Bring a Gelsons to Compton to Replace Fresh N' Easy

Pronto.

I'd never really been to Gelson's only because I've never really lived in proximity to one when it became a Gelson's.

That all changed a few days ago, not me suddenly up and living near a Gelson's, but suddenly spending a whole day very near a Gelson's.  I spent a whole day, where I essentially had to rely on Gelson's for my lunch and dinner, the Gelson's on Franklin Ave. in Hollywood.

3 points for why a Gelson's would be an absolute great candidate to replace the Fresh N' Easy in Compton.

Score 1.

Cheap cold drinks.

50 cents for a bottle of water.  55 cents for a can of coke.  My co-worker told me this in the morning which I just kind of forgot till my break came and I needed a drink.  I searched the market for cold drinks;  I was skeptical and after 5 minutes or so could not find these vaunted 55 cent drinks.

Then near the seafood and meats section, I see cans and bottles ready for immediate lunch-time consumption.

What the, was this a re-boot of the 1980s or something?!  Very cheap drinks, essentially at the Costco fountain drink level.

Score 2.

A good mix of good ol', reliable brand names but with blended with "organic" brands you might see at a Trader Joes/Whole Foods.

2 for $5 on Hawaiian Barbecue chips.  Though this is arguably not a score for my weight and health.

But if you wanted, you could also binge on kale chips or the quinoa at the salad bar, your choice.

Score 3.

Good on-the-go healthy options for food.  I took home some quality antioxidant salad for a hungry wife.

From what I remember at Fresh N'Easy, there isn't much there except food in packages.

I do not know the numbers, but my sense is that there is a building demand for food-to-go and healthy options, even in Compton.  If there's any indicator of this, it's the fact that we now have three Starbucks stores in the area.  Starbucks has traditionally been seen as an indicator of incoming middle-classdom.  The area where that Gelson's would be located would be near a Starbucks, incidentally, a Starbucks that like any other Starbucks is full of people on their laptops during the daytime. 

I think a Gelson's would attract people looking for cheap drinks and some trusted also brand names, but also have the potential to hook people on healthier foods.  I think it would be an even better alternative than the Trader Joe's that I've wanted.


California Drought: I Am Honestly Confused about My Water Bill

The drought has become extremely severe, so I've heard from the local news and from social media.

According to a Jet Propulsion Laboratory guy, we have only one year of reserve supply left and will be digging hard at underground water.

I understand the drought at a superficial level.

We've heard about the drought for years.  When there isn't an accident or amber alert, the flashing electronic signs on California highways mention the fact that we are in a "serious drought" and that we must "help save water."

I get that we have a finite amount of resources.

I get that we need lots of rain for several years to get back to "normal."

However, I don't think I completely understand the entire picture of our water supply.

The number one thing I am confused about (and hope not to alert my water company is):  my water bill is still around $30-$40 for a single-family home with three people.

That's awesome for my income and allows me to keep on going as I am.

I get that I am not a heavy commercial water user (like say, a golf course owner) and so my prices might not that be high anyway.

But if we really are in a very dire situation why are the water prices I pay not skyrocketing as well?  Or is that just lurking around the corner?  I know that water restrictions are along the way.  

I do want to keep paying what I am paying, but I also am curious as to how this is happening.  Supply is apparently low, demand is probably high, but prices remain low?  What am I missing here?

I mean, I hope the low prices continue, but can anyone actually explain?

Now, Where to Bike for My Edamame?

Welp, I talked trash about the Fresh N' Easy here in Compton when I first got here, wishing instead for a Trader Joe's.
  Probably the same odds as the Chicago Bulls getting the first pick in the 2008 NBA Draft which was 1.7%, which is to say, probably not a good chance.

Now it looks like the Fresh N' Easy chain is closing up a bunch of shops across the Southland.  Kinda sad, as is any failure, but hopefully something better awaits.

The most notable things for me about the particular Central and Rosecrans Fresh N' Easy were that: 1)  it was completely all self-check-out and 2)  recently found that it was the only place to get edamame.

