Jacaranda time

May 30, 2013 § Leave a comment

Twenty-one years ago this week I arrived in L.A. I had accepted a job offer and came with my meagre collection of worldly possessions intending to stay, oh, maybe two years, three at the most.

But I fell in love with a native Angeleno and here I am, 21 years later.

Jacaranda 1The night before entering the city proper, I stayed with friends in Pomona. I recall one of them remarking on how the jacaranda trees were still blooming so late in their season.

Maybe late for that end of the San Gabriel Valley; I’ve since discovered that here in the city, jacarandas often stay in bloom right through June Gloom, a gift this noir City of Angels badly needs and hardly deserves.

After more than two decades, jacaranda season still makes me dizzy with its visual splendor. When the trees blossom, a hazy purple canopy descends upon the city. Swathes of purple shadows litter sidewalks and lawns.

Jacaranda 3Viewed against our fairy-tale blue Southern California skies, a jacaranda tree can take my breath away.

I wondered for years whether jacarandas were a California native and was misled for a time by an unlikely source into thinking they originated in South Africa: In his inauguration address, Nelson Mandela mentioned several of South Africa’s landmarks and jacarandas were included. But, no, Jacaranda mimosifolia actually hails from southern and western South America. They have now invaded frost-free zones all over the world.

Much as I appreciate the native plant movement, I’m delighted jacarandas made it to our shores.

Jacaranda 4

Jacaranda 2

Under the sign of the dove

May 8, 2013 § Leave a comment

Eat. Meet. Shop. Do Good.

It’s the motto of  Mercado La Paloma, where you can, well, do all those things.

Eat food from the Yucatan, Oaxaca, Michoacan, Thailand or have a  good ol’ American burger.

Meet friends, pull a few tables together, and have a leisurely meal or rent the mercado’s community room.

Shop for gifts from Oaxaca or the Yucatan, get a garment altered, buy insurance or groceries.

Do good because the mercado is a project of the Esperanza Community Housing Corporation and serves an incubator for new businesses and a bit of economic development for the Figueroa Corridor south of downtown.

The second floor of the building is home to half-a-dozen nonprofits, including the Program for Torture Victims, which produced We Are Here.

Esperanza was founded by one of those remarkable women drawn to Roman Catholic religious orders who do so much good work: Diane Donoghue, MSW, a Sister of Social Services.

IMG_2863But you don’t need to know all this to enjoy the wonderful food at Chichen Itza, the mercado’s Yucatan restaurant where we ate recently. My mouth waters as I remember the pollo pibil, chicken marinated in achiote, sour orange juice and spices, then cooked in banana leaves.

“Honey, let’s eat at Mercado La Paloma tonight. I’m hungry.”


SoCal exotica

May 8, 2013 § 1 Comment

Lilac 2  It’s been lilac season and flower vendors have been bringing great purple armfuls to the farmers’ markets. Like daffodils and tulips, lilacs need cool weather to thrive; in L.A., they’re an exotic shrub, just as birds-of-paradise are back east. Most of what’s sold here come from high elevations—places like Tehachapi, where apples and stone fruits also grow well.

Whenever I see bunches of lilacs, I sink my face into the blossoms and inhale deeply. They’re frightfully expensive, so their scent is all I can afford to take away with me. That and memories of growing up in lilac territory. When lilacs appeared, we knew that spring had taken hold at last.

Lilacs, sweet gum seed pods—it’s remarkable what can evoke memories, which, in turn, so easily engender nostalgia. And a weighty sense of loss.

Lilac 1

Why I sometimes think I live in Central America.

May 1, 2013 § Leave a comment

One of the benefits of CicLAvia—when city streets are closed to all but human powered modes of transport— is the opportunity to see parts of L.A. we normally zoom through in automobiles.

That was the case during the CicLAvia earlier this month when I walked from McArthur Park to City Hall. Seventh Street was the primary thoroughfare from downtown to Alvarado Street; walking there, it became clear that I was in another realm. The evidence?



The framed legend on this mural reads,

“Nuestra tierra que se nos fue,” Jaime Garcia Project, with a phone number, muralist’s name and a date. The name Juan Gabriel is painted on the wall above the frame.

I wish I knew if this were an idealized vision or portrait of an historical figure (I think we can at least rule out the Cardinal pitcher of the same name).












Phone cards for Mexico, Central and South America


   Super economical shops and companies that ENVIOS DIRECTOS SIN INTERMEDIARIOS A GUATEMALA LA! (LA =  Latin America, not the City of Angels.)

And imagery influenced by Day of the Dead.


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