Monday, April 8, 2013

Along the Arroyo

There's a perfect little spot off Via Marisol in Highland Park, called Hermon Park, not more than ten minutes from my house, with lush lawns, a busy dog park, tennis courts and Art in the Park, home of the Lalo Guerrero School of music, run by the formidable Berta Sosa, a Mt. Washington neighbor. But best of all, and something I just discovered, is a way down into the Arroyo Seco, and onto the bike path. 

(You can't access the bike path at the pedestrian bridge, as Wikipedia claims, but further north, adjacent to the dog park. Watch out, sharp curve here!)

The Arroyo Seco is a stream that starts in the Angeles National Forest, makes its way down the mountain into La Canada Flintridge and Altadena, flowing underneath the Foothill Bridge, under the Colorado Bridge, then into a concrete flood control channel along the Pasadena Freeway, flowing southeast of Mt. Washington, past Hermon, Highland Park, Montecito Heights, Cypress Park, and ending at the LA River, near Elysian Park.

Whew. That's a busy stream, for such a meager trickle once it reaches L.A. But because it runs inside this wide, concrete channel, making the stream seem even more meager, there's plenty of room for biking.

The concrete walls are gray and ugly, but the ride itself is not, as you take the graceful curves and experience another world along the Arroyo. The other day, I rode past Montecito Heights, past my own exit, off the 110 freeway, then turned around and headed north for a mile or so, emerging near the San Pascual Stables in South Pasadena. 

Along the way I kept noticing chipped off indentations in the concrete banks, things that I'd otherwise not notice, save for the fact I'd just read cartoonist Lynda Barry's Picture This, a hard-to-describe illustrated book about the creative mind. She finds images in ink spots and stains on paper (Saul Steinberg found them in fingerprints!), augmenting them just a hair to make a monkey or a buffalo or any kind of  demented animal. And here they were in the Arroyo, chips that were life size, gouges formed by wind or water, or, perhaps, weak construction. 
I noticed this one in particular:

What does this look like to you?

A few days later, when it was almost dark, I came back with my partner in crime, Molly. We painted in the indentations:

Then I went to work stenciling what I had imagined: 
Africa and the island of Tazarat, Land of the Giant Rat!

(click to make larger)

It got darker and darker and I kept adding more rats, until it became a heavy migration. I'll call this one an experiment, not yet done. Of course there's no Tazarat, except in my mind, and on the digital pages titled "Voyage to Tazarat" in my computer. Now it exists on this wall, as well.


For those of you who follow my other blog, Rat's Nest Comics, here's a new one called "Woman Seeking Treatment." Enjoy.



  1. Of course, those splotches are Africa and Tazarat - what else would they be? I'd love to see the next bicyclist who happens by all unaware, and notices your work.