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California Fool's Gold -- Exploring Alhambra, the Gateway to the San Gabriel Valley

Posted by Eric Brightwell, November 5, 2007 05:00pm | Post a Comment

I had to go to
Alhambra to see a man about a horse at the bidding of the original San Gabriel Valley Girl, the always radiant Ngoc Nguyen. To vote for another Los Angeles neighborhood, vote here. To vote for a Los Angeles County Community, vote here. To vote for more Orange County communites, click here


Pendersleigh & SonsOfficial Map of the San Gabriel Valley


ALHAMBRA'S LOCATION

Alhambra is on the western edge of the San Gabriel Valley between posh
San Marino, trendy South Pasadena, old San Gabriel, blue collar Rosemead, and the most Chinese city in the US, Monterey Park.


Pendersleigh & Sons' Official Map of Alhambra

The center of Alhambra is the intersection of Garfield and Main, which has functioned as the hub of town at least since 1895.


                          Garfield and Main, 1890                            Garfield and Main, 2007 improved with an Applebees


My favorite historical site, however, isn't really too historical. There's a great shopping center, New Valley Shopping Center, built in 1964. Its main anchor is replaced the 168 Market -- a subsidiary of Ranch 99 Market. It's one of those many, amazing LA simulacra that make what would normally be a boring stripp mall feel like a visit to Disneyland. This shopping center is, much more successfully than the Cerritos Auto Mile, going for a New Orleans French Quarter vibe with a gazebo, faux wrought-iron street lamps and balconies, and a cupola with a liberty bell. And in this beautiful setting, things get pretty third world, just in the Big Easy. 


New Valley Shopping Center


ALHAMBRA DEMOGRAPHICS

By the 1950s, Garfield and Main was the hippest place in the San Gabriel Valley and was predominantly populated mostly by Italian-Americans. The following decade saw an influx of Latinos from surrounding areas and Anglos moving to other suburbs. In the late 1960s Alhambra was a hotbed of anti-Vietnam War protests and Brown Beret activity. By the mid 1970s tensions rose between the predominantly Anglo "surfers" and cholos. Many
Taiwanese began to move to the neighborhood, followed by Chinese from the mainland, Vietnamese, Cambodians and other Asians
. Today the population is roughly 47% Asian (mostly Chinese and Vietnamese), 36% Latino (Mostly Mexicans of any race), and 14% white.


ALHAMBRA EATS

The San Gabriel Valley is widely recognized for having the best collection of restaurants in Los Angeles County. Being the gateway to the SGV, entering Alhambra on bike I was always hit with a blast of delicious fragrances emanating from kitchens and restaurants. Even though they make up a very small percentage of Los Angeles's Asian-American population, Los Angeles being the great city of the
Pacific Rim it should be no surprise that the highest population of Indonesians is in Los Angeles County. The highest concentration within Los Angeles County is in Alhambra. I mention this first because Indonesian cuisine is one of the world's greatest and Alhambra boasts a few places to get it. Borneo Kalimantan CuisineIndo Kitchen, and Wong Java House. One can also get Indonesian and/or Indonesian-inspired dishes at Garden Café, Savoy Kitchen, and maybe Noodle World. That being said, there's no place in Alhambra that I've eaten more than Yazmin Malaysian Restaurant -- representing the cuisine of Indonesia's neighbor to the north -- Malaysia, of course. I'm also a fan of Banh Mi Che Cali, the Alhambra Lee’s Sandwiches (don’t hate!), Thai Purple, and at least the fried zucchini at Rick’s

In addition to the aforementioned cuisines and restaurants, Alhambra boasts a number of American, Cajun, Chinese, Dim Sum, Hawaiian, Hu, Indian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Mexican, Taiwanese, Thai, Vietnamese restaurants including the following:

California Fool's Gold -- Exploring Montebello

Posted by Eric Brightwell, November 3, 2007 11:10am | Post a Comment

Pendersleigh & Sons' Official Map of Montebello

I went to a baptism the other day for one Mateo Gareza in the city of Montebello, the subject of this neighborhood blog. To vote for another Los Angeles neighborhood, vote here. To vote for a Los Angeles County Community, vote here. To vote for Orange County neighborhoods, vote here.

