In a city as large and as full of people (and helicopters) as L.A., quiet is relative.
Rebecca Razo explains: "There’s literal quiet and then there’s calming quiet. There are those places you can go, like a library, that are absolutely silent, but there are also those places where you’re going to quiet your mind; that doesn't always mean in total silence. There’s going to be ambient noise on the street, but you're still able to connect to yourself."
For instance, Echo Park Lake: It's a place to go for quiet time, even if you can't exactly escape the hum of the 101. Razo, a former LAPD officer who currently works in publishing, included Echo Park Lake in the "Parks and Green Spaces" chapter of her new book, Quiet Los Angeles (Frances Lincoln, $19.95), a guide filled with Mark Mendez's beautiful photographs of places where calm and quiet aren't totally elusive. Other chapters include "Gardens"; "Beaches and Trails"; "Places of Worship"; "Bookshops"; "Places to Relax"; "Restaurants, Bars and Cafes"; "Small Shops and Boutiques"; "Places to Sit and Walk"; "Quiet Drives"; and "Places to Stay."
Razo, who lives in Orange County, was an LAPD officer for about a decade, from 1993 till 2003. Her beats were mostly in the harbor, places like San Pedro and Wilmington, but she patrolled Hollywood for a time, too. The experience didn't exactly engender affection for the city. She explains: "Working in that sort of capacity, you don't always get to see the best parts of what the city is — that can take its toll over the course of a law enforcement career over time. I knew the city, worked in the city and then I sort of fell out of love with it because I wasn't seeing its best parts every day."
When Razo was tapped to write Quiet Los Angeles, she took it as an opportunity to look at the city anew. "Having had that time [away from the city], coming back with fresh eyes and discovering the city brand new — for me it revealed itself in these new, beautiful ways." The book includes all manner of locations: the Christian Science Reading Room on Hope Street downtown; the TOMS flagship store in Venice; a slew of botanical gardens, from Descanso to South Coast; even an Italian restaurant, La Strada Italiano in Long Beach. It's meant to be a guidebook for visitors and locals alike, people who are seeing the city for the first time and people who want to refresh their perspective.
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Flipping through the pages of Quiet Los Angeles is a relaxing experience in itself, thanks in part to the marked lack of people cluttering up Mendez's images. I counted only two photos in the entire book that feature people (the image of Leo Carrillo State Park at the top of this piece being one of them); in the rest Mendez captures absolute tranquility. Each location is a blank slate onto which the reader can project herself. Maybe you can't actually make it to El Matador State Beach or Cahuenga Peak or the serenity-rich Wayfarers Chapel in Rancho Palos Verdes, but imagining yourself there is a nice exercise.