Downtown Lalo

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A Three-Day Downtown Cumpleaños Extravaganza

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My daughter turned 18 on Friday, her first birthday since we moved downtown. Not every year, but most, we throw her a typical, for us, fiesta de cumpleaños, inviting her grandparents, aunts, uncles, godparents, brothers, sisters, cousins, nieces and friends.

The places we’ve lived in suburbia were large enough to accommodate a crowd: A garage filled with folding tables and chairs, a tarp or two, a couple coolers for drinks, plenty of running around room for little kids and hiding places for bigger kids. Our pantry held paper cups and plates, plastic utensils, the big jar for the agua de jamaica, serving stuff, aluminum pans, etc. Large kitchens to cook up the enchiladas, tostadas, rice, beans, salads, salsas, appetizers, cakes.

Now, with space at a premium, we needed to come up with a different plan.

Here’s how it went:

Friday, her birthday, we invited my parents, in-laws and my brother, who is my daughter’s godfather, to meet at at our loft and have dinner at a restaurant. No question: Mexican.

Since we’ve been here, we’ve tried a few places: Provecho, Rivera, Adoro, Ensenada, Rosa Mexicano, CASA … most within walking distance.

But by far, our favorite is Yxta, a bit of a drive, but nothing too strenuous for our parents, who are in their late 70s and early 80s. They’d already made it up the 110 from Wilmington, so a short cruise east on 6th Street wouldn’t be too taxing, but entertaining and informative.

Yxta: Truly good, authentic, unfussy comida Mexicana, with great drinks, service and ambiance. A leisurely dinner from about 4 to 6 pm before the crowds got there. Ordered and eaten: enchiladas suizas, carnitas Michoacan, their special chile relleno, tacos de machaca, horchata, Chupacabra beer and a blood orange margarita for my wife. Flan and capirotada for dessert. Stories of my daughter’s namesake, my flamboyant Tia Alica, kept everyone entertained. Her grandparents showered my daughter with words of encouragement and praise. She basked in their love. Tummies were tight that night.

The next day, my wife drove me to LAX to catch a flight to Phoenix. My son, Cristofer, lives in El Paso with his wife and three children. He is in Iraq right now. Their oldest is on spring break, so they drove from EP to Phoenix, stayed the night, and picked me up at the airport so I could help drive and entertain my granddaughters: Samina, 12; Zaylah, 3; and Cassie, 18 months or so. Except for the rattling luggage strapped on the top of the car, it was an uneventful voyage

Meanwhile, back in L.A., my wife and Alicia were getting ready for her second party: A gang from her school were coming over at 2 pm. On the menu: Take out from Porto’s Bakery in Glendale About 15 kids showed up at around 3. They played board games, hung out, watched videos, ate and hung out some more.

When I and the El Paso contingent showed up, the party was in full swing. I helped unload, settle in, and took off to a reception at the Mexican Cultural Institute at Olvera Street for a photo exhibit for Luis Garza. I’m on the board and acting director and spent a lot of time that week sprucing it up.  The couple shots of tequila and can of beer made for a restful night.

Valentina and Samina show their Tia Alicia some love on her 18th birthday

The next day, oldest son Michael and family and daughter-in-law Lin joined the steadily growing household for a third party. We had plenty of leftovers from Porto’s (except for the papas rellenas), and augmented the meal with tostada fixings, beer, wine and the fruit tart from Porto’s. Our place is already pretty child-friendly, with a couple basket of toys and books for kids and room for adults to just hang out.

The count: about 5 girls between 2 and 7, 2 tweens, Alicia, and 7 adults. And three dogs.

Loud, lots of music (girls liked dancing to “I like to move it”, over and over. Tweens were OK talking video games. Adults caught up with adult stuff.

The challenge: Where to hang the obligatory piñata? The exposed pipes in our loft would probably break, the metal shading on the roof couldn’t handle it, not sure how Grand Hope Park would handle our mob … the basement would have to do. Samina and I found a well-braced exposed pipe and hung the paper maché ladybug for a good whacking and it worked.

Maybe the first piñata party in our building? Who knows. We did it, though, Alicia scored, our guests were happy, she’s a grownup now and a new tradición begins.

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Written by downtownlalo

March 16, 2010 at 9:34 pm

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