About chimatli

In the fourth-grade, I won second place in the Humphreys Elementary School poetry contest. It's been all downhill from there.

South Gate Gardens

Click image to read the “building restrictions” reference to racial covenants

It’s hard to imagine Los Angeles as it had been before we imposed this haphazard city upon it’s landscape. The indigenous people of Los Angeles, the Tongva/Gabrielino (Great Chengiichngech! Which is the proper term?) had the right idea in regards to the local geography: small villages located near running bodies of water and plenty of nearby sustainable food sources, like wild greens, roots and acorns for foraging and small game like fish, deer and rabbits. Yes, they too altered their environment, but in a sustainable and harmonious way, what’s sometimes called “paradise by design.” I try to imagine this Los Angeles when traveling through my Lincoln Heights neighborhood (home to one of these original settlements): small villages surrounded by wild rambling vines of berries, meandering creeks and in the distance roaming bears scavenging and clawing up the rich clay soil while hunting for rodents. Unfortunately, the asphalt and concrete often suffocate my imagination and I abandon my daydreaming. Once in a great while though, my mind can conjure up the ghostly images of long-gone leafy green alisos and for a brief moment this supersedes the vista now taken up by beige stucco apartment buildings and car repair shops. I’m romantic like that.

I tried to use this same sense of imagination to see the southeast city of South Gate as the edenic, fertile plain described in the memorial booklet South Gate 1776-1976 a publication produced by the city of South Gate to commemorate their 1976 bicentennial. By the way, the 1976 date is a bit of a stretch, it commemorates European settlement. The official date for cityhood is 1918. Prior to 1864, the land had been part of Rancho San Antonio owned by Don Antonio Lugo (a mural depicting Lugo’s Old Californio lifestyle can be found at 7141 Pacific Blvd. Huntington Park). Before Señor Lugo came riding in with his vast hordes of cattle, the area was called “Tibahagna” and “Ahau” by local indigenous people.
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North Spring Street Bridge Meeting

Tomorrow night is a meeting concerning proposed changes to the North Spring Street Bridge. It’s true, the bridge could use some improvements but I hope completely replacing structure is not one of the changes being proposed (the video doesn’t make it entirely clear). I’m also concerned about the block of historically significant buildings at the foot of the bridge near Los Angeles State Park. There was talk that these buildings would be destroyed in the bridge widening process. I certainly hope this proposal is off the table.
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Sidewalk Stamps 2

A collection of sidewalk stamps I’ve photographed on pedestrian dérives around Boyle Heights. There are a few from Hollywood (Greenfield), Alhambra (A.E. Cook, C.B. Stratton) and Echo Park too. Exact locations have not been documented.

For more on sidewalk history, see previous posts here and here.

Long live The Walking Class!

Los Angeles Riots: 19th Anniversary

Anger over verdicts at Parker Center, Downtown

Every year I post this small reminder of what happened in Los Angeles 19 years ago today. And well this event has been explored, analyzed and written about over the years, I often feel like the whole story hasn’t been told. The story of the people who actually participated in the events or uprising or riots…whatever you want to call them. So here’s your space to share your stories, remembrances and reflections. Or perhaps even predictions for future similar events here in this city. The conditions seem about right.

Poly Styrene RIP

Poly Styrene’s Talk of Toytown

*A few people recommended I share this post I wrote yesterday on the chimatli blog. It’s a tribute to one of my musical heroines, Poly Styrene. Sadly, she passed away Sunday in Sussex, England.*

Poly Styrene (Marianne Elliot Said), singer and songwriter for the 70s punk band X-Ray Spex passed away yesterday from breast cancer. I don’t often feel emotional about the deaths of celebrities and musicians but X-Ray Spex and Poly Styrene were such a looming musical presence in my teenage years that I can’t help but feeling the loss of this amazing musician.

I spent a good chunk of my early teenage years hunting down the music of X-Ray Spex. It’s not like nowadays where I find the most obscure songs, things I’ve been looking for for years, ready to download in a matter of minutes. In the 80s/90s being a music lover required much more patience.

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The Little Burglars of Lincoln Heights, 1906

Not the little boys from Lincoln Heights but a reasonable representation

There have always been “juvenile delinquents” on the Eastside. As the years have gone by, perhaps the ethnicity of the children has changed but the acts are the same. Kids get bored, they experiment, they are curious, they want things and figure out various ways to acquire the articles they seek. A phenomenon common to all humans. Sadly for these little burglars, their names and addresses were printed in the Los Angeles Times for all to see. Worse, the newspaper mocked their common predicament by stating: “This is the saddest time of their lives.”

