Jenny Burman Jenny Burman
A Los Angeles blog
from Echo Park

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Tell it on the mountain

Well, Chicken Corner fluttered off the map this week, what with Thanksgiving and an airplane ride to Washington, D.C., and a car ride to the mountains, where we got stuck in an ice storm. Not a scrap of chicken art in sight anywhere, though Nelson County, Virginia, is no stranger to chickens, which I assume because it has many small family farms. I say Chicken Corner fluttered off the map, but that supposes that the boundaries of Echo Park lie in the park somewhere to the east, Riverside to the north, and so on, and one of the things I have discovered about the map of Echo Park is how open to revision -- or at least interpretation -- it is. (At the moment I might even argue it exists in the region of the senses, which is not bound by the Thomas Brothers' Guide.) Michael Connelly, for example: In his new book titled Echo Park the writer locates the significant site (for which the book is named) in a place I personally think of as the west edge of Chinatown. I have already groused about Connelly's overrated sense of place in Los Angeles. I have also groused about readers who get upset when you write about anything they think they know and own: you can never get it right enough wrote it (and not them). But I can say that Connelly's latest Harry Bosch story displays the usual strengths that make his books stand out. Its a sexy police procedural that brings to life the landscape that Connelly genuinely cares about: the land of forensics and human motivation. Echo Park itself, I don't believe he spent much time there. Or, if he did, his mind was elsewhere -- in the Valley, perhaps. He offers little description of the neighborhood: To say that a walk down Sunset Boulevard exposes you to shop signs in a bunch of different languages is hardly an effort to bring Echo Park to life. It wouldn't even be worth complaining about had he not titled the book Echo Park, which made me think he was going to offer some sharp observation about the place.

To me, Echo Park is sounds mingling. In the space of an hour, you can hear: the sound of a rooster crowing, Norteno music, blending with indie rock and the sound of the "pan dulce" man driving in his truck, shouting-singing "pan dulce!" while gunfire from the police academy rings out like rain. Well, that's one of its songs. The neighborhood has many. and it doesn't take long to hear them.

Speaking of songs, while in the Virginia mountains I watched a DVD of Brokeback Mountain -- nothing like crossing the country to visit one mountain range only to settle in and look at pictures of a bigger one. The lovely soundtrack is of course written by Gustavo Santaolalla, a resident of Echo Park, California.

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