I don't know where unless I go outside of city limits to Gardena (for the Albertson's on Artesia, which I'm not completely sure has edamame) and/or Torrance (Trader Joe's).

Other than that, I did not find the selection that remarkable or radically different than what I could find across the street at Food4Less.  I did not find that food was "fresh", as it appeared that a lot of the food came in packages.  The fruit and vegetable section was not especially large --- it was just one other aisle on the south side of the store in addition to its numerous aisles.

Judging from the physical junk mail I get, the alternatives to getting Fresh Food are the aforementioned Food4Less, Ralph's, Superior, Payless Foods.  I have no idea where people actually do groceries, though that would be an interesting survey.

The main takeaway for me is now that I know for sure that I have to DRIVE to get my edamame.

What It Means to Have People Buzz Over Some Filipino Guy Being the Center of Mainstream Media Attention

You feel that you kinda "fit in."  That you're the "in thing" at least for one hot night. 

Manny Pacquiao is 1/2 of what is expected to be the the "richest fight" in history, though he's only going to get 40% of the purse when he finally fights Floyd Mayweather on May 2. 

I've written about the "meaning" of Manny Pacquiao.

After a childhood of looking to black Americans in the media as a rough model for "how to be" (something heavily referenced on the new ABC show Fresh Off the Boat), it has been thoroughly vindicating seeing someone who looks like he might be someone you actually know be a center of mainstream media attention.  It's one thing that he's one of us AND talented, it's another thing that he's one of us, talented, AND acknowledged by mainstream media.

For Filipinos, he's been everything.  Every night that Manny has had a fight since around 2004 has been a rallying/gathering point for many Filipino-Filipino-Americans all across our diaspora.  His fights have been their own holiday/reason enough for a party, regardless of religion, political views, etc. 

I've watched his fights at friends' family's houses, friends of friends houses, streamed it online, etc.  I've monitored Facebook and social media after those fights.  I've seen the gamut of reactions from a gamut of people, young, old, big, small.  I've seen friends and aunties get almost cocky and boasty after Pacquiao's delivered a knockout blow.  I've seen the exhultations, exhilerations, and failures. 

He hasn't lost much, but the last one he did to Juan Manuel Marquez, some aunties were actually crying at the fact that he got knocked out. I myself delivered my own expletive-filled and borderline reactionary racist rant after the fight, with Mexican friends and Mexican wife around.  I'm glad that no one was uploaded any video of that reaction.

If it weren't for his vicious left hook, Manny "looks" like he could be the one of the drunk uncles kicking back at a family party.  He could be the Filipino guy with his family you see at church (if only he was Catholic).  I can tell you that unless you were the relatives of Ernie Reyes Jr. or Dante Basco, you'd probably never felt as related to someone in the media as you have Manny Pacquiao.

He's a figure who "feels" close to everywhere I go, everything I regularly do as a Filipino or Filipino-American residing in Los Angeles.  He "feels" like someone who is where I am, does what I do, and is still recognized for one thing he does pretty well.


Seeing him be a big figure in general feels like a big accomplishment than itself.  I personally feel that race and ethnicity don't even matter (even though this is why he has such a following.)  What I mean by this is that race and ethnicity don't matter in that he gets the mainstream media attention just like an attractive white lady can get the mainstream media attention, albeit I'd hazard that he worked harder than the average attractive white lady to get that attention.

The shelf life for any superstar athlete in the media is somewhat fleeting (though less so in the age of social media), and Manny has managed to keep the steam building for almost 10 years now.  I was amazed that Paris Hilton knew who he was.  Then came the praise from other pop figures from Justin Timberlake, Justin Bieber, and well, even Beyonce herself.  The idea that he is known and acknowledged make us also feel known and acknowledged.

Cell Phone Zones in the Library?

About 90% of the time I'm at a library, I bring a laptop.  In fact I typed the bulk of this blog from a library right, the El Toro Library in Lake Forest.

Usually libraries have only a few "spaces" for laptops.  Spaces meaning "desk space" and a "power outlet."

