Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Bambu: Beach Cruisin'

I loved listening to this track from rapper/activist Bambu's second solo album "...i scream bars for the children..." as I biked around SoDo.

"Liquor store--church, liquor store--chicken shack, liquor store--church, liquor store--check cash" is such an accurate description of what a South LA neighborhood is like, and the reason why organizations like Community Services Unlimited, Inc., which provides nutrition education in South LA, are so important to the community.

Since first seeing Native Guns (Bambu, Kiwi, & DJ Phatrick) perform at the Students of Color Conference at UC Berkeley in 2006, I've been hooked to Bambu's lyrics and emphatic delivery. I have great respect for his dedication to LA and to Kabataang maka-Bayan, or Pro-People Youth, a progressive youth organization in Historic Filipino town which was founded in 1999 to "to raise the social consciousness of the youth to organize and mobilize in response to issues affecting our local communities, the oppressed people of the Philippines and other pro-people issues around the world."

Lots of good people doing good work in this town.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

What's In A Headline?

Within South L.A.'s killing zone, a haven from violence is about "a mile-wide area bounded by Hoover Street, Halldale Avenue, 73rd Street and 85th Street in Vermont Knolls [that] has had no homicides in the last three years."

The title of this recent article in the LA Times bothered me. A lot. It perpetuates the idea that South LA is a violent, terrible, scary place-- I'm not saying that the area is actually safe, but using this sort of language to talk about South LA does nothing to help dispel the lore of the neighborhood that made the City change the name from "South Central" to "South" LA.

The article itself delves into the ways that the people of that community have created a neighborhood where sometimes they "fall asleep with the doors unlocked because it's so comfortable" because there, "people keep an eye out." To know that an area like this can exist in South LA is definitely news that should be discussed.

The rest of the article, however, points out how dangerous the surrounding area is. It discusses the troubles that plague South LA: gangs, unemployment, lack of opportunity, violence. Then it ends with a story of a 17-year-old boy who was shot and killed, with the hypothesis that it happened because he refused to join a gang.

I don't deny that the facts are there. I can't take issue with facts. What I can take issue with is the way this article is arranged-- the way that it talks about South LA makes it sound like the "haven" in Vermont Knolls is a fluke, a stroke of good luck more than a result of people putting in time, energy, and effort into building a safer community.

Why did the headline have to say "killing zone"? Why wasn't it something like "South LA residents work together to create a safe zone in a troubled area"? Would something positive simply not garner enough interest in the readership?

Well, it got my attention, so the ploy worked. I'm still not okay with it.

I haven't lived in this supposed "killing zone," but calling it that isn't going to help the community get better. The article could have used Vermont Knolls as an example of possibility and hope for South LA, but it didn't. That's upsetting.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

5 Random Good Things

In no particular order, with no particular them, from my particular perspective, from my particular experience:

5 Random Things That Make Life In LA Good (note: (some of my 25 random good things might be associated with each other in some way. I can't help that. Good things beget good things. I have no agenda other than to share what has made my life in LA good.)

1. Tuesday Night Project. So, I am a currently a co-producer. Conflict of interest? Not really. This was on my list of reasons-LA-is-awesome since 2008, when I went to a Tuesday Night Cafe for the very first time. There are some pretty amazing people involved with TNP and I feel lucky to have been a part of it for the last year.

2. The Park's Finest. It's the sauce. The rub, the meat, those are great, but the killer move is the sauce. It has kick and it has coconut milk in it (I think-- and/or unicorn blood). There's not really any going wrong there. The owner/operator is Johneric Concordia, Resident Host of Tuesday Night Cafe and a member of

3. The Fighting Cocks. I have a soft and tender spot for independent bands that play good music with political lyrics. They play around Long Beach a lot and, yes, the band is one of TNP's Resident Artists.

At this point, it sounds like TNP has eaten my life. Well, it has enriched it immensely. There will be some non-TNP-related stuff in this list, I promise.

4. Papa Cristo's! I can't say the name without an exclamation point. There on Normandie & Pico may be found the falafel that ruined me for all other falafel, at least in California. It's been over a year since I had a falafel sandwich from there and I probably think/talk about at least once a week. I also liked buying Greek/Turkish coffee from there. Strong stuff, goes well with lots of sugar.

5. Random places like St. Vincent Court. There's so much yet-to-be-discovered-(by me)-quirk in this city. There's so much old and new mixed together and sometimes it's hard to tell which is which. I loved wandering through this place one sunny afternoon (after biking past it but not entering it one dark night), but I've yet to try out its breakfast/lunch offerings because I no longer reside nearby.

Since I talk about leaving LA so much, it'll be good to document these good things to explain to myself later why 1) I never left or 2) why I left and came back.

