Sunday, August 30, 2009

Raul Leanos, I Hardly Knew You

Today marks the anniversary of the 1986 mid-air collision of Aeromexico Flight 498 and a private plane above Cerritos. Aboard the jetliner were Raul Leanos, a kid from my junior high in San Jose, and his mother, Elva Leanos, who worked in the school cafeteria. They were on their way back from a summer trip to Mexico before the new school year.

In those days the school would post up lists of homeroom teachers and their students outside the main office. I remember walking to school to check on the assigned teacher for my upcoming 8th grade year, and a crowd of television news reporters blocked my way. Another kid explained that someone had died in a plane crash, and a cameraman taped footage of the homeroom list, surely zooming in on Raul's name for dramatic emphasis.

A few years ago the City of Cerritos dedicated the Cerritos Air Disaster Memorial by Kathleen Carcicof as part of a quiet sculpture garden tucked away near the library. It's a nice place to sit, contemplate, and think about the good folks we've lost.

Monday, August 24, 2009


I admit it. I spend a lot of time thinking about fast food restaurants. And the crazy part...I haven't had beef/chicken/pork/duck/lengua/cesos in ten years. Not intentionally, at least, unless you count the time in Japan when the owner of the Mexican restaurant in Umejima surprised me with beef tamales.

Here I go again. I swung by the Tacos El Gavilan on Central and Washington and saw that the old sky-fly McDonald's arches by Stanley Meston had been neutered. When did this happen?

I may have to take a drive by the alive-and-kicking McDonald's in Downey, but the McVeggie doesn't exactly sizzle my grizzle. Grimace.

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Broadway way

Hmm...putting up a sign after business hours on a Friday night, two dudes on the same ladder, and the third guy looking distracted....I have just a hunch that they "forgot" to pull permits.

Downtown Los Angeles. Gotta love it.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Was dog a donut?

I pretty much grew up in the same San Jose neighborhood. I barely remember my parents' earlier place in Evergreen (which my Dad decided to move away from "once the neighbors painted a giant sun over the garage" in the mid-'70s), so as you can imagine I had mixed feelings about staying put. Stability on one hand, boredom on the other. Even at a young age I knew other SJ areas were way more interesting. Downtown. Willow Glen. Alviso. Alum Rock.

One of my favorites along Alum Rock Avenue was the giant orange that housed Mark's Hot Dogs. No kidding...this is a walk-in orangey orange built in 1947, and the City of San Jose declared it a historic landmark in 1992. Can't say my family actually ate there much, but I definitely liked to look.

Now that this type of wackitecture has popped back in my head, over the last week I've taken a drive by most of the giant donuts in the Los Angeles area. I'm amazed by how these monsters have held up over the years, and most seem to be slinging donuts like the recession never happened. I'll have to make another round of visits, and next time I'll put on my taste test face.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Neutra Burrito Supreme

We went to the Silver Lake area a few weeks ago to check out the Neutra houses. Pretty cool stuff. Boosting up the neighborhood's worth with rows of houses with clean lines - Neutra's signature - and unassuming wood and glass design. The other day while exploring my neighborhood, I stopped by the Richard Riordon Library or the Central Library as I still call it. Wouldn't you know it, there was an exhibit on Richard Neutra's sketches.

The man was the da Vinci of architecture. He drew his own plans, climbed Aztec pyramids with Frida and Diego, and fought with the Austrian Brigade in WWI. He also supported Upton Sinclair's socialist bid for the presidency in the '30s. He drew plans for low-cost housing for migrant workers using raw materials such as fruit crates. The man was as interesting as his work...maybe even more so.

After finding all this out, we stumbled upon Mai's Organic Mexican food. The veggie burrito was yummy but the nagging question of Mai possibly being Vietnamese bugged me to the very last bite. Not that race should have anything to do with it. On Broadway, there's an Indian and Mexican restaurant. How random is that? Beans and tikka masala?

Fear and Loafing in Los Angeles

Being called a "dog hussy" while taking a jaunt down Broadway made me pause a little and say thanks. Living in downtown has changed up the venue. More exciting, more urban, more fun. However, I'm not indifferent to those pushed away from my street, Spring, to Los Angeles Street and down to Skid Row to accommodate the feckless and the yuppies. Although I don't consider myself a yuppie, living in a high rise loft sure makes me feel like one.

I'm aware that a couple of years ago, the Spring Street bus route was hacked away due to tenant complaints of too much noise. Restaurants, clubs, and chic shops have sprouted. This is not like the downtown I grew up visiting. The revitalization of the city is walkers everywhere. I just feel major guilt about how the other half lives...two blocks from me. Look at me...I've finally fulfilled my dream of living in the city, yet I'm holding my breath in worry about patting myself on the back.