art · Travel

The university of the waves

Vintage postcard of Point Fermin Park in San Pedro

Once upon a time, overeager developers looked at the picturesque California coastline and thought, Hell yeah, we’ve won the jackpot right here. What they failed to realize (or maybe just chose to ignore) is that you can’t have anything this beautiful and with such great weather without a downside. In this case, the downside is shifting tectonic plates. Or maybe we should call it a downslide? (Sorry, I’ll stop.)

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Sunken City is the remains of an old ocean-front housing development in San Pedro that had to be abandoned as the land underneath it was worn away by waves and slipping tectonic plates, until it shifted and slid down the cliff. It’s a beautiful jumble of jagged rocks that seem to roil like boiling water. The whole area is officially closed off by a 6-foot high metal fence, but that doesn’t stop anyone from crawling under the fence to make graffiti, hike, or explore.

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Sunken City is located at the end of Paseo del Mar in San Pedro. To get there, park at Point Fermin Park (807 W Paseo Del Mar) and walk toward the Dead End sign. Climb over the concrete fence, and find the hole under the metal fence, or hike down a bit to where the fence ends on the edge of the cliff and go under there.

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Hike down to the end of this fence, and you can easily slip underneath it

As a warning, I should let you know that YES THIS PLACE IS A BIT DANGEROUS. No, the rocks aren’t going to suddenly start moving and slip out from underneath you, but people have fallen off the rocks and hurt themselves or died, so BE CAREFUL!

For the less adventurous still looking to see that beautiful sea view and contemplate the poetry of the Pacific, you can visit Point Fermin Park and shake your head at all the crazy people trespassing. Point Fermin has a historic lighthouse with guided tours, as well as beach access on the north side. It’s also a PokeStop, because Pokemon Go is secretly just a trick to get us to go outside more.

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You might recognize this house from (500) Days of Summer. You might recognize those people as Pokemon Go players.

The hill right above Point Fermin also has Angel’s Gate Park (3601 S Gaffey St). You can struggle to keep your hair out of your mouth (or fly a kite) at the windy and beautiful Korean Friendship Bell, or pretend to fire canons the Fort MacArthur Museum, or watch the cute seals and sea lions at the Marine Mammal Care Center which rescues and rehabilitates them for life in the wild.

Image via Wikipedia
Image via MarineMammalCenter.org

Enjoy the wind and the water, the smell of salt and the feel of the cool breeze. University of the waves, that’s my alma mater.

THE SEA
Pablo Neruda, On the Blue Shore of Silence

I need the sea because it teaches me,
I don’t know if I learn music or awareness,
if it’s a single wave or its vast existence,
or only its harsh voice or its shining
suggestion of fishes and ships.
The fact is that until I fall asleep,
in some magnetic way I move in
the university of the waves.

It’s not simply the shells crunched
as if some shivering planet
were giving signs of its gradual death;
no, I reconstruct the day out of a fragment,
the stalactite from a sliver of salt,
and the great god out of a spoonful.

What it taught me before, I keep. It’s air
ceaseless wind, water and sand.

It seems a small thing for a young man,
to have come here to live with his own fire;
nevertheless, the pulse that rose
and fell in its abyss,
the cracking of the blue cold,
the gradual wearing away of the star,
the soft unfolding of the wave
squandering snow with its foam,
the quiet power out there, sure
as a stone shrine in the depths,
replaced my world in which were growing
stubborn sorrow, gathering oblivion,
and my life changed suddenly:
as I became part of its pure movement.
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