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Sunday at the Farm

by Hugh Stegman Monday, May. 29, 2006 at 6:03 PM

Strengthening community ties to SAVE THE FARM

The Farm is huge. You don't appreciate its size until you're in it. The sense resembles that of Central Park in Manhattan, though on a vastly smaller scale, as you see buildings off in the distance but otherwise it's hard to remember you're in the middle of a city that stretches out for many miles in all directions.

There's a welding shop right across 41st Street with badly blistered paint - is this where that hellacious fire broke out at 3 AM the first night? Other drab, identical tilt-ups and industrial structures display the telltale SE NECESSITO OPERADORES signs, identifying exactly what goes on inside. All around are stacks of those giant shipping containers, piled up like your first Lego set as they begin to overrun the industrial corridor from Union Station clear to the sea. Everywhere you look, globalization is making someone richer - but nobody you know.

Even so, Sunday was relaxed, without a cop in sight, nor a single helicopter invading the cobalt-blue sky. Under a flapping blue tarp stretched over the little 40th Street that goes through the Farm, around 20 people were busy making art.

The first stage was to lay down a large sheet of canvas. Then a child would lie as still as they could, while a dead-body style outline was traced out around them. They then could get up and watch or participate, as the canvas became another of many colorful depictions of the children that are our future, with messages on how we must save this future for them.

A couple of women I knew from other left wing events, but who had apparently forgotten my face, busily mixed colors and laid down backgrounds. Paint dried fast in the pre-summer warmth, and soon the fence was covered with these. They are beautiful.

Just past, someone was barbecuing meat for tasty-smelling, Mexican food, and beyond that a band was playing festive ranchera music. Nancy from the Bus Riders Union talked to someone I didn't know. It was a wonderful warm Sunday, with the right people, in a perfect setting.

But a short walk to the south gave reminder of why everyone was there. A changeable sign on a picnic table showed the number of days Julia had been up the tree on her fast, the way old baseball scoreboards used to count runs hits and errors with manually hung numbers. It was up to twelve. Julia was thin but apparently in good spirits, discussing fund raising tactics on her cell phone with a woman standing just below.

They had the kind of ideas that will be needed if this essential place is to survive. It was all about tapping the other L.A.; the one out towards where the sun was starting to sink; the one of song and story where people blow enough on SUVs and big-screen TVs in a month to save the Farm three times over.

I kept wondering why the celebrities who profess radical or progressive views don't put their money where their mouths are, and give back to the people who paid to see their movies that made them so wealthy in the first place. One glittery big-buck fund raiser at the Barker Hangar would go a very long way to save the Farm. Then they could go back to enlarging their palatial homes and adding to their Porsche collections.

Of course a single movie star, Daryl Hannah, who btw is related to committed radical cinematographer Haskell Wexler, has done more than just walk the talk. She's up the tree too, on a platform even higher than Julia's. People walk beneath and say, "I loved you in Kill Bill." She thanks them.

A 13 year old woman was making a sketch of something while her mother explained civil disobedience training. Daughter said something about how Mother chains herself up, followed by laughs, discussion of locking down, and foreshadowing of very possible less relaxed scenes to come before spring of 2006 is over.

The daughter finished her sketch, and Julia sent down a plastic paint bucket on a blue climbing line to get it. Up it went. Julia liked it.

All this time, the hundred or so veladoras arranged in a semicircle around this tall spreading tree flickered brightly, even in the afternoon sun. A large clump of sage burned with the distinctive smell.

Right by the exit, someone has posted the satellite images of the farm. I've seen these many times, but they never lose their power. In close, you see how green the farm is. Zoom out a bit, and you see how large it really is, and how hard it will be to find this size space anywhere else in Los Angeles, at any price. Zoom all the way out, and the farm becomes a tiny green square in a miles-wide industrial desert of nothing but grey, accented in small spaces by the brown mud of junkyards.

This is the farm. It is green. This is South L.A.. It is not. Anywhere. At all.

We have to save this place.
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13 yr. old woman Septic Monday, May. 29, 2006 at 11:30 PM
Girl Hugh Tuesday, May. 30, 2006 at 7:41 AM
Girl Hugh Tuesday, May. 30, 2006 at 7:41 AM
Girl, you'll be a woman soon Hugh Tuesday, May. 30, 2006 at 7:42 AM
girl girl girl woman Hugh Tuesday, May. 30, 2006 at 8:22 AM
Hugh Leslie Tuesday, May. 30, 2006 at 4:07 PM
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