A Vanishing America

Great photo set of LA from the 1950s from LAist.

http://laist.com/2016/09/01/amateur_photographer_charles_w_cush.php#photo-25

Marked for future reference.

However, just one word set off a ripple of alarms, cowbells, and racing firetruck engines...in my head. 

"vanishing"

She used it in this sentence, "The Chicago Business took 14,500 images between 1938 and 1969, capturing a vanishing America.  [emphasis mine]

I don't know if that was intentional and/or added by an editor, but I instantly get a sense of someone who is in love with an idyllic image of 1950s America, back when America Was Already Sooo Great, if you catch my drift.

No Wonder There's the Idea that Public Radio is Just For White People...

I've been in Bakersfield for work the past few weeks.


A whole lot of driving.

A whole lot of radio.


The radio stations once you make your way down the Grapevine are the following:  people questioning evolution, Christian rock, Christian country, mariachi, banda, banda, mariachi, morally-questionable but annoyingly earwormy "hip-hop", and country...


It took me a while to find 89.1 --- it wasn't until my last trip in the late/early hours of a weekday morning when the familiar Morning Edition voices assured me that there was SOMETHING here in the San Joaquin Valley.

I kept it there...

 9AM.

Classical.

 12 PM.

Classical.

 2 PM

Classical.

It seemed like the only genre that the programmers knew.  Made me wonder, was it just cheaper to acquire the rights to play all this classical?  Do they think that's the only way to enhance the mind?  What the fuck.

THAT, was public radio for the San Joaquin Valley, at least on a weekday.  Valley Public Radio.

The content reminded me of what I thought Public Television once was.  Inaccessible, high and mighty, and not really part of my world.  Meaning, white people.

Thinking about the content of the public radio in the San Joaquin, and its listeners is quite the juxtaposition to seeing the young kids of color blasting the catchy earwormy "hip-hop."

I know in LA, you can find even more young kids blasting the catchy earwormy "hip-hop" and could find a contrast, but it seems that KPCC, if someone does not know and listens long enough for any stretch of time, will eventually come across a topic that they're interested in:  where they're discussing abortion, schools, bike lanes, gun control, Donald Trump, or hell, even a comics convention.  Something for everyone, very much unlike Valley Public Radio.

Delineating 'Predatory Policing'

I'm continuing my thoughts from this post.

This morning at around 9:15 AM, after the rush hour has come and gone, I was driving back to my house in Compton along Central Ave. 

I'm driving about the speed limit. 

And right on cue, in my back mirror, an LASD sheriff's black and white is tracking behind me.

My heart sinks.  My eyes zip right over to the speedometer, meticulously making sure that I'm driving 40. 

About 10 seconds elapse, I check to see if the black and white is gone.  Nope still there, behind my relatively slow drive, as I cross 120th and Central.

Finally, I breathe an air of relief when the LASD black and white switches lanes around 135th and Central.

Predatory policing:  when the police make it seem as if they're out to get you, as if they're waiting for you to do something wrong.  That's in opposition to what I think police should do as peacekeepers;  responding to problems.

An incident of predatory policing actually happened to my wife two years ago in the City of Carson.  She got the most frivolous ticket ever.  She once got a ticket from an LASD sheriff for bringing her dog to the park.

The City of Carson actually has written into code that you can't bring dogs...to...a...park.  Yes, you read that write, you...CANNOT...bring...dogs...to...a...park.  No dogs at a park within City of Carson maintained facilities.

The signage wasn't all that visible in the parking lot nor elsewhere in the park.  There was even two separate people who brought even bigger dogs immediately after her run-in with this sheriff.

Luckily, when I tried to bring this ticket to City Hall in Compton to pay for it, or take it in to see what would happen, the ticket was not in the system, and the clerk herself was confused about why exactly we got the ticket.

Counter-stories to Orientalism, Othering, and De-Humanization

Ho-Hum Memorial Day Weekend. 

My most favorite channel on Television ever, PBS World Channel, is showing a documentary on Navy SEALS, detailing their history from Iraq all the way to the present day.

World Channel is my favorite channel because their content consists of documentaries about things that got me interested in Anthropology in the first place.  Their range is amazing, particularly in their mainstay shows such as America Re-Framed and Independent Lens.  The topics stretch from a documentarian documenting the care of her aging parents to schoolchildren to archaeological explorations. 

However, I wanted to talk about the one time that I've watched possibly the only thing I don't agree with on this channel, and that's contained within the previously mentioned Navy SEALS documentary.

I don't really mind, the Navy SEALS as a group being explored.  I'm an Anthropologist.  Almost anything goes.

