My Neighborhood Photo Essays
Resources
The Studio for Southern California History sponsors a quarterly photo essay competition which asks participants to define their neighborhood using photographs and an essay explaining the photographs.

View My Neighborhood Photo-essay Map in a larger map.
 
NEIGHBORHOODS AUTHORS
Alhambra Oliver Bahman Tegan Cramer Michelle Lopez
  Rosa Mazon    
Arcadia Stephanie Wong    
Bell Nancy Bautista Carla Calderon George Castillo
Bell Gardens Francisco Sepulveda    
Boyle Heights Lissette Estala Joshua Navarrete Nicole Padilla
Brentwood Janine Fron    
Chinatown Jason Hong Gloria Lin Jeannette Yue
Compton Michel Martinez    
Crenshaw Valena Broussard Dismukes    
Culver City Josh Gill    
Cypress Karina Andrade    
Descanso Gardens Chamara Russo    
Downtown Jessica Huynh    
Eagle Rock Maureen De Guzman Aimee Dozois Won Kim
East Los Angeles Aridai Martinez    
East Pasadena Nicole Murph    
Elysian Park Leyi Guan    
Hollywood Areli Baires    
La Mirada Stephanie Christian    
Lincoln Heights Gabrielle Garcia    
Little Tokyo Hillary Jenks    
Los Angeles Claudia Carcamo    
Menifee

Kristina Grindstaff

   
Mid City Maria Heman    
Monterey Park Lucas Benitez Emmelynn Gu  
Riverside

Abdullah Alzubi

   
St. Paul, MN Calvin Va Her    
Santa Ana Kevin Cabrera Nancy Charco Victor Elias
  Manny Escamilla Daniel Garcia Johnny Gonzalez
  Monica Gonzalez Jesus Lopez Isabel Marin
  Javier Morales Rodrigo Martinez Marcos Medina
  Alejandro Mendez Alex Mendoza Marilynn Montaño 
  Pablo Montoya Robert Salas Brandon Sandoval
    Jasmine Soto Cynthia Zul
 
Shadow Hills Laura Barraclough    
Silver Lake Alyssa Spelios Hudson    
Solano Canyon John Wu    
South Pasadena Bob Drwila Sharon Sekhon  
Temple City Alex Chan    
Thai Town Daphne Hsu    
Topanga Linda Vallejo    
Torrance Michelle An    
Upland Janine Johnson    
Venice Elizabeth Masciale    
Ventura Jose Alamillo    
Virgil Avenue, LA Neilanie Yadao    
West Hills Tiffany Do    
Westchester Rocio Delgado    
Westwood Elise McNamara    
Wildomar Marie Eleanor Cabal    

"El Ranchito" (Ventura) by Jose Alamillo
We still call our first American neighborhood “El Ranchito” instead of its official company name, Limoneira Del Mar. This neighborhood was built in the mid-1930s by the Limoneira Company to house its Mexican employees and their families. Because of its closer proximity to Ventura Beach, compared to its main ranch in Santa Paula, the neighborhood was officially known as “Limoneira Del Mar.” My family, however, called it “El Ranchito” because it reminded them of their “rancho” in rural Zacatecas, Mexico.
Alamillo1
My father worked as lemon picker for the Limoneira Company during the 1970s, so he was eligible to rent a small two-bedroom company home for a family of six. To fit everybody we converted a small garage into a bedroom. Let’s just say that it was very crowded inside so we spent all day outside playing hide-and-seek inside the lemon orchards that surrounded our u-shaped neighboorhood tract of only twenty family homes. Every birthday celebration or family gathering was held in the backyard or public park. All the school-age kids would walk through orchards to the elementary school and middle school. We lived there until the 1980s when we could no longer fit like sardines so moved into East Ventura. The neighborhood still exists but its now a retirement community.
Alamillo2
"Riverside" by Abdullah Alzubi
I have been in the city of Riverside for nearly 7 years and it has not changed a single bit. I live in Riverside’s suburb of Orangecrest, a group of houses once an orchard of delicious California navel oranges.
Gless Ranch

The neighborhood itself is quiet and a little boring, many of the locals buy trucks so they can go off road driving. I attribute these cheap thrills to the boring aspects of the town. On the outside of the neighborhood it feels like a very stereotypical suburb with the perfect little families and the dog in the yard, we have that too but things can go slowly around and if you want to do something enjoyable you have to do some driving. There still are some of these orchards but they are significantly smaller than they once were. The oranges at the orchard are some of the best I have ever tasted, they are perfectly sweet and juicy. Fun fact the navel orange tree was created by accident in riverside in the research orchards at the University of California, Riverside. These oranges give the city so much identity, where ever you drive there is always a good chance you will pass by one of Riverside’s orange stands selling oranges in twenty five pound bags ensuring you get your citrus fix. No matter when you buy the oranges they are always sweet and juicy.

Riverside
UCR holds a place with me personally because I have been acquainted with it for over ten years. My sister is an alumni of UCR and she has always taken me to campus with her. Most of the time it was for us to hang out around campus before going to a club event. I got to go to class with her and the size of the lecture hall gave me excitement for college when I saw the number of people in the halls. Many of my friends decided to go to this school so even now I still have a connection to it. I have always found the school to be an interesting place, my favorite places to visit are the schools botanical gardens and a little hidden mountain that gives a magnificent view of the whole campus and surrounding areas. The botanical gardens are a beautiful place to have a nice walk in a very beautiful and natural environment. There is a small lake there with large koi fish swimming around and countless numbers of turtles too, you are not supposed to but sometimes I try to catch the turtles. The hidden mountain is a place I like to go to at night because of the cool air, the number of cars you can see on the highway, and all the beautiful city lights. Unfortunately to get to this mountain you sometimes get told to leave by police who want to keep things under control.
Riverside
The crown jewel of riverside is in the heart of downtown. It is an old hotel, which is now a historical landmark, called the Mission Inn. This I a beautiful building filled with history. The Mission Inn is surrounded by many old antiques and relics that refer to things that have happened to that hotel. Outside is a cage with two macaws as an homage to one of the owner’s pet macaws that entertained guests who stayed at the inn. This is such a prestigious hotel that many presidents have come to stay there. These presidents, whose paints are proudly hanging on the wall, were Benjamin Harrison, William McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, Herbert Hoover, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, and George W. Bush. We are still waiting on Obama to come and visit. President Nixon was actually married in the Mission Inn.
Mission Inn
It’s not just the presidents that come to the Mission Inn many historical figures and celebrities have paid a visit to the hotel including Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, Albert Einstein, and Susan B. Anthony. The inn is the very heart of the city, every year during the winter holiday season the building is lit up with countless lights and decorations. People come flocking inn to look around at all the wonder.
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"Torrance" by Michelle An

Growing up in southern California I was able to take advantage of the various public beaches, parks and public spaces. Although much of these landmarks have changed from my childhood recollections (some for the better, others not so much), they remain a vital part of the community. My community is not regionally based within city boundaries, but consist of destinations throughout southern California. Instead, they represent time spent with family, childhood innocence, and a sense of adventure in the eyes of a youthful girl.

An1

Columbia Park: Located on the intersection of 190th St. and Prairie Ave. in Torrance, California. Parks were a favorite recreational activity of the family. It was open to the public and free. We spent our weekends riding swings and slides throughout the summer. We would run around the huge grass field without a care in the world. I was just a toddler in this particular picture but I’m sure I enjoyed the change of scenery from playing at home! It reminds me of a time when we still had time to enjoy a little bit of nature, although man-made. My favorite part about the park was the huge fire engine that we were able to climb inside. One park that we often visited even housed an enormous replica of a ship. Its amazing what little was needed to entertain a child. Just give them open space, whether on the sandy beaches or grassy parks, and kids can entertain themselves for hours before falling asleep on the car ride home. I still pass by the park on my way to school and admire the many families who picnic and play with their children.

An2
Pismo Beach, California: Looking for sea crabs and shells. This represents a different aspect of the beach for me. In my youthful days it was more about playing in the sand, building sand castles and looking for interesting sea creatures. It was more about enjoying the waves and not caring about how we looked or how much sand we got between our toes. The beach holds numerous memories for me as I spent time there with family when I was younger and with friends as I got older. In our youth, we didn’t care about how dirty our clothes got, although my parents would beg to differ once we got in the car smelling like the beach and bringing in extra sand baggage.

L.A. Zoo: My brother admired the giraffes but I was more interested in climbing the fence. I am not only amazed at the huge giraffes in this picture but also at the fact that my parents took a picture of me climbing the protective fence between the audience and the animal instead of stopping me! My mom always told me that I liked to climb things, even at the most inappropriate times. There’s something to be said about the blind courage of children, unafraid of the world at large. The zoo was definitely a thrill to visit as a child. The various animals, previously only seen through books, was finally right before our eyes! It developed early on an admiration of various non-domesticated animals. I especially began to appreciate endangered and precious animals like pandas and polar bears from this early exposure to the zoo.

An4
Skypark Plaza: Located off Hawthorne and 234th St. Skypark plaza mainly houses office buildings, but we visited the place particularly for its green space during my childhood. The mini waterfall, green shrubbery, and numerous trees made this development a great place to spend time. In high school my brother even attended an SAT afterschool program within the vicinity. Although the same landscape remained, we didn’t appreciate its simple beauty as much as before. Now it houses numerous restaurants and provides a great place to stroll after a meal with friends. It also provides a great space to ponder and reflect, away from the busy schedule and toil of school and work. The plaza is ever expanding and renovating but there is something to be said of its humble beginnings.
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"L.A.'s Hidden Gem" (Alhambra) by Oliver Bahman
Some people see Alhambra as just a boring suburb that neighbors Pasadena, but there is so much more to discover about the great charm of this city. It is not simply a place to live in; it’s home. The city itself is a very central area that offers unique traditions, diversity, an array of cuisines and interesting places to visit. The small community feel and closeness of its residents are what make Alhambra a fantastic place to live in. Because of this, many friendships have formed throughout the years and memories have been made.
Downtown Alhambra

Downtown Alhambra, Intersection between Main St. & Garfield Ave., 1/21/12

Far from being your average suburb, Alhambra embraces the world and features year-round festivals, such as the Lunar New Year Celebration and Taste of Alhambra. I love when these events take place because we are able to walk around and view all of the different handmade pieces that vendors display for the community to appreciate. The sight of the lanterns lighting up the night sky is also quite beautiful. Whenever the Chinese New Year Festival takes place, they feature fun attractions like the spinning funnel ride, which is always a favorite of mine. The festivals seem to bring everyone closer together, because we end up having a great time.

Chinese New Year Festival
Chinese New Year Festival, Valley Blvd., 2/7/12

of the allure of Alhambra is definitely the diversity aspect of the city, being that it creates a melting pot of a community. It has taught me to never stray away from trying new foods. When you arrive to Alhambra, you will immediately notice the vast amount of restaurants. On one corner, there is a Korean Barbeque house and on the other an Indian restaurant. I am incredibly fortunate to say that I have tried more than twenty different types of cuisine, mainly because I am always willing to try something new. I can thank Alhambra for this mentality, because many of my peers that I grew up with have the same outlook on exploring different cultural dishes. Of course, I have not always liked everything I have tried. However, I am certainly glad to have tried it, since it was a new experience.
Downtown Alhambra

Downtown Alhambra, Main St., 1/22/12

Unlike many suburban neighborhoods, Alhambra is a large city that establishes a small town bond between one another. This makes the city unique from Los Angeles, being that L.A. is very fast paced and people are not really able to formulate close friendships. I find that people from Alhambra have a connection, because we tend to like the same activities and have similar mindset. For example, we play a card game called “Big Two”, which I have not met anyone from elsewhere know how to play. When we play, it feels like I am home and just having a good time with my Alhambra brothers and sisters. This is more than just a city of homes; it is a community of close friends. You will be pleased to know that the Alhambra Unified School district is one of the best in the County of Los Angeles and has received numerous accolades for the quality education they deliver to their students. During the span of my K-12 education, I was lucky enough to be a part of this district. Specifically, I attended Alhambra High School for my secondary education.
Alhambra High School

Alhambra High School, 101 S. Second St., 1/22/12
     

Aside from the fantastic instruction I received, I can say that it was a phenomenal place to study at. A.H.S. had many resources available and offered student clubs that allowed me to actively get involved in. I had the opportunity to volunteer all around Alhambra and help improve the city any way possible. Many of the students I had encountered were all very open-minded and interested in learning about different cultures, which I believe made the school district great. I think a good school district can make all the difference because they produce educated students. A great delight of Alhambra is the rich history it holds. Many of the landmarks date back to the early 1900s. The city retains the older architecture so that we as a community can appreciate the historical aspect of the city. An example of this is the Alhambra Beauty College.
Alhambra Beauty College

Alhambra Beauty College, 200 W. Main Street, 1/22/12
  

When my mother first arrived to the United States, she came to Alhambra and studied hair designing at this school. She told me that within the last thirty years, there have been very few changes done to the property. Whenever we pass by the college, she tells me stories about her fun experiences she had while attending. She seems to always light up when she talks about it. I think that the old-style structures contribute to my family’s intergenerational connection to this city and allow us to reminisce on the great history we share with Alhambra. Visiting the city, you will notice that these bonds we have are quite common among many residents who live here. In retrospect, Alhambra is a city built on nostalgia. Everyone one of us has some history with it and considers it home. I myself now live in El Monte, and although it is a pleasant city, Alhambra will always be my home. We have memories from our childhood like going to the Diner on Main and ordering a freshly made waffle or getting Thai iced tea from the always packed Banh Mi Che Cali restaurant. This city is more than just a suburb that people reside in; it is a tightly knit community, composed of a blended culture, delicious food and an ample history all that contribute to its wonderful appeal. Alhambra is a fantastic place to visit and is definitely more than your average neighborhood.
Diner on Main

Diner on Main, 201 W. Main Street, 1/22/12

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"Hollywood" by Areli Baires

Hollywood, a community well-known all over the world, is meaningful to me because it’s where I was born, have grown up, and where I spend most of my time. Hollywood is known all over the world because of the film industry and is portrayed as a place full of lights and celebrities. To me, Hollywood is more than just that; to me, it’s also a place where I can spend time with my friends and family, where I can go for a walk; a place where I can go hiking and also where I can eat at my favorite restaurants. I’ve spent all my life in Hollywood and the variety of things I can do makes it such a nice place to live in.

Runyon Canyon

My favorite thing about Hollywood is Runyon Canyon. Not many people know about it but it is a canyon right behind Hollywood and Highland where one can go for a nice hike. It’s a beautiful place where many people from the community go on weekends for some exercise. Runyon is a natural part of Hollywood that not many people would think about. It’s a different side, a more natural and relaxed place than the strip. I like hiking because I love the view from up there; I can see the whole city of LA.

Runyon Canyon

Runyon is especially important to because it makes me feel so happy. I love the view, I love all the animals, I love hiking it with my family or friends, and I love the aura. It’s a very happy place where many people also take their dogs for a walk. It has an ability to make people forget about feeling bad or angry. It simply brings happiness and calmness to people, something which is really needed by the people living in Hollywood who are probably stressed by the intense traffic, noise, and hectic city.

Hollywood and Highland
The Hollywood & Highland Shopping Center is visited by thousands of people daily. Every day it is full of people shopping, eating, and taking pictures. It’s a really nice place for a walk or just to sit down and look around. It’s nice to see such diversity in the area – there are always people from all over the world visiting Hollywood. There is entertainment for adults but for children as well. There are theaters; clubs that open at night, a bowling alley, and of course all the shops. Aside from that, there is a water fountain the center where all the children like to play in and get wet. There are also many candy and toy shops for children and on the sidewalk many people dress up as characters from television shows and movies.
Hollywood

What I really like about the Hollywood center is how different it looks in the morning compared to how it looks later in the day. In the morning, the area is empty with no people walking around. It’s like the whole hectic city full of people is still asleep but the sun’s already out. The area is so peaceful and mellow and passing there in the mornings makes me feel so relaxed. It’s just something else that shows a different side of the Hollywood image many people have.

In-N_Out

My favorite restaurant in the Hollywood area is In-N-Out. It’s located on Sunset Boulevard right across the street from my high school so I have gone there many times with my family and friends. In-N-Out is always full of people and really loud but I like it. I frequently go to In-N-Out with my friends after school or after sports. I always have a nice time there just eating and talking.

I always hear about celebrities going there but I’ve never seen any at In-N-Out myself; I’ve just seen the pictures. One time One Direction, a British boy band I’m obsessed with, visited the In-N-Out while I was right there across the street in school and I didn’t see them. My friends saw them and I cried because I could’ve met them, but at least I breathed the same air as them right?

Hollywood High School

Hollywood High School

I attended Hollywood High School which is located on Sunset Blvd. and Highland Ave. and it’s right next to the center of Hollywood. Many times when people from other places hear I went to Hollywood High they are very surprised and think it is really awesome but it’s actually just like any other school. Hollywood High is a very relaxed school; nothing special really happens. Hollywood does have an amazing magnet program that always presents incredible shows. I was able to participate in a few like: Moulin Rouge, Chicago, winter shows, various choir recitals and also choir competitions. I was also in the volleyball and swim teams so I had a lot of fun participating in all the programs. Hollywood High students graduate at the Hollywood Bowl and that was very meaningful for me because I was stepping on the stage where many of my idols have performed. Hollywood High’s location is so great because there are so many things one can do and it’s all one block away.

Hollywood is such a great place because you can visit it to have some fun but you can also visit it for some relaxation. Part of it really is the whole lights, movies, and celebrities image people have, and if you’re lucky you might meet a celebrity yourself but there is also the other side that is the complete opposite.  I really like the admiration people have for this place because it makes me proud of my community; it makes me proud that people all over the world come and visit. Furthermore, I am proud of the other side of Hollywood, the calm and peaceful part that is not as well-known. It will always have a special place in my heart because it is my home.

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"Shadow Hills" by Laura Barraclough

In the city of Los Angeles, there are four neighborhoods where you can legally keep a horse or other large livestock on your own property. I grew up in one of these neighborhoods, Shadow Hills, in the northeast San Fernando Valley, from 1987 to 1996; and I returned to study the neighborhood for my doctoral dissertation from 2001 to 2006. I approached the dissertation project from a rather critical angle that analyzed how questions of “lifestyle” and “heritage” justified land use policies that, I have argued, reproduce systemic racial and class privilege. Nonetheless I continue to love the place where I grew up, to think deeply about how it shaped my character, and to bemoan the changes that have taken place there.

