Wednesday, December 16, 2009
(Note: This is part of a continuing attempt to chart what was once the major artery through the heart of the three Denas. Earlier installments here and here)
In our last episode, we stood at the war torn boundary that separates Southwest Altadena from Northwest Pasadena.
Now we cross the Woodbury divide, and, at this juncture, see little difference between Altadena and Pasadena. Failed markets, junk stores, churches. If empty lots can also fail, they do it here. There’s a deserted, dilapidated cottage courtyard that someone, for some reason, wants to keep. Nostalgia? Lawyers? Penance? The sign intrigues – Who are these mysterious people constantly pestering the owner, desperate to get their mitts on a handful of dry rot?
Several gangs have spilt blood in this general vicinity. The Denver Squiggly Road, for one. Some gang names sound almost fanciful, like the title of a Children’s story. Chilling, in a Chucky kind of way. Most of these gangs are offspring of the Crips, Bloods, Pasa Rifa, and a few other notables.
Shootings can take place at noon or midnight, doesn’t seem to matter. And right through the middle of the battleground you’ll see babies pushing carriages that have other, littler, babies inside. That’s a hell of a ticket to pull in this lottery.
Continuing south, the next stretch of Fair Oaks provides every service needed to usher you, inexpensively, out of this mortal coil. A community health clinic, convalescent homes (“We Love You At Any Age”), funeral homes, a notary public. Plan your exit properly, soup to nuts, you won’t even have to cross the street.
Smack dab in the middle of this is a brand new housing development that I believe Pasadena government points to with pride. The construction is impressive, to this untrained eye anyway, but it shines an even brighter light on misery. Like a party hat at a funeral.
When walking the three or four miles from Woodbury to the 210 freeway, Fair Oaks seems to be a half-forgotten project, one that’s picked up with a sudden flush of enthusiasm now and then, and dropped when the work proves too much. More work than is possible, more work, anyway, than mere carpentry can solve. You can find a couple of promises that were kept, but you'll find many that were broken, and more still that were never made.
Back in the day, the 1920’s day, this part of Fair Oaks housed some prosperous craftsmen. It was also part of the electric car line that would ferry millionaires up to their summer mansions on Mariposa Street in Altadena. For its current state, most long-time residents blame the construction of the 210 Freeway and eminent domain.
They may be right. Today, if it tried, the 210 freeway couldn’t seem more like the Berlin Wall, a hunk of cement separating poverty from prosperity.
Next visit, next year: Over the wall.