To a library with which I am not acquainted or a busy library, it usually takes anywhere from a minute to 3 minutes to find a suitable place to settle at a space. It usually takes about a minute to unload the stuff.  The computer if not on standby takes another minute to unload.  That's about anywhere from 3 minutes to 6 minutes to settle down. 

The thing that messes up/threatens that settled downness? 

A phone call from work, which I frequently get when in a library.  Matter of fact, the library staff just told me to take the call outside, and I was on the phone for less than a minute.

A phone call from work is not usually a big deal in most contexts, but traditionally the public library has been the space of enforced "quietness."

A phone call from work means I have to do one of three things:  A)  talk really really low (my preferred option)  B)  go to a place outside and talk, while leaving my laptop at the space.  C)  pack up and leave and then go outside and talk. 

If I get clear-cut options, I usually opt for option A if I don't have anywhere to go immediately and want to remain in the library.  Option B, I'll take if it's clear that my talking would really disrupt the quietness.  Option C, I'll do if it's time for me to leave anyway.

However there are times when I'm combining option A and B, and it's just kind of frantic.  I am thinking specifically of the Santa Monica main library and the County of LA Library in West Hollywood, where in both modern, spacious libraries, I was trying to do option B, but found myself doing option A while trying to keep eyes on my laptop and backpack.  I mean, I don't think people would steal, but I'd rather not have taken any chance on a $1,300 laptop.

I think a few solutions would be:  a) some kind of cell phone zone/room located in an area with full visibility of my stuff.  This means altering the layout of libraries so that there isn't so much stuff in the way.  b) having a soundproof room with surveillance cameras (not a fan of this but...) c)  if the library is large enough, having one zone that is not rigorously subject to the expectation of silence/quiet.

Being a Gentrifier in a Neighborhood with a Generational Gang?

The article (20 Ways Not to be a Gentrifier) struck a few nerves.  I mean I agree and disagree with the sentiments, but I think the disagreements are worth noting.

Danette Lambert, the writer, argues that it isn't necessarily moving into the neighborhood that 'makes' you a 'gentrifier', it's what you do, which includes "ignoring the tastes and culture of the people living there.'

First off, I think labeling anyone a 'gentrifier' is always going to be destructive and divisive.  I don't think anyone takes kindly to being labeled something negative.  It's an advocacy article intended for an audience the writer doesn't write for, but actually written for and in the language of the writer's advocacy circle, framed as an 'objective' "how-to" article. 

That said, I think I agree with the intention of the article which is to promote more behavior that builds community within a community.  However, I don't think I'd take as much of a "do-this and this and this" patronizing type tone.

Aside from the patronizing tone, I don't know to what degree the advice is effective in all neighborhoods.  I think that the advice from Lambert's article might work for a place already in full gentrification mode ala Highland Park, but I'm not sure if it works for a street with a gang on it. 

As a middle-class raised person raised with an Anthropological lens, I fully agree that I shouldn't "ignore the tastes and culture of the people living there." I say hi to my next door neighbors, but saying that to anyone around the block sometimes yields a funny look.

The underlying issue is that there appears to be some real distrust here.  Not only are the tags being kept alive by people, but every house still has a gate, and more often than not you'll find a big hulking pitbull to bark your ear off. 

My next door neighbor has a fortress for a garage gate, which they open every morning before work and close every night after work.  The only thing we know is that they throw some big parties in that fortress there, but they don't seem like a gang, though we can't be 100% sure.

I pointed out to my wife that I never see when people do their groceries, she said that people do their groceries at night so that no one sees what they have.

I feel like every house is their own little tribe.

Despite the distrust that appears to be apparent, I do recognize my neighbors as people.  I do think I like to see the optimistic side of my neighbors.

I'm pretty cool with life here on the block, however, the existence of gang tagging and looming threat of violence hints at another question addressed towards, what to do about a gang culture that appears to be a part of the social fabric of your neighborhood?

I mean I would like to re-organize the enthusiasm gang members have for their gangs into something else. But it seems like any real solution will take some real work and time that would involve people wanting to change themselves rather than attempting to force a change.

