Monday, April 28, 2014

Angels Flight and Harry Bosch

He remembered riding on Angels Flight long before Bunker Hill had been reborn as a slick business center of glass and marble towers, classy condominiums and apartments, museums, and fountains referred to as water gardens.  Back then the hill had been a place of once-grand Victorian homes turned into tired-looking rooming houses.  Harry and his mother had taken Angels Flight up the hill to look for a place to live.

                                                      from Angels Flight by Michael Connelly

I've been on a Harry Bosch kick lately.  Over the last decade, I've read every one of the books in this detective series.  Because they are all set in Los Angeles, it has given this fascinating city another layer of meaning to me--a darker, more sinister one, but coated with nuance.   . . .Just like the Bradbury and Angels Flight.  Little pieces of grace were everywhere if you looked.

 I love Connelly's descriptions of the city.  I cannot drive through the various neighborhoods without remembering a scene from one of these books.   Early one morning  a few months ago I found myself walking around Bunker Hill and I came across this diminutive little railway.  If I hadn't read Angels Flight, it wouldn't have meant much to me.  For one thing, it was closed.  No one was around.  Los Angeles was quiet for once, very quiet.  The air was surprisingly crisp and cool, but cloudy.  And then, there he was . . .  Harry Bosch checking the inside of the wooden car named Olivet for clues of a murder.

Angels Flight is the world's shortest railway.  It has only two counterbalanced cars named Olivet and Sinai, which are controlled by cables.  These two little cars have ferried the people of Los Angeles up and down this steep slope since 1901.  Nearly one hundred million of them!  The original Angles Flight, however, was located a half block to the south.  It was actually dismantled in 1969 and stored for 27 years.  Happily, it was restored and reopened in 1996.  Unhappily, it keeps shutting down because of accidents or repairs.  When I returned that afternoon, I saw several people walking up the steps from the Fashion District below.

To the left of the archway was a concrete staircase for when the train wasn't running or for those who were afraid to ride the inclined railroad.  The stairs were also popular with weekend fitness enthusiasts, who ran up and down them.
I looked longingly at the car sitting on the track.  Was that Olivet?  The car where the civil rights attorney was murdered?   And will Angels Flight ever reopen?  I wanted to ride it like Harry Bosch.  See the city unfold before me.  Immediately the car jerked and began its descent.  And immediately Bosch again recalled riding the train as a kid.  The seat was just as uncomfortable as he remembered it.

I vowed then and there to read the entire series all over again, but this time in chronological order.  Angels Flight is Number Six out of 16 so far.  There are several other wonderful (but oh so flawed) characters that are woven throughout the books and which will bring even more pleasure to the reading the second time around.

So if you find yourself going to Los Angeles soon, grab a Harry Bosch mystery.  Say "hello" to him for me.  He's a good friend and an excellent tour guide!


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