Monday, November 30, 2009

A City of Amateurs

These days I do most of my online writing with The Undeniables. I often find myself writing about Los Angeles. Thought I'd share something here that I wrote recently:

A City Of Amateurs

The driver looked at her in the rearview mirror. “So where are you from?”

“Los Angeles,” she said. On yet another business trip to New York, Taylor prepared herself for the typical New Yorker critique of her home town. She heard the same complaints about LA being glitzy, superficial, and materialistic over and over again throughout her travels, and she prepared herself to defend the city yet again. There were parts of LA that few outsiders understood, and some inhabitants never found.

“Ah, LA.” The driver sighed.

Here it comes, Taylor thought.

“Kinda miss it. When you think about it, people trust each other a lot out there.”

Slightly bewildered, Taylor asked “What do you mean?”

“Well out here most people leave the driving to the pros, like me. To the delivery guys and whatnot. All their trust is in the trained people and the–well, the train operators. Out there in LA, people get into cars every single day and everyone has some degree of faith in the skills of the other drivers. I mean when you think about it, it’s 90% amateurs operating two-ton or heavier machines to get all over the city.”

“I’ve lived there all my life and never thought about it exactly that way,” Taylor said, “but you’re right. That is a lot of trust.”

“I think about going back sometimes, but the taxi franchises out there are killer. Maybe in a couple of years the LA Taxi Workers Alliance will get somewhere and I’ll give the city another go.” The cab came to a slow halt. “Here we are. $7.60.”

Taylor handed him a ten. “Thanks. It was good talking to you. Maybe I’ll get this cab again sometime.”

He smiled, “Yeah, maybe. Maybe in LA.” And he winked.

Written 23 November 2009.

My life currently has me spending time in East LA, the South Bay, West LA, and Long Beach, with some Orange County and West Hollywood thrown in from time to time.

This means I drive. A lot.

Driving is so much a part of our lives in Southern California that we don't think much of it. It's not a big deal to have a license. It was while driving that I realized how much trust we have on the road. Of course, we're always on guard in case something goes wrong, but for the most part, we have to trust (to some extent) that the people in the cars around us know how to drive properly, or none of us would ever get on the road.

I wonder what that says about us, and the Southern Californian mentality, that we trust each other to get in our cars and generally not do anything crazy. That day in and day out, we drive miles and miles to get to where we need to go with some degree of faith that the dozens or even hundreds of other cars aren't going to kill us (though we do worry about it).

It's kind of amazing.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Backlash of UC Regents Decision to Raise Fees 32%

At least one student tasered at UCLA:

52 arrests at UC Davis:

Strike at UC Berkeley:

UC Irvine student shells out 3 months' rent to give out "First Last-generation college student" shirts:

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Last Tuesday Night Cafe of 2009

TNC runs from Spring to Fall. Stock up on the goodness for the wet winter ahead!

120 Judge John Aiso (San Pedro, between 1st & Temple)

Thursday, September 24, 2009

23rd Street Cafe Has A New Look

When I was working at ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives, 23rd Street Cafe was one of my go-to spots for a quick lunch. The cafe offers Mexican, Indian, and American food, all more than serviceable. Maybe good value make things taste better? I'm not sure, but you can take a look at 23rd's Yelp page for more opinions.

It has been nearly a year after I left SoDo and the Cafe is now under new ownership, but it seems to be the same great cafe with a slight, bright, cosmetic makeover.

The once-white walls have been replaced by a deep saffron and burgundy (?):

The sign above the door looks the same, perhaps slightly better-tended:

The fragrant, hardy rosemary bushes still line the outer patio area. (I used to pick off a sprig or two for cooking...shhh.)

As always, the mango lassi was fresh and tangy, and I was only able to finish one of the two large samosas I ordered ($1.99!).

It's good to see that some of the good things never change. West Adams may not be the fashionable district it was when LA was younger, but there are still many humble little jewels to be found there.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Visibility Project at Downtown Art Walk Tonight

What does the face of a typical queer Asian female look like?

