How Dangerous Is Compton - Can a Brotha (and a Motha) Get a Little Peace While Jogging?

Ignorance is bliss.

A hackneyed phrase that probably describes my way of getting by here. I really don't know anything,

I don't know who the gang members are, I don't know who the families are --- I feel reasonably OK.

But again, maybe that's all because I really don't know anyone here. I was even about to take and post videos of Christmas lights adorning the houses here. Some people really take pride in it, and you would think that we were in Torranc---well maybe Azusa. My wife and I have been getting by just fine, except yesterday, Christmas, when the action cut close.

The getting fine had been going on for a while now, probably about a good few weeks or months. It was even extending on the walk we took around the neighborhood where we were able to strike up a conversation with a guy and saw a few houses put up for sale during yesterday's Christmas morning.

The part where I stopped being fine was after our morning walk.

Me having developed an ear distinguishing between fireworks and gunshots and being a vigilant follower of the news, I heard about 5 gun shots. Then a car speeding off. It sounded a bit far away from me.

It's not the first time I've heard shots, maybe about the third.

Then I find out that the shooting and killing is in an area that covers my running route. It's really a heartening time given my co-worker's recent death, my school classmate's violent death in South LA near a Ralph's, and now the latest story near where I live. Not unexpected because hardy har har har, Compton, but it hits a little bit to know that tensions are still active at the same time that me, a person from a middle-class immigrant family completely unexposed to violence, is around as well.

I'm not scared because I think I would be an intended target but more so, because I would not want myself nor my wife nor anyone around me to be the victim of a stray bullet. It makes me think of how my next door neighbors, who speak no differently than other college-educated friends, have endured their entire 30+ years of life living here.

Previously, I know that I've blogged about being able to develop a jogging routine. I have been able to do roughly 2-3 times a week, though I've allowed work and schoolwork to interrupt any regularity in it. My jogging/running habits are nowhere near the level I would like because of not only my work but the limited amount of daylight in a day, especially during Winter. My wife generally does not want me running at night. I've seen people jogging around Greenleaf and other streets at night so jogging isn't a completely alien activity here. I occasionally see people at nearby Tragniew Park getting their jog on at twilight, but I honestly haven't been paying too much attention the past 6 months since Summer ended.

In my younger days living with my folks, I could run miles and miles. I had a routine of getting at least a mile or two in the morning. This was in Silver Lake and Panorama City. I've been wanting to re-hash that routine, which included lots of early morning and late night runs.

The most I've run in Compton at the 7 PM twilight is about 2 miles --- for reference, I used to run along Sunset Blvd from Silver Lake to West Hollywood for a distance of around 10 miles total.

Most importantly I really want my wife to be able to be active. But her biggest concern is safety. Safety. Safety. It sucks enough to be a woman in public space, but being in a city which is still considered a symbol of urban violence isn't helpful either. It's one thing for me to not care as much, but it's an entirely different thing. I want her to be able to go out by herself, but she would never do that here.

Hoping for that day when she could unconsciously start being active outside not because her personality changes but because the environment does. I'm not calling for gentrification or something to rip at demographics, but you do wonder why famous people from here and got famous out of talking about survival here probably don't want to actually live here whether it's Dr. Dre, the Williams Sisters, or even the "non-materialistic" Kendrick Lamar.

The Life of a Words with Friends/LA Public Transportation Master

Life is rather short, and I'd like to take a acknowledge one of my co-workers who passed away.  He was a great user of the public spaces in LA, heavily relying on Metro buses and Metrolink to get to the many places required in our line of work from all the way in Orange County to places in Santa Barbara.
According to updates on his Facebook profile, Jim died on December 19th, 2014 at the Greyhound Station in LA. He attended Hollywood High and apparently graduated Hollywood High in 1980.  I believe that he stayed somewhere around Boyle Heights or Atwater Village.

At work, he was kind of known by other co-workers for his "rough" external appearance.  He looked like a homeless guy.  He appeared to wear the same brown hoodie most of the time with dark pants.   Quite frankly, the smell he gave off was not pleasant.

First time I saw him we were at the office and he was talking about public transportation.  He could be loud and expressive, but not in an excessive or boorish manner.

First time I was formally introduced to him was at a job in Boyle Heights with 3 other veteran employees, himself, and me.  Our job was to survey a large parking structure.  During one of our breaks when we were parked outside on a sidewalk outside a big parking structure;  one was smoking a cigar in the car, one had pulled back his seat and was passed out, one was in the backseat with the door pulled out.  Jim and I were on the Sidewalk;  I was reading the book Traffic, incidentally, he was laying out.  LA County Sheriff getting a glace at the spectacle of the five of us lounging around this busy parking structure gave us a thorough questioning, which forced us to call our boss, and ended up in a 2-hour delay.

Definitely a hassle at the time, but hilarious to look back on.  One of the employees, the guy who had pulled back his seat, blamed Jim in part for the grief the cops gave us that day for "looking as crazy as he did."

We worked near schools --- people would come up to me and ask me if that "homeless-looking" man was part of our operations.  We worked in residential neighborhoods --- people would get angry and usually call some type of law enforcement, and I'd hear about how the company got yet another call about Jim.  It was almost part of the deal for every project for him to be harassed, though he wasn't really the type to be incensed to the point of rage.

We all wondered behind Jim's back about his living situation;  he carried a duffel bag with him at all times --- he had a laptop, which got stolen at one point, a Samsung phone, which he lost, and another replacement phone.  His eating habits apparently consisted of constant stops to Jack in the Box.

Maybe his appearance was all a ruse to filter out unnecessary people in his life.

Many times while out in the field, people would question him and his presence --- most of us veteran employees had come to expect that someone would mention him in a police call.  I could see that he tried to groom and take some care of his appearance occasionally getting haircuts, but his smell was still there.

For as much as most co-workers nor I wanted to be near his physical presence, he was someone who could be quite entertaining to converse with.  I've known him for about 3 years now --- sarcastic, rather sharp wit.  He would often joke about other employees, in another character who liked to puff.

He knew a bit about places in LA;  he definitely wasn't a fan of the LA Central Public Library because he's lost stuff there, he teased me about living in Compton.  I would occasionally see him on the Blue Line or Red Line.

He was one of the longest tenured workers at the job.  While on the job, he would launch into dialogues about all kinds of hypothetical surrealistic fantasies about our job. Occasionally our job requires counting cars.  For a while our conversations centered around hypothetical fictitious stupidities like "the Counting championships" or "Making the front cover of Counter Magazine".  It was all in good fun, and definitely kept us occupied for our more mundane tasks.

I worked with him on numerous projects, whether it was counting cars, walkie talkie-ing with him, surveying parking lots.

When he really opened up was when I challenged him on the game Words With Friends. I challenged him and he eventually started calling me by my user name. He was always my toughest opponent, but I wondered why his average was always so low. I went 1-4 against him. The one win I got I was so proud, I interrupted his 46-game winning streak.  In fact my second to last text to him was talking about that time I beat him;  we both scored 400 points, which to us was a lot.
He was a good sport about it. In the meanwhile, we would always be talking about opponents he was beating.  Last I heard he had 96 wins and 6 losses, a record I could not even come close to equaling percentage wise.  He was an absolute master at that game.

I think his mastering of the game spoke to the hidden genius he had inside which betrayed his outside, external appearance, which always led people to discredit, disrespect, or become suspicious of him.

Last time I saw him in the flesh was around November during a project at Boeing. It was almost expected that he would be harassed while at site.  I walked with him to give him an extra vest that I had.  Sure enough, I heard security guards describe a man who fit his description.

There's a lot about him I don't know and won't ever know.  I know that he had a daughter, currently in her 20s, and he was hopeful that he could be a grandfather some day. 

I just hope that he can play Words with Friends from wherever he is.

Getting Scared of Biking in Long Beach Now

I have not been biking much these days;  I do it when I can.  Back when I began blogging on this here platform, I was on the bike and Metro almost everyday from the Valley to Long Beach.

I live in Compton now, and my biking range goes all the way to downtown LA, though it's been a while since I've done a ride.  I do not bike as much in Long Beach.

