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.

The Different Ways I've Initially Described Compton to Different People, and Their Initial Reactionss

We talk differently to people depending on circumstances, and how we anticipate they'll respond to us. 

With the way Compton has received an infusion of cultural capital in the past year because of the movie re-hashing NWA's rise and fall and Kendrick Lamar everything, you'd think it'd always be something to proudly declare, but not always so, particularly with people I don't know. 

Generally in everyday conversation with acquaintances and people I don't immediately know, I try to show "alignment."  That is, I just try to see where they're coming from and then "show" how similar I am to them. 

With "people whom I've met only briefly", the conversation is all about getting to know a person, and "where I live" would be a primary question.

By "showing alignment", I am likely not going to mention that I am from Compton, unless they ask, but in a way that doesn't seem like they'd think any less of me and/or disregard any of my future opinions. 

For example, when meeting new people, for me it's really difficult to tell white people who are generations before me because either they are outside of California and do not know the reference to Compton, they are from California and are probably likely to associate Compton with negativity.

In contrast, "people with whom I am in regular contact", we have an established certain pattern of interacting.  Were beyond introductions and more about talking about whatever we've established talking about and updating each other on aspects of our lives.  "Where I live" would usually be a question embedded within an established history of conversation.

So, here's a sampling of different people I've encountered over the past three years, their demographics, the circumstance in which I've introduced my town, and my relation to them divided by race.  I divide on race, because in one-to-one interaction, it is the one attribute you can't really do anything to hide unless you're talking to a room of blind.

I don't think that we are inherently "different" as peoples of different races.  I don't think "white people are a certain way, black people are a certain way etc.", but depending on your race (as well as class-gender-ethnicity-etc.), you will have associations, knowledges, and behaviors ascribed to your race.  We as humans all carry very arbitrary, imperfect associations, knowledges, and behaviors of different races and ethnicities.

As you will read, those associations, knowledges, and behaviors constrain how both any given individual views and is viewed.  


TO WHITE PEOPLE WITH WHOM I AM IN REGULAR CONTACT (OR USED TO BE):   With these older people, I haven't really talked about where I live.  I avoid it, or were too deep into the relationship talking about other things that where I live hasn't come up.  With younger folks, I talk about it and it's not an issue after that.

To a blue-collar male co-worker in his mid-50s living in Orange County:  I wrote about this guy here.  Though I've developed a pretty good working relationship with him, I still avoid the topic as much as possible.  I have not mentioned at all that I live in Compton.  He thinks that I live in Long Beach, because I'd mentioned that I was "still" in Long Beach when I was running late one day.

To a college-educated male co-worker in his mid-50s formerly living in Culver City:  Unlike the guy above, I would actually talk to this guy.  He'd even met my wife and has seen my baby.  He would talk about old Los Angeles, things he'd done on our job around LA, and trips he'd taken across the country and abroad.  I never mentioned living in Compton, but it wasn't because I did not want to tell him;  the topic just never came up.


To a graduate-school educated male lawyer in his mid-30s living in New England:   Last time I saw this guy was my wedding.  I warned him, told him, he drove in with his wife.  Great times had.


To a some college female co-worker in her 40s-50s living in West Covina:  I trained this person on a project.  She was friendly and asked about my baby.  I met her for the first time right after the shootings in San Bernardino and she said that she had ties to the facility.  I was trying to feel her out based on how she was reacting.  She never really asked so I never mentioned that I live in Compton. 

To a some college male co-worker in his mid-20s living in Venice:  This guy I'd actually consider my friend.  I actually had him visit the house in Compton, on a Friday night.  The first thing he did was call his brother and ask him, "hey guess where I am?"


 TO WHITE PEOPLE WHOM I'VE MET ONLY BRIEFLY:  I'm very guarded against older white people and try to get a feel for their political leanings.  With younger people, I usually just try to lay cultural references thick on the "millennials."

To a college-educated female "co-worker" in her early 30s visiting from Washington, DC:  She was there to observe me for a job, specifically for jobs in Compton.  I told her that we'd be visiting the area.  She seemed somewhat indifferent even as I was trying to make the rap references which seemed only vaguely familiar to her.  She had the company-rented car and didn't mind leaving her car in a Compton neighborhood, a very suburban-Lakewood-ish-appearing area south of Rosecrans on the West side.

To a some college immigrant realtor in her 50s living in Upland:  She was curious about the job I was doing.  I explained my job.  We got into a deeper conversation about children as she was carting around her grandson. 

I initially told her I live in "Los Angeles."  As the conversation snowballed and knowing her realtor sensibilities, I got comfortable enough to reveal that my wife.  As I expected, she remarked that "buying" and "owning" is better than renting.

