Island life, and self-censorship

netting.jpg

Came across this stuff last Thursday near the onramp entrance to the 5 North off the Hyperion Bridge: it looks a bit like a giant wig but it’s actually a mess of netting. Was it dragged out of the River? Or, had I come across the staging area for someone preparing to camp on one of the River’s islands? (The netting would be quite useful in keeping the bugs away.) A few minutes later, down on the riverbed in the Glendale Narrows, I came across this…

hersheys.jpg

The magazine pictured here is a recent issue of Outside, a popular mainstream glossy “dedicated to covering the people, sports and activities, politics, art, literature, and hardware of the outdoors.”

At this point, I began to have misgivings about some of what I was documenting for this blog. My interest with “Nature Trumps” is in bearing witness to Nature in and around the River. That includes human activity, be it legal, illegal or quasi-legal. At the same time, though, I am aware of what the uptight jerks at a host of L.A. City and County agencies did last November in this area of the River: in a coordinated action, they forcibly removed over two dozen urban campers from their island squats. I had seen many of these folks in the months beforehand, and was convinced that, over all, they formed a benign, perhaps even instructive, presence on the River. These people had found a different way to live in Los Angeles, one that was off the grid while being right inside it. They had tents; fences; clothes’ lines; bicycles; grills; friendly dogs; and so on. Some of them were clearly longtime street people, and this was their latest place to live. Others seemed a bit more sophisticated in what they were up to–like they had chosen to live this way, voluntarily: perhaps as some sort of ideological gesture. Actually, that’s not fair: this was more than a gesture, this was praxis, ideology put into action. And there was an element of artistry in one camp that was stunning in its ingenuity/whimsy/beauty. These were serious people who knew what they were doing. They had rediscovered the River as a place to live. These people were hustled out of the River for bogus reasons, on bogus grounds. Their right to be there should have been better defended by people of means and conscience within the surrounding region. If people begin to reinhabit the River again, I want to support them. I do not want to make their lives harder. I do not want to endanger their camps by reporting on them in this blog. I am not interested in providing surveillance info on urban campers for government creeps and neighborhood squares who have difficulty dealing with the fact that some humans don’t care to live inside buildings. So, here’s what I’m going to do from this point forward: I’m not gonna document contemporary human habitation on or around the L.A. River if, in my judgement, my “coverage” could in some way endanger folks’ ability to camp there. I think this is an easy call to make.
(photos Jay Babcock, 3 May 02007)

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