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