Friday, May 24, 2013

Readings and Greetings at the Old Zoo in Griffith Park

Melinda Palacio

            Some say the old zoo at Griffith Park is haunted. The animals may be gone, but the smells remain, as do their wild spirits. The wafting of pungent earth might be left by nocturnal creatures who have taken up residence in the former dens. The old zoo was built in 1912. By the late 1930s, the cages and structures were deemed too small for the animals and by the late 1960s, the old zoo became a picnic area, its enclosures too picturesque to tear down.
Children listening from above the empty lion's den.

It took a New Yorker to dream up the idea of holding readings at the old zoo. Sara Finnerty and Anne-Marie Kinney have been hosting the Griffith Park Storytelling Series for the past year and a half. 

Anne-Marie Kinney and Sara Finnerty
Sara Finnerty grew up in Queens and thought she would return to her NY hometown when she finished her MFA in Creative Writing at Cal Arts. Seven years later, she still calls Los Angeles home. "Everyone thought I was crazy," she said. "But a big draw for Sara is her love for hiking, especially the night hikes at Griffith Park.

Co-curator Anne-Marie Kinney says she enjoys the "Gorilla Nature" of the venue. "We have to stake out a place and claim it," she said. "You have to work a bit for it."
The SRO crowd at the Griffith Park Storytelling Series
 Judging by the SRO crowd, including the clown who stopped to listen, it was well worth the work, and a great venue to bring your dogs and kids. Sara and Anne-Marie take it upon themselves to schlep in folding chairs and put out some refreshments. Anne-Marie brought her dog, Didi.
Anne-Marie and her dog Didi

When they asked me to read for last Sunday's event, I eagerly agreed because I had been going to Griffith Park all my life and never knew about the old zoo. Perhaps if I had been more the hiker my mother wanted me to be and less of a pony rider, we might've discovered it on our many trips to the park.
Melinda Palacio photo by Jessica Ceballos

There were four featured readers, Amanda Yates who invoked the four corners of Los Angeles, Diana Wagman who read new material from her series of romantic-comedy shorts, Chiwan Choi who read a powerful piece on blood ties, and myself who took advantage of the captive audience and read a short excerpt from her new novel-in-progress. Bloody Death Skull provided the whimsical musical interlude (don't let the band's name fool you).
Bloody Death Skull

Chiwan says he was impressed by the setting's natural acoustics, the perfect weather, the 'awesome' hosts, and the interesting mix of writers, which you don't see often. "There were so many dogs which was great," he said. "The location made it feel like it was a little get away from life, and for me, personally, I couldn't have picked a better place for my last reading."
Chiwan Choi

I was born in Huntington Park and remained in Los Angeles until I was seventeen. Whenever I read or have an event in L.A., I wonder if I will see a familiar face. Last Sunday, I was pleasantly surprised to see my cousin Angie. An even bigger surprise in the audience was my mom's former student from Heliotrope Elementary, Jocelyn, who is all grown up. The last time I saw Jocelyn Aguirre-Peraza, she was in fifth grade and she gave a memorial speech during the ceremony dedicating a mural to my mother at Heliotrope Elementary in Maywood. The Griffith ParkStorytelling Series at the old zoo was the perfect place for a reunion. The next event at Griffith Park will be in three months. Make sure you get on their mailing list and peruse their Facebook page.
Melinda Palacio, Jocelyn Aguirre-Peraza, and baby Austin

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