Now, the Compton Chronicles

So, a bunch of hilarity has ensued since grad school started for me 3 years ago.

3 years ago, as a 26-year old, the world was wide open, but I hadn't done much.   I could barely land a job interview, pay rent to my godsister who graciously permitted me to stay in her Long Beach condo with her and her-then boyfriend (now husband) on Monday nights.  I was also feeling the effects of a break-up.

3 years later, as a 29-year old, the world is still wide open, but I feel like I have done a little more.   I'm proud to have been part of a memoir, part of getting someone a job at a major university, and done a little tutoring, mentoring, teaching, and research.  I now have 2 part-time jobs in research (which is still not ideal), and along with my fiance, a Kindergarten teacher, will be making our first mortgage payment on November 1, 2013 for the new living quarters that I am typing from in Compton.

Nowhere in my dreams from 3 years ago did I ever envision the near-future containing any one of: proposing, house-buying, going to church, and/or moving to Compton..


We here.

Just finished my 3rd night here in my house in Compton.

We've been going back and forth here for the past 2 weeks ever since we practically emptied out a large portion of each of our own savings accounts to close out the deal.  But we figured, if there's anything to empty it out for, it would be a house, right?

Life's been great the past few months, but I know to be cautiously optimistic.

Looking at the pile of bills to pay and thinking of all the imaginary ones that will need to be dealt with from property taxes to student loans, I today experienced a different edge to the phrase "making ends meet."  The edge felt a little more engulfing, and gripping. 

However,  I think about how her immigrant family of 7, sometimes on the back of just one income-earner, made it work.  They are now thriving in Wilmington.  And the kids?  They are alright.  Every time I think of their family trajectory, I realize that I am with someone who makes (good) things happen.  

And so...

Cautiously optimistic.

About the city of Compton as well.  I am cautiously optimistic.

Yes, to a large extent, Compton still seems to be defined by outsiders the emergence of NWA and the ubiquitous, iconic gangsta rap.  

But I think they've been trying to change it for a long time.  Their signage before you cross a city boundary, at least on the Southwest end bordering Gardena and Carson, says "Birthing a New Compton."  I'd seen that motto when I did a homeless count a few years ago.

I'd even attended some kind of city committee meeting one time, thanks to the work of a former partner.  Turns out she was helping to build bike infrastructure for me!

Just over the past few years, they'd also put up a new sign at the Compton stop on the Blue Line.

I'd also heard on the radio sometime in July that after years of corruption, they'd just elected a new mayor, Aja Brown, apparently a  fellow "outsider", who is around our age.

Initial Impressions?

At first, cautious.  We didn't imagine moving to Compton.  It was actually supposed to be a condo in Paramount.  But that quickly fell through.

After we'd closed on the house, I tried to learn more about the area through its online reputation, starting with LA Times Mapping Neighborhoods, Wikipedia, and looking for grocery and convenient stores, parks and libraries so that we may resume life as we knew it in Long Beach and Wilmington, respectively.

Our grocery stores:  Food4Less, 99 Cents store, Ralphs, Target. 

Most everything we need is functionally reachable.

However, we do like getting stuff from Trader Joes, the closest of which is 10 miles away from us, all the way in Torrance. 

The roads however, are rough for the most part.  Our main North/South thoroughfare is Central Ave, which has some (thin) bike lanes, a big plus, but sadly I've yet to see it put to use, at least in the night time.  There is very little lighting and there's probably still the stigma of "not being out too late" in the hood.  Even the Starbucks near us closed before I got there at 9PM.

One of the parks near us is Tragniew Park where the reviews consist of someone shouting out a set and some guy demanding in Spanish that the tennis courts be open.  My best man and sister laughed when they saw that.

I was also a bit shocked to learn through Wikipedia that once upon a time Compton was the place for middle-class black folk.  Given that information, and its iconic reputation, it begs the question, what happened?  

The answers probably won't be apparent in the immediate future, and I guess this will be an ongoing project.  Hence, Compton Chronicles!

Getting to know the neighbors has been key to the optimistic part of "cautious optimism."  Mostly older immigrant families.  My fiance speaks Eh-spanish and has been able to get good not only with the previous owners but with our next-door neighbors.  

A few days ago, I was able to talk with my neighbor --- a lifelong resident of the block, hovering around our age. He told me that things were OK in the area despite the reputation.  He was very aware of the reputation of the city, and did his best to de-construct the area around me.

