Monday, December 08, 2003

In the morning, the glaze-eyed commuter will notice the kayaker and applaud his sense of adventure. Downtown, just south of the Hollywood Freeway, Esmerido Zamora lives on the river in a shelf cut into its banks. His shanty is a homey little affair made of wood, piping and tarpaulin, and it is topped off with an American flag.

Mr. Zamora, 60, is a short man with the build and look of a military officer, which he once was, in Castro's army, with whiskers, eye glasses, clean neck and clean clothes all washed in the river water.

He waves two boaters onto shore and offers a breakfast of homemade bean soup and buttered bread.

"Jesus is coming," Mr. Zamora says after pleasantries are exchanged. Consider, he says, the great fire that recently consumed much of Southern California. The freak hailstorm in Watts. The impending mudslides. The Pacific rains when the river becomes a tempest.

"Man thinks he can control nature," he said, tossing a thumb toward the river. "He cannot."

A society of transients lives on the riverbanks, and they tend to be cleaner and more self-sufficient than the run-of-the-mill mopes on Main Street. The authorities pay them little mind, except when there is a killing. Last month, a woman was found in a drainpipe, raped and stabbed with a screwdriver. A few months before that, another woman was found in a plastic bag.

"Except for that, it's peaceful around here," Mr. Zamora said. He arranges a beer party and makes his visitors promise to come.

Very cool article. Something about Cali, the last couple days. Today a view of LA from a kayak and yesterday that hidden diner built into the back of an old bus. Maybe it's less Cali, and just the essential 'enjoy thyself' verve out here. Something, anyway.

Cool, cool stuff.

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