Saturday, March 21, 2009

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

A Long Way From E-Ho!

Today's the day I fly off to Sydney, Australia for a week's vacation. I haven't left the US since 2003 when I visited the Philippines, as well as Singapore and Malaysia.

It seems that every two years I take a major trip that involves an airplane: in 2007 I went to Portland, OR; 2005 I fortunately got to see New Orleans 5 months before it was devastated. In 2003 was the aforementioned Asia trip, and I also got to visit the East Coast as well. In 2001 I visited the Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia as well as Hong Kong. In 1999, New York City. In 1997, the Philippines. 1995, Europe (England, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium); 1993 the East Coast and 1991 the East Coast and Canada.

This time, it's the Land Down Under. Why? Because it's far away. It's also the end of Summer there (though it's starting to get summer-like here). I'll also get to fly there in a Qantas Airbus A380, and thanks to the recession, I got a sweet promotional deal on my ticket ($877 RT)!

I plan to explore the city of Sydney on foot and transit (maybe rent a bike if I can) for three days, then rent a car - yes, I'll be driving on the left side of the road (wish me luck)! and visit the Blue Mountains National Park, and Canberra, the capital city of Australia (which is like driving the same distance from L.A. to Tijuana). Then I return to Sydney then leave on Friday the 27th.

I travel because I love to learn. I've discovered I learn way more traveling than sitting in a classroom. And like any place I've never been to before, I have no idea what to expect aside from any preconceived notions I might have. But once I'm there, they will all be shattered, replaced with experiences that become memories upon my return home.

Sydney, like Los Angeles, is a diverse metropolis of 4 million with many immigrant communities. One of my hopes in Sydney is to stumble upon a community there that seems to resemble East Hollywood. I've already gotten some leads via some Internet forums.

This being the 21st century, though I'll be some 9,000 miles from home, I'll still be tethered to the world I know through technology. I will hopefully update this blog while I'm there, as well as my Facebook and Twitter ( profiles. If you've been there before, feel free to send any tips my way!

Until then, G'day, mate!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Taking Notice: A DC-Based Blogger Gives Props to E-Ho!

Just got an email from Washington DC-based blogger Kaid Benfield of the National Resources Defense Council who took notice of the ArtCycle video on, who did some research of his own and found my humble old 'hood (and the work of the EHNC) to his liking, featuring it on his neighborhoods and sustainability blog, Switchboard. It's always cool to see people from outside Los Angeles, much more even outside California/the west take notice! Thanks, Kaid!

Garcetti Jams With The Soul Barkada!

After getting my video camera back (my sister borrowed it for her trip to the Philippines), and wrestling with YouTube's uncertain upload process, I finally got the video of last week's election night party, where my R&B/funk/soul band, Elson and the Soul Barkada got the honor of playing for Council President Eric Garcetti's election night party at the Avalon Hollywood on March 3. So here's my band, singing "Are You Ready (For Garcetti)."
I also got the honor of introducing my councilman, who joins in with the band. I think we'll make him the honorary 9th Soul Barkada member.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Good Morning

The eager rising sun peeking over the clouds, illuminating the San Gabriel Valley. Morning, everyone.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

TortaQuest '09 Continues!

Still on this torta fix, I decide to drop by the infamous twin taco trucks of East Hollywood, which are on the lot of an auto repair shop on Western and Lexington avenues, right by the 101 Freeway. The trucks, which are here every night, have gained a reputation as one of the best taco trucks in town, most notably the northernmost one, El Matador, which LA claims as its #1 taco truck in town.

Well, they sell tortas as well - "Delicioso" as the menu claims. Alrighty then! I order una torta de pastor.
Note the nearly-transparent grease spots on top. They ain't foolin' here. The bread is nice and a little toasty, and the al pastor pork is characteristically spicy as anyone who's had an El Matador taco would attest. However, due to its greasiness, the whole thing kind of flops over when held. Don't get me wrong, this is good stuff, but the grease content was a bit high even for a torta! I'll stick to their tacos.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Transit Titos!

