All posts by EL CHAVO!

EL CHAVO! is the pen name of some menso living in Lincoln Heights.

Freeway Fun

freeway1_opening.jpg

Do you remember back in the day, when your mom would fume because you didn’t wash the beans correctly, causing some relative to chip a tooth on a tiny overlooked pebble, and she’d get mad enough to yell “go play on the freeway”? No? Me neither. But I can assure you that if it happened to me today I’d most likely say “okay, nos vemos!” since I recently found an easy way to have some fun on the Pasadena Freeway! If you’re up for a bit of urban exploration in Lincoln Heights, let’s take a little walk. Siganme los buenos!
Continue reading Freeway Fun

Ground Shrimp Sightings!

tortas_de_camaron.jpg

This Friday, and for the next couple of Fridays until Easter, many of the Mexicans in LA will be trying very hard not to eat any animals. Err, make that land animals, since it’s open season on the water loving critters! It’s supposed to be part of a yearly ritual involving some crazy vato named Jes√∫s, but I think it might also be gang related.

Whatever the case, you’ll notice many of the finer restaurants frequented by Mexicans will be prominently featuring seafood dishes on the menu, like the 1.29 fish sandwich at Jack in the Box. But if you happen to be at a real Mexican restaurant, (i.e., one frequented by Mexicans) you might want to ask if they have the wonderfully simple dish of “Tortas de Camaron” (Tohr-tahs deh Kah-mah-roen), a seasonal delicacy of fried ground shrimp and egg, covered in a spicy red chile sauce and tender nopalitos, yum! Something about that sharp beachy flavor of the ground shrimp mingling with the other earthy ingredients, makes me quite content in temporarily giving up my vegetarian diet. It’s rarely on the actual menu (if you’re lucky you might spot a mention on a hand drawn sign) as it doesn’t get much respect, it’s just something you expect to eat during lent, so you’re expected to ask for it.

It’s considered a poor persons dish so it doesn’t get much notice outside the places that make it, kinda like how mac and cheese used to be, but I bet some adventurous readers (and eaters) of this site might want to know about the seasonal tortitas de camaron. It’s easy to find this plate on the Eastside but I’m sure there must be places that supply it west of the LA River as well, just ask around. Don’t make me go out there to find ’em!

P.S. I wrote about this dish last year on my site and did some reviews, in case you want some suggestions from places to find it in LH.

China Islamic Restaurant

china_islamic.jpg

There are possibly other interesting things on the menu but the main reason I like going to China Islamic in Rosemead is for this delicious, thick bread made with scallions and topped with sesame seeds. It’s hot and chewy inside with a super-crisp crust, quite a nice flavor package. You have to order it as soon as you sit down if you want it with your meal (it takes awhile to make) but it’s an amazing reminder that sometimes the simplest of foods are the most tasty. I usually have it with the peppery Hot and Sour soup (no chicken, please!) and it’s enough eats for the rest of the day. If you’re in the area, you might want to give this bread a try.

China Islamic Restaurant
7727 E. Garvey Ave.
Rosemead, CA 91770
626-288-4246

One more pic after the jump..
Continue reading China Islamic Restaurant

Contratiempo Film Night Sat. 3/10 6 pm

contra1_romagirl.jpg
contra2_romagirl.jpg

Contratiempo Film Night
Saturday, March 10, 6pm

This is shameless friend promotion. Oh well, me vale madre. A film series, sponsored by nobody, designed to “investigate and promote the intersections between Flamenco and Romani/Gypsy culture”, with discussion, tapas, and drinks. All for free. I think I can handle the inevitable accusations.
—————————————————————————————
The Romany Trail Part Two: Gypsy Music Into Africa

The Romany Trail Part Two takes you to India to find what are believed to be the original Gypsy families whose descendents migrated across the Middle East to Africa and Europe. In India, the familiar acrobats, bear trainers, puppeteers, actors, magicians and musicians are there, many with the same family names as European Gypsies. Then it’s on to Eastern Europe, among the oppressed Gypsy communities of then-Communist Europe, into workers’ hostels, private homes, and community streets where Gypsies are found-a penetrating underground tour of a fabled people’s existence.