In Search of the "Progressive Way" to Deal with Panhandlers and Informal Entrepreneurs: Surpluses

Two demographics that dot the public spaces of LA.

Though, those dots are invisible to most.  Panhandlers and informal entrepreneurs, on a freeway off or on-ramp near you, whether it's the Pacific Coast Highway exit off the 110-North or the 405 North Nordhoff exit.

The panhandlers beg for money.

I see them mostly in and around freeways, sometimes outside storefronts, the gas station, the restaurant, usually in the comfort of my own car.

The informal entrepreneurs are a significantly larger class of folks, which involve someone trying to sell you something, whether it's roses (specially during Holiday events), candy, water, fruit, pirated DVDs, headphones, cigarettes.  They are found any and everywhere, especially on the Metro.

Some in need of materials that you could provide.  Some genuinely needing to temporarily soothe something.

Some, more in your face.  Some with really funny posters.  Some looking perplexing.  Some just really sad-looking.
 
Being de-sensitized to each of these categories of people is just a part of living as a better off, probably advantaged Los Angeleno whether you're from Compton or Malibu.

***Catholic guilt seeps in***

If you've been in and around stores and have tried to ignore someone who was asking for change, you're simply doing what probably everyone whose ever lived in any big city has probably done.

Though were probably not far away from a viral video showing someone engaging all panhandlers and informal entrepreneurs they meet.


* * *

I'd like to think that I'm something of a "progressive" person.

I'm pretty sure that somewhere in that adjective "progressive," there's a binding agreement that you not only share generously with others, but also attempt to not to pity or look down upon someone.  As I understand it, the progressive line of thinking champions "solidarity" instead of "charity," meaning that you don't just come and "give" something away as a pittiance to someone but you show that you're with them, but I often find that in real life it's somewhat difficult for me to understand what would be "extending solidarity" and what would be "extending charity."

One time I did see a "progressive" person turn down a panhandler.  We were in fact coming from a meeting about social justice in Downtown LA.  A panhandler approached us, and my progressive friend replied, "Sorry, sir, I don't have anything."

From that moment forward, I wanted to say things just like my friend.  "Sorry, sir, I don't have anything."  He looked firmly into the panhandler's eyes, acknowledging the panhandler's existence, used the respectful term "sir", but I knew my friend had money to spare.  It made me wonder if he was consistent, which I've never gotten to see again.

My giving patterns have been quite random, though I'm not in a hurry to find out what I'm biased towards or away from.

My policy (though inconsistently applied) for about 5 years has been to offer granola bars or whatever I already have.  My most memorable application of this personal policy was after a party where I'd stuffed myself with pizza.  There were many leftovers and I ended up taking a box home.  On the way home, with an extra pizza left, a woman was on the street asking for change.  I was thinking about how I didn't want to give money, but the idea occurred to me to offer her something that she could immediately use.  I gave her the pizza.  She opened it and said in a amazement, "it's the whole pizza!"  I said, "yes, I know" as if I was giving away my meal.

Sometimes I'll buy a meal, or groceries, to which people will be thankful.  Other times it's like, OK.  One time after a Bambu concert in Echo Park while my friends and I got "dirty" dogs, there was a light trickle of people while a homeless person and his dog sat and looked on.  I just went ahead and bought an extra dog and soda and gave it away.  I know you're not supposed to expect something when you give it away, but a thanks would've been nice, though he wasn't necessarily asking for the dirty dog.

* * *

I don't like giving money away.

I think of this daily random stinginess, and then juxtapose it with the way I basically give away a lot of money.  I think of sports games and buying concessions.  I think of Disneyland buying food and souvenirs.  In those privatized spaces, I buy concessions out of convenience;  one of my needs/desires needs to be satisfied.  My wife always makes the point that "here we are about to spend money on enjoying ourselves and then some people still can't find a place to sleep,"

Then I think of all the waste that I have and that there are people who waste even more than me.  I think, "well, couldn't we put those extras to use?"

I guess the answer relies on determining our extras and excesses and finding a way to recycle and re-use them part and parcel of our infrastructure.