Just like my fiance's area in Wilmington, this area we moved to had been "really bad" during the 1990s.  There used to be tree branches in the area that would hide drug dealers.  The trees were then mostly chopped down for increased visibility and transparency, which brings to mind a juxtaposition of images of the Beverly Hills houses hiding behind lots of greenery, and then drug dealers (power doesn't want to be touched).

He also said that the FBI were sort of stalking the area, so nothing would happen.  Wood-knocking.

Aside from this past, he made it a point that lots of people liked to get together and show solidarity with each other.  They'd have barbecues, they'd hang out.  Just like any other neighborhood. 

And just like any other red-blooded American tradition, he invited me to watch football on Sundays.

Surveying my Radio Stations in LA (1992 - 1994)

When I think of "public space", I've learned to think not just in terms of accessible, publicly-owned, physical structures where people meet, such as parks, libraries, or alleyways, I've learned to think of "public space" more broadly and in terms of "scapes."  By scapes, I can mean scenes, settings, contexts, worlds, and/or networks.  These scenes, settings, contexts, worlds, networks are all "things connected to each other" under a category or a thing.  Like a foodscape.  A mediascape.  A musicscape.  A rapscape.  A messageboardscape.  A Bullsbasketballmessageboardscape.  These are all "public space" because they are all expressed publicly, "out there" for anyone to see, hear, feel, touch, etc.

For example, in my last post, I thought of "foodscapes", which I defined roughly as "all the places my parents shopped for groceries and took us out to eat." I think of audioscapes in the same way, "all the stuff we listened to", which for me is inextricably tied to the radio stations.

This post is about my memories of radio in LA growing up from 1992 - 1994, radio having been synonymous with "music."  I will follow up with subsequent posts about other years.

I was driven around a lot.  My dad and mom were especially and surprisingly open to whatever I would tune into or would pop into our cassette player.  I was picked up in a 1987 Blue Mazda 626 with a radio that had a cassette player, usually driven by my mom.  That, or picked up by my dad in a Silver 1987 Nissan Sentra with no luxuries whatsoever, including no radio but for which we would later pick up a non-name brand neon pink and yellow 9.99 walkman to listen to while in the car, sometime in 1993.  My mom pulled out that very walkman, listening for news after the 6.6 Northridge earthquake in 1994.

1992 - 1994 was from the time I was 7 to the time I was 10.  In school year terms, that was from 2nd grade to the beginning of 5th grade in a Catholic elementary school in Los Feliz. 
  • 102.7 KIIS FM
  • K-Earth 101
  • KOST 103.5
  • 104.3 K-BIG
  • KNX 1070
For much of my radio listening life, radio has been synonymous with "listening to music."  Then I became interested in learning Spanish, and now it's been mostly news and interesting conversation, but more on that later.


As a 7-year old kid, for some reason my dad would tune into Rick Dees' 102.7 KIIS-FM with Ellen K.  Maybe it was because we'd gotten the station's bumper sticker at a local Blockbuster.  We plotted that bumper sticker on the back bumper of our light blue Mazda 626 with the automatic, backward moving seatbelts, in hopes that Rick Dees' team would spot our car and reward us with $50,000. 

This was around the same time that I started being conscious of music thanks in part to my dad video-taping specials on VH1 and MTV. KIIS-FM played Michael Jackson's music so I generally liked KIIS-FM.

I remember one time when my 2nd grade teacher was trying to talk to my dad in the car with me in the front seat and peeping from the outside.  She was trying to tell him how great of a student I was, or at the very least, how much I improved from the beginning of the year.  I wanted to show her how cool I was listening to Michael Jackson's "Remember the Time" on KIIS, but my dad just lowered the volume again without skipping a beat in his conversation with my teacher.

They also played a song that my 3-year old sister learned how to sing:

As a 2nd grader, I hardly remember us listening to a radio while at home, in part because, we didn't really have one, except a rectangular silver-colored radio with a handlebar.  My dad, a graphic artist, and going to a local trade college, would play that radio whenever he would do one of his drawings.

At around the time the LA Riots were happening, I remember him in my room at his desk, and listening to...

"Don't you know my name...if I saw you in Heaven..."

