, a man-made river, right? Where is nature in this city!”

No. It is not man-made. The city did that.

"Oh. Well, isn't it like LA? It's done a job.

Or whatever.

Those same people will marvel once it rains. Head out to Frogtown or Atwater, Instagram their sudden choppy flow. With a little stupor excited by his ferocity.

For many, it's a sight not often seen. If you're new and unfamiliar, or just don't explore much, you may only know it from the movies, where it's mostly shot in its utter emptiness, a symbol of despair and doom, broad metropolitan malaise. It's a dark and lonely place or a completely bright stage for an endurance race. movies like point blank and Live and Die in LA, Terminator 2: Judgment Dayeven fall under the previous designation. Grease, Gone in 60 Seconds, The Italian Joband countless others fall for the latter. repo man makes great use of both. I guess Drive somehow it flips both categories: a non-racing car scene, appreciating the beauty and nature of the river. I'm digressing

So for most, it's this weird slab of civil engineering with a thin tributary seeping through it like a loose ribbon being slowly pulled from some faraway place.

But then it rains.

And the river roars alive. A vehicle with no brakes, with a red engine, hurtling down a 51-mile track designed to boost your speed.

That's why the Army Corps of Engineers paved these steep embankments after the Los Angeles flood of 1938, when many citizens called for greater flood control and the removal of Mayor Frank L. Shaw so he could use the area for With additional surface area to fully open up its acceleration, flat concrete accelerates water much faster than mud and brush banks, moving surf quickly past neighborhoods and splashing into Long Beach Harbor.

Don't get me wrong, I wasn't hating on the people who are going to see it when this happens. Instagram even. She is a beauty, show her off. I've done it too. In fact, it's one of my favorite things, driving to my place and parking the car, carefully walking under the bridge and as far down as safety allows, or watching it bubble up below me from a footbridge.

There are some good places to do this. Sure, those roads in Frogtown. Better yet, one of the many historic bridges that connect Lincoln Heights to downtown, like the North Broadway Viaduct (née Buena Vista) with its fluted Ionic columns and century-old streetlights. One of my favorite things to do is take the Gold Line when it's raining, out of Chinatown and over the rushing river with the haunted jail behind you.

William Mulholland, the "father of the Los Angeles water system," had a favorite spot to watch the river erupt for at least a while. In the 1800s, he lived in a shack outside Griffith Park to study the river by day and his engineering books and by a kerosene lamp at night. There is now a memorial fountain and park in his honor. You probably noticed it while you were sitting in that slow traffic at the intersection of Los Feliz Boulevard and Riverside Drive.

Of course, this fascination with the The Porciúncula River, as it was initially known, is not without its dangers. The slippery shores and rapid ascent can be treacherous. Many have perished skirting the water. Several years ago, two teenage boys, Gustavo Ramírez and Carlos Daniel Joval, were dragged away and drowned. Their bodies were found submerged in a 12-foot-deep bag of water. Yeah, it gets that deep. And even deeper in many places. Places where there was hardly any Doc Marten a few minutes ago.

Consider, too, how many homeless neighbors we've lost down there, disappearing. There are plenty of campsites along the river banks, in those culvert-like semi-tunnels for runoff - the weather can change instantly and those seemingly safe perches are quickly gone. Or the unfortunate people who make the mistake of taking shelter under bridges during a storm, not knowing that a flash flood is rushing their way.

Eventually, the rain will stop. Perhaps right at the top, where Calabasas Creek and Bell Creek enter it, the last of the rain continues its journey through Canoga Park, past the Winnetka Bowl, toward Reseda, then behind Casa Vega, through Studio City and Universal Studios, winding around Forest Lawn Cemetery, where my favorite Brittany Murphy is buried, to the Los Angeles Zoo and down the eastern length of Griffith Park, to downtown, past St. Vincent de Paul , then Men's Central Jail, Aliso Village, under the new 6th. Street Bridge, Chinatown and Boyle Heights, Maywood, dividing Cudahy and Bell Gardens, through East Compton, shoring up to Rancho Los Cerritos, and finally into Long Beach Harbor past the Catalina Express and Queen Mary.

At what point does a river finally become an ocean? I'm not sure. In my opinion, it seems more a spiritual question than limnology.

When it stops raining, the city shines. Los Angeles never looks better than after a rain. Bright and flushed. The sun covers everything with a soft glow. The sky is a pressure washed blue. The clouds are soft and calm whitecaps. The Verdugo foothills are emeralds nestled under the exquisite detail of the San Gabriel Mountains, all cobalt and cocaine.

The river dies. The mallards and the egrets and the heron are back, and maybe even some coyotes come down from the hills to have a drink. Cheerful groups of black-necked stilts run around the shallows.

Yes, after the rain, after the river goes out, it comes back to life in its own way.


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