Thursday, December 02, 2004

GO: Echo Park

Walking down the streets of this once-feared (I suppose it still is) neighborhood on a sunny and mild Sunday afternoon turned out to be quite the pleasant experience. And no, my friend and I were not the only lonely souls braving the sidewalks. People of Echo Park are of that rare ambulant variety. I almost felt like I was in a foreign country where pedestrian activity is more widely practiced as opposed to in this city. Because, remember, nobody walks in L.A. as that one song declares.

We made our way over to Echo Park to check out the Art Crawl event put on by various art galleries in the eastside. Starting out on Sunset Boulevard by Sea Level Records, we headed east to a gallery called TIMBREspace where we saw comic book-influenced illustrations. Quite whimsical. Then, right around the corner on Logan Street was Habit Trail Gallery. The art on display there was nothing much to write home about. All I can say is that there's some looney shit out there that's abominably being called "art."

Back on Sunsent Blvd. we continued east and once we came upon Echo Park Blvd. we turned right and headed north. This street was more deserted, flanked by rather depressing looking homes. Then, all of a sudden in the distance we spied gasp! White People. A whole bunch of 'em. So here they were! We had only seen mostly Latinos until now. In the block where they were hanging out stood various boutique shops: a high-end hair salon, a bath and beauty merchant, vintage clothing shops, and you get the idea. Chango, an uppity cafe, punctuated the end of this yuppy retail strip. Outside Chango one beholds your expected bohemians and even the more clich├ęd scene of a long-tressed musician strumming his guitar with his buddies. It was just too much.

A little upways from Chango we visited The bASeMent art gallery which is - where else? - but in the basement of an elegant art deco building. Now, this place had what I call art. On exhibit was "Staples" by Daniela Arriaga. The artist produced images on paper with staples. That's right - staples! She calls them "sculptures," but the kind you hang on a wall. She had this one large piece of a fireplace that was "drawn" by stapling thousands of steel staples on a poster size piece of white paper. It resembled a sketch done with graphite. I love these artists who use humble, everyday objects that we don't think twice to discard to create something beautiful and worthy to preserve. Her staple still lifes were truly a marvel to behold.

Another haven for white folks is the newly opened bakery and cafe, Masa of Echo Park, on Sunset, not too far from Sea Level Records where we began our foray. I don't think anyone but white people can afford to eat there, even though the prices are pretty modest. Of course, that's relative - modest only for people above a certain income threshold. I doubt the the majority of the population who live in Echo Park would readily shell out $6-7 for a shee-shee sandwich.

Anyway, they serve a variety of salads, sandwiches, crepes, and pizza. Also, the staff is quite friendly. I guess they're going for the "we want to be friends with our neighbors" vibe.

Echo Park, as it stands today, is still a far cry from a hip, trendy, and safe neighborhood. However, it shows signs that it is in the nascent stages of gentrification. In ten years, I'm sure it will look like Silverlake with its own Gelson's and Trader Joe's. In fact, an empty supermarket stands on Sunset and Echo Park Blvd., and I'm sure Whole Foods or, God forbid, a Bristol Farms may move into the neighborhood before you know it.

Sea Level Records 1716 W. Sunset Bl.
TIMBREspace 1706 1/2 W. Sunset Bl.
Habit Trail 1163 Logan St.
The bASeMent 1650 Echo Park Ave. #105
Masa of Echo Park 1800 W. Sunset Bl.

::5 stars::