TO BLACK PEOPLE WITH WHOM I AM IN CONTACT REGULARLY (OR USED TO BE)
By "black people", I mean "black Americans."  Black Americans usually know what Compton is and what it means.  Despite living in Compton, I don't run across many from outside who would really question the experience.  I think I garner more of an "oh really?  Cool"  sentiment from the very few that I know.


To a college-educated male former roommate and postman in his early 40s living in Long Beach:  This guy was a transplant from the Midwest, whom I described on my former other blog.  When I first told him bout my new digs in Compton, he told me to invite him over.


To a college-educated female birthing midwife in her late 40s-early 50s living in Upland:   We told her kind of hesitantly that we lived in Compton, attempting to hint at the fact that it was a more Latino neighborhood in which there had been a hate crime.  She responded in a way that said, "really, you think I'd be scared of Compton?"


TO ASIAN PEOPLE WITH WHOM I AM IN CONTACT REGULARLY (OR USED TO BE):  This is pretty much family members and friends, so on one hand, I know they're supportive, but sometimes they might drop subtle cues.  Also, since they're family and friends, I likely told them some two years ago in 2013-2014.

To a college-educated female immigrant nurse in her early 60s living in Santa Clarita:  This is one of the aunties from my mom's class who seems to like me a lot.  She actually visited me one time.


To a college-educated female nurse in her early 30s living Culver City:  I went to grade school with her, she was a year behind me.  We both ended up graduating from the same college, though I transferred from Slug Nation.  She's a nurse now, and is still close to one of my close family friends.  When I told her that we were living in Compton, she asked, "straight up?"  The kicker is that she is going to marry a guy with whom I went to high school with and also was a year behind me, and also ended up at the same college.  So I had to explain further, "yeah, it's the cheapest place to buy a house!"

To a college-educated female teacher in her early 30s living in Eagle Rock:  This is the "close family friend" whom I mentioned in the synopsis previous to this one.  She's been more like an older sister.  She was supportive, after all she'd worked very close to the area.  Though she did wonder, if I'd ever be able to sell the house that we'd bought.

To a college-educated male counselor in his early 30s living in the San Fernando Valley:  This is my best man.  He's a big fan of the wire and hip-hop, and especially Kendrick Lamar.  I try to let him know about significant locations here.

To a college-educated male engineer in his early 30s living in Orange County:  One of my groomsmen whom I've grown up with and told to visit, but he hasn't visited.  But I think it's mostly because he's busy.

A graduate school educated female pharmacist in her early 30s living in West Covina and a graduate school educated counselor in her her early 30s living in Pasadena:  I remember the conversation when I revealed to her and another friend that we were living in a house.  I came off already apologizing for our location.  I said something like "It's Compton, but..."  They replied at different times saying essentially, "...but it's a house!"



TO ASIAN PEOPLE WHOM I'VE ONLY MET BRIEFLY:  Like with older white people, I also am guarded and try to get a quick read on their political leanings.

To a blue-collar male welder in his late 60s living in Torrance:  I met this guy while on a job in a beach city.  He was seeing me doing my job, and was bragging at how he had been a veteran, and for a long-time an expert welder.  He talked about his trips to different places.  He encouraged me to go to school for welding at El Camino College so I could "better myself."  I did not mention the city I live in to him.   

To a college graduate female graduate student in her mid 20s living in LA:  I met this girl while doing a big project.  We found similar academic interests.  She was from San Jose.  I was kinda trying to get a feel for how she'd react but I let out that I live in Compton...but for economic reasons.  She appeared to show alignment and understanding of my reasoning.

TO LATINO PEOPLE WITH WHOM I AM IN CONTACT REGULARLY (OR USED TO BE):  Similar to the situation with black folk, I don't really have any issues telling any of them regardless of education, class, gender, or age that I'm from Compton.  Usually I can joke with them about it, and/or comfortably invite them over with no issues.

To a blue-collar male co-worker in his early 30s living in South LA:  Dude I'd consider the homey.  He regularly comes to drop work off.  He even has a girlfriend in the area.

To a blue-collar male co-worker in his early 30s living in East LA:  Dude I'd consider the homey.  He doesn't come to drop work off.  We still joke a bit. 


To a blue-collar male barber in his early 70s living in Gardena:  This guy's my barber.  He collects clocks and stuff from the '50s, which is displayed prominently all over his barber shop.  I only recently started really getting close with him after my 3rd or 4th haircut, especially after I found that he's actually Mexican (thought he was some Italian guy from New York), and after a roving vendor with socks tried to sell me socks and called me a "verga" for pretending to be interested, when I was just trying to be nice.  Anyhoo, I didn't really have much issue telling him that I was living in Compton.  He told me he was from Watts, and the conversation went on and on from there.

