¡Sounds Like Burning: We’re Going Back! How Far Back? Way Back!

A few years ago, in San Juan de Pasto, Southern Colombia, I was thrown into the back of a van by some seriously strapped soldiers. They confiscated my camera. Earlier that day I discovered that Colombians were the kindest folk I had ever met, so I wasn’t very worried alone in the back of an unmarked van. I thought of my new friends at the bakery and barbershop as we swerved through the city. For some reason, I was allowed to keep my backpack. I opened it, grabbed my headphones and ipod and Booker White did what he always does.

The van tore through the streets. The suspect in back was moving with Booker: “I was at my mother’s grave, when they put my mother away.” One dark-skinned soldier tapped the other and they turned to look at me. I felt like I was watching something fascinating unfold. Where were we going? What was my crime? Soldiers armed to the gums deemed me a threat with my t-shirt, sandals and scruffy beard. I watched them and hummed a little more. Then we got to the jail.

I was “interrogated” for several hours. My California ID got me free. I walked out of that jail the way I walked in: humming a tune.

Usually I like the sounds of new cities, but at that moment, I wanted something else: I stopped, reached back, got the headphones and Booker T. Washington White. Bruises be damned, there we were, on the streets of Southern Colombia, smiling because… we didn’t need a reason. We never do. I felt like singing. So we did, “I’m a stranger at this place, and I’m looking for my mother’s grave.”

Booker White “Strange Place Blues”

I’m a stranger at this place and I’m lookin’ for my mother’s grave
I’m a stranger at this place and I’m lookin’ for my mother’s grave
Well it seems like to me, ooh ooh well, some of us goin’ to wail
I was at my mother’s grave, when they put my mother away
I was at my mother’s grave, when they put my mother away
And I can’t find no one, ooh ooh well, to take her place
I thought after my mother was put away, I thought my wife would take her place
After my mother was put away, I thought my wife would take her place
I’ll show you the difference ‘tween a mother and a wife, ooh ooh well, my wife done throw my away
I wished I could find someone to take my mother’s place
I wished I could find someone to take my mother’s place
And if I can’t find no one, ooh ooh well, well you’ll find me at her grave
I’m standin’ on my mother’s grave and I wished I could seen her face
I’m standin’ on my mother’s grave and I wished I could seen her face
I’ll be glad when that day comes, ooh ooh well, well when it be to drive me away

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Juan Diegos


And from his Gap sweater came tumbling a cascade of poly-blend silk roses, which left an iconic piece imprinted on his cotton finery. Spotted near the Tepeyac of City Terrace, aka Hazard Ave.


At the center of this city of ours, El Centro de Los Angeles, the flowers bloom for reals.

Las Posadas

Sin Piñata No Hay Posada

Last night, a friend and I were taking a stroll around Olvera Street when we noticed many families leaving La Placita, the church across the way, carrying gifts and hot steaming cups of champurrado. We went over to see the festivities and were treated to tamales and the destruction of a couple of piñatas. I’m so behind the times, I didn’t realize last night was the first noche de las posadas.

Does your neighborhood carry on Las Posadas traditions? If so, anyone wanna invite me over for some ponche? I’m not religious but I’m happy to participate in any holiday that involves good food and communal celebrations!

Las Posadas at Olvera Street

One more thing to do this weekend:Maravilla handball tournament

~ Courtesy of Tommy Nishiyama, Sr. ~

“Handball is a pride sport. It’s not about winning money, it’s about pride. It takes the skills of a boxer and the mind of a chess player to win.” In the barrio, sometimes pride is just as important as money. ~ United States Handball Association national champion Elias Barajas

Pride is more important than money, other wise we wouldn’t be here, but that’s just me. I was sent this info to pass along and post via Chuy 90023 and a friend of his who sent me the info. Thanks guys 🙂 This weekend, as if there wasn’t enough things to do already, the Maravilla Handball Court will be holding a co-ed youth tournament this Saturday and Sunday. Here’s the info: The first-ever co-ed handball tournament for youth at the historic Maravilla Handball Court, the oldest handball court in East Los Angeles. The court was built brick-by-brick by East L.A. residents in 1923 and reflects the rich layers of history common in Los Angeles. The Old Timers—former members and veteranos of the Maravilla Handball Club, which was once open to men only—will attend the tournament to mentor and train a new generation of handball players. The junior singles tournament has four divisions: ages 17 and under, 15 and under, 13 and under, and 11 and under.

Maravilla Handball Court Sat & Sun December 19 and 20, 8:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
501 N. Mednik Avenue (between Hammel and Dozier)
East Los Angeles, CA 90022

Free for spectators, $4 entry fee for participants with proceeds going to the Maravilla Historical Society

For more info and some of the history of the handball courts, click here.

Here Comes the Cavalry to the Rescue disguised as Cafe con Leche!


