Me, my brother and my sister drove into an alley behind a main street in Silverlake, and entered a narrow street quite familiar. The street, which seemed more like an alley, slanted steeply upwards. Single-story houses, piled next to each another, lined the right side of the street. And to the left, a yellow wall of concrete blocks tall enough to cut off my view of what was beyond and behind. The width of the narrow street seemed a little tight for our Chevy Bronco, but regardless we started driving steadily upwards, passing several blocks. The whole time I thought to myself that of this all seemed too familiar, like I’d been here before.
As we passed one of the corner houses, I saw a police car crashed into the front door. It looked as if the crash just happened; the blue and red lights still flashing wildly. Residents had already crowded outside along the sidewalks and streets; neighbors looking a bit ghetto in their whatever clothes.
I didn’t get a good feeling.
The street suddenly ended at a cut off, and my brother put the car in park so we could all climb out. At this end, the street was a little bit more private and secluded, seemingly devoid of neighbors. The sun shined bright, and from this height the cool, breezy air gave off a gentle hint of sea salt. I could almost hear the small thunder of crashing waves in the distance.
What was once the yellow concrete wall were hedges of evergreens and sour-greens lining a wooden fence stained in a redwood-red. I still couldn’t see what was behind it though as the planks were laid out tightly, each one next to each other and just as tall as the wall before. A canary-colored house sat at the end of the road, the driveway bordering the fence. Dried pine needles sprinkled the floor as I entered on the driveway. I could see the silhouettes of what looked like houses beyond the fence, and higher mountains in the distance.
My brother reached over the top to unhook a lock, and swung open the wooden gate stained with the same redwood-red. He then cried out, “These are the million dollar homes.” Entering, I saw steep cliffs with long, white and grey homes lining the mountainous terrain. The sea gushed below as it kissed the deep blue hue of sky in the distance. We were so high above the earth that it looked as if we could just reach out and grab it all.
“So the legend is true,” I thought.
Centuries ago, when the first settlers built these homes, the view from these mountains was so breathtaking that they didn’t bother making roads, as it would ruin the scenic beauty of the daunting landscape. So instead, they made long, interconnected walkways. And because the landscape sloped at such a steep angle, they constructed some of their homes one on top of the other. This provided architecture both unique and altogether communal.
Everyone shared the walkways, and some homes adorned their walkways with their own personal flair when it ran through their property. Most of the walkway was paved in stone and concrete, but you could, for instance, arrive at a clearing where the owner lined the pavement in blue ceramic tile and the whole area opened up into a lovely courtyard. The pathway would always continue to the next neighbor, and at times a little hard to find. Needless to say, sometimes walking home would take forever for residents that lived at the far end of the path, but what a journey each one could walk to get there!
We turned right and up along a section of the pathway lined in brick and concrete to a three-story villa. Little yellow leaves had fallen along the walkway of the residence and a garden hose, with various garden tools, hung on the outside wall in the corridor. Peach stucco sealed the outside and brown, terra cotta tiles topped its roof. In view from a distance, other residences illustrated their own swagger, from ranch to modern architecture, all undeniably unique and intricately connected up and down the path.
We hugged a brick wall and rounded a corner to climb a short flight of stairs. We arrived at a landing just above the second floor. From this height, we paused to take in the sea that painted the panorama a deep-set blue. It took a moment, and we all couldn’t help but stare.
The next flight up was assembled a small group of men of various ages, looking (perhaps mistakenly) Persian or Italian–dark brown hair, olive skin, sharp features–wearing gently colored button-ups and khaki-colored slacks in light fabric. They didn’t seem to notice or mind that we were climbing up the path, and mindlessly excused us as passerby. They talked amongst themselves and then paused to stop and stare at the sea. I dubbed them “The Seawatchers” as it seemed that they would come to argument and debate, and then turn to the horizon, seemingly lost in the wilderness of the view.
We continued up another flight to arrive at a higher landing, which at this point matched the same height as the house. I could see the dry, brown tile of the rooftops before me and observed that the house was shaped like a plaza, a courtyard lying in the middle of it. On the rooftop across from us sat a group of people I’ve never seen before, talking amongst each other.
My brother perched himself on the rooftop adjacent from me and gestured me to sit by him. Then he said to me, “Aren’t you gonna say hi to mom and dad?”
As I walked toward him, I hesitated to comprehend what he had just said. At that, I glanced over to see my mom sitting on the rooftop across from us.
Then I saw my dad.
It was just as I remembered him. He didn’t look at any of us, but I sensed he knew we were there. Him and my mom seemed to be there together, and listening to the conversations the group were having on the rooftop. I stared at him for a moment, trying to remember every detail of his face. I wasn’t happy or sad, but kind of excited and felt as if he had been all there all along.
I turned to my sister, who eagerly took note of seeing my dad. And as I turned back to call out to him, he had vanished. An empty space where I had just saw him sitting next to my mom. Apparently no one noticed he was gone or even present, and continued the conversation regardless. It’s almost as if he had just gotten up to go to the bathroom and be right back.
That’s when I woke up and realized that I saw my dad again. It took me a couple minutes, but it didn’t matter. I saw him again–breathing, thinking, listening, alive. He looked full of life and just as he had always been.
Maybe I was in heaven for a moment. Maybe we were all there for moment.