Blog of Jen Agosta

Meet Me There | Jen Agosta | Book Final

MEET ME THERE
by Jen Agosta, 2017

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PROLOGUE
Time + travel are inextricably linked…

There is a rhythm inherent to the ambulation of an animal on foot. The steady down beat pounded out by a creature on two feet is the pulse that begins a song of travel. The beat of a swift creature traveling on four feet is a rhythmic roll of four quarter-beats and a rest… four-quarter beats and a rest. The pulse of time melds with the pulse of the traveler in an unnoticed syncopated rhythm when one begins to roam. With each step, our legs rescue us from falling as we propel forward through space from point-A to-point-B.

And so the journey begins.

INTRODUCTION
Los Angeles has many relics…

One that is both ubiquitous and commonly overlooked is a collection of staircases laced through the hillside neighborhoods. Part of the infrastructure of the city, these “stair streets” are lined with homes whose only access is by way of the stairs – their front door spilling out onto the secluded steps. I refer to the stair streets as a collection because they were once part of a system of how people regularly transited the city – by foot and by railway. The electric cars, trains and trolleys that comprised the Los Angeles Railway ran from roughly 1896 to 1963 and their tracks covered every section of Los Angeles and beyond.

While the photographic focus of this book is the stair streets, along my journeys I continually find that the ghost tracks of the historical railway continue to tug on my awareness. The railways validate of the existence of the stairs and their deliberate placement in the context of passage through the vast city. The maps in these pages reflect the current driving streets, stair streets and walking paths, paired with a highlight of what I refer to as ghost tracks – the railway lines that once rendezvoused with stair streets on a regular schedule. The maps reimagine a kind of romance between the intersection of the stairs and the railway stops.

Who do these stairways belong to? Technically, they are public service streets. And like all streets, they belong to everybody and nobody. They are the veins of the city. Or rather, they were once part of the vascular infrastructure of the city’s transportation system of railways and walking streets that coalesced to carry residents from place to place. They are now more of a relic than a utility, leaving evidence of a way in which residents used to transit. Now, they are more of service to the wanderer who seeks to embellish their roam, than the commuter seeking an efficient travel route. But who doesn’t love a side street, a short cut, a secret passage?


138 | CORRALITAS RED CAR TRAIL
With the old Edendale Station nearby, The Pacific Electric Red Car once passed through this landscape with regularity, whisking travelers from Downtown Los Angeles to Atwater Village, Glendale and beyond. A long dirt path remains beneath the ghost tracks, as do the many staircases that once gave walkers direct access to the train lines as they descended from their hillside neighborhoods. The stairway stretching between Silver Ridge Avenue and Silver Lake Avenue  is comprised of 138 steps, crossing over the ghost tracks of the old Red Car trolley, and up into the hills.

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348 | LOMA VISTA
A shape-shifting path, half a mile long, comprised of 348 steps once meeting at the train line in the middle is now divided by the Glendale freeway. Loma Vista walking street is home to a number of residents, and a provider of great seclusion. Transforming from a split pathway with long, shallow steps down the center lined by two paved sections along the outside for wheels; proceeding onto a dirt path; then a set of wooden stairs; back to a split path, this time with a median of plantlife dividing one side from the other; lastly down a wide, grand staircase. Loma vista twists and turns, morphing from a wild, unkempt path to a sophisticated walking street at various points along its length. From stairs, into walkways, into stairs – all while maintaining seclusion from end to end.

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205 | MICHELTORENA
Long and prominent, the stairs that interrupt Micheltorena Street lie in the heart of Silverlake, jutting south of Sunset Boulevard. They are easy to miss – the entrance is set back from the street and can be seen from only one direction at a 45-degree angle. They are well traveled – visited daily by sightseers, dog walkers and neighborhood wanderers. From a driving road to a walking stair path, back to a driving road, the length of Micheltorena Street stretches for 1.6 straight miles broken by 205 stairs in the middle.

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100 | INNES + THE MYSTERY STAIRS
Two sets of stairs lie adjacent to one another along Sunset Boulevard in Echo Park. Innes Street stairs delivers walkers from the Victorian neighborhood of Angelino Heights down to bustling Sunset Boulevard where the old railway once passed. Crossing Sunset and jogging west about five-hundred feet brings the discovery of another staircase –  this one blocked, abandoned and forgotten.

Barricaded by fences on all four sides, this stairway is buckling into the earth below it. I refer to these steps as the Mystery Stairs because of their restricted access and unknown destination. It is difficult to tell where the steps end as it terminates into a fenced-off field at their ascent. This fence has a gate, and the gate has a lock. The lock and gate suggest that the stairs have not been – and will not be  – inaccessible forever. They are a reminder of access and passage that once took place here. Which leaves me to imagine where walking up those crumbling stairs would bring me.

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XXX | WE LIVE HERE
These corridors now serve many alternate purposes – a passageway for some, a hideaway for others, a place of congregation for many, and a home for the lucky and for the resourceful. Like the alleys of the city, these are often treated as the alleys of the neighborhoods. And like city alleys, the stair streets are often an escape from the bustling neighborhood driving streets – a place for private conversation, a quiet moment of solitude, a space to disappear. Seclusion, privacy and quiet are the unique gifts sought by many momentary occupants of the stairways, balancing a unique dichotomy that exists between their use as a passageway and hideaway.

What was once a utility is now a novelty. We once walked for travel, now we walk for joy, and sometimes we walk in search of joy when joy is lost. Time and travel are inextricably linked – time is the price we pay, travel is the reward and most things cannot exist without the passage of time to allow their creation to unfold.

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000 | MEET ME THERE
I imagine that the stairs and the trains had a symbiotic relationship: two halves of a whole in a system of travel – a romance of complementary kinetic motion. Once the railways were ripped from the ground the stairs were left watch time pass – widowed in the system of transit. I imagine the stairs miss the trains as they gave the stairways a greater sense of purpose.

The intersections where the stairs met the trains are a particularly special juncture. These transition points that allowed pedestrians – after their descended through the vascular neighborhood stairways, cutting through the hillside and down to the railway stops – to catch a railway car, whisking them varying distances around town. I imagine the shifting activity from walking to sitting, and sitting to walking – a change in tempo from rhythmic foot pattering to a smooth glide over rails – the transition from active to passive transit. I imagine the meetings that took place at these junctures.

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BINDING THREADS
From the spine of the book dangle the threads that bound its pages together. The threads are an echo the lines of passage mentioned throughout the book – railway lines, walking paths, stair streets, and driving roads. Just as the lines of passage stretch and sprawl through the city as a part of its infrastructure and meeting up at various hubs, so do the dangling threads serve as part of the infrastructure of the book’s binding meeting at a “hub”, being the book’s spine.


DOCUMENTATION

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