Los Angeles, Payasadas

The problem with Lincoln Heights

the banana that almost caused my downfall

El Chavo told me not to take his post about the problem with Hacienda Heights personally. I told him: “maybe I should start writing negative posts about Lincoln Heights or other parts of the Eastside. I’ve been there enough times to make observations and form opinions about singular events.” I went through with it… sort of. I basically played Mad Libs with the original post. You know us kids raised in the suburbs, we’re so unoriginal and ready to copy the latest trend!

I’ve never talked shit about the neighborhoods to my east (or west, if I position myself in Hacienda Heights) on my blog/blogs I’ve contributed to. I had no reason to start bashing the Eastside or its neighborhoods. Some of my best friends and family were born, raised and still live in the Eastside. I didn’t want to ruin relationships or create hostilities with them.

However, it’s impossible for my sense of decency to keep quiet. The Eastside, particularly Lincoln Heights, creates odd behavior patterns, maybe perfectly reasonable within the context of their own reality but utterly absurd when exposed to the light of reason.

Take for example this banana peel spotted in the parking lot of a LH Big Saver Foods a few weeks ago. I don’t understand why the consumer of this banana could not just toss the peel in a garbage can rather than leave the peel on the ground. Maybe folks in LH missed the classic cartoon lesson — or have never played Mario Kart — banana peels are dangerous. Someone (that would be me) could slip and fall. Luckily, I have decent reflexes and caught my balance before taking a fall. I doubt an Abuelita out to buy some groceries would have been so lucky. She might have broken a hip bone. I don’t get it. Are there no garbage cans on Broadway or the Big Saver Foods grocery store? I have no idea, but whatever the “logic” that led to the careless parking lot disposal of this banana peel, it just points to some warped thinking happening on these streets (or cars, I guess a LH driver could have thrown the banana out of his/her car). Fucking negligent thinking.

I almost considered picking up the peel and disposing of it properly, but neh pollos, who knows what kinda germs are on that banana peel. I didn’t even have my Purell in my purse.

If people can build opinions about Hacienda Heights from a lone Christmas tree tossed to the curb on Christmas afternoon, isn’t it appropriate that I be able to form an opinion from some random sighting on my way out to a delicious dinner in LH? I think the notion of justice demands I create a similar prejudice, just to be fair.

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Familia

Christmas past

christmas 1983ish

Most Christmas Eve parties are held at my family’s house. This particular year — maybe 1985 or 1986 — my mom’s extended family got together and rented a cabin in Big Bear. I don’t remember much about the celebration in the mountains except that my tío Pancho snuck away to put on a Santa Claus suit. Every year Papá Chepe or another willing adult male would don the suit and pretend to be Santa. He’d carry a sack full of toys for the all the kids. Earlier during the party, parents would stuff the sack with wrapped presents. Parents were only allowed to bring one present — preferably a toy — per child so that everything was even between families.

Santa brought me a Rainbow Brite doll that year. I only know this because there’s a photo in an album or box somewhere of me in brown sweatpants and a pink sweatshirt holding a Rainbow Brite doll.

The next day we cleaned up at the cabin and everyone came home. By the time we got back to Hacienda Heights, it was already dark.

Dad opened the door followed by mom, and four sleepy kids.

Danny and I perked up as soon as we saw two bicycles positioned beside our fireplace.

I was amazed. How did my pink bicycle with a white basket and training wheels get in the house? Did Santa bring it?

I didn’t really care. I followed Danny’s lead and took my bike for a night ride around the block.

***

Hope you all had a great Christmas with your family. I know I did.

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Cuentos

La Coqueta

I was 19 the first time someone called me a flirt. I didn’t like it. At all.

At the time, I was taking a small seminar on Latinas in electoral politics with my friends Erika, Pato and Vane. Our reading for that week included several pieces in Chicana Feminist Thought: The Basic Historical Writings, edited by Alma Gonzalez. The book was full of letters, speeches, articles and other historical documents from the 1960s and 70s. Although we weren’t assigned “A Chicana’s Message” — a one-page article originally published the January, 1972 issue of La Verdad — my peers still read the article. Here’s an excerpt from “A Chicana’s Message”:

The women who were at the [picnic] table were pregnant and I have gone through that torture. I have been on both sides of the fence. As women we have been pitted against each other for the big prize… el macho? We are constantly competing with one another, even when we walk down the street we are trying to hold our stomachs in or push our chi chi’s out. Believe me, that ain’t a very comfortable way to walk, but we do it. Since we’re little girls we’re taught to flirt; then we have boyfriends or get married and the men criticize us for being flirts — what do they expect? We are taught to use our bodies to get attention!

I don’t remember talking about the piece during class, but it came up during our walk back to the dorms. Erika was the first to draw the link between my behavior around our male friends and the article. Pato agreed too, but Erika was harsher in her criticism. According to her, my interactions weren’t friendly. They were shameless flirting and I was hungry for attention. She brought up examples of my flirting with one of our male peers in MEChA.

Okay, I was flirting, but that’s because I had a huge crush on the guy. I wasn’t about to admit that to them. So, I defended myself by linking my relationships with male friends to the kind of relationships I had with my cousins growing up. I grew up with a lot of male cousins. I had a lot of girl cousins too, but they were all too old or too young to play with. I ended up playing a lot of freeze tag and video games with my male cousins. I was accustomed to being around males. I told Erika and Pato that my friendliness with male friends was an extension of that. I wanted to feel the closeness and affection from my friends like I had with my family. Although it was all innocuous, Erika played it another way, “ugh, we don’t want to know what kind of attention you got from your cousins.”

Erika dropped the subject, as she could see I was getting more upset. But she wouldn’t let go of the topic all together.

The next year at our annual MEChA end-of-the-year dinner, she and a couple other women wrote up the gag awards. She presented most of the sarcastic and sometimes mean awards. People laughed, the award-winner blushed and then sat down at his seat.

For my award, Erika dragged up Jonathan, a mutual friend. He seemed embarrassed to read the paper, but she told him, “read it!”

He hesitated.

“Okay, the award for Most Likely to Flirt With the Presenter of this Award goes to Cindy.”

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Cultura, Familia

Guadalupanos in training

My family used to pray together every evening before going to bed.

The six of us would gather in Mom and Dad’s bedroom. We’d kneel around the bed, 3 on each side of the bed, and begin with the prayers: Our Father; Hail Mary; and Glory be to the Father. We ended with the Serenity Prayer.

Most of the time, we went willingly and behaved. We understood that prayer was not a joke. Despite this, we couldn’t avoid being kids. For some stupid reason, one of us would crack a smile and begin giggling. The laughter was contagious and soon we couldn’t stop, even if we shut our eyes. Dad and Mom didn’t like that.

They also didn’t like when we complained about praying.

“I have homework to do!”

“I want to see the end of this show!”

“I’m about the beat this level!”

“I’m on the phone!”

Mom would sigh and roll her eyes, “It’s only ten minutes. That’s all we ask.”

Dad had a different way of dealing with us, “Your Grandpa used to make us pray too. We had to do the Rosary. And it wasn’t just the cinco misterios, he added the Litany of Saints…”

He let that sink in for a moment before adding, “And we had to kneel too!”

Wow.

I was familiar with the Litany of Saints. I’d mumbled “ruega por nosotros” at least a dozen times during funeral wakes and Nochebuena (Christmas Eve) festivities. Saying a complete Rosario took 20-30 minutes, depending on how fast we mumbled the Hail Marys and Litany of Saints.

We stopped complaining after that.

Feliz Día de la Virgen Guadalupe

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