Growing up Filipino, a "tito" is your uncle, whether he's your parent's brother, cousin or longtime friend. Titos have long been a source of either wisdom, entertainment or humor (sometimes not intentionally). A typical Filipino party usually ends with a group of titos, bodies full of varying amounts of alcohol, singing into the Magic Mic Karaoke (with full echo engaged of course), singing Sinatra's "My Way."

So in my commute home after an overtime day of work, I get on the Red Line at Union Station and two Filipino guys, about the same age as my dad, maybe a little older, come on board, and ask the riders in the subway car to produce their "teeykets" and passes.

Now, I believe a Filipino can do anything, but someone donning a Sheriff's Dept vest on a subway train with the slight possibility one illegitimate rider might react in an unruly manner after being questioned, made me wonder. Certainly there could be a big, surly Filipino dude somewhere who can ask riders for proof of fare payment.

But if I was the only rider in the train amused by the fact that the validity of my subway ride was checked on by a pair of titos, then so be it.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

In Search Of The Perfect Torta, El Taurino

Hankerin' for a torta on a Sunday evening, I head over to El Taurino on Hoover and 11th in the Pico-Union district. A favorite taco joint of a certain noodle-headed friend of mine, I decided to check it out after long last.

Expecting an outdoor stand a la E-Ho's El Gran Burrito, this was a completely indoor place, with two counters and two lines - both rather long.

I figured it must be good, so to bide my time I decide to pull out the ol' Blackberry and do a Facebook update:

Elson is @El Taurino, in search of the best torta. (7:21 p.m.)

Which was followed up by:

Ken L. at 7:24pm March 8
Where is the best torta, you think? I'm fond of the Taco Reyes taco truck on Sherman Way, but I'm happy to continue the search for delicious tortas.

Elson at 7:26pm March 8
I've been on a torta trip lately.
You're quite a bit Valley-biased, aren't you? :)
But thanks, I will leave no stone unturned, and will check it out next time I'm over the hill!

Joe B. at 7:34pm March 8
gerlie says there's a good one in monterey park where they bake their own bread. don't know the name of it though.

Ken L. at 7:35pm March 8
I'm on the LA side a bit as well, so I would love to hear about any good torta trucks/restaurants.

I'm Valley-biased, sure, but only because I live out here, not because I think all the good tortas are out this way!!!

Elson at 7:35pm March 8 via Facebook Mobile
Joe: hot damn! I gotta check that one out!

Ken L. at 7:36pm March 8
Joe, please find out!!

Although most of the time when I'm out that way, I'm at Ocean Star Seafood or Dumpling Master, etc. on Atlantic. No tortas there.

Peter H. at 7:37pm March 8
It's called Cook's Torta's...on Atlantic the intersection of Floral Dr. Its pretty good. I do tend to prefer the proper roach coach though, lol. I'll have to pick you up and take you there Elson, they even hand make their own tortillas for their tacos.
*Drooling already*

Elson at 7:37pm March 8 via Facebook Mobile
Ken: Just jokin witcha man! :) There's some good Valley spots so I'll check out any suggestions there as well!

Ken L. at 7:40pm March 8
The taco truck one I mentioned is my favorite so far. It's a good torta, a little bit hit and miss, but almost always good, but I'm looking for an absolute killer torta. I ate at El Taurino a while back, and King Taco (had tacos at both, not tortas), and enjoyed both.

Thanks, Peter!

Elson at 7:40pm March 8 via Facebook Mobile
The line @ El Taurino is long..been here over 10 mins. This better be good! Big Korean clientele too! I'm getting the bistec con queso torta...cheeseteak!

Peter H. at 7:44pm March 8
Geeze, I really dislike King Taco. The salsa's are icky, I guess i'm just used to what my Mom makes here at home. ONE taco stand on Fletcher Drive (next to Foster's Freeze) had VERYYYY good tacos. Great variety of meat....the Al Pastor kicks butt there.

