Elysian Park

Elysian Park SIngle Track Trail
A favorite run of mine is the three and a half mile loop through Elysian Park along the wide trail off Morton, mostly used by local hip-but-not-hipster area residents as a dog walking path. It’s a wide clay path, shaded from the sun, and the direction I run it starts out with almost a mile up hill (cresting where the lost-and-found board pictured above is) and then twisting back down.

Most of this stretch is in thick trees. It’s often damp and the clay has a wonderful rich funk to it. The only view is a long ways down to the freeway, and there’s something I really like about that view: I’m on a clay trail far above it, running. I’m not part of that urban mess down below. It’s quietly life affirming.

I usually head back to where I’m parked on a 3/4 mile stretch of pavement – a road that ends at Grace E. Simons Lodge and then a closed off fire road. From there, another fireroad down to Scott, and then a climb back up Stadium Way, the park almost always filled with Latino families picnicking, playing soccer, maybe a gathering of Afro-American Harley riders, lots of activity.

There are more trails climbing up the hills behind Dodger Stadium, and late Saturday afternoon I decided to run those. An awesome single track took me gently up hill. There were short stretches that involved scrambling instead of running. I ended up on some old fireroads and took those back down to Academy Drive.

What I should have noticed late afternoon (6pm or so) but didn’t was gay cruising straight out of a John Rechy novel (or the park scenes in the Al Pacino movie). Maybe this was because the gay men up there are apparently mostly of the “straight” variety – closeted latino family men who find action on the trails and in the bushes up above Dodger Stadium. Maybe this was because there was a Dodger game going on down below. Perhaps that’s not the best time for cruising action. Or maybe it’s because I was just oblivious. I was focused on my running, my breathing, the trail itself, the feelings in my legs, my still-recovering-from-injury foot, and the views. People tend not to be on my radar when I’m in that space.

Cruisinggays.com gives Elysian Park 4 out of 5 stars, which is 3 stars higher than Tahreer Park in Yemen. (Seems like cruising for gay sex would be a risky business in Yemen, but what do I know?). According to The Advocate, there’ve been 90 lewd conduct arrests in Elysian Park since January, which has gay men up in arms, so to speak, because apparently men fucking each other in parks and on beaches is a “blow” for freedom and anyone who doesn’t like it is either a bible thumping midwesterner or a self hating gay into being respectable.

At some point later maybe I’ll write a post about the rich history of this park, or maybe about Chavez Ravine and all the poor families who were displaced to build Dodger Stadium, and the Zoot Suit Riots, and the high incidence of HIV in the latino and black communities where many gays are so closeted they don’t even realize they’re gay; they just enjoy having sex with other “straight” men, so why use a condom? Or perhaps I’ll treat everyone to some stuff from John Rechy’s books; his 1962 novel City of Night is not just a gay classic but a classic, period (and an extraordinary look at a gay hustler subculture in 1950s Los Angeles)…

The only other thing of note is yet another faceplant; the image of my bloody knee is here.

5 replies
  1. elodie
    elodie says:

    This is going to sound terrible because those are some serious issues, but this post made me laugh so hard! Yemen?! Where did that come from? And I couldn’t believe you would stoop so low as that pun!

    I’ve seen that sign a dozen times and passed over its beauty until now. Thanks. Some day I’m going to go back and run all my old routes, to experience them again with new eyes.

  2. geoff
    geoff says:

    Yemen…I got that from http://www.cruisinggays.com/ On their map of the world, you’ll notice there are only 150 spots for cruising for gay sex in the Middle East, and only one of those is in Yemen. Yemen has always fascinated me. Pictures I’ve seen of it make it look positively medieval. Apparently the readers of the Advocate believe that cruising for sex is an important part of gay culture, so maybe there’s something I’m missing. Still, it’s hard to imagine cruising for sex – gay, straight, or other – here, here, here, or here (all images from this awesome site). Yeah, I know our various beatnik heroes like Burroughs, Ginsburg and Jane Bowles managed to enjoy successful adventures of the gay variety in 1950s Tunisia and Morocco, but Yemen…?

  3. elodie
    elodie says:

    OMG, there’s even a listing for Iran! It has just one star less than Elysian Park. In the description under warnings: “You are in Muslim country”.

    You find it hard to imagine something like prostitution in Yemen? Interesting. I have no problem with that, but cruising for gay (or anything other than straight) sex seems discordant to me too, a little less so in Iran, which I think of as more modern.
    Do you suppose we think of cruising action as a development of modern life?

  4. geoff
    geoff says:

    I don’t find the idea of prostitution in Yemen to be odd. What I find odd is the possibility of sexual tourism, or even that what few tourists Yemen gets would engage in cruising. Also, I never really think of cruising as involving prostitutes but rather non professionals just looking to get laid in yonder bushes or whatever public place offers some privacy. Cruising seems like a public act, and my experience in Muslim countries is that sex (or even romance) doesn’t take place out in the open as much as it does here.

  5. elodie
    elodie says:

    Is cruising tourism? I didn’t think of that. I have exactly four friends who are gay, and two of them were heavily closeted when they first came out to me privately, so it’s safe to say I know nothing.

    I don’t think of cruising as prostitution either, but in the context of straight sex, there seems to be a continuum. In a country like Yemen, I can’t imagine that simple arousal would compel very many women to put themselves out there, so I was speculating a bit. Maybe cruising is restricted to gay (or other) sex there.

    Given how stigmatic gay sex is in Muslim countries, what avenues are there for locals?


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