The days of biking are gone for the time being, mostly because of a job.

But even when I get on a bike, I'm not as freewheeling as I used to be.

Maybe I'm getting socialized into fear. 

Maybe I'm getting older.

Maybe I've gotten too sensitive to the stories I occasionally read on BikinginLA.  Stories of
fallen bicyclists and pedestrians, whose names occasionally whir in and out of local news with little fanfare or visible outrage.

Maybe I've lost too much trust in drivers and the social fabrics.   I've read too many stories about bikers in LA on sites like LA Weekly and KPCC, and people not on bikes largely remain brazen and entitled to their cars and retain a largely accusatory attitude towards bicyclists as if there are no bicyclists who drive.

Maybe I've gotten too sensitive to the numbers.  Recently, the Governors Highway Association found that California leads the nation in bicycle deaths.

I know that there is a small chance, a 1 in 4919 chance of getting hit and being killed on a bicycle, which is actually a much smaller chance than dying from a motor vehicle accident.  Death on a bicycle is the 17th most common way to die according to Medline.  Motor vehicle accidents are 8th.  Not that I would rather die by car in car, but at least there are some safety features that might be able to protect me, whereas if I am hit by a car, it's my body exposed and hopefully the damage is minimal.

All this worrying has gotten to me.

I'm ALWAYS looking over my shoulder nowadays, sometimes even when there is a bike lane.

For the first time in my adult biking career last week, I biked a route more on the sidewalk than on the actual street.  Even in the vaunted "most bike-friendly city" in the nation.

The streets that got me shook?  A couple east-west streets.  It would be no big deal for most veteran bicyclists, but if I'm riding it, there are probably lots of people who are also not, and are probably sidewalking it.
  • 7th Street on the way to CSULB, which is bad as a morphs into a 3-lane speedway on the way to the 22 East freeway.
  •  Willow on Signal Hill, which has 3 lanes, an uphill, and a 40 MPH speed limit

How News Media Fosters De-Humanization: A Case Study

First, I genuinely wish the families of Lexi and Lexandra Perez and Andrea Gonzalez prayers, good vibes, and karmic good.  

Rest in peace Lexi, Lexandra, and Andrea. 

I also wish for the same for the man who ran them over and his family.  Most would be understandably mad at him not only for killing, but for also fleeing. 

When these things happen, everyone loses.

Here's to hoping for an evolution into safer streets for everyone.

* * *
It was only a matter of time before they located a driver suspected of killed these three trick-or-treating teenagers in Santa Ana.

While it's good news, I was pretty irked by OC Weekly's coverage of this finding.

I wouldn't doubt any of the claims that OC Weekly is making, but it's their emphases that bother me.  Which emphases?  The ones that do more than identify but also further brand this individual as nothing more than guilty criminal before any investigation or trial has been set. 

As someone interested in Linguistic Anthropology, I always wonder how reporters use words to describe their understanding of a situation.  I definitely believe that their own background influences how they see and ultimately represent the background of a victim or an accused criminal.

I tend to think that media, most of whom are white, would be quicker to label a lower-class black guy with a more crystallized "criminal" branding than they are a lower-class white guy.  Possibly out of intent, more likely out of habit.

The basis of the article is the accused and his "long rap sheet." I must admit that I was a little curious as to who he was.  The OC Weekly dug that up, but they only trotted out his criminal record;  who really was he outside of this criminal record?  We don't know anything about his mom, or the two people he was with.  Why would they let him drive?  We don't get that idea whatsoever, and are not really exposed to any other complexity of his life other than the part of his history that notes his criminality.  

The OC Weekly's emphasis on his "rap sheet" only serves to crystallize and make it seem like what he did was ultimately of a permanent, intentional mindset.  I'm not sure why they decided to make his criminal record a "thing of interest," and focus of an article, rather than as simple background and part of a tragic story.  Though I am referencing a different article in a different city with a different writer, when Nathan Louis Campbell apparently rampaged and ran over those pedestrians with his Dodge Avenger at the Venice boardwalk last August and killed the honeymooning Alice Gruppioni from Italy, even he was not saddled with the broad brush of a menacing "rap sheet", he was simply "once locked up for shoplifting" though the article makes mention of another incident.

I am also bothered by OC Weekly's use of the word "homicide" as one of the labels/tags for this story. It's an accident, a distinction that would be of no consolation to anyone, but quite different than "homicide", which is worth noting for a news source purporting to be objective.  He is being charged for manslaughter and fleeing the scene, not homicide or murder.

OC Weekly's emphasis on the rap sheet, combined with this mug shot of yet another black guy in our faces, and the lack of focus on the victims has definitely stirred reaction.  As of this writing, the OC Weekly has reaped the benefits of this reporting with over 144 comments.

OC Weekly's coverage of this case is what I consider the low, dim end of the spectrum.

In my anecdotal scan of the coverage of other vehicular manslaughters in LA and OC, no one has really cared to splay an accused driver's criminal history or "rap sheet."  It didn't come up for Vanessa Yanez, nor for Gary S. Hunt.

Incidentally, while the OC Weekly has drummed up much comments about Jaquinne Bell, they are also silent about Gary Hunt, a man recently charged with gross vehicular manslaughter and driving his pick-up truck under the influence on October 21st, rear-ending a car at a stoplight, killing a 10-year old boy named Rafael Israel Ramirez, and injuring three others.  I can't find anything about Mr. Hunt.

OC Weekly is the low, dim contrast to KPCC's coverage, which is also tied into such stories such as how unsafe Santa Ana's streets are in general.

One of KPCC's stories also features a picture of the accused, but it's the second picture after 2 of the 3 girls.

In the story in which they break the news of the accused capture, it's merely a report with only a sentence about prior convictions.  Their initial story got 2 comments.  The latest report has 4, which includes an insightful comment from a veteran LA urban planning commenter about the man's punishment:  taking public transit and biking for the rest of his life.

Live-Tweeting Halloween from West Compton, 2014

Last year, I wrote a little blurb about Halloween in Compton. I saw one comment trolling Compton on the KPCC Facebook page about neighborhoods (here is the article, not the Facebook page though); I decided that I wanted to live-tweet the actual experience of being here in Compton during Halloween. There are a few houses here and there around the Larger Compton area that decked themselves out, but it's definitely not everyone, and was pretty absent. We ourselves didn't look very festive other than a Jack-O-Lantern in front of our house. When it was all said and done by about 9:00 PM, I was able to almost-empty out one Target brand box of 60 fruit snacks that we'd bought from Target. We would give out not one, but two pouches of snacks. We have one full box of Target brand fruit snacks remaining, which we kind of anticipated. That said, here is Halloween in Compton, 2014.
Our first trick-or-treaters were kind of from Compton, though they were picked up and driven in by one of my wife's long-time friends from Wilmington.
There was a lot of down time. I carved a simple jack-o-lantern to signal that yes, indeed, come on in kids, take our candy!

At one point in the night, we heard a bunch of kids, and my wife got mad that I didn't step outside of the house to welcome them in (and ratch up our trick-or-treat totals.) I told her something to the effect of "they'll come if they want to", which caused a micro-argument to ensue
A few weeks prior to Halloween, a couple of contractors installed new city lights on our block. Stories from neighbors said that gangsta kids used to shoot out these lights; as it is we still lack a proper street sign on the street facing Central Avenue.

We got one batch of trick-or-treaters, I suspect that they were the same kids from last year. I wouldn't have known if they were our neighbors. In the back of my I head I was still thinking about KPCC's article and my conversations with teachers about how trick-or-treating was a chance to get to know your neighbors. I blew it. I was more embarrassed at the thought of deploying my deplorable Spanish skills. Within 1 minute or 2, they were gone and I was eavesdropping on their other interactions. They didn't seem to have many after us.
I was tweeting from my phone; I was trying to say that I was disappointed "that I couldn't *say more* than the cliche..." Autocorrect *sigh*

The drought kinda ended, but it was really just ushering in the cold.

Finished the night at around 8:45 AM as I was falling in and out of sleep.
Throughout the night, I kept wondering what would happen if we made Compton an actual destination, and not just a place for people to pass through. What if we had a couple houses devoted to being really scary (and not you're going to be killed scary, but safe-fun scary)? What if we built the stuff that people wanted to see? What if.