Elson at 7:47pm March 8 via Facebook Mobile
Peter, you're so Atwater Village-biased, lol! :)

Ken L. at 7:48pm March 8
The one time I've eaten at King Taco was in Pasadena. It was good. It wasn't killer. Still on the lookout for killer. You can't ever beat homemade, I don't think, but it doesn't mean you don't keep looking!! :)

Peter H. at 7:53pm March 8
The little corner place on Fletcher is AWESOME. I mean, I could eat there nightly and not grow tired. Salsas are g0o0o0od, lol. I'm from the hood Elson, what do you expect :p

The hospital I run is a few blocks away from Cook's Tortas in Monterey Park. I'd rather hit the roach coach scene than eat there. Just my opinion....I say we meet up and go on a sample night, haha!!

Elson at 7:54pm March 8 via Facebook Mobile
I've ordered, am waiting. I'm. #662 and they're only calling #636!

Elson at 7:57pm March 8 via Facebook Mobile
Haha, the lady sitting across from me is on the cellphone w her man, she said, "They don't sell tortas @ King Taco!" Guess I'm not alone in TortaQuest '09!!

Joe B. at 7:58pm March 8
cook's tortas
1944 S Atlantic Blvd

Peter H. at 7:59pm March 8
Hey EL....that's when I throw in the towel and go to YOSHINOYA :p

Elson at 8:00pm March 8 via Facebook Mobile
BTW thanks guys, you're making my long wait a little less tedious, haha

Elson at 8:03pm March 8 via Facebook Mobile
This place is quite trilingual! EspaƱol, English and Korean...

Peter H. at 8:04pm March 8
El, where is the place you're at located?

Elson at 8:06pm March 8 via Facebook Mobile
El Taurino on Hoover, half block S of Olympic

Peter H. at 8:06pm March 8
Could you imagine some kimchi on your torta instead of onion and cilantro? Hahaha. ACK!

Elson at 8:08pm March 8 via Facebook Mobile
Peter; That's not too farfetched:

Peter H. at 8:09pm March 8
Damn boy, you're too far out for me. I live in a box, lol. UNLESS I'm going to MANNA all you can eat Korean BBQ....then it's acceptable to travel south on Western. Otherwise I ain't doing a drive for food that's far away. Yet you ask yourself "The how does this dude stay to damn fat, haha." I ONLY went to Rosemead today because I was already in Monterey Park checking in on my nurses.

Elson at 8:15pm March 8 via Facebook Mobile
I'm just lol'ing at the size of this comment thread! I was in the area, was driving on the 110 near downtown after church and felt an urge to stop by El Taurino (1st time here).

Peter H. at 8:17pm March 8
Hey, i'm just trying to entertain you. It seems you'll be there all night long, lol. Holla if you need company. I think it's time for a HUGE bowl of cornpops, haha.

Elson at 8:21pm March 8 via Facebook Mobile
No prob man. HEY TORTA IS READY!

Ready, yeah. Take a look at the timestamp. It's been one hour since I got in line. ONE HOUR?!?!
So here it is in all of its torta glory:
Peter H. at 8:23pm March 8

Elson at 9:43pm March 8
30 replies, all about a freaking sandwich! :) I love Facebook!

Ken L. at 7:26pm March 9
Hey, so how was it?

How was it? After posting a photo of the said torta, I captioned it so:

Great torta, but not worth waiting an hour for!!!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

A Day of Boxers and Bikes: Manny, LA Bike Summit and Lance Armstrong

My Saturday: 18 miles, 13 hours, four locations and two world-class athletes.

It was one of those days. And what a day.

I left the house at about 9 a.m. and rode the two miles to Historic Filipinotown to catch a "Mayor's Community Day of Service" event at SIPA on Temple, where there were already hundreds of people there partaking in a mini neighborhood fair on a closed-off Robinson Street. City-sponsored young citrus trees were being given out to residents, teams of volunteer cleanup crews, armed with brooms, left and returned, music played and people waited patiently to see the champ: Manny Paquiao.

At about 10:30 a.m. he came out, planted a tree on Temple, and was given a proclamation by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. When Manny spoke, I was curious as to how the champ would botch the mayor's name, as most people are prone to anyway (FTR: he pronounced it, "Billyaaaaaa...uhhh...agosa." Close enough for jazz!).

