Welcome to the Good Reads edition of our Sunday Digest!
Here we celebrate the good things happening in our neighborhoods, inspiring stories that lift our spirits, and fun facts about why we love living here in the Eastside.
Please help us in this effort: Participate in our poll so we know what kind of stories you would like to see on Sunday.
And tell us if you know an “ordinary person” doing something remarkable, a milestone celebration, a story from the past that deserves to be told, an artist who enriches our world, and more.
Thanks for reading – and have a nice Sunday!
Did someone forward this newsletter to you?
Recycled art delights Highland Park neighborhood
Teri Bonsell makes it a point to walk along the cheerful display at Sonora Place on her way to and from her home in Highland Park. “It’s so beautiful, and I love seeing it.”
Bonsell is not the only resident who has seen a empty front yard slowly evolved into a beautiful piece of handmade folk art since the beginning of this year.
The creation is from the skilled hands of Dolores Holmes. She is a long-term resident who wanted a hands-on rehabilitation project as she recovered from a medical problem. Neighbors knew something was up when Holmes’ son entered the empty yard and placed cinder blocks along the front of the mound. Finally, he covered the blocks with green mesh that resembles leaves.
“We were so curious what was going on,” said Bonsell, describing how little by little colorful flowers started to appear on the net. Then butterflies. Delighted residents found that the carefully painted flowers are cut and molded from recycled plastic bottles.
“She makes them all by hand, which really makes this display super special,” says Bonsell, who loved watching the display grow daily.
Now that the entire length of the wall is completely covered with a colorful garden of plastic blossom shapes and styles, residents wonder, “What is Dolores going to do next?” Stay tuned.
Linda Dishman: Crusading Conservationist Celebrates 30 Years of Protecting LA’s History
Over the past 30 years – more than two-thirds of the heritage conservation group’s entire existence – the LA Conservancy was headed by Silver Lake resident Linda Dishman.
Dishman became executive director of the Conservancy in March 1992, managing a staff of five and a budget of less than $500,000. Now its staff has grown to 17, budget to $3 million and membership to over 5,000 members, making it reportedly the largest local conservation organization in the country.
“The best thing is when I talk to people and they… [share a story about] a building that has meaning to them,” Dishman said recently in a Conservancy statement marking her anniversary.
“Sometimes it’s a school they went to, a little corner store that they visited every Saturday with their grandmother, or the house they grew up in where their memories are preserved,” she said. “And sometimes we hear stories about buildings that we all know and celebrate, such as City Hall and the Central Library.”
Dishman started her career in the State Office of Historic Preservation while still doing a history major at UC Davis. Later, she helped revitalize Old Town Pasadena and worked with the National Park Service in Northern California. But she and her husband missed Los Angeles, where she wanted to get involved in education, advocacy and networking.
Dishman has lived in Silver Lake for the past 29 yearsa neighborhood full of controversy and challenges, as well as successful conservation stories.
On the other hand, the Conservancy has failed to halt the planned demolition of Taix French Restaurant in Echo Park for a six-storey complex. The restaurant business was declared a historic landmark – but not the building. The only elements that need to be preserved are two outside plates and the wooden bar top.
“We worked with the developer to find a win-win solution that would preserve enough of Taix restaurant and the building to really maintain a sense of place, but also build new homes. We are strong advocates of building more homes,” Dishman said. “So we’re very disappointed with what happened.”
When she comes from workDishman, like other curators, collects things. For over 30 years, they’ve been snow globes—an extensive collection including some made for her wedding and miniature replicas of buildings in Los Angeles and beyond.
Perhaps her prize item in that group is the former Cathedral of St. Vibiana.
All signs point to homes in Glassell Park, Mount Washington, and Lincoln Heights
Picturesque houses with sun-drenched rooms and lush landscaping.
Demonstration Garden Inspires
Lizards run around boulders where native grasses pop through a rock “stream” and flanked by orange monkey flowers, stems of purple penstemon. Handfuls of blazing stars bursting with cheerful yellow flowers. A juvenile hawk howls in a nearby pine tree.
Walking through the demonstration garden around the LA Parks Foundation headquarters in Griffith Park is inspiring for gardeners new to native plants and for avid advocates. Some of the plants here aren’t typically found in local native nurseries: California perennial (with leaves that smell like maple syrup), California rose and blow pods, a magnet for butterflies and hummingbirds.
Some plants may look worn out but are not, says Foundation Executive Director Carolyn Ramsey. Natives often take a break from the summer heat to come back to life later.
“Come back here in the fall and you’ll see a different story,” Ramsey says, adding that each plant on display here only needs a fraction of water compared to typical plants. Yet many native plants here are green and splashing with color on the gentle slopes, rocky bio-swale borders and along walkways.
This educational garden has been in the making for yearsRamsey explains. First, horticulturist Katherine Pakradouni collected seeds directly from plants in Griffith Park, a practice allowed only by those with permits. In the park nursery, the plants – some up to a year – were grown until they were ready for the ground.
Esther Margulies, professor at the USC School of Architecture, designed the garden. She describes it as an experiment to see if natives growing in specific microclimates across Griffith Park’s 4,000 acres can be grouped together in one garden space. “We’ll see how they adapt to their new homes, which plants their new neighbors like and which ones can’t be domesticated.”
“This project not only demonstrates the techniques of native plant gardening, but will hopefully inspire native plant cultivation for parks throughout Los Angeles and beyond,” Ramsey summarizes.
It’s the best reading season in the summer and local librarians can provide you, your kids, and the swarm with a page-turning tome.
Eagle Rock librarian Patsy Tuck suggests:
- Dead till dark by Charlaine Harris (fantasy/mystery that is part of the Sookie Stackhouse Southern Vampire Series)
- Circe by Madeline Miller (feminist version of Homer’s Odyssey)
- The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (classic novel that is “foresighted for our present time”)
- Yotsuba by Kiyohiko Azuma (“a slice of life manga for everyone to enjoy”)
Gladis Martinez, librarian at RL Stevenson Branch in Boyle Heights, recommends children and teens:
- the bad guys by Aaron Blabey (recent film based on this inventive comedy)
- Paletero Man by Lucky Diaz (an authentic bilingual story for children)
- I have the rhythm by Connie Schofield-Morrison (a children’s book that kids can “move in…and act”)
- dog man by Dav Pilkey (comic book style stories)
Echo Park librarian Rachel McBride’s suggestions for children and teens:
- Little witch hazel by Phoebe Wahl (“a beautiful picture book”)
- Jerry Pinkney’s The Little Mermaid (retelling of classic fairy tale)
- Hi girls by Brittany Cavallaro and Emily Henry (“a reimagining of Thelma and Louise” for teens)
- Ace of spades by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé (an “addictive and hair-raising” tale of racism, homophobia and elitism)
Jaymin De la Cruz grew up in Echo Park and is a senior at Barnard College majoring in Comparative Literature
More good books
That’s it for this Sunday
What do you have in store for this week? How about keeping your eyes open for bats?
The Natural History Museum asks people to watch bats emerge from natural or man-made structures at dusk. They are especially interested in locations along the LA River and/or near Griffith Park.
If you see them flying out of somewhere, please send that information to [email protected] and don’t share the location publicly, for safety from the bats.
Hope you have a good week!
Did someone forward this newsletter to you?
Local news support
The Eastsider’s mission is to provide free access to the neighborhood news, stories, and info you need to stay connected with your Eastside neighborhood. But we need your financial support to maintain our service and do more.