Friday, April 17, 2009

Belmont Memories Part 1

I was going to continue my write ups on my entire PRINCE obsession that I began blogging about a couple months back. A write-up that slowly became an extensive series of memoirs. I have gotten a little lazy about. And today, as I was about to begin writing part 3, I came across some old photos of the Pacific Electric Railroad Station.

Known globally as the Belmont Tunnel amongst graffiti artists, this vacant yard once served as an outdoor gallery for urban arts. Graffiti artists from all over the world, when visiting Los Angeles, made it an effort to come and paint the massive walls of the yard or at least set foot on this soil and be visually stimulated by the multi-layered elaborate pieces done by resident graff writers or out of towners.

I began hearing rumors about 20 years ago that the lot was sold and we no longer would have this yard. Cops would even often swoop in and hassle some of the writers notifying us that the yard would no longer be open to the public and if found painting would get arrested for not only trespassing but also vandalism. Well those rumors never came true and the yard remained open.

Those rumors would resurface every five years or so so when hearing them rumors again in 2002, that the yard or property was finally sold, I took it as "one of them rumors again". Albeit, I began to see developers, construction trucks and workers slowly move in, I still thought to myself - "this ain't gonna happen!" - not sure if I was in denial.

As writers began to storm in, some coming out of the woodworks or retirement, to paint their last piece at the tunnel, more and more construction workers moved in. The walls were still in tact and no serious tear down had begun. All seemed as it was just planning and settling before they all commenced to destroy our safe haven. Stash Maleski began to round up troops to prevent the yard's closure and tear down. Still, I was in disbelief and my attitude was a shrug of shoulder and a "if it happens it happens. Oh well." thought.

Not until I saw a video that my friend Ben Higa did did I feel the impact of what was truly happening. The reality of it all. I teared up and felt complete sadness when I saw the footage of a wall being torn down and watched the chunks of concrete crumble to the ground. It was as though a piece of me was being torn with it. I just couldn't believe that this place, where I made friends, almost got shot, got jumped, painted at, first saw the pieces that influenced me, witnessed the best graff battles, met my favorite writers, got hassled and gaffled up by cops, got chased, saw COLORS and other movies filmed, or just simply chilled and enjoyed the day drinking beers, eating some tacos or carne asada, while listening to the trios play rancheras and shooting the breeze with the homies would be no longer. I was devastated.

Anyhow - that's it for now...I will write more about this on a later date (maybe). I will also upload some articles I wrote for some magazines about the Tunnel. In the interim, I leave you with those images I ran into today. I have also included some links below for additional information.

From Crown Hill to t he Belmont Tunnel
Belmont Hearing Notes
Belmont Protest March