“It always seems impossible until it’s done.”
Nelson Mandela, former South African president
Ever since Daniel Boone allegedly tagged a tree stating he killed a bear a couple of hundred years ago graffiti has proliferated. The hills of Chatsworth, California and surrounding areas are where hundreds of old movies, mostly westerns were filmed from as early as 1914 (beginning with D.W. Griffith’s short silent drama “Brute Force,” which was a story of cavemen and dinosaurs), through the late 1950s. The trails around the areas are generally easy hiking trails and they provide a beautiful panoramic view of the surrounding San Fernando Valley.
Steve (identified only by his first name) is not pushing a rock up hill, but he is trying to save rocks and boulders from being another eye sore and casualty of graffiti from gangs, drunken teenagers partying in the hills, and wantabe graffiti artists. It as close to a true Sisyphean effort as there may be.
Over the years, the recognizable rocks of Chatsworth Park have filled with graffiti marking gang names, lovers, and favorite beverages has served as a place to show off artistic prowess, some dated long before graffiti artist Banksy became famous.
Steve is an avid hiker and the bombardment of senseless defacing of nature was frustrating. He called the Graffiti hotline several times and never had a called returned. Three times he called Los Angeles County Michael Antonovich’s office, which is the County’s fifth Supervisorial District that comprises San Fernando Valley, and not a single call was returned. He called Metrolink on whose property much of the graffiti resides and was told he’d need a train spotter at $750 a day, even though he is hundreds of yards away from the railroad tracks. He called the park ranger and was told that he cannot paint over the defaced rocks or he would be arrested, as if he were tagging the rocks with graffiti. He finally talked to LA County Sheriff’s who were more sympathetic to his quest and would most likely ignore him.
Mad as hell, Steve took action into his own hands. On a sweltering November day he loaded his truck with two gallons of paint, roller brush, paintbrush, and rope and started his quest. Traipsing through the brush, he climbs the hills with a 20- to 30-pound backpack. He covered up a few of the offending tagged rocks. He has no reason other than the graffiti aggravates his aesthetic sensibilities.
“It’s not art. It’s graphic defecation,” said Steve. He has made five trips up there and spent 15 hours. “I feel like I have made a lot of progress. Maybe by the time I get 30 hours in it will just be maintenance.”
The color was a bit off on the first patches, but he found the right color. The guys at the Do It Center hardware store laugh that they have never mixed paint for rocks before. Steve spends $40 a trip to do his part to restore nature as best he can.
On his fifth trip up there, he loaded his truck up at 6 a.m. on a Sunday. Hiking up to the area, he was mildly surprised and frustrated that one of the cleaned rocks was already painted over. He is hopeful his efforts on the higher boulders last longer than some of the urban hieroglyphics.
“I don’t want to wake up any sleeping giants. It’s enough that it is getting done. Maybe I’m doing it for karma points.”
|All photographs by RJW|