The Militant replied, "Afraid of what?"
The decidedly non-militant friend answered, "All those gangsters in East L.A."
And he was actually serious.
The Militant followed up with a long-ass explanation about fear, perception and stereotypes. That and the fact that the Militant has biked through many a "rough" area and has never been shot at or "bikejacked," if ever such a term existed. Plus, who would really want to shoot at a Militant (The Militant, of course, asks this rhetorically)?
The Militant had to run an errand today in Monterey Park, and when he looked at the little MapQuest image, he exclaimed,"Score!" and soon proceeded to his ELAA (East Los Angeles Adjacent) destination.
Yes, the Militant didn't just go to The Real Eastside, he went to the actual East Los Angeles.
His first stop after his errand was the end of the (M) Gold Line Eastside Extension (pictured above), which terminates at the corner of Atlantic and Pomona, just a few blocks south of East Los Angeles College. Come 2009 , Angelenos will discover The Real Eastside, as well as East Los Angeles proper, and discover that their perceptions of some sort of ghetto hellhole were waaaaay off the mark.
The Militant didn't even have to wait until '09. He saw it here today. The place was clean, sidewalks not only low in litter content, but in prime condition (Actually, in terms of cleanliness, East Los Angeles proper looks much nicer than Boyle Heights (which is within Los Angeles city limits), so perhaps being part of unincorporated County land has its advantages?). A Kaiser Permanente clinic stood right next to the station construction site, with a possibly prophetic banner ad on the wall with the Spanish version of the HMO's slogan, "Viva Bien" (Live Well) - pictured left. Hole-In-The Wall restaurants like Maria's Corner and El Loco #1 lay in wait nearby for the throngs of people who will arrive in light rail cars in two years' time who have never been there before.
But there was so much more to see here than mere restaurants and health care institutions.
Heading west along the light rail construction route, the Militant hit the next station site - the East L.A. Civic Center, which sports a library, courthouse, other government buildings and the crown jewel: A beautiful city park centered around a picturesque lake (pictured right) - the southern annex of Belvedere Park. He would have loved to have shown his decidedly non-militant friend this place, which looks more at home in some hoity-toity suburb than in Eastlos, but here it is, right in the center of East Los Angeles, with parents lounging, children playing and the occasional food vendor cart making their rounds on a warm, sunny Southern California autumn Sunday afternoon. The park is also home to the East Los Angeles Farmer's Market, which is run here on Saturday mornings.
(The Militant was not aware that duck molestationInterestingly, the 60 freeway runs just yards from the park, but the depressed elevation of the freeway and a soundwall keep this beautiful treasure out of the view of freeway traffic -- the only way to see it is from the street (and soon, from a train). Fortunately, for the people enjoying the park, the freeway is out of sight, out of mind, thanks to the soundwall, with only the muted roar of traffic coasting by being any sort of reminder the freeway is nearby.
was such a serious issue in East Los Angeles)
was such a serious issue in East Los Angeles)
As the Militant ventured westward, he took a little detour, past the 24-hour King Taco location on 3rd and Ford, where a future station called Maravilla (which means "marvelous" or "wonderful") is being built. You can read all about that little detour in the next blog entry.
The Militant followed the right-of-way into Los Angeles City limits, where the only danger he faced was almost running over a stray dog walking on the street (the dog being more in danger than the Militant of course), as families crossed the street from their cars, parked in makeshift parking spaces carved out of the light rail construction zone in between the zone road stripes and the k-rail barriers that concealed the new tracks embedded in the street. The Militant followed the tracks north on Indiana and west on 1st St., where the rail route buried itself in a tunnel next to Evergreen Cemetery, where thousands of Angelenos - from all literally walks of life - have been buried since 1877 - with room for more.
The tracks emerge again from subterranea just a few blocks west of Boyle Heights' Mariachi Plaza, where a few musicians were gathering, just to hang out, but no one was playing in the plaza's gazebo at the time (Readers, help the Militant out - what day and what time are the Mariachi performances there?).
The Gold Line Eastside Extension is more than just "a rail line serving a economically-disadvantaged, transit-dependent community;" it's a link to a relatively undiscovered and sorely underrated area of Southern California that has probably been more of a victim of outsider's fears and perceptions than actual crime itself. The Real Eastside isn't just homogenously Mexican or Chicano in flavor either; the Militant's Real Eastside Adventure passed by a Serbian Cemetery, Japanese Buddhist and Tenrikyo temples (Boyle Heights still sports vestiges of a strong Japanese American community), Chinese restaurants and markets and at least two Hawaiian BBQ joints.
Amazing the things people miss when their only world is home, work and the freeways. And even more when their urban life is ruled by fear, stereotypes and perception.
But there's no need to wait until '09 to see The Real Eastside "happen." - It's there now, and it's already been happening.