Phyl van Ammers
Long serialized here on Boryanabooks, Phyl van Ammers generations-long tribute to the people of the near mythical Edendale in Los Angeles’s northern hills, now better known as Echo Park and Silverlake, is now available as an Amazon Kindle book.
Los Angeles lacks the human presence on the streets that other large cities have. This city is at the end of America: socially fragmented and spatially dispersed. It sometimes seems as if this city exists without people.
One of the pockets of vibrant urban life in Los Angeles includes the districts of Silver Lake, Echo Park, and part of East Hollywood: Edendale.
The voices of Edendale’s original people the Tongva reach our ears as faintly as exhaled breath. After the Spanish occupation, part of this land belonged to the City of Los Angeles as original pueblo land and the Feliz Rancho comprised the other part of it, and the children of the original people became peon laborers. Those people who arrived from the United States and other countries after 1850 created farms, horse ranches, commerce, brothels, saloons, churches, newspapers, lynched Chinese men in what was called Nigger Alley, which is a part of the street in front of Union Station, discriminated against the Mexicans and Indians, Jews and Asians, or were discriminated against, and they made movies.
The film Edendale became the backdrop of imaginations all over the world. It’s where Charlie Chaplin got his start in silent movies, Frank Capra wrote gags, Harold Lloyd drove his “Butterfly” automobile after a traffic cop into the Echo Park Lake, real cowboys who became actors and fake Indians chased across the farmland and horse ranches that are now homes and businesses. Snow White slept in a cottage modeled after a rental house on Griffith Park Boulevard. Modern television shows and movies still play against and in the built environment.
The neighborhoods of Chavez Ravine, Elysian Park, Griffith Park, Silver Lake (Bohemian Hill), Fat Hill, Red Hill, Glassell Park, Frogtown (Elysian Valley), Toonerville (Atwater Village), Chicken Corner in Echo Park and that extends east across the river to Boyle Heights and Lincoln Heights, south to Bunker Hill and further south to Watts (South Central) and west to Toilet Corners in Venice comprise fictional Edendale.
The characters in the made-up Edendale come from the Black Sea, from a shtetl in Ukraine, from slavery in the Southern States, from Japan, from the Polish enclave in Hopewell, Virginia, from Bulgaria, from the island of Curacao, and from Mexico. They fall in love, read Ina Coolbrith’s poetry, sing in a scratchy old voice, dry clean, press and sew clothes, sell rags, drink malted milk, swim in the Pacific Ocean, live homeless along the river, practice law, play the piano and the violin, teach school children, research in a library, take the train to Union Station, soldier in World War II, fly into the ocean, go mad, take acid and hallucinate, and are struck by a hit-and-run driver. Some of the characters die, and their survivors attend the funerals and say bad things about the departed.