A Writer's 21st Century Memoir.

What I Learned While Floating Down The LA River

Jasmine in a bright orange kayak holding a double-sided oar and floating down the LA River

 

I ventured out on to the actual LA River this past weekend with the group, Black Girls Trekkin, and had fun kayaking and meeting our tour guide and four-time Naked and Afraid contestant from LA River Expeditions, Gary Golding. He took his time instructing everyone on how to navigate our watercraft and he really made the outing fun. However, my favorite part of the entire kayaking trip was the time he took to speak about the river’s history and how it wasn’t even considered a river at first.

 

I had briefly heard about the documentary that he mentioned before, Rock the Boat, where local satirical writer, George Wolfe, boated down the fenced-in waterway, hoping to have the EPA declare the river navigable. Wolfe was hoping that it could gain protection under the Clean Water Act if he took the time to film himself kayaking down the river. He was, obviously, successful and I also enjoyed floating down the river as a result of his environmentalism, but I also couldn’t help but notice that there was still trash in the river.

 

I wrote a poem with the LA River in mind, but I also drew parallels between the river and the highways that weave in and around Los Angeles. This week alone, I witnessed three people on three separate highways throw trash out onto the road. Cups, a whole take away bag from In-n-Out, and— cigarettes. I’ve witnessed so many cigarettes thrown out of the window that I no longer find it surprising why California has so many brush fires along the side of the roads. I thought about how hard people, including me, work to clean hiking trails and the LA River, but it pains me to see people throwing their trash out on the road.

 

Yes, the river still needs a little more cleaning, but I also know that we can aid in the cleanup by first reducing the amount of trash that ends up outside in the first place. It’s not one person’s job or responsibility to do this, but as a group of mindful people, if we all at least make sure we throw away our own trash in designated trash receptacles, then we can make Los Angeles and California a better place.

 

 

The LA River

 

I was floating down the LA River

in a boat that weighed a ton

and I couldn’t help but notice

all the trash that lined the wet highway.

Rusted shopping carts

and plastic bags

clogged the pathways

and rising smog

sat between me

and the LA skyline.

There were people causing traffic

and accidents along the way,

and traveling several feet ahead

took what seemed like a lifetime.

 

We traveled with the current

and didn’t move very far

and I swear that 20 miles

shouldn’t seem that long.

Tent cities lined the river

and clothes hung off of bushes.

A man smoking a cigarette

nodded in my direction as I drifted by

and I couldn’t help but notice

the trash near his living space

while I floated down the LA River

in a boat that weighed a ton.

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