Taco Experts Needed

There’s been a lot more interest paid to Gloria Molinas Anti-Taco Truck Law than there was to the one the LA City Council passed, both examples of laws meant to be selectively enforced so as to benefit the politicians that can pull the proper strings to make a few select business owners feel properly accommodated. I hope that something positive comes out of all this media attention to an issue that effects working people, no matter what side of the taco counter they position themselves. But I found it sorta sad, though not at all surprising, when I received the Zocalo lecture series email regarding an event to discuss this topic and all their choices for panelists turned out to be just “foodies”. I don’t want to suggest that there is any problem with their choice of speakers, they all have a good reason for being part of the discussion. But for some people the word “zocalo” still means the public plaza where people of all backgrounds can show up to see what’s happening around the city, which in this case should naturally include some of those most affected by this law: the taco truck vendor. It seems like a tremendous oversight to not think of going down the street to get the Taqueros viewpoint. Or how about the non-foodie taco eater that visits regularly for the affordability and convenience? It’s an utterly simple situation to remedy, which I hope the “zocalo” people will consider correcting.

One thing I’ve learned growing up as part of that Other Los Angeles is that media (new and old) always find it easier to write and talk about our communities without even asking us any questions, finding the middlemen tale-tellers just as worthy as the source. The day is coming when it’ll be harder to talk about us without acknowledging our presence, when we might actually be considered as legitimate voices and participants to city life, be they in Spanish or not. Someday we will be able to tell you about ourselves, in our own words.

Pimp My Taco Truck

Please consider these two recent news items courtesy of the L.A. Times:


Los Angeles City Atty. Rocky Delgadillo said Monday that he had asked a judge to bar 36 convicted prostitutes and five pimps from walking anywhere on a 5.7-mile stretch of Figueroa Street, part of a larger effort to crack down on a brazen sex trade in South Los Angeles.




Los Angeles County supervisors make it a misdemeanor crime — punishable by fines and jail for Taco Trucks to stay parked in one place for more than an hour. if they don’t move after that, they will face a penalty of up to a $1,000 fine and/or six months in jail.


See where I’m going with this?… that’s right, combine the two enterprises and everybody’s back in business! A Carnal Cornucopia on Wheels.

“Yeah, give me dos de Ass-ada, y dos de cabeza!”


SGV Interracial Hotspots

Since i smoked away all of my creativity between the ages of 11 and 25, i get a lot of my good ideas from other folks’ initial ideas. A while back Browne noted how the SGV (san gabriel valley, sur gangster valle, shotgun vallee) is more multicultural than San francisco, this comment and me and my esposa’s fascination with cross ethnic intermingling in socially polarized LA gave me the idea to note places around the SGV where this occurs. I consider the SGV to be THE forefront of racial mixing, it just seems natural given it was next to the inner city barrios that all us mud people were restricted to before the Califas supreme court banned it in 1955 and minority war vets began chipping away at racial covenants. Its aesthetically nicer in a “1950s way” compared to Boyle Heights or the Central Ave. corridor, yet close enough to still be connected to one’s original ethnic enclave and community; plus “if those pinche gabachos can do it why the heck can’t I?”.

I am posting this topic in the LA eastside blog to also point out that , in my opinion, the eastside is more of a state of mind than an actual geographic location (which it is also). As a firm enforcer of “you dont live in fucken eastlos” for much of my life, as a bonafied resident; I also must note that to true eastsiders transcend political borders and hillside boundaries. Vatos from pomona, southside montebello, pico rivera, bell gardens, la puente, baldwin parque, sereno, south sangra or any other “outside of ELA proper” barrio all share the common culture of swapmeet goods, police harassment, ghetto birds, teen angel and elaborate windshield sticker art, plus those three dots tatted on half of LA’s wrist or inside finger. So it’s all good, I say this to help mend the divide cholos from outside of eastlos feel and get all self conscious about, plus we all blend together when we hit the pinta, so we need to lighten up on trying to attain the martyrdom-specialness of it all. Anyways…

