Riverfront Park, A Xootr, And A Bit Of History

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Riverfront Park in Maywood lies on the west side of the Los Angeles River about two miles southeast of downtown Los Angeles. It’s a relatively new park… 2006… in the rapidly changing landscape of metropolitan Los Angeles.

Come along on this journey about Riverfront Park, a Xootr, and a bit of history

Across the river is the city of Bell, a commercial zone, with factories, fenced parking lots for semi trucks, with stores at a jumbo shopping center called the Citadel, plus a BNSF (Burlington Northern and Santa Fe) freight railroad hub. And Bandini Boulevard.

It’s all in the neighborhood of a forgotten landmark of Los Angeles history, Sleepy Lagoon

This was a reservoir in a gravel pit where the 38th Street Gang used to party and swim. These Mexican gang kids used Sleepy Lagoon because they were banned from the segregated municipal swimming pools.

August 1, 1942 there was a dust-up with a competing gang, from which one member, José Díaz, was found dead the next morning.

Hundreds of Mexicans were rounded up by the LAPD

Twenty-two of the Mexicans were charged in the Sleepy Lagoon Murder trial that started October 13, 1941, in a courtroom in the old Lincoln Heights Jail Building at 421 North Avenue 19, just south of Frogtown on the Los Angeles River.

And it all contributed to the infamous Zoot Suit Riots June 3 – 8, 1943, stirred up by societal anger about the Sleepy Lagoon murder, and resentment about the way Mexican gang guys in their zoot suits were wasteful of clothing material during times of WWII rationing.

So much for history… I rode my Xootr scooter today from Riverfront Park down to Imperial Boulevard, and back, on the Los Angeles River Bicycle trail. 8.2 miles in all. You’d never be able to identify a location for the nearby Sleepy Lagoon today, it’s all paved over, cemented in, fenced off.

Today, on the trail, what hit me was the large number of homeless people living in tents either right on the trail or next to it

A large number of homeless people living in tents either right on the trail or next to it.
A large number of homeless people living in tents either right on the trail or next to it.

I spoke with one of them: a guy trained as a chef in Oregon, in recurring trouble with the law, and wearing one of those probation GPS locator devices on one ankle. He was talkative and congenial with me, telling me his law issues stemmed from physical fights he’d had on several occasions in the past. Not drugs, he said. Nor robbery. Who knows what the truth is?

It felt good to make it to the Imperial Highway Bridge, and get a look upstream to where Rio Hondo in its starkly cemented channel joins with the similarly tamed Los Angeles River.

I felt a heightened sense of connection, with my new homeless buddy, with Los Angeles history, and with the dynamically changing tapestry of LA.

Thank you for joining us

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Check these other great featured posts by Jonathan Kelley:

Don’t forget to check out Jonathan’s website at JonathanKelley.net.

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Jonathan Kelleyhttps://www.jonathankelley.net/
Jonathan Kelley, 80, was born in Boston, and educated at Exeter and Princeton, then Harvard Medical School, after a year teaching English in Cali, Colombia. He was a Navy anesthesiologist during Viet Nam. He spent the middle decades of his life working in a community hospital in Northern California. Besides his career in medicine, he’s a chef, pianist, and actor in his artistic life. In the kitchen, he specializes in croissants and cooking with coconuts. At the piano, it’s boogie woogie and Joplin rags. As an actor, he’s done fourteen seasons in a Mexican Christmas play in Los Angeles, plus the occasional movie role, as in the soon-to-be-released feature film “Amor en 266 Millas,” where he plays the hippie patriarch of a desert commune in the Antelope Valley. He has two books available on Amazon, “Counting Backwards from 100: My Life as an Anesthesiologist,” and “Short Stories by Jonathan Kelley.” Searching for improved balance and leg strength at age 77, Jonathan came by chance upon a Xootr scooter. Jonathan’s wife is the lovely Puerto Rican actress Gloria Laino. Their mix is like Puerto Rican arroz con gandules served next to New England style cranberry sauce.

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