Friday, March 27, 2009

Dirt Mulholland

Mulholland Drive starts at the Cahuenga Pass and runs west along the crest of the Santa Monica Mountains. Along the road, you can find breathtaking views looking both south into the Los Angeles basin and north into the San Fernando Valley. Some of the most fantastic residential architecture, the most lavish celebrity hideaways are found along Mullholland Drive.

When Mullholland reaches the Sepulveda Pass, the pavement stops. The road continues westward as an unpaved fire road, beloved by mountain bikers and hikers and horseback riders. At Topanga Canyon Boulevard, it becomes a paved highway again, twisting through the foothills of Calabasas and then turning south through the mountains to Malibu.

The unpaved part of Mullholland Drive is universally known in Los Angeles by the unglamorous name of "Dirt Mullholland."

I drive past the west end of Dirt Mullholland almost every weekend. And over the years, I've observed an interesting development.

Someone has decided to beautify the bleak, broken terminus of Dirt Mullholland, planting cactus and laying pathways and siting objets d'art amidst beds of colored gravel.

It's a bit goofy. White plaster cherubs welcome you through a gateway to a forest of prickly pear cactus.

An old-fashioned Victorian park bench sits beside a Plains Indian teepee, beneath a wrought-iron reproduction streetlight.

A goblet-shaped fountain with nozzles shaped like golden lions' heads is painted the color of a swimming pool.

There are interesting quirky touches in the garden, like this fence, whose posts are all topped with teapots.

I don't have first-hand knowledge of this garden and why it has come to be, but I've been told it's the creation of the man who lives in the house behind this wall. Over the ten years I've been observing it, I've often seen him, supervising crews of workers raking beds of gravel, moving decorative boulders around, hauling pots of plants. The garden formed gradually, starting near the walls of the house, and then spreading out to the other side of the road.

He's even begun colonizing the roadway to the west and north of Dirt Mullholland, where contrasting beds of gravel decorated with old wagon wheels now grace the strip between the right turn lane and the main road of paved Mullholland Highway.

The gardener's house is large, lavish, and hidden from view by its tall surrounding walls, except for its roof of blue ceramic tiles. Behind the ornate gates that open onto his compound you can see a collection of classic American cars, like Cadillacs from the 1970s.

A pair of statues beckon from atop a rustic gateway adjoining the garden.

Folks say that he is a famous bodybuilder, or a wrestler; or that he's married to a famous female bodybuilder. I don't know.

All I know is that he's a man with an urge to put his creative stamp on the landscape - to literally shape the world around him. California was built by pioneers, and Los Angeles was shaped by a uniquely goofy version of this Pioneer Spirit. It's nice to see that it still endures today.


phd in yogurtry said...

Part of me says, "cool. he's an artist." The other part of me says, "I like nature just the way it is, thanks." It definately makes for interesting strolling, though, huh?

Tristan Robin Blakeman said...

there is one element of me that thinks, "this kind of environmental art should be more admired," - and then another element that screams, "take the damn tea kettle off display!"

cactus petunia said...

That there is exactly why I miss California!

mo.stoneskin said...

I was wondering when my hardwork would be noticed...;)

Woman in a Window said...

That's great! I often wish I could put my stamp on the landscape here, train track area could use some wild flowers, trees. You know. But no one is allowed.

Crystal said...

Very a kind of weird way. :)

Briget said...

I like it! But...I have a Rly picky comment:

Those aren't teapots. They're tea kettles. Teapots are china/ceramic/whatever; but they are the pot you make the tea IN. Tea kettles are the container in which you boil the water for your tea.

Yours truly, Ms. Picky

KathyR said...

This is minutes from my house. I'm delighted by the change from the scrubby mess that used to be on these corners.