January 8th, 2012:

THE GREAT WALL OF LOS ANGELES

California History on the Great Wall Mural

Reading recently about a neighborhood in New York City, I realized I also live in a neighborhood. It’s not a neighborhood like the ones I inhabited while my kids were growing up out in a suburban valley. I’m in an area in the San Fernando Valley that’s a mixture: a variety of businesses and residential housing from the swanky to apartment buildings.

Coldwater Canyon winds through the hills of Beverly down to Sherman Oaks and all across the Valley. It’s a main artery that  runs perpendicular to the 101 Freeway. Depending on the traffic, I could drive from my apartment to the freeway entrance in five minutes and either head north and west to Ventura and Santa Barbara or south and east to downtown Los Angeles or Pasadena (the Rose Bowl and Rose Parade). Since I’m in a huge valley, I can see mountains, both near and far, surrounding me, depending on the weather. I can even watch a “river” flow, especially if it’s rained in the winter. The river or channel, also called the Tujunga Wash, is encased in concrete: no more floods like the early 1900s.

We Southern Californians live in a desert, but you’d never know it from the millions of trees and blooming plants, courtesy of imported water. Someday we’ll most likely get on the “green” bandwagon of desert plants only. We’ve already got recycled sewage water for irrigation.

The neighborhood is handy for day-to-day life. Grocery stores, a Whole Foods two blocks away and a Ralphs, a five-minute walk, are close. I could buy a car or have my car serviced a half-block up the street. The young man of Armenian culture who owns that business is not only congenial, but quite handsome.

Across the street from the car place is a tiny shopping mall chock full of conveniences: a donut shop, a beauty salon, a dry cleaners, and several restaurants: Chinese, Mexican, Italian pizza, and yogurt. Judo lessons are available and even manicure/pedicure. We’ve got a Walgreens on one corner along with one of those fake trees that are disguised cell phone towers. A chiropractor operates from a small office building a few steps from the Walgreens, and in the Ralphs center across the street there’s a recycling business and a gas station where we can agonize over the rising price of gas, always more expensive in California because of gas taxes.

Public transportation has made great strides: there’s a bus line a half block from me and a Valley-wide bus line a little more than a block up the street, which will connect commuters to our subway system, which wasn’t here when I arrived in LA. Hollywood and downtown are easily accessible.

I don’t want to forget education facilities. Besides an elementary school and middle school within walking distance, there’s a junior college. Los Angeles Valley College with its a large campus and an extensive adult education program, is a few blocks north.

Best of all, Valley College students (about 400 artists over the years) in the 1970s began creating a dramatic and colorful half-mile long mural depicting California history. They had the perfect surface—one side of the concrete Tujunga Wash that borders the college along Coldwater Canyon Avenue. Sections of it depict Spanish history of California, the Japanese internment, civil rights actions, the Red Scare and McCarthyism, the movie industry, the Olympics, Jewish refugees during World War II, etc. It’s been called the Great Wall of LA.

If I’m not in the mood for any of our many art galleries, I just have a short walk to gaze at lively historic interpretations done with passion and enthusiasm.

McCarthyism and the Red Scare

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