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Ken Aven

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Member Since: May, 2006

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Blogs by Ken Aven

Larvatus Prodeo Posting
11/28/2006 8:28:34 PM

Here is the transcript posted at

http://larvatusprodeo.net/2006/11/27/guest-post-ken-aven-on-chavez-ravine/

Ken Aven on Chavez Ravine

Three hundred acres of land just north of downtown Los Angeles. Forested hills and gentle valleys adjacent to majestic Elysian Park. In 1949, photographer Don Noormark hiked up one of the hills that backed into Broadway and a gritty postwar Los Angeles. A city that was still dependent on the “Big Red Cars” trolley system and like most large cities of the time, a thriving downtown that housed office workers at day and grand movie palaces and clubs at night. As he reached the peak of the hill he discovered “a poor man’s shangri-la.” In fact, Noormark had stumbled upon three distinct neighborhoods (La Loma, Bishop, and Palo Verde) that filled the area known as Chavez Ravine.

This Ravine that once housed about two thousand inhabitants was and still is emblematic of all that Los Angeles stands for. Of course, newspaper columnists, novelists, movie producers, sportsmen, immigrants, politicians, and the everyday man have been trying to make sense out of the city of angels since the metropolis was first founded in the late 18th century. Perhaps if all these interested folk focused on Chavez Ravine, they might save time and energy as the Ravine is the open door into the paradoxical nature of LA.

Noormark chanced upon the Ravine just before the city began evicting the predominately Mexican-American populace. Not quite poor and not quite migrant, the majority of the Ravine’s residents were lower class workers who got by through hard work and strong family ties. A grand public housing project was advertised. Giant apartment towers would rise from the wooden structures and somewhat shabby homes that housed most of the Ravine’s population. Given inadequate sums of money for their property and promises of first return when the modern apartments were constructed, the majority left. But another force, the anti-everything of McCarthyism swept through the dusty roads along the Ravine’s hills. Public housing was deemed socialistic. The project never got off the blueprints.

With a small group of residents still living in the Ravine, the city decided that the land should go to the use of the entire public (i.e. the majority whites). Feeling its oats, the growing west coast city wooed the Dodgers to leave Brooklyn, New York. The carrot was the handing over of the Ravine to the team. Not one to ever turn down a lucrative offer, Dodger owner Walter O’Malley envisioned his own Shangri-la. A modern stadium in a park-like setting. Not only would he soak customers on tickets, concession food, and souvenirs, but with the city phasing out its trolley system, O’Malley could get an extra monetary bonus on each car that parked in the new stadium’s vast lots.

There are famous pictures of the last Ravine families being evicted by police in the late 1950’s as bulldozers were poised to level the area and make way for construction. Although true, the damage had already sunk in. Isolated by a city bent on becoming major league, the families had no choice but to leave.

The thing that should strike us is how an area so close to the downtown of what is now America’s second largest city could have been so underdeveloped. And in a place where real estate has and always will be the maker of dreams, this phenomenon has not faded with the passage of time. One can drive west on the 10 (Santa Monica Freeway) from the San Gabriel Valley towards Los Angeles. Only a few miles from downtown are the hills of other neglected neighborhoods. In East LA’s City Terrace and Boyle Heights, one can see older homes and empty lots sharing the landscape. What would be considered prime location in almost any city is a backwash of Hispanics separated from the more affluent west side that includes enclaves such as Beverly Hills and Brentwood.

Currently, Los Angeles’ shakers and makers are trying to redo the city one more time. The 1950’s concession to the Detroit automakers resulted in choking smog and jammed freeways. Today, LA can boast of new trolley lines and an actual subway. A beautiful and modern Catholic cathedral, a concert hall designed by Gehry, a contemporary art museum that rivals many others, and a sports palace that hosts the famous Lakers basketball team have given some new life to downtown.

Yet Chavez Ravine still sits empty for most of the year. In a way it is still cut off from the growing vibrancy of the city. Oh, eighty-one nights a year 50,000 people drive there to see the beloved Dodgers. But the rest of the time the wind moves about the denuded hills and among the asphalt parking lots that surround and engulf the 1960’s era baseball stadium. One would think that by now a train station would have linked Dodger Stadium with the rest of the town. This would allow for people to arrive without their cars and the reconstruction of the area with homes, stores, and entertainment options that would bring back some of the spirits of those who once existed in the Ravine.

In my novel, Chavez Ravine Echoes, I put forth the dream that the Ravine would be alive everyday of the year. That those who work hard and are the backbone of American society would have an opportunity to live and play in an area so close to the nucleus of such a great city. That this still has not happened as we are now in the year 2006, speaks to the paradox that is and perhaps will always be the fate of Los Angeles.


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More Blogs by Ken Aven
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• Comparisons - Tuesday, November 11, 2008
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• Joe Six-Pack; Joe the Plumber; Joe ... - Thursday, October 16, 2008
• State Of The Race - Sunday, October 12, 2008
• Out Of Ideas - Wednesday, October 08, 2008
• Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid - Saturday, October 04, 2008
• CNN's Targeted Debate Coverage - Tuesday, September 30, 2008
• Decide Already - Saturday, September 27, 2008
• A Pox On All Houses - Tuesday, September 23, 2008
• McCain Quits - Friday, September 19, 2008
• The Mugging Of John McCain - Tuesday, September 16, 2008
• A Time For Truth - Saturday, September 13, 2008
• Barack Huxtable vs. John McCain Brady - Tuesday, September 09, 2008
• The American Family - Friday, September 05, 2008
• Juno For (Vice) President - Tuesday, September 02, 2008
• We Came To Praise Obama and ... Palin? - Saturday, August 30, 2008
• Thank The Clintons - Wednesday, August 27, 2008
• The Narrative In Beijing & Denver - Monday, August 25, 2008
• Give Us Hillary - Wednesday, August 20, 2008
• McCain Wins - Sunday, August 17, 2008
• If It's Tuesday It Must Be Sydney, Athens, Beijing... - Thursday, August 14, 2008
• Olympic Anxiety - Monday, August 11, 2008
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• COMEBACKS - Sunday, August 03, 2008
• 5.4 - Wednesday, July 30, 2008
• ALL STARS & LAYOFFS - Monday, July 28, 2008
• ISOLATING OBAMA - Friday, July 25, 2008
• The Sky Is Falling? - Tuesday, July 22, 2008
• RETRENCHING - Thursday, July 17, 2008
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Suicide Warfare: Culture, the Military, and the Individual as a Weapon by Rosemarie Skaine

This book emphasizes the relationship of culture, the military, and the individual because suicide warfare does not occur in a vacuum. Available as an ebook: 978-0-313-39865-0...  
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