Uncle ray

dads 80th_28

My uncle ray was a true veterano, a varrio legend. He escaped the oppressive climate that mexican indians endured in New Mexico in the 1930’s, as a young boy literally clinging to my grandma’s back. My abuela was his older sis, and she has  many a tale involving him being a baby tied to her back as they worked the fields in Nueva Mexico, then the central valle, then around the LA area.

Continue reading

Landscape Architecture 101

It sometimes is good to have friends.  A couple of years back I was doing some paperwork in my ranfla down by one of my favorite places to access the LA river (EC has to know this one) when something caught my eye:


Little neatly carved steps cut out of the clay earth that would easily be skipped by most.  Actually I skipped it for years, as I had been coming down here for decades and never noticed one of the places that makes LA so great.  So I got out of my carucha to investigate, because as many an Eastsider will tell ya: the river makes for good stories, even the most boring river moments are never dull.  As I walked over to the stairs I noticed a peculiar sign:


This is the edited sign that is more public-friendly.  The original one I first saw read “don’t piss, shit in bamboo fucken crackhead assholes, no rocks here,” or something to that effect.  By this time I was enamored, the socio-barrio-urbanophile meter in me was registering off the charts, which has never let me down.

Continue reading

What happened to Broadway?


I am kind of sick of all this gentrification speculation about the Eastside being white-washed. It will take a lot more Clorox and wood-fire baked pizza to change East Los than yuppies have yet to offer in the American Southwest, so I don’t sit at home biting my nails that Nana will be evicted (well actually, she won’t, the house was paid for by Tata’s VA loan for pre-storming Normandy in WWII).  Even so, chuppies (chicano yuppies, a.k.a.  chicanos with degrees) have already gentrified these areas, but they are ingrained in the cultura and still buy elotes, so it isn’t as much a hard fit (in fact, I would say the same about Whites who are genuinely down with these areas).  Not that the genuine concerns of locals doesn’t matter or isn’t valid, but I think we need to focus on the tangible changes gentrification has already brought to the Latinoscapes of Los Angeles, specifically the Eastside’s center of gravity: Downtown.


I am actually ALL for the demographic diversification of Los Angeles; even my beloved Eastlos with all its sheltered ethnic enclave delights.  The truth is the quality of life in East Los has degraded since its multicultural times of yore, and although ignorant pundits of conservative mantras have tried to pin it on Mexicans since the decline coincided with the rise in Latino immigration; it is much more obvious that the downward slide had much more to do with the middle class drain on the community that began with White Flight and continued with the ban on segregated housing covenants in 1955 (thats when my grandparents moved to the newer Maravilla housing tract on the Monterey Park/East Los border, as did many East Los middle class residents).  Along with the decline in more economically stable residents, came the decline and eventual outright withdrawal of Corporate America, and the amenities that come with them, from this area.  This decline in economic revenue as well as citizens with the resources to devote their extra time and energy to improving the community had a devastating toll on the community.

Continue reading

Mural painting in Cypress Park


I have mentioned that I paint murals to make up for karmatic wrongs and  have something to talk about at bus stops, maybe one day when i dont have 2 screaming monkeys keeping me from blogging I can elaborate.

Here are my 2 chongos, and their primos whom I am sole zuramaro of:


(PS, the trouble of taking this pic for tia/mama was the foundation for cleaning up Downtown on weekends when they get older, i primed them with LA river cleanups already)

 Me and my wife started a small nonprofit about 7 years ago that paints murals and promotes art awareness in working class comunities, blah, blah ,blah…

So Ive been busy the past week or so securing the permits and painting a mural regarding watershed and indigenous philosophy in Cypress Parque on Macon st. and San Fernando Road.  The mural theme is Tlaloc, the aztec deity of water, creating rain on the city of LA (behind tlaloc is map with the LA River and Arroyo Seco highlighted) which flows into the LA harbor.
Continue reading

Los Lakers


I love when the brown folks get their daps, in any way possible. Because of my busy schedule and lack of proximity to the Pico Indoor/ Del Amo/ Broadway shirt vendors (my preferred bootleg stomping grounds), I have been FEANING to grab a “Los Leikers” and/or “Los Doyers” jerseys, but have been fantasizing about them since I saw them in all their eastside prestige-glory. Mofos just be gloating in them, I had this one cat cold hold down a corner for me while I painted over gang tags (on my mural) sporting a new los doyers jersey, and he got mad props. I still have to get my son the thugbob shirt he’s begged for, maybe a family trip to the callejones is in order before a stroller is needed for baby #3.

Anyways, these jerseys were being used for beaner appreciation hour or whatnot (pardon my cynicism), and it was great to see Los Lakers in action, abuelo would have been proud. If only chick and stu had been casting and gramps’ keggerator was working (not that fratboy BS, a real keg mini-fridge), I wouldve been in heaven.

I saw a part of the game they had those jerseys on at a dive bar near my crib and it was hilarious (especially in terms of the demographics of the west SGV). there all these “americans of mexican descent” older brown folks there, perplexed at what angle they should talk shit from (pride muted by happiness is hard), and a group of young proffessional upwardly mobile asians giggling. The asian crew began a debate as to whether it should be pronounce “loss” or “lose”, which made totally made everyone uncomfortable. these are the times I live to be a part of, my humor being indulged with mass uncomfortablility stemming from cross cultural polination. Ahhh nirvana….

BTW, Im a big fan of brown hyperconsumption imposing itself on white Americana, when I dont have to think about its effects on brown communities.