To a some college female immigrant superior in her early 30s living in West Covina:  Now this person is kind of my boss, but she's pretty cool.  After a few projects under our belt, we've developed a pretty close working relationship.  Our conversations are really always about work, but sometimes we deviate and talk about our families.  I'd never really mentioned the city to her, except for job purposes.  I don't really talk about it because I don't know how familiar she would be with any of the cultural references.

TO LATINO PEOPLE I'VE ONLY MET BRIEFLY 

To a blue-collar male in his mid 20s living in South LA:  I was working with this guy who had some punk rock T-shirt on all the time and was supposed to work with the company.  He told me that he lived in South LA.  I told him I lived up the street. 

My Secret to Escaping the Sunset-Barrington Intersection That Everyone Is Complaining About

And by "Everyone", I mean some residents of Brentwood.

Other than a taxi, Uber, or Lyft driver, I don't know how many people drive the variety of routes that I do in and around Southern California.  

I've actually had to go directly to Brentwood on Sunset before 7 AM on a number of occasions.

It's about 20-24 miles from me, so I leave my house in Compton at about 5:30 AM and usually get there with plenty of time to spare, sometimes at 6:15 - 6:30.  Coming from the 405, I don't experience such a crush of traffic, especially when it's still dark outside, and that's just my point. 

When I absolutely need to, I leave early and get to where I need to, including that Sunset-Barrington, corridor.  That's the secret!

But then again, that's just my own thing, which probably won't make for a good broad design solution to the problem for everyone.  Also, I'm coming Eastbound from the 405, usually childless, as opposed to Westbound from the 405, which seems to bear the brunt of the complaint.

On the way home, usually at around 9AM, I also have been subjected to this "one-mile, one-hour" traffic in the morning, but it never registered as seismically different from my many other traffic experiences on the 605 North in the morning or the 605 South in the Evening, the 105 East during rush hour, even getting to the airport when you think people are away at work.

I don't know of any other viable-all encompassing solution. 

Though tolls "might" work because theoretically demand is high but supply is low, but I'd think the affluent who probably make up most of the drivers will probably still pay to go on without any second thought.  The poor people like me, who work there, will be the ones feeling the hit. 

After that solution, I'm not sure how much changing traffic signal timing and street markings will do.

I've read the comments on the Facebook pages of KPCC and LAist about how they should've allowed transit to be built or how they should just bike. 

Yes, they should have allowed transit, but not much they can do about the situation now. 

A fraction of them can bike (though biking Sunset west of West Hollywood is really scary), but that won't work for those who carry cargo and/or kids.

I guess the only real solution is to make that area very unpopular and undesirable so no one will traffic the area;  that's the thinking behind writing this blog here!

I Just Attended My First LAPD Officer-Involved Shooting...

Yesterday, my mother-in-law went to good ole trusty UCLA Harbor Hospital.  She felt pains in her chest, and that she couldn't breathe. 

She was supposed to have surgery about a week ago but backed out last minute.  Now, since she hasn't had the surgery, she's been anxious about not having it.  To the emergency room, she went.

My wife happens to be the most available offspring.  The moment she stepped in, she took on translation duties for incoming nurses and doctors, explaining everything from commands to the implications of surgery.

We waited for hours.  There was talk about fears of surgery, reminiscing about our sons growth.  Things were OK.  After a restroom break, I found my father-in-law at the room.

What I was able to get was just pretty much audio and whatever my father-in-law told me, as he moved towards the action and witnessed it first hand.


My Account

A few resident cardiologists happened to be surveying her condition.  She was going to be moved to the cardiology section, when all of a sudden, I heard a really loud argument.

That couldn't be good.

There was screaming;  people scrambled every which way.  There were what sounded like shots (my father-in-law said they were tasers) and someone screaming.  It was unintelligible to me.  I was just hoping the action would not come our way.

My father-in-law and the two cardiologists walked towards the action, which made me want to see the action.  My wife yelled get away from the door.

Fearing the worst but also kind of curious, I compromised by staying by the door and kind of ducking down.  So all I could do was hear.

And then BOOM.  Even more screaming and scrambling! After recent events, I didn't know what the hell was going down.

All this time, my mother-in-law, a heart patient, was panicking and crying.  She was wondering why this was happening.  Her blood pressure rose to 150, which was a situation in itself.

My Father-in-Law's Account

My father-in-law said that a young, skinny, Hispanic-whitish tall man was tasered.  Twice to apparently no effect.

He then attempted to grab the TASER.

That's when the cops shot him.  How this suspect was positioned, I'm not 100% sure, but it sounded like the cops had him down, but that he was not complying.  Father-in-law said that they shot him in the back near the chest-area, and that was that.