Upcoming 2014 Elections: Leaning Towards a "No" on LA County Measure P/Proposition P

Measure P/Proposition P is about ensuring funding for County of LA (CoLA) Parks up till 2045 through a flat parcel tax.  As a parcel tax, it will require 66% of the voters to say yes, as opposed to a simple majority.

That tax would be $1.6 billion over the next 30 years, which would be $53 million annually.

People who support this proposition say that it is a continuation of funding Proposition A from 1992, which expires in June 2015. 

Proposition A in 1992 guaranteed $540 million over 22 years to various projects across LA County. 

Funds from Prop A went to many projects that have served as icons for LA such as the 4-year renovation of the Griffith Park Observatory, which was allocated $18 million, the rehab of the LA Zoo which was allocated $25 million, $17 million for the California Science Museum.  As for spending on things that are actually close to where I live, I saw that $1 million went to the development of MLK Park in LBC.  Other than construction of a swimming pool at East Rancho Dominguez, I didn't see any funds go to Compton.  Gang reduction programs were specifically allocated no less than $3 million, and nonprofit organizations $10 million.

The funds were raised through an assessment on each property depending on size.

Additionally, in 1996, voters approved another proposition A which gives over $28 million annually to parks.  This proposition will expire in June 2019.  In that round, it seemed that there was more emphasis on gangs I saw that a whole $5 million or so went to parks in "underserved" communities.  

Almost all the elements for me usually voting "Yes" on something vaguely involving public space are there:  money for parks, programming for gangs, etc. etc. 

I generally especially love the quality of CoLA parks, usually really spacious and well-kempt, and frankly, underused.  I really would hate to see the parks sink down to the level of say City of LA.  In my anecdotal experience, even here in Willowbrook with the Earvin Johnson Park, most CoLA parks are truly a cut above City of LA and other city parks, though this proposition does reach some of the smaller cities' parks.  However, I, like Mark Ridley-Thomas think that they don't seem to do enough for disadvantaged areas.

I realize that there is no such thing as a "soft" yes or "soft" no, simply just "yes" or "no."  Right now, given my information from the internet sources:  LA Times, KPCC, ballotpedia, I'm going with a 'no' that was just a "yes" about a minute ago.

The organizations I usually like are a "yes" vote:  LA Land Trust, LA County Bike Coalition, and Father Gregory Boyle who is an organization all himself.  There's also the Daily News.

There are two respectable organizations that advocate a "no":  LA Times on the basis that it was pushed out too fast and goes to a regressive tax, hurting the little people, and the Sierra Club, on the basis that they do not allocate much to disadvantaged areas.

I say "soft no" to highlight the fact that I have not fully marked my ballot and can change my opinion, and also that either vote seems fine, though it does actually put more burden on actual individual people rather than the bigger entities that it has traditionally been dependent upon.  For the time being, I see a lot more clean cut reasons to say no, than to say yes.

What makes the proposition something I am giving the "soft no" to?  
  • It is funded by a regressive flat tax;  every property owner across the county pays the same $23 per property each year on your property tax bill, no matter if you are the owner of the Staples Center or if you are the owner of a tiny little motor home in Compton on a gang-ridden street.  $23, when the average according to KPCC was around $13, while larger corporations paid in the thousands.  The LA Times Op-Ed in favor of a no vote notes that the range paid was from 3 cents to $10,000.
  • Questionable motives:  why the rush?  Why not use that same assessments structure enacted in 1992?  This a way of straddling the line to keep industries and small businesses happy?  Not made clear anywhere.  I do wonder what Supervisors Molina, Yaroslavsky, and Knabe have to gain.  It also seemed that Ridley-Thomas would have been on board, though he thinks there was not enough given to underserved communities.  To me it seems like a trial run to see what they can get away with.  I'm not sure why this was not anticipated and prepared for.
  • They don't specify their allocations, something they did for 1992 and 1996.
  • It seems that we could "survive" a temporary shortage in funding until at least 2017.  There still appears to unused money from 1996:  $134 million in unallocated funds.  Additionally, after scanning the documents of Prop A it seems that a lot of the projects in there got its money for specific acquisition and renovations that have already been completed.  The campaign for Prop P has not threatened jobs, but the lack of repairs, upgrades, and improvements, which might be a safe way of implicating but not threatening jobs.  There doesn't seem to be any sense of critical urgency from any of the proponents threatening livelihoods and current conditions, which also makes me believe that it won't be a big deal if this doesn't pass.
What would sway me to a "soft yes"?  
  • Essentially, just more information on why the proposition is the way it is.  I need more to go on than just "it funds parks and programs, etc..."  I need to know these things:  a)  why it relies on the flat regressive tax, b)  why the County Supervisors took so long before enacting this to appear on this ballot, and 3)  how badly parks and services might suffer if the money isn't there in the meanwhile.
  • Attempting to take the perspective of the three county supervisors and some of the planners' point of view, it seems like they are adapting this proposition in part because it finds a way around the constraints under the current measures. County Park Planner Clement Lau says that they are focusing on how to get parks in underserved areas, making it sound like it was not possible under the current system.
  • I would throw my support if this was really the only way of securing funding for the short and long-term.  It is risky to hold out until a later time.  The supervisors won't be able to get another item on the ballot until 2016, and we would not be able to use that money till 2017.  And just what would happen?  The Daily News makes this effect real.  They say this:  "Take for instance L.A. County where next year the city will get $1.4 million for maintenance and service thanks to previous propositions; that would dwindle the following year to $484,000 and then disappear by 2019 without voters approving a new parks measure." 
As it appears to me, it appears risky voting "no", but ultimately the measure seems to be more preventative and experimental, than critical, urgent, and targeted.  For me, I think this puts more pressure on getting it right in 2016.

Los Angeles (Silver Lake, Atwater Village, Eagle Rock), Filipino-Americans, Catholic Grade Schools: An Overview 1990-1998

The title of this article represents the time that I was in Catholic School grade in Los Angeles.  That's 8 years of grade school.  My 4 years in Catholic high school were another story altogether and radically different than the time in grade school.

I don't know that if I have many "special" stories or a story, worthy of a movie, or a memoir, but I was inspired to write primarily because of a KCRW/Zocalo segment on Catholic School education in the 1930s. Also, I was once told by someone that there aren't enough stories about "us", "us' meaning Asian-Americans, so here are a few more.

The popular media I've seen on Catholic schools have always involved white kids somewhere east dealing with nuns who would break pencils on their students' hands.  I've listened to and read articles about how the Catholic school was really strict about everything.

Some of those stories have resonated with what I experienced, but I don't think what I experienced exactly has been represented quite yet.

I only have realized my experience well after my undergraduate years.  In college at UCLA, I realized that a lot of Filipino-American kids in LA (When I say "LA", I tend to mean areas from Central LA (Historic Filipinotown) to Echo Park to Los Feliz to Atwater Village to Eagle Rock and Glendale) tended to go to Catholic schools;  I say this without wanting to discount the number that went to public schools, but I can't speak to that experience except for one year in kindergarten and my college experience at the UCs and CSUs.

I mention "Filipino-American" so much in this piece because I think Filipino-Americans and our experiences have kinda "flown under the radar" in popular discourse. Back then from the 1990s to 1998, Filipinos made up a visible population in many Catholic schools across LA, at least from what I "felt" at surrounding schools and in my own.  On anecdotal observation of my old school and schools across LA, they still do. 

I don't mean to speak on behalf of all Filipino American experiences in Los Angeles, but I think I have more than enough to "say something", at the very least about my experience.  I would like for my articles to be one dot that represents one experience in Catholic schools and through the Filipino-American experience, but also is one step in making the Filipino-American racial and ethnic category visible, credible, and present in recent history; ready to engage and participate in public discourses about education and other civic affairs.   I mention it at the outset because it is contrary to the dominant narratives which don't usually include people of color in the now.  By using "Filipino-American", I don't mean to "tribalize" or necessarily say that my experience was radically different than other students', but I just want to say that being "Filipino-American" was one lens through which I viewed things, just like being Mexican, being "short", being a girl, or being tall can affect the way you may perceive things.

