HOME GROUND is a new Larchmont Chronicle column about our shared neighborhood urban landscape.
I’m a walker in the city. I’ve been a solo walker since before I turned five. I started watching the landscape of my then-city, a gritty industrial town, before I had any ideas. Before I read books. Before television.
The path between school and my grandmother’s house was an alleyway. I can still feel the cinders under my feet, hear the crunch of my steps. I was a camera, the images sharply developed and indelible.
We’ve lived in our house in Larchmont Village since early 2009; in Los Angeles, since 2005. I didn’t want to move here. I left a late 19th-century house in Northampton, Mass., population 30,000.
In 2009, looking through a bin of old papers at a shop in South Pasadena, I found a letter written from Los Angeles in 1932. That’s how I spent $1.50 and tied up the next five years of my life: learning the history of our neighborhood and that of Beachwood Canyon, much of it on my feet. The letter sparked a novel, set in January 1932.
This monthly column will be about my home ground—what I see and hear and smell and touch here, what I love about and worry about in our neighborhood.
My interests range from our urban forest, pocket parks, plants and gardens and farmers’ markets to history, urban noise, light pollution, museum and botanical-garden programs and speeders on residential streets. This is the fabric of our lives here in the neighborhood.
Where is your home ground? The home ground of your heart? Sometimes I think mine is a slot canyon in Utah along the Virgin River; at other times, it’s Iceland. Yet, occasionally, I long for something that would have been impossible for me to have seen: the Los Angeles cityscape described in “Southern California Country: An Island on the Land,” written by Carey McWilliams, one of the Southland’s greatest journalists, published in 1946.
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About a year ago, one of our neighbors died. She was 92. When we moved into the circa 1921 house next door to her, she welcomed us. She put up with two rounds of construction. She insisted that I take over the planting on the north side of her house when we were redesigning our garden and driveway; she didn’t want us to have to look at her ugly (her word) plants from our kitchen window.
Within two years, we were spending occasional holidays together. She invited us out to dinner and we reciprocated. If I baked anything, part of it went next door. She was always asking after us, eager to see photos from our trips. We got to know her lovely relatives, who still live in the neighborhood. We checked on her and she checked on us.
She had had a career as an executive in advertising and never married. We helped celebrate her 90th birthday.
At the end of 2013, she took a fall in a parking lot and broke her hip. She was determined to recover. My husband kept her car running. The pass-along dishes went over to her caregivers. Her interest in our lives never dimmed.
When she died, the life we lived in our 1921 Larchmont Village bungalow changed. It was then that I could see what before I hadn’t understood: that side by side, we had really lived together, breathing in and out, making a small landscape, a neighborhood of three, a garden, a shared home ground.
By Paula Panich
Category: Real Estate