Eastside 101: Off The Map!

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 old  “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
“spectacular” -3
“tantalizing” -4
“delectable” – 5
“affordable” – 6
“colonial” -7
“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
“real” -14

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.

A link to all my Eastside 101 posts.

22 thoughts on “Eastside 101: Off The Map!

  1. “Cuz nobody cares unless they care about you. Nobody cares what the nobodies think.”

    Unfortunately, this city seems to be overrun with big fish who escaped little ponds. All that excess ego seems to create the kinda thinking you mention above.

    “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.”

    And yet it’s these folks who get the writing gigs, the grants, the spaces and media outlets to document their alienated “L.A.” experiences.

    Excellent post!

  2. I was hoping for a guidebook in spanish, to see whether Pacific Palisades would be represented there as an ethnic conclave…

    Thanks for the post (although I *like* El Tepeyec)

  3. How much of a place is made-up by media itself? If no one read, watched, listened to, or had an opinion on a place, how much of the place would be left? Isn’t a place created by the experiences, mindset, nostalgia and beliefs of each individual? No place is the same for more than the individual, ¿que no?

    My sisters and brother and I grew-up in the same house, with the same parents, in the same neighborhood, yet the place itself is very different for all of us and we turned out to be very different types of people as adults. So whatever anyone writes, takes pictures of, criticizes or adores about my home turf means nothing because it is my own reality not theirs.

    Guide books target a specific clientele and are used by a specific type of person for a specific end. LA is what I make it not what others say it is. And anything they say changes nothing in my experience and beliefs. It’s all a matter of semantics.

    Thanks for the “filosophizing”, Chavo it’s fun to do.

  4. GOOD.
    Keep ELA off the map. every time I see some dude wearing his girlfriend’s jeans riding a “fixie whip” down fig I get pissed.

  5. This is very strange. I don’t even really consider SL or EP to be true eastside- they are pretty central to downtown. But please tell me, how in the world did someone thing Beverly Hills was anywhere near east?

  6. “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.”

    It is the narrative style that is applauded and adhered to since it implies the age old ‘pioneer’ coming to the big city or new world, and “my how their wide eyed observations are so keen and deep!”

    The new comer narrative be it: Columbus’ OR Jake’s (formerly Jacob) from Whocares State, reinforces the you can go forward and lay claim to anything you wish because it is all just open frontier for you to conquer and get your riches from.

    I will keep writing about mine and not care if ‘they’ know or not. They won’t get it anywayzzz, nor will they be around for long. They will fade and we will still be here ever growing and changing this place whether ‘they’ know it or not.

  7. Today abstraction is no longer that of the map, the double, the mirror, or the concept. Simulation is no longer that of a territory, a referential being or substance. It is the generation by models of a real without origin or reality: A hyperreal. The territory no longer precedes the map, nor does it survive it. It is nevertheless the map that precedes the territory – precession of simulacra – that engenders the territory.

  8. I found a 1999 Fodor’s Los Angeles guide that I had. Nothing in there about East LA or the East Side, not even in the index. This was in prehistoric times, when hipster pioneers hadn’t yet planted their flag in Silver Lake and declared it the East Side.

  9. Hey troll! The Wishire Country Club? That’s good but first read the “members only” dress and conduct code, then go down the street and take a long walk accross the La Brea Tar Pits. In a couple thousand years maybe some anthropologist will dig up your scrawny bones, examine your puny skull and figure out “what make your little head so hard”.

  10. wow. travel writing is bad. your HR reviews are written better than the restaurant reviews in these guidebooks that seem like an extension of the l.a. focused magazines.

    that said, it always saddens me when i know someone from out of town in the city who *just* wants to go to disneyland, hollywood and the beach.

  11. Historically, Chicanos and ELA have gotten the short end of the Churro when it comes to how were presented in national and global travel guide entries. The tourist ads from the 30s-50’s depicted us as quaint and docile natives dressed in Spanish Flamenco style performing our hot-blooded exotic dances and serving spicy food dishes. Although for many years Mexican restaurants and culture here were labeled as “Spanish”. Great post. Thanks for showing what I’ve thought for years. 🙂

  12. Another place to check is wikitravel’s article on LA. I deleted a reference to ela as “a place to avoid any time of night or day” but the site still lacks a true article on east Los Angeles. The site is a useful resource I tap when traveling and it would give you your chance to write an appropriate article for the area.

  13. Al, I’ve noticed those quaint depictions of our culture in old books on Los Angeles. I have to give it to them though, at least they mention us! Despite their misguided representation of our culture there at least seemed to be a bit of respect for our communities, unlike now. You can watch a movie that take place in Los Angeles and there’s not one single Latino. That always amazes me!

  14. what has never ceased to amaze me is that they continue to say east l.a. is “a place to avoid any time of night or day,” yet have no trouble directing people to shitholes like hollywood boulevard or the venice boardwalk as thee places to go, day or night.

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