Patch Blog: How a Westsider Wound Up in Mount Washington

Nina Zippay

(Originally published in Patch, http://highlandpark-ca.patch.com/blog_posts/how-a-westsider-came-to-call-mount-washington-home on July 21, 2011)

It was almost eight years ago that I went to my first summer fun meeting hosted by the Mount Washington Association. We were living on the Westside and looking for a home to purchase.  Finding nothing in our budget on the Westside but over-priced tear-downs falsely labeled as fixer-uppers – a friend suggested checking out Mount Washington. Once I realized it was a neighborhood and not a historic site near the nation’s capital I went in search of the elusive neighborhood.

A Google search uncovered a site for the Mount Washington Association (MWA). There I learned that they were hosting a Summer Fun Meeting with an ice cream social that Sunday afternoon. Posing as Westside urban pioneers we loaded up the 4-Runner and headed … east.     

Pulling up to the meeting, held at the Southwest Museum, we disembarked from our SUV like clowns out of a circus car. With my 5-month-old tucked into her Baby Bjorn and my 2-year-old shuffling up the hillside, we made our way up the driveway slope to the festivities. An ice cream social seemed particularly fitting for this very hot summer Sunday afternoon. 

The landscaping around the museum was beautiful, with native species planted throughout the grounds. The “meeting” attendees ranged in age, though many seemed to be in the post-50 set.  Some wore buttons proudly proclaiming their passion for the Southwest Museum; others were engrossed in discussions of their gardens and the goings-on around the neighborhood. They were all engaged, but in a laid-back sort of way. And everyone had a story, either about when they bought their house, the history of their house, the school, the neighborhood, the museum, the trails, etc. 

One man, in particular, advised me that Mount Washington was the type of community that, if I remember the quote correctly, “you could be a hermit, an activist, or both.” Seemed like a perfect fit. With much gratitude to the MWA and their summer fun meeting, I was sold before even seeing a house. It was there I first met people I thought I could hang out with for the next 10-20 years. And the fact that they had such an engaged association told me that people here cared (I later learned they had not one, but two groups – but that's another story for another time). Three months later we moved into a great house on the hill that soon became our home. We later enrolled our children in the local school. Throughout it all we tried our best to be part of the community. 

Fast forward to July 17th, 2011 - it’s a beautiful Sunday afternoon and I find myself again at another MWA Sunday Summer Fun meeting. A few things have changed. They were serving pupusas this time, not ice cream. The Southwest Museum is sadly closed, so we met at the Jack and Denny Smith Community Center. I can no longer carry my children in a Baby Bjorn. But most different for me - I was no longer an interloper. I was an eight year “veteran” volunteering at the micro-farms table to help promote our micro-revolution of growing your own produce here in the community. Yet, as I look around and see the faces of residents who’ve lived a lifetime on this hill, I realize I’m really just a newbie.

A couple comes up to investigate the table. They have just moved from Tennessee to Los Angeles. I’m beside myself, champing at the bit. It’s now my turn to welcome, to receive, to tout the beauty and wonders of living on the hill. 

Resembling an overzealous car salesman, I show them brochures about the micro-farms and hand them a flyer about Mount Washington Elementary School's Produce Collective. The brochure tells how the produce collective supports sustainability projects at the elementary school. I tell them how much they are going to LOVE it here.  Perhaps a little presumptuous and most definitely passionate, I have much to share about my experiences of living here for the last eight years. But I also know I equally have much to learn. I may not be wearing a button proclaiming my politics but I still think of myself as a tried and true passionate member of the community with something to share. And I'm just getting started

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