In fact, I'd spent an hour reading an ESpN article about Tiger Woods and his obsession with the Navy SEALS.  I had never read an article with such breadth and depth.  I even google searched a few Navy SEALS things for a few days afterward.

My problem isn't so much World Channel showing a documentary on Navy SEALS, its just that the documentary is something I might find on the History Channel with the underlying narrative of American moral superiority. 

Serving that thread of moral superiority, we see hours of SEALS in battle and recalling their battles.

We see a lot of footage in war in bombed out urban centers in the Middle East and North Africa.

We see footage of Islamic militants carrying their guns and "evil."

We see footage of masses of brown people crying in grief over what they have lost.

That is all the same stuff you would see on CNN, where the average citizen is in no position to understand nuance in the Middle East (myself included) beyond bad (brown) guys and good guys.

It's a contrast to why I think I usually like the documentaries on the channel:  they follow individuals or a group of people, good or bad.  They show how they deal with situations and/or a journey sometimes bumping into everyday complexities that they face.

When I watched that Navy SEALS documentary, I was just left wondering what it means for the viewing public's understanding to keep oversimplifying the region, by showing just bits of these urban centers only when they are bombed out, seeing these brown people only crying in grief, all while keeping emphasis on the idea that this is the fault of one religion when they keep saying "Islamic state." 

I wonder, what were those urban centers like before? 

What were those brown people like before?

Can we not get insight into their daily intricacies?

The Grocery Outlet in Compton: Its OK...So Far...

If Trader Joe's and Food4Less had a baby, it would be called Grocery Outlet.

The Grocery Outlet is what has officially replaced the Fresh N'Easy.

So far, not so bad, though I'm getting a lot more critical and noticing things with each visit.

In the few weeks its been open, I've already been there five separate times.

Far as I can tell, it seems like their strategy was to rope people in with noticeable, big, "organic" brands, and then eventually as people come in, push the cheaper, unknown brands.  For example, when we first went there, about 2 or 3 weeks ago, during Easter break, I noticed the coffee creamer they had:  Dunkin' Donuts!!!!  We jumped on it.  A week later when I returned, it was replaced by a brand called "International."

I'd a given it a 5 after the 1st trip. 

After 5 trips, if I were to give it a rating on a scale of 1 through 5, with 5 being the highest recommended number, I would give it a 3.5.  Definitely worth trying but keep a critical eye on it. 

Good: 
  • A Family parking space, which will probably get controversial
  • A really ergonomic cart, complete with a coffee holder
  • Four packets of strawberries for $5
  • Some recognizable organic brands;  Kashi, Toms, Clif bars
 Challenges:
  • Kind of low on the Gardein meatless products --- all they have are the fishless filets which are not bad but my wife isn't a fan of it
  • Little physical space, meaning little choice, which seems to get worse every time.  Yesterday I went to get Silk soy milk.  All they had was cashew milk from Silk, which isn't really one of the "mainstream" milks from silk.
  • Volatile selection of items.  As mentioned, the soy milk.  I also noticed the rapid decline in their non-dairy ice cream products.  There was So Delicious at first, but it descended onto more of the mainstream, regular ass dairy products.    


Anatomy of a Cold War with My Right-Hand Neighbor, Bernardo, in Compton

Lately, I haven't felt that connected with my neighbors.  In fact, towards one of them, I harbor animosity.

What for?

Why would I be harboring animosity towards another fellow neighbor here in Compton?

Is it because of their vandalism?

Is it because I suspect that they're stealing?

Is it because of the loud music?

Is it because of the people that suspiciously hang around and bring trouble?

No, it's none of that.

It's because...

...of...

parking.

I know, my rational mind says it's a really stupid thing to get mad about considering that the street has probably seen much more serious problems and that is probably a lurking problem for everyone, but, it's been enough of an issue that our neighbors do various little things to hold onto their parking spots.

I think the previous owner of our house had even hinted at problems with parking and the right-hand neighbor.  She hinted that "some people just need to be more educated..." 

Whatever that meant.

Our street is really small.  There are only 16 single-family houses on our block with only one side of the street available for parking with 1 apartment complex with 4 housing units available. 

There are only 17 available full parking spaces on our block, which means that if every single family has two cars, they're going to put one car in the garage, and one outside.   There are 4 half-spaces which usually means one car parking alongside a piece of sidewalk that is not quite big enough for a parking space but is used by a resident anyway, so in reality, there are 21 spaces.

For the record my wife and I have two compact Toyota cars and we have 1 full parking space in front of our house. 