Only after having married a Catholic school teacher have I come back to re-call what have been probably my most formative learning experiences.

My project and premise is simple:  I find myself trying to reflect on "what it all meant" and how bits, pieces, and chunks of the experience might have impacted me for today.

There's the obvious great memories.  Graduation.  Field day at the base of the Griffith Observatory with In N Out Burger.  Field trips.  The last days of June which involved wrapping school textbooks in brown covered wraps.  Halloween.  Christmas shows.  Valentines Day with "school families." Talent shows.  School festivals.   The American flag popsicles on hot days.  Art class.  Birthdays in school which evolved into these dance parties as we got into "junior high" from 6th - 8th grade.

There was the mundane things outside of the classroom.  The assignment of play areas.  The dodgeball wars on the playground. P.E.  Kickball.  An almost all-asphalt playground that also served as a parking lot for church on Saturdays and Sundays.  Basketball rims put up around November to coincide with "basketball season."  The organic separation of boys and girls, except for occasional boys vs. girls games.   

There's the everyday rituals that I remember and suddenly miss.  School uniforms and wearing them correctly.  The morning assemblies which began with lining up, and doing a Pledge of Allegiance.  The birthday announcements.  Staring at the analog clock in the back of the class to make sure it was almost close to 3:00 PM dismissal time. Taking home parent envelopes. Getting dropped off in a car behind the cones.  Going to my parents' or friend's car after school.  Or going to daycare after-school.  Homework time during daycare, and then play time after homework.

The school was dominated by car-drivers, and I imagine, probably still is given the geographic spread we students covered.  My dad usually dropped us off because my mom always drove and went to work early at the hospital.  Incidentally, only one kid I knew lived close enough to walk to school;  everyone was shuttled in a car, and I was pretty much able to recognize different cars that everyone was shuttled in.  One carpool of an extended family of Fil-Ams was (kinda mean) called the clown car.  Biking was completely non-existent, though I do remember one incident during the Summer my sister entered Kindergarten;  a little white girl was riding a bike with her older adult-sized brother who was probably somewhere between 15 and 25.  She was bleeding from the nose and was crying.  Some other adults rushed and asked what happened.  He said that they had been hit by a car;  yikes.  Didn't have any effect on what I thought of biking.

There's the curious markings of what made those years clearly the 1990s.  The computer lab just before computers became normal in every home.  A TV with a VCR occasionally being dragged into our classroom.  The slow-moving printer that printed tear-able flaps on each side of the paper which we'd have to rip off, which some used to make these little crafts.  The occasional guestspeaker whether a DARE officer or a missionary.  The principal outlawing "baggy pants" and "jeans" for fear of any association with gang culture.

Of course there wouldn't be the Catholic "school" without the classrooms, my classmates, and teachers and their personalities.  Each year, we fluctuated between 32-35 students, which means that there was enough a crowd in the class, but still kind of intimate.  We had one desk and all books contained within it starting in 2nd grade.  We stayed in one classroom.  We occasionally switched seating positions.

I also remember every single teacher and their quirks.
  • 1st grade was a super-tall white lady who brought who equally super big son and daughter to school one time.  
  • 2nd grade was a Filipino lady almost my parents' age (and definitely taller than my 4'8 mother) who said that she was older than most of our parents;  she was the first time I was acknowledged as doing well in class.  
  • 3rd grade was technically a nun with a nun with an Irish accent, but did not really dress the part and was acknowledged as one of the nicest teachers;  for some reason I did the worst under her.  
  • 4th grade was a taller, thin white lady with curly hair and what someone described as loose lips;  she was cool, she apparently might've dated a vaguely Asian guy that was also helping at our school, and where I felt I found an "academic groove."  
  • 5th grade was the same Filipino lady who incidentally was chosen as my sister's godmother;  I struggled again.  
  • 6th grade was an older white lady with short hair and a passion for diagramming sentences.  I probably forgot, but I felt like I learned a lot from her.  
  • 7th grade was slightly split between a white guy who left in the middle of the year and was replaced by a fresh college graduate, the son of the long-time school secretary.  
  • 8th grade was a younger, hip cool white lady who specialized in teaching Math and saw me off to the selective Catholic high school of my choice.
I don't know if I could name every classmate, but we spent enough time to where I can recognize faces, though if you ask me to name a kid from a different grade, that might be a little challenging.

Nowadays, as people in our 20s and 30s, I could probably recognize probably a fraction of those who went to the school from 1990-1998.  Probably more likely if you were at the school for at least 4-5 years.  Pretty much if you were a girl in 6th grade or older by the time I was 11, I was probably crushing on you.  It is really really weird saying this as a 30-year old man, but as a growing 10-11-12-13-14 year old, I was a fan of pretty much all the girls.  To me at that age, they weren't little school girls, they were growing, taller-than-me fully formed women.  It didn't make a difference if I was able to be with them or Tyra Banks. Who was hot or not became a topic of conversation amongst the boys starting at 10 years old.  I already had my first two crushes by then.  A Filipina and a Korean girl.  They reminded me of the hit song by Ace of Base, "The Sign." 

Around me, some of the boys were even more knowledgeable about females, their anatomy in a way more advanced than I was. One of the boys proudly admitted that "Showgirls" was his favorite movie, which shocked the teacher, but not really me, because I had no idea what that was.  Another talked about how he wanted to do something pretty lude to a computer teacher, which made me wonder what he was talking about.  That was 5th grade.  I don't think I was an angel, I simply didn't know what the heck these kids were talking about, at the time.

I also remember how friends and closeness shifted as the years went by.  Throughout my time at the school, anyone who liked basketball was someone I grew close to --- that also happened to be a lot of the Filipino-American kids.  My dad was unique early on in schooling in that we were relatively close to a few of the black families in my grade.  As the years came, some parents also gravitated towards my parents and vice versa, mostly the Filipino immigrant parents, which happened later.  I already was brought there because my g-sis, 2 years older than me, had been enrolled and also came to crushing on her friends, this group of attractive Filipina girls who each seemed out of my league.  I did outside activities with other kids which centered first around karate, then Filipino folk dancing, then basketball, and then theater drama. 

I do remember that we created outcasts.  There was never any overt reason why we created outcasts, but it probably had to do with a combination, "cooties" or some kind of irrational fear of "contamination", which is something of an embedded statement about class, and weakness.  A few of my friends were instigators against these outcasts:  they would laugh them off, trip them up, I guess it looked a lot like bullying.  With my friends as aggressors, I never looked at it as that, but upon reflection it probably was.  

I was never big enough to bully anyone, but I do remember occasionally partaking in the teasing of certain kids for questionable non-reasons.  Some of it was "just because."  Some of it was because I really thought some people were gross or disgusting;  actually having a running conversation with some people, one tall Mexican girl in particular, seemed really disgusting to me, and I feel awful upon reflection.  But they probably didn't take me that seriously cause I was like 4'8 and known for farting all the time at least throughout 7th grade.  Irony is that I'm married to a pretty tall Mexican girl now, so...(God's way of getting back at me?)

When I think back critically about how my views have changed, there are things that make me wonder about how much has changed within student culture.  The rumors of having a lesbian principal.  Usage of the word "gay" to describe things that were "stupid."  Parents complaining about fundraising for air conditioning which never came in my 8 years.  Wanting and having the few Filipino teachers that were at the school.  Having almost a majority Filipino-American school and then transitioning into a majority white American high school where Filipinos existed but were not the dominant group.

Now as a 30-year old with a wife teaching at a Catholic school, a lot of my memories have been triggered, and myself making a foray into education, and I wonder about the current-day functionings:  is enrollment falling as it is across the board in Catholic schools?  How do they integrate technology into the classroom?  What immaturities are the kids running with now?  Do they finally have air conditioning?  Is the school still something of a pipeline to my ever-popular high school?

Unpacking more later.

LA Magazine's Description of a Disneyland Map from 1968 Is Disappointing

In the above link you will see a map of old Disneyland which looks a lot like Disneyland as it was when I last took a visiting cousin in June of this year.  The basic sections of the park are there with the exception of ToonTown.

