The word on the street is that Vanilla Ice just moved to Echo Park to achieve some “indie cred.” The fact that I cannot determine whether or not this is a joke is perhaps just the right degree of irony that is compulsory for the average hipster brain inhabiting this east of Silver Lake, west of the river, locale in Los Angeles.
I’m from New York, my novel No Alternative takes place in New York in the 1990s, and the tourist websites tout Echo Park as Los Angeles’s equivalent to New York City’s Lower East Side. If they’re talking Katz’s corned-beef, streetwalkers, and somewhere the second-coming of the CBGB’s…I’m in. Joking aside, in a lot of ways Echo Park is just the place where the characters in No Alternative would have grown up if given the choice.
In New York, it’s either the city or the suburbs; in Los Angeles, on the streets of Echo Park, one twist of the neck allows glimpses of LA’s downtown skyline and its residential suburban hillsides. While New York City is a melting pot, Echo Park is a thoroughfare of culture, ethnicity and often opposing artistic tastes, connecting its inhabitants to whatever they’d like to be connected to with relative ease. It’s not quite as gentrified as Silver Lake and Los Feliz, and in my opinion it’s way more Greenpoint, Brooklyn, than Lower East Side.
My characters, Thomas and Bridget, who are brother and sister, are stuck in the suburbs, and they have to make due inside these boundaries, which in some cases can help breed creativity through limitation. It’s easy for Thomas to form a grunge band in the early 90’s, every garage in his neighborhood has one; whereas, Bridget, this preppy white girl, has a much harder time finding acceptance as a hip-hop artist who channels a well-endowed gangsta’ rapper named “Bri Da B.”
Echo Park, I may submit, is equal parts indie rock and hip-hop. It’s an amalgamation, the coalescence of influences, and the opposite of what a city typically is, or what a suburb typically is. It’s in the midst of being formed, and a city, or suburb, or community, that is still being formed, that is actively being shaped by the people and cultural influences flowing along its sidewalks and through its alleyways, that’s an exciting place to be, that’s a place where art, music, and literature can organically thrive.
Example: right next to , there’s a store where you can acquire the proper supplies for travelling back in time. I have no Doubt Vanilla Ice stopped in there after his recent gig at Stories, where I will be reading on April 14, and purchased the necessary items for a trip back to 1991 in his search to regain his relevance and awesome haircut.