Tag Archives: Los Angeles

Beans on shaved ice and chile on fruit

Shaved Ice + Azuki Beans

Sometimes I feel like when I moved to LA, I actually moved to a different country. Several countries, actually. Good thing I’m not running for President because at this point I am completely out of touch with middle America, at least culinarily speaking. I eat “meat and potatoes” literally once a year – when my boyfriend and I commemorate St. Patrick’s day with a special meal (note that neither of us are of Irish descent).

I’ve always been a California girl – I literally do not remember a time in my life when tacos, pad thai and sushi weren’t part of my basic diet. Since moving to LA, my eating has only gotten more adventurous.

I’m referring, of course, to dessert. This is where it becomes evident that people from different cultures don’t just eat different food; we actually have different palates.

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Filed under Food, Los Angeles, Uncategorized

A Love Letter to CicLAvia

My love for Ciclavia is a passionate love that defies words. I feel a bit like the people who were at Woodstock and now say things like, “You just had to be there.” That sounds like hyperbole, but I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that Ciclavia is a spiritual experience. You not only experience your own familiar city in a completely new way, but you have that experience side by side with thousands of fellow Angelenos from all walks of life. Whatever stereotypes you might have about what a typical “bike rider” looks like – put them fully and completely aside. Ciclavia is, quite simply, LA on a bike. Imagine driving on the 10 freeway or the 5 – but everyone is on a bike instead of in a car. There are no barriers between us.

Cruising peacefully for a Sunday afternoon earlier this month took on a special poignancy in the wake of the bombings in Boston. I believe in my head that most people in this world are good, loving, caring people – when I participate in Ciclavia, I feel it in my heart.

See what Ciclavia feels like in my short video (overlook shakiness at start). And yes, it really was that quiet.

Scenes from Ciclavia to the Sea, April 2013:

  • Three old guys sit drinking beer in their garage, watching the bikes go by. When I bike past them again three hours later, they’re still there. Just another Sunday afternoon.
  • The sounds of praise drifts out of corner Iglesia Pentecostal – a man in black pants and tie steps out with a bemused expression.
  • The sound of a young child’s voice belting out karaoke floats through the windows of a corner apartment building.
  • Two bikers go rogue and cut off the route – a middle-aged black man in full biking regalia complete with neon orange shirt and a middle-aged white mom in beach shorts. “I’m riding with my home boy,” she comments. He grins as they as they disappear into the neighborhood.
  • A girl and guy hipster with shades, skinny pants and ironic t-shirts blast some old-school Snoop Dog from a huge stereo affixed to the back of their bicycle built for two.
  • A 5-foot man on a makeshift stage blasts cumbia and salsa from giant speakers in front of a Salvadoran restaraunt pushing pupusas. According to his neon sign, he’s El Tremendo.
  • Two Rastafarians sing along to Bob Marley outside their pan-African thrift store calling to passerby to check out their wares.
  • A chubby 8-year-old Latino boy runs to catch up with his dad, carrying a white trash bag as big as he is. They’re collecting cans and bottles along the route.
  • A paletero with a huge straw hat strolls between several ladies grilling hot dogs on small carts next to the bike repair tent. The air smells of pork and jalapenos and the onions make your eyes smart.
  • A transvestite in coveralls is perched on top of a double-decker bicycle. “How do you do that?” someone exclaims.
  • A low-rider bicycle club hangs out by a gas station. I’m envious of their shiny bikes with their twisted chrome handlebars.
  • A fit man outfitted entirely in spandex is pulling a neon yellow cart for kids behind his bike – a small gray dog pops its head out, its ears blowing back in the wind.
  • A little boy pedals past sporting a fuzzy pink mustache.

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I’m going to the Oscars!

By which I mean, I’m going to the bleachers outside the Oscars!!! Sorry to mislead you there. If you’re thinking that doesn’t sound like such a big deal, think again, my friend.

Winning an Oscar puts you in an exclusive club – so does winning the lottery for a red carpet bleacher seat. There are only about 700 seats…and up to 200,000 applicants, putting your chances at about 1 in 286 (thank you, high school algebra). I would never know any of this, except that my boyfriend is somehow an expert on this shadow world.

Here are the eHow instructions.

In fact, he has applied for seats every year for the past decade, and 2011 is our lucky year! People are super hard core. This year, folks are coming from: Baltimore, Sydney, Buenos Aires and Finland! Not to mention West Hollywood and Camarillo!
For you poor unfortunate souls who are not among the chosen few, I will allow you to live vicariously through me and – don’t worry! – I will live tweet the festivities.
It all started with an email:
“Congratulations! You were chosen from our waiting list to fill a vacancy that has opened up in our Red Carpet bleachers for the 83rd Annual Academy Awards. In order to claim your seats, please read carefully the following instructions…”
These instructions involved filling out a background check form with my addressees for the past seven years (no small task for someone like me who has had about seven addresses in that time, including two in Mexico), and getting a passport photo at CVS (In mine, I look like a thug or maybe a mother who just drowned her three children – I hate you fluorescent lights!). Fortunately, we both passed the criminal background check and got our fan packets -yay!

