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Once a vast series of wetlands, the Dominguez Channel is the main watercourse draining the South Bay area of Los Angeles. It begins in Hawthorne, near the Hawthorne Airport. At its headwaters, it actually flows east, away from the ocean, as a long line of dunes prevents water from flowing west. After this, it turns south and flows through Gardena and North Torrance. It curves south through San Pedro before exiting into the ocean near the mouth of the Los Angeles River.

My father told me once that he used to collect crawdads in this watercourse. The 'creek' is now literally one gutter extending from its start to its end. This gutter consists of a concrete channel with vertical walls about 30 feet tall. Within this there is a small ditch about 5 feet deep which holds the normal flow. I've never seen it completely dry; someone is always watering their lawn. When i was in elementary school, this ditch ran right by our playground, and many times I would stand next to the fence and watch the water drain down in drooling strands from the pipes across the way. During storms, the little trickle turned into an enraged torrent... anything from beach balls to trash cans to parts of cars would be captured in the enraged flow and cast downstream.

One year a storm sat over our part of the city and dumped 5 inches of rain in a few hours. The result was an amazing rush of water. The raging torrent was literally touching the base of the Crenshaw Boulevard bridge, 30 feet above the channel's floor. The standing waves in the torrent had to have been 5 feet tall. I stood, in the height of my adolescent confusion, and watched the water rage towards the ocean. Sometimes, i felt a strange kinship with the river.. I too felt imprisoned in the vast maze of suburbs of southern Los Angeles. I have to admit, part of me wanted to see the river rip loose from its concrete bonds and pillage the city of Torrance, cutting a new channel to the sea. It never did, although the water did backwash into storm drains and cause street flooding.

I've always considered this channel a monument to human stupidity. I know in 10, 100, or 1000 years the floodwaters will break loose and form a new channel. The river is patient.. it has all the time in the world. Still, i cant help but think that a big part of what is wrong with todays world is displayed in those bleak white walls of that channel. Every time i return, i see it as i drive to my old home. I made it; i escaped from my concrete prison. The Channel hasn't. Not yet.

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