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July 31, 2006

Echo Park

Echo Park corner

Q: What is Echo Park?

A: A place, a neighborhood, a location with certain shifting psychic, socio-economic and geographic boundaries. Like anywhere in Los Angeles. And not.

Q: Where is Echo Park?

A: Well, if you read James Verini’s reverent Los Angeles Times piece on a boutique hotel about to grace Silver Lake, you would think that Echo Park was in Silver Lake (July 26, Ritzing Silver Lake). End of story. Seemingly awed by “an entrepreneur who has made it her life’s work to contribute to Silver Lake’s face lift,” Verini places several uber-Echo Park locations (The Shortstop, The Little Joy, The Brite Spot, Mack Sennett’s legendary film studio) in Silver Lake.

B: Echo Park is a place with its own history and subhistories – distinct though sometimes overlapping nearby east-ish communities such as Silver Lake, Highland Park, Boyle Heights, Eagle Rock, Mount Washington, Cypress Park, Glassell Park and Atwater Village.

Q: Should I care that an LA Times writer doesn’t appear to know where Echo Park is? Especially in light of the fact that at least once a year for probably the last ten the Times has trotted out a story about how Echo Park (like Silver Lake) has been straddling the saddle that divides hip and hooray?

A: No, except that I do. Much as I hate to be one of those trillions of wronged-souls who get upset when anyone writes about something they have even the mildest acquaintance with – my purest example: many years ago I wrote a story about Virginia coal miners (for Z magazine) then ended up cornered in a Brooklyn, NY, kitchen by a drunk young writer (raised in North Carolina) who was slurring and shouting, “You don’t understand! I KNOW those people!”

Watch out LA Times! I KNOW Echo Park.

Q: Do I know Echo Park?

A: I’m not sure how to answer that one.

The short answer: I have lived here since 1995 – and before then I lived in Silver Lake. I am passionate about the neighborhood and its history. When people from other cities ask me whether I like Los Angeles, I answer, “I love my neighborhood.” I do a lot of walking, talking and living in the funky land-that-time-sometimes-forgets that is known as Echo Park.

Q: Can I find Echo Park on the map?

A: Yes.

B: RJ Smith (my husband) on maps: “We all make private maps of Los Angeles, because the public maps we share so clearly fail us. None of them ultimately satisfies, because none of them ultimately lets us understand Los Angeles.”

Photo: Cindy Bennett

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