The author doesn't go as in-depth as I expected, except to name a few things from the bygone era.  What's interesting is the sponsorship of attractions by major corporations including good ole Monsanto, Kodak, General Electric, Carnation.  Nowadays, I can't think of any other particular brand within the park other than Disney.  What would have been interesting would be side-by-side comparisons of different attractions and locations.

I wonder about the mundane things that make up the experience at Disneyland:  how long were the lines?  How were they managed?  What were the prices relative to now?  What was the surrounding geography prior to building the extra resort areas?

I also wonder what Disney was like before all the relatively recent cinematic successes of the Disney princesses and cartoons.  What was the electrical parade like?   

This would have been a whatever type piece that I wouldn't have thought about much again, if there wasn't one part of this blog that is banal and perhaps under the radar for 99.9% of the population, but irked me a little maybe because the writer used a phrase that I disliked when I don't think it's necessary.

It was use of the adjectival phrase, "politically incorrect."
There are some comically dated attractions: the now politically incorrect “unfriendly Indians” who burned settlers cabins - See more at:
There are some comically outdated attractions:  the now politically incorrect "unfriendly Indians" who burned settler cabins.
There are some comically dated attractions: the now politically incorrect “unfriendly Indians” who burned settlers cabins - See more at:
Ask yourself, would the phrase have been OK if the writer simply wrote this?

There are some comically outdated attractions:  the "unfriendly Indians" who burned settler cabins.
To me it would've been fine, he could've done without that "now politically incorrect."

I almost categorically dislike writing that includes that phrase, "politically incorrect" because it tends to signal a writer who appears to quietly show disdain for what they perceive as a more diverse, inclusive status quo.  It's like a quiet clamoring for the exclusive "good ol days."  I'm not going to try to guess the writer's intention, but in my experience, it's usually not a good sign.

The idea of "politically correctness" rests on the idea that some "truth" is not being spoken and/or is being censured/hidden because the person/entity (Disney) speaking does not want to offend people. It is as if the writer was saying that Disney was speaking some 'truth' by having this "unfriendly Indian burning cabins" show/exhibit, Disney made a reactionary decision to cancel it, and have been prevented from doing this only because some customers got mad and started crying to put it crudely.

Maybe that is exactly what happened, but as a part fan of the general stuff that Disney puts out, I'd also like to think that the internal decisionmakers of Disney itself became more diverse, aware, and more inclusive and sought to do away with the exhibition "organically."

Observations of Truckers from a Truck Stop in Tulare County

Recently, I was sent out to survey truck drivers for 5 days in Tulare at a diesel station for trucks.

Before the project began, the only reason I knew Tulare is because my sister's first-year college roommate was from Tulare.

I had no idea what Tulare was about, only that along Route 99 it was above Bakersfield, and below Fresno(yes). 

After these 5 days, I can say that I've gained a better appreciation of the area and the (changing) demographic of truckers.

I'm a(n) (almost) life-long Angeleno, buried in the city, where almost any object is readily available if you just have the money.  I've come to appreciate and "re-visibilize" truck drivers as a necessary part of the economic and social infrastructure.  I think having been in a city and urbanized towns for my entire life, I have been exposed to lots of demographics and lots of people, which is good, but I feel like I know them only superficially, and fill in the rest of my information about them with my imagination.

That said, here are a few things as an Angeleno that I observed about truckers through either observation or conversation:
  • The popular image of a trucker is probably a single white male, which definitely exists, but I met with my share of black, Latino, Asian, Indian Sikh, men and women, mid 20s - mid 50s
  • I saw bits and pieces of inter-racial solidarity:  a guy with a white redneck T-shirt buddy buddying with some other black uh blackneck buddy, another time where a white guy just walked up and saw his old black buddy in the truck and simply started jabbing with him
  • I did see moments of inter-racial tension:  a white guy that I had interviewed 10 or 20 minutes before had become impatient with a truck that was parked in front of him.  The truck in front of him was driven by a black man.  The white guy got increasingly frustrated and started honking.  Then he got out of his truck and walked yelling at the black guy.  At some point, I remember him yelling "N*** think they own the world" and continued honking before ultimately deciding to back up from his diesel station and making his way out.
  • Another moment was of this inter-racial tension was during an informal conversation that I had with a trucker from the Mid-West whom I had previously interviewed.  He pointed out the Indian Sikhs and talked about how they in particular were driving rates down.  A few Sikhs drive in pairs or more, which is a better deal for a distributor than him alone.  He lamented that they also tended not to spend money within the US and would send that money home.
  • Many of these truckers were open to my interviews;  I conducted about 130.  Some loved talking to me, others thought I was in their way.  Some probably legitimately had to get somewhere, others just wanted me gone.  Some got increasingly suspsicious of the survey, some warmed up as we went along.
  • Most seem to be proud of having driven everywhere
  • A lot of the white truckers do hold conservative views, which is not really a shocker:  One California trucker made a comment about high-speed rail taking away from resources such as addressing the water crisis.
  • A lot of white truckers from the East seem to dislike California, making comments about everything from the speed limits (which is apparently 80 in Florida), to the water crisis
  • Some do reminisce on when they was more to pick up and deliver in the Central Valley.

How Dangerous Is Compton? October 2014 Edition

Considering that what little my wife and I knew of Compton before moving here, it hasn't been the worst.  Our section at least has been fairly quiet, and everything other than the stealing of parts from my sister-in-law's car is more or less what we expected.

I have been here a year in Southwest Compton near Central and Alondra, which is mostly Latino, either immigrants or 2nd generation, and haven't experienced many (relatively) serious problems on my street.

On the surface level, if you were simply to drive around the neighborhood, I think outsiders or perhaps those adjusted to more comfortable living would be scared. The gang around here likes to tag up the blank walls here, but I don't see any rivals or any crosses on it which would indicate some kind of battle or struggle.  I wonder if the gang is just generational and more about tradition at this point.

No gangsters have gotten angry and threatened me, nor would I have known.  Unless they have tats, I can't really tell who is or isn't a gangster --- no one's really dressing up in super baggy clothes or walking around and intimidating people.  Not that I'm actively looking for those people.  I think I would approach these people the way a Phil Dunphy would.

It really is not the 1980s or 1990s anymore or at least my idea of what 1980s and the 1990s looked like with gangs in them, and I guess approaches change.

On occasion, I come home late at night.  The street, largely a residential single family house area, is pretty quiet.  This is something of a classist statement, but I can imagine that if it were apartments or a trailer park in the area where I'm forced to come face-to-face with residents in close quarters, my opinion might shift a bit.  One of my sister-in-laws and her husband and their small child live on the Eastern side of Compton near a Church's Chicken in an apartment complex.  They've survived and are on the brink of thriving.  However, the apartment complex they live in looks like a fortified maximum state prison with a white picket fence on steroids and definitely requiring a key to get inside.  Inside the complex however, it feels like as comfortable as any other apartment complex.

When on my street, you can usually extend common courtesy with adults passing by, usually, unless I bump into someone really intent on looking hard.  Even when I sprained my ankle on a run towards Gardena, one kid even went up to me and asked, "are you OK" to which I just quickly waved him off, even though I was now reduced to a painful hobble on a journey back to my house.

Most of the time during weekends, it's just parties with neighborhood kids and visitors, sometimes even multi-racial coalitions of kids just running around doing their kid things, which is a contrast to the last time NBC LA came around here.

If I could sum it up in a sentence, people pretty much just leave us the hell alone here, least in this part of Compton.

My wife and I are still relative outsiders.  I guess it is much easier when you don't know much of anyone that actually grew up here, other an occasional interaction with a neighbor.  Aside from my running or trips to Cal State Dominguez Hills we pretty much just shut ourselves in.

My car, a nondescript, largely unwashed 11-year old Toyota, hasn't been touched, though on one occasion, I did see one kid sitting on it like he owned it, which annoyed the living fuck out of me.  I wonder how things would change if I got a new car.  I do see new regular cars on the street on occasion and they appear to do fine.

