Poetry meets River Bike Path in Portugal

February 22, 2010 § 7 Comments


Poetry along the Rio Tejo em Lisboa - photo from vidasimples.abril.com.br

Check out Lisbon’s poetry installation along their bike path paralleling the Tagus River. The poem is The Keeper of Sheep by Fernando Pessoa. (Somewhat gratuituous plug: Pessoa is a poet whom I learned about via his cameo in the excellent story A Trip to Lisbon  in one of my favorite comic book series: the wonderful Monsieur Jean stories by Dupuy and Berberian.)

How about something like this locally, featuring the Los Angeles River poetry of Lewis MacAdams or Gary Snyder? There was a temporary installation a bit like this during one of the Arroyo Arts Collective‘s river installation shows – which featured a similar art installation with a quote from the Olmsted-Bartholomew plan – painted along the river path in Elysian Valley.

For photos, video and story, read the article here at Copenhagenize. Recommended video below:

(Via Curitiba Cycle Chic via Copenhagenize via L.A. Streetsblog)


Lyrics: New Poetry by Lewis MacAdams

December 26, 2009 § 2 Comments

Everything I did for twenty years I
hoped would follow me down to the river
as a blessing or a curse.

– Lewis MacAdams, from The Horse on California Street

Lyrics by Lewis MacAdams, Blue Press Books, 2009

Lewis MacAdams, founder of the Friends of the Los Angeles River, has a new poetry chap-book just out. It’s entitled Lyrics and available from Blue Press Books for $10.

Fans of “River Boy!” MacAdams are probably already familiar with his previous Los Angeles River poetry, including The River: Books One Two & Three (also available from Blue Press Books.) MacAdams defined the still-all-too-slender Los Angeles River school of poetry… and grandfathered the contemporary movement to reclaim, restore and revitalize the Los Angeles River. I count him as an inspiration, mentor, and friend.

The new volume features a cover painting by Ed Ruscha. Pieces inside are more about bittersweet love than urban hydrology… but our maligned river and the Los Angeles in which it malingers are definitely there. There are taco stands, downtown street people, and even (not) a cornfield. It’s a collection of the melancholy of missing connections, punctuated by moments of sweet reprieve.

Here’s the poem I liked best in Lyrics:

Stranger Than Kindness
I still can’t believe
neither one of us knew any better.
I mean, that wasn’t the first time
a brick wall dressed up
as the Stairway to Heaven.
Now that we’re both numb
we don’t have to pretend
that it all made more sense
than it actually did
when the sunlight
poured through your
curtains like a caramel-
colored coffee,
and I rolled over to see your
wild curls poking out
from around
the face of a stranger.

(All this poetry is, of course, copyright 2009 Lewis MacAdams)

Where to Get Married on the L.A. River

September 10, 2008 § 4 Comments

So you’re wondering where you and your betrothed can get hitched on the LA River… Well, fret not, for the creek freak has done some advance scouting so you won’t have to. Here are three excellent L.A. River wedding locations, listed from upstream to downstream:

View of the San Fernando Valley's Japanese Garden

The San Fernando Valley's Japanese Garden

The Japanese Garden is located on the grounds of the Donald C. Tillman Water Reclamation Plant, which is the source for most of the reclaimed water that flows in the Los Angeles River. The “garden of water and fragrance” and sewage treatment plant are safe behind the Seplulveda Dam in the middle of the San Fernando Valley. The address is 6100 Woodley Avenue, Van Nuys, California, 91406 – a short walk or bike ride from the Woodley Avenue Metro Orange Line Station.  Though they’re connected hydrologically, the very pleasant and immaculately manicured garden is a lot unlike the unkempt Los Angeles River. The river and garden do attract a similar mix of birds, including plenty of ducks and herons. Urban Ranger and river nature writer Jenny Price sums up the quirky wonder of the place by quoting the gardens’ promotional materials stating: “Enjoy the beauty of another culture while learning more about wastewater treatment and reuse.” The garden features docent-led tours, a quaint gift shop and a very helpful website, with its own section specifically for weddings.

Courtyard at the Los Angeles River Center

Courtyard at the Los Angeles River Center

The Los Angeles River Center and Gardens is located in Cypress Park right around the corner from the historic confluence of the Los Angeles River and the Arroyo Seco – just north of downtown Los Angeles.  The address is 570 West Avenue 26, Los Angeles CA 90065 – easy access from the Metro Gold Line Lincoln/Cypress station.  It’s a great setting for events and is booked nearly every Saturday all year for weddings.  It’s the former corporate campus for Lawry’s spice company which had a popular restaurant there – called Lawry’s California Center.  Now it’s owned by the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority – a state agency that develops and manages parks along the L.A. River, in the Santa Monica Mountains and elsewhere.  The River Center’s buildings house the offices of various governmental agencies and non-profits that are working on the restoration and revitalization of the Los Angeles River.  They have a river visitor center, lots of bike and car parking, and a helpful wedding planning page.

The Queen Mary in Long Beach (photo by Christophe Finot)

The Queen Mary in Long Beach (photo by Christophe Finot - Creative Commons)

The Queen Mary is probably the only site where you can really say that you were married in the Los Angeles River.  She has been called the toothpick in the mouth of the L.A. River (romantic, no?)  It’s a beautiful setting for weddings with lots of ornate, well-preserved woodwork and ornamentation.  See their wedding information web page.  Their address is 1126 Queen’s Highway, Long Beach, CA 90802 – a long walk, manageable bike ride, or a short shuttle ride from the Metro Blue Line Long Beach Transit Mall station.  I attended the wedding of Jim and Nina Danza there a while back, where Friends of the Los Angeles River founder Lewis MacAdams read his poem ‘Wedding Song on Board the Queen Mary.’ It’s printed in his excellent L.A. River poetry collection The River: Books One, Two & Three (Blue Press 2005).  Jim and Nina Danza, were two great river advocates who, back in the early 1990’s, were instrumental in getting me involved in river advocacy.  Here’s the start of that poem:

The wood’s split and stacked against the night.

We’re having a cool snap. There’s a ring around the

night-before-the-bean-harvest moon. You’ll soon be

roaring over the Atlantic on your honeymoon.

I can see you dozing underneath a thin blanket

in your narrow seats, while a report on the hydrology

on the Los Angeles River slips to the floor unread.

(Note: Lest the rumors start to fly, please don’t get any ideas that this creek freak has plans to get married any time soon. I still have to meet the woman of my dreams first – and she has to get along with me. These wedding locations were something that occurred to me when I was writing my book Down By The Los Angeles River… but I wasn’t able to weave them in there, so I present them for your enjoyment here.)

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