L.A.'s balancing point

This is it, right here, in the shade of an oak where circling hawks and the scent of deer drive the family dog a little nuts -- the point of balance of the city of Los Angeles, in Franklin Canyon Park, tucked into a fold of the hills off Coldwater Canyon Avenue.

It's a place and it's a plaque, a figment and a fancy, and it was put here in secret almost 14 years ago. Allan E. Edwards did it, sought the center of the city by balancing a map of it on the head of a pin. No kidding. Scientific? Hardly. Satisfying? Yes, endlessly so.

The breeze finds you here. It brings the tang of sage and the sting of eucalyptus. It lifts your hair and cools your cheeks and lulls you with an alto hum. Grasses moving, leaves moving, water moving across the lake. Butterflies and dragonflies and hummingbirds flying backward. Deja vu too, if you look across the lake and think you've seen it before. You have, in the opening credits of "The Andy Griffith Show," in episodes of "Star Trek," in "How the West Was Won."

You can see Edwards' homemade benchmark, the coordinates carved into a steel plate and riveted to a rock just off the Howard Berman hiking trail. It's not a strictly legal marker, docent Barbara Baron says. Edwards placed it without permission. Still, it means this 600-acre park, once the summer getaway for the Doheny family, sits at a center of the city, and that alone seems permission enough.

-- Veronique de Turenne

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