Email #2:
“Hello Bleacher Fans!
We’re only a few weeks away from the Oscars! Attached you will find the following PDF documents:
· Information Packet with Arrival Time
· Parking Map
· Viewing Party Invitation
Please review all materials carefully. If you registered with a guest, he or she should have receive this email, with the same assigned arrival time.
Note: Your RSVP to the Viewing Party is required by February 11, 2011.
If you haven’t already, please join our official Facebook Group at XXXXX, exclusively for this year’s Bleacher Fans! Chat with us, connect with other bleacher fans, and stay up-to-date on all things bleachers.
And if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us!”

This email brought a few more surprises – namely that winning the lottery not only gets us a bleacher seat within spitting distance of the most beautiful people on the planet, but we also get to go to a viewing party at El Capitan…with free dinner! Awesome! As if that were not enough, there is also a secret Facebook group.

German and I have been participating fairly actively. The general tone of discussion ranges between extremely excited and breathless. Top topics have included other LA tourist activities, questions about logistics (Is this a nursing mom friendly place?) and predictions on who will win. Apparently an innocuous question about what to wear prompted one gentleman to suggest all the ladies should wear some really high heels, which set off a pretty intense exchange that was actually taken down. What happens when you bring together a random group of people from all over the world? Well, perhaps the show “Lost” could be illustrative. Think on it. Here are some voyeuristic screen shots.

Basically, we are pretty psyched to be so close, but yet so far, to the Oscar action this year. More fun updates coming soon…

PS – Is it a bad sign that the first title that popped into my mind for this post was “I’m going to the Oscars, bitches!” Apparently, my vocabulary has been completely co-opted by So Cal slang. “Grip,” “OMG,” and “LOL” have also been popping up with alarming frequency.


Filed under I heart Cali, Los Angeles

What you didn’t learn in school: My visit to the Japanese American National Museum

My introduction to the study of history was a little bit schizophrenic.

For five years of elementary school, I was led to believe the Christopher Columbus was a stand-up guy who came to help the Indians find God, that everyone came to America on a ship from Europe to till the unclaimed land was just waiting for them and that America is the best country on earth.

Then I turned 14 and our summer reading assignment was “Lies my Teacher Told Me.” Suddenly, my teachers were saying this Columbus guy was actually a greedy jerk and a bit of a nutcase who came and stole the Native Americans’ land, not to mention enslave them and beat them up.

Fortunately, I had an incredible professor in my first semester of college who led me to love history’s complexities and to delve into them first-hand, not relying on other academics’ telling of the past, but to drive down to the primary sources.

My favorite primary sources are people. This past week, I was very fortunate to hear history first-hand from Roy Kakuda, our incredibly capable docent at the Japanese American National Museum in Little Tokyo, near downtown LA.

I don’t say this lightly: the museum will change your view of American and Californian history. Roy was full of thought-provoking details – just a few of them:

  • Preparations to send Japanese-Americans to relocation camps were underway before the Pearl Harbor attack. (Reference: “Manzanar” by John Armor and Peter Wright)
  • The U.S. government orchestrated the deportation of over 2,000 people of Japanese descent from various countries in Latin America who were used to trade for American prisoners of war. As a result, 1,700 Japanese Peruvians were sent to Japan, a country many of them had never visited.
  • The 442nd Infantry, an almost entirely Japanese-American unit that fought in WWII, was one of the most highly decorated units in the history of the armed forces, with 21 Medals of Honor and more than 9,000 Purple Hearts. They also sustained a casualty rate of 280% – that is NOT a typo. Japanese-American soldiers were some of the first to come across the Jewish concentration camps at Dachau.
  • The U.S. government not only rounded up Japanese-American families; they tracked down orphans and children in the foster care system that were of Japanese descent and sent them to the relocation camps.
  • “When the U.S. Congress voted to pay reparations to those who were sent to the camps, Ronald Reagan, then the President, refused to sign the document. You will see that the original carries the signature of his successor, George Bush.” CORRECTION: I didn’t get this one entirely correct- see the comment below for clarification!

Of course, the detail he shared that our group will never forget is that he was one of the people who was forced to go to the relocation camps. He told us about his father’s success in America and showed us a photo of their beautiful new car. Then he showed us photos of his mother in a tailoring class in the camp, told us about the wood houses in which they lived. His family dug out an area under theirs and, as a little boy, he would nap there to escape the desert temperatures of over 100 degrees. He showed us his reparations check for $20,000.