However, my sister-in-law, who lived here for a few months with us, her 10-year old Honda that was as nondescript as my Toyota wasn't as lucky --- she had some parts stolen.  I felt terrible for her because it was an expensive part for her.  But she appears to be over it, has given up her car to her brother, and is now 400 miles away up North.

Tragniew Park near us isn't the worst park in the world.  A least it gets used.  We've been able to walk the dog on occasion during the PM hours when there are kids playing soccer and some kind of band practicing.

I will tell you that the only times I haven't felt as comfortable or secure in Compton have been when I was walking around Civic Center area. Even though the Sherriff's station is headquartered there, all I smell is desperation.

The desperation where you feel eyeballs on you.  Where some people might approach you, see an opportunity, and ask for change.  Sorry, homey, I ain't Barack.  I don't want to just bring it to you, work with me, and maybe we could do something.

Most things considered, least from our vantage point, there is some negative to see if you're looking for it, but if you just want to do your thing, then, ain't nothing stopping us from doing that.

Though, once I do commit to a project involving Compton, this might change.

My Memories and Experience of Community/Neighborhood Storytelling via Radio Stations in LA as a Tween-Teen in the 1990s to Early 2000s and Today

Welp, I think I've really nailed my real interest in life, meaning I've found something that kinda ties all my various interests in together:  communication infrastructures, particularly in LA.  I'm particularly interested in how our physical and social environments, our "scapes", our "communication infrastructures" are designed in ways which serve to discourage/encourage actions.

One of the main interests in study of communication infrastructures is with "strong community or neighborhood story-telling."  The idea is that a community thrives if we have a "strong storytelling community." The "storytelling community" consists of the following:  a)  residents in family, friends, and neighbor networks, b)  nonprofit organizations, and c)  geo-ethnic media.  So if each of these elements are talking with each other, then we could see a strong community developing.

Today, a piece of story-telling that's piqued my interest under "geo-ethnic media":  radio in LA.

One day early in the 1990s amidst the heightened popularity of KIIS FM and Rick Dees when I was being babysat alongside my godsister, we decided that we wanted to play radio.  Our idea was to sit around our boom box and play music.  After a while, it got boring to me.  "What else do they do?"  I asked.  She replied, "I don't know, sit around, and talk to each other.", which also seemed boring, and thereby ended our imaginary game of "radio."

I never remember ANY story on local radio or TV speaking directly to either Filipinos, Atwater Village, or hell even Los Feliz.

This is why one of my most memorable moments of my childhood was picking up and reading a list of the FBI's most wanted at the local Lucky's on Hillhurst and Ambrose, and seeing the picture of Conrado Baylon Fiel.

I wrote a post last year about radio.  I was planning on writing more follow-ups, but it kinda fell by the wayside.  I was originally trying to be scientifically methodical and go year-by-year about my radio station habits, but I found it a little tedious and incorrigible with my schedule, so I'm opting for an approach looser on the exact dates and years, and focused more on delineating my most vivid experiences or at least my memories of what I experienced.

Anyhow, I've been reading various academic papers about communication infrastructures, and came up on an article about two radio stations in LA:  one, a commercial radio station, KKBT, what was once known now as 92.3 or 100.3 "The Beat", and the other, being former Minnesota Public Radio affiliate, turned NPR member station KPCC on 89.3.

The article concluded that each of these stations were successful "storytellers."

What's fascinating about the article:
  • Captures points in time in 2002-2003 when I was actually in Santa Cruz for college
  • The Beat doesn't exist anymore, though Steve Harvey is still on radio and even bigger on National TV
  • Larry Mantle, whom I occasionally listen to today, and only really discovered about 2 years ago, was one of the interviewees.  Kitty Felde was a host back then, I've only known her as some kind of a reporter from either DC or Sacramento. 
  • KKBT by the time of the study in 2002-2003 was noted primarily as a black radio station for people living near Crenshaw
  • The article mentions community activism taken by KKBT.  Wow, I had no idea whatsoever.

For me, the radio for a good chunk of my life was there for one thing and one thing only:  music.  Any music I liked.

The music stations seemed to be divided by race rather than any geographic region, with mostly black and Mexican people liking Power 106.  We Fiipino kids flipped between Power 106 and 92.3 the Beat.  Once I got to high school I tried KROQ, which I thought to be code for "white people music."

Radio was "never" for talk, much less story-telling unless I wanted to know about traffic, weather, and news, at which I'd switch to AM radio.

Stories and storytelling did not exist, unless they were embedded in songs, one of which was Coolio's Gangsta's Paradise, which had help from being a song for a movie trailer, Dangerous Minds.  I recited the lyrics but didn't really know what they meant by them, as would be the case for legions of songs.  I just wanted my ears to feel stimulated.

I do remember a few particular things about "The Beat" from the 1990s-2000s, in particular that in retrospect, are quite interesting, and perhaps have influenced me to think about issues, while I was waiting for those songs.

  • The Peace Symbol Sign as their logo, it made me think of them as a "cleaner" version of the excesses and dirtiness of Power 106 with Baka Boyz and Big Boy and more gangsta-ish music, though Power 106 had more "sticky" personalities
  • Their tag-line "no color lines" was befuddling to me, why would there be any color-lines, but I went with it, which in retrospect probably isn't a bad message to stick

  • Theo, whom I later found out was Asian.  That fact blew my mind.
  • A smallish K-8 school, radio stations occasionally provided us with talking points:  we talked about how deep Theo's voice was, but people talking was usually seen as a "distraction" to the music
  • It was all about the music for me, and not really about community action and politics, though I do vaguely remember these conversations on Saturday mornings during high school.  One quote I remember had to do with race and mentioning Michael Jackson's Black or White song, and the caller saying, "sorry Michael, I think it does matter..."
  • Steve Harvey during his time at the Beat was not that funny to me;  I cringed.  I didn't have anything against him, and even kind of liked his sitcom on the WB, but his jokes seemed to be too stale.  But as I see him today, I could see why he would appeal to a different audience of which I am not really a part.   

In contrast to such vivid memories of the Beat, talk and/or news-oriented radio was simply something on AM radio, was interesting only for sports news, so I didn't know anything about public radio until recently.  "Stories" for me meant "news" and white people talking "all business-like." I didn't want any of that as a kid.

Nowadays, I live in what would be considered "the hood," Compton, untouched by Hipsters, but known widely in mass media via stereotypes.  My wife speaks fluent Spanish, but were not integrated very much into any network here, other than small-talking our immediate neighbors.  We speculate about what people might think about us:  I wear my glasses, I go out and run like I'm in Redondo Beach, we're the only ones in our block with only two people living in the house.

But I feel connected to some of the issues and have a hunger for the stories here. I'm completely plugged into public radio, (though NPR is still primarily a domain of white people), makes up most of what I know.  However, I must say that KPCC's vibes feel slightly different than the national NPR news programs. On Facebook, I have the technology to see who also "Likes" KPCC, and there is a good healthy sub-section of my friends, who tend to be all of college-educated, civic-minded, and yes, progressive.  I only started really listening to NPR member station KPCC after the shootings in Newtown, CT.  Now, I know the schedules on weekdays and weekends on KPCC. I've become a "member" of the station.

I really think given their constraints that KPCC does a great job of covering my particular city, and at least initiating conversations. I occasionally hear the local KPCCers dig into various issues from universal preschool education to the fact that they were going to allow law enforcement to carry rifles in the schools.  And it feels great, I do feel connected to the city, though it seems like my wife and I are the only ones in the neighborhood here in Compton, who even knows about this station and would be able to converse with others.  It's great and vastly entertaining for us, but it doesn't seem like the folks here even know of the station.

Though I find myself wondering what are they listening to?  What are they watching?  I know that one side is probably on Spanish language media, the other is sports...

Not One, But Two Compton Schools Chosen for Blue Ribbon Excellence

In the category of "Exemplary Achievement Gap Closing Schools."

Jefferson in the East and Tibby Elementary on the West, to be exact.  To get this recognition, both schools had to improve dramatically over the past 5 years in Math and language arts exams.

For someone not directly immersed in the educational field, sounds great.

This in addition to Laurel Street Elementary on the West, which on Laurel Street proudly displays on its billboard a 900 API score out of a possible 1000.