This morning I see a blog on Grub Street LA, extolling a subsidiary of the Coffee Table called “Cafe con Leche” as the savior of Self Help Graphics and Art in East LA.  Franchisers of some LA Coffee Table branches are also owners of the ‘formerly known as” the Self Help Graphics building at the corner of Gage & Cesar Chavez—AND entrepreneurs of Cafe con Leche du ELA.  Hmmm–this blog which is called “Cafe con Leche Could Keep Self Help Graphics in the Chips” smells like the spin that these hipster-franchise amalgamators have been shoving down our throats since last year.  Fellas, what happen to that part in the lease contract about not using  SHG’s 37 years of community involvement to promote yourselves?    Eastsiders, can you say “Coffee Table” or does it really have to be interpreted in El Castellano?  As a hardworking volunteer in the team of many artists and activists who toil every week to keep Self Help Graphics and Art vibrant and open, I look forward to those residual checks coming in to keep ELA art in ‘the chips”.  Damn, call me and save yourself a stamp, I will personally pick that check up.  By the way—brrrring, brrring, we’ve been calling you to come and fix the lights and leaky roof for a few weeks now.  Hope we don’t have to wait until the chips roll in to get that fixed.

To read the whole preposterous blog and some insightful comments click here

Things to do this weekend

back seat of bus

Is it me  or am I doing these, “go check this out this weekend” post more and more often. It’s just me because these are all events YOU HAVE TO GO CHECK OUT THIS WEEKEND. I’m serious. A lot of them are free or relatively free. This weekend though, I will be part of one 🙂 See that picture of people on the bus, I made that 🙂 No too shabby if I say soo myself. The event where my stuff will be on sale is on the list of events so check it out if you can 🙂 The list is going to be broken down by day, since these events are  starting Thursday and ending on Sunday.

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Stop Right There!

STOP RIGHT THERE! FROM THIS DAY FORWARD I PROCLAIM THIS LAND “LA EASTSIDE” (The actual LA Eastside can figure out some other name for themselves, maybe “Tierra Incognito”.)

From the new LA section at Huffington Post, a renewed frontal attack on the real LA Eastside by the Bourgeoisie Forces of the “OTTES” (other than the Eastside).

$8.00 cup of coffee? Perfect setting for a Vanity Fair interview? Not anywhere on my LA Eastside.

Say whaaaaat? Ezell below on the gritty LA Eastside of her imagination.

*“Best Old School:* When it comes to coffee on the east side, *Café Tropical* is OG – original gangster – so old school it doesn’t sell any variation of its café con leche except decaf (and that will cost you extra). Their coffee is bold, strong, and hot. They sell Cuban sandwiches”

OG-original gangster? Café Tropical? Not on the LA Eastside I know.
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Keeping kids in check

The L.A. Times published a story today about how some teachers can’t control their classrooms and how it makes for a horrible learning environment. The story focuses on how teacher school doesn’t teach teachers how to  handle discipline problems because it’s all circumstantial and what may work for one class won’t work for another. The story didn’t shed any light on anything we already didn’t know really. So, since I am a product of the LAUSD system and have seen a lot of shit, even in my day, I’m going to chime in with my own two cents and offer my suggestions to would be LAUSD teachers on how to deal with the discipline issue of teens.  Also, if teachers, former and current, can chime in with their war stories and what worked for them, anonymously of course, it will be greatly appreciated.

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Snow in Lincoln Heights

Sorry for the photo quality, taken with phone cam

Well technically it’s ice but you can still make some mean snowballs from it.  I was “accidentally” hit by one while taking a photo, the things we do do for this blog!

By the way,  I say we can get rid of the gang problem in one season, just give boys a bunch of snowballs and let them get out their aggressions that way. It’s fun too!


The snow should last for a few more hours  so head on down to North Broadway and Ave 20 behind the Bank of America.

Oh, and they have FREE PIZZA!

I bet HLP parade had none of the above.

Snow sponsored by the Lincoln Heights Christmas Parade Committee.

The Other amongst the others.


Something that I’ve always been intrigued and interested by is how people of color come to, in a way, escape their perceived cultural outposts. For non-POC folks being “strange & different” is seen as plain eccentricity while doing the same while being a POC is seen as pure deviance. We are maligned by both the “dominant” culture and our “traditional” culture. As  noted in such films such as AfroPunk, we exist somewhere neither here nor there (but maybe everywhere?)

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Eastside 101: Basic Restaurants


Even though I’m going to review this restaurant you see above, this post is about all the little family owned restaurants, just like this one, that make up the bulk of eateries on the Eastside. They’re not necessarily spectacular. They might take a long time to get on yelp. The signage on the place is usually improvised, or if they’re lucky, ALZAized. Nobody visits for the decor nor for that bullshit “ambience” that makes foodies feel special. These simple restaurants are just places that provide food. Stuff to eat when yer hungry. They give us our nourishment and I think that qualifies as worthy of mention.

In my quest to map out the current state of Huevos Rancheros I end up eating at lots of these places. Very rarely do I hate the food. Usually, at the very least, I get a decent meal for around $5, give or take a few bucks. I might not review it, but still, I appreciate the fact that they cooked something for me to eat. When we focus only on the consumption aspect of food, we forget that cooking for others is serious work. It’s labor intensive and tiring. Yet the eater just wants to plop down some cash and expects a fabulous meal. I guess if you have cash to burn then that’s arguably a reasonable expectation. But for the working poor of the Eastside a plate of food is a plate of food, its just a bonus if its delicious! To some places I’ll not be rushing back, but if I’m no longer hungry and can continue with my daily pendejadas, then that’s good enough. And sometimes, these chance encounters with a new hot plate can be very pleasurable.

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