I live on the East Side of Los Angeles in a neighborhood that is both residential/industrial and primarily Latino though gentifrication with all its good and bad is slowly seeping in. I love it here for the most part. I have a HUGE (about 2500 sq. loot) loft-like apartment in a converted barn (built in 1903) for a ridiculously low amount of rent. It has all new laminate floors, a balcony, 1950’s tile in the kitchen and two glorious, brand spanking new bathrooms. There’s room for ALL my books and then some an extra (huge) bedroom for my grandkids and a whole room for my kitchen gadgets, pots and pans. I should be happy right?
There are two other apartments here and and one of them loves three things – banda music, their extra loud surround sound systems and BASE. My walls tremble, the floor throbs and the hallway where my books reside fairly thumps with an intense beat. Seriously, books have fallen right off the shelves. It’s positively annoying. Imagine if you will, soaking in a nice bubble bath after a long day at work when all of a sudden your whole bathroom starts to bump, throb and drill circus-like base into your head. The porcelain of my huge tub intensifies the beat and drills it right into my head. Relaxation over – pure frustration sets in instantly.
It’s a breezy and sunny Saturday morning in Santa Monica and the Farmer’s Market is busy. The smell of herbs, fruit and vegetables blend in with the smell of the sea just a short walk away. Brisk business is being done, there’s a general feeling of happiness and goodwill throughout the market as customers – locals and tourists taste, smell and buy. In the midst of this is a smiling, good-natured man in a white coat pushing a heavily laden cart. His name is Gianfranco Minuz and he is in his element here. The growers seem to know him well, trading jokes and showing him their best items.
For me, the writer following around the Michelin-starred chef, it is a revelation.
I grew up not far from the Los Angeles River. My grandparent’s block butted up against it and back then, I could easily ride my bike down, get off it and squeeze it through a hole in the fence to get to the concrete embankments. Many a summer day I spent sitting on the concrete, writing in my composition notebooks full of stories or reading my Complete Works of Shakespeare that always traveled in my bike’s basket.
In the 1970’s there were tons of frogs in that river. Green frogs, tadpoles, bullfrogs…I’d hear their croaking combined with the ever-present sounds of ducks, geese and snowy egrets. If I lingered just after sunset I might see an owl or two. The hillsides of nearby Griffith Park sometimes showed me the faces of shy deer gazing down. I don’t see frogs anymore, nor do I see the deer. There is however, an abundance of geese and ducks, the rowdy crows and ravens, red-tailed hawks gliding in the sky above and the always elegant and graceful snowy egrets. There are also homeless people living in tents hidden by bent and trash-covered trees.
Last night was lovely. A friend picked me up from work and we decided to take a walk along the river. My friend is from Italy and he was amazed that there was such a thing as the river here in the heart of Los Angeles. We walked and talked almost to Burbank, stopping here and there to identify plants, watch horses and their riders and startle the ducks and geese. Palmed in my hand was my little Droid Mini and I spent most of the two-hour walk snapping away as we walked. My friend was fascinated with how the water was cracking open the concrete and seeping out aggressively in some spots, so I video’ed some of the things that made him laugh out loud.
I miss the frogs. Their rhythmic croaking used to be my company on lonely summer afternoons when all I had was my pen, a notebook and my thoughts. They were the music and muse of my writing back then and I wonder where they’ve gone. Still, the memory of the frogs is there in the river and the color of their skin is now the color of the algae-covered rocks. It is as if the river remembers them too.
L.A. can be a harsh and aggressive place, but it has it’s peaceful places too. Our walk along the river was zen-like in its quiescence and soothing to a troubled soul. I left work as tight as a drum, stressed out and worried. By the end of our walk I was light as a feather, feeling young again and fully energized. My Droid made it possible for me to capture the river’s peace for those days I don’t walk alongside it, and also possible to share the same with my friend. He’ll have a bevy of photos and video of his first time seeing our concrete river and I hope both he and the frogs come back to visit.
It is raining in Los Angeles. Our parched and drought-ridden earth rejoices and starts to feel alive again. Somehow that shift, that change in ozone, the sounds and smells of the city I love speak to me in memory – a memory of food, family and love. I take a walk outside to feel it on my skin and the wind whips my hair into a tangled mess while it caresses my neck and whispers one word – pozole.
My Grandma Lupe made pozole all through my growing up. Rainy days like this one meant every door and window were flung open to let in that good clean smell; the wet, flowery-herbal breeze from her gardens. We bundled up, but the doors and windows remained open to let in all that goodness. Buckets outside were placed to catch the rain water, while in the kitchen good things were happening.
This has always been true. I don’t know why. I’m a mostly peaceful and peaceable type person but the life that surrounds me has always been one of intense whirlwinds. Maybe it is me – what I draw to myself. I think fast, talk fast, walk fast and type fast. I trip over words, they spill all over. I work, I commute, I have six blogs, I test mobile devices, I cook, I bake, I spend weekends with grandchildren and everything is one mad rush. Una tormenta. Una locura.
DLK is a Los Angeles based blog written by Gina Ruiz. It is a narrative food blog that celebrates culture, family and tradition while occasionally meandering off to explore other foods and the City of Angels.