Parking in general on the street is never a problem during ordinary weekday mornings when everyone is out to work.  But I know that if I get home past 6, I'll be lucky to get any spot within the block.

That sometimes leaves me with 3 bags, and 30 lbs to haul about a quarter mile to my house.  It's annoying.

The Beginning of the Situation with the Neighbor

I have little problems with the left-hand neighbor. 

Our next door neighbor to the left is a multi-generational family with 3 generations under the roof.  They've lived in the house next to us for close to 30 years.   They have only three cars, 2 of which they keep in a garage/driveway --- some kind of SUV, a Toyota Avalon, and a Honda Accord, the only car that they keep outside.

I talk occasionally with someone from that house who is about my wife and I's age.  He was the guy who was talking to me a little bit about what the neighborhood used to be like. 

He has his grandma or mom, Beatrice, that I "used to" like and "used to" ask about my son.  She had been somewhat generous to us, even offering him a little gift.

More on why I "used to like" and "used to" ask about my son later. 

She knows everyone on the block;  a lot of the houses are occupied by her relatives.  Our right-hand neighbor is not their relative.

We used to speak to our right-hand neighbor quite often, or at least when we saw them.  Or at least we spoke to someone from the right-hand neighbor's side.  I would try to say hi every time I saw them; same thing with my wife.

Our right-hand neighbors appear to have at least 3 families in sections of the house as well as a backhouse.  But the main person I interacted with was a family of 4 was a man whom I will refer to as Bernardo.  Bernardo heads an immigrant family from Mexico, about my folks' age.  They with an American-born child in his 20s and a teenager.  They are grandparents whose grandkids occasionally come and visit on Holidays.

With at least 3 different families, the household has a total of 7 cars.  Bernardo owns 4 of them, including a Dodge Ram that is never really used and sits in the driveway, a Dodge Durango which isn't used and last I saw was up for sale, a Mitsubishi Land Rover which acts as their utility car, and now a Dodge Truck with utility racks.  A lot of big cars, 2 of which are functionally non-operated.

The other families have a Honda Accord, a Nissan pick-up truck, and a white hatchback.

What caused the cessation of our speaking?

This past summer, the city of Compton and/or the Sheriff's Department decided that it would be a good idea to outlaw parking on the other side of the street by posting "No Parking" signs, dramatically reducing the number of parking spaces available from the possible 30+ to the current 17.

For our seven-car friends to the right, that meant parking their largely non-operated Dodge Durango for 7 days at a time in front of our house until the next street cleaning came. 

They did this for about 4 months, and it meant that I'd never get parking in front of my house;  meaning I would have to haul 30 lbs of equipment and 3 bags to the car, sometimes with a baby in hand.  During that period, it's not that I was bothered so much by not always getting the parking in front of my house;  it's that I rarely got the opportunity while this asshole left it there for a week, every week. 

This meant that this house, no bigger than our house, with quadruple the number of residents would take up not only their driveway, the parking space in front of their house, our house, and a couple of other houses.  Meanwhile, I'd be lucky if there was a parking space.

The city's official policy is that a law enforcement agency can tow away a car after 72 hours of not moving which is in Chapter 12-4.4 of the municipal code.

The Sheriff's Department didn't do shit.  I called up the direct line to their parking or transportation division.  Though in fairness, I called at the wrong time;  it was a Monday after street cleaning when they'd already moved the car. 

They heard my whole story but ultimately said that they "didn't have the resources at the moment" to deal with the problem.  They didn't offer any follow-up to resolving my problem.

They actually knew my street, and asked about another car on the street which I knew but had no problems with. 

All I could do was get mad and yell in the privacy of my own house. 

It didn't help that I would see other neighbors do things to preserve their spaces including putting garbage cans, or utility cones to save "their" spot.  Or using their car to take two spaces. 

It didn't help that there was also a few lingering annoyances committed by other neighbors including blocking our driveway or neighborhood kids leaning on my car.

The only way I could extract revenge:  parking in the space in front of Bernardo's house, or in my driveway in a way to prevent their Land Rover from opening. 

Today  

It doesn't help that the overall parking situation on the block remains the same.

But now, I'm liking the left-hand neighbor's mom or grandma a little less than I once did.

Bernardo recently added a different car that changed the parking dynamics:  a Dodge pickup with mounts.  This means that he has been trying to sell the Durango, which as of yet, is still to no avail.

Bernardo doesn't park his Durango in front of our house anymore, which would have been welcome news 3 months ago. He does not occupy the space for a week at a time. 

However, he will park there aggressively, claiming the space immediately after street cleaning when the official hours are not even over yet.  Bernardo and his residents' cars still take up multiple spaces in front of our and other people's houses. 

