Paul Ramirez, 54, waters the front lawn at his home on St. Louis Street in Boyle Heights as his dog Bandit, a 2-year-old Yorkshire terrier, jumps for joy. Ramirez said the lawn was originally put in by his grandfather, Eugene Ramirez, who bought the home in 1958.
Paul Ramirez cares for his little patch of Americana with the reverence of a master gardener. He had to, or face the wrath of his grandfather from 800 miles away.
Grandpa Eugene planted the Boyle Heights lawn about 60 years ago. He cared so much about the greenery that after he moved to El Paso, Texas, he would call friends to check on it. When told it wasn’t looking good, he immediately would call family into action.
At age 9, Paul was put in charge of keeping the lawn green; he has been in charge ever since. He is now 54 years old.
It’s going to be a long, hot summer for the Southern California lawn, the little squares of green that have long knitted together neighborhoods. Lawns played such a crucial role during the pandemic, bringing people together for evening social circles (six feet apart), for backyard barbecues, for a game of catch or running with the family pet.
With many Southern California communities now on limited watering schedules, the lush emerald green grasses, the summery smells of fresh lawn clippings, the cool blades squiggling between our toes — all will give way to crispy, dusty lots of dying fescue.
Southern California is still searching for a water cure. Whether it’s more reservoirs or expensive desalination, one thing is for certain — it’s going to be a summer of brown grass and hard choices.
Mel Melcon started out with the Los Angeles Times in 1984 as a summer intern and has been here ever since. He worked on a freelance basis from 1985 to 1997, then was hired full time. Melcon likes to capture the offbeat and funny side of life in his images.