I also remember this:

For much of the Summer of 1992, I went to a nearby Filipino babysitting family in Atwater Village. They lived nearby and had a basketball hoop that was regulation height from their garage, but I was still not strong enough to heave a regulation NBA sized-ball up there.  I remember riding in their family Dodge Ram; they listened to the oldies, K-Earth 101, in which they incidentally played a song my class sang for our school talent Show.

It went something like:

"When your alone, and life is making you lonely, you can always go..."

I thought a lot about how that song didn't remind me at all of Downtown LA, a place we almost never went to but that I knew was full of homeless folk, whom my dad casually called "bums."

I didn't listen much to K-Earth, though I guess that was when I found out of its existence.

I remember at some point, being in my godsis' mom's brand new black Honda Accord and coming across this song that sounded like..."feed the coke."  The song reminds me of another moment in life where we'd actually spent time in her parking space at her apartment spraypainting a box that we would pretend was our "car."


My mom and dad at the time liked to stress their Chicago roots.  We'd only moved to LA in 1989, which was only 4 years before.  My mom had been in Chicago since 1975, my dad since 1982.

My mom was particularly was keen on this guy:

I think he played on KIIS, but also KOST.

I don't remember too much about my radio listening habits in 1993.  I remembered more my TV viewing habits:  I was glued to ESPN, Sportscenter, and Prime Ticket for Bulls games.  My fandom reached a crescendo when my mom and dad ventured all the way to Exposition Park, at the old LA Sports Arena to watch a Bulls/Clippers game.   That, was a different world.

I do remember my parents buying their first large boombox and first CD.

When we reached the summer of 1993, I do remember beginning to stay more often at my godsis' newly-bought house in front of the iconic John Marshall High School in Los Feliz.  We would be "babysat" by her Uncle, whom we referred to as Tiyong.  He was a Filipino World War II Veteran, who walked with a limp.

KIIS-FM and Rick Dees were actually something we wondered about aloud one day.  We wanted to play DJ ourselves, and did so with her cassette tapes.  However, things weren't going as planned.

Me:  This is boring, I can't believe Rick Dees actually does this, he must get really bored

G-sis:  No he doesn't.  He probably has a lot of friends he talks to while the music is playing

Me:  What do they talk about?

G-sis:  I don't know, other people?

Me:  Still it sounds boring

We lived in a unit with two rooms, but I slept with my mom, dad, and sister anyway. 

The morning everything shook, my mom grabbed hold of the neon pink, and highlight colored walkman from Pic & Save that we had been using as a radio in my dad's Nissan Sentra.  I don't remember what station we tuned into, but it was probably an AM station.

I would hear on KIIS FM later someone joking about "kicking" that stupid 6.6 earthquake.  For some reason that was funny to me.

Despite a rocky beginning, this was THE year.

No song signified the year more than this:

That song the Sign, reminded me of my two first crushes ever, the smartest (and newest) girls in our class, Jessica and Pamela.  And for those of you who are by default imagining some 1999 Dakota Fanning-phenotypes filling these names, they are Korean-American and Filipino-American, respectively.

That school-year was defined by my parents' sharp turn towards upward mobility.  We bought our first property in Glendale.  My mom had the same job as a nurse, but my dad became some kind of graphic artist for Asian Journal, a Filipino newspaper.  My 4-year old sister even became a star model for an "exotic" clothing line and was even featured in the LA Times (OC Version), which probably had a lot to do with the fact that she was 4 years old.  She also started Kindergarten at my elementary school.

My parents enrolled me in martial arts at a studio in East Hollywood, and later Filipino folk dancing in Eagle Rock.

With that turn to mobility, combined with staying with my godsis, combined with increased awareness with growing up, there was a lot I listened to, but nearly most of it from KIIS-FM

Karate reminded me of these songs:

With my dad's turn to Asian journal and my sister becoming a part of this "exotic" clothes collection, we would drive lots of places and firmly implanted in the radio were the battery of hits KIIS FM had to offer.

I quite liked practically all of it:

There was a little challenge though in the middle of the year.

At the Lotus Festival in Echo Park, I remember K-BIG 104.3 giving out fans on a wooden stick to everyone with pictures of their radio personalities on them.  I don't remember them, but they played music in the 1970s, 80s, and 90s --- I thought might give them a listen a few times.  I remember the breathy R&B.

The last song was a song I'd heard and mocked on 104.3, but it was kind of catchy.