Posts Tagged ‘Los Angeles


Doesn’t Everybody Love LA?

I moved back to Los Angeles about six months ago. In the half year that I’ve been back, I’ve been most grateful to see old friends, to discover great places and events that sprung up in my absence, and to skip winter altogether.

But I’m also happy that my return to California has had a positive effect on this blog. In my previous hometown in the Midwest, Hispanics are still a fairly rare sight, so Latino-themed stories don’t pop up too often. But in LA, every other newsmaker has a name that ends in Z, or some debate gets going about clashing cultures, or there’s a new Hispanic-influenced restaurant, art form, or social movement taking hold.

For example, the Catholic Church recently named a new leader of the Los Angeles diocese, which has the largest concentration of Catholics in America. Archbishop Jose Gomez is now “in line to become the highest-ranking Latino in the American Catholic hierarchy and the first Latino cardinal in the U.S.”

His predecessor, Cardinal Roger Mahony, said he was “grateful to God for this gift of a Hispanic archbishop” and said he personally asked the pope to supply him with a Latino replacement. Los Angeles has five million Catholics, over 70 percent of whom are Hispanic, so Gomez’s appointment couldn’t have been too much of a shocker. Even so, Mahony’s sentiments – thanking God for a Latino and pressing to replaced by a Hispanic – are somewhat rare occurrences in the United States, as I’m sure you can imagine. But it happens here in California.

By the way, Gomez was a member of Opus Dei, which according to several conspiracy theorists and best-selling authors, is really just a front for power-hungry zealots, albino assassins, and killer dwarves. If true, it could make the line for communion very interesting.

Another only-in-LA moment came when I saw the poster for an upcoming Cinco de Mayo celebration. But this was not some bland, half-assed get-together with cheap tequila shooters, which you might find in other parts of the country. No, this party (called Cinco de Mayan), features “mucho sexo y violencia in the form of burlesque dancers, masked Mexican wrestlers, comedians, mariachi, Aztec dancers, and more.”

To be honest, I have no plans to attend this event. But just knowing that it exists here makes me smile.

Still, it’s not just traditionalist priests and masked wrestlers who get noticed in California. As the LA Times points out, Hispanic influence is part of an accelerating trend in this city, as “the power positions held by Latinos in the Los Angeles area are multiple and manifest. Besides the Mexico-born archbishop… there is the mayor. The speaker of the Assembly. The sheriff. A county supervisor. Several members of the City Council, of Congress, of the Legislature, of the Los Angeles school board…. All told, the taking of power has been stunning in its breadth.”

And that power can resonate beyond Latinos. This brings me to one more tidbit that made me happy to be in California. A UCLA professor, Don Nakanishi, is leading a movement to make East LA, which is 97% Latino, a separate city. I don’t agree with his position, but I have to respect his goals. I especially liked his comments about becoming politicized as a young man.

In college, Nakanishi “joined ten Latinos in forming a group called Los Hermanos, Spanish for ‘the brothers’.” He later formed an Asian American student group and said of the process, “We learned from the Chicanos.”

Yes, people learn from Latinos here.


The New Neighborhood

So I’ve arrived at my new place in Los Angeles. As such, I hope to get back to regular blog updates soon, although for the time being, my top priority will be digging us out of the heap of boxes that overwhelm our home.

The whirlwind experience of finding an apartment featured myriad phone calls and frantic acceleration through the streets of LA, with the always pleasant task of flying across the country thrown in there for bonus stress points.

I had gone so long between airplane trips that I had forgotten how fun it is to be “randomly” selected for an extra pat-down by the TSA. Perhaps I should have explained that I’m Hispanic and not (as they clearly assumed) Middle Eastern. But this would have implied that I agree with right-wing zealots that there’s something inherently wrong about being Middle Eastern. And in any case, it wouldn’t have made a difference to those on perpetual watch for the next Mohamed Atta. I do think it was a bit excessive, however, to wand me while I was buckled in my seat on the airplane. But I was assured that this is standard procedure.


In any case, my wife and I are happy with our new home. Because we live in a neighborhood in which I spent little time during my first stint in LA, I did some research online to discover what I’m getting into. I found out that some famous past residents of my new hood include Anais Nin, Tom Waits, and Kiefer Sutherland – all of whom I’m sure had nicer digs than our humble abode.

But something disturbed me when I performed my due diligence. According to reputable online sources, the neighborhood in which I now live has a high percentage of Latinos. Even more alarming, it is also home to, as one source put it, “numerous creative types.”

I’m at a loss at how I got into this situation. I mean, surrounded by both Latinos and “creative types”… surely those two demographics will be the death of America.

How will I survive with my values intact?


Cold Case

As a rule, I don’t follow news stories that contain any of the following elements:

  • Celebrity misbehavior
  • Fashion do’s and don’ts
  • Golf
  • Young, pretty white women who go missing

I have to make an exception to this last category, however, by mentioning the Chandra Levy case. There are two reasons for this.

First, I have an odd personal connection to the incident. No, I never met the woman. But I vividly remember the day that she disappeared, in early 2001.

I was living in Los Angeles, and my wife and I had dinner plans with a co-worker who I thought might become a friend. But I clearly didn’t know him well.

The guy, henceforth called Crazy Eddie, was an acquaintance of Chandra Levy. But one would have thought that they were Siamese Twins by how much he played up the closeness of their relationship. Over dinner, he talked of nothing else but her disappearance, and he did so in a freeform, rambling manner that overwhelmed my wife and me.

I soon realized that what I had thought were Crazy Eddie’s good qualities at our job (ie, unlimited energy, passion for his work, extreme attention to detail) were actually the symptoms of a cackling mania. The guy couldn’t shut up, and he hatched conspiracy theories and metaphorical meanings and personal reflections that all centered on Levy’s disappearance, then swirled around each other and overlapped until none of us could figure out his original point.

It was, understandably, the only time my wife and I socialized with Crazy Eddie, and we vowed to never again dine with a madman. The last time I spoke to him, shortly before I left LA, he tried to enlist me in his scheme to fly to Washington DC and investigate Levy’s disappearance personally. He insisted that, with my help, he could find out what happened to her. I politely declined and then fled the state.

The second reason I’m thinking of Chandra Levy these days is because police apparently cracked the case last week. The alleged murderer is… yes, Latino… in fact, he’s an immigrant… from El Salvador, my family’s homeland… fuck.

This creepy guilt-by-association feeling is what I wrote about in a previous post. We have enough cultural baggage to carry without some moronic thug fulfilling stereotypes faster than Bill O’Reilly can spew them.

It is, of course, completely selfish to dwell on what this means to me and other Hispanics. But seriously, of all the imbecilic criminals to become national news, did it have to be the Salvadoran immigrant rapist-murderer?

In any case, I’m glad that Chandra Levy’s friends and family can find some comfort that her killer has been nabbed. But I have to wonder if, somewhere in LA, my old friend Crazy Eddie is babbling in his apartment, desperate to find a new outlet for his amazing powers of insight.


Going Back to Cali

There will be no new posts for about a week, while I briefly escape the clutches of a Midwestern winter for a quick trip to Los Angeles. Yes, I will be staying near the Kodak Theater, where they hand out the Oscars (see my previous posts on this). The irony is nice, but the warm weather will be nicer.

As usual when I take a break, I offer you a clip appropriate of nothing (or everything, depending on your adherence to Buddhist principles). Here is a video of military recruits (country unknown) who perform the worst set of jumping jacks in history.

See you soon.

August 2019
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