Rivers

In the mid-2000’s the Los Angeles River was not on anyone’s radar. There were no bicycle coffee shops or huge new developments anywhere near it. The river was a fascinating place, a place where anyone that went down there could do anything they wanted completely undisturbed. On a single bike ride you could see a loose gang of homeless people bathing and brushing their teeth in their encampment on an island in the middle of the river. Just down the path under a bridge you could see an indie singer filming a music video surrounded by authentic Japanese dancers balancing on the rocks. I liked to go down to the river and make artwork, I could spray-paint or wheat paste for hours wherever I wanted with only the random drunk homeless guy offering stuttering criticism to disturb me.

It was at this time that I hatched a plan to plant some artwork on some of the islands in the middle of the river. I thought this would be a great place for an “Aha!’ art moment, when people going by would wonder how and why there was this artwork in the middle of this god forsaken river. I went to the local Army Navy store and bought big galoshes that would fit over my shoes and the bottom part of my legs, to protect me from the disgusting river water I would have to wade through to get to the islands in the middle.

I waited for the perfect day and found a part of the river that was empty of people, except for an old half-crazy man who came down every day to dump a huge pile of grain by the side of the water to feed hordes of water fowl, we called him The Duckman.  I gathered my materials, put my galoshes on and readied myself to cross into the river. One step down and realized this was going to be harder than I thought. The bottom of the river was a mess of rocks and trash. The current, which seemed like a trickle from above, was stronger than expected and the thought of losing balance and falling into the water was horrifying. I was using all of my concentration when I heard the screaming.

“GET OUT OF THE RIVER!!! HEY YOU GET OUT OF THERE!!!” The screams were so sudden and angry it took a minute to realize it was just the Duckman, but he probably yelled like that at everyone who wasn’t a duck. His screaming continued for a short while but I was too busy concentrating on not falling into the water that I ignored him. It was only a few minutes after he stopped screaming that a Ranger truck pulled up. The Ranger was short on patience and motioned quickly for me to get out of the river. I came up to him and he politely but firmly  asked that I get out of the river and never get in it again. I complied, fearing a fine or a trip to a Ranger jail. Of course, now there are art non-profits that operate in the river and kayak trips.