I have a scene where the protagonist is thinking about a bit of L.A. history as he tries to track someone down.
Back in the Forties Chavez Ravine was a community of Latino families north of Downtown. Had their own schools and churches, grew their own food, kept to themselves.It's an oversimplifcation of what happened, but not by much.
The rest of the city liked it that way. Would have preferred they didn't exist at all, but, hey, you can only kill so many people, right? Not that they didn't try.
And then the money happened. Federal dollars to turn Chavez Ravine into housing projects. Kicked everybody out with false promises of new homes, then sat on the land until a guy who ran on what amounted to a "Kick the Mexicans out" ticket got elected, bought up all the land and plopped a baseball team in the middle of it all.
Fucked over landowners meet Dodger Stadium.
And it got me thinking about what makes a city a city. The things that give it its identity.
It's not the roads, the architecture or even the people. It's the stories that accrete over time. The tales the residents tell themselves and each other. The rumors that spring up among outsiders.
And whether they're truth or lies, after a while they stop being fictions and histories. They become myths.
When non-Angelenos think of L.A. they tend to think of four things. Hollywood, smog, traffic and crime. Because that's all they hear about. After a while they all blur together. Mostly as a negative.
They don't hear about the other things, the wonderful and tragic things that don't make it out to the farmbelt. Hole-in-the-wall Ethiopian restaurants on Fairfax, the taco trucks of East L.A., the Zoot Suit Riots, the collapse of The St. Francis Dam, the 1934 flood that put The Valley under water, The White Lady of Griffith Park, The Selig Zoo.
Hell, even most Angelenos have never heard of some of these stories. There are countless I've never heard. This city, like any city, has stories stuffed between its bricks like mortar. Its what binds it together, gives it shape. No one could hope to know all of them.
Some of them aren't even true. The Lizardmen under Los Angeles, for example. But some people believe them, anyway.
And yes, I will be using the Lizardmen in an upcoming book. Just so you know.
God help me, but I love this town. It's completely insane. It's like dating that crazy chick that's great in the sack but tries to knife you in your sleep just to see if you'll holler. But then, isn't every city?
And one of the things I love about it, is that the stories never end. We're making them now. I wonder sometimes if that's the real reason I have this blog. To document some of the crazy, funny, tragic shit that goes on here. Worst case it's a clearing house for fiction prompts.
Incidentally, if you've never been, check out 1947 Project for some bits of old L.A. lore. They know their shit. Like, really know their shit.
How about y'all? What are your city's stories? What are the things that give your town its unique bent? I'd love to hear them.