Barraclough1
The house I grew up in, at 10632 Wheatland Avenue, is shown in Image #1. It appears the current owners are making some changes to the landscaping. What you cannot see here, from the street, is the four-horse barn surrounded by corrals, the garden that my mother spent every weekend in, the tree that I tied our horses to in order to clean them, and the deck that my dad built and that he paid my sister and me $20 each to sand and stain (this sounded like a lot to me when I was nine; it’s a big joke in my family now).
Barraclough
A common license plate frame on trucks and cars in Shadow Hills says, “Country Living, Shadow Hills.” The reason why most people choose to live in Shadow Hills is because of its rustic, semi-rural landscape – it literally seems like a little piece of the countryside in the middle of the big city. Not only can you keep horses in your backyard, but you can ride them freely throughout the streets and into nearby Hansen Dam, a 1000-acre recreation area and flood channel. There are literally miles and miles of trails to ride on. There are several dirt roads in the neighborhood (Image #2), and most houses have barns or pipe corrals in their backyards (Image #3).
Barraclough3
It is not at all uncommon to be greeted by a horse or two alongside the road, munching grass or dozing in the sun (Image #4).

The neighborhood also has a number of historic stone houses, built from the rocks of Hansen Dam in the early 1920s by a man named Pep Rempp, who reportedly gave out a free Ford and a radio with each stone home purchased (Image #5).

Most residential lots are about a half-acre in size, the minimum lot size mandated by the special “horse keeping” zoning first implemented in 1963. There are still some very large parcels of 15 to 20 acres, or even larger (Images #6 and #7).
One of these larger lots is occupied by Bella Vista Stables, where I took riding lessons and also rode in the California Rangers, a paramilitary youth riding organization (Image #8). In recent years, these large lots have become the subject of much debate and anxiety at homeowner association meetings.

Because of the perennial housing shortage in Los Angeles, and because the values of these large lots have escalated exponentially over the last few decades, their owners are frequently selling to developers, who subdivide the land into many lots that are considered small by contrast (though they still typically meet the one-half acre minimum lot size and are larger than most suburban homes in L.A). The most recent of these, Rancho Verdugo Estates (Image #9), was built in 2003. Although the subdivision consisted of only 57 homes, it affected some of the places that were most important to me as a youth.

Image #10 shows a hillside around the corner from my house, where I used to ride my Welsh pony, Tara, after school. When I only had time for a quick ride, I would run her up a wide trail on that hill; or when I was stressed out, I would walk her to the top and we would sit by the powerlines and gaze out over Hansen Dam, which lies just below. There is a terrific view, and I would sit bareback on Tara and think about whatever was bothering me. Sometimes, my friends and I would race our horses up the hill. I often won, probably because Tara was as competitive as I was! Now, as you can see in the photo, there are two houses on this hillside, and although part of the wide trail is still there, the ride would only be about half as long as it used to be.

At the bottom of that hill, there is a road called McBroom Street, which used to be a dirt road. When the Rancho Verdugo Estates were built, the property owners association negotiated a deal so that half of the road would be paved, and eight to ten feet would be kept as dirt, for people on horseback (Image #11).

My friends and I used to ride our horses down the dirt road all the way to the Stallion Market at the corner of McBroom and Stonehurst (see Image #12), which used to be known as the Quik Market.
We would tie our horses up at the hitching posts across the street (see Image #13) and get a soda and some fried chicken or mojo potatoes from the market.

Sometimes, if we needed something for our horses, we would buy it at East Valley Feed and Tack, which was also at that corner (Image #14). Almost all of us earned allowances by cleaning corrals for our neighbors, or taking care of animals when neighbors went on vacation. Then, soda cans in hand, we would ride back up the dirt road to our homes – we all lived within a block of each other. For some reason, we thought it was really funny to put our empty soda cans in peoples’ mailboxes.

In so many ways, living in Shadow Hills was an idyllic childhood. I feel blessed to have had a pony to ride, a place to ride her, and friends to ride with when I was growing up. As teenagers, we went to the mall and the movies too, but only after we had gone riding in the morning. The neighborhood is changing, and it remains to be seen how long it will stay a horse neighborhood. In any case, I am thankful to have spent my formative years in Shadow Hills.

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"Like One Big Happy Family" (Cypress) by Karina Andrade
The curb appeal and diverse styles are what transform a neighborhood into a home. Taking a walk around a neighborhood becomes an adventure full of visual entertainment.

Andrade

I do believe people's personal experiences and environment shape their personal tastes, and this is reflected in their front yards and homes. Their ethnic background, childhood experiences, and the people around them influence the vegetation, garden arrangement, and paint color of their homes.
Andrade2
Front yards are the souls of homes and a house is transformed into a home, each of them with its unique characteristics. The beautiful "pink tree", as I called my next door neighbor's tree, makes the block feel warm and colorful. The contrast of pink flowers against the California sunny blue sky is breath taking.
Andrade3
Broken windows are just a reflection of the tireless ball games played by the young children in the neighborhood. Spanish architecture exemplifies the influences of the Californian Missions, adding great historical value to the homes.
Andrade4
Fully upgraded residences are an example of the enormous amount of growth in the real estate market that has occurred in the last two years in California. A front yard filled with fruit trees, benches, and a piggy bank riding a garden tricycle is just one more example of the colorful and distinctive aspects that transform my neighborhood into a home, sweet home.
Andrade5
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"Mi Ciudad" (Bell) by Nancy Bautista
Three years ago I was uprooted from my urban mecca to a place where public safety is not an issue, prices are ridiculously high, and parking is a nightmare. Currently, I reside in two communities, but belong to only one. Bell can be considered a small haven amidst the true ghetto; a community that has never lost its “urban” edge, whatever that means. Bordered by gangland to the South and the dirty L.A. River to the West, Bell takes some time and lots of love to get used to. Although gunshots, concrete factories down many of our main avenues, inadequate school systems, and an overworked working class perfectly describe this southeast part of Los Angeles, I would not trade my neighborhood for all the commodities in the world.
The juxtaposition of different mindsets in the same environment is not hard to detect but extremely complicated to understand. The few Mercedes’ and BMW’s outside well manicured lawns do not coincide with the clusters of want-to-be thugs hanging outside Paul’s bar down Gage Avenue, at 11 a.m. on a Monday morning. To a newcomer, the graffiti that clearly delineates different crew’s territories is aesthetically unpleasant and somewhat frightening. To those of us that know the realities of growing up in the hood, walking through the written-on streets with Veteranos blasting old school and drinking 40s is a very normal occurrence. Even though Bell residents have very different ideologies, we have mostly learned to live in peace with each other.
Although we are an underprivileged community, we make the best with what we have, and little by little big changes are taking place. I like to think the latter, in part, is due to the inevitable optimism that results from the struggle to survive and rise above the poverty level; when the present is far from great we find comfort in the possibility of a better future. New and improved schools are being built (Maywood Academy is one of the most promising ones), innovative community programs spring up every year, crime rates have decreased and roads have been improved, amongst many other things. Call it naivety, but one day Bell will be a thriving community where a college education will be the norm, and teenage pregnancies as well as drop out rates will mostly be extinct.

My second residence, chosen by necessity, lies in the opposite side of town (or the rich side as I like to say). Westwood claims to be part of Los Angeles, but anyone who has experienced the real heart of Los Angeles would easily disagree. Westwood, to me, represents an outsider’s incorrect image of what the City of Angels is like. The glamour of expensive boutiques and sushi restaurants overshadows the sight of homeless people rummaging through the trash for survival. It is disgusting to see how many business-type people look the other way because the discomfort of watching someone wrench in hunger is hard to digest. Additionally, twenty year olds sporting the latest, very expensive trends in prepubescent-like bodies, and an addiction to caffeine from upscale coffee shops do not depict the larger Angeleno population. Based on personal experience, most Westsiders find it amazing that 20 minutes East on the 10 Freeway will transport them to a place where people do not roll around in ridiculously expensive cars because they would rather buy groceries.

Although I have spent most of my college career in Westwood, I cannot wait for my permanent return back home. My neighborhood is special because it was on her rundown streets that I experienced everything from my first kiss to my first drive. Additionally, although Bell is a working class community, we find brightness in our streets, as depicted in my rainbow photograph. I am not wealthy but I find happiness in my environment simply because Bell is where my heart is.

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"Monterey Park" Lucas Benitez

park

This is the park that is down the street from my house. The part which is most vibrant in my head is the baseball field. My Dad and I used to play catch there and he would help me with my form when I used to play baseball way back in the day. I remember even having legitimate baseball practices there with the rest of my team once, which I thought was crazy because I had never seen the field as a place of practice but instead a place of recreation. As the years progressed, I came back to this same park and would skate around it trying to find spots where I could have a little session.

playground
When I was in pre-school, my mother would take me to this park everyday after school to play on this old wood and metal monkey bars type of gym set; it was heaven in my eyes. The playground set resembled a set from a scene in a movie that I cherished called “The Train” which I used to watch religiously everyday from 3:00 - 4:00 pm I was Burt Lancaster trying to sabotage the Nazis from stealing European art in World War II every day, thanks to my Mom. I barely go there anymore but its still holds strong memories that stay with me because let’s face it, it was my childhood park.
Mark Keppel

This is Mark Keppel High School. I don’t go there now, and never will attend it even though it’s right across the street from my house. I could walk to the end of my driveway at any time of day and see this school whenever I wanted. I even tried to skate there a couple of times as well. I’ve had a few friends go there including two of my closest friends that still live several houses down from mine. Their names are Julio and Luan. My best friends. We would run around the neighborhood when we were younger and through the school at times.

The reason I mention the school is because we would always be out in the street and though we didn’t spend all of our time trespassing through the school, it was always there as the backdrop to our urban playground. I loved seeing that school. I remember going a couple of times a long time ago when my parents were still married and we used to fly kites there on the lawn when it was really windy.
lemon
This is the majority of my backyard and as you can see I had a lemon tree, but yet never once had lemonade, haha! But that’s okay -- my mom always bought it for me. God, all the events that happened here, I don’t even know where to start. I had some of the best birthday parties here, my parents even had my baby shower here, I think, before I was born. This was the epicenter of our playground. I remember playing all the games of tag, shooting each other with airsoft guns, and even setting up a mini pool on summer days when it was just too hot.
home
At night, it was the best because no one could see the stupid shit we did. I lived in a duplex in the back with another house in the front, which had various people living there throughout the years. For a few years I had neighbors living in the other condo that were better friends. Their names are Sky, Shanelle, and Tristan. Sky and Shanelle were around the same age as Julio, Luan, and I, but Tristan was a bit younger than us and would usually have to go inside before the rest of us. We would just do the normal things kids do; we played card games, truth or dare games (since we hung out with girls now), sports games; anything you can think of, we played it.
lawn

All of this was in the city of Monterey Park (L.A.’s Real Chinatown if you ask me), a city of good people, with an excellent addition to the cultural melting pot of Los Angeles. It was home for me for twelve years until I moved to South Pasadena with my mother in sixth grade. So here it is. All of the good stuff that I remember from growing up in Monterey Park, everything special to me. I miss it but I don’t let it get me down because it was going to happen anyway; growing up. I love my home, Monterey Park, without it I wouldn’t be the person I am today.

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"The Crenshaw Neighborhood" Valena Broussard Dismukes
I moved from St. Louis, Missouri and come west to teach at Roosevelt High School on the eastside in 1960, settling in the Exposition Park area. It was and still is, an area rich in formal institutions. After a couple of years, I moved west to the Crenshaw area where I found comfort in the neighborhood, where I felt more at home. I lived for almost twenty years in Leimert Park, a tree-shaded community of older apartments and homes. There was a nearby little roundabout that served as a grassy area for relaxation. It was a low-trafficked area where children could play in the streets. My son had the run of the neighborhood growing up there.
Soon after the advent of the 1984 Olympic games, my family and I moved a mile west to a condominium that allowed for a wonderful view of the Hollywood Hills and of downtown Los Angeles. Just above where I live are the Don’s (Don Felipe, Don Lorenzo, etc.), prestigious addresses where million-dollar hillside homes rival those in the Palos Verdes and Beverly Hills areas. Indeed, if these homes were transported into another community their cost would be much higher.
Despite my change of location, the sense of community remained the same. We were still close to Leimert Park area. There is an actual park that serves as a focal point for celebrations in the area, such as the Kingdom Day parade, the Louisiana to Los Angeles Festival, as well as smaller events, drum groups, and political rallies. The park is at the edge of Degnan Avenue, a one-block business strip. This block and several short intersecting avenues and streets have been the focal point of African American life since the 1960’s. The casual visitor to the area can find Afrocentric clothing, cards, books, jewelry, figurines and dolls. There are eateries, blues and jazz clubs, a gallery/café and the usual range of services that make a neighborhood complete---cleaners, eyeglass shop and the like. The small shopping area also boasts the best barbeque in Los Angeles---Phillips. It is an institution. People come from all over to stand in line in front of a tiny store entrance for take out only. The smell of hickory flavor permeates the air, as slabs of ribs---beef or pork--- are baked in huge gas ovens. But you must get the sweet potato pies and potato salad to complete any barbeque dinner.
Once on the ‘The Shaw,” as Crenshaw Blvd. is called by some, there is a mix of mostly small shops, a tailors run for years by a Russian immigrant who now hires Hispanic immigrants, the defunct Mavericks Flat, a huge hall that hosted famous entertainers in the past, a tattoo parlor, numerous beauty and barbershops, furniture stores, and wig shops. The original mall in the area was built in the 1950’s and was heralded as a wave of the future, the first of its kind on the west coast. The renovated Crenshaw-Baldwin Hills Mall is a greatly expanded version. It contains the usual food court, and Macy’s, Sears, and other notable chain stores. Making it unusual is the African Marketplace, a large boutique of Afrocentric goods patterned after the style of the annual African marketplace held each year at Rancho Cienega Park. The Magic Johnson theatre, a cinema multiplex serves as an entertainment center. showing first-run movies. It is also brings the community and visitors together during the exceptional Black film festival, a two-week event of films from the African/African American experience. If you want to see a colorful crowd of moviegoers, come to the event in February.
Fairly new to the community are Crispy Creme, a dubious assent, and not one, but two Starbucks within walking distance of each other. The community takes pride in Crenshaw High School, which, while struggling with academic problems, boasts an outstanding basketball team and choir. The summer basketball league brings NBA pros playing to keep their skills sharp. . My family would play tennis on the weekends there and later go watch the basketball games. A little further west lies Dorsey High School and the adjacent Rancho Cienega Park. The Park is a complete recreational facility with tennis courts, swimming pool, childcare center, soccer and baseball fields, playground, and a small stadium for football games, track meets, and soccer games. Early morning walkers and joggers can be found on the tartan track, while Saturday and Sunday bring out the weekend warriors in many sports pursuits.

There have been demographic shifts. Up to the early 1950s, this area was restricted to all white by housing covenants. Gradually real estate practices changed and a movement of African Americans from the east side of the city began. (A few years ago, the Los Angeles Sentinel, a Black-owned community newspaper, moved its offices from Central Ave. on the east side to Crenshaw to be in the midst of the African-American community.) Japanese Americans returned to homes here after World War II. Now, in the 2007, many of the older Japanese Americans have died or moved into retirement homes, their children moving to various parts of the city. The new generation of young African Americans who are seeking newer housing are moving to the west side, or in looking for larger family homes at lower prices, find themselves relocating to the suburbs. Moving into that void left in Central Ave. are Hispanic families, some of them moving further west into the Crenshaw neighborhood. A visit to the mall makes this demographic shift very visible.

There have been other changes. Several years ago, we lost the bakery that had served the community for a long time. It had been the place to buy delicious monkey bread (sweet dinner rolls) for Thanksgiving. People would line up early in the morning to get the bread and pound cake---by the pound, Just last year the community mourned the loss of the Museum in Black, a wonderful shop that held authentic treasures from Africa---museum quality masks, woodcarvings and other objects. In its place came Eso Won, an equally wonderful bookstore carrying a wide range of Afrocentric books for children and adults. The bookstore also carries some material on other ethnic groups and holds regular book signing events that are well attended by the community. A recent author was actress Ruby Dee sharing her book about her husband, Ossie Davis. The Vision Theater, once a movie house, is now a part of the Los Angeles Cultural Affairs department that hosts various events there. Centrally located, my neighborhood is easily accessible to three freeways, making travel to downtown, Exposition Park and the wonderful museums and other parts of the city convenient. Discussions are underway to upgrade the Leimert Park business center on Degnan. The development of the nearby Kenneth Hahn Park has added greatly to the recreational aspects. And yet another new parkland is opening. We could do with a Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods, more upscale goods and quaint cafes nearby. But despite this, I can’t think of a Los Angeles neighborhood in which I’d rather live.
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"This Little Cluster" by Carla Calderon
calderon

I remember at the age of 5 how I arrived to California from Mexico. It was to the little city of Bell. It offered to us a quiet and friendly atmosphere. I used to play with my cousins outside the house we shared. However, soon things started to adjust for my parents and me. We moved to the city of Maywood, which is just across the railroad tracks, and which provided the same ambience as the short lived one Bell had.

calderon
Two years after our arrival to California, my sister and my brother moved in, so we had to leave the tiny one bedroom apartment we lived in and moved into a two bedroom house back in Bell.  We still reside in this house to this day. My parents ensured that we remained in the same area for work and school’s sake. See most of my family has been working in Vernon for as long as I can remember. My dad’s first job was in Bon Apetit, a baked goods company and a ten minute drive would get him there. But as a person that strives for more, later he changed to Contessa, which is just a few blocks away from Bon Apetit and closer to home and which offered him a better salary. And he has been working there ever since. My two older brothers and my sister joined him in other parts of the company.
market
We have remained in the same neighborhood so that I would never be away from friends and have to struggle in new places. I remember Corona Elementary school being one of the finest and safest places I have ever attended. Latino culture surrounded me in the colors of the murals on the playground. I have kept quite a few of my friends since then.
sidewalk
And as my friends and I aged we saw these colors come alive in the streets, and experienced our fellow classmates (some of my friends included) their expression in plain view of the public. I became an admirer, and met many friendly people in the process. But I wanted to explore more which is why I joined SRLA in my sophomore year. 
calderon

It all started on the Los Angeles riverbed. My high school, Maywood Academy, engaged in this wonderful program aimed to aid kids complete the Los Angeles Marathon, and which allowed me to meet and get to know my community and myself a little more. All my life on this part of Los Angeles and I had never been on the riverbed, which is only about a mile and a half from my house. In one of our practices we went from Maywood to the always crowded Salt Lake Park in Huntington Park, to Slauson Avenue into the smoky grey city of Vernon, and back to Maywood via the Riverbed. I took up biking not so long ago and I still use my neighborhood as my pavement to exercise this wonderful sport. But my physical and mental endurance has been always challenged on the riverbed, which is why I consider it a city in itself.