Good stuff, I wonder what has changed dramatically within the schools.  I also wonder what this might mean for junior high and high schools, and if anything can be done there.

Thoughts on Ethnography, Anthropology, and Living in Compton, September 2014

Bring up the city of Compton in any conversation here in America with people 40 years old and younger, and people will probably conjure up images of gangsters, drive-bys, basically ground level zero of "ghetto-ness," which is basically associated with somehow living a life that is seen to be "in deficit." 

I told an economically-more-successful childhood friend that I was living in Compton with my wife.   She probably thought it was a joke and said, "straight-up?"

Yup, I'm here.  

Been here, actually.

And I'm fine.  Mostly.

I did suffer a violent fall...on my ankle.  That was my own bad.

Though on the real, I haven't been really connected or connecting to many of the people actually in Compton. I've found that my wife and I tend to prefer doing business in Gardena, Carson, and every other city outside.  I've gotten too bourgeois, maybe?  I think it does save some mental energy sometimes honestly because the Food4Less on Rosecrans and Central and the Smart and Final on El Segundo and Central are always so damn busy.

But anyhow, I mentioned some Anthropology words:  Ethnography and Anthropology.  Let me define Anthropology and Ethnography in laymen's terms, and how they can be relevant to my situation now.

I've been somewhat out of touch with the latest literatures in Anthropology and Ethnography;  all I have is what informs my conception of it now.

Anthropology is the study of humankind which spans 4 major sub-fields:  socio-cultural (studying different cultures), linguistic (people studying the ways we use language), archaeology (digging for bones), and physical Anthropology (people studying primates, human evolution, forensics).  I am most interested in the first two sub-fields, which is roughly studying different "cultures" and different ways people use language.  

One of the defining research methods of Anthropology in my view is based heavily on the research method of Ethnography, which has largely defined socio-cultural Anthropology.  It's a tradition that spans roughly over 100 years with two distinct traditions in America and Europe, and typically involved people going far off to document the ways of strange, foreign peoples.  Nowadays, socio-cultural Anthropologists still do go out to document the ways of people that they or the milieus around them consider "strange" or "foreign."  

In keeping with that basic theme of studying what some people consider "strange" or foreign", I'm starting to feel an inner push to begin studying the city in which I live.  I think that the city of Compton, while a part of American culture, is viewed as a part of an American sub-culture and not really the dominant American "mainstream" culture.  It is the spatial symbol of not only black (and Latino) American life, but the worst of.  I'd like to shed more insight on the complexities of life here --- from the schools, the workings of city council.

There are some difficulties for sure in doing this kind of ethnography of the city.  I think of ethnographies of the past where I largely "imagine" the one person in a geographic region and simply finding some people and actually living with them.  I can't quite do that.  

I am thinking of how much harder it is to actually live here full-time with a growing family, not knowing anyone, but also wanting to make some kind of positive change here.  Sure, I live within the spatial boundaries of this place, deal with the physical infrastructures, see the same people on the street, but my network of relationships doesn't extend beyond my neighbors on each side of our tiny house.   I don't think I would be able to live at someone else's house given my commitments to my family and a lack of connection to another family, though UCLA's CELF center does give me ideas.  Additionally, there isn't an immediate escape from this place as most of what I value is here with me.  If I decide that I wanted to be proactive about something, people know where my family is.

At any rate, I don't think the obstacles are impossible, and think that there is a lot of Anthropological insight as well as potentially different framings (and therefore perceptions and understandings) of the city in which I live.

Wilmington, the Bike Lane Capital of California, Ha-ha

I am in hiatus at the moment, and have been wanting to post for the longest on events here in Compton.

However, my writing efforts are focused on a bigger project at the moment, and only my most immediate gutteral reactions that masquerade as blog posts can be posted only because they don't take as much time as my other posts.

Anywho, the reason I am writing is in response to an article by veteran bicycling advocate Joe Linton celebrating Wilmington as the city with the most concentrated bike lane network.

I feel very connected to Wilmington being that I used to visit my then-girlfriend, now-wife quite often BY BIKE from Long Beach and now visit my wife's family quite often.

I don't really have a negative response to Joe's article, just a few observations:

  • Those bike lanes that made it the densest network in the state really did appear overnight (or over a weekend in either 2012 or 2013).  I appreciate Joe's story of how LADOT basically worked it in, when all along I thought it was the work of some activist group.  My wife's family who lives on one of those streets were surprised that one day they couldn't park on the curb as usual, by the time the cones were gone, there was fresh paint and to my unexpected delight, bike lanes.
  • As Joe mentioned in his post, it is still somewhat hard getting INTO the city either from Carson on the North or Long Beach on the East.  I've seen plenty of bicyclists on PCH, the main East-West thoroughfare in Wilmington, and it really feels dangerous.  I've only biked with my wife on this street once.  On the sidewalk.  For what its worth, PCH never really seems to be in gridlock for car traffic or anything, unless of course they shut down a North-South street like Avalon for a traveling fair or something.
  • I vaguely remember my wife or saying something that there used to be a lot of people biking to high school.  Students don't bike because their bikes get stolen, last I heard.
Here are some other observations that I think might impede usage of bikes in Wilmington (and therefore bike lanes)
  • When I haven't seen the fixies, a lot of the male teenagers skateboard --- probably much cheaper and easier to control
  • It feels like the vehicle of choice is the work truck.  Besides the Port of LA, there are not a lot of jobs within the city itself.
  • Most kids and young adults who can get around like hanging in towns adjacent and outside of the city.  Rancho Palos Verdes has the [cheap on Tuesdays] movie theater, Torrance has the malls, eateries.  There isn't much of interest for the native Wilmingtonians other than the occasional Gus' Burgers, Tres Cochinitos, or Red West Pizza outing.
  • Cultural activities?  Not a ton load.  The most I've seen centers around Banning Park and school festivals.
  • The businesses (99 Cents store, Food4Less, churches) don't really have bike facilities.
I agree with Joe that the bike lanes are only a good thing for the community, but it seems like it will be a ground zero area to test the adage "if you build it, they will come."

Bugs Me A Little...Reinforcing Racism: KTLA 5 News Coverage of Oarfish Discovery and of a Stabbing in Hawthorne

I am bugged out by a juxtaposition of various news stories.  Mostly because it just seems to reinforce age old stereotypes.

As I was looking up things to do in Catalina Island for this upcoming weekend, I came across a dated news story back in October about an Oarfish discovery on KTLA.  I was surprised that the one who made the discovery was a Latina snorkeler or at least had a Latina-sounding name, but its LA, its 2014 (or the video was back in 2013), everyone's all integrated, we've got a black president yada yada yada.

However, you wouldn't know that she made the discovery.  That she has accomplished something.  You'd just think it's a bunch of white people, yet again, by watching KTLA's video.

In that KTLA video, which has been listed on innumerable aggregate sites from Yahoo to Huffington Post to local news affiliates, no effort seems to made in showing the discovery, or getting her story, just pictures of some screaming white girls and an interview of her co-associate who looks like Freddie Roach's brother.  

Meanwhile, the actual institute has its video on Youtube, which to day viewed a paltry 2,600 times, and actually features her in all her glory.

Adding salt to the wound, immediately following this story on KTLA a story about a stabbing by a Latino man.  No hesitation in getting a clear visual of him.

Just one little way that media can reinforce racist narratives without necessarily intending to do so (or so I'd assume), which...bugged me a little.

The Least Bike-Friendly Cities and Districts in LA County and City of LA

My work takes me all over LA County and the City of LA.

And when I can, I bike.

I don't have any real metrics or data available.  My rankings are not based on counting speed limits, bike lanes, traffic counts, or whatever, but are based mostly on my whether or not I 'feel comfortable' on main streets in certain cities as a sometimes-commuting bicyclist myself.

Chances are that if I "feel comfortable" as a sometimes-commuting bicyclist who occasionally rides with his scared-to-death fiance, mom, and/or sister, it is likely that even more people/Angelenos, who don't really make the effort to bike nor have given it much thought, will feel the same when encountering the same environs.