Surprisingly, yet unsurprisingly, scores of community folks came out: Filipino senior citizens, Filipino American college students, and even the Los Angeles Derby Dolls - who are tenants of SIPA-owned property - united in keeping the neighborhood clean. Of course, without Manny it wouldn't have been a big deal (nor as well-attended), but whatever works, works.
An hour later or so I skeedaddled on bike down Temple, Glendale, Figueroa, 4th and down Flower to L.A. Trade Tech college, where the LA Bike Summit was taking place. The usual workshop format I'm quite used to as a community person awaited me, but it was cool nonetheless.

I did see many familiar faces in the local "bike culture" scene, including people I've never seen outside of the Hel-Mel element. That made me wonder whether this preach-to-the-choir event had any efficacy to it at all, or whether it was meant to inspire optimism, organizing, advocacy and action.

One of the workshop sessions I attended was LA County Bike Coalition's "CiclLAvia" concept of setting up a weekly network of streets closed, yet permeable, to automobile traffic (open to bicycles and pedestrians) based on Bogota, Colombia's "Ciclovia," which has been a tradition there since 1976.

The concept got everyone's minds a-buzzing, bringing up ideas and concerns alike. Some people asked about how transit buses would be affected, which was a legitimate question. I suggested that outreach be done to community groups and nonprofits to increase buy-in by having them schedule coinciding festivals or events. I also recommended including churches (who are also prone to be affected) and having them encourage their congregations to ride their bikes to church.
I'm curious though to see the after-effects of this program. Granted most people or organizations already knew each other, and probably see one another fairly often on bike rides. But Saturday was a day to keep the two-wheeler stowed away and use our heads for a moment.

Still it was cool to be in the company of bike-minded folks, (including fellow Barackcyclist Carlos Morales from the East LA Bike Club) who want to make a difference.

Afterward, I rode with friend and fellow cyclist blogger type Will Campbell back to East Hollywood where we caught up with 698 other riders for the 2.3-mile LiveSTRONG ride with none other than Lance Armstrong.
We donned yellow shirts reading "Hope Rides Again" (the lucky few got to wear black shirts and
start the race alongside Mr. Armstrong. All this time I couldn't help but be amused by the fact that the world's most famous cyclist will be riding a bike in my neighborhood, reputedly the center of the city's bicycle culture. Just amazing.
We set off towards the Sunset along...well, Sunset. Yellow boxes of chalk were given away for people to draw or write messages expressing their or their loved one's experiences with cancer.
I also got a kick out of someone scrawling "MIDNIGHT RIDAZZ" and the skull logo on Sunset by Edgemont, wondering whether Mr. Armstrong saw it...
The ride ended not too long after it began, with a dramatic swoop of yellow-shirted masses turning due north on Vine Street. We dismounted just yards ahead at Selma, and parked our bikes at the bike valet, when lo and behold a giant Shepard Fairey iconic mural for Armstrong was painted on the south wall of the Ricardo Montalban Theatre. The messages: "Defiance, Courage, Action!"

Inside we were treated to a private audience with Mr. Armstrong himself, alongside Lance Armstrong Foundation head Doug Ulman and Nike CEO Mark Parker, and later joined by artist Fairey. Armstrong was introduced by actor and comedian Ben Stiller, with the night closed by a concert by another famous Ben - Ben Harper and his new band, the Relentless 7.
Mr. Armstrong was humble, honest and inspiring. He even made a comment advocating for better safety for cyclists on the streets.

An interesting point, as when I talked to some fellow cyclists prior to the ride, I noticed that most of them were the "sport cyclist" types that ride only in closed-road conditions, one I talked to told me he was "terrified" to ride on the streets! This is something I do every time without much thought...Just an interesting perspective on the different types of bike riders that are out there.