Although many of my friends have moved away to other parts of Los Angeles and Southern California, they cannot deny that they miss the warmth of this little part of LA. They can still come back and navigate the streets like they did three years ago. It is the friendliness and melancholic reconciliation that their identity finds in Bell, Maywood, Huntington Park, or the Riverbed. These cities are the background to the memories that they call home. They compile our neighborhood.
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"Los Angeles, North Hollywood, Lake Balboa" by Claudia Carcamo

Many believe that a neighborhood consist of a set structure, a block filled with houses, an atmosphere surrounded with people, not me. To me a neighborhood consist of something that brings about the emotion of a particular memory.  The first photograph, although recently taken seems like a colleague; a straw hat lying on beach sand by the side of sandals. It seems like a perfectly framed picture, in fact it is as good as the memories it brings back. The straw hat with the flower on the side remind me of my mother, her sense of style when I was a toddler. She wore long dotted or striped dresses along with high heeled white shoes (seemingly) reflecting a Mexican Barbie and a cap/hat. It reminds me of the days when we would stroll down to our local North Hollywood park on a sunny day, with a blanket at hand. The sand reminds of the one in the playing area, where children would be fighting over the swings and the monkey bars.
Straw hat
The strangely looking bus located in Downtown LA, arouses the sense of smell. Not any common smell but that of an old extinct gas or oil.  The gas like smell reminds me of a mechanic shop, the shop where my father used to work when I was a child. The concrete floors would be tainted with oil marks; he would wear his light blue service uniform walking around with a tool at hand. The screams the individuals caused within the bus remind me of the circus my parents took me as a child (the Ringling brothers). They yelled “Jump in!” as the bus was still moving, it seemed like an episode from 70s show.
Carcamo
A snow framed picture ironically taken during my schools spring break near Riverside, reminds me of enjoying a day making snow angels, having snow ball fights and hiking. It particularly reminds me of a time when my family and I went up to Fresno for a family visit. It was a deserted location; with only farms at sight, cows on grass and strong breezes. Fortunately back then I was cozier and had more layers of clothing to protect me from the cold. I could the moving weeds move upon my skin when I would run through the fields. I didn’t quiet remember what snow felt like until that day.
Fresno
The last two pictures include my dog, reminding me of what a friend. A day that spent with one of my closest friends Evelyn and dog, made me realize that all friends are different, they all have distinct characteristics. The one in the cart is taken in Lake Balboa where as a child I would go down and feed ducks. The smell the recycled water remind of days when my friends and I would go down to the community pool. When we would come out it would smell like chlorine and the sun rays would leave tan marks on our skin, making markings of our swimsuits.
dog
The one with my dog and I, reminds of a child. A child that is barely able to care for themselves. A child that is delicate and often needs attention, it reminds of a time in high school when I had to care of a fake baby for a child development class. As her saliva drools all over the floor my boots become wet, feeling as if I am in a puddle of water. Her soft fur, remind me of a baby blanket and my pillow pet. Soft and cozy, she has a strange smell though, like that of gutter pipes that need cleaning.
friends
All these pictures bring back memories but they as well hold and reinforce three particular locations, like a triangle; Riverside, Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley. Riverside is a place where I go to school, Los Angeles a place a few minutes away from home and the San Fernando Valley where I was born. These are three cities that I consider stepping stones. Locations where learned many things that have guided me in the past twenty years. These are memories and emotion that I consider my neighborhood.
"Temple City" by Alex Chan

Temple City is changing from the past sleepy town, into a city that is slowly losing pieces of its identity. Shedding the past and modernizing the city allows people to enter into the bustle of city life. However, increased modernization leads to the loss of culture and emotion that engrains us with the communities around us. It would be desirable to trade modernization for the memories that are special to many people in the community. Some of the most memorable places to me is public space, such as the library, park, wedding shops, and the plot of land that is becoming the pizza plaza, because public places are the only places that allow community members to share in the understanding of each other.

Heading down Golden West Ave we first encounter the library, which is the source of inspiration, knowledge, and relaxation for many members of the community. Libraries are central to any city and is a major institution that allows its citizens to learn. Whenever someone walked into our library, the first thing they saw were the librarians, whom most people who frequented the library knew. The librarians were a source of comfort and were always there to help. After 2008 libraries across all cities suffered the effects of recession. This instigated change and forced the implementation of technology that replaced these wonderful librarians. Richard, Anna, Kellen, and Cody were all part of the community and were people whom I had had worked with as a volunteer. Everyone, as people, can say that they have at least one person whom they have been proud to have worked and talked with; however everyone would be reluctant to point out that they worked with a lifeless machine that will never share in the sufferings and joys of the community around it.

Temple City

Not only has the library entered into a wretched existence but it has also lost the aesthetic appeals that it had once had. I guess, no one realizes how precious individuals are to the community until those people disappear from their lives. Whenever I venture into the Temple City Library, It seems that everything there has lost its meaning and significance all because of the disappearance of a couple of people.

As we make a right on Golden West Avenue, on to Las Tunas Drive, the Park comes into view.

the Park
Festivities always occurred here and included things like carnivals, and music performances. The park was where I made another connection with my community, because that was where I could sometimes experience a fast paced city one time and then the slow pace of the country the next. The park brought different pieces of other cities and allowed the community to enjoy these festivities that have reminded many in the community of their pasts. For those who enjoy calm, peace and comfort the park gave them music and orchestras. For those who wish for thrills there was the carnival. Using that place is what makes the place interesting not only to the organizations, who make these events possible, but also to the community who need a central place to connect to their city. Although it seems little has changed we can see that the modernization of this city has contributed to the decreased use of this public space. Every time I pass that park it is empty if not close to empty. As we move more down Las Tunas Street, a white tower like structure in the middle of the park is seen.
the Gazebo
The Gazebo in Temple City Park or wedding park as I like to call it is the place where many people who had recently gotten married always seem to show up at. That place always brought back memories of driving by and seeing married couples there and it made me consider how important that place truly was and how central it was to our community’s culture. People make their memories here but in relation to a slow modernization we must dig back four or five years into the past and traveling down Las Tunas drive. This sheds light on the great change that has overcome the area. The amount of wedding memories made at this place are slowly diminishing because it was not just the gazebo in the middle of the park that made it special it was also the places and people who made those memories possible.
Las Tunas or Wedding Street
Las Tunas to me was known as Wedding Street. The street was filled with wedding shops that captured pieces of people’s memories into pictures, but now most of those places are gone. It’s nostalgic to think back and see the city before these “landmarks” have been replaced by different types of businesses that match the desires of the community. The community, as it continues to progress, has lost its connection to some of the places that makes it special. The final destination that has become a symbol of modernization would be an empty plot of land.
Modernization

This place is another symbolic piece of Temple city’s continuous loss of identity and a representation of the push of modernization. Although the sign seems new, this project has been around for 5 years and caused events that have shaped the city physically and politically as well. This plot of land has sat here as an unappealing eyesore but has significantly changed Temple City for the worse. Not only is the unused piece of land representation of the wasteful modernization but also represents the corruption that comes with change. A Council woman by the name of Judy Wong, took a bribe and as a result the even the political foundations that have been part of our city for many years have been changed. Now the once quiet city is spinning at a rate that may soon shake all the pieces that have change it from an Eden for its residents, to an industrial monster of a city.

The cliché “a picture is worth a thousand words” seems to be true but in reality the picture is just a reminder and an object that arouses the memories of our past. What is truly worth a thousand words are really the feelings and emotions that we associate with a place. Pictures will never be able to give a person the full message and nostalgia that the person who took had at that moment. Sadly as modernization continues, Temple City, will cease to be the community it once was.

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"All I ever needed to know I learned in a senior citizens mobile home park"
Stephanie Christian (La Mirada)

Life Goes On – I moved in with my Mom after my Step-Dad, Larry, passed away 2 years ago. It helps her to have me around and it allows me the opportunity to go back to school full-time. We live in a senior mobile home community. Because there are many elderly people who live in our neighborhood, dealing with the deaths of people we care about is an everyday occurrence. One thing I have learned from the residents is how to remember those you care about who have passed on but to not let that interfere with you continuing on and living your life. The small wreath hung on the white trellis is only put out when someone in the park passes away. This same area is also used to post activities that are happening in the park on that same day, such as bingo, bunco and social club activities. Whenever I see the wreath as I’m driving through the exit on my way to school, it reminds me that life does go on when you lose someone dear to you and it’s important to make the most of it.
TGIF – Our park offers many activities to get people out of their homes and into the club house for socializing and fun. I think this is an important part of why my elderly neighbors seem to be so active and young at heart. They put on monthly dinners that are planned alternately by residents on different streets, they have craft nights, live music, billiards, a small library, a swimming pool and more. However, it’s not just about the activities, its about making friends, enjoying the good times, and helping each other through the rough times.
Neighborhood Pride – One thing I have learned from observing many of the people in my neighborhood is the value of neighborhood pride and discipline. Having pride in the appearance of your home adds to the feeling of pride in your neighborhood. Many residents have lost a spouse, live alone, and are usually accountable to no one but themselves. Even though they don’t necessarily have to get up each day at 6am to walk their dogs and work in their gardens….they do. They take pride in the appearance of their homes, as do we, which is part of what makes my neighborhood such a beautiful place to me.
Working Hard – Supporting the local businesses in my neighborhood is something that I feel passionately about, and there are many of them near where I live. If I don’t support them, my choices as a consumer will become limited to only being able to shop at large corporate owned businesses. Shopping at small markets, convenience stores, coffee shops and video stores is a great way to invest in your community. The bird in the photo belongs to the owner of a small convenience store across the street from where I live. She is a Korean mother who works very hard every day to keep her business going. She brings the bird with her to the store each day to keep her company. The bird knows how to talk, but it only speaks Korean. I can’t understand him, but he’s fascinating to hear.
The Path to Success – Living with my Mom again at age 35 and being able to return to college full-time is something that I am more than just a little grateful for. Juggling school and work and paying for my own education is a very rewarding experience for me. My school is definitely an extension of my neighborhood to me. It’s a wonderful feeling to go to school each day and look around at all the students heading to their classes in the morning. It makes me feel like I’m a part of a special community that is filled with people who are trying to better themselves and their chances for a more successful future.
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"Westchester" Rocio Delgado
People can identify a neighborhood they do not live in as theirs, just like they can identify someone else’s house as their home. I have two neighborhoods, there is the one I have lived in for seventeen years, and then there is the one I have grown up in for the past eight years. Since elementary school I have attended school in Westchester, California, right by LAX.
LAX

I feel like this is the neighborhood I belong in, that it was meant to be my neighborhood. Most people think of Westchester as a privileged neighborhood with little diversity, however Westchester is in fact a neighborhood with plenty of multiculturalism.

I met most of my best friends at Orville Wright Middle School. Orville Wright Middle School is quite the contrary of what most people would expect. There is much diversity that includes whites, blacks,
Orville Wright Middle School

Hispanics, Asians, and more! Surprisingly blacks are the majority of the student population of Orville Wright. My fondest memories were built here, where I learned how to make true friends and slowly began to be exposed to the world. I consider myself lucky to have attended a school that would expose me to diversity early on. I made friends of all ethnicities there and not once were there issues over anyone’s race.

Westchester Recreational Center

Many of the students from Orville Wright and Westchester High School come together at the Westchester Park. The Westchester Park is an excellent example of the diversity that flourishes in this neighborhood by the airport. The park has an endless amount of attractions for the community to enjoy. There is a swimming pool that brings all the neighbors together during the summer.

Throughout the rest of the year, while the pool is closed, the community can enjoy the park by coming together and playing all kinds of sports. On any beautiful day one can visit the park and see a family having a picnic under a shady tree. Everyday singles walk their dogs to get some fresh air. People of all ages will meet up with their friends for a game of basketball, football, soccer, baseball and even tennis. You can see people running to work up a sweat or just go for a walk. People have barbeques and parties at the park and hang piñatas from the trees.

Recreational center

There is even a library where students can go and study after school. One of the biggest and newest attractions is the skate park. The skate park brings a lot of different younger people who practice their skills and show off for each other. The Westchester Park is one the most diverse areas in the neighborhood where they come together and share the basketball courts, the playground, the tennis courts, and the fields.

There is a variety of restaurants in the Westchester area. Across the street from the park there is a Mexican taco place. A few blocks down the street and around the corner on Lincoln there are Italian restaurants, Mexican restaurants and a local pizza place. In the opposite direction down Manchester there is a Paco’s Tacos, iHop, Flame Broiler, Subway, and a Thai restaurant. My boyfriend and I love to eat at Paco’s Tacos and you can find us here every other week. Even further down Manchester one
Westchester
can find an El Pollo Loco, Sizzler, Mongolian Barbeque and another pizza place. Perhaps the restaurant that attracts the most customers is the In N Out on Sepulveda Blvd. I have heard rumors that this In N Out is the busiest of all because it is right next to the airport. I go here often with my friends on late nights after going to parties, coming back from Disneyland, or just having a night in. You can often see ethnicities of all types that are just arriving to the warm climate of Los Angeles. It seems that any hour of almost any given day the drive thru line runs through the parking lot and almost every table is filled. But this In N Out is fast paced, with excellent service and is a great example of the diversity of Los Angeles and Westchester.
In N Out

The airport itself brings many people to the city of Los Angeles. When they arrive, visitors pass through Westchester which also diversifies the small sub-city. People from all over the world will often try to rejuvenate themselves from being jet lagged and go to Starbucks for a warm cup of coffee or stop by any of the restaurants for a bite to eat. Perhaps they even stop at Ralphs to fill their refrigerator for their visit. Most people visiting will always take time to visit the beaches that are only two miles away, especially in the summer. The beach is an escape zone for people where they can cool off in the water, listen to the waves, absorb the sun and really enjoy LA living. I love this small sub-city because it has so many attractions to offer its community . From my experience, when I go out to eat, go to the beach, go for a walk, visit the park, or go to parties in Westchester, everyone is welcoming. People say hello to you when you walk down the street. I often meet new people here because everyone is so friendly. The community welcomes each other, coexists in peace, and works with each other. Whether you attend school in Westchester, enjoy the park, visit the beach or go out to eat you can find a strong community of many races with different cultural backgrounds.

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"This Is Home To Me" by Nancy Charco
When people ask me where I live and I respond Susan Street, they respond with a confused face. So then I explain that it is two streets away from Jackson Street, then right away they know what street that is. I am not surprised why they would know that street. It is not only where there is a bus stop
Santa Ana
Black Incidents.
but also where a lot of harsh incidents have occurred. People spread the word right away in this neighborhood. The word is in this particular street there is danger. I have heard about mostly everything like getting stabbed, gunshots, robberies, and mostly car incidents.
Santa Ana
Labeled Territory.
I do not like when people ask me whether if it is a dangerous place to live because I really do not know what to answer. I see the graffiti on the walls being claim to be someone’s territory but how can it be really theirs? I wonder how this started and how little kids get influenced to continue these gangs. I would not be surprise if it were because of drugs. I mean I have seen some of these boys grow since I was in elementary school. I have seen and heard how the way they dress and their face expression have changed. It's like if they were hypnotized. I want to ask so many questions to that particular clique that still hangs out in the front of the alley wher I used to live but am always afraid of their response.
Santa Ana
The Hang Out.
Especially when they usually hang out when the sun is slowly going down. Which does not make any sense-- it is like if they were nocturnal people. They start out when white smoke rises and little yellow or orange light rises like dragon flies flying until you can only see their shadows. I have to admit I get scared either way because the incident that my family and I have gone through. There is anger frustration that can be kept inside until forgotten because there is no other way around it.
Santa Ana
Place of Escape.
You can never lose the harsh memorizes though. Living in the alley was not so bad, I admit I mean I played there since I was a little toddler and moved in the apartments next to the alley for some of my elementary school and for my time being in high school I lived by the alley again, and being an older age I have not feel safe for some time. I do not like feeling like this but I could not help it. I always wonder what could have possibly led this neighborhood to go this direction. I mean there is a park nearby where lots of little kids go and play there. After leaving the alley recently and living once again in the apartments, I wonder if there are any differences because I am still feel part of that neighborhood.                                         
Santa Ana
Second Home.
"Beautiful Imperfections" (Alhambra) by Tegan Cramer
I was raised in a stereotypical, southern Orange County suburbia which consisted of predominantly Caucasian citizens existing in the middle and upper levels of a societal hierarchy. In her 1962 song, “Little Boxes”, singer-songwriter, Malvina Reynolds, illustrated the development of suburban tract housing accompanied by the conformist manner of its inhabitants. The song may have satirized the post-war residential design, but it also publicized the truth of it. I was raised in a little box. In pursuit of a higher education, my location of residency shifted fifty miles north to Los Angeles County, more specifically, the city of Alhambra. I had moved from one suburb to another, yet my new neighborhood resembled nothing of what I was formerly accustomed to. In a suburban environment, people tend to place value on artificial aesthetics, although it is in the fragments of the city, which have not been manicured to fit a mold of superficiality, that one finds the unique character of Alhambra.
Gateway

The City of Alhambra: Gateway to the San Gabriel Valley
Location: At the intersection of West Valley Boulevard and South Fremont Avenue.
1/30/13

The historical past of Alhambra sets it apart from other conventional suburban areas by contributing a multiplicity of elements to the city’s composition, from distinctive architecture to varied ethnicities. In 1903, Alhambra was founded and thenceforth promoted as the “city of homes”. Many neighborhoods in the city contain historical significance visible through the various styles of architecture originally generated before postwar economic expansion began affecting residential development. Each row of houses does not contain identical white picket fences but instead displays unique designs personal to the city and its residents. As I often detour through the residential streets in order to avoid ever-present Los Angeles traffic, the blur of colors which pass through my peripheral vision contain olive greens, and coffee browns, among various other hues. No longer do I observe the uniform display of white and beige, with the only lively color being the solid red of a standard mailbox flag. Alhambra’s old-fashioned architecture maintains a sense of individuality in a time when consistency in suburban construction appears to be the current trend. In addition to its diverse collection of structural designs, the city is also home to a variety of different ethnicities. During the late 1900s, Alhambra experienced an increase in immigration from Europe, Asia, and Mexico as foreigners began to seek residence in the small city, conveniently located west of the San Gabriel Valley and approximately ten miles from Downtown Los Angeles. As a result, the racial makeup of the city consists predominantly of people from Asian, Hispanic, or Latino descent. Caucasian citizens are somewhat of a minority in Alhambra. This is especially evident along Valley Boulevard which has developed into an active Asian business region through the years. Residents and visitors of Alhambra have access to several different types of restaurants and businesses all which expose consumers to a taste of each owner’s respective culture. The history of Alhambra is essential in understanding why the city fails to conform to a mainstream model of the suburbs, not only because it chooses not to, but because the roots of diversity which formed in the past continue to be nourished in present time.

