Friday, October 10, 2008

Ghosts of Mt. Washington

Ghosts of Mt. Washington

There are ghosts in my neighborhood. They’re invisible, but they’re everywhere, all around. Everyday I walk right through bunches of them – I even drive my car through them. And, as I live in an old house, I know that their ghost furniture fills my rooms... their vaporous ghost clothing hangs in the closet with my shirts and jeans.

My favorite thing about living in one of the oldest neighborhoods in Los Angeles is that the past lies beneath a wax paper-thin overlay of the present. I wonder especially about those long-gone citizens who once occupied our space. They were certainly different – if you doubt it, look at what they were wearing on a summer day in 1909! – but these strange people breathed the same air we’re breathing now.

I enjoy looking for any connection between our time and theirs. My friends wearily endure conversations with me hung on hypothetical musings, such as: “If an Angelino of 1929 were to suddenly quantum leap into 2009, don’t you think it’s neat that he or she would still be able to give you directions from South Pasadena to the Hollywood Bowl?”

Mt Washington 1909

This photo from 1909 depicts the then-brand-new electric incline railway that once lifted residents and visitors to the summit of Mount Washington in Los Angeles. The hillside streets were too steep for most automobiles of the period to climb without overheating, so a cablecar system run by a 40-horse power induction motor (built by Westinghouse) was installed.
That's all gone now.

Mt Washington 2008

My current home is near the top of Mt Washington, and several times a week I jog down this same street to catch the Metro Rail at the bottom of the hill. As I hike back up, panting, I sometimes imagine I'm being passed by one of the iron cars of the Los Angeles and Mount Washington Railway. Inside, the passengers in their colorless hats and collars sit on wooden benches gazing out at the passing front yards. And as they go by, I realize not one of them can see me.

-Kevin Kidney