I want to get over all this, but at the moment I'm kind of annoyed at what appears to be gossip.

As I mentioned, I do sometimes park in front of their house.  It makes things convenient for me.

One morning, I overheard Beatrice, our left-hand neighbor's grandma or mom, talking to Bernardo's wife. 

They speak Spanish as their primary language, but I didn't like the tone, nor what appears to be the left-hand neighbor grandma's behavior towards me.  I heard her say something about "calling the city," and "senor."  It sounded like she was saying something about calling the city to make a parking space private.  She'd had that conversation with us before, and probably has had it with her relatives. 

Recently, Beatrice seems increasingly friendly with Bernardo's wife, and more curt with me.  Additionally, it seems increasingly impossible to get parking in front of her other relatives' homes.

A defining moment happened last week during our street-cleaning day during the rain.  I didn't have work on a Monday, and we had two cars --- one was already in the driveway.  I had to move my other car for street cleaning. 

The wind was blowing, but it wasn't raining.  She was outside and asking me if it was our trash can they had taken.  It was. 

Cool.

She motioned to move back into her house.

Realizing I had to move the car soon,  I asked if she could watch my son for a little bit.  She responded, "no it's too cold."  I showed her my son in the car seat, and she said "he's getting big," and vanished from sight.

I had to haul him back and forth about a quarter mile.

Adding salt to the wound, at 12 o clock, 1 hour before street cleaning hours are over,  Bernardo swooped in for the parking space not only in front of our house, but at 12:05 came in with his Land Rover and swooped in for the parking space in front of his house.

Being Consumerically Vegan


Becoming Mostly Consumerically Vegan

Though after watching the brutality of the violence against animals, becoming consumerically-vegan wasn’t a rash decision.

I have entertained and cultivated this idea for a really long time, and my understanding has evolved to the point where I feel like now’s the time. 

Now what does being “consumerically-vegan” mean?  It just means that I try not to buy products that use animals.  It means that I will still eat meat if its around, but I just won’t buy it.  We do not want to support the industry.  But in eating contexts where there is a lot of socializing such as family parties or with friends, we don’t really want to waste what has already been killed, so we will eat whatever they’re eating.

The first time I heard of Veganism was during my first year at UC Santa Cruz.  It was a big kid named Nils who took a lot of apples from the dining hall to brew beer in his dorm room.

Vegetarianism was one thing.  Fairly understandable if not untenable, at least to my 18-year old, son of a Filipino immigrant-grow-up in LA-mind.  Fairly understandable because I understood that OK, you just sit around all day and stuff yourself with leafy lettuce and tomatoes all day.  OK, that’s cool, for hippies.

But Veganism to me when I first heard about it was a little extreme.  Sitting around all day, stuffing yourself with leafy lettuce and tomatoes while also making sure that anything you eat has no milk, eggs, cheese --- dairy products.   Hippie.  Extremism.

To me it just seemed like way too much trouble.  Why go out of your way?  What’s one less dead animal?

A few days ago, I joined the hippie extremist part of my 18-year old mind.  31-year old going on 32-year old me has decided to become a consumerist-vegan.  A “consumerist-vegan” meaning I just try to actively not buy any animal products. 

I come in with the idea that I control my wallet better than I control my appetite.  So if I curb the spending and choose not to spend on meat, then it will not be available, and I won’t have any choice but to eat anything without animal products.

What had appeared to be a lot of rules and restrictions about what I could eat has now become something I’ve simply decided just not to actively seek out.

What’s Helped Me Make This Choice?

A lot of things have fallen into place over the years.

First and foremost, I was strongly inspired by the visual of what happens to animals.  Seeing videos of brutality against the animals drove the point home.

On a Saturday night in January, my wife and I had actually just come home with a meal from our favorite burger joint in Wilmington.  Not exactly a vegan-friendly establishment though I never looked past their fish sandwich and fries.

Per Saturday night, we watched a Netflix movie, of three people considering Veganism being coached up to become Vegan.  I thought the host of the movie was kind of self-absorbed and smug, but her movie did pack a few punches.  One, she showed the naked brutality of the treatment of cows, chickens, etc.  Two, she showed the foods that were “accidentally Vegan.”

There was a time in my life as a cynical prick-ish teenager when I wouldn’t be as disturbed by the contents of a documentary, but I guess a lot more life experience and regard for life has grown, so has the pull to make such a dramatic lifestyle change.

Secondly, we’ve each experimented with the lifestyles of Vegetarianism.  She more than me.  She actually was Vegetarian for a relatively long time.  She started eating meat while at the convent because it was the only food offered, and they made her feel bad. 