Alhambra Plaza

Alhambra Plaza: The diversity in businesses
Location: At the intersection of West Valley Boulevard and South Atlantic Boulevard
2/1/13

Alhambra’s ever-evolving culture contributes to the city’s variety while simultaneously allowing beauty to emerge from organic imperfections rather than contrived productions. On one particularly uneventful Thursday afternoon, I found my way into a body piercing shop in the downtown area. The walls inside were painted black all besides one which featured a series of identical tin men. The dual tone design was splattered and dripping down the solid black backdrop. I began to recognize my reason for being there as the artwork cast a profound impression on me. I realized I was attempting to distance myself from the heartless sea of clones I felt had occupied the previous years of my life. As I asked the piercer if I would feel any pain, she replied, “No pain, only a little bit of pressure”. Pressure is what the last decade of my existence seemed to consist of, particularly the pressure to conform. Alhambra does not expect conventionality of its citizens but instead embraces each unique soul contributing to Los Angeles’s reputation as the place to be anyone.
Mural

JuL Head body piercing shop mural
Location: 109 West Main Street
1/19/13

City officials may strive for perfection yet it is in the graffiti scrawled on the pedestrian bridge across the I-10 freeway and the wandering cats who freely roam the city’s neighborhoods that I see genuine beauty in Alhambra. With each occurrence I wonder what stories they tell. Who belonged to the hands which guided the spray cans that decorated the public pavement? Where do the cats go after they disappear within the shadows beneath parked cars? I can’t help but believe that Alhambra’s uniqueness comes from its imperfections and that the city’s past generated an especially diverse cultural framework which future generations of people and places will only contribute to.

Graffitti on pedestrian bridge

Graffiti on a pedestrian bridge crossing the I-10 freeway
Location: At the intersection of South Marguerita Avenue and West Ramona Road
1/19/13

Hidden Cat

A cat hiding within the darkness beneath a house
Location: South Second Street
1/30/13

In the many months I have lived in Alhambra, I explored both the bustling crowds along Main Street and the empty sidewalks between neighborhoods. Through observations and experiences, I’ve come to recognize the minor details which contribute to the genuine beauty of this historically significant city. I was accustomed to being surrounded by a sea of light skin tones yet Alhambra has allowed me to experience various shades of the ethnic rainbow. No longer do I live in a little box identical to the next. I have my own unique house, on my own unique street, in my own unique neighborhood, and like the stray cats beneath cars I know the city of Alhambra as home.

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"My Neighborhood: Canoga Park, West Hills, Woodland Hills" by Tiffany Do

View from Top of Topanga Overlook – 01/01/2012

Where I live is a perfect mix of suburb and city. Although the San Fernando Valley is considered a suburb of Los Angeles, really, it is its own city with its own neighborhoods and its own suburban areas. The outlying suburbs of the Valley over the mountains and hills are the traditional suburbs of “white flight”, but the Valley itself is a confluence of neighborhoods that blend together; they are distinct neighborhoods but with fuzzy boundaries. Because of this, I consider myself to be a part of multiple neighborhoods: the adjacent regions of Canoga Park, West Hills, and Woodland Hills. This is home, a house among many other homes, among apartment complexes, parks, educational institutions, and areas of industrial and service-oriented commerce. Most of the landmarks of my home have been there at least since I was born, probably longer. This stability in location though belies how much the nature of my neighborhood has changed in the short twenty years I have been there.

Pierce College

Pierce College Entrance – 03/24/2012

My physical home is a traditional suburban home located in a not-so very stereotypically suburban neighborhood. Adjacent to other traditionally suburban homes, my block is also full of apartment complexes and a block away from a once gang-riddled park that is surrounded by more apartment complexes housing registered offenders which is not traditionally suburban at all. Lanark Park used to be home to the Canoga Park Boys gang. In my childhood, it was a dangerous place generally to be avoided despite the swimming pool open in the summer, fields for baseball, soccer, football, courts for basketball and tennis, a community center and a stage. In more recent years though, the gang has become obsolete and the general area has been safer with the addition of a police station about a block away. I remember one night at midnight when I heard a woman’s scream pierce the night, followed by police sirens a few minutes later, all coming from the direction of the park. The helicopters that would circle at least weekly would also be in the direction of the park. Nowadays, people walk their dogs in the park at night without fear, there is visibly and audibly more life, and there are fewer helicopters. Lanark Park is now a thriving community center that has grown and developed to actually be a service to the surrounding community.

Do2

XPosed Strip Club – 03/24/2012

On the block next to Lanark Park though, is one of the few things that has not changed: the strip club. The pictures of the girls have changed and that is about it. Exposed strip club is in the midst of both a residential and commercial are as it is right across the street from Costco and apartment buildings. The San Fernando Valley is known as being the porn capital of the world in that most pornography has been shot in the Valley. Growing up here though, I would have to disagree because this strip club is the only thing related to the raunchiness of pornography that I have seen. Pornography may have made its home as a thriving business in the Valley, but it is not a prominent part of the lives of the Valley’s residents.

Home – 03/24/2012

Aside Canoga Park which is also often called West Hills for its proximity and overlap, my place of community was Pierce College in Woodland Hills. I took gymnastics classes there, basketball camp over the summer, Spanish classes over the summer and swam there on a club team. Needless to say, there was a lot going on at Pierce College and it was a community center in addition to being an academic institution. The quality of the community center was questionable in terms of its safety and general atmosphere; it often did not attract good people. The occasional bouts of graffiti and petty crimes tarnished the college’s reputation. It was reflected by the appearance of the college. It was slightly run down, paint was faded and peeling. The women’s swimming pool locker room was peeped on by men on more than one occasion. However, in recent years, Pierce College has undergone a massive renovation project. It looks very different from what it was a dozen years ago. The new buildings give it a shine that attracts better people to Pierce College. The entire place is simply brighter.

Lanark Park – 03/24/2012

I believe that the Valley is growing and even though the Valley has not been immune to the tough economic times, it is changing for the better. The last picture is a panorama of the Valley at dawn. The buildings that peep out from the darkness to meet the daylight in the left corner of the picture are the various buildings of the Warner Center. This is my home, my hood. It is not just a suburban addendum of the central core of the city of Los Angeles, but is its own center of life.

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"Eagle Rock" by Aimee Dozois

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"Solano Canyon" by Nelson Bui

My neighborhood is so perfect because it’s full with happy jolly good people. I love my neighborhood because all my friends live here. I enjoy living here because I’m able to play with my friends outside of school. We’re able to study together and we can go trick or treating together. We can also give each other Christmas presents. Our family is able to meet each other. I love my neighborhood so much because it’s close to stores, friends, and family. I would be a lonely man if I didn’t move into this neighborhood.

I would say my neighborhood school is the bomb! There is no other school that can beat it. Mostly all my friends go there. The teachers are great. Most of them live in my neighborhood as well. So when I have trouble with anything I would usually if I got a problem with my homework I would go to my teacher’s house and ask for some help. If I got girl problems then I would go to my best friend’s house.

One time I had to give in a school project on the earth and I didn’t have supplies. So I asked some friends to come with me to office depot. I got the supplies and they started to help me with my project. Now if I didn’t live in the neighborhood I am right now then I wouldn’t have finished my project.
I have been mostly everywhere in my neighborhood. My friends live close together but I don’t. I live pretty far away from them. But we can still get together and talk or hang around. I think if I moved me and my friends can’t hang out anymore outside of school.

My school district is SO cool! It’s pre-k to 6th grade. My friends and family has been supporting me. I’ve been working really hard to get into a great school after I graduate. My school has a good principal, great staff members, and great students. That school has been there for 100 years! (My neighborhood isn’t that old, or is it?)

Well I live kind of next to Dodger’s stadium. Sometimes me and my friends would buy some tickets and go and watch them play. But I got to finish my homework after before I go. But other them dodger’s stadium, my neighborhood has a picnic every two months or so. They would go to the park and there would be: monkey swings, monkey bars, slides, ice cream, and other childish thing they can do. The adults would even play a game where its adults vs. adults. They usually play baseball the first picnic, basketball the second picnic, and flag football the third picnic. It’s always fun to watch them play. Well, mostly that’s it about my neighborhood. I never wrote an essay about my neighborhood before but I got to admit that my neighborhood is perfect!! I love my neighborhood and I don’t want to move!

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The Place I Can Truly Call Home--Wildomar Marie Eleanore Cabal                

When told that I was to write a 500-1,000 word essay on “my neighborhood,” I was taken aback. Fresh out of my first year of college, I was hardly eager to sit down and write another paper, let alone open Microsoft Word. What worried me most was the theme: “my neighborhood.” I thought to myself, “Can I truly call Eagle Rock my neighborhood? Have I lived here long enough to be considered a part of Eagle Rock? What of the other places I had lived in before Eagle Rock?” Silently berating myself for actually having the gall to see writing as a chore instead of the pastime I once loved, I decided to look through old photo albums to see if I could find some sort of inspiration. And so, I have decided to write not about one, but about all the neighborhoods that I have lived in since coming to California.              

Born and raised in the Philippines, my family and I moved the United States when I was 12. Our first home was the home of my aunt, who had an extra room in her house in Menifee.  My siblings and I were enrolled in nearby schools. I was sent to attend Bell Mountain Middle School. Not only the new kid, but a foreigner as well, I was a subject of curiosity in my 6th Grade class. Nervous about fitting in, I always worked hard to be at the top of my class in the hopes of proving myself. Middle school in Bell Mountain did wonders for me, as I slowly began breaking out of my introversion. However, before I could grow accustomed to Menifee and the school year had ended, my family decided to move to Wildomar, a small area within Lake Elsinore.               
Wildomar was a vastly different neighborhood from those in Menifee. Whereas Menifee was comprised of small suburban towns filled with almost identical houses and populated by mostly middle-class families that knew each other, Wildomar was more of a farming community where rabbits, squirrels, and coyotes were a common sight. We moved from my aunt’s home into a house rented to us by a then family friend, situated on a one-acre plot, surrounded by dry grass instead of sidewalk and at a distance from anyone we could consider a neighbor. Disheartened by the change of scenery as well as the fact that I had to make friends all over again, I remained loyal to my studies, striving to excel in the only sure thing I had.
Over time, however, I grew to love Wildomar. With homes further apart than the ones in Menifee, we no longer had to worry about disturbing neighbors or any breaches of privacy. When I look back on this neighborhood, the one thing that struck me most about it was the space. WIldomar was more open country than anything else I had encountered in America up to that point, and in it one had more freedom to roam around and enjoy nature. Sure, there were the snakes, brush fires, and 100-degree temperatures that we could look forward to in the summer, but we consoled ourselves with the fact that summer was but one season of four. Sadly, the time we would spend in Wildomar would be cut short.  After some complications, we were forced to move once more. Luckily, my dad’s cousin was able to find a new home for us, this time in Eagle Rock, Los Angeles.
By then, I was tired of all the moving and constant change. Even though our new home—a house for rent along Westdale Avenue—was located in a relatively peaceful neighborhood and contained a backyard big enough to accommodate any family activities, I was depressed over the fact that we were forced to leave Wildomar. My brother took the move harder than anyone else, swearing that he would never make friends in Eagle Rock and constantly belittling Los Angeles whenever he had the chance. Fortunately, both he and I were able to make new friends despite our initial misgivings. When I was first told along with my brothers that we would be moving to Los Angeles, I was both excited and terrified at the same time. My initial biases of the City of Angels were both confirmed and shattered when my family and I moved to Eagle Rock. Nonetheless, we were quite comfortable in our little niche within L.A., surrounded by trees that would erupt into vivid shades of red and orange during the fall and uneven pavement perfect for afternoon strolls—later accompanied by our new dog.
 
Our stay in Westdale, however, ended up being short-lived as well. Toward the latter half of my high school years we were forced to move once more. By chance, one of my friends told me about a vacancy in an apartment on York Boulevard that she and her family were living in. Eager to avoid moving away to another area altogether, my family finally settled down in the apartment. A lot rowdier than our home in Westdale, the few upsides to our new residence included its closeness to convenience stores and bus stops frequented by our beloved 84 Metro bus. And how could I forget the wonderful view of Eagle Rock that we have from our apartment “balcony”?
 
So here I sit writing an essay on “my neighborhood,” still unsure as to which one it is. Is it the neighborhood whose every nook and cranny I know like the back of my hand and have burned into my retinas? Is it the place where I can blend in among its occupants and have them recognize me as one of them? Perhaps claiming a neighborhood is as simple as being able to consider a neighborhood a place you can truly call home.  Eagle Rock is the place that I now call home. Here’s hoping it stays that way for a very long time.
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"Bell: My City" by George Castillo

A puzzled look, a scratch of the head, and a “where’s that?” was normally what I’d receive as a response after telling someone that I live in Bell. Then, after news of the corruption scandal exploded late last year, instead of being asked for the location of Bell, I was frequently asked how Bell’s situation affected me personally. I answered of course, but those questions weren’t really what I would have liked to have been asked. What I would like is for someone to ask me about how much I love my city or about what areas of Bell I hold close to my heart. Fortunately, the Studio’s photo essay collection takes the time to ask these questions. For the first time in a long time, I can write about my city and not have to focus too much on an ex-city manager who’s last name sounds like an Italian dish.

Image: Nueva Vista--caption: Nueva Vista Elementary School – One of Bell’s finest public schools. Nueva Vista Elementary School – 4412 Randolph Street, Bell, CA 90201
 
This first image is of Nueva Vista Elementary School, which is the elementary school I attended in Bell. I like looking at my elementary school from this point because my high school, Maywood Academy High School, is also visible as an orange building in the background. Nueva Vista was a time of artistic exploration for me. Through the magnet program there, I took my first art class and I acted as George Washington in my first play. Before I enrolled in the magnet program, I constantly begged my parents to enroll me in these art and drama classes outside of school, but they were unable to because of financial reasons. I also really like the tree in this photo. I can remember plenty of days playing hide and seek there (and I can also remember too many days of feeling sick and throwing up near the vicinity of the tree). On the left, you can see the field where the love of running was instilled in me through the Nueva Vista Running Club (which was created by the wonderful teacher Phyllis Egby, who inspired me more than she probably thinks). The wonderful programs and teachers at Nueva Vista really set me up for the rest of my life.
Image: Gage and Atlantic--caption: The intersection of Gage and Atlantic – Probably Bell’s busiest intersection! In the days of elementary school, my mother would pick me once class was over and we would walk down Gage Avenue to where we used to live. Gage has always seemed to me like the main street of Bell. If you were to drive down Gage from one end of the city to the other, you’d find clothing stores, dentists, restaurants, bakeries, and one of Bell’s biggest shopping plazas. Gage Avenue has always seemed like the signpost to my home. This is mainly because I used to live on Gage before and now; Gage intersects the street where I currently live.
Image: Conphung Bakery--caption: Conphung Bakery - A small bakery on 6367 Atlantic Avenue with great cookies and great cake! Conphung Bakery - 6367 Atlantic Avenue, Bell, CA 90201. There are a lot of great places to eat in Bell too. One particular bakery that I want to go out of my way to promote is the Conphung Bakery. Located at a plaza at the intersection of Gage and Atlantic, the Conphung Bakery has been one of my regular stops in Bell for all my life. Because it was within walking distance of my elementary school and in the direction of my old apartment on Gage, my mom would frequently take me to the Conphung Bakery after school to buy me some really tasty chocolate chip cookies or a slice of cake. To this day, I visit the Conphung Bakery to buy those same cookies whenever I feel like I need a little sugar pick me up. (Which happens a lot in college!)
(Image: Jim’s Burgers--caption: Jim’s Burgers – Affordable and delicious diner at 4660 Gage Ave (hint: check online for the phone number and order by phone too!) Jim’s Burgers - 4660 Gage Ave, Bell, CA 90201)Another great place to eat is Jim’s Burgers which is actually right next door to my old apartment on Gage. The giant Jim’s sign, visible from quite a distance, was always like a lighthouse to me in elementary school. I knew that if I followed it, I would eventually reach home. As I grew older, I noticed how my neighbors in the apartment complex had Jim’s phone number in their phonebooks in case if they wanted to order food by phone. I always thought it was very interesting to place an order by phone to a restaurant you lived next to. To my surprise, I found out in high school that a lot of local Bell residents actually call ahead to place their orders. I didn’t know that Jim’s was so popular but apparently, it’s always been known to be a place to have a burger and a good time in Bell.
(Photo: Vanessa’s Market--captions: Vanessa’s Market – Located at 4728 Gage Ave, this market holds a special place in my heart.) This photo is of Vanessa’s Market. I remember that when I used to live in the apartment on Gage Avenue, my neighborhood friends and I would frequent this market for chips, soda, and candy. I can’t even begin to fathom how much money I probably spent at this location when I was younger in an attempt to collect Spice Girls ephemera inside gum or lollipop wrappers. Although I was too young to remember, I have heard stories about how the store’s previous owner, Young Bu Lee, was fatally shot in his own store. I understand that he was really loved and appreciated in Bell and I know that some of our neighbors left flowers for him at the entrance of his store. That story always makes me understand the sense of community and care Bell residents have shown for each other. I’ve been living here for about ten years and I’m proud to say I’ve lived in Bell for about all my life. I count myself blessed by having gone to a Cal State LA, which is so close to my home. This rings especially true when I hear of my old high school friends studying out of the country wishing they were back home. I think that even if I had left with them, my heart would remain in Bell. Though the city can be bland and I’ve been known to call it boring on bad days, it’s filled with places and people I love.