Now if only I could find a nice low/no-rent situation back in SoDo. If any of you (two or three, if I'm lucky) readers happen to have any ideas, please feel free to drop me a line.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Amor Fati; Los Angeles Lit Begins

As I was skimming over Craigslist for writing jobs in Los Angeles, I came across an ad for a new literary magazine seeking submissions, Amor Fati Literary Magazine. Its inaugural issue is set to print on Valentine's Day this year, and the deadline for submissions is February 1.
The theme is "POLYAMORY". Take it as you will.

Formats include ANYTHING PRINTABLE, such as short stories, poetry, prose, essays, philosophies, letters, one-acts, scripts, flash fiction, lyrics, recipes, photography, visual art, trickery, what-have-you, new or old.

This excites me.
AMOR FATI is a quarterly digest featuring the works of Los Angeles writers, artists and creatives.

In a city of disparate parts, our aim is to create an active platform for organic and challenging exchange that is not only reflective of this generation but brings a collective voice to an anomalous city.

AMOR FATI. The Love of Fate. Tell your story.

It's fascinating to think about the literary legacy in this city-- I don't think most people think of books when they think of LA, they think of television and movies. They think of Hollywood.

But there are also those who know about Charles Bukowski and his time in LA, those who know that he spent a lot of time on 5th & Main, the intersection called the "Nickel" where that cool diner is.

In 2009, Councilmember Jan Perry submitted a proposal to name the intersection of 5th & Grand "John Fante Square" after the author whose book Ask The Dust inspired Bukowski.

Bukowski's and Fante's writing inspired the two founders of The Writers Workshop, which I joined back in May 2008 and never looked back.

One of the books that gave me a revelatory experience was Southland, which took place in Los Angeles and was written by Nina Revoyr, who currently lives here.

When I was in Paris, it was Wait Until Spring, Bandini by John Fante that I picked up at Shakespeare & Company. I admit I had some romantic fantasies about the Lost Generation and expatriotism and following in Hemingway's footstops while I was there, but I just couldn't stop thinking about Los Angeles.

There is so much going on in this city. As a hungry young writer, it would do me good to pay attention to the literary scene here, something I've hardly done in the two-years I've been here.

To facilitate this, I'm going to start a series of posts called "Los Angeles Lit," in which I'm going to document literary experiences, events, publications this city has to offer.

Thanks, Amor Fati, for being the starting point.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Cort Guitar Workers Action Night of Music


Nanum Cultural Center
3471 W. 8th St. (super close to the Wilshire/Western Metro Rail station)

Cort Action is "dedicated to supporting the struggle of Cort and Cor-tek guitar manufacturing workers in Korea against their unjust mass firing." 

Haiti Needs Our Help

On Tuesday, Haiti was hit by a 7.0-magnitude earthquake. The destruction is incredible. Please help in any way you can, big or small. As little as $1 makes a difference.

A list of organizations from Disordered Cosmos:
I donated $10 to Partners in Health under the premise that if I'm willing to shell out $10-12 to get into some bar in West Hollywood, I can spare $10 to help relief efforts in Haiti.

Los Angeles Efforts:

The Los Angeles Fire Department Search And Rescue team, a partner of USAID is sending out a team today.

SOS Haiti Children's Village is accepting donations of food, water, and clothing at:

5440 N Tujunga Ave.
North Hollywood, CA 91601

Let us all do as much as we can, however small the act might seem.

Monday, January 11, 2010

El Sereno Branch Library

I've written many times about my appreciation for Central Library in Downtown, but I've neglected to give any branch libraries love. Let's right that wrong.

When I lived in El Sereno, I used to pass El Sereno Branch Library all the time, but I never made use of the facility. I always admired the building while on my way to somewhere else. 

I hung out there tonight while waiting to meet a fellow LA blogger for dinner over at A Taste of Brazil.

Neighborhood branch libraries are nothing like university libraries. Instead of a bunch of college students poring over their books, ensconced in their research, cramming for exams while guzzling Red Bull, there are kids getting help with their homework, working on group projects, learning to read for the first time. There's so much life.

I'm the kind that doesn't mind a little chaos around me while I work, I suppose. And as much as children scare me, they always give me a reason to smile, too.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Ruminations about LA

I wanted to write at least one more post for 2009, but it was not to be. I am a blogging slacker.

Though I am now a resident of Long Beach, this blog must go on. And I'm going to go on talking about LA because, well, that's what this blog is about.

I'm still here. Despite my wandering eye. Despite having had brief, sometimes torrid, affairs with various other cities in the last year, there is a part of me that wants to make this city home. That feels right calling this city home.

This poem by the founder of Tuesday Night Project captures something of the feeling I get about LA. The love I have for this city would not be as penetrating or complex as it is without the people I've encountered in it. True for any city? Perhaps. But the poem isn't about any city. It's about LA. So there.

Will I still be a resident of even LA County in ten years? Five? Even one year? I honestly don't know, but a part of me is pleased by the possibility.