Me, I ate Vegetarian meals because of who I happened to be dating.  Girlfriends #2 and #3 were/probably still are vegetarians.  They didn’t try to force me into it, and I wasn’t at all interested when I was dating either.  I was just waiting for the times when I could eat meat.  However, from girlfriend #2, I learned about the Vegetarian-ish foodscape particularly in central LA, and from girlfriend #3, I learned about the concept of the foodscape, with which I am actively analyzing and deconstructing; more of that below.

Thirdly, little trinkets of conversation over the years to help me little by little come to the realization that Veganism was a mindset that I could actually attain.

I realized that eating vegan wasn’t necessarily focusing on eating vegetables to the exclusion of everything else.   I think the popular perception, certainly the idea my college-educated sister, and I had about vegetarianism and veganism were that they just ate vegetables all the time.

However, for me at least, someone on a basketball message board deconstructed that idea.   Just because they were vegan didn’t mean they spend their whole time obsessed with vegetables and greens. The poster made the point that s/he ate things like apples --- that’s vegan.  It's a subtle point that kind of stuck. 

It wasn’t till I watched the movie and they listed a handful of “accidentally vegan foods, that I decided OK, this really could be done.  On the list of accidentally Vegan foods:  Aunt Jemima and Pancakes, Lay’s BBQ Chips, teddy grahams.

Fourthly, not only this backdrop of information overload (Google and Yelp), but some more intimate knowledge of where I can get good Vegan take-out or sit-down meals around the South Bay Los Angeles area.

It helps that I’ve been somewhat exposed to a handful of vegetarian non-meat-based restaurants and products.

So far, my wife and I have “discovered” the Veggie Grill in Torrance as a fine substitute for many of the eateries we used to go to in and around the South Bay.  The only piece of meat that I really miss is In-N-Out, but apparently there's a few ways to make substitutes.

In addition to Trader Joe's, we've learned of the Vegan foods at stores we normally go to such "Vegan treats at Target" and "Vegan products at Costco." 

I’ve slowly came to realize that the quality of food matters more than scarcity.  My mom taught me how to go for anything cheap and convenient.  Cheap clothes.  Cheap shoes.  Cheap gifts.  Cheap food.  The more you get the better, every time.  And that’s just how I thought and shopped till I met my wife, who shopped at Trader Joes.   

We are appalled at how cheap and convenient it is to not be Vegan.  Going vegan, even as just a consumer is as if were paying for the privilege.  Apparently it's just cheaper and easier to raise and then kill an animal.

What does it mean to be consumerically-vegan?

I briefly told you of my wife’s story of converting from vegetarianism back to meat-eating.

Some Anthropologists have also told parallel tales of quitting vegetarianism only to eat meat because they would have offended their participants.

My wife and I am sensitive to the fact that many people around me and their diets are still based on animal products so a “consumerist-vegan” is the best compromise to “living” Vegan while also not putting people around us on the defensive.

Times where we have lapsed

We are definitely not strictly “consumerically-vegan” as we are learning all the dos and don’ts, and there are times when we have lapsed into buying animal products. 

Though its been far and few and between, here is a listing of times we’ve lapsed:

-Buying cupcakes at a small bakery in Lakewood;  I didn’t want to be rude to the one employee there after stepping in
-Buying a trail mix with yogurt chips in it at Costco in Lakewood;  kind of inexcusable
-Buying pizza while out with friends at Cpk in Lakewood
-Buying chicken pho and Thai Tea to celebrate my wife’s birthday in Gardena;  my wife’s favorite food
-Buying whole milk at Smart N Final in Compton;  for our kid
-Buying yogurt at Smart N Final in Compton;  for our kid

What makes it even harder is that my wife and I have a one-year old.  We were recently told by our pediatrician that it was OK to have him drink whole milk;  we asked if we could do Soy, but she gave us the impression that it was to be used only if he had lactose intolerance.

He recently also had a bout of diarrhea and vomiting, which to us as relatively new parents, is scary.  It seemed like he didn’t have a good reaction to the whole milk. 

One solution to his dose of double trouble was doing the BRAT(y) diet, which I read of online.   It consists of banana, rice, applesauce, and toast – a bland diet.  The [y} in parentheses stands for yogurt, and to me it makes sense because it is a probiotic --- good for his gut bacteria.

Neither of us are physicians, pediatricians, or nutritionists, and were not as secure in our knowledge of dos and don'ts. 

We want to be able to give him all the vitamins he needs, and were kind of wary of supplements.

So our education continues.