"South Pasadena -- Not Anywhere, USA" by Bob Drwila

I live in South Pasadena and it is truly home & a place I love, both for its mom & pop businesses like the Munch Company (which is never open) & its sense of history. It is a “Tree City” and a relatively older community, becoming a city in 1888--and there are many amazing vistas with mature trees. The City encourages filming & it is featured in many commercials and films, making it a somewhat surreal place to live in-- as though this were “Anywhere, USA.” One house is used alot--one week, it is dressed up to represent the Midwest in a Netflix ad; and the next week, the house is dressed differently to be in Dade County in CSI Miami.
But South Pasadena is not just “Anywhere.” It is my home. It is a place with a history that is inconsistently tracked and sometimes commodified--from the Native Americans who lived in the Arroyo Secco (where there is now an archery range), to the Cawston Ostrich Farm (now the Ostrich Farm lofts), to the health sanitarium that attracted people with tuberculosis in the late 1890s (now an OSH hardware store & apartments).
South Pasadena has different public monuments that trace its history and some of them are amazing, but I am more intrigued by the history we can see but don’t always recognize--like the natural spring on Arroyo Drive that makes the road perpetually wet or the cross that marks the place of a Cathedral Oak and where the first Easter mass was conducted by Father Juan Crespi in 1770.
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"Underneath It All: Boyle Heights" by Lissette Estala
When attempting to recount what I love about my community, Boyle Heights, I immediately begin to share stories of places where i’ve developed good memories throughout the years. The following are pictures of places that have become an important part of my life. Despite the fact that some of these pictures captured unfit corners of my city, I took them with the sole intention to highlight the beauty that indisputably lies underneath.
View of Downtown Los Angeles
Figure 1: 1/23/13 View of Downtown Los Angeles
from the intersection of Guirado Street and Camulos Street
The view in Figure 1 depicts the world famous Downtown Los Angeles buildings from my vantage point as a child. They would sparkle in the middle of the night like candles. But although they looked marvelous from afar, when I’d visit the Fashion District in the heart of Downtown to gather fabrics with my mom (a seamstress) I felt fooled. The side walks were constantly littered and we avoided certain streets to flee from dreadful smells. As I grew up, I learned to hold my breath and my mother taught me to open my eyes for two primary reasons. One, to stay aware of your surroundings and two, to appreciate what I saw. Once I learned to navigate those streets on my own, I was no longer afraid of the strange smells and sights... I was no longer afraid of getting lost. From up close the brilliant buildings did seem to loose their wonder, but I longer cared if that was so because Los Angeles was and always will be my beautiful home.
Sidwalks
Figure 2: 1/23/13 Cracked sidewalks near the intersection of Sabina Street and Spence Street
While on my way to dance practice or to school, the old jagged Los Angeles sidewalks were always a favorite. The slabs of concrete were slowly pushed to awkward angles by the great trees that are planted along the streets creating an amazing obstacle course. I’d attempt to zoom past them on my scooter and would occasionally make it through without a scratch. When I did, I’d proudly stop, look back at the rough terrain, and grin. Moments such as these displayed my adventurous nature. I was just as powerful as Don Quijote who bated against giants. The difference though, is that I battled through deep crevices in the earth. I can easily recall conversation that my mom had with her friends where they would express their concern for the illl maintained sidewalks. I now find it intriguing that the physical evidence which highlighted neglect in my community is the core of plenty cherished moments of my childhood. 
Alley
Figure 3: 1/23/13 Alley lining the Pomona Freeway (State Route 60)
near S. Lorena Street and Whittier Blvd.
In order to cross to the contrary side of the 60 Freeway quickly, one must travel down the alley captured in Figure 3. On the other side of the feeble wire fence shown in the picture lies the freeway on-ramp. Its gradual turn is constantly underestimated by “traileros” (truck drivers) so it is not uncommon to see a cargo truck laying awkwardly on  its side while policemen finalize their reports. Due to the alleys curvature at its ends, the complete pathway isn’t clearly visible from either side. This has forced many people of the community reject it as a reasonable walking route unless one is traveling in pairs due to the risk of getting into trouble alone, but I took a picture of it to point out one thing. The wall is covered in a thick coat of cheap white paint, and it has been so for quite a while. This is strange because of the history that my community has with tagging contradicts what the picture shows, a “clean” wall. 
Evergreen Park
Figure 4: 2/1/13 Evergreen Park
As an attempt to keep us off of the streets, my parents constantly took my brother and I to the park as kids. Evergreen Park in Boyle Heights had my favorite swing set. They were old, but thats why I liked them. You could hear a creak with every sway and the cold chains looked as if they were about the shatter. The giggling created a youthful atmosphere in what would otherwise be a sad park. Figure 4 was taken recently, but when I would frequent the park as a child it was quite different than it is now. The vast majority of the grass wasn’t present. Instead, there was the same dusty floor thats seen within the baseball diamond. I am glad though that it has changed. I took the picture during a weeknight when parks used to be empty, but now, kids can be seen playing in the field and in the play set under the canopy of trees.
Hollenbeck Staircaseark
Figure 5: 2/1/13 Hollenbeck staircase
The final image is of a staircase that I traversed on a daily basis during middle school. Because this area had similar unspoken rules as the alley does, I always walked home with a friend. We dreaded the climb but it was the most direct way to get home... it was the smelliest one too. Notice on lefthand side of Figure 5, you can see the corner of an old and rotten abandoned sofa, this is a completely usual sight. As a matter of fact, I cannot recall a time where the vacant lot  beside the staircase wasn’t littered with abandoned bulky items. Regardless of the unwelcoming feel of the location it still frequently becomes a means of conversation among friends from middle school. We recall the rainy days where it would become a challenge to climb because of the rush of water flowing down its steep steps and the fun we had battling against it. 
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"Brentwood" by Janine Fron

I moved to West Los Angeles during the fall of 2000, after living in Finland for nearly two years. I was born and raised in Chicago, and lived my adult years in the greater Lincoln Park neighborhood. When I first moved here, a realtor told me that the west side was like Lincoln Park, for he too was from Chicago.
As I began to make Los Angeles my own, nothing could be farther from his remark. I initially enjoyed how everything was out, out, out instead of up, up, up, like those enormous skyscrapers back home. No matter what kind of mood I am in, if I twist my head around, there is always something staggeringly beautiful to look at. And the best part, of course, is all of the amazing people who live here. Los Angeles is culturally diverse, and so alive with ideas, imagination and a rich history that stretches back in time before there were films or television. There are more people to meet and places to be than there is time. I am fortunate to have made so many treasured friends here, and feel proud to call Los Angeles my home.
I enjoy walking in my neighborhood, to the grocery store, library, small shops, restaurants, and around playgrounds, to take in the sounds of the people, the birds, the scent of jasmine mingling with roses. I especially like walking along the beach, and time permitting; I have walked from my residence at Barrington and Wilshire, up Montana Street to the beach front in Santa Monica. There is a remarkable quote by the environmentalist Rachel Carson, etched in stone at Palisades Park that continues to inspire me and appreciate my place in the world:
"Meanwhile, the sea ebbs and flows in these grander tides of earth, whose stages are measurable not in hours, but in Millennia - tides so vast they are invisible and incomprehensible by their senses. Their ultimate cause may be found to be deep within the fiery center of earth or it may be somewhere in the dark spaces of the Universe."
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"Untitled" (Santa Ana) by Daniel Garcia

"This goes out to the ladies in the house." 

Me and my friends always go to concerts. The very first time we all went to a concert and one the attendees of the concert was a cholo he was about 5’4in had everything from the shaved head to the shirt that is 3 sizes too big for him. Throughout the concert the MC would say things like “I love Santa Ana” and the cholo would shout out “I LOVE you homie, and Santa Ana”, then the MC would say “fuck Santa Ana” and then the cholo would say “FUCK YOU HOMIE, ill met you at the parking lot”.  My friends and I just started cracking up laughing; we couldn’t believe what that guy was saying it was so funny. Another time we went to an artist named Immortal Technique. I was looking forward to the concert for the longest time I was ecstatic when it was concert day, but I had a curfew I had to be home at 11. When 11 finally rolled around he was barely getting onstage. I wasn’t able to see him, but my friends that not only saw what I sure was an amazing concert but they got to meet him in person and even got an autograph. 

My life, no life.

Whenever I go camping, and the feeling of homesick begins arise I close my eyes and picture home. The comforting image that appears in my head is my messy desk.  That messy desk is where I would fervently work on my English essays that were due the following morning, I would watch Netflix instead of doing homework, that’s where I would spend countless hours trying to figure out how to correctly draw the Superman “S”. More often than not I spend days at my desk, I would blink and a week would go by.

Friends forever, duh

These are me and my friends I’ve known them for about 12 years. I grew up with these guys, we have a lot of fond memory’s.  like the concert or when we went to grad night we got on all the rides and almost got kicked out for being too rowdy but were able to out run our problems.

Masterpieces 

That art notebook is where I first started to learn how to draw. I remember spending so much time trying to figure out the body structure of a person but I couldn’t really get and all the people looked off. I asked my brother for help and in less than two flicks of his wrist he fixed my drawing. That why I got into art I wanted to become better than my brother, within a few months my skills had greatly imporved and I wasn’t asking my brother for advice any more.

Computer love.
 
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"My Neighborhood" (Santa Ana) by Johnny Gonzalez
Old Memories.
I chose to take this picture because I think it was really cool that there were Mexican people from Santa Ana that fought in some of history's biggest wars. For example World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. I was really impressed when we interviewed a Korean war veteran and heard him tell his story about being in the army. This is why I choose to take this picture for my neighborhood photo essay. 
Hello I'm Dead.
This picture shows a dead Hello Kitty drawing that I found when my brother and I were walking to the library. I took this picture because its local street art that for some reason never gets covered up by the city. Also the person that drew this up had some real talent that probably never got notice. Another reason why I took this picture is that you don't always see street art every day.
Home is where you're always welcome.

This is a picture of the street Townsend where I grew up. I chose this picture because my mom raised me here in this neigborhood and I have a lot I can relate to In this  neighborhood. The truck that sells a variety of food and house hold cleaning items has been there ever since I have been born. My whole family has been buying items from that truck for over twenty years. Having this truck in my picture means a lot to me--this is why I choose this picture fro my neigborhood photo essay.

Where it all started.
Home Sweet Home.

This is a picture my apartment building window. I chose this picture because it shows where I live and where I come from. I lived in that apartment for eight years now and have had many wonderful memories. I also took this picture because it symbolizes me how much I have matured and where I’m going in the future--this is why I took this picture for my neighborhood photo essay.  

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"Santa Ana Through My Eyes" by Monica Gonzalez
Cage.

930 to many people is just a number of an apartment, but to me is more than that. I have been living here for eighteen years. It’s not one of the nice-looking apartments in my neighborhood but I am just thankful for the roof over my head. My father’s sisters live also in the same apartments, but I honestly never felt close to my cousins. When I was young, I seriously felt like a prisoner in my own home. Now that I’m older, I can go out at times but it’s like I’m still chained just like a dog, and I can only go so far. I have bitter and sweet memories of my home. I don’t know how much longer I’m going to stay here, but when the time comes for me to leave I know I’m going to miss it.

My Sanctuary.
Jerome Recreation Center --this place was and is still my safe haven. This was always my excuse to get out of my home. I’m grateful for a special friend of mine, who asked me to join with her. This place has had such an impact in my life--it has brought me to where I’m right now. Inside the recreation center was this program call Teen Space and throughout the program I have met so many incredible tutors and youth. I got help with homework assignments and I was also helped with college information. This program has given me so many resources I needed. I feel like if I was not aware of it, I would have been stuck on what I needed to do for college and other things. I feel like many youth are really not aware of the resources they have within their community and that’s the negative thing about now a days.
A Place With Different Meanings.

The famous senior center, according to myself I should say. This place was so many things to me. When I was young it was the place I got free gifts during the Christmas year at center. When I got older and started volunteering, it was the area where I went to do the cooking program and I got to eat. The people that know me are aware that I love to eat. It also became the spot where I went to get snacks at the vending machine. After being there so many times, I don’t think I ever saw any senior citizens inside.

A Union of A Community.

This Catholic Church is near where I lived. There was a smaller church in the same location of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Church, where I went when I was younger. Then they built a bigger church which is the Immaculate I remember going to church a lot when I was younger. I also keep in mind this one time when my grandparents went to church with our family. My grandma pinched me during church because I wasn’t paying attention. I always wondered why being in church is so serious. Well, that’s how I viewed it, based on the actions of my mom. Now that I’m older we don’t go as often but my mom still holds Catholic values.

The Chauffeur.

The bus has basically been my main transportation since I was in intermediate through high school. It sucks the prices have raised a lot on buses throughout the years. A lot people use the bus-- many people for school and individuals who need to work. Some of the bus drivers are nice and others are not, honestly. I recall one time when I was young, I was on the bus with my mom and she got out first. When I was going to get out, the door closed and I was stuck in between being squished. That was certainly traumatizing and I also remember that one of the bus drivers flipped my mom as soon we got out of the bus. A girl from the school I graduated from once asked me, “Aren’t you scared riding the bus?” I responded by saying, "No, When I’m on there isn’t a thing I haven’t seen already or experienced before."

 
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"Culver City" BY Josh Gill

Gill
I am not a native Californian, in fact I was born in Nova Scotia Canada and grew up in rural Maine, which is about as far away from here as one can get and still be on the same continent. I now live right here in Culver City, though I’ve only been here for about two years so my understanding of real local history is fairly limited. I moved here out of circumstantial convenience and really had no idea even what the people on my street were even like.
gill
Los Angeles is not like any other city, it sprawls so far in every direction that other cities and municipalities are literally engulfed and there are no clear physical borders that define the various areas. Culver City is one of these areas that is its own separate entity. I live just on what appears to be a fairly debatable border, meaning nobody can quite tell what city my street is in, mail, police, public works, and taxis all have different opinions. That was the first thing I discovered about my immediate neighborhood and it has proved to be a bit of a nuisance.
Gill
My neighborhood is sort of strange. I live on a dead-end street in an area that no surrounding towns want to claim responsibility for, and unfortunately it’s not hard to see why. It is interesting however that on my short street there is a very diverse populace; the ethnic spectrum is fairly broad. At the same time nobody seems to communicate with each other, it’s the most frustratingly unfriendly grouping of people. One of my immediate neighbors actually stated that they don’t really have time nor do they like to meet new people, literally, and they never have friends over. Two streets over is gangland, with the Culver City Locos or whatever, we share a tiny park at the end of our streets. Sometimes there is unpleasantness.
Word of mouth is… This area was all serious gang territory back in the 60’s and most families left. Many of the properties were bought at low prices by younger people willing to put up with a sketchier neighborhood. Eventually it was brought back to a more family filled residential street. One would think that with such a past everyone would be friendlier here, but in general, it must have had the opposite effect. It has been said that Los Angeles was never meant to be a place to settle, not that I agree with that statement, but it sort of sums up how I feel about my current neighborhood. This is only my neighborhood because I happen to live here at the moment, but I have no allegiance to it, and I do plan on leaving. Maybe that’s how all my neighbors feel as well.
The publicized history of Culver City is all about films and the old studios, which is a major part of the city’s history. The city was perfectly placed right on a waterway, which is now a concrete rain gutter, and the railroad, which no longer exists even though the entire county is lacking in all forms of public transit. Because of the manufacturing convenience these aspects presented, Culver City was also basically an industrial wasteland of factories and oil drilling. The dereks can still be seen everywhere throughout the area, some still lurk, hidden in the protected salt marsh of Ballona Creek.
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"I’m from Menifee, California. Do you know where that is?" by Kristina Grindstaff
Menifee
Photo taken January 27, 2013

Even though, Menifee is a city located in Riverside County I would not be surprised if you have not heard of it. Menifee recently made its dot on the map when it became a city, on October 1st 2008. More than likely, one might have passed through the city while driving on the 215 freeway, but never took much interest into knowing more about it. Before this date, the individual and small neighboring communities Sun City, Quail Valley, Romolalnd, Paloma Valley and Menifee all together framed the newly official incorporated city of Menifee. The 215 freeway runs north and south and is the only freeway within these boundaries. As this is a new development, I personally like to refer these neighbor hoods by their former names.

I love my neighborhood for many reasons. Family and friends that I have known from my childhood to now shaped my life. I attended schools that pertained to the Menifee District until I reached High School. I graduated from Paloma Valley High School; this school is within the city boundaries yet belong to the Perris Union High School District. To this date the district does not have a high school.  Menifee is considered to be a valley or countryside area and I want to share how others can love small communities too.

Carlos & Maria Estrada
Photo taken January 27, 2013

Above is a picture of my grandparents, Carlos and Maria Estrada in front of their house. They have been living here for over 35 years and raised seven children. When my grandparents moved to Sun City, their house was the first one built on Chambers Avenue. My grandpa designed most of the landscape and architecture of the house and even in his seventy’s; he still continues to work on the house. He truly is a hard worker. Their house is significant to me because it is considered “home”. It holds memories of my childhood with my siblings and cousins, holidays, celebrations, family gatherings, dinners and more. It’s grandmas’ and grandpa’s house—A place the family always knows they are welcomed.

Sun City was originally designed to be a community for senior citizens. Therefore, it is normal to see golf carts driving on the road along with the cars since the roads and homes surround the golf course. The golf course was also created for the purpose of Sun City being a retirement neighborhood. Majority of them today are still retirement houses for the elderly but over the years more families have came to live in Sun City as new homes and apartments have been built.

My grandfather began his self-employed career in this neighborhood by providing construction and landscape services to the retired population. His work decorated many other’s lives; their homes and the city itself by his creative designs in building walls; setting concrete and rock along with, plants; trees and shrubs. Many of his original work still stand after fifty years. It is a particular pride of mine to know that I have this awesome knowledge to share and state that he contributed to the development of this city and which I hold as personal history.

House
Photo taken January 27, 2013   

This snap shot is one of the many houses, my grandpa worked on. He built the brick wall along the side of the house, (which decorate all through out the town) and the picture also displays the original plants from when the house was built.

My grandfather’s business traveled by word of mouth and homeowners.

Below is a picture of another wall he built showing how the roots from the trees have grown and actually broke the bricks apart.

Broken wall
Photo taken January 27, 2013

I have also been able to witness my neighborhood grow. I still remember the commotion of good news when Menifee finally became a city. Soon after more businesses finally began developing. The Countryside Marketplace aka: “The hub” is the main shopping center where the majority of the people who live in Menifee go to shop.

Countryside Marketplace
Photo taken January 27, 2013

A list of the popular stores in the shopping center is:
Super Target
Best Buy
Kohls
Lowes
Sport Chalet
Michaels
TJ Max
Staples
Tilly’s

     

A list of the few places to eat is:
Chipotle
Subway
Starbucks
Menifee Breakfast Club
Beer Hunter
In-N-out
BJ’s
Red Robbins
Panera Bread
Miguel’s Jr

     
These may sound like some popular stores and restaurants world wide and so common to find in a larger city but the new shopping center was drastic towards the development of Menifee as a new city. Before the hub’s grand opening, we would have to drive to Murrieta or Temecula, which is the next local cities fifteen to twenty miles away, in order to go shopping.
Menifee
Photo taken January 27, 2013

Since the grand opening of the hub it became a new spot to hangout. During my senior year, my friends and I would leave campus and go out to eat for lunch. It was convenient because it is only about a mile away from my high school campus. My favorite day is when Chipotle would do Free Burrito Day if you would show a valid school I.D. So far, I only know of the Menifee Chipotle who offers that type of deal. In-N-out is another spot that I would go with friends to enjoy a good time and it is one of the only, if not, only restaurant that has inside seating open late. The city is slowly continuing to develop the shopping center in order to add more businesses to the city.

Menifee Lakes
Photo taken January 27, 2013

Menifee Lakes is a man made lake that was built for the private residential area which circles the lake, but it actually benefits the whole community of Menifee. It is a beautiful place to enjoy picnics, fish, jogging, bicycle rides, and occasionally they offer paddleboat rides.

Menifee Lakes
Photo taken January 27, 2013

Many of the locals come to take photos here. I have seen the lake be used as a backdrop for wedding photos, family, quinceñera and prom pictures. I came here for my senior prom to take pictures underneath the gazebo overlooking the lake. It is a great view and the community does an excellent job in maintaining the beauty of the lake.

