Do you have confidence in ghosts? Good ones, bad ones -- they're not all the same. I didn't know Larry Pickens when he died suddenly in 2006, though I was aware of his good reputation as a community activist.
But I know Larry Pickens now. He was widely and deeply mourned. After his death, he beat other candidates (live ones) to win a seat on the Greater Echo Park Elysian Neighborhood Council. And these days -- when he's not busy in community government -- he looks over a native-plants garden known as Larry's Median. I learned about that Tuesday in the Los Angeles Times. Columnist Sandy Banks wrote about the garden, not because it received public grant money but because it is one of Larry's haunts.
The garden in the Elysian Heights median is easy to miss. These days, it is little more than a hillside of hard-packed dirt dotted with struggling plants -- spindly hollyhocks, sprawling cactus clumps, a few mismatched trees and scattered tufts of sage and poppies.
But you can't pass along this narrow stretch of Lemoyne Street without noting the poster-size sign in the window of a home across the street, declaring the garden "Larry's Median."
Native gardens often do look a bit ratty in these parts, when it's hot.
I'll have to take a moment to complain again about the Times and its reporters' sense of local geography. Banks admits she doesn't know the neighborhood. In fact, when she visited the garden, she didn't realize that she was in Echo Park. She seemed to think the poorer parts of the neighborhood are Echo Park and the hilltops are Elysian Heights. I'm sure that Larry would be glad to explain that they are one and the same, Elysian Heights being part of Echo Park. But we'll allow that press comments from Larry are very hard to get.
Well, Chicken Corner says a good neighborhood has good ghosts. And all the better if they're active.
*Tech note: the online version of Banks' story seems to be missing some text toward the end.