The wonders of the Inland Empire.
Like a lot of other Lincoln Heights residents, I’ve moved from one rented house to another, sometimes moving one house down from the previous, sometimes one block over. All of my neighbors did the same and we’d often find ourselves neighbors again on a new street.
It seems we are all pretty settled now, our wandering ways curbed by the bad economy and the tight rental market. When we do move, it’s due to a reason not of our own choosing: eviction, gentrification and the other assorted maladies that affect the landless class.
It was in one of these houses I found this photo. I’m fairly certain it was the 1907 Craftsman house on Griffin Ave. I do remember finding the photo right when we moved in, maybe behind a drawer, in a door jam or under the carpet we pulled out. It was a treasured find which I taped to the wall as a tribute to the families that once made the house their home.
Five Feet High and Rising-Johnny Cash
“How high is the water mama?”
It wasn’t difficult to find this house in Guadalajara, the former home of my great-grandmother Sara Ybarra Ramos. She never knew I existed and I knew nothing of her until my father shared some family letters with me earlier this year. But now, I have this connection to her – we have both traversed the same pavement, 70 years separate our footsteps.
(Light posting due to a long needed vacation in Mexico)
November 9, 2009
You might’ve noticed the picture now is of a different house. I went back to the house to find more information and to ask around if anyone had information on my family and realized I had the wrong house. It was on the same street and the correct number but the street name had changed. Luckily, the correct house was only blocks away and interestingly, near the city courthouse.
My great-grandmother’s old house is now rented by a friendly social justice lawyer who recently took over the space and plans to rehabilitate the building as it is in extreme disrepair. Neither he nor the abarrotes across the street knew of any Ybarra families in the area. The lawyer did mention something about chocolate…
Front hallway of the building
It’s rare to have photographs of people at work, that’s why I was quite excited when I came upon this photograph of my Grandfather Atanasio in work mode at Hobbs Battery Company. He is the first worker on the left. I don’t know too much about his work at the battery shop. I know he also worked at a company called Smallcomb Electric.
What I love about this photograph is it seems to have captured the various personalities of these men, they look to be so different from each other. It’s almost as if the photo was staged. Who is the mysterious Zoot Suiter in the hat? Most striking to me is the fellow with the upturned collar. He looks to be a heartbreaker or the workplace snake. There is the double-headed ghost man and the White guy stuck in the shop full of Mexicans, perhaps he was the boss? The curly-headed worker filling the batteries with toxic goo looks to be the clown, the payaso quick with the jokes and biting comments. My grandfather is so fresh faced here, slightly dazed as if he slept in a little too much. He was probably the one who’d tsk Mexican style while waving his hand away in a sharp motion and saying “Ay, estas chingaderas!” But in the next minute would crack a smile and think about the beer he’d be having at quitting time.
My uncle has been cleaning out the last of my grandmother’s things and recently handed me a big Danish cookie tin containing forty years worth accumulation of my grandmother’s junk drawer. In the jumble of rusted paper clips, plastic stirrers and other flotsam was this badge from the Hobbs Battery Company. What a find! I pleaded with my family to never throw any of my grandmother’s things until I have gone through them for this very reason. I imagine this badge was long forgotten.
A photo of my great-grandmother Matilde taken somewhere in Los Angeles, perhaps Echo Park. Her heavy coat suggests the photo was taken in the winter.
Although, she died long before I was born, something about her smile seems familiar and knowing. It’s as if I can tell exactly what kind of person she was through this photo: spunky, warm, mischievous, responsible and independent.
She died in her 50s and quite tragically of a heart attack. It was told to me that this heart attack came after she received a error ridden phone bill of an extremely high amount. Her second husband was never told of the phone bill because the family believed if he knew this was the cause of her death, he would have gone to the phone company and killed someone!
I was told they were very in love with each other.
Just moments before this photo was taken, my friend and I remarked that there was so much graffiti on the walls of Barcelona that we might even spot a Chaka tag. Coincidently, a few blocks later and causing a great deal of astonishment, such a tag appeared.
“Coincidence on the other hand, is total freedom, our natural destiny. Coincidence obeys no laws and if it does we don’t know what they are. Coincidence, if you permit me the simile, is like the manifestation of God at every moment on our planet. A senseless God making senseless gestures at his senseless creatures. In that hurricane, in that osseous implosion, we find communion. The communion of coincidence and effect and the communion of effect with us.”
–2666 by Roberto Bolaño