So I am focusing around the areas of the SGV I am most familiar with, the western portion of it. I remember after a brief stint at Eastlake that my mom used my abuela’s address on the eastern edge of East LA proper to enroll me in one of the better schools whose district skirts the eastside, Schurr high in montebello. Coming from Roosevelt, I was worried and annoyed by my cousins and friends chiding me about going to the “chino” school, years later I would find out the school was over 70% Latino, but in my narrow minded relativist world the school was alien territory (or actually it wasnt, I had plenty of asian friends, but I was a stupid teen). Anyways, as time wore on and Latinos and Asians learned to accept each others’ presence, and oftentimes enjoy or profit from it, the cross cultural osmosis and humorous anecdotes ensued. My wife is half vietnamese (but raised totally poor FOB asian) and grew up in Pico Union and then El Monte, and we both enjoy the funny social nuances and whatnot that have formed organically in chinolandia. I will try to update the list and appreciate any additions, so here goes:

Pepe’s and Sam Woo BBQ on Valley Blvd in Alhambra. I dont know if some rogue cook or daring hungry chinese mainlander first trecked the 70 foot divide across the street between the two spots, but you can find asians eating taquitos and mexicans eating chinese broccoli any day, and it is great!

NBC Cafe (worlds best dim sum) on Atlantic near Garvey in Monterey Park. I think the whole damn city is one big asian-mexican orgy, with the rich up in the hills and the rest of us along the Garvey or the southwest “mexican area” near ELAC. It is great to see paisano families ordering har gow at this ginormous eatery with a million rooms as the restaraunt enveloped the bulk of the mini mall (where i saw karate kid 2 with my father before he went to prison). Beyond Latino-Asian mixing, the place gets a good mix of non Asians of all ethnicities, adding to the ambience of mispronounced words.

Pho 79 in Alhambra. This vietnamese noodle house is a favorite of both Latinos (again, some rogue back kitchen cook started the trend from my guestimation) and other non Asians. At the old spot that used to be on New Avenue, there were several Latino workers who spoke Vietnamese well. The especially pleasing part of these multilingual folks was that they were of the very indio looking mexican spectrum, adding to the confusion as they looked pretty Asian (on a similar note, my almost full blood apache abuela gets mistaken for being part of my wife’s Asian family at birthday parties, very funny). The Pho 79 is on Garfield near Main, and has some damn good Pho (pronounce “fuh”), second only to menudo for hangovers.

Petrillos/ Angelos/ Di Pillas, all along Valley in Alhambra and Rosemead This triumverate of Italian eateries is always filled with Latinos and Asians. Chicanos love nothing more than eating semi white food tpo feel accepted by Americana(sic), and americanized Asians (and their parents) do as well, it lets everyone know “hey I’m sorta American”. When whites were fleeing the area, Latinos filled the gap at Italian eateries, and they brought their asian friends along, and they begged their parents to take them for pizza once in a while.

Ranch 99 on Valley/ Hong Kong Supermarket/ etc.. Both Asians and Latinos share a love of markets with questionable cleanliness, super fresh produce sitting next to rotting bok choi, and being able to buy live animals by the pound. Nuff said

Noodle Planet on Valley/ 7th in Alhambra. This used to be the Bob’s Big Boy, and the gracious newcomers mounted the big boy statue on the wall of the restaraunt which is a nice touch and appeases racist Alhambrans who bitched about everything being a “threat”. It is also the next block over from the Pepe’s/ Sam Woo duet, this area is ground zero for good food and multicultural bad driving.

The ELAC (East LA College) swapmeet The asians come from the apartment jungle just north of ELAC and the Mexicans come from the maravilla projectos, actually they dont, it was a joke. You can find mechanics of all walks of life getting tools here, my son also begs for $1 yu-gi-oh cards until papi gives in. As a whole ELAC is pretty asian-mexican, which is great for the boba industry.