Wheatfield Park

Menifee has many parks but my favorite is Wheatfield Park. It is across from Menifee Lakes and every year this is where the entire community joins together to celebrate Menifee’s Birthday. The whole city becomes involved and there are so many volunteers who help coordinate the event. It is a giant festival, with all types of activities and so many locals show up to enjoy face painting, dancing, games, prizes, fireworks, funnel cake and all other fair type food. Another event I enjoy is when Wheatfield shows movies in the park. And of course the park is a place for everyone to stay active; many come to play volleyball, basketball, baseball, and soccer. It is a great outdoor environment for all to enjoy and experience a natural living.

Overall, Menifee is a small community but I love the personal connection I have with the city. The history that I share with my neighborhood is appreciable because it is where I have grown up and made my friends. It is stereotyped that small cities are not as exciting as the large city but with the shops and activities Menifee offers, it is even better because its local and missing all the traffic that tends to come with a over populated area. Instead, Menifee is filled with open space to enjoy nature and a countryside feeling, which individuals should appreciate. 

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"Monterey Park" Emmelyn Gu
I’ve lived in the humble city of Monterey Park for 18 years; it is where I’ve grown up and it is where I spend the majority of my time. Whenever I look at my city, whether it be at a house, a school, or even a market, a memory would rush into my mind. Many people may think Monterey Park is a boring city, but to me, it is a place where fun memories are made and old memories can be remembered.
My View
(Title: My View; Location: My house; Date: 1/20/13)
This is the view from my backyard that I have seen every night since I was a baby. I look at my view to see fireworks at night during New Year’s and the 4th of July. Also, in the mornings, I would look over my fence and see the small hiking trail behind my house that I used to walk on with my family. And sometimes when I can’t sleep, I’ll look outside and wait to hear the train pass by. I do this because I always went to my dad whenever I couldn’t sleep when I was little. He would always get out of bed and carry me to the patio where the view is best seen. He always carried me in a way where I would be facing the window and I would look at the view and listen to the train until I would fall asleep. I love looking at my view because it reminds me of my dad, a piece of my childhood, and fun holidays.
New Avenue School
(Title: New Ave School; Location: New Avenue; Date: 1/31/13)
New Avenue School: This is where most of my childhood was spent. I started attending ever since I was in pre-school all the way till 7th grade. I remember my favorite teachers, playing tag, pizza parties, old friends, roller backpacks, Christmas performances, fieldtrips, uniforms, and more; childhood bliss. One of my fondest memories was when I was in Kindergarten. My mom told my teacher about the fact that I would belt out the Titanic song “My Heart Will Go On” at home so she came up with the idea to make me perform in front of my sister’s 3rd grade class. I remember being very excited but, when the time came to sing, I was extremely nervous. I, with my blushing face and sweaty palms, was put in front of 20 giggling students. In the end, I brought out all my courage and sang my heart out. It was such an embarrassing moment, but it was a fun experience and it also makes a great childhood memory
Atlantic Times Square
(Title: Atlantic Times Square; Location: Atlantic Blvd; Date: 1/20/13)
Wong Fu
(Title: WongFu; Location: Atlantic Times Square; Date; 6/13/12)

In high school, students would always complain how there wasn’t much to do afterschool. In my freshman and sophomore year, this was pretty true. There wasn’t anything very fun to do nearby school so I remember having to walk long distances with my friends while carrying our books and backpacks just to get something to eat. But in 2011, Atlantic Times Square opened and it became the new watering hole for the people in Monterey Park and Alhambra, especially teens and young adults. There are great places to eat, a variety of places to shop at, and new movies to watch. A great memory that sticks out to me was when I met Youtube stars, JustKidding Films and WongFu Productions. Since the area is fairly new, it is a nice place for them to film videos and eat. I was very grateful when Atlantic Times Square opened because it was one of the things that made senior year of high school so fun. Atlantic Times Square is entertaining, convenient, and a great place to make new memories with friends and family.

Warm and Sunny Street
(Title: Warm and Sunny Street; Location: Fulton Dr.; Date: 1/19/13)

During winter break, I went to Taiwan with my family for vacation and to celebrate my cousin’s wedding. I always love going back to Taiwan because I get to see my family and eat great food. But when I came back to Monterey Park, my sister and I had very bad jet lag. We would get sleepy at 11 AM and wake up at 3 AM. After about a week, we started to sleep at 8 PM and wake up at 6 AM. There isn’t much to watch on TV at 6 in the morning and we gained weight from all the food in Taiwan so we decided to start taking walks. It was quite cold in the winter mornings and we would always try to find a sunny area to walk in. But one day, we found a very warm and sunny street and would walk back and

forth about 4 or 5 times every morning. We have claimed the street down our hill as our own and named it “The Warm and Sunny Street.” Now, we walk there every morning and have made it our daily routine. I will always remember the conversations and dumb jokes my sister and I make on our new street. Through reminiscing, I learned that my city means a lot to me. It is where I spent my childhood and learned to have courage, it is a place where I have the most fun while hanging out with friends, it is a place where I walk and feel the safest because of the quiet and warmth it brings, and it is a place where I spend time with my family in a house I’ve lived in since birth. But most importantly, it is a place where I can make memories. I love my city because it is the place where I can think back on my memories and it is a place where new memories can be made.
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"Elysian Park" by Leyi Guan
guan
My neighborhood is a home to everybody because it is very safe and secure. People even feel at home because you have others that care about you. We always help each other when we have a problem. We also make a great school and community together. Helping out makes everybody feels safe about this community.
Our school is the Solano Avenue School. It is our community school to everybody. Solano make everybody feel at home because everybody works their hardest to succeed and we also have a model for our school and it is, “Believe in yourself, Work hard, Get Smart.” When you believe you can succeed. When you work hard you can have whatever you want and when you get smart that is when you reach your goal of whatever you want to achieve in.

Our community garden is a great place for kids and their parents to help out and have a good time. it is a great environment for kids to learn about growing plants and how species live there. They can play and feel like a big family with others around you. You can make new friends that had just moved here to this neighborhood. That is how new neighbors can feel that they are at home. We have a community park and it is a park where you can have fun. Kids can go there to play and adults can hang out and rest. Children can join a team to play: baseball, basketball, soccer, or tennis. Our community park is around the police station, and also near the Dodger Stadium. In the morning seniors always go exercise around the park so they could be healthy. On the weekends or holidays the park will be crowed of people because kids don’t have to go to school and the adults don’t have to go to work.

Sometimes there are many parties around the park because they celebrate somebodies birthday for their family, for a holiday, or celebrating an important moment in their lives. People always invite their relatives and friends to their party. Our community have a very good transportation because we have the Metro and Dash buses also we have the Union Station. The Union Station is a train station where the train takes people all over the country. We have the Lax airport to transport people around the world. So this is how people can go to places easier. Everybody in this community have good relationship towards each other.

Everybody gives and shares with each other so we can become good friends. We help each other when we are in trouble and that is what we do as a neighbor in this neighborhood. We also help the homeless for Christmas and Thanksgiving by giving can food and cereal and other stuff that can help the homeless so they can have a holiday themselfs. Our community market is very useful because you can get groceries there and it is very close around the neighborhood. You can buy foods and supplies there. When ever you need supplies you can go to the market to get the supplies you need. When you are out of food you can go to the market to buy food. So our community market is very useful. We have a community hospital that is very helpful to people. When people get hurt they can go to the hospital to cure themselfs. The hospital is a very useful place for people who are injured. They can help people that needs their help. So the hospital is a very helpful place to go to.
We have restaurant that is for the community. The restaurants are useful too because the restaurant is when you go out and eat a fancy dinner or just go out and eat a peaceful dinner with your family. The restaurant is also useful because when you have guest over you can invite them to a restaurant to eat dinner. So that is why a restaurant is useful to the community.
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"Eagle Rock: An Improbable Place" Maureen De Guzman
When asked to write an 800+ word essay about my neighborhood of Eagle Rock, I was surprised that we would write about something so close to home, literally. I thought in an English class, we would be asked to write a philosophical paper about the groundbreaking context of Pride and Prejudice or the meaning of life in War and Peace. But why can’t my neighborhood be thought about in a philosophical way? Who is to say my neighborhood cannot be inspiring or thought- provoking? So I began to think more critically and deeply about the places in my neighborhood. As I thought about the sites that are significant to me, I wondered how these spaces conceptually came to exist in the first place; how the world conspired to make these improbable places I spend time in and form the miraculous places I find home.
The Multifunctional Building
I began going around Eagle Rock and drove to my younger brother’s elementary school. I stood outside where the sign currently hangs and where the school’s ideals and standards are on display. “Eagle Rock Baptist Church” and “Normal is broke… Be Weird” also hung on the same face. This place, used for primary education, worship, and financial assistance, does not seem at all strange to me since my brother goes to school here, some of my neighbors go to this church, and, presumably, those with monetary problems go to seek help.
The "Do Good-Get Paid" Center
The next place I visited was a recycling center. Located at our local “mall,” members of our community go to this place to get paid for being an environmentally conscious person. Even though recycling should be a simple, everyday responsibility, the monetary reward serves as an incentive for the average Eagle Rockian to stock up on recyclable milk jugs and empty soda cans provided that each can is 5 to 10 cents. Our high school’s Recycling Club, for which I was the Vice President, actually capitalized on this exchange and planted an indigenous garden paid for by those 5 cent cans. Speaking of “mall,” the Eagle Rock Plaza is nothing more than a gathering place for Filipinos to buy groceries, including seafood, and to eat both American and Filipino delicacies including sweet potato tots at a discount. I am one of those Filipinos. I use this space to shop for meats, vegetables, and Asian snacks that I would not normally find at a mall or a Vons. And I do eat Filipino specialty dishes like Jollibee chicken and Goldilocks cake on occasion. Eagle Rock Plaza is our place to buy dinner, rather than look for what to wear to dinner.
The Giant Supermarket
 

But there are other local restaurants to eat in and other shops to buy clothes in around Eagle Rock as well.  Just by walking down Colorado and Eagle Rock Boulevard, local cafés, restaurants, and small resale shops line up, exuding friendliness and a bohemian attitude. Many members of our community meet at these local hot spots bringing along well groomed dogs, Apple products, and warm cardigans all while listening to indie music.  Every Saturday I myself participate in supporting local business.  I buy a Mayan Hot Chocolate and an Organic Bagel with Cream Cheese at SWORKS, and then stroll over to Owl Talk to browse through their new- to- me, vintage clothes. If I want a change from my normal coffee date, I can always cross the street and visit Starbucks.

Occidental College

And this bohemian attitude most likely originates from the site our town was centered on, Occidental College.  This small, private college is known for being a leader in the liberal arts and sciences, a place of intimate scale and infinite scope, a community in conversation, a home, and where President Obama went to get his education (descriptions according to Occidental College website, oxy.edu).  All I know of Occidental College is that 38% of its applicants get into the school, that it costs over $57,000 a year to attend, and that I did not apply.

Occidental
After walking/ driving through Eagle Rock, I did think “this is no Pride and Prejudice or War and Peace."The historical context of Eagle Rock did not interest me, nor did its landmarks or other places that we would think significance lays. What caught my attention instead were the quirky and surprising places that I always go to and pass by. The fact that my brother’s elementary school is a also a church and a financial consultant; that the Recycling Center paid our high school to do what is supposed to be an everyday duty; that the mall is a place to buy food rather than clothes; that directly across the street from local stores are big chain businesses; and that our town is centered around a college I did not apply to, make Eagle Rock a truly remarkable, almost improbable place to live in.  How the world ever began thinking what to make this place into or what the chances were that these specific and individual sites would be embedded in this particular space seem to be created completely by chance, miraculous chance.  But maybe the miracle of creation is only miraculous because of how we fit into it.  How we mold ourselves into it; how we become a part of it; how it fits over us like skin.  But what makes this place miraculous, is not because of the infinite probability of it all, although it is all infinitely improbable, but because of the relationship we have with the land, with the animals, with each other, and with ourselves.  Eagle Rock is an improbable space, but it is even more improbable that I would live anywhere else.
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"In Memory" by Gabrielle Garcia (Lincoln Heights)
My left foot pushed back the pavement beneath me like the pages of a dirty magazine in a young boys hands---quickly. My right foot stood planted strong upon my skateboard. I was getting so much closer to my destination, Broadway in Lincoln Heights. I don’t recall if I was traveling there to meet up with my best friends, the “block” on avenue 32, a group of teenage boys that have hung out on the same street for most of their adolescent lives, skating, trying to pick up girls, breaking in to schools to skate more, etc. Perhaps, I was skating to the old Lincoln Heights Art Gallery, where the youth had a place to just kick it and paint, or talk chisme. Well, to be honest, I was skating to school, late as usual. Either way, I was hauling ass.
I was just about to get there, when I heard someone call out my nickname.
“GABBY!!!”
“WHAT?!”
You see, Broadway is the type of street where you run in to at least five people within minutes. All good friends all excited to see you, and all wanting to know what’s on your agenda. So were not afraid to be loud, not my friends anyway. This is our famous front yard.
With Lincoln High School, one of the first public schools established in California, also part of the Walkouts in 68’, beautiful homes built in various Victorian styles; and close knit shops sprinkled everywhere, it’s no wonder why we’ve had tons of screen shots filmed here. “S.W.A.T.” was filmed in our old bank that’s now a CVS, “Yes Man” was filmed nearby the local funeral home, even Dr. Dre’s “Dre Day” was filmed by the Pasadena Freeway Entrance on Lacy Street.
That glamorous side of my little everything doesn’t really strike me as amazing, what does, is the residents. I can take you to the best taco truck, or the best corn vendor, at Friday around 11 P.M. and walk calmly down the dark streets, while the breeze lifts your hair sweetly. I can introduce you to the old time gangsters, or the city council members. I can introduce you to the burn outs, or the Magnet kids of Lincoln, which I’m positive, will be elected one day.
 
Of course, not everyone may feel this way. Some of us don’t want to be stuck here; some of us want to own a house instead of a one bedroom apartment. However, I can promise you, Lincoln Heights has created within me, the spark of inspiration that will never burn out. It’s drawn out from a connection of community. Sure we get our car stereos stolen, maybe even the whole car, we get into violent fights, but we also build friendships, we establish organizations, and music groups, and when we lose something so real, something so sacred, such as a life; we connect like the strong bonds of a solid crystal, celebrating the life that thrived so greatly in our Lincoln Heights. Close friends of mine have closed their eyes forever on these streets. Their memories always replaying in the midst of the air, just as mine will when I pass. No matter how far up or across I go in life, I will always recall the shenanigans I balanced out with education both book wise, and street wise, here on Broadway in Lincoln Heights. Dedicated to the memory of Justin Carrillo & Michelle Lozano
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"Silverlake" by Alyssa Spelios Hudson

When I relocated to Los Angeles just under a year ago, I was, at best, only vaguely aware of  the almost city-state like nature of the disparate contiguities that make up the vast metro area. My apartment-finding process was motivated more by proximity to building specific washer-and-dryers than to any particular neighborhood feature, and, after taking into account some lesser factors like toilet workability and storage space availability I took up residence in an apartment in Silverlake that was mere steps from clothes cleaning facilities. In my naivety regarding L.A. precincts, I was entirely unaware that I had moved into the most widely stereotyped neighborhoods in the United States. Youtube videos, blogs, and even newspaper articles parodied the abundance of vegan restaurants, organic grocery stores, and the existence of not one but two American Apparels in the 2.75 sq mi. hill-nested community that was my newly-adopted home.

While the excessive online material mocking Silverlake may be rooted in some semblance of truth, my eventual establishment of daily rituals and discovery of favorite businesses to frequent have turned this washer-and-dryer equipped place into a home. The real significance of a locale lies not in attributed platitudes but in the day-to-day significance of its landmarks for its inhabitants, and through the relationships that residents have with habitually frequented places neighborhoods become vibrantly dynamic places, incapable of being encompassed in any kind of stereotype.

Silverlake

The most cliche visit to Silverlake involves a quick drive down Sunset Blvd., a stop at Sunset junction to wait in an overly long coffee shop line and maybe a quick turn through a store vending locally designed or vintage clothing.

Sunset Boulevard

But the above mentioned cursory stop barely scratches the surface of the eclectic businesses juxtaposed along Silverlake’s streets, and, while the Sunset Junction sign is one of the most iconic, commonly photographed places in the approximate vicinity, other vendors in the area rarely get such attention. Few people, for example, notice the El Pollo Loco on the other side of the intersection or even the genre-incompatible knick-knack shop across the street that boasts the most stunningly complete supply of incense I’ve ever seen.

Sunset Junction
Silverlake

The 2.70 miles not included in the Sunset Junction region of Silverlake receive even less attention, but, since I moved here, there’s a several mile stretch that has become rather entrenched in my weekly routine. At least once a weekend, my infuriation with L.A. drivers grows unbearable enough that I give up cars for a 24-hour period and spend the entire day on foot, trekking a typically unwavering path past the places most vital to my immediate survival. Said path begins just outside my second story apartment that overlooks the occasionally disgustingly beautiful Silverlake Blvd.

Silverlake

From there I descend the stairs and follow Silverlake Blvd. north along the neighborhood’s primary axis.

Silverlake

My path takes me under Sunset Blvd. via an underpass that’s strangely always speckled with uneaten pastries clustered around mattresses that are too small to sleep anyone of adult size and past what I imagine is some of the least publicly-menacing graffiti in the city. Although the specific street art has changed several times since I moved here, typical subjects include motivational sayings, enthusiastic octopi, and various underwater craft.

Silverlake
Silverlake

After winding through some apartment-lined stretches of roadway, I weave past some local businesses of the nearly functional home decor variety and a coffee shop that sells one of the best best cappuccinos I’ve ever tasted for an inscrutable price exceeding $5.00.

Silverlake

Cosseted in along this aisle of non-chain stores is a 7-11 that has become rather indispensable for in my life for all of those individually portioned sugar cereals, iced teas, and pine-scented hand wipes that are ever so necessary after 1:00 a.m.

Silverlake

An upward slant in the street takes me by shops of increasingly indescribable purposes and eventually plateaus circa the namesake lake of Silverlake, the reservoirlike quality of which is reminiscent of a cluster of ponds I used to visit with my parents. Even though access to the actual water is inhibited by a chain-link fence, widespread visitation of the lake and its adjacent facilities, included a dog park segregated into separate sections for larger and smaller canines, is a true testament to people’s desire for a little bit of nature even in a place as concrete-covered as Los Angeles, but Silverlake in general stands out in the city as being exceptionally forested. The harsh angles of its sun-faded roofs are often softened with leafy palms and spindly fur tress that bring to mind Dr. Seuss illustrations.

Silverlake
Silverlake

After rounding the lake, I cut through the hills following the nonsensically wound residential streets in a v-line towards Trader Joes, the major grocery store in the area whose brown and red shopping bags often dapple the surrounding streets.