The answer is, as demonstrated by Mia Nakano and Christine Pan with The Visibility Project, there is no answer. Their project is currently showing at Infusion Gallery and the opening reception is tonight-- all the more reason to check out Downtown Art Walk.
The Visibility Project is a collection of photography portraits that are part documentary, part activism, and all heart. Bold and beautiful individuals from the Asian & Pacific Islander queer women, transgender, and genderqueer communities have come forward to share their diversity and to be visible. By being visible and by being out, they increase their presence, their voice, their power in the culture at large. They self-represent. They are active and affected participants of social issues locally, nationally, internationally.
There is power in numbers and this project aims to capture images across the country to show that API queer women, trans, and genderqueer folk make up a viable, palpable community with limitless contributions to offer.
I heard about this project while I was traveling earlier this year and wanted to participate, but I was in San Francisco while they were seeking subjects in Los Angeles and vice versa. I'm looking forward to seeing the exhibit after having only browsed the online galleries.

Infusion Gallery
719 S. Spring St.
Opening Reception: Thursday, August 13 (6p-9p)
General Hours: Wed-Sat (12-6P)

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Serve & Protect... Who?

On July 21st, after leaving a lovely evening at Tuesday Night Cafe and then Weiland Brewery, my friends and I spotted a man laying face up on the sidewalk next to a car. We were on Traction, off of Alameda, and the area being what it is, the thought did spring to mind that this man could have been a member of the Skid Row community, but when he didn't respond to our multiple calls of "Hey man, are you alright?" we decided that the right thing to do would be to try to find him some help.

Being three women, we were worried about our own safety and decided to request help from those employed by our tax dollars. When I called 911 from my cel phone to seek help, I encountered an automated menu. We realized that it would be faster to just track down the police officers who regularly "patrol" in front of Starbucks and Yogurtland.

We pulled up behind two police cars and pulled the officers, I'm not sure whether there were four or six of them, away from a conversation they were having with civilians. They were reluctant at first, saying "He's probably just drunk," but they got into their squad cars--without asking us exactly where the man was. We followed them to Alameda, where they harassed a man who was obviously homeless and sleeping until we yelled to them "Not him! The guy over there!" and lead them to the passed out man we saw.

It was already frustrating at that point. What happened next was infuriating.

The officers approached the man on the ground, and one of them yelled "HEY NACHO!"

From inside my friend's car, the three of us watched in shock as the officers then began to kick him. We could hardly believe what we were seeing and were frozen. In hindsight, I wish that I had found the wherewithal to get out of the car and intervene somehow. When the man finally got to his feet, my friend asked the officers whether they knew him and they all shook their heads "No." The man got up and began walking east on Traction and we left.

This deplorable treatment of a man, a human being, by officers of the law was something that I don't think any of us had ever witnessed first hand before. What's worse is the sense of disempowerment we had-- we didn't challenge the police, we didn't know how to stand up to their authority.

What shocked me further was that beneath my initial shock with the officers' exhibition of racism in calling that man "Nacho" and their violent treatment of him, I was not entirely shocked. I even attempted to rationalize their actions-- they're desensitized because they deal with this sort of thing every day-- before coming to my senses: no one should be kicked awake or be subject to racial slurs, whatever their economic or social standing, and an officer of the law should be trained not only to hold a weapon but to treat people with dignity.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Free Healthcare Aug. 11-18 in Inglewood!

Anyone uninsured and interested in attaining some medical, dental, or vision care may want to know about RAM LA 2009:

The Forum
3900 W. Manchester Blvd.
Inglewood, CA 90305
Registration begins at 5:30AM daily

Taken from the RAM website:
The Remote Area Medical® (RAM) Volunteer Corps is a non-profit, volunteer, airborne relief corps dedicated to serving mankind by providing free health care, dental care, eye care, veterinary services, and technical and educational assistance to people in remote areas of the United States and the world.
The LA Forum website had more details about the event:
Our parking lot will open at 3:30AM and registration begins at 5:30AM daily. Services will be offered on a first-come first-served basis each day so please arrive early if you would like to be seen. Registration numbers will be handed out at 3:30AM when we open the parking lot. If you are being dropped off or if you are walking to The Forum we will also have a table where you can walk up and receive a registration number.
You may also call their line at The Forum @ 310-330-7310.
Please spread the word, not only to those who might want to get care, but to any medical professionals who may be able to volunteer. Information about volunteering is also on RAM LA 2009.

