Saturday, January 28, 2012


Happy Birthday, daughter. I'm thinking about you today, and how all the clichés about children growing up so quickly are not really clichés at all. Time really is a fluid mass without markers. We were in Joshua Tree, and Dad and Mekko were climbing high up on the rocks. You and I stayed down below, with you in a baby carrier facing front, my coat wrapped around both of us. You were one. We had the whole place to ourselves. I couldn't believe how big your brown eyes were, so focused and attentive, full of language that you couldn't yet speak. We danced around on the rocks, you bouncing in your carrier, and for me, this is when we bonded. I know, everyone says you have to bond right after birth or else, but it happened here: I hadn't had the time before, because I was so crazed with mothering. But here, in the quivering, shifting light of Joshua Tree, we recognized each other. Mother daughter. I remember it like it was yesterday. 

And now it's today. You're 21. With all your friends, your brother, your lover, your rats, your house, your new courses, your final semester of junior year, your dreams your fears your plans your travels your plans to travel. I know it wasn't easy to get to this place. But you did it. You're 21 with merit... you deserve 21, and 21 deserves you. You do 21 proud. In fact, twenty-one was waiting for someone like you.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Imagined Scenario #1

The sign you see from the 10 Freeway 

(I've forgotten how different writing an article is from writing a blog post—much harder! The freedom to do or say anything you want is limited; whereas in a blog post, you can do whatever you want. To get started on something I'm writing I've tried to fall somewhere in between, not sure it's working, but at least it's gotten me started.) 

Imagined scenario #1: What if the derelict warehouse on Grand Ave between 36th and 37th Street, in South Los Angeles, hadn't been transformed into the Mercado La Paloma—with it's many eateries and social services stationed under one big roof— and say, a Wal-Mart had been put in its place? 

Working backwards, I'll take a wild guess at what that might look like: there'd be no foot traffic on the broad tree-lined street, no lunch time rush hour, no paradores meeting other health care workers over tacos al pastor, no USC students spread out around the communal tables, slurping spicy Tlalpeño soup from Vista Hermosa. 

Beth Weinstein, who manages the Mercado, with Raul Morales, 
owner and chef of Vista Hermosa
His traditional Tlalpeño soup from Michoacan

There'd be no cultural or holiday events centered around a radish!

Noche de Rabanos/Radishes Night

There'd be absent the 13 entrepreneurial families who set up successful businesses with the help and resources of the Esperanza Housing Corp, who launched the project in 1999. 

Nancy Halpern Ibriham, executive director of Esperanza Housing Corp.
looking over the menu

In fact, what the neighborhood might look like if a Wal-Mart were here is what Figueroa, a few blocks away, looks like today: a nondescript stretch of colorless concrete, with fast food franchises and faceless warehouses, where people come and go as fast as they can. If a Wal-Mart were here...well, I shudder to even imagine...

It took five years for Esperanza to raise the funds in a capital campaign to purchase the 34,000 sq. ft building in the mid-2000s, pushing forward despite the nay-sayers. Under Nancy Halpern Ibriham's direction they rejected national franchises, and instead brought in vendors who had ties to the community.  

Sometimes, that's all they had. In 2009, when Ricardo Zarate approached Beth Weinstein, director of marketing, about opening a Peruvian food stand, he had never done anything like that before. But hallelujah, Weinstein said yes! Soon after Zarate's Mo-Chica opened, Jonathan Gold wrote a glowing review in the LA Weekly. Zarate has gone on to garner awards—Best new chef for 2011 by Food and Wine— and recently opened Picca, a restaurant outside the 'hood. But what if Weinstein had said no? She took a chance on a nobody because, sometimes, given who's standing in front of you, that's the right thing to do.

I went down to the Mercado last week, and as promised, enjoyed an exceptional meal. I recommend a trip to the Mercado, if for no other reason, to see the community of lunch time eaters. People come from all over LA, because unlike Wal-Mart or fast food joints, here, you can sit back with friends and stay for awhile. 

Yum—Chili Rellenos

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Rose Parade

Our first Rose Parade ever, standing at Colorado, a little east of Lake. I stationed myself on top of an office planter, while Tom snapped pix from below. That first blast of horns from the US Marine Corps filling Colorado and sweeping down the street blew us away.

I'm posting this a little after the fact, thinking I wouldn't (who wants to see the same thing you can see on TV?) but looking at these pics now I'm struck by how colorful the parade was, the electric energy behind each band and float, and just how many people—especially pooper scoopers—it took to pull off a parade that everybody loved.

Roy Rogers and Trigger,
Above, Dusty and Dustin, Rogers' son and grandson perform 
"Happy Trails" on what would be RR's 100th birthday
(Trigger was stuffed and positioned at the front of the float)

Click on photos to view as slide show