King Taco in El Monte and Cal State LA. Sometimes it will be 30% asian in the spot, no shite. I love hearing the pronunciation of “con todo” and “salsa verde”. El Monte as a whole is being gentrified (it is not always a bad word) by poorer Southeast and mainland Chinese Asians since Alhambra, Monterey Park, San Gabriel and now even once sorta crappy Rosemead get ever so expensive. This Asian influx was the key to Monterey Park and Alhambra keeping crime and gang problems low in the areas of town with a lot of apartment complexes as Mexicans got pushed out for the most part during the 80s/90s, and yeah I just totally stereotyped and overgeneralized like a mofo, but fuck you I’m an insider so I can be a bit rough.

Gonzalez NorthGate Market in El Monte. Every once in a while my little Viet suegra would make me go get her salsa in there, then I took her and did the Spanish ordering, now she has the fridge stocked all the time. And from the looks of things when I go into the store it has become a trend amongst Asians who are too tired/lazy to drive far to a Ranch 99 or enjoy Latino cuisine enough to overcome the embarassment and shit treatment from the trashy segment of the Latino population.

Atlantic Square in Monterey Park. A long time back the redevelopment of this commerical center created a big rift among Latinos and Asians as whites courted the browns to do their racist dirty work. It failed miserably (except for a few ignorant unhappy hold outs) and this spot is now a zone of convergence for the two cultures, starbucks is ground zero.

Norm’s in San Gabriel. It used to be that the place was filled with blue haired white biddies and their disgruntled husbands as well as obese Latinos, and the Asian folks stayed at the Hawaii Market on the other side of Valley. Now Mexicans order fishball soup at hole in the wall asian eateries and Chinese families make going to Norm’s their sunday traditions. That my friend is puro SGV beauty right there in the high blood pressured flesh!

I can go on but I’m tired and have work tommorow. Maybe one day Ill add some pics or drop my list of secret Asian spots that are the shiznit, like Van’s bakery beef jerky, but for now I’d invite you Latinos and other non-Asians to explore the cornicopia of smells and stickiness that is Asian Cuisine and stores. When you get grossed out by the eel head soup you accidentally ordered, just think that this is our cultural version of a white guy getting flustered by a jalapeno and smile. Another big jump for Latinos is to view the bean in a sweet context and not as a savory diet staple, which took me several years and a lot of coersion from my wife (but boy was it worth it!). Finally, get used to being pushed by Asians in markets and restaraunts, its a cultural nuance created by 20 billion people living in an area the size of baja California. Hope you enjoy!

Eastside 101: Brooklyn and Soto

Some time ago I started a series of posts at blogging.la that were meant to be a sorta crash course into Eastside life for those permanently entrenched west of the river, and mostly to combat this spreading notion amongst LA newbies that “eastside” was some new and fluid term to define neighborhoods east of the beach communities. For awhile it seemed as if Silver Lake and Echo Park were really going to become the definition of the Eastside, but thankfully, due to various voices speaking up and against this callous rewriting of history, the tide has turned. There are still a few stalwarts out there trying to justify (or ignore) their dismissal of the Eastside, but their days are numbered. Since these “fluid eastside” proponents tend to follow the flock, they will eventually join the pack and find their way to that place that no longer denies our existence, though they will never acknowledge us, cuz that just ain’t cool. Nobody likes to admit they are wrong. Instead of the army of Eastsiders I once proposed, I think we’ll be able to manage with a much more nimble force of tactical culture war snipers, since the invading hordes have yet to muster even the simplest of defense tactics to our counter offensive. Can I order a Mission Accomplished sign for my battleship?

Since major combat operation have now ended, I think it’s time to pull this series into the LAEastside fold, since that seems to be the most obvious place for posts about the Eastside. Que no? Plus, I assume that if any of the Eastside 101 readers at b.la are really interested in the Eastside they won’t be too scared to cross over the virtual river, where shootings and stabbings are at the lowest levels ever. 😉

For this next installment, I take you to a place near and dear to my heart, the neighborhood of Brooklyn and Soto! Click ahead para ver que pasa! (Warning: lots of pics ahead)

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On this Mother’s Day, I want to honor and thank my “Ma” for raising me as she did.

