Sunday, July 28, 2013

Silver Lake Stairs

My wife and I have lived in Los Angeles for about seven years -- long enough to become a bit complacent about all the sights the city has to offer.  I'm not suggesting that we've seen everything worth seeing (I believe that a person could live their entire life here, and never run out of new discoveries), but I suppose we've worn out most of the obvious destinations.  As a result, we don't go exploring as often as we used to. That's why I was excited to run across a new urban hiking guide called Secret Stairs. 

This weekend, the book pointed us toward two walks in the Silver Lake neighborhood.  The first one was called the Music Box Loop, because it includes a 147-step staircase immortalized in the Laurel and Hardy short "The Music Box."  If you don't know the staircase is there, you could easily walk right past it.  In fact, if you don't live in the neighborhood or know someone who lives in the neighborhood, you could easily assume that it's not pedestrian-friendly.  Hell, you could assume that about practically any neighborhood in Los Angeles... but Secret Stairs proves otherwise.

The Music Box stairs
The Music Box stairs - view from the top
some stairs are better than others
another view from the top
intimidating hills
I'd like to think of the second walk as "The Walking Dude Loop," because (as our tour book notes) it is the stomping ground of a local doctor known to residents for his obsessive power-walking habit.   Silver Lake's "walking man" is the subject of a 6-minute documentary film that follows this mysterious -- and apparently laconic -- stranger through his neighborhood.  Apparently he walks 15 miles a day during the week, 25 miles a day on weekends, and has covered about half a million miles total over the last few years.  He's like Forrest Gump... if Forrest Gump had stayed in one neighborhood instead of running across the country.

Threading the hills on Silver Lake's narrow lanes, I found my imagination wandering.  I've always been enthralled by the idea of historic Los Angeles; the Spanish adobes always make me think of the studio-era Hollywood and the detective/noir fiction of the 1930s and 1940s.  I can't help looking at these houses -- especially the ones with cracked foundations and peeling paint, relics of former glory -- and wondering: Who commissioned and designed these places?  What was their inspiration?  How did they make the money to pay for these places?  What is/was their life story?  Little eccentricities, like chandeliers in the trees, a Mickey Mouse water feature and a tile featuring morse code for the opening of Beethoven's 5th symphony, serve as evidence that there are no boring answers here.  There's a reason that no two houses look the same around here... and that's precisely what I love about this city.  Along with its hidden staircases, this city is filled with hidden stories just waiting to be told...

Looking down on Silver Lake Reservoir

Note the chandeliers in the tree
Mediterranean medley

A hunting lodge in the middle of Silver Lake?  Sure, why not.

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