Downtown Lalo

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Archive for February 2010

Lost on Hope Street

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I was walking with my wife home from work — the library — at 8:15 pm last night. Going south between 7th and 8th, just past the Rite Aid , a young lady was walking in the same direction right ahead of us. She seemed lost, looking side-to-side, and suddenly rotated towards us, looking frantic and asking where was 6th and Main. She had gotten off the 7th Street Metro station to meet up with a friend at a bar called “Varnish” and was told it was only a couple blocks away and she … was … lost.

We gave her directions. I asked her if she wanted a ride. My wife looked at me funny, but she understood. No time for a young lady … her name was Marie Helene, she’d come up from South Gate, but was really from France, was trying to get a job as a 3D animator … to be walking through the “historic corridor” at night.

My daughter brought down our card key to the garage. We got in and drove to the address she was given, which turned out to be Cole’s. She thanked us, gave me her card and got out of the car.

Driving back, my wife and I talked about how strangers seem to gravitate to us for directions, assistance, advice, etc. Must be because we are comparatively small and non-threatening. When we got back to our garage and parked, I looked into the back seat and there was her cell phone. I walked my wife back to our loft and took off to Cole’s. As I drove out of the garage, her phone rang. It was Marie Helene. She forgot her phone. I told her I was on my way. She thanked me. A minute later, her phone rang again. It was the person she was supposed to meet. I didn’t catch her name, but she was wondering why I was answering Marie Helene’s phone.

I tried to explain the situation … she was lost, we gave her a ride, she forgot her phone, I was driving down to give it back to her … but the person on the phone was pretty rude … why did I have Marie Helene’s phone, where was she, why wasn’t she at the predetermined location … until I told her to just wait until I got there.

The street was packed, no parking anywhere near Cole’s. I waited for the light to change on 6th Street and Los Angeles, considering parking on 6th Street but figuring out why nobody else was parked there, when someone banged on the window. It was Marie Helene, looking relieved. I gave her back her phone, told her that her friend was waiting and calling and worrying. “Thanks”, again, and I drove back home to the quiet of our loft.

Here’s her website:


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February 25, 2010 at 4:22 am

Downtown With Dogs

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As ex-suburbanites used to having a yard and plenty of space to roam, having dogs downtown presents certain challenges. We moved into the South Park Lofts because they are dog-friendly. But I don’t know if it’s our dogs — Mr. T and Ricky — who aren’t being friendly or it’s the dogs we meet on walks, in the lobby and, particularly, in the elevator, who haven’t exhibited much sociability.

Loud growls are one thing, but there’s been some flat out brawls in the halls and in the dog-relief area on the roof, where I’ve had to strain to pull these canine cutthroats apart from much larger mutts and purebreds.

Thank god these two terrors are only (only?) chihuahuas. If they were any bigger and meaner, these perros would only be able to go out at night.

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February 23, 2010 at 5:47 am

Brazilian Nites Carnaval at Nokia Live

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Years and years ago, when the L.A. Weekly was fat and our forays out of our hometown of Wilmington were just beginning, a particular event ad caught our eye…Brazilian Carnaval at the Hollywood Palladium. It took us a couple years to get the courage to finally do it, and once we went, we were hooked.

Sambistas, baterias, wall-to-wall Brazilians, it was a non-stop rhythm and dance and skin-fest. Beautiful women and men dancing non-stop. Infectious music, pounding drums, conga lines. Whew.

Produced by a woman named Maria Lucien, who co-MC’d along with a big Brazilian man, they kept the party going, bringing on the dancers, announcing the costume contest, exhorting the crowd…calling out the Latinos, Mexicanos, Japoneses, Brasileiros!!!!!! It come to an abrupt halt at 2 am, and we’d stand there, sweat-soaked, grinning like mad, and making plans for the next Carnaval.

Sometime in the late 90’s Maria’s daughter and sister died in a plane crash. She held one more Carnaval, in honor of her angels. Then the next year, no Carnaval.

Ten years ago, Patricia Leao began her Brazilian Nites Carnaval. The first one we went to was at the Queen Mary, and it was OK, but the vastness of the venue didn’t catch heat. Finally, a couple years ago, Carnaval returned to the Palladium. Smartly produced, lots of sponsors, very well-choreographed, great music, beautiful women. A bit more tame than Maria’s, but we were grateful Carnaval was back and my website, LatinoLA, was proud to be a sponsor.

This year, the 10th Annual Brazilian Nites Carnaval was at Club Nokia in the L.A. Live complex. LatinoLA was again a sponsor. My son Michael and his friend Lashonda met us at our home and we walked the four blocks to the venue.

A great beginning, with the Joany & Brazilian Nites Samba Dancers weaving through the nightclub, followed by the drummers of Casa Do Samba Mila Samba School. They made in onstage and the samba marathon began. Groups of women in different costumes — some feathery, others glittery, all barely-there — came out at various times. The second group, Chalo Eduardo and Brasilian Beat, took over the stage and their synchronicity and virtuosity on five pieces of percussion and the occasional guitar were astounding. More dancers, more costumes, a samba ballerina, percussion frenzy and we wanted to dance!

Here’s the problem. The setup at Nokia Live is a little strange. It’s half nightclub, half concert hall. The place closest to the stage was sectioned off for those with higher ticket prices, as were the balcony seats. There were groups dancing and singing along, but not en masse or with any real passion. The vibe that ruled at the Palladium … the raw energy of people crashing into each other while dancing, or snaking through the crowd in multiple conga lines going on at once, gazing at the sambistas performing on the catwalk trying to outdo each other, brushing up against strangers and smiling … that was missing.

The frenzied drum beat of the bateria is the heart and soul of Carnaval

At the Nokia, the sound was fantastic, we had a great sight line to the stage, but the participatory aspect of Carnaval … that we were all getting our sins taken care of before Lent began … together … just wasn’t there.

When the headliner came on, Trio Electrico Armandinho, a guitar-lead quartet, they started their set with a psychedelic rendering of Ravel’s Bolero. We figured it was time to go, even if was just 12:30 am. After sticking around for a couple more songs, including an instrumental of Santana’s “Smooth”, we knew, and before long were walking down to Olympic listening to foul-mouthed guys trying to pick up some drunk girls.

A little tired and tipsy, somewhat let down, a feeling of saudade for Carnaval’s past.

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February 21, 2010 at 11:49 pm

Central Library in downtown L.A.

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My wife works at the library. She has been there for quite a long time. I used to work at the library, too. We both started in the Wilmington branch, first me, then her. After I left in 1984 from central library (before the fire), she took the civil service exam and has been working at the library since, moving up. The city of L.A. is undergoing a budget crisis and like all other departments, the library will be losing people (through early retirement and layoffs). It is not a pleasant environment right now and not just because of that. It has always a been a challenging place to work — transients, drug use, surly patrons, other employees, uncertainty — and it’s getting worse and more stressful.

I try to walk her to work and back every day. It’s the least I can do.

A place with books, magazines, computer and people

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February 20, 2010 at 11:57 pm

Hi. I’m Downtown Lalo

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I am Downtown Lalo. I live and work in downtown L.A. I walk around a lot, usually with my two dogs so they won’t pee in our home. I also walk alone or with my wife and/or daughter. Sometimes friends. There is a lot of life downtown and there’s banality. I will write about what I observe and experience and sometimes give my opinion. I will also publish photos and links. My goal is to publish at least a few times a week and that you comment on what’s on this blog, if you like. ¡Gracias! (it’s a bilingual blog)

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February 20, 2010 at 3:50 pm