May 29, 2011

A Reality, Shared

A couple of New York friends were visiting LA, and when we planned to get together, I didn't go immediately to the old standbys of drinks or coffee.

I suggested we go to Griffith Park.

This marks a huge turnaround for me from a few years ago, when it would have been impossible to get me out of bed and out of my apartment before, say, 1 p.m., much less to go do something outdoors.

But now, the city's parks and trails are such a huge part of my life, my LA experience, that they have now practically replaced bars and cafes, the cornerstones of my New York experience.

I pointed Mike to a few options in Griffith Park, including one unhiked trail, and a list of my favorite spots in Griffith Park so far. At the top was Amir's Garden, a place remarkable not only for how hidden it is, but also for its display of non-native plant species - jade, spider ferns, geraniums, various other houseplant varieties - that you're more likely to find in a Californian's backyard rather than amongst wildflowers in the wilderness, or at a local botanical garden or arboretum.

Mike is a plant guy, and an adventurer, so it's not surprising that he picked Amir's Garden to explore.

I think it was my first revisited trail of LA (unless you count the Hastain Trail in Franklin Canyon, which I've hiked during the day and also during a full moon), and although normally I avoid retreading old ground (save for examples like the Salton Sea), I liked the idea of going back to it. There's something about being out on my own in LA that makes me feel like the things I do, the places I visit, the people I meet aren't real unless I can show them to my New York friends. When I do get a visitor, I immediately transform into their tour guide while walking or driving, pointing out landmarks and milestones from our gossip sessions, text messages, and emails, and from my blog posts and social media updates. Sharing those experiences, even if its after-the-fact, gives some credence, or, at least, tangibility to them.

So as we climbed the half mile, relatively steep hike, Mike and Jeff tolerated my docent lecture about looking out for rattlesnakes, observing the mustard plants, gazing down at the Valley below. I wasn't sure I could find it again (especially after discovering the closed Mineral Wells parking area), so when we arrived, I was nearly as surprised as they were to see it.

"Look! There it is!" I said, as though perhaps it wouldn't be there, despite its website I'd visited that morning, the directions I'd emailed myself, and the photographs I'd take of it a couple months before.

And just as surprisingly, they saw it too. We wove through its overgrown paths together, climbing stairs, stepping over irrigation pipes, smelling caper flowers and taking pictures.

We didn't spend long there, because I had one more thing I wanted to show them before they moved onto their evening plans: my apartment.

Turns out that's real too.

A Question of Reality
Photo Essay: Amir's Garden in Griffith Park

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