I am in Los Angeles for a family reunion. It seems I left Miami, in the heart of hurricane country, only to come to a city beset by hurricane-force winds. They did so much damage to Griffith Park, tearing up at least 400 trees, that it was closed.
Sunday, my sister and two brothers and I are going on a tour of however much of our old stomping grounds we have time for: Hollywood High School, which we all attended; Hollywood Boulevard, which in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s had wonderful but unintentional street theater that overshadowed the famous stars embedded in the pavement; the house where we grew up, east of Hollywood; Barnsdall Park, which was within an easy walk from our house and had a tiny playground and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hollyhock House; and, we hope, Griffith Park
For me and my siblings, it's not a matter of whether we want to go to the park, it's a question of where in the park we want to go. At 4,310 acres, Griffith Park is one of the largest municipal parks in the country, significantly larger (and wilder) than Central Park in New York, but more important, it is where we spent much of our childhoods.
Our choices are many: Gene Autry Western Heritage Museum, Travel Town, the Hollywood sign. There’s the Greek Theater, where I first saw the Temptations and Stevie Wonder. The Griffith Observatory, where we spent so many Saturday mornings and absorbed an early education in astronomy without realizing it. The zoo, where my brother once worked and in whose empty parking lots my father taught us how to parallel park early on Sunday mornings before the zoo opened. Ferndell, the starting point for Saturday hikes. The William Mulholland Fountain — outside the park, technically, but in my family, considered part of it — named for the man who headed the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power during the Owens Valley water wars and who inspired the character of Hollis I. Mulwray in the movie Chinatown.
I’d bet that few people who have lived in Los Angeles for more than a couple years haven’t had some kind of Griffith Park adventure. But in our family, always in need of free or cheap outings, it was our second home, one we had hiked every foot of. Seeing windstorm damage there will be like having pages torn out of a family photo album.