Lit Rail

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Photo courtesy of The Figurehead

In 2008, I wrote the self-indulgent post below, the re-telling of an anxiety driven dream. At the time, I was skeptical of the fabled “Subway to the Sea,” I thought it would never be finished. There was much resistance to the trains/subways crossing certain areas of the Westside. Wealthy residents complained of noise and traffic issues, all the usual NIMBY stuff. Many of us felt like the resistance was really rooted in not wanting the train to deliver teeming masses of urban folks into their neighborhoods. Funny, how much has changed since 2008. For one, the teeming brown masses of the city are increasingly being pushed to the margins of the County, and out of the urban core. Most of the neighborhoods currently being gentrified are neighborhoods along the new train lines.

A couple of years ago, I went to a house flipping workshop, out of curiosity and to chuck tomatoes and rotten eggs at the pompous house flippers (not really, sadly, I behaved). The house flipper or rehab investor or whatever professional euphemism is in use, explained how he looks for homes that run along the Gold Line. His target homebuyers were hipsters wanting to live near train lines, not so much for transit purposes but because it gives them identity. He said, they want to know they can “drink in Downtown bars and catch the train home.” Doubt they are using public transit, most likely it’s uber or lyft. The only drunk people using public transit are the same drunk people that have been using it. This is not Berlin. Our current transit system was developed to help move people, workers, across the city but those workers are being displaced from their neighborhoods, and replaced by casual transit riders. Metro ridership is down.

8 years later and you can now take a train, the Expo Line, to Santa Monica from Boyle Heights (you have to switch trains, but still). The Purple Line, the O.G. “Subway to the Sea” won’t make the coast until, maybe, 2035. Guess we can’t complain that the Expo Line takes about an hour for the crosstown trip, at least it’s not a hologram.
I’ll be back in 8 more years with the next part of this story.

From 2008:
It was sometime in the future, I had recently returned to Los Angeles after a long absence. I was pleased to discover not only had the Gold Line been finished but I was told the subway to the sea was also completed. I entered the Gold Line station at Mariachi Plaza in Boyle Heights hoping to get to the ocean. Around me the station teemed with thousands of Brown folks. I followed the masses down escalators, assuming they were headed to the platform where I could catch the train to the beach. The escalators kept going down, down, down and then I ended up wandering through a complicated Escher-esque maze of escalators and tunnels. Finally I could see this intense bright, light coming from the floor I was heading to. As the view became clearer, I see the ocean, so brilliant blue, the sand, the palm trees swaying and I can feel the ocean breeze. At a railing, Latino families stand admiring the vista and smiling. As I get closer, I make a shocking discovery. It’s not the ocean at all but a giant hologram, an extremely realistic simulation of the beach. No one around me seems to notice and I feel like that character in the Twilight Zone episode where a woman is yelling to the humans boarding a spaceship to another planet that the alien book titled “To Serve Man” is a cookbook not a manual for the betterment of humankind. I feel incredibly disappointed and let down. Worse yet, I look over and notice in between the teeming tunnels and escalators are stands for every fast food chain and long lines of people waiting to order.
Keep dreaming Los Angeles.

Buñuelos


Eaten in Queretaro, QTO. Mexico

My great-grandmother Guadalupe Nuñez Martinez from Pastor Ortiz, Michoacan and founder of Las Guadalupas de San Antonio de Padua Church in Boyle Heights was the queen of buñuelos at the church ferias. Around Christmas time, every countertop in her tiny cottage kitchen would hold stacks of them. They towered over me like skyscrapers made of sugar.

Darela Mansiones

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I came across this 8 1/2 x 11 photo of my mother while helping her clean the house the other day.

I hope she doesn’t mind me secretly spiriting it away for use on this blog. It’s such a lovely image, she reminds me of Anna Karina or I think Anna Karina has always reminded me of my mother. No one in my family reminds me of Serge Gainsbourg, that’s probably a good thing.

Perhaps it’s the size of the photo or the starlet affectation of her pose that inspired the joke note to my father (her boyfriend at the time) written on the reverse. Or maybe every young woman that grows up within sight of the Hollywood sign harbors a secret desire to be famous.

Continue reading

Grandmother of the Year

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My great-grandmother in the red cape. Boyle Heights, 1975

Of all my family photos, this is definitely one of my favorites. It is of my great-grandmother Guadalupe Martinez (originally from Pastor Ortiz, Michoacan) at a presentation in her honor. She won out over the other women (presumably, her court) to be crowned “Grandmother of the Year.” According to family stories, the other ladies weren’t too happy about losing. It’s kinda apparent, no?
The dance took place at the CSO Center on Brooklyn Ave (Cesar Chavez) across the street from San Antonio de Padua church. I imagine my great-grandmother’s revered role as the founder of the Guadalupana’s club at the church and provider of the feria tamales and bunuelos contributed to her anointment. Strangely, her involvement with this church would benefit me even after her death and in the most unlikely of ways.

I love the band. You can just make out their name, The Fairlang, artfully done in the infamous Mexican Blackletter.

Transit Dream

venice-beach.jpg
Photo courtesy of The Figurehead

It was sometime in the future, I had recently returned to Los Angeles after a long absence. I was pleased to discover not only had the Gold Line been finished but I was told the subway to the sea was also completed. I entered the Gold Line station at Mariachi Plaza in Boyle Heights hoping to get to the ocean. Around me the station teemed with thousands of Brown folks. I followed the masses down escalators, assuming they were headed to the platform where I could catch the train to the beach. The escalators kept going down, down, down and then I ended up wandering through a complicated Escher-esque maze of escalators and tunnels. Finally I could see this intense bright, light coming from the floor I was heading to. As the view became clearer, I see the ocean, so brilliant blue, the sand, the palm trees swaying and I can feel the ocean breeze. At a railing, Latino families stand admiring the vista and smiling. As I get closer, I make a shocking discovery. It’s not the ocean at all but a giant hologram, an extremely realistic simulation of the beach. No one around me seems to notice and I feel like that character in the Twilight Zone episode where a woman is yelling to the humans boarding a spaceship to another planet that the alien book titled “To Serve Man” is a cookbook not a manual for the betterment of humankind. I feel incredibly disappointed and let down. Worse yet, I look over and notice in between the teeming tunnels and escalators are stands for every fast food chain and long lines of people waiting to order.
Keep dreaming Los Angeles.

I know it’s totally self-indulgent to share dreams but I was reminded of this one after reading a subway to the sea discussion on LA Eastside.