When I took my first trip to Europe I did what everyone does and checked out some travel books for some information and ideas. They’re useful in giving you a general sense of a place. On a whim I thought “let’s see what they say about Los Angeles” and man was that a bucket of hot water: this travel book racket is run by fools with money. Or sometimes just fools. I quickly realized that those that portray our city, in all the various ways you can, tend to do so either for money or because they have the money to do so. Its pretty messed up. My consternation to the lousy representation of our city is one of the main reasons I started my shitty website CHANFLES! (and later an even shittier blog) a decade ago. Who am I to decide to document this supposed glamorous city? I am a nobody in a metropolis that believes celebrity is a life-force. But I’ve learned through the process of experience that those that feel entitled to represent our city, no matter how many months ago they arrived, have nothing better to offer. My take can’t be that bad, can it? And therein was my mistake, trying to present an alternative understanding of LA to the ether, before becoming a somebody. Cuz nobody cares unless they care about you. Nobody cares what the nobodies think.
And then it’s time for the Cosmic Flip concept that my long lost friend Heriberto was fond of discussing : maybe the lack of importance makes it super important. I won’t delve into this serious filosophizing, but it was something to that effect. In any case, I think I’ve done my small part in describing my city. But in the end, the bastards with the money still own the bullhorn: they get to blurt out their inanities all over the place. I’ve been keeping watch.
So finally, the point of this post. I’m going to show you a sampling of travel books/guide books to LA to see how they deal with our lil’ historic community known as the Eastside. How do you think we will fare?
BTW, there’s a bunch of pics ahead, so plan your reading accordingly.
If you suspect the Eastside is going to get the short end of the stick, then you’d be on the right track! I basically raided the Arroyo Seco and Chinatown libraries for any travel books that mentioned our side of town (many don’t) and took a few pics to showcase how we get represented. Sounds fun eh?
First up, some oldÂ “Underground Guide” to LA. Whatever you say.
The Eastside is somewhere on Beverly, which is bad enough, but you lost me at “art party with clubby happenings”. Flush!
With a cover of beach volleyball you know this is going to be good.
Oh hey, they lumped two regions of Los Angeles into one paragraph! Way to save trees Frommer. Hmm, I don’t remember the 92 riots being centered in East LA. But thanks for that cue with your choice of the word “barrios”, I guess tourists will now be able to infer to be careful-with-the-Mexicans. Remind me to take you out for a drink sometime, Meester Frommer. Somewhere in the middle of Hollenbeck lake, particularly at night.
In case you didn’t pick up on the “barrios” hint, they make sure to point out those Ethnic neighborhoods where the others live. The fancy Pacific Palisades neighborhood doesn’t get tagged with being a White Ethnic enclave. Cuz they’re the default, normal ethnicity.
I wish this book was a person so I could punch him in the face.
Yes, I’m hungry! And I’m kinda real too! Give me the lowdown!
Okay, there’s a semblance of rational. Looking good!
Ciros and Tepeyac? Yeah, ok, I can’t fault you for the choices. People keep propping those places up cuz they don’t know what else to eat. But to give El Tepeyac the tagline “So good, you’d think your abuelita made it herself” is a joke. If my grandma was making this slop I would assume she was working for an equestrian stable of carnivorous horses. This ain’t human food people.
Don’t let me down Time Out!
Wow, a respectful and decent intro to East LA. How hard is that?
Luminarias? Oh man, they drank the Kool-Aid! Still, a short round of applause for a guide book that dares to explore the Eastside. Time Out is gonna win this post, I just know it.
Shhh! It’s the Hidden and secretive LA that they’re about to expose.
East Los Angeles = East of the river. Good start.
Some useful info.
Hey, not bad. It’s as if we were a part of the city. I approve.
Let’s see if we make the cut in this California guide.
I think the Eastside gets grouped with Downtown, since there is that keyword “ethnic”. And that’s about it.
Hmm, the Eastside is pretty old, maybe we will make the cut as “Vintage”.
Will you look at that? An Eastside that doesn’t even bother with those bothersome barrios East of the river. This is what your “fluid” geographical lines accomplish, Mr. Journalist.