Silverlake
Silverlake

While Silverlake gets a lot of flack from online media, daily existence in any neighborhood is dynamically multi-dimensional and consequently incredibly noncategorical. My pedestrian excursion encompasses the locales that have become mainstays in my life, but my reliance on these places is hardly an individual trait. Residents everywhere develop vital ties to corner markets, quiet coffee shops, and nearby stores, and public places become emblems of nostalgia and icons the familial haven. Even businesses with locations all across the country can develop specific significance in their unique locations. Each neighborhood has a radiantly singular identity that is steeped in history and exceeds iconic attractions, but this inherent need to establish a sense of home unites citizens across the city, weaving them into the ever animate tapestry of Los Angeles.

Silverlake
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"Downtown Los Angeles" by Jessica Huynh

It wasn’t until I entered high school when I began to go around Downtown Los Angeles. My high school was located in Angelino Heights, which is relatively close to the heart of Downtown, about a mile away.

Photo 1

Photo 1: This photo was taken at Grand Central Market located at 3rd and Broadway
on January 16, 2013.

I spent much of my free time roaming around the city, admiring the different architecture, the variety of food, and diversity of people who all seem to know where they are going. As I spent my adolescence examining others, I’ve noticed one thing that others seem to just walk pass, which was the homeless begging for money. Los Angeles harbors one of the largest homeless populations in the nation. Although the numbers are so high they are often overlooked and forgotten, which shows that more people need to be aware about the homeless population and aid them through volunteering, donating to programs that help them, or pressuring the government to do something about it.
Photo 2
Photo 2: This photo is taken at 7th and Olive near
the heart of Downtown Los Angeles on January 16, 2013.
If you walk down 7th street from Figueroa up until Broadway, everything is clean and orderly, there are officers on bike patrolling the area, making sure things are safe and that homeless people weren’t on the streets. If you walk down the streets adjacent to 7th street, such as Grand, Hope, Flower, and Hill, they are all filled with well dressed people who work in the sky scrapers doing something business related. But once you past Broadway, the scenery changes quite dramatically. Suddenly the streets aren’t so clean and the racial mix up is quite different. Now you see the other side of Los Angeles, this is where the minorities live and work. These streets are often more crowded, with trash lying on the side.
Photo 3 Santee Alley
Photo 3: This photo is taken at Santee Alley, near 11th and Santee St on January 16, 2012.
If you go down further, the sights get even worse, in between 3rd and 7th street going north and south to Alameda and Main going east to west it is what is now known as Skid Row.
Skid Row
Photo 4: This photo was taken at Skid Row on January 16, 2012.
Thousands of homeless people consider these streets their home. The entire sidewalks of these streets are filled with homeless person after homeless person. Less than 2 miles away from the heart of downtown LA, where the business district lives, where people are financially well off, lives a population where people hardly visit since it’s so undesirable. The gap between the wealth and poverty in such little parameters is astounding. Los Angeles is a great city, with much diversity and wealth in culture. Many Angelinos are privileged to live in such great weather conditions and have many options to entertain themselves. People have the options of which restaurant they would like to eat in, what kind of clothes they would like to wear, and even what kind of movie they would like to see. But there are those who are less fortunate, those that can’t be picky about what they can do to have fun. There are those who aren’t even quite sure about what they will have for their next meal; or if they will even have one at all.
Skid Row
Picture 5: This photo was taken on Hill Street on January 20, 2012.
Many people coin the term “time is money” and that if you weren’t spending your time making money, then that time is wasted. But I would like to believe differently, I’d like to think if you spent your time enriching others, then it was time well spent. Many Angelinos give the occasional change to the begging homeless person, and hurry along their way without thinking about that person again. Although people would say “it’s the gesture that counts” which perhaps may be true, and they are thankful for what they can get, but by giving them little change we are only giving these homeless people a short term solution to their long term problems. What homeless people really need are long-term solutions, such as government aid to help them get back on their feet. Some programs that can help would be the development of more low income housing, in which homeless people can live in. Other programs that can be implemented are the creation of more homeless shelters, since the ones that already exist often reach capacity and they have to turn down people Many Angelinos never experience the fulfilling feeling of working at a homeless shelter, where they are really helping someone who is less fortunate. A good place to start volunteering would be the Union Rescue Mission, in which they help aid homeless people by providing food and shelter. If physical volunteering is not an option, then a person can always donate money to the Mission to help it keep running, and the money would be used to buy food for the homeless people.
Union Mission
Photo 6: This photo was taken 545 S. San Pedro St on January 16, 2012.
There are many options to help aid a homeless person. Angelinos can always volunteer at homeless shelters, donate to programs that help homeless people, and pressure the government to create or reinforce programs that will benefit homeless people. Homelessness is not something that people think of often; gradually it just became another common thing. If people were able to change their mindset about homelessness, then they can begin to produce positive change can help eventually eradicate homelessness altogether.
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"Mid City" by Maria Heman
When I meet people for the first time and they ask me where I am from I always tell them I am from L.A. Yet there are so many people that say they are from L.A. but are actually from other places in the county, or smaller cities in the vicinity of Los Angeles. I live in Mid city, which is essentially in the middle of Los Angeles. When people ask me what part of L.A I am from, I tell them Mid-City, and they mostly look at me with a puzzled face...they do not know where that is. I then find myself having to describe the streets and then they think they get it but they don't, they say, "oh! that's by East LA!" (which it is not.)
My home is mid city (90019), in between Downtown Los Angeles and the beach, minutes away from Hollywood. If I walk a couple of blocks down my house I can see the Hollywood Sign clearly. I have lived in the same house for all my life. My siblings have grown up here also. My parents moved to this house before I was born, so it is the house that has the most memories from all the other places they have lived. There is an elementary school right in front of my house, and I think It has a very important role in shaping my neighborhood. My three older siblings and I have attended Alta Loma Elementary School, and even had some of the same teachers. If I look outside my window, I always know what time it is because the kids will be either walking to school, at recess, or going home for the day. The sound of children resonates as the kids come out of school and the ice cream trucks, eloteros and granisado sellers come out to indulge the neighbors with sweets. My neighborhood is ethnically mixed; it is like a microcosm of the rest of Los Angeles. There are all types of ethnicities with the majority being Latinos, African Americans, Asians, and Caucasians.
I love the location of my home because it is easy access to everything. A short drive can get you to Hollywood, Culver City and downtown. Although the sidewalks, and some of the streets are laden with graffiti, shoes hanging from telephone poles, sofas/junk in front of people's houses, I have grown up this way and have never known anything different. This is where my family has embedded its most profound memories; my siblings and I growing up, my dogs, among other things. Although my home is mid city L.A, I always carry my memories, culture and everything that is important to me wherever I go; as Gloria Anzaldua says, "I am a turtle; wherever I go I carry home on my back."
"Chinatown" by Jason Hong

For me, growing up in my L.A. neighborhood was always an emulsion of areas.  Although my mind classifies it for the most part as Chinatown (how can I not, with mostly Asian neighbors?), my neighborhood is geographically more along the edges of Downtown L.A. and Chinatown, sitting on the rims.  Juxtaposed among Chinatown, Angelino Heights, and Victor Heights, I consider my neighborhood as “banlieues”—a lovely niche on its own.  It may not always be exactly safe, but there’s a certain charm to it.  With small condos, shabby apartments, and a few grand houses thrown into the shady mystique that defines Los Angeles, nobody in my neighborhood ever wanted to stay.  It was always a pervading ideal among all my peers to leave Chinatown and its surroundings for something different; however, if you look hard enough, you’ll see nuances that simply captivate your attention. 

Chinatown
One of the many hills of my neighborhood.
Walking around my neighborhood is always nuisance, not from laziness, but from the painful hike just to get from place to place! Considered by many as one of the steepest hills in Los Angeles, the mountain like expanses of my neighborhood get better as you climb higher (a bit ironic, to be honest). Going up the hills, I’m always enamored by the melting pot of retired entertainment industry workers and fired up college students that inhabit the hills’ higher regions—a stark contrast from the typical Asian working class that inhabits the hills’ lower regions. And when you finally make it up to the very top, you’re greeted with a wonderful breeze, the best sight around of Downtown, Dodger’s Stadium, and Echo Park, and…peacocks. Being on the borderline of Victor Heights, or the “Forgotten Edge” of L.A., peacocks thrive and fly around the hills’ very top, making walks an exotic experience—that is, if you’ve got the drive. Besides the birds, I love sitting down and cozying up with a good book at Victor Height’s Everett Park, which may possibly be the smallest park known to mankind.
skyline
A great view of Downtown L.A. from the top of a hill. It’s not uncommon to find people up at the very top enjoying taking photos or having a good drink. Watch out for peacocks!
 
Dodger Stadium

A view of Dodger’s Stadium from the top of the hill.

But despite the long walks and birds, my favorite part of my neighborhood has to be Carroll Avenue in Angelino Heights.  Probably the best kept secret of Downtown L.A., getting there entails yet another walk up a few hills (it’s worth it though, I promise!).  Hidden away by shabbier streets and houses, Carroll Avenue transports on goers into a pristine street straight from the 1900s.  With gorgeous Victorian houses, strange architecture, tall lampposts, and antique lawn ornaments, the street sends out an instant calm to any onlooker.  Personally, I’ve always enjoyed house 1329, also known the Charmed house.  As a TV show many of my friends enjoyed, looking at the Charmed house makes me reminiscent of my good, old middle school days.  And thinking retrospectively, it has definitely been a long time dream of mine to be able to tour one of the houses someday, especially after hearing about some of the residents’ stories (such as seeing a unicorn!). 

Carroll Street House

The “Charmed” house on Carroll Avenue.

Chinatown, of course, was always just a quick walk down the hills (yet another hill!). Attending Castelar Elementary School, spending days at the Chinatown Branch Library, and picking up a banh mi from Rainbow Bakery filled my days. To be frank, the area wasn’t exactly one to go parade around the streets on, with the many encounters and stories of pedophiles and crimes, but it still felt like home. Moreover, my favorite part of Chinatown is of course Old Chinatown (whose isn’t?). It has definitely faded from my elementary days of Chinese antique stores to its present art galleries due to gentrification, but I consider it as part of my life as any. I’m not exactly sure if I appreciate or detest the gentrification, but I do enjoy the mixture of art, hipster stores, and Chinese culture—an eccentric vibe only Chinatown can provide. Observing art among lanterns and wishing wells, what more could I want?
Old Chinatown

Old Chinatown, with its many art galleries, in broad daylight.         

Although everyone may digress from my neighborhood (it’s ingrained since elementary to leave dangerous L.A., with many schooling in the San Fernando Valley), everyone comes back to visit. As much as people may hate their roots, there’s just a certain beauty to it.  You just can’t deny it.
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"Thai Town" by Daphne Hsu
I lived in Thai Town for several years. I could just say I lived in Los Feliz, which is technically accurate but not true. When people think of Los Feliz they think of hipsters and yuppies in a walkable neighborhood in an otherwise unwalkable city.
Many people don’t think anything of Thai Town in that they don’t even know Los Angeles has a Thai Town. It borders Hollywood and has some of Hollywood’s dirty vibe—fun X-rated spots including the well-known striptease joint, Jumbo’s Clown Room. And Thai Town is literally dirty.
People leave old sofas and mattresses on the sidewalk. Once I saw an old couch with fresh fruits and vegetables on it for the taking. Waste not, want not. No one wanted them and it soon became an old couch with old fruits and vegetables. And then it became an old couch with rotting fruits and vegetables.

Thai Town is a neighborhood that had reinvented itself. The Thai BBQ joint looks like it was an old Mexican restaurant. And on the corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Western Avenue, no one can miss Thai Town Express, which still has an over-sized hot dog on its roof.
I picked Thai Town to live because it’s a little pocket of Los Angeles that is walkable and accessible. I can actually take public transit—the redline—to go to work downtown and the 101 Freeway is a couple of blocks away. There is a 24-hour Ralphs, a Starbucks, and a Ross on the corner of Hollywood and Western and of course there are plenty of Thai restaurants within walking distance of my apartment on Loma Linda Avenue. Thai Patio, Ruen Pair, and Red Corner Asia are all located in New Hollywood Plaza. And so is a $3.00 haircut place. Before you leave the plaza, don’t forget to stop at the Thai Dessert and Vegetarian Food. If you love coconut, bananas, or taro you won’t be disappointed.
The Ralphs never has any basil left when I want to make Thai basil chicken so I head to Thailand Plaza. As you head east on Hollywood Boulevard from Western Avenue, you’ll see an altar. Colorful plastic garlands adorn it. Its mosaic pieces glitter at night and a small light illuminates a small gold statue. The multi-faced, multi-armed wonder seems to welcome you to the plaza.
Located at the plaza is Silom Market. Items are stacked in open sagging boxes and there is dust on some of the merchandise. This doesn’t matter because the market has all the basil I need. It has bunches in plastic bags and the basil’s cheaper than at Ralphs. It also has things I don’t know what to do with. Canned young green jackfruit.5 Toddy palm paste. Mangosteens. As you head out of the market and into the parking garage, you see a vendor making fresh street food. The sweet smell of khanom bueang (crispy pancakes) greets you as you exit the store.
In short, this is my neighborhood. A little bit dirty, a bit tasty, and definitely Los Angeles.
Photo Captions:
1 Photograph #1: Motel, Hollywood Boulevard, Los Angeles, December 19, 2010
2 Photograph #2: Mexican?, Hollywood Boulevard, Los Angeles, December 19, 2010
3 Photograph #3: Welcome #1, Hollywood Boulevard, Los Angeles, December 19, 2010
4 Photograph #4: Welcome #2, Hollywood Boulevard, Los Angeles, December 19, 2010
5 Photograph #5: Young Green Jackfruit, Silom Market, Hollywood Boulevard, Los Angeles, December 19, 2010
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"Little Tokyo" by Hillary Jenks
jenks
“Home is Little Tokyo.” I know, because the mural on the wall of the Japanese Village Plaza says so. But I don’t know only because of that. I know because this is a place that is loved, even though many of those who love it do not live here. You can see that love in the care that went into the mural, painted by 500 individuals and organizations over three years, and the images it contains: dancers, workers, activists, elders, and children.
This is a place where people refuse to throw away their past. They hang on to old buildings, polish them up, and put them back to use instead. Across the street from the mural, the “chop suey” sign bathes First Street in kinetic neon, pointing hungry pedestrians to dishes new and old at the reopened Far East Café. A man at one of the cloistered wooden booths inside says, “When I bring my grandchildren next week, that will be five generations of my family to eat here.”
It’s not just the buildings – the stories are passed on too. Walk north along the former path of Central Avenue, with the old Nishi Honganji Buddhist temple on your left and the new Japanese American National Museum on your right, to the Go for Broke Memorial. In the middle of a hot, bare parking lot is an elderly man who seems to be waiting for you. He will walk around the stark black circle with you and tell you his story, how the 442nd Regimental Combat Team rescued the “Lost Battalion” in Italy or the top-secret exploits of the Military Intelligence Service in the Pacific. He asks nothing in return, except that you remember.
There are layers of such stories in Little Tokyo, and the telling of each is a labor of love. Sometimes they are waiting for you on the surface, like the veteran at the memorial, and sometimes you have to seek them out. At the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center, you sit in the hot brick plaza and wonder about the past that is buried beneath its blank red surface. You’ll find it just a few feet away from you, sloping away from ground level, in the cool shade of a Japanese garden. The stream that flows through the garden – split in two, struggling through rocks, only to merge peacefully beneath a bridge – represents the Japanese immigrant experience in the United States.
A woman dances the ondo in the August heat, as women before her have done in this spot on sixty-five previous summer evenings in celebration of family and community ties. Little Tokyo is a neighborhood filled with life as it honors the spirits of the dead, a place that protects the past without denying the future. Home is indeed Little Tokyo.
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"Upland" by Janine Johnson

When I tell people that I live in Upland, I usually get a blank look, when I proceed to tell them that its located about 30 miles east of Los Angeles on the edge of San Bernardino and Los Angeles counties, most people still have no idea what I'm talking about, or if they have some knowledge of the area they are under the impression that everyone who lives in San Bernardino County is a hick and that it is located in the middle of nowhere. Although this stereotype may hold true for some cities in San
Bernardino County, it is not true for Upland.

I have lived in Upland all of my life, and although I like to think of myself as a city girl at heart, I truly do love my hometown. Upland was founded a little over 100 years ago and was originally a town known for its lemon and orange groves. Today I think that maybe only one or two orchards still exist yet, an annual tradition in our town is the Lemon festival, which has the best lemonade, local vendors, sketchy carnival rides, and angst-y teenagers.

Some people are under the impression that the suburbs are full of homes that are mirror images of each other, with white picket fences and your stereotypical white family, but Upland is not so picturesque and perfect. The streets are lined with trees and the homes are home-y but not so manufactured looking. Upland is a diverse community, although it could be considered an upper middle class community there is a range of socioeconomic statuses from the very wealthy to working class, and there is also a huge variety of races.

There are things I both love and hate about the suburbs, I love the fact that there is hardly any traffic compared to LA, I love the big clean tree lined streets that run through our town, and I love the abundance of parking that I never have to pay for. There are also things that I really dislike such as the fact that every time I hang out with my friends we spend hours trying to figure out what to do or where to go, that basically the only things there are to do is to go to the mall and get fro yo (frozen yogurt), the lack of small and unique restaurants and stores, and the fact the fact that I have to drive every where I go. Even though I plan to leave Upland as soon as possible, this small suburb will always have a place in my heart, and there will always be aspects of it that I love.

Handel's Ice Cream

Handel’s Ice Cream
Handel’s is probably one of the best ice cream places around, and one of my favorite places in Upland. They seem to have thousands of ever changing delicious flavors of Ice cream. Every Wednesday is dollar scoop Wednesday, and it is perhaps the best deal ever. One summer I attempted to go there every Wednesday in hopes of trying every single flavor, but by the end of summer I was not even close to having tried every single flavor, but it was still a delicious adventure.

Euclid Avenue

Euclid Avenue
When Upland was first colonized its creators wanted to create the most beautiful street in the world, hence Euclid Avenue was created. Calling it the most beautiful street in the world might be quit a stretch, but it is very pretty and one of our town's greatest charms. It passes north and south through the entire city, there is a huge median lined with beautiful trees that provides a great path for running and sometimes even horseback riding. There are also many old beautiful houses that line the street. I really enjoy going for runs and driving along this street because it’s lovely scenery.