Institutional Neglect precludes Social Dysfunction

Un viejito walking around boyle Heights with his clean up cart, one of many…

This whole gentrification issue got me thinking.  Commentor ubrayj noted his efforts to keep his Lincoln Heights neighborhood clean, and that should be commended.  That got me thinking about the million “mexicans leave diapers in the streets” comments I have heard and read from various folks (not that Ub-homeboy was saying that, but the convo got me thinking on the subject), led me to analyze the roots of so much litter and other Quality of Life (QoL) problems in our Latino urban neighborhoods and how they got to be what they are today.

I think the lack of public infrastructure such as Browne was talking about is THE big issue, even more than socially dysfunctional behaviors like litterbugs because it IS the catalyst.  Almost every social oriented planning class and/or policy maker meeting I have been in notes that social dysfunction always follows instituional.  It seems like if the people who study and analyze this problem recognize this aspect of urban QoL (quality of life) regression, that it would eventually make it out into normal convo on the issue, but it hasnt.  People still bitch about mexican and black communities “allowing gangs to exist”, yet when crime drops in those places the community is forgotten and only the police are commended.

Continue reading

Random Flicks in the Flats

Me and “the flats” have along history together (btw, that foto is from flickr). I lived there in the PJs for several periods of my life and had familia who stayed there as well until they tore down the projects, after we left I still came around to cause trouble, make money and pick up on girls as a “weekend warrior”. When they tore down the largest collection of projects on the west coast in the late 90s/early 2000s, they squeezed much of the barrio into the smaller more run down neigborhood between the Pico Gardens and Aliso Village complexes, helped push the existing gangs into other neighborhoods (which never disappeared) and made a lot of people angry and bitter. I have mixed feelings about this because the area was pretty rough and a concentration of trouble is a bad recipe, but for christ’s sakes they didnt even replace the new complexes with a competent number of low income housing units, opting instead to section 8 folks away so that their cholito kids can start up clickas in other complexes around LA, real smart. I believe they tore down 600 units from Aliso village alone and replaced it with 400 units, half of which were market rate.

A bit of history and info on this area: It was always a pocket of poverty since the pueblo days of LA. it was the low land between Boyle Hts and the LA River, and attracted poor immigrants, mexicans blacks and indios as the land flooded a lot, originally even the poorest farmers let their animals graze in the location. I didnt know until recently, but the flats actually was sort of L shaped and extended to the area where the Estrada Courts (VNE) projects lie, all at the foot of the hill starting boyle hts and east of the LA River. This area was carved up big time when the freeways, and specifically the East LA interchange, were built in the 50s, but in my world the flats went from the hollywood freeway (top of the Alisos) to the lower end of the Pico Gardens projectos (under the whittier blvd bridge). I read that back in the day molokkan russians also had a strong presence in the area, and up until the racial beefs of the late 80s/ early 90s, the projects were the only ones in East LA with a large black community (which had implanted a strong love for LA’s black culture and population in me that is sadly not present in a lot of Latinos).

So anyways, I took some flicks when I was down there recently checking out the goldline. I rarely stop by and say hi to the folks I knew, as that was the “bad me” part of my life and most of my maintained contacts were involving illicit activities or gang drama, things I now avoid as a soccer mommy. Here is the tip of my picture trove iceburg, maybe one day I’ll pull out my childhood project pics (which my mom had thought she destroyed years back out of the embarassment of the fact that we lived there, thats a whole nother story and therapy session).

Continue reading

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!

El or La Plumpy

I initially wanted to make a long topic about east LA, with some deep in depth crap about my life and experiences in the barrio, which kept me procrastinating about a good topic. Then I remembered in Eastlos many things are done on a whim in a half assed fashion, oftentimes through the guidance of los tall boys, so I decided to write about this pic and the subject of goofy nicknames and gangster monikers.

I took this picture in Maywood yesterday near Santa Rosa de Lima church on Atlantic, and I cannot figure out if the male or female is plumpy or temper. Either way both names are funny to me, I can just think of some cholo voice saying “damn fool, plumpy is hard” (or fine if she’s a lady). Because it seems like giving yourself/receiving a nickname that is derogatory about your obesity in gangster/street culture is usually a male thing (re: chubs, grande, chunks, gordo, fats, big bad hippo), I would assume Plumpy is the guy. The graffiti was written in a very playful non structured manner (which is usually by girls), and the name plumpy can be an affectionate title for a thick woman like when I call my wife gorda; and temper can also mean some cholo who likes to snap. But then temper also sounds like a girl’s nickname (I know I’m being stereotypical) too, which got me confused. Maybe they’re lesbians, or maybe people need less ridiculous and androgenous nicknames in Maywood. I assumed because the graffiti was written with a streak marker (ahhh the 1990s, remember Operation X?) that the culprits have some history in street activity, as that weapon is the vandals’ tool of choice; but then this is also on a corner between a church and a catholic grade school in a pretty nice street, so maybe it was some kids without the proper grounding in name creation. What do you think?

And while we’re at it, has anyone else noticed how cholo nicknames have gotten much less creative the past few gangster generations? I totally get the focus on clean cut simplicity in cholo culture, which is a culture that runs 3 generations deep in my family and I have known intimately since childhood, but the reduction in creativity with names I cannot understand. Back in the day cholos copied cartoon characters , mobsters and other media names in an ironic twist of labeling or they took on names like chino or triste that had some significance to their personality or physique; but nowadays you see more and more boring names like cholo, miner, lil gee, gangster, loco, g, criminal, thug, or even just their straight out real name. That’s lame,and even taggers are doing it now too to show how it has become an epidemic. I attribute it to our culture getting lazier and lazier, kids dont even go down to the LA river to ride bikes and explore shit because the PS3 is a waddle across the couch, that is sad. I used to appreciate the intelligent inorporation of one’s real name in their moniker, such as ern dogg (ernesto) or frisky (francisco); but now with this prevalent laziness I need to see some proof that the name was earned or I will categorize you with that lazy ass fool named thug who still listens to DMX.