Monday, November 28, 2011

Ocean views many of us witnessed along Paseo del Mar. LAist/Jimmy Bramlett
Meditative palm tree, likely to end up on the ocean floor if the slide keeps moving, now sits on its own island. -- Sky News
The Paseo Del Mar Landslide Breaks Hearts and Forces Us to Face a New Future

By Diana L. Chapman

We lived it. We walked it. We breathed it.

For decades, through births, deaths and presidents, a 600-foot section of Paseo del Mar served thousands of us: visitors taking scenic drives, locals scurrying on their daily constitutionals and even lost drivers who would ask me for directions to Hollywood.

No, I didn’t laugh at them. I figured they were blessed for seeing a stretch of road where we biked, jogged and skateboarded perched 100 feet above the frothy sea.

That luminous stretch of Paseo – which  slipped away from us more than a week ago during a Sunday of pouring rains --  provided us with ample opportunities to spot whales, view cliffs veiled in gray mist or the chance to linger in the luxury of dusky, golden dawns.

 Moods of every kind; often one of a kind -- until the strip became mother nature's victim.

A landslide that first became noticeable in September-- starting out with a bump and dip in the scenic highway -- recently stripped away chunks of the road, tons of earth and storm drain hunks, plunging some of it into the ocean.

What’s left is a beautiful stretch of road now cut in two by a ravine 600 feet deep, jumbled asphalt, massive pieces of a storm drain salting the beach line and fears that the land could move some more.

Due to the real danger of trodding on land that could fall into the ocean in seconds, pedestrians have repeatedly been warned to stay out. Police helicopters continually buzz overhead. But for those of us who considered this strip a part of our lives, we’re having trouble letting go.

 We’ve lost a place of meditation, of solace. 

Our lives will be different now. I am realizing my son won’t complain profusely when I drive the long way home down Western Avenue to Paseo del Mar, breathing in the sea air and watching pelicans grace the sky, blue whales surface with towering plumes and crashing waves that chew away at the cliffs of time.

I am realizing that the fat palm tree I walked by now sits on a treacherous island of its own and appears to be slowly melting into the horizon. The emerald palm reminded me of one of my favorite childhood books (now considered offensive): Little Black Sambo. It was the story of a boy who ran into four hungry tigers and cleverly traded articles of his clothing to stay alive. He was a kid I wanted to be like.

Every time I walked past that palm, it sparked my memory of stupid tigers racing around a tree and melting into butter as the boy who outwitted them looked on.

“I loved that tree,” said Peggy Lindquist, owner of the Corner Store, who has served hundreds who once used the now disconnected Paseo del Mar to get to her business.

Many others have expressed concerns about the palm and wonder if it can be saved. That seems like us trying to grasp at ghosts now past.

It’s time to look ahead, step out of the quicksand of memories and work on what’s next. It’s likely it will be nearly impossible to fix the slide. Cutting another road anywhere near it clearly makes no sense, because any construction could trigger more movement.

It all should be incorporated, many say, in the White Point Nature Preserve
that drifts on the hills above the road. Perhaps that's where we should begin to put focus.