Secret Stairs of LA Walk #27 – Silver Lake

Secret Stairs of LA Walk #27 – Silver Lake

The simple act of walking can have the ability to spark an echo from the past…

I didn’t decide one day that I would pick up the Secret Stairs of Los Angeles book, by Charles Fleming. An ex told me all about it and took me on a walk once upon a time ago. After we broke up I ended up purchasing the book from Vroman’s Bookstore, in Pasadena (which I recommend you visit if you haven’t). 

Sometimes things just leave you raw and that’s how I felt after that relationship ended. As I was looking for that first staircase off of Effie St., behind Lamill Coffee I realized that somewhere along the way I healed. Time has a way of doing things you least expect while never letting you in on the secret. I’m grateful for those things that I took from those moments in my life.

Silver Lake is a neighborhood in Northeast Los Angeles. If you don’t live here then it’s easy to talk shit and say something clever about the neighborhood. I don’t live here and I’m not qualified to offer a treatise on the place. I can say with certainty that it’s an expensive grimy bitch of a neighborhood that has a lot of neat little cafes and shops — oh, and lots of stairs! 

It should also come as no surprise that they don’t truly have a lake (it’s man-made) and there are no traces of silver, it’s not even silver-like. It’s actually a reservoir and it was named for Herman Silver, one of LA’s early water commissioners.

No matter if you’re a dog, if you’re homeless, or a one-percenter, the one thing in common is that no one, even our furry friends, cares to sleep in their own squalor. That’s what I think about as I see the streets lined with endless trash bins. Trash day is tomorrow, a local resident tells me. I’m a fucking genius.

While walking up the stairs on this route, I spotted some really neat homes. Since I’m not a design snob and know little about architecture, the best thing I can come up with to describe some of the homes is that they’re very Bohemian. That is, many of the homes I found along the way were designed for form moreover function, I felt. 

A number of the homes seemed inspired by the many Case Study Homes of the 40s and 50s that a number of architects and designers were commisioned to build. Two of the most prominent, and well known, among them was the design duo of Ray and Charles Eames. You’ve probably seen the Eames Chair at some point, whether you knew it or not. While I’m on the subject, if you live in or around LA definitely consider visiting the Eames house in Malibu. Save some money and do the interior tour! It’s worth it. I promise!

Anyway, the thing about Silver Lake that I like is that there are lots of opportunities to get lost here. There are a lot of hills and winding back-street roads that run over them.  When I walk through some parts of a neighborhood, I feel like I’ve uncovered a secret — it’s like hearing that sound from The Legend of Zelda when link finds a secret. 

The Four Stooges

It was a patchy-cloud kind of day, the heat finally broke, which made the walk pleasant for a change. 

As I walk through these enclaves, I’m reminded of how much I enjoyed my trip to Singapore. It was magic. There’s a pull to explore other parts of the world, I’m impatient to do it. Few people I encounter here say hello let alone make eye contact. Perhaps, I should stop doing these walks all commando.

Seeing the homes along the way, I’m reminded of how little I have to my name, in terms of equity. I guess that shouldn’t matter but I would like own a place some day.  I often ask myself who are these people? What do they do? How can they afford these homes? I think about that like there’s some big cheat code for the Game of Life that no one is sharing with me. Is that weird? Maybe a bit.  I don’t pretend to know.


If there’s one thing that these walks have taught me is that change comes whether you’re ready for it or not. Silver Lake was allegedly affordable once upon a time. It’s home to movers and shakers in TV and Film and who knows what else. As the prices of housing continue to rise, they push out the old tenants and make way for those who can afford to pay more, leaving people to scramble to nearby neighborhoods for housing that isn’t any cheaper and offering less than what they were used to. Like many neighborhoods in LA, this place is gentrified as fuck. I heard a couple discussing the topic of gentrification when one person said, Look, shut the fuck up. You know we’re the biggest part of the problem, right? Maybe they’re not the largest part of the problem but they certainly have benefitted or pushed less privileged folks out of their homes, even if they didn’t realize it.

More than anything, the message I take with me, the one I always forget to remember: Life is more than what your fingers can’t grasp. I think it’s a verse from Mos Def and Talib Kweli aka Black Star. 

I have a bad habit of comparing, of looking elsewhere rather than looking right in front of me. What I have is enough and I can be happy with that. What I have isn’t much but what I do have I have in great abundance!

Maybe it’s time to let go of the past, of uncertainty I grasp at, and of this tireless evaluation of the unknown. 

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