Yes, my Dad also had a hand in our upbringing, but Mom was the strongest overall influence on my life. Whether the job she did was good or bad is irrelevant as far as I’m concerned. What matters most is that I am who I am today, because of her, and I’m OK with it.

Even though my brothers and I may now possibly carry untold amounts of dysfunctional baggage from growing up in our House of Horrors, I am nevertheless grateful that it was never so bad that we couldn’t survive it and still make somewhat decent lives for ourselves. We all managed, for the most part, to stay clear of jails, skid row, asylums and deportations, so as they say, that can’t be all bad.

So Mom, as your oldest son, these are my thanks to you, for all the special things you do. Happy Mother’s Day.

Your Son,

Al Desmadre

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(click flyer above for more images)

There’s been lots of buzz about the upcoming show, Vexing: Female Voices from East L.A. Punk at The Claremont Museum of Art. Much like the misconceptions of the skateboarding scene, there’s many who don’t realize the involvement and contributions of Eastside folks to the history of Los Angeles punk. From the early days of The Bags and The Brat to current groups like Union 13 and Resistant Culture, punk is alive and well in the streets East of the River.

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Eastside Skaters

Just came across this short clip on Lincoln Heights’ very own skateboard store, IDS Boardshop. They say skating has only recently been popular with Latinos but I disagree. I’ve known Chicano skate kids from way back. (Tony Alva, anyone?) What do you all think?

Beginnings of a Strike

According to the woman handing out flyers and this LA Times article, negotiations have broken down and janitors from many buildings across the county will be going on strike. I wonder if this strike will get all the blog posts, media coverage, and celebrity endorsements that the writer’s strike had? Yeah, that’s a stupid question.

With this “economic downturn” likely to spread across various sectors, the poor are going to be asked/forced to shoulder the brunt yet again. It’s high time the owning class shared in the misery.


We’ve all seen them. We might pass by them on the streets and pretend to look away……

But they are there. Always there. Staring sadly from public street walls. These are the unloved renderings of some unheralded artists who, at one time, attempted to leave their artistic marks upon an otherwise blighted world.

These works started out perhaps with a sketch, some paint, and good intentions.

But now, they stand as nothing more than painted victims of ridicule from cynical would be Art Critics like myself.

Could I have done any better? Probably not. Have I the right to critique and judge these pieces? Probably not. Will I do it anyway? Simón! Here are a few specimens chosen from the Los Feliz, Silver Lake & Echo Park areas, (or as I like to call it, “The Westside”). Judge for yourselves.

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East L.A. Civic Center Grand Opening this Weekend

Los Angeles County Supervisor Gloria Molina stood by a model for Grand Ave Civic Park that was on display at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, and was pointing out ways green space brings life into a city.

When asked how this compares to upcoming Grand Opening for the East L.A. Civic Center, the serious look turned bright.  Molina went on to talk about the Civic Center that will be introduced to the general public in a “Community Celebration”  that will also see the unveiling of the future Dionicio Morales Transit Plaza. The plaza will be the second to last stop on the Gold Line Extension.

“It’s also abouy the health of East Los Angeles” she said, referring education and health panels in the afternoon.

Then 5pm concert called “Under the Stars” that will feature Tierra and Lil Willie G will lead into a fireworks finale.

If you take a look for yourself this Saturday,  you will see how colors, pathways and the open space of the East Los Angeles Civic Center (and the already opened adjoining park and library)  shows how govermente buildings can be designed to reflect an embedded constituency. Instead of forcing an image of authority––like a security guard who wears a too shiny a badge––the informal layout welcomes the very  public it serves. Reds, golds, blues, and greens unite the buildings, public art and landscaping.

It’s a rainbow at the end of the gold.

The East L.A. Civic Center Grand Opening will be held Saturday, May 10th, 2008 (9am till 10pm)  The concert starts at 5pm. For more information: Celebrate 150 Years of East L.A. LAT writes “A rediscovering of East L.A.’s core

Photos: EF

Phantom Sightings Art Talk with Sandra & Harry

On May 4, 2008 the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) hosted an art talk with Sandra de la Loza and Harry Gamboa, Jr. as part of the Chican@ art exhibit called Phantom Sightings: Art After the Chicano Movement.