 
Pendersleigh & Sons' Official Maps of Southeast Los Angeles County

For the occasion I was oaccompanied by none other than Miss San Gabriel Valley 05, 06 and '07, Ngoc Nguyen. Montebello, for those not in the know, is situated between the more interesting East Los Angeles, Monterey Park and Rosemead. It straddles the San Gabriel Valley and SELACO. They used to have a Puerto Rican parade, the only one west of Chicago, but it was deemed too much fun and moved to the Pomona Fairgrounds. It still has a lot of Mexican restaurants, chain stores and bakeries.


Mateo wore a white Ralph Lauren with popped collar and white trousers. Several other boys wore similar outfits, although some sported white dress shirts and vests and the girls all dressed like child brides.
 

  
                       Young Master Gareza                                    Glamorous Montebello Town Center Mall


THE BAPTISM

If you've never been to a Catholic ceremony, you probably wrongly assume (as I used to), that there's scary hushed chanting in Latin, ominous hooded figures, incense and peppermints and statues of Jesus crying real blood.

But sadly, no. There's merely unenthusiastic and unintelligible mumbling, scary sweater-clad figures, acoustic guitars and churchgoers crying real tears of boredom. Catholicism is now like an exaggerated stereotype of the blandest version of Protestantism.

On two separate occasions I went into some weird zone where I could count every speck of dust illuminated by colorful shafts of light passing through stain glass windows and then everyone would stand up (except for the guy that fell asleep) at the prescribed time and I'd come back to the "real" world. You're told to stand. You only stand when you're told to. The spirit will not move you to say "Amen;" rather, the priest will make a gesture. This is the organization that burned people at the stake just for kicks so I did what was expected and tried not to doze off.

As with every Catholic service I've attended, at the final "Amen" there is a spirited dash for the parking lot that rivals the final bell ringing in public school. No donuts and chit chat for this set. It's off to grill outs or bars -- both safely removed from the stifle of the Church.

MONTEBELLO DEMOGRAPHICS & CHARACTER

Today Montebello is roughly 75% Latino (mostly Mexican and Salvadoran), 11% Asian (mostly Japanese) and 11% White (mostly Armenian).  Montebello is home to the oldest Armenian community in Los Angeles County and home to the only Armenian Cathedral in California, Holy Cross Armenian Apostolic CathedralThe Armenian Martyrs Monument at Bicknell Park commemorating the victims of the Armenian Genocide by the Ottoman Turks is the largest monument found on public property in the World. In the early 20th century, Japanese Montebellans ran  four nurseries in town, but were sent to concentration camps during WW II. Japanese-Peruvian and Japanese-Hawaiian communities settled in Montebello after the Japanese interment ended.


MONTEBELLO HISTORY

As with most of the area, the region now part of Montebello was for thousands of years Tongva land. After the Spaniards arrived, most of the Tongva died out with almost none left by 1870. During Spanish and subsequently Mexican rule, most of the lands which now compose the city of were parts of Rancho San Antonio, Rancho La Merced and Rancho Paso de Bartolo
The Juan Matias Sanchez Adobe, built in 1844, remains standing at the center of old Rancho La Merced in eastern Montebello and is the city's oldest structure. The Battle of Rio San Gabriel took place in Montebello on January 8, 1847. After several decades as part of Mexico it became part of the US.

In the 1860s, some 5,000 acres  of the East Los Angeles region was owned by an Italian settler from Genoa, Alessandro Repetto. After his death in 1885, his brother sold his rancho to a consortium of five Los Angeles businessmen. It was out of the Harris Newmark and Kaspare Cohn share that Montebello was established in 1899. After consulting William Mulholland, it was incorporated as the Montebello Land and Water Company in 1900.
 
An area of 200 acres adjacent to the tracks of the San Pedro, Los Angeles & Salt Lake Railroad  were developed into a townsite called Newmark, and the remainder of the land was subdivided into small lots. Newmark became Montebello. Montebello was originally an agricultural community. From its beginnings through the 1920s, the area was famed for its production of flowers, vegetables, berries, and fruits. On October 19th, 1920, the city's name was officially changed to Montebello and it was incorporated.
The discovery of oil by Standard Oil Company on the Anita Baldwin and Walter P. Temple properties in the Montebello hills, in 1917, resulted in a switch from agriculture to oil production. 

