As the sun trailed through the space between the arches of the 6th Street Viaduct on Wednesday, then dipped below the city skyline, everyone on the bridge turned to watch it pass, regardless of the direction in which they walked.
It was a cool, perfect summer night, and they were watching the sunset from the only place in town worth watching.
It’s bridge summer in Los Angeles, and as the sun goes down, the pace of the young structure picks up – dog walkers and juice drinkers give way to revelers and beer drinkers alike. eager to find out what attracts everyone. this place.
“In the big picture, it’s just a street that crosses another street and takes you from one thing to another,” said William Gillard, 79, a longtime downtown resident, shaking the head and gaze at the bridge from a dusty hill on the Boyle Heights Side. “But if you grew up here, it’s part of you. It’s our bridge.
Gillard lived at the Hotel Cecil for 34 years and loved the old 6th Street Viaduct. He took pictures as they took it apart, then more as they built its replacement.
“It’s property. It is our bridge because it connected the two sides. People walked through it constantly, for generations. The kids would come here and it would be an excursion,” he said.
The bridge has gone from being a physical structure to a phenomenon. The $588 million concrete mass has become the beating heart of Los Angeles over the past two weeks, a go-to spot for tourists and Angelenos alike.
The antics have reached such extremes – from drag racing and cars doing donuts in the street, at a man who cuts his hair in the middle of the span – only the cops close the artery connecting downtown to East LA for four of the last six nights.
The energy on the reopened bridge on Wednesday evening was festive but relaxed, framed by a fiery orange sunset that gave way to a shroud of blue.
People left their cars idling under the bridge next to the Ministry of Water and Energy power station for photo ops. A cat named Dorothy, on a leash and in a sweater, went for a walk. A woman stripped into a bathing suit for a photo, then quickly got back into her clothes. Two dozen cyclists rode down the middle of the street toward downtown. Families returning to Boyle Heights after dinner passed by. Drones filming the scene buzzed overhead, below police helicopters. Two photographers from the design firm who worked on the construction took pictures of people using the bridge “with respect”.
All the while, LAPD SUVs, like revelers on the overpass, slowly patrolled from downtown to Boyle Heights to the beat of drums playing below the bridge.
“I connect with something – the stars, the elements, the gods of music, the drums of Africa,” said Jeff Jackson, a 54-year-old army veteran and amateur drummer, who lives in an apartment overlooking the dump.
The high beams of his Chevrolet Trailblazer shone towards the bridge, where passersby stared at the man and his drum kit and watched him jump to Kanye West’s “All of The Lights.” Others passed by without stopping.
“I’m not in the public part because then you lose the intent. If they like it, cool, but that’s more a matter of your own experience. … I don’t need attention. I just want to play for bridge,” Jackson said.
The 6th Street Viaduct has completed Los Angeles, Jackson said. As you walk up Whittier Boulevard, the city opens up and tells you you’ve arrived, he says.
“This bridge makes a statement like ‘Welcome to LA,'” he said.
Jackson wasn’t the only person moved to make music on the new bridge. Earlier Wednesday, as the sun was up, Geovany Taleon, 34, walked across the bay playing his alto saxophone.
He performed “Stand By Me” as he walked downtown.
“Everyone has a second chance and a first chance,” said the self-proclaimed drug addict, who dreamed of getting sober and becoming a musician like his family members in Guatemala, where he is from. He bought his first saxophone from a friend with a $300 credit.
“For me, this is my second chance,” he said.
On the Boyle Heights side, DJ Robby Dinero spun songs with his headphones.
” It’s a new start. I just want to be a part of it,” the 33-year-old Inglewood resident said as he churned out an R&B beat. “The bridge is inspiring. It’s something brand new that’s part of our culture. I listen to the cars driving.
For others, the overpass is a neighborhood spot, a place to take the kids at the end of a long day.
“Before, the city wasn’t very interested in putting anything in Boyle Heights,” said Joanna G., a longtime neighborhood resident, as she accompanied her son to the bridge. “It’s good. It’s something different, but I don’t like the way some people are acting at the moment and the way they are treating the bridge.
Blair Martin, a 33-year-old construction worker, agreed.
“We have to learn how to treat our toys well,” Martin said after posing for photos on the separator. “But also, it’s LA, what are we going to do, make it pretty?”
As night fell, small groups drinking beer and smoking weed dotted the viaduct. Fireworks went off from somewhere in Boyle Heights.
Steven Ramirez and his cousins sat on the concrete railing between the bike and pedestrian lanes, enjoying the view of downtown shimmering behind the lit arches.
The group went to the bridge to enjoy Modelos and relax in the newest attraction in town.
They sipped slowly from the north side of the bridge around 10 p.m., oblivious to the world. It was their second stop after killing Coronas in Elysian Park.
“Personally, I’ve been drinking in front of the police before, that’s not what they’re interested in,” Ramirez said. “The cops don’t care about us. These are the people who burn rubber. People who make donuts. The people who climb the arches.
“We enjoy views like this in LA. It’s like an amusement park here, everyone comes and goes,” he said.
“It’s the best thing LA has to offer,” his cousin added with satisfaction.
“We’re just chilling, not doing anything wrong,” Ramirez said again.
Ramirez – dressed in a Nike palm tree shirt and with a palm tree tattoo on his neck – was so convinced he was doing nothing wrong that he didn’t immediately believe the LAPD cruiser that had stopped at about 100 feet was coming for him. Two officers came out and sheathed their batons.
“They’re not coming for us,” Ramirez said, sipping his beer.
His cousin brought back unopened Modelos in a backpack. The cops closed in.
“They could come get us,” admitted Ramirez.
The cops shone a flashlight in the men’s faces.
” You drank ? ” we asked.
The men tried to deny it, but the empty Modelos on the railing betrayed them. The police offered them a chance to get off the bridge instead of getting a ticket.
As one of his cousins picked up the empty cans, Ramirez tried to take his open Modelo with him. When he didn’t immediately pour the beer, one of the two officers grabbed him and pulled his arms behind his back as Ramirez yelled at the officer to let him go.
“I’m not doing anything wrong,” Ramirez said.
“Think about your kids,” Ramirez said after the cop twisted his arm to splash the rest of the beer.
“I don’t have children,” the officer retorted.
The cop eventually freed Ramirez. who was dragged to Boyle Heights by his cousins. They restrained him as he continued to shout obscenities at the cop. The officer threatened Ramirez with a night in jail if he continued talking.
The minute-long interruption disrupted the otherwise quiet night. The crowd thinned out as Jackson continued to beat his drums.
“It’s really nice and quite peaceful,” said Shanelle Oquinn, who lives in East LA. “We haven’t had anything new in a long time and everyone is used to the places we have. When you finally have something again, everyone is attracted.