California Authors


Abandoned Southern California

Joanna Kalafatis | Arcadia Publishing

Book Review by Craig MacDonald

Joanna Kalafatis describes herself as "a pretty simple girl." When not in plays or movies, the LA-based actress / photographer / travel writer, who studied economics in college, loves taking road trips and exploring things like urban decay, dream resorts that mostly vanished, hangouts hidden from the radar of modern life, old mining camps and other offbeat locales. Her passion and exploration led to writing a fascinating book, "Abandoned Southern California."

Photos illustrate her findings about quirky sites like the abandoned Rock-a-Hoola Water Park, off I-15 in the Mojave Desert; some of the once-popular resort towns near the Salton Sea; the still-visible cages and animal enclaves of Old Griffith Park Zoo (created in 1912 and shut down in 1966, when the animals were transferred to the new LA Zoo) and the former Lincoln Heights Jail, located in an industrial section of East LA, which was decommissioned in 1965 but is still used for shooting films such as LA Confidential.

She even reports on Slab City, located on the grounds of an abandoned Navy base: "The area has absolutely no utilities or services provided by the state or federal government. Residents rely on solar panels, a communal shower and a waste system of their own creation."

The author aptly describes how nature played a role in bursting some dreams and reclaiming remote spots: "Even in our modern era, with advanced technology, engineering solutions and scientific developments we create to conquer the most inhospitable territory, the whims of the land will always win out in the end."

Yet the old, once-booming mining camp of Calico has survived and become a tourist attraction. She takes a peek at the Camarillo State Mental Hospital, whose abandoned buildings are on the campus of California State University Channel Islands.

Kalafatis guides the reader along on an enjoyable journey of both desolate and urban decayed locations that will cause you to wonder about their creation and the role they had in developing California's distinctive character. It's a book about characters and what happened to their dreams (and money).

"California was perceived as the land of unlimited opportunities and renewed hope for incoming migrants, yet often led to a harsher and more challenging existence in real life….(But people) persisted. As they moved from one location to the next to seek their fortune, their ambitions, failures and lives became encased in the places they left behind," she writes.

Sounds like a Hollywood film that may someday be written by this book's author, who just happens to have been an actress in All About Money, Against the Grain, Beautiful People, Tommy in La La Land and Relative Eternity.

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