There is work in Phantom Sighting that is amazingly brilliant, other pieces are poorly crafted and their meanings fall into the shadows. Written text to explain each piece and concept is posted in English and Spanish throughout the exhibit. The artwork is simply displayed with few supporting overall design concepts to enhance it. Some pieces are mated to echo each other, some relations seem distant and strained, giving their space a sense of emptiness, as if something is missing. Moveable walls separate the serene vistas by over-bearing rasquachismo pieces. Perfectly placed and thought-provoking, pleasurable art is also found there.

When asked why the curators chose the exhibited artists, Sandra de la Loza said that this is just one realm of Chican@ art—and there are many realms. Harry Gamboa, Jr. noted that some artists that were asked to be a part of this exhibit declined, not wanting the stigmatism of being part of a ‘race-focused’ exhibit. Only time will tell if this was a smart decision, especially on the eve of the state of Arizona wanting to obliterate the word “Chicano” and all its related programming from their educational institutions. Naturally, Homeland Security supports the eradication of the term “Chicano” as a possible nation-wide mandate. This governmental decision and invasion of freedom could sound the alarm to refortify the age-old struggle that Chican@s have had, to remain radically self-identified.

Part presenter, part teacher, Harry was quite charming during the talk, with his wit and politics sharpened to a point. He quipped about his work, his life, his tequila tasting in DF, about learning the entire dictionary in elementary school so that he could verbalize his outrage towards school injustices, and why people are drawn to the early documentations of ASCO (ELA art collective: Harry Gamboa, Jr., Patssi Valdez, Gronk & Wille Heron). The talk had a comfy close feeling, like sharing a cup of coffee with a family member.

Sandra in her usual straightforwardness, handled all the questions with deep thought and diplomacy. Her installation in the exhibit, part of her Pocho Research Society work, focused on the phantom aspects of history, especially the history of Los Angeles. It informed us that real and fictitious history can weigh equally in our world—because no one questions the validity of true history and manufactured history. Her idea was that humans have the ability to transcend social restraints by creating their own history—and her custom-made-to-fit installation supports that concept.

Vintage films of ASCO enchantingly recanted their street performances from the 1970’s. These art actions and documentations were the flame that set the tone for the entire exhibit concept. Phantom Sightings is a direct quote from Harry Gamboa, Jr. regarding the invisibility/visibility of Chican@s in American culture.

Phantom Sightings will be touring to New York, Texas, and other areas of the United States. It will be very provocative to those who are accustomed to seeing Chican@ art in a certain light. A veteran and renown Los Angeles Chicano muralist felt that the Phantom Sightings exhibit was purposefully white-washed to interject Chican@ art into the international world of high art. Many other Chican@ artists and their collectors are baffled by being excluded. Still other Chican@ artists feel that they have to take a pause, and wait for the main stream to catch up with what is going on in our art scene.

Phantom Sightings: Art After the Chicano Movement runs through September 1, 2008 at LACMA. I highly recommend that you see it for yourself.

Pachucos Live!

Well, at least as advertising icons. A defining feature of Eastside neighborhoods are the painted signs, a simple source of joy for me but often the first item that gets the harsh beam of the Gentrifier Homogenization Attack Ray. I’ve written about these unique signs before, but it’s high time for an update. Soon, carnal, soon.

But back to the task at hand. This cartoon pachuco with the gimp foot comes courtesy of the folks at royaltietux.com located in Lincoln Heights, as far as I can tell from their website. Since I already own a tuxedo (err, its printed on a t-shirt, but same difference) I doubt I’ll be needing their services any time soon, but you might find yourself in a chambelan pinch; thank me later.

Speaking of which, should someone send out a search party for LA’s own Banda Pachuco? I haven’t heard anything from them in awhile and their website is stuck at 2006. I hope the curtains haven’t dropped on one of the best bands around. CLICK HERE to check out their lively music!