Favorite Things: Amok Bookstore


In my early years, I lived in Echo Park. I went for long walks with Amok Bookstore being my main destination. The folks who worked there never much talked to me or my friends but they didn’t hate us either like other Silver Lake shop proprietors who gave us the “buy something or leave” look.
We appreciated their selection of radical literature, strange music guides and bizarre ephemera. There were no hipsters in the 90s but if there were, they’d probably like Amok.

The original location was right behind where Casbah Cafe is now.

Plaza Baratillo

Plaza Baratillo, Guanajuato, GTO

The place of chard tamales and vegan gorditas. Where the fountain is protected from splashing children by an iron gate. Cold in the shadows but bright in the sun.


Los callejones are filled with secrets.

The Berlin Wall

The Ex – State of Shock (90s song by Anarcho-Dutch group)

Two days ago marked the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

I just happened to have a few pen pals in Berlin when the Wall came down. They sent me bits of the broken wall as mementos. Pieces with graffiti were more desirable so some entrepreneurs decided to start spray painting parts of clean walls and then breaking off chunks so that they could be sold internationally for a higher price. Strange. I bet Eduardo Galeano could re-write this paragraph and make it profound.

I have photos somewhere of the Wall being torn down sent to me by a pen pal.  I should find and post them.

East Berlin is now gentrified. The modern architecture lovers were turned on by all that boxy Soviet construction. Funny world we live in.

In Los Angeles, we don’t need walls. We have freeways, bridges and a big concrete river to keep us apart.


Found the photos! Please click to see a much larger image.






My Berliner pen pal who I met once when he visited Los Angeles. I don’t remember his name.

Coincidence, part two

Barcelona, 2001.

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

Just Married

Jessie and Atanasio Garcia, somewhere in Los Angeles, circa 1942

I’ve encountered a few mysteries among the many family photos my maternal grandmother has given me to keep. For instance, I’m curious about these souvenir Los Angeles snapshots. What area is this? My grandmother refuses to answer because she hates this photo and the last time I showed it to her, she insisted I tear it up. That’s her in the photo with our family patriarch, my grandfather Atanasio. They had recently married.
If anyone can identify the area, I would be most appreciative.

Latin Playboy


I’ve driven down Cesar Chavez/Brooklyn Ave in East LA hundreds of times and always pause to take a look at this old bar. Something about the place intrigues me. Every year another letter falls.

dérive: san francisco to south san gabriel


dérive: san francisco to south san gabriel

Last weekend, I participated in a group dérive around San Francisco. We wandered between various SF bars, restaurants and other places. Meeting places were designated every three hours (it was an ambitious 24 hour derive) and in each place a few new people would appear. It was quite fun. Most people naturally walked their way through the city. We being true to our Los Angeles roots jokingly referred to our mobile method of getting around as a derive minus the “e.”

Allowing oneself to wander through the city to encounter unexpected experiences is a very attractive way to spend the day. In fact, today I had one such amazing experience. I met the most extraordinary man purely by chance and by merely asking him a simple question. In a cul-de-sac, a block away from my family home on a street I haven’t visited since I was in the eighth grade, I discovered a surprising bit of wild space and more impressive, an old man and his backyard Shangri-la.

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