Took a dog walk with Rosie (the dog) through the western trail in Elysian Park this morning, small bits of Lavender Diamond's wonderful new CD playing in my head. Each time I walk the trail this season I am confronted with the change -- mustard weed, which usually is thick, dominating the hillsides and the eye with millions of blossoms, standing as high as six feet and so dense the ground seems far away, simply isn't there this year. The drought has reduced it to scrappy patches here and there, desperate little things about two feet high and standing alone. Every now and then, in the distance, there's a patch of plants and the familiar soft carpet of yellow. Natives-advocates say don't cry over the lost mustard -- it's an exotic invader. As are the eucalyptus trees and so much else that comprises the familiar landscape of Elysian Park. What isn't so familiar is the bare hillsides. The sudden views through trees from one section of park to another, to the street. The paths of desire that used to cut through the mustard are gone because -- now that you can see the ground -- people cut through anywhere. Now I see women alone walking hillsides where they would have been insane to venture. With less greenery the sounds of traffic and gunfire from the police academy over the hill near Dodger Stadium are louder, too.
I am awed by the discipline and shape of Becky Stark's compositions and voice -- not to mention heart -- in her most recent Lavender Diamond CD. Becky is a semi-regular at Echo Park coffee houses Chango and the Downbeat. She has a soft, spirited demeanor but I wouldn't have guessed at the muscle in songs like "Like an Arrow." I also particularly like the song "My Shadow Is a Monday" and "When You Wake For Certain."
I wish I could say I had bought Lavender Diamond's latest at Sea Level records, which is closing. It seems right that Echo Park artists' work be available for purchase in Echo Park. Every neighborhood should have a general-interest book store and independent record store. When Sea Level closes we won't have either. Which is not to say storefront Echo park has vanished. On Sunset, we still have Neuroticos Anonymos as well as escritoris publicos, travel agencies, tax-preparation services, a new laundromat where Payless Shoes used to be, a tortilleria, a panaderia, clothing stores, new and used appliances, a pawn shop and lots of food and liquor.
*Update: A second Elysian Park dog walk this evening @ 7:30pm. All of the mustard is gone. Mowed down for fire clearance. A muted sunset this evening and a half moon.