"Comfort" for me means "intuitive" and/or "natural."  So a driving (pun not intended) question behind these rankings is, how "intuitive" and/or "natural" is it to be biking on the streets of a given area?

But first...

The Limitations of These Rankings:  
  • It's not systematic;  absolute lack of numbers
  • Areas I know really well where I can take the little streets because I've passed through them many times:   LA City Council District 13 (Silver Lake, East Hollywood, Echo Park, Eagle Rock, Atwater Village), UCLA Area (Westwood-Culver City-Palms) North Hollywood,  Most of LA City Council District 4 (Los Feliz, Little Armenia, Koreatown, southern commercial parts of Glendale, Most of the Central San Fernando Valley:  Van Nuys, Panorama City, Pacoima, Arleta, Most of Long Beach:  Eastside and Westside Long Beach, Wilmington, Pico-Union, Exposition Park
  • I could probably find my way around, but mainly use the big streets on:  A lot of the Valley (Universal City in the South to Van Nuys in the North, Sherman Oaks to the West, Burbank to the East), A lot of the South Bay Area (Culver City, Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach, Redondo Beach, Carson, Torrance, Gardena, North Long Beach, Cerritos, Compton, Lakewood, Signal Hill, San Pedro), Some of the San Gabriel Valley (Monterey Park, West Covina), Some of the Westside (Santa Monica, Venice), Some of the Eastside (East LA, Boyle Heights), LAX-El Segundo area, Malibu, South LA (USC-Leimert Park), Culver City
  • I would be pretty lost here:   A lot of the San Gabriel Valley and everything else East (Arcadia, Alhambra, Montebello, El Monte, Pomona, Lincoln Heights), Anything Northwest of Northridge (Chatsworth), Anything North of Pacoima (Lake View Terrace, Santa Clarita etc), Slightly North of Santa Monica (Pacific Palisades, Brentwood), Anything East of Paramount (Bellflower, Downey, Lynwood, Commerce)
Possible Takeaways:
  • To place a more public spotlight on areas across LA County and City of LA that really feel unsafe for bicyclists.
I've divided the sections of LA County Cities and City of LA Neighborhoods into two tiers: "Really needs improvement" and "Oh Shit, I really hope I don't die"
LA County City "Needs Improvement" Tier

1)  Carson.  Carson has streets with decent amount of room for bicyclists, but I am not aware of many of its bike-friendly signs or whatever.
2)  Redondo Beach.  Not thinking of the actual beach area, but the surface streets.  I remember taking Artesia one time.  Not a lot of room for bicycling, though it seems to have potential.
3)  Inglewood/Hawthorne/South Gate.  Inglewood and Hawthorne seem to have space, but I hardly remember bike facilities on either.

4)  Alhambra/The Covinas - Wide streets, mostly flat.  Only cars have the opportunity to take advantage.

LA County "Oh shit I really hope I don't die today" Tier
1)  El Segundo - If you don't know the small streets here, it can be very scary.  Luckily the Green Line has a stop for Mariposa, and that's basically the street on which you should stay.
2)  Gardena - I have yet to see a single bike facility in this city.  It's one saving grace is the East side where there isn't any traffic.  But if you try going down Redondo Beach Blvd with its three lanes, BE SAFE.
3)  Cerritos - South Street can be scary as noted by me a few years ago.  Luckily this town is not that big.
4)  Beverly Hills/Century City - I think of Santa Monica Blvd.  Hate it.
5)  Torrance - My fiance's dream city growing up.  All suburbed and boxed in a car waiting to get on/off the 405.
6)  Vernon - Would be a decent biking area if there weren't trucks breathing on you, abandoned, and full of polution.
7)  Malibu - PCH, PCH, PCH.  Despite the fact that bicyclists are highly visible and there are road signs warning drivers to slow down, I still would not want to bike here.  The roads are designed for people to zip through, and it's probably even worse during peak hours.  Speeds can reach highway speeds
8)  Culver City - I really dislike biking anything in Culver City because of the traffic and the utter lack of bike facilities.  Sepulveda isnt very enjoyable.  Neither is La Cienega. 

LA City Rankings "Needs Improvement" Tier
1)  Mid-Wilshire - I know these streets already as a bicyclist, but I mention this here because actual Wilshire is still and almost always will be a nightmare (unless past 9P-10P, but that isn't guaranteed).
2)  Hollywood - Mostly because the touristy areas along Cahuenga are packed with traffic.
3)  Harbor City - Very small section of the city that I know has little bike-friendliness, especially not on PCH.
4)  Harbor Gateway - I see this district sign and I immediately think, what kind of bike-enemy trouble am I going to encounter next?
5)  Historic Filipinotown - The main East-West thoroughfares, Temple and 3rd St, are and always have been mini race tracks
6)  Florence - Whenever I use this street, I don't think bike-friendliness.  There is space, but I always wonder what cars are rushing behind me.

LA City "Oh shit I really hope I don't die today" Tier
1)  Beverly Glen - I think of Sunset Boulevard and how completely unrunnable it becomes.
2)  Beverly Grove - I think of La Cienega Blvd, the lack of space for bicyclists, and the car traffic that breathes on you like a predator
3)  Vermont-Slauson - Slauson has got to be the worst East-West thoroughfare with a railroad track on it.   Usually railroad tracks are a good sign for bicyclists.  In Slauson's, it means just try really hard not to get run over.
4)  Cahuenga Pass -The route that I used to take from LA to the Valley was always kind of scary mostly because of the cars breathing on me.  Would be a nice fun uphill/downhill if not for the impatient motorists.

Compton vs. Malibu - Chronicling Compton - Friday, March 21, 2014

Continuing my quest to understand the "opportunityscape" in Compton.

But first, the bits and pieces of Compton:

Compton vs. Malibu

Incidentally, both have been given 'D' grades for their respective efforts at historical preservation, as mentioned in the bits above.

I don't know the ins and outs of either of these cities like I do central LA.  A lot of what I do know about each is visual, but I'm learning rapidly.   Compton, because I live here.  Malibu, because I am currently working there and scoping out the entirety of its streets.

I find the juxtaposition somewhat interesting;  going from one of the worst-perceived towns in America to the town perceived as the idyllic and reserved for the ultra-successful.

Things that jump out at me:

In Malibu:
  • The Roads:  Ample Hills.  Ample Winding roads.  Every street is a cul-de-sac.
  • Biking:  It is still very dangerous to actually bike PCH;  rarely have I seen anyone but the recreational bicyclist on PCH and on sidestreets.  Getting up the many hills though seem like a professional rider's dream.
  • Public Parks:  No real parks.  Ample Tennis courts, but probably if you're a resident;  I don't see the taco truck guys going up there.
  • Starbucks:  I have been to two.  Always lively, steady stream of people, at least during the daytimes that I have been there.
  • The Schools:  There is a marine school with lush fields for soccer, running, and anything
  • The flow of the work day:  More people working on houses than actual residents
  • In its public displays:  The environmentalism. 
  • The homeless people are:  Usually around Civic Center Dr.  Wherever the 534 drops em.
It's also political office season there.  Lots of city council signs.

In Compton:
  • The Roads:  Flat, flat, flat.  Streets are generally on a grid, except when they're not, like for instance trying to take a biking route to the Metro station on anything except Compton Blvd.  The roads are pretty damn bumpy, least in the Westside.  Distractingly bumpy as in, you're trying to ride smoothly, but you just end up having to deal with a rash of potholes, no matter what mode of transport you take.
  • Biking:  There's an OK amount of bicycling;  not the greatest biking accomodations however
  • Public Parks:  No one really at the parks unless there's some kind of party.  Tennis courts that require a permit.
  • Starbucks:  The one on Artesia has been empty each time I've gone.  Closes very early.
  • The Schools:  Who knows how the schools are?  But the schools have a a reputation probably just by virtue of being here.
  • The flow of the day:  Generally quiet.  But occasionally someone will have a midday merienda with friends occupying the block.
  • In its public displays:  The isolated strings of civil rights awareness in the black community
  • The homeless people are:  Anywhere, usually.  But mostly at the Metro station...
When it was political office season here, there were also lots of signs.  That was for school board.