MONTEBELLO EATS

The annual Armenian Food Fair is hosted in May every year at Holy Cross Cathedral. As far as restaurants, there's Alberto's Mexican FoodAlexandras, Aloha Hawaiian BBQAlondra Hot WingsAmy's Pastry, Ani's ChickenArry's Super Burger, Astro Burgers, El Atacor No 7, Bakers Square Restaurant & PiesBamboo ExpressBeverly Pizza & Subs, Big SubmarineBJ's Suds & Grubs PizzeriaBrioche PastriesBroaster Kitchen, Bryan's Super Burgers, El BukanasCalifornia Chicken RoasterCalifornia Steak & Fries, Canton City Restaurant, Chela's Tacos, Chicken NowChinese Food ExpressChinese Garden, Crabby's Seafood and MoreThe Daily Brew Coffee House, Doublz, Fiesta MexicanaFruit RevolutionGardunosGina's Pizzeria, Golden Skewer, Golden Ox BurgersGolden Wok, Great WrapsHappy Family Restaurant, Happy Teriyaki Bowl, House of KabobHye BakeryJ&S, JP's Pizzeria, Jimmie's Family RestaurantJin Ja TeriyakiJuan Great FiestaKrazy KabobsKuan's Chinese, LebizuMaki Yaki, Massis KabobMediterranean Express GrillMiki Chan's Okazu Ya, Modern Thai, NeveraNick Paradise CafeOrdonez Mexican Restuarant, Panderia y PastaleriaEl PatioPiccolo MondoLa Pinata Tortilleria, Los PinosPlaya Baja Mexican SeafoodPlaya Baja No 2, Playa Express, Polly's Pies, Rafael's Mexican RestaurantRio's Pizza, Salvatore Italian Restaurant & PizzaSergio's Tacos, La SirenitaSubmarina, Sushi Bar Cafe Hiraki, Sweet O DonutsTaco VillageTacos Don Chente, Tam's BurgersTapia Mexican Food, Tokyo GrillTom's Burgers,Tony's Italian Delicatessen, Tutti Frutti Frozen YogurtTwo Sal's Pizza, Venecia Bakery, Waba GrillWhittier Peruvian Restaurant, Wild Coyote Steakhouse, Zankou Chicken and El Zipote Pupuseria.

STUFF TO DO

A common criticism of Montebello is that there's not much to do. Not exactly au contraire, but what about Beverly Bowl? Club Chico? Little Red Rooster?, The Paloma Room? Quiet Cannon?

MONTEBELLO IN MUSIC



Not a lot of big musicians from Montebello. Jack Russell, lead singer from Great White, is from there. Then there's a rapper who goes by Nosaj Thing. Pioneering Chicano band The Blendells were also from Montebello. It also produced the punk band, Anti-SocialMontebello was mentioned in Little Village's song "The Action."
MONTEBELLO IN FILM

Several actors from Montebello have gone onto receive a degree of recognition. Montebello-born and not-even-remotely-Kazakh-looking actor Jay Hernandez appeared in the Kazakh film Nomad.


*****


Follow me at ericbrightwell.com

California Fool's Gold -- Exploring Granada Hills

Posted by Eric Brightwell, October 30, 2007 06:05pm | Post a Comment
Today's Los Angeles neighborhood blog is about Granada Hills. To vote for another Los Angeles neighborhood, vote here. To vote for a Los Angeles County Community, vote here. To vote for Orange County neighborhoods, vote here.

I drove to Granada Hills today to buy a rug for Lush Floral Design head-honcho, Ngoc Nguyen. To get there I used the Ronald Reagan Freeway, named after an actor from Illinois who made some films which are widely regarded as being universally unmemorable. The ex-actor, after retiring from Hollywood, went on to sell weapons to the Iranian dictatorship using the profits to arm death squads in Central America. He also used funds designated for cleaning up toxic waste to fund instead the campaigns of sympathetic politicians and he closed institutions for the mentally ill, which flooded the street with hundreds of thousands of crazy new homeless people that now fill our jails, sidewalks and parks.

     

In 1959 Nikita Khrushchev visited the United States with two requests which revealed the Hollywood movie-lover in the famous shoe-banger:

1. To go to Disneyland
2. Meet John Wayne

The United States had a better idea; show him a modern suburb on Sophia Drive in Granada Hills. Instead of inspecting an aerospace plant, he was taken behind the scenes of 20 Century Fox's Can-Can.

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