With the 3:30AM start time, it looks like they are (prudently) expecting a massive number of people. If your healthcare needs are not immediate but you are in need of assistance, LA County Helps might offer a suitable program.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Bicycle Kitchen Is Hiring!

I put my first road bike together last summer at Bicycle Kitchen. I'm excited to see that they've received a grant and will be able to hire someone to handle some of their operations (I imagine that with the increase in folks using bikes for transit, the workload was getting to be too much for volunteers to handle). It looks like a great opportunity and I am definitely considering applying myself. (Click here to read the full listing.)
The Bicycle Kitchen has been awarded a capacity building grant to hire one full-time staff person for one year. The OpsFac will support the organization's daily operations through a variety of administrative, financial and logistical duties, including inventory and processing donations. This position will interface directly with clients, volunteers and the community. The OpsFac will report to the Board of Directors and work closely with many members of the volunteer staff. 
The largest project over the course of the year will be creating an operations manual to streamline and standardize regular operations. 
I found the listing on, pretty much my go-to website for job hunting in the nonprofit sector. If anyone has suggestions for other sources, please, feel free to pass them along.) Congratulations, Bike Kitchen!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Out of Downtown

It has been eight months since I moved out of my little studio at 18th and Main, four and a half months since I returned from my traveling jaunt around the US and to France.

I've done a lot of readjusting in the last few months, and I don't know whether I am near finished yet.

The work that I do with the Tuesday Night Project has brought me back to Little Tokyo for various events and meetings, but I have spent precious little quality time in Downtown since the end of last year.

I wonder what happened to Rick, the man down the hall who moved back to Arkansas to be with his family. I wonder whether Julian is still the handyman there. I wonder whether the girl who emailed me about the building so long ago is still living there. I wonder whether the ratio of students to small families has changed.

I miss it. I miss the desolate corner of Washington and Main where the Da Capo buildings stand. I miss stopping in at Felipe's little store to pick up condensed milk and hearing him say "Be careful!" as I awkwardly maneuver my bicycle back out onto the sidewalk. I miss the sound of the traffic and the trains and the city at night. I miss looking at the city skyline from the rooftop.

I feel another transition coming, but I'm not sure where or when it will be. In the meantime, Downtown continues to change and grow and I can't help but want to take part in it.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

What I Do These Days

I am an intern for TN KAT/the Tuesday Night Project, which has been around Little Tokyo for the last 10 years:

We're throwing a HUGE celebration on Saturday, July 18th in hopes of raising enough funds to produce an entire season of 1st & 3rd Tuesday Nights at the Cafe:

Hope to see many-a Downtowner there!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Announcement Regarding Car-Freedom

Dear folks,

In the spirit of full disclosure, I must announce that I am actively seeking to end my car-freedom.

Since returning from my travels and relocating to Bellflower, the car-free life has become considerably more difficult. All of the things that I thought that I would be able to overcome-- the lack of transit service, the distance between places I need to go, the time issues-- have proven too much for me.

I got rid of my car because I felt that for car-free life to work in Los Angeles, there just had to be enough people who were willing to do it, to make the city change. LA's sprawl means that living outside of Downtown or Santa Monica is considerably more difficult to get where I need to go.

Of course, I plan to keep driving to a minimum and to favor cycling and public transit as my means of transportation.

To all the car-free folks: I am humbled by you.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Bike Summit at LA Trade Tech!

I am still traveling so I cannot attend, but you should go!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Great News! Nickel Diner Opens for Dinner!

I am currently traveling, but my friend in LA knew that I'd want to hear this wonderful news right away:

The Nickel Diner is now will be open for dinner from 6-11PM eventually!

(See comments for updated info.)

Perfect timing. I hope that business continue to boom and that by the time I get back, they'll be able to even stay open until late-night.

I am so happy for you lucky DTLA-ers. And for myself, because I can't wait to go back.

Hm, I wonder if they're hiring...