Monday, October 15, 2007

(About to Be) Born In East L.A.

Last March, the Militant took a bicycle ride from his compound all the way to The Real Eastside and back one afternoon. After he told a decidedly non-militant friend (as in, "does not qualify as an operative") bout his trek, the friend asked the Militant, "Weren't you afraid?"

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 molestation
was such a serious issue in East Los Angeles)

Interestingly, 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.

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.

18 comments:

The Hollywood Jedi said...

heheh Duck molestation. Last night at the NoI show Ronnie Ray was molesting a chair.

Good Stuff. Check it out.

EL CHAVO! said...

Good post MA! Finally, some coverage of the Eastside as a place, rather than a stretch of freeway. Belvedere park used to host a Sunday concert series (for a Spanish language tv show) that was really popular, they often had some big acts playing.

One bone to pick; your use of "The Real Eastside" rather than just "The Eastside" seems to almost make it possible that there are two Eastsides. (I've already seen some newcomers on this side using that "real" reference.) Instead of giving a sort of semi-validity to the claims of Silverlake/Echo Park hipsters to some "new Eastside", I think it would be best to not even make that distinction. If they want to emphasize differences based on their Westside affiliations, that's their business!

Your Eastside Ally, EL CHAVO!

Militant Angeleno said...

El Chavo!: Thanks and it's an honor to have the Militant's Eastside post get props from El Chavo! !

As for "The Real Eastside," the Militant knows where you're coming from totally, but he actually balances the term out with the usage of "Not Really The Eastside" for the gentrified locales just west of Downtown Los Angeles that much of the local blogdom (read: SoCal n00bs) seems to call "The Eastside." So no, the Militant is by no means giving any semblance of validity to their claim, but instead is doing all he can to mock it.

Plus, the usage of the "The Real Eastside" term is just part of the Militant's in-your-face demeanor. The usage, along with many other terms the Militant likes to invent, is sort of done in jest. But to defend the Militant's usage, he is basically making a statement saying, "Hey, this is the real Eastside, not that other place you call 'The Eastside.'" So hopefully you can see the issue from that perspective.

The Militant by no means thinks there is a "New" Eastside, it's just that those folks seem to think their "Eastside" is really the eastern limits of their urban realm, and that anything east of there is either forbidden or heretofore nonexistent. And it's not necessarily Westsiders making that distinction, but rather people new to Los Angeles who really don't know any better.

Francisco C said...

Great coverage! The East LA Civic Center is beautiful, featuring one of the nicest branch libraries in the whole system.
Are you and El Chavo our only allies of East LA in the whole blogosphere?

Paredon Blanco said...

"The Real Eastside"

Nice, so all you Silverlake, Echo Park, Angelino Heights people get it right you are not the EASTSIDE.

The Hollywood Jedi said...

LOL @ Silverlake

Mike said...

Franklin Avenue visited Lincoln Park and gave a shout-out back in April; read it here.
Militant, LOVE the Duck molestation pic. Great post.

Jazmin said...

It only takes one duck molestation incident to warrant new signage. Maybe they meant, "no moleste a los patos?"...

Militant Angeleno said...

Francisco C: Thanks dude. The Militant can't wait to take the Gold Line to the East L.A. Civic Center. Next time he'll try to go for a bike ride there. Thanks for the tip on the library, maybe there might be some good books on (The Real) Eastside history.

Paredon Blanco: Right on. The City of Los Angeles might have changed its borders over the years, but places like Echo Park and Silver Lake were never on the eastern side of town (more like the northern side, in actuality). And yeah, Hollywood Jedi is correct, "Silver Lake" is two words, remember that!

Hollywood Jedi & Mike: Yes, though his impression of Eastlos was a positive one, the Militant was a little leery of venturing 500 feet from the park, lest he'd run into any convicted duck molesters living around there.

chimatli said...

Unfortunately, the mariachis don't perform at Mariachi Plaza. They just wait around the plaza to be hired.
However, on the feast day of Santa Cecilia (the patron saint of musicians) there is usually a public celebration and performance.
If you're looking for a conjunto to hire, they hang out on Cesar Chavez across from La Parilla.

Militant Angeleno said...

Chimatli: Wow thanks for the clarification. That feast day, according to this site, would be November 22, about a month from now so...the Militant may or may not be at the Plaza to check it out!

philpalm said...

Actually no Chinese were buried in Evergreen until the early 1900's. They were relegated to a side plot that was unearthed by the MTA. The bones of some will be reburied but the mixed and uncategoried bones may be DNA'ed to be later be categorized at a later date.

The Tenrikyo Church is similar to the Catholic Church, they also believe in lots of children....

Looks like East Los Angeles is getting more Latins and less Japanese, then again more prosperous Latins are moving up to places like Montebello....Just like more prosperous Japanese are moving away from East Los Angeles...

Militant Angeleno said...

philpalm: The Militant actually met a Tenrikyo pastor last month (A Boyle Heights native, btw). He has two kids...

Raymond said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Raymond said...

Japanese Americans leaving East LA has more to do with their across the board declining numbers in America. They are the only Asian immigrant groups that is declining. Even in areas such as Little Tokyo and Monterey Park JA's have become very small percentages of the actual population.

Angels City Vampire said...

MMMMM That's quite interesting......duck molestation......I wonder how their blood tastes..?

Angels City Vampire said...

I have never heard such ridiculous things!!!! I wonder hoe their blood tastes....???? mmmmm?

Anonymous said...

It isn't bad enough the culture vultures take our food, kustoms, property, men and wome they go right ahead and take our EASTSIDE placa. Orale! I can't wait to see the gentrifiers try to cross the 1st, 4th and 6th Street bridges without running into the Boyle Heights trolls.