In his conversation with me, he kept wondering why that guy would not listen to the officer's commands. 

Media Accounts

http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-officer-involved-shooting-20151219-story.html?145057780155310

http://ktla.com/2015/12/19/authorities-investigating-officer-involved-shooting-at-harbor-ucla-medical-center-in-torrance/

http://www.nbclosangeles.com/news/local/shooting-harbor-ucla-medical-center-officer-involved-torrance-363043351.html

The Aftermath

The Hospital was under code triage.  I heard the nurses at the front desk call other law enforcement agencies informing them of the situation.

After the melee, which lasted about 30 seconds to a minute (VERY FAST), the resident cardiologists returned to our room and calmly took us into our room.  They continued surveying and coached her breathing to lower her blood pressure back to a more manageable level.

After they left, we were stuck in our room for about an hour or two.  It seems that we didn't talk much about the situation because we'd all seen how anxious it had made mother-in-law.  But I could tell that it was something my father-in-law was aching to talk about.

The code triage alert was canceled about 30 minutes or hour after the shooting.

Sometime afterward my father-in-law announced, "hey why don't we get hot chocolate and coffee?"  She still had coffee from my trip to In-N-Out.

We made our way to the cafeteria.  On the way there, immediately outside the door about 20 feet away was yellow tape blocking off a hallway, and cops in LAPD black milling about.  It was a crime scene, but there was an air of casualty about it as we took a look and walked towards the exit for the cafeteria.

A few of the workers at the cafeteria knew we were on alert but not the reason why.  Of course my father-in-law had all the information and he would share what he saw. 

We got our hot chocolates and coffee and attempted to get back into the emergency room.  We still had our nametags and assumed that we could get back in but they were not allowing any visitors to the Emergency Room.  We tried explaining that we were just there!  He had seen everything!  But to no effect. 

We waited for about 3-4 hours checking in with the receptionists often.  We won some sympathy, but that still did not get us in. 

My Father-in-Law kept wondering aloud to me why they needed so much space for the investigation.  To him, the case was over when they shot him.  The only place they would transfer him was the freezer.

My Interpretation of Events

Everything happened really quickly in rapid succession.

Part of the scariness of the situation is that I didn't know or see where anything came from.  I didn't know if it was multiple shooters, what other weapons were there.

I just thought and hoped it wasn't a San Bernardino situation.

Was the cop right to pull the trigger?

It's hard to make any credible comment without seeing the situation.

After hearing my father-in-law's account and reading the news reporting, I'm still kind of unsure, but my opinion will ultimately hinge on whether or not the guy was restrained.

IF they had him "restrained" after swinging the metal chair, but not complying, I'd say probably not because the cops probably are not fearing for their lives.  It seems like they shot him just because that was just the more efficient tool given a long day with him.

IF he was "unrestrained" this whole time and possibly out there to cause havoc on civilians, patients in an ER room, guests, and doctors, then I'd probably lean towards saying that some kind of use of force was definitely justified, but a deadly use of force questionable.




The Problem With "If You See Something, Say Something": The Inevitable Selective Application of It After The San Bernardino Shooting

First off, on the shootings in general. As the father to a 9-month old, I can't understand how anything could drive you to commit an action that would take you away from an offspring.  I don't care to judge, but all I'm saying is these actions are infathomable and overwhelmingly tragic.  But yeah.  Damn.  Fuck.

After the mass shooting in San Bernardino, law enforcement has aggressively encouraged the public with a sign I've seen at Disney Studios in Burbank "if you see something, say something."  I generally don't have a problem with that as a general idea applied to any situation. Its a constant reminder, and upon seeing it, people will always be on the look out in general.  

But the mass call by law enforcement in the context of just this shooting bugs me a little bit.

Only in this shooting, out of the 350 or so this year, have I seen/heard law enforcement, people more aggressively say, "if you see something, say something."  The more 'radicalized' conservative version of people commenting on this situation is people saying "I don't care if I offend Muslims, let's profile the crap out of them!"  Meanwhile, we'll still have about 348 of those other mass shootings. 

The fact that law enforcement is more vocal to "see something, say something" particularly around this shooting involving Muslims is that now your right-wing radical as well as your average moderate will wonder a lot more about the Arabic, Middle-Eastern-ish garb-wearing people for nothing other than the way they look and dress.  I say "Middle-Eastern-ish" because just as after 9/11 we saw idiots harrass Sikhs for the headscarf, they will probably do the same. 

The fact that the San Bernardino shooter has been constantly described as "quiet", that co-workers couldn't remember any conflicts, and that even his own family didn't suspect anything, gives those who want to "see something, say something" even more reason to scrutinize anything they associate to be "Muslim" to the exclusion of any other person who also may be doing something suspicious.