Ahh, but we do get a Q&A with some “Eastside” representatives obsessed with old junk, which they’ve strewn about in their messy living room! Oh you crazy kids. My frozen heart for your type has just thawed slightly. Mostly from rage.
What kind of boring title and cover is that? A lame one. Must be some crusty punk zine trying to slum it.
At least they found a few restaurants in the East. Not many though.
What’s with all those quotes on the Serenata paragraph? Let’s count!
“Don’t expect a burrito” – 1
“high-quality” – 2
“delectable” – 5
“affordable” – 6
“vary” – 8
“out-of-town foodies” (Ugh!) – 9
“trek” – 10
It’s like a haiku from a drunk blabbermouth. Maybe I should have read the “how to use this needlessly complicated guide” section, but who has time for such things?
WTF?!? They’re at it again.
“Home of the Hollenbeck burrito” – 1
“classic must” – 2
“challenge to finish” – 3
“small” – 4
“revered” – 5
“more for your money” – 6
“flavorful” – 7
“homestyle” – 8
“fast” – 9
“go early” -10
“waiting in line” -11
“don’t expect” -12
“family photos on the wall” – 13
Damn that sounds stupid. Plus they never mention that the place sucks.
What? You again? Why don’t you combine your boring guides into one that’s useful?
Ha ha! Well the Eastside didn’t cut it for the Nightlife guide, cuz yer not supposed to be here when the sun goes down, dontcha know. What about drinking in the cemetery? Getting chased out of “closed” parks? Oh, there’s nightlife on the Eastside, don’t you dare doubt it.
Aww, the newcomers vision of LA: surfers, Hollywood sign, Palm trees, while you cruise on PCH in your red convertible with your scarf (!) blowing in the wind. Pretty much the antithesis of my Los Angeles. But lets continue.
Well golly geez, no wonder! Their geography is all funny and fucked up!
LA East includes Beverly Hills, Culver City, West LA, UCLA, Mar Vista, Bel Air. Aww, well hello neighbors! I’m not your gardener, by the way. Boyle Heights is not on the map, but they include an arrow at the edge of the map to indicate its general vicinity.
Ah, yes. This is why we all love newcomers.
Oh wait, I guess we are actually in Downtown. But you can ignore this info because they make sure to make you think twice about living in the ghost-town, where only the homeless ghosts venture. Nice!
Yes, home of the “ethnically diverse” neighborhoods. They just don’t know how else to mention that the neighborhoods are full of OTHERS. Ooooooohhhhhhhh! Wooooooooaaaaahhhhhhh!
Let’s see what Fodor’s is up to. Disneyland and OC? Pics of some more movie based interests? Okay.
Woot! Off the map!
Ha Ha! Fucking jokers end up putting in some joke listings, just to get your goat. To the porta-potty with you!
Don’t let me down Lonely Planet, you’ve always been useful to me.
Aww, you lose. Huevos divorciados are separated by chilaquiles, and each of the eggs has a different sauce. I’ve had the Huevos divorciados at Liliana’s, and now I know you’re a liar. No wonder yer lonely.
What a disturbing cover. Oh well, I guess it suits the city. But let’s see how we fare in Frommer’s 2 years later.
Off the map! We defy you to find us!
Look at all the other fine parts of Los Angeles they manage to squeeze in. Even Bell makes a cameo. Eggcellent!
Plus it includes a confessional by the editor telling us how he’s from up North and he always looked down upon LA, – he even hated LA! – but now he has found a spot in his softening-out-of-necessity feeble heart to find the will to tolerate our city. Isn’t it awesome that he gets to showcase his ideas of Los Angeles?
So what does this book recommend as an itinerary if you had only 1 day to see LA? The “walk of fame”, Grauman’s Theatre, and a tour on a bus to see the fences and hedges of celebrities. Wot a waste.
Yet again, we make the special “ethnic neighborhood” feature. Woo. Hoo.
And that will conclude our foray into mostly shitty guidebooks written by even shittier guides.
Someone I know believes its good that the Eastside doesn’t get mentioned anywhere, to supposedly keep the Eastside hidden from the gentrifiers. I don’t think that is going to be possible. The lousy coverage our community receives presents an opportunity for folks to write about the city we know, the places we understand, the food we eat, in a manner that is worthy of our own style of documentation.
They ain’t shit, we can do better.