Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Griffith Park is burning.

I didn't know this until I turned to NBC for SVU; they ran coverage in between instead of commercials tonight. Dante's View is gone. (That's a beautiful garden overlooking the city, that you could walk up to and check out the flowers in the daytime or the city lights at night.) They had to evac the zoo, the historic carousel, the Gene Autry museum, and Travel Town (although they are now safe.) (They didn't have to remove the animals at the zoo, just had all the people leave; they had a plan in place to evac the animals if necessary but the fire was turned and they didn't have to.) The fire has come dangerously close to the Observatory (although at this time it has been turned away from that area), the Greek Theater, and houses in the area (mandatory evacuation; Marshall High School, where one of my friends teaches, is being used as an emergency shelter.) As one commentator said, only about 300 acres have been affected, which isn't really that much in a wildfire, but the problem with this one is that Griffith Park is right smack in the middle of an urban area, bordered by Glendale on one side and Los Feliz on the other. For those not familiar with L.A., imagine New York's Central Park burning and that might give you an idea. For those who don't know Glendale, I'll explain that it's near Pasadena and that my parents, siblings, and I were all born there. Bridget's birth certificate says Glendale on it because the hospital she was born in is in the part of Montrose that is technically part of Glendale instead of part of unincorporated L.A. County. Although we were not technically part of the city-- most of La Crescenta, the community I grew up in, is unincorporated county land-- we were part of the Glendale Unified School District. Growing up we were 15 minutes from Griffith Park; now we're about 20-25.

Jeff heard about this before I did but didn't mention it to me, not knowing what it would mean to me. You see, I, and I think many others, think of Griffith Park as the heart of L.A. (not geographically, but rather spiritually or, well, you know what I mean.) It has many of the historical spots, cultural centers, and childhood favorite places in the city. When I suddenly saw pictures of flames in Griffith Park, I was overwhelmed. I was stricken. I cried and I prayed. Others, apparently, are having the same reaction. The water-dumping helicopters are still out flying; they were told to land for the night if they wanted to but to a person the pilots and crews said they would stay and fight the fire, now with only infrared to help them navigate and despite communications being sub-par because the power is out and so they're running on field generators for the radios and other comm equipment. (My prayers are with those pilots as well as the firefighters on the ground and the people whose homes have been evacuated.)

So now that I've vented a bit, I will turn to happier memories of Griffith Park, since I have a feeling that it will do more good, for me and for everyone else, to have some positive energy going than negative thoughts and worries all the time, when I can't really do much about it.

Growing up, Griffith Park was like a fantasy land or a theme park to me. We used to go on hikes there; we went to the zoo, of course, and the Gene Autry Museum of Western Heritage. That's a great museum, with art exhibits (NA art, western vistas, period pieces, all kinds of things), historical clothing and household objects, a collection of authentic western sheriff badges from the 1800s, exhibits on westerns in tv and movies and their influence on pop culture (including a saddle you can sit on and put yourself in a western!), the Howdy Doody bedroom that my mom wanted when she was a little girl and never got (long story), all kinds of things. We all loved it so much, including my mom, that we had a membership growing up. Travel Town was a favorite when we were young enough to be bored by the Autry but enthralled by trains; they had a train you could ride around, real old train cars you could climb around in, all kinds of things. My aunt used to take my brother and me, or me and my second cousins once removed when they were in town (girls, twins a year older than me; one is my aunt's goddaughter) to ride on the carousel, ride the ponies, run around the picnic area. My class took field trips to the Observatory. The Greek Theater is an outdoor auditorium that hosts all kinds of great events; we took field trips to see shows there, and that's where I fulfilled my almost lifelong (since I was 5) dream of seeing a live broadcast of A Prairie Home Companion when I was 19 (my dad got tickets for a birthday present for me.) At Christmas time the DWP puts on a light display in Griffith Park; we used to drive out every year and look at them. It's just a wonderful place, with lots of landmarks, an oasis in the busy city and a great place for people of all ages, and families especially.

So if you have an extra prayer, please say one for the people fighting the fire, the people who live nearby, and that the winds will continue to calm, that the weather will cool, perhaps some rain will come, the fire will die down, and the park will be spared further destruction. Thank you.


alan.morbo said...

It's very hard to see something you grew up with destroyed. I'm sorry Anne.

txmommy said...

oh my gosh! I didn't hear about that, how sad.
I love Griffith Park. I c an't even cound the number of field trips we took there when I was a kid:(

Suzanne said...

How sad that a place that holds so many memories has been ruined. The mountain area where my hubby and I had our first date burned down a few years ago. It's so sad to see memories go...