The Colonies

The Colonies
The colonies are probably one of my favorite places to go in Upland. They were only built around 8 years ago so they are still relatively new. Many people were upset when they were first built, since it was built on essentially the last piece of undeveloped land in Upland. But now, I don't know what I would do without this shopping center that is only five minutes from my house. It has great stores like Ulta, Target, and Kohl’s, and also some restaurants that I really enjoy. There is a great sushi place, Chick-fil-a, and a fast food Chinese place that had $2 bowls on Tuesdays There is also a Golden Spoon,
which I go to way too much. The Colonies is a great shopping center that is convenient, a great place to hang out, and a great asset to our town.

In-N-Out

In-N-Out
In-N-Out is quintessentially Californian, and I love the one that we have in Upland. It is one of the older restaurants that is all outdoors and that is what I love most about it. You get that classic In-N-Out feel when you eat here, which I feel lacks in the newer modern indoor restaurants.

The Mountains
The Mountains
This is not the best picture nor view of the San Gabriel mountains that are directly north of Upland, especially since Mt. Baldy is not even pictured. The mountains are probably one of my favorite parts of my hometown, I absolutely loved growing up near them. Since I was very young I can always remember these mountains being an important focal point in our community, they were how I told north from south, which I believed was how you could tell direction from any where on earth. They are filled with great hiking trails, and there are also a popular place for skiers and snowboarders in the winter. These mountains are especially pretty after it has just snowed. I truly cannot imagine living on flat land because it seems so boring and...flat. I love being near this beautiful mountain range.
Foothill Boulevard
Foothill Blvd
Foothill, also know as Route 66 passes through our town, with many local business, and it is one of the main thoroughfares that runs through our city. It acts as a divider between the north and south sides of Upland, the south side being the older part of the city. This street is also important since the only high school in Upland, creatively named Upland High, is located. Upland and I have a very love hate relationship, but although it does have some downfalls I truly is a great community. Although at first it my seem similar to every other suburb, it is a unique gem if you really take a chance to explore the scenery and business.
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"Eagle Rock: A Treat for your Senses" by Won Kim

            When you ask anyone about Eagle Rock, the most general and common responses are, “Where’s that? What’s there to do over there? Never been there, never heard of it”. Considering that the town of Eagle Rock is wedged between the luxury known as Glendale and the behemoth known as Downtown, it’s no surprise that the town is relatively unheard of. Even Wikipedia goes as far as to call Eagle Rock a generic town! Despite the majority consensus that the town is bland and tasteless, allow me to take you on a tour of Eagle Rock through your senses to highlight some aspects of the town’s uniqueness. So stick with me and allow your sense to indulge in the sights, smell, and taste that Eagle Rock has to offer.
            Let’s begin with the initial entry into Eagle Rock and work our way around the town. When exiting the 210 Freeway, what do you see directly to the right of you?

Eagle Rock

A mountain? Correct, but upon a second glance, this is no ordinary mountain. This mountain is where the town of Eagle Rock gets its namesake from. This is the Eagle Rock. Can you see the image of an eagle etched on the mountainside? Upon further inspection, you’re probably nodding your head and can vaguely see the shape of an eagle on the mountain, but let me ask you this, is it an outline of an eagle in flight or the side portrait of an eagle? Now you’re probably perplexed, but it’s all a matter of perspective. If you look at the mountain as a whole, you can see the side portrait of the eagle, but if you look at just the ridges present on the mountain, then you can see the eagle in motion.
            Once you’re done being amused by the optical illusion of the Eagle Rock, continue down the road and you’ll reach Colorado Blvd, or as I like to call it, Food Avenue.

Food Avenue

First things first, open your nostrils. Mmm, do you smell all the variety in the air? How about the little Italian Bakery over there? All those fresh, out of the oven goods. The sweet aroma that smells just like mom’s kitchen. I think I can smell strawberry jam… oh look at all those displays you can see from the window!

Displays

….. No effect? Well, truly the best experience is first-hand experience, one step anywhere near this bakery and the smell will instantly make you smile.
            Now aren’t you getting a bit hungry? I’m certain the aroma from the bakery must’ve made your mouth water at the very least. How about stopping to grab a quick bite before heading to our next destination? Let’s go to Pete’s Blue Chip where we can enjoy some classic right across the street from the bakery.

Pete's Blue Chip

Right from its exterior appearance to its interior appearance, this place is a blast from the past. Order whatever you would like from its diverse, retro menu, and why don’t you give their signature Blue Chip a try! Take a moment to take in all the smells coming from all angles of the restaurant, from the booth next to you to the kitchen. Now let’s eat our burger! Mmmm, now I wasn’t born back in the 1950’s, but I bet more than anything that this is how the burger and fries tasted and smell like back in the 50’s. There’s just this distinction present in the food here at Pete’s that’s not found in places such as McDonalds and Burger King. Each burger tastes special, and each fry has the perfect amount of seasoning to it.
            Yum, that was good. If you’re finished and ready to move on, our next stop is Hill Drive.

Hill Drive

Doesn’t this street just look and feel peaceful with all the large trees giving you shade? …. Now hang on there, this looks like an ordinary street, right? Nope, this street was used in the movie 500 Days of Summer. On Hill Drive is where the home of Tom's little sister Rachel (Chloë Grace Moretz) was located, and where the two were seen together playing video games. Let’s see if you can recognize it! The street just got a lot more appealing, hasn’t it?
            You’ll be surprised to know that ironically because of Eagle Rock’s status as a generic town, it actually works to its advantage and actually makes the town more unique as the town has been a favored film location. Occidental College has been used several times for programs such as Star Trek and Beverly Hills 90210, and the Eagle Rock Mall has been used frequently as a background for music videos, Glee being a frequent example. Capri’s, an Italian restaurant, was featured in an episode of Kitchen Nightmares! But I suppose we can’t brag about the fact that we needed to bring Gordon Ramsey in the first place to come save this restaurant. But, because of Gordon Ramsey’s help, the restaurant has been turned around from a disaster to a success story and now has become quite a popular location! As our tour draws to its conclusion, the final stop is this little intersection between Eagle Rock Blvd and Colorado Blvd.

Eagle Rock Boulevard and Colorado Boulevard
This iconic intersection has frequently been used as a backdrop for many movies and television shows, and it’s not surprising due to the fact that you can see the town for a great distance ahead and the always lovable, yearlong, iconic Coca Cola advertisement. With this tour, I hope your senses got to treat themselves today with all the sights Eagle Rock has to offer, and the smell and the taste the many food establishments had to offer. And I hope you come to realize that Eagle Rock is not just another bland, “anywhere” town. With that, we hope to see you soon in Eagle Rock!

Picture #1: The Eagle Rock, Eagle Rock, Los Angeles, January 22, 2013            
Picture #2: “Food Avenue”, Colorado Blvd, January 27, 2013
Picture #3: Smell that bakery, Colorado Blvd, January 27, 2013
Picture #4: Good ol’ fashioned Pete’s, Colorado Blvd, January 27, 2013
Picture #5: 500 Days of Summer Home, Hill Drive, January 27, 2013
Picture #6: Backdrop exit, Eagle Rock Blvd, January 27, 2013

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"We Help Each Other Out" by Johnny Liang
What makes my neighborhood is home because when we help each other out and to work together in our nieghborhood. This neighborhood is clean and healthy and that why this neighborhood is like a home to us.
Our neighborhood protects our community and our home to because people work really hard to stay up and watch out the neighborhood if something goes wrong or really wrong. This neighborhood is really clean and if we mess it up like only one person mess this up. The whole neighborhood will help us clean it so that we could work together like as a team. This neighborhood is not smelly,dirty,nasty, and really terrible because we help each other and work together to provide a safe and healthy neighborhood. Our neighborhood helps other neighborhood or community to provide a good and the best neighborhood ever.
Our neighborhood has been really nice to us and they should be proud of themselves and we should be to. Our neighborhood never stop working, helping, cleaning and making this a better neighborhood for us. This makes our home neat, clean, and like a sanitized place. This place looks like it just been built right now. This very best neighborhood should be really proud of themselves for not letting this neighborhood down and to provide the best homes we ever have.
People from other neighborhood says that this neighborhood is the best and ask how you make this neighborhood likes this. We said we work together like a team to provide safety and cleanness. That's why this neighborhood should be a home to us.
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"Chinatown" by Gloria Lin
lin
I moved into the 90012 just under two years ago. My intentions when searching for a place? I was looking for a nice, livable area, decent rent, and not too far from work.
What I happily stumbled upon, in addition to my 15 minute commute, was a lively, breathing community of families and colors in Chinatown. A vibrant array of lights up and down Broadway, the students that walk to their cars along Figueroa, the hipsters along Chung King Road.
Not being from the area originally, I had stereotypes in my head about the way Chinatown was in the 1980s. In some ways it like that but now it is also so much more.
Chinatown is a mix of the old and new, with a bit of kitsch thrown in. I’ve been coming here for years, even before I lived here. Some of my favorite nooks and crannies? Pho 87, Foo Chow of “Jackie Chan’s ‘Rush Hour’ was filmed here” fame, Mountain Bar, Grand Star Jazz Club, Hop Louie, Asian Noodle, Chow Fun, Virginia’s Mini Market, the back galleries on Chung King Road, and my all time favorite, the Wishing Well, which after a long wait has flowing water again.
The days and nights are different here. The days are filled with shopkeepers sweeping their store fronts, people stomping in to buy money trees, young men playing basketball at the Alpine Recreation Center. Places packed for lunch.
The nights are an influx of young people from surrounding communties. Art Galleries. Yang Chow. People hanging around or sometimes even dancing in the streets.

But Chinatown actually has a community that is here even when people go home. It is full of children, seniors and everyone in between. It’s a bit of the melting pot of the world in just a few square miles.
Now it is home. 90012 is my home because of the hellos I get from my regular stomping grounds. Going to get the mail can be an adventure in and of itself, running into new friends and old on the street.
Home is where you can be yourself. No pretense. Home is where you make your nest. Where friends come to join you and you what to share all that you have with them. Chinatown has so much to offer. This is a real community. People go to school here. They have families here. The struggle here. They love here. Generations grow up beside each other, 3 or 4 generations maybe all under one roof. People wash their own cars and hang their laundry out to dry. The sounds of different languages waft out the windows. It’s a but of the old world mixed in with the new.
And you can sometimes even get tired of home. But nothing will beat it.
Where else in Los Angeles can you go where people still walk to the market for fresh fruit or a cream puff from the corner bakery and still have a view of the stunning downtown skyline?
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"Alhambra" by Michelle Alexandra Lopez
Alhambra
Alhambra is not just a city but it is a place of personal fulfillment. I say this because many families feel as if Alhambra is a passage of success and rising their class status. When I lived in El Sereno, Los Angeles, CA, as a little girl I remember many used to talk about dreaming of moving into Alhambra. They use to say how Alhambra was so nice, clean, and away from the dirty streets and nosy neighbors. Growing up, this was my parent’s goal, moving, so that their daughter could attend Alhambra High School and not Wilson High School.
Alhambra
You see, as you drive down Huntington Drive and get to Main Street (located in Alhambra) you see the difference of social class. It is almost absurd to sit her and try to explain the differences but that is what Alhambra and Los Angeles hold that are so different from other cities. Never have I been so close and aware of the distinction and division of people and their homes within blocks. You turn to one side and there you see Los Angeles with some graffiti and more people waiting for the bus and old homes you turn to the other side and Alhambra stands clean of graffiti and with almost no one waiting for the bus but with fancy cars and asian restaurants on every corner. I do not mean to be judgmental nor do I want to say one city is better then the other because every city has its beauty but I do want to explain what is shown behind our backyards, simply by driving you can tell the difference of what city is struggling to survive and which one seems be living off the luxuries.
Alhambra
Alhambra provides change for families. Many families go through bumpy roads and coming from a family of many bumpy roads Alhambra was the feelings of success for a middle class family, of course. Once you start living in Alhambra the culture, the environment, the people, the entertainment, everything you can think of why I loved Los Angeles changed. When you enter a city where you are no longer a majority you have to adapt to the way the major lives in that certain city. Alhambra almost sets an expectation of what the “american life” should be, I don’t know if that is a good thing or a bad thing. 
Alhambra

There is a divider between people and it almost gives you the impression that certain people live on one side of the city and that other type of people live on the other side, forgetting we are all humans. I know Alhambra is a place of moving and changing to have a better life, especially for raising children. But Alhambra is also an example of separating what is worthy and what is not worthy. When driving down Huntington Drive, the Welcome to Alhambra sign shows up that is right in front of the BMW car dealer and it is nice and well taken care, but, if you look back as if your leaving Alhambra the back of the sign is written all of over with random names. I think this just explains what I have been trying to explain.

Alhambra
I love Alhambra because it is peaceful, clean, quiet, safe, and fun. Alhambra is a good city to live in but many people just want to make it over to Alhambra and as long as they get there they forget where they came from. Families jump over that one city and forget there struggles. Many forget what Alhambra represents for them and also what it represents in the background. 
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"Home where you can still feel alone" (Santa Ana) by Jesus Lopez
home
Home.

I don’t know much about my neighborhood I am always inside oblivious to everything happening out-side. I have vague memories of where I used to live before moving to my current home. The thing that stood out the most was some kind of game where everyone would throw acorns, or something that looked like it, at each other young kids teens and I think the adults would all participate. We moved after I finished kindergarten, from apartments on S Birch to a house on 6th St. My parent are pretty over protective they never really let me or my siblings play outside, we were always inside watching TV or playing video games. My neighborhood was pretty dangerous when I was younger, drug dealing neighbors and some shootings, at least that’s what everybody said. Now it’s a lot calmer except for the fireworks, people are always setting off fireworks year round.

teacher babysitter friend
Teacher/Babysitter/Friend.

I learned to speak English by watching TV: Sesame Street, Saved by the Bell, and horror movies. I knew how to speak English, my ABC’s, and count all before entering kindergarten thanks to TV. Sometimes I feel like I learned more from TV than my parents or school. TV just made learning more interesting, most of the time, like on the Discovery channel or Science channel  I never understood why my parents let us watch horror movies, my mom hates them but never stopped us from watching them. Also never understood why I liked getting scared so much maybe its because I would forget everything else. TV has always been a way to block out the world. TV is always there, except sunday when there is almost always nothing to watch. It was always school and then home never really hung out with my school friends just TV and virtual friends.

Escape
Escape to another world.

I used to play a lot of video games, some of my first memories are of playing Super Mario Bros. on the NES and being terrible, constantly dying on the underground levels. It started as a hobby playing every once in a while, then it became an escape from bullies, parents fighting all the time. By the time we got a SNES it was an addiction, no more waking up early Saturday morning to watch cartoons. Now Saturdays were for Mario, Donkey Kong, and MegaManX. This is where I lived in a virtual world my neighborhood was the mushroom kingdom, Dream Land, and wherever else the games took place. I could be the hero and not fear anything because you could always start over/reset the game. You get so invested in trying to get all the secrets, highest score, or fastest clear time. Never wanting the adventure to end, you would start over again on a harder difficulty, if one was available, or just get a new game. You want to be the characters and live in their world because the real world sucks, people suck.

why
Why is there always a mattress there?

I didn’t really care about my neighborhood for example the picture above, don’t know if that's a river or what just that in school everyone called it the ditch. Until I started volunteering at the library and meeting all the people that lived around here I never really cared about the outside world. Hating the world makes you blind to all the good some people are trying to do.

A new beginning.

Newhope Learning Center where I started volunteering a year ago, only went there once as a kid to get info for an essay I was writing in elementary school about meerkats and I only live like 7 min away walking distance.  I never intended on getting a job at the Library, I never intended on volunteering there for almost a year. It was the closest I’ve felt like I fit in and liked being there. When I started volunteering at Central it was the same cool atmosphere, more chaotic but still fun.  I never realized how much people rely on the Library and Jerome as a place to help their kids learn with tutors, escape from their lives, and just hang out. It makes me want to be a better person, learn more, go back to school so I can help make a difference. Guess this is my new neighborhood and I’m fine with that.

 
 
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"Behind the Stereotype" by Isabel Marin
Traditional Mexican Apparel, complete with mustache.
Santa Ana is a city that doesn't exactly “fit in” with the world famous Orange County. We are not exactly the richest and our streets aren't paved with gold, but it's home. People fear us without getting to know us. Santa Ana has a charm that people overlook. People seem to focus on the negative aspects and ignore all the culture and beauty of Santa Ana. Growing up, and even to this day, I still love going down the art walk on Dia de los muertos (Day of the dead) and watching the Mexican Independence day parade. Some of our most notable things are our art walk, our college campus and our oddly native green parrots that you might see soaring across the sky.
Who knows how they got here?

I remember going to middle school and a teacher once told us that teachers from other districts felt sorry for her because she had to put up with the gangsters around here. Luckily, my teacher was proud enough to defend us, saying that all her students were wonderful, the other teachers couldn’t be more wrong.

Middle College High School, home of the Wizards, located in Santa Ana College

When it came to picking high schools, it was like picking between ghetto schools. People assume that the education here is poor but in reality, Santa Ana happens to be home of the second best public high school in the county, Middle College High School.  I know countless people who get into Universities such as USC, Howard, Brown, Yale, not to mention everyone who gets into CSUs and UCs. In my own graduating class, 100% of the class were accepted to and planned to attend a college or university after high school, some with grants and scholarships to help them on their journey. That percentage sounds pretty good for a public school in the ghetto. Students in Santa Ana definitely have potential; we just need to unleash it.

A California Distinguished School mural dedicated to my little school.
Growing up in Santa Ana is not as bad as it seems or maybe I’m just one of the lucky ones who never the violence first hand. Even though I never saw the violence, I would always see the effects of the gang violence and shootings. Throughout town you can see flowers and candles set up in remembrance of the boys caught up in the violence. Although these deaths might not make it in the news, I think it is more important to note how the community cares and maintains the shrines set up to remember them. The picture above is not of someone who was involved with gangs, just a person who was in the wrong place at the wrong time. This person was one of my best friends. Shrines similar to his are set up around town.  I use him as an example of the love and care people have for their loved ones. God knows that I miss him.
I love you Miles.
 
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"East Los Angeles: Home of the Bull Dogs" by Aridai Martinez

When thinking about our communities, no matter where we’re from, we form certain biases and ideas in our minds and sometimes without even realizing it. Nevertheless, sometimes our ideas can be wrong and sometimes, with just a little exploration, we can find out amazing things about our community.  Even the little details can turn out to be astonishing.

Throughout my years in East Los Angeles I have formed certain ideas about my community. I have come to believe that my community has a wonderful past and future, that it is a very close community full of pride. Overall, I have seen the beauty in my community triumph over the negative biases formed by its own society.

Tree

Tree on the campus of Garfield High; a simple tree like this one
can easily become a wonderful place to be around friends and create wonderful memories.

Our Biases:
I feel like my community, East Los Angeles, sees itself as being very conformist, as a community that does not strive for a better economic or social status, and as a community of Hispanics who do not try hard to succeed. However, the past and the present of East Los Angeles have proved the opposite. My community has proved that they care about their education, their success, and their