To end this real long post, and to tie it all together, I'm reminded on the power of celebrity. Los Angeles, and especially "Hollywood," for whatever definition is applied, gets a lot of flak for its association, or even obsession, with celebrities. But todayI saw the power of celebrity being used to encourage and inspire -- whether it's fighting blight on the streets of Historic Filipinotown or fighting cancer worldwide, prominent role models can get people off their apathy chairs and into action...if it works, it works.

Now, imagine if we can get Lance to advocate for bicycle safety awareness by motorists on the streets. Imagine a PSA with a motorist cussing out a cyclist on the street, only to learn it's Lance Armstrong. And no one would cuss out Lance Armstrong. Again, if it works, it works.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

East Hollywood ArtCycle Video!

Streetfilms' Clarence Eckerson Jr., who rode along on the 3:00 p.m. ArtCycle ride I led (The 2-hour Extended Director's Cut edition :)) made this great video that shows the energy and excitement of last weekend's East Hollywood ArtCycle. Check it out, you might also see some familiar faces too...

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

My Endorsements: Garcetti, Amerian

Today is election day in the City of Los Angeles, and like any active informed citizen, I'm gonna vote at my local polling place, which is Lexington Primary Center.

So here's who and what I'm voting for, heck it's my blog:

City Council, District 13: Eric Garcetti

Running for his third and final term, Garcetti is the deserving choice for re-election. As an organizer/activist in my community, not just here in East Hollywood, but also in nearby Historic Filipinotown, among many reasons, he's one of the few public officials anywhere who understands the issues of this City's ethnic communities. Plus, his staff is some of the coolest people around, and hey, the dude is on Facebook.

I won't say anything negative about the character of Garcetti's opponent, who happens to be a friend of mine and is my colleague on the East Hollywood Neighborhood Council governing board. Gary Slossberg has been a hard-working and responsible board member and treasurer/corresponding treasurer. However, despite his knowledge of the issues in the Hollywood and East Hollywood areas, I don't feel he knows very much about the other 2/3rds of the 13th district, neighborhoods that have very different issues.

Here's what some people from the East Hollywood community, both of whom I know, have worked with and respect, have to say about Garcetti:

City Attorney: Michael Amerian

In one of the more hotly-contested races are five candidates vying to succeed Rocky Delgadillo, two of which happen to have the same name. Michael Amerian, the only candidate with actual experience in the City Attorney's office has been nice enough to outreach to me and my community by attending one of the EHNC's meetings and the recent East Hollywood ArtCycle. I haven't heard from any of the other four, so Amerian gets my vote.

Measure B: COIN TOSS!

One of the most controversial measured in this ballot has to do with the use of solar energy in the City. Both sides support solar energy in L.A.; one side says it'll bring more jobs and economic development in a time when people need it and the other side says the plan is poorly drafted and without proper community input. I have very good and respected friends on both sides of the issue and still none of them have made a clear argument for me on why I should vote their way. So I will bring a quarter to the polling booth, flip it (heads yes, tails no) and vote accordingly.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Kaiser's On A Roll

This week, the new 7-story wing of Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles Medical Center on Sunset Blvd opens, the first major step of the hospital's modernization project. This weekend, I noticed the building will have colored lighting effects illuminating parts of the facade, which shift in color a la the LAX light towers.

The new building is designed to be built as a replacement for the existing Kaiser facilities, which will move in. Long term plans for the hospital have the other buildings towards Edgemont St be demolished and replaced with new structures. Exciting but also a little saddening for me personally, since this is the very place where I was born (the 2nd floor maternity ward, to be exact...), and where my mom worked for 25 years.

According to Ellen Zaman, who heads community affairs of neighboring Children's Hospital LA, to commemorate the opening of the new Kaiser wing, the three major medical centers of East Hollywood, which also includes Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center, are trying to get the City of L.A. to designate either an area or an intersection with signage to recognize the hospital presence in the area, but a name hasn't been decided yet.

I've heard the hospitals jokingly referred to in the past as "Bedpan Alley." But I guess myself being the "Hijo de E-Ho" (So I guess that's a title of royalty now?), having been one of the people to come up with the "Hel-Mel" name for Heliotrope and Melrose, has thrown this suggestion for the med center zone:

"Healthcare Square"