They All Ran Off With Pocket Knives and This Is the Saddest Time of Their Lives.
Los Angeles Times, May 24, 1906

Three small boys, none of them over thirteen years of age were charged with burglarizing the Griffin-avenue schoolhouse. The three lads have made a full confession. They are Miles and Earl Vaughan, aged 13 and 10 years who live with their parents at No. 248 at South Gates street. Their father is a switchman with Southern Pacific.
The third and smallest member of the trio is Eddie Crist, aged 9. He lives with his parents at No.516 South Gates Street. His father is a carpenter. The boys were arrested and taken to the East Side Police Station and later removed to the Detention Home.
According to the story the three lads tell, they were playing in the yard of the schoolhouse Tuesday morning It was a holiday, owing to the Fiesta parade, and no one was in the building. They pushed on the door of the building and the lock gave way.
Once inside they made a thorough search through the rooms and say they took a number of pocket knives and fountain pens. Little Eddie Crist says he only took one pocket knife. The other boys admit taking several and some fountain pens. Their only excuse is that they wanted the articles. The lads will have to face a charge of burglary in the Juvenile Court.

Article courtesy of the Los Angeles Times, all grammar and punctuation are from the original story.

Support for Wyvernwood

Los Angeles City Councilman Jose Huizar came out Thursday against a $2-billion proposal to raze nearly 1,200 apartments in Boyle Heights and replace them with shops, offices and new homes — some of them in high-rises as tall as 24 stories.

Appearing with tenant activists and historic preservationists, Huizar said he would fight efforts by Miami-based Fifteen Group to demolish the Wyvernwood apartments, which house an estimated 6,000 residents in 153 buildings.

Read whole article here.

The Fight for Wyverwood, in depth look at the issues here.

24 Hour Party People

Lynwood Ditch Party

“Tonight, Fox Undercover shows you what is clearly one of the most objectionable acts of the party crews, the ditch party…”

Thanks to LA Eastside reader DJ Mr Ed for recommending this link. We posted it on our Facebook page last week and were surprised when some of our readers said they recognized people in the video. Do you?

As exploitive as Fox News was of Latino youth and our subcultures in the 90s, it’s kinda nice, 20 years later, to have some documentation of the DIY Eastside and Southeast LA backyard party scene. Interestingly, they never infiltrated the punk backyard gig scene of the same era, maybe it’s cause punks are a little smarter. Yeah, I stick by that statement.

This video also confirmed my suspicion that the “rebel” look (only a few guys in the video below have the rebel look – there’s more in the above clip) was just one incarnation of an enduring style on the Eastside, a gradual morphing of 80s rockabilly into rebel into swing/rockabilly into psychobilly and finally, into present day greasers. The look never really died. In the 90s, the pompadour and James Dean chic was a style reference to artists like Dave Gahan from Depeche Mode. A quick aside, everyone talks about the prolific “Mexican Morrissey fans” but in the 90s, it was Depeche Mode who sold out the Rose Bowl. They were more famous here than anywhere else (“These guys are god over here!”) and even inspired a riot at a local album signing. A huge part of their fan base were Latino/Chicano kids. Naturally, young folks would emulate this look and these folks were called “rebels.”

How about you? Do you know someone who has rocked a pompadour and creepers for more than twenty years?

The Rebel Party Scene

“It’s a Saturday night house party in Huntington Park. Strobe lights color an evening of dancing, drinking and dope smoking. Here, boy comes to meet girl in a ritual as old as time…”

Dayglo World

X-Ray Spex-The Day the World Turned Dayglo

Stock up on those potassium iodide (KI) tablets and eat more seaweed because there just might be some radiation hitching a ride on the jet stream and headed towards the Eastside (and the rest of the West Coast) and iodide might be your only protection.

LA Weekly breaks down the various scenarios and the likelihood of radiation making it’s way here. Link.

Jet stream animation with projected movement and timeline, here.

Just remember, according to the Center for Disease Control’s pamphlet on the use of potassium iodide tablets:

Taking a higher dose of KI, or taking KI more often than recommended, does not offer more protection and can cause severe illness or death.

Okay? So don’t go crazy.