At the end of his tour, he repeated his question from the beginning of the tour: Do you think this could happen to you?

As a little girl, I was taught that in America, everything is possible. After meeting Roy Kakuda, hearing of both his family’s incredible success and everything they went through in WWII, I believe that even more deeply. Incredible success is possible here – so is incredible injustice.

The Japanese American National Museum is definitely worth a visit – leave yourself plenty of time. There is a ton to see!


Filed under California history, Los Angeles

Look Ma, I’m on television!

Back in college, I remember reading a study on how rural communities were affected by the introduction of television. If you asked them, clearly they were delighted, but the anthropologist who wrote the study was, of course, troubled, observing that where the rural communities originally saw their town as the center of their world, when they started watching television programs taking place in New York, LA and London, their internal map shifted and they suddenly perceived themselves as living on the periphery of the action.
As someone who grew up in a small town, going on to college in Portland, OR, which is a city that is basically a small town, I’ve always merrily lived on the peripheries of the western world. It’s a nice place. A little secret I’ll let the New Yorkers in on: people have a lot of fun in places besides New York. Like Oregon and Nevada, which by the way are pronounced, Or-uh-gun and Ne-vaaaa-duh, NOT Or-uh-gone and Ne-vah-duh.
I’ll always enjoy tuning in to CSI Miami, 30 Rock and America’s Next Top model, but I’ve never minded walking out the door into a world I’ve never seen reflected on prime time television.
Since moving to Los Angeles, watching television and the movies isn’t quite the same. First of all, even if it doesn’t take place here, it’s probably filmed here. A casual drive through downtown will usually take you past some film shoot or another and my boyfriend is always pointing out popular shoot locations. Heck, I went downstairs from my office to get some Juan Pollo for lunch and the sign was covered up and there was a guy in a chicken suit parading before the cameras. The snarky hipster crew said the project was “confidential.” Brats.

Click here for an endless list of films set in Los Angeles.

The only movies that were filmed in Sonoma were a) a bit of Scream (awesome!) and b) scenes from The Animal. With Rob Schneider. They showed it during Sonoma Valley High School senior week and it brought together jocks, nerds and theater kids – we all agreed it was AWFUL.
Two days ago, I was watching CSI New York. They had found the potential killer and, gasp!, he was headed to the New York City music conservatory with toxic gas! Cut to well-heeled guests listening to chamber music…in the Biltmore Hotel in downtown LA. Busted!
It can be fun to have that flicker of recognition. 500 Days of Summer? I recognized almost EVERY scene, thanks in no small part to my several walking tours of downtown with the LA Conservancy (LA Times: Downtown L.A. architecture stars in ‘(500) Days of Summer’) The movie, 2012, was greatly enhanced for me as I think 1/3 of the film was dedicated to the detailed destruction of various neighborhoods of Los Angeles. I was a bit annoyed they left out East LA – what? No obligatory shot of a taco truck or paletero man falling into the abyss, no toppling King Taco sign? Typical westsider bias.

So, in the spirit of living in a place that has been interpreted ad nauseam in TV and the movies, my boyfriend, the USC film grad, is currently curating an East Los Angeles Film Festival, which is taking place in my living room. Maybe in a few years, we’ll make it to the rest of the Los Angeles neighborhoods, but we’ll start in my backyard. Recommendations welcome!

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Gracias for the heads up

Unfortunately, it’s a bit blurry, but this sign from the LA County Fair couldn’t slip by without comment or at least a head-scratch. The sign on the ticket booth had a number of generic rules on it like “Don’t carry a bazooka into the fairgrounds,” but it was the last line on it that caught my eye:

“Some fair employees do NOT speak English.”

Mainly, I don’t know how to feel about this. On one hand, my natural response is “Duh!” – We’re in LA after all. At the same time, this peaks my natural curiosity. What exactly prompted management to put this on the sign? I just picture some disgruntled ride manager yelling at a riled up redneck with a mullet – “Do you know how to READ? Did you not see the sign?!!! I’ll get my lawyer on the phone right now – it’s not our damn fault you don’t know how to say ‘Stop the ride, he’s going to jump’ in Spanish!”
I guess this one will go down as just another one of life’s little mysteries…

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Filed under Los Angeles, Weirdness


If you guessed the secret sound from my last post was a huge flock of parrots, you win…the self-satisfaction of being right!
This is more or less what the parrots looked like:

The parrots of Telegraph Hill in San Francisco may be more high profile (guess they have a better publicist), but the parrots of the San Gabriel Valley/Los Angeles are just as noisy. I first spotted them at my old house in Alhambra. They merrily took up residence in the street across from my house in East Los Angeles for three days and I haven’t seen them since.
I reported my sighting at the California Parrot Project Web site, probably radically changing our understanding of these creatures. Ha!

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Filed under Los Angeles, Weirdness