Also, a short clip from Tony Gatliff’s Latcho Drom featuring La Caita and Remedios Amaya.
————————————————————————————–
All I can add is that it’s always pretty fun. Ah√≠ nos Vemos!

Taking place in NorthEast LA at:
Sandpaper Books
3706 N Figueroa St
Los Angeles, CA 90065
323.223.8020
www.contratiempo.org

Xmas Finally Over

lh_noel.jpg

I’ve been watching this Christmas decoration on a Lincoln Heights home for some time, wondering how long it would stay up. I took this pic about a week or two ago but today I noticed that the big festive NOEL sign is finally gone. The big cross is still there though, maybe for the Easter season right around the corner? This is why I love LH, some people aren’t afraid to do what they want and they could care less what you think of their decor!

Top LA Legends #20: The White Lady of Elysian Park

white_lady_elysian.jpg

Like most legends, the White Lady of Elysian Park seems to exist mostly in the minds of people that know the story and lives on mainly by word of mouth; I wasn’t able to find much mention of it in books or online. Despite that, many of those in the communities near Elysian Park know of the legend. I asked Ana-Maria Garcia, a retired LAUSD teacher, for her version of the story, and she started it with an ominous warning:

“This is a story that our mothers would not tell us, because maybe it was too gruesome, but our Aunts and Cousins would tell us the tale.” Yikes!
Continue reading Top LA Legends #20: The White Lady of Elysian Park

The Benefits of Graffiti

graf_losangeles.jpg

The hilarious picture of the 15 year old tagging up the Mayor’s bus is a reminder that more often than not, graffiti is really thoughtless. But did you know that some taggers also attempt to contribute to the public discourse by grappling with current events and tackling philosophical concerns? Well, they do! And the results are sometimes very intelligent semi-intelligent mildly entertaining!

See the one above? That was placed in the Arroyo Seco as a service to lost tourists. Very thoughtful.
Continue reading The Benefits of Graffiti

Cuauhtemoc Celebration

lh_cuauhtemoc.jpg

I’m sure everyone has plans for Saturday morning (like sleeping in!) but in case you’re looking for a suggestion of something interesting to do, consider this:

Xipe Totec presents the 27th Cuauhtemoc ceremony, a yearly event with some food and vendors, but mostly lots and lots of Aztec Dancing. If you’ve never seen what that looks like, you owe it to yourself to check it out. There’s always a good mix of the different local Danzantes, some better than others, but all the bright costumes and feathers in one place is quite a sight.

On Saturday, Feb 24 2007 from 11am-4pm, at Parque de Mexico in Lincoln Heights
N. Main St. & Mission Rd.
(714) 491-7510 for more info.

Highland Park’s Withering Fruit

hp_farmers_market1.jpg

Many of the newer and wealthier residents to Northeast LA have a penchant for complaining about how they wish their new neighborhood was more like the old one they left, and that usually means being able to buy some bullshit item or other, usually a particular brand of coffee or some needless service they claim they can’t live without. (Why they escape the suburbs only to try and replicate those same trappings I’ll never understand.) One non-asinine idea they did get excited for was a Farmers Market: they talked and talked about how great that would be and how they (and their friends) would jump at the idea of supporting one in Highland Park. Eventually, someone did the work to make it happen, and now NELA has its own Old LA Farmers Market. It started out as a fine market, with plenty of booths full of good looking fruits and veggies, and lots of people milling around. But lately, it seems the realities of the market economy have started to make a dent in Highland Park’s perceptions of what type of businesses it can really sustain.
Continue reading Highland Park’s Withering Fruit

Cero for Ciro’s

ciros_tacos_de_papa.jpg

If you look up East Los in most travel guides to LA you’re not likely to find many entries, it’s still uncharted territory for many of those guide writers. When they do decide to go fucking crazy and venture off their predictable maps, they often make their way to El Tepeyac (surely because they all read each others fine work!), an eatery renowned for its massive plates of piled ingredients semi-wrapped in flour tortillas, which are strangely still deemed “burritos”. A bucket of food covered in a tortilla is not a burrito. Though many Eastsiders love this place, those in the know often chuckle at the long line of (mostly) tourists snaking thru Tepayac’s parking lot, wondering why they don’t just go down the block to the nondescript, but much preferred, Ciro’s. Even though both places are East LA “institutions”, siding with Ciro’s has been a badge that marks you as one with a better appreciation of Mexican-American food. (Mexican food it ain’t!) Well, no longer, and it’s not because Tepeyac has suddenly gotten better: sadly, Ciro’s has been resting on it’s laurels.

See the picture above? Under that smothering layer of cold, bland, shredded white cheese is supposed to be an order of Tacos de Papa. Stuffed inside the more-soggy-than-crisp tortilla shell is some so-so potato filling, iceberg lettuce, and tomatoes that refused to ripen before they were chunked. Not even a bit of salsa? Claro que no! All it needs is some mayo and a slice of white bread to make this plate complete! And some fools still think Mexicans don’t assimilate. Unfortunately, they are wrong.

The bowl of avocado salsa is often mentioned as one of the highlights of Ciro’s, and though it is usually good, the chunks of aguacate are just huge now, as if someone is getting lazy. As if someplace is slipping. Oh Ciro’s, you used to be a decent place to eat. But nostalgia is for chumps and life’s too short for tasteless food. See ya’ around!

Ciro’s 705 N. Evergreen St.
On the Eastside

Assimilation Handbook?

assimilation_for_mensos.jpg

Local writer Daniel Hernandez posted an interesting take on the media response (or lack thereof) to the Governors recent comments regarding Mexicans, comparing the marked difference in the approach chosen by the LA Times vs La Opinion. (If some academic manages to understand that all-to-common scenerio, they would surely bridge the gap between Mexican and non-Mexican LA!) With the Governor dissing on Lynwoods popular and entertaining Plaza Mexico by calling it “a growth” (he didn’t mention it’s the idea of Koreans) and repeating the myth that Mexicans don’t assimilate because “they are holding onto their tradition and to their language” it got me to thinking: where’s my fucking manual!?! Maybe I have been imprisoned by the clutches of Mexican culture, and since I seem to have gotten the hang of this Engleesh jibberish, time to break free!

I see nothing wrong with Plaza Mexico or “holding on to traditions” so I guess I’m kinda clueless about how to go about this assimilation business, maybe some readers can give a little help? Besides the language and traditions, what other things might someone wanting to assimilate give up in order to fit in? Are there particular places one should eat,shop, or work? What about traits and mannerisms, any suggestions?

It’s a very real imaginary book, might as well give the intended readers some sense as to its content. Help fill in the blanks!

Links:
La Opinion
LA Times
Daniel H. post
Plaza Mexico

Monster Park

monster_park_creature.jpg

In the ever popular pursuit of forgetting, the LA region is facing yet another potential loss of an artifact from its already limited history: Monster Park is being considered for renovation. Hidden away in a corner of San Gabriel’s Vincent Lugo Park, Monster Park (aka Dinosaur Park aka La Laguna) is a collection of concrete sea creatures designed and built by Mexican immigrant Benjamin Dominguez during the 60’s. These creations are remarkable for the sense of wonder they inspire in the youngsters that have been lucky enough to play on these functional works of art, their simple structure prodding developing minds to fill in the missing storyline. Of course, wherever you find a project that inspires creativity but generates no income you’ll find a bureaucrat creatively finding a reason to dismantle the whole thing. Luckily, some people are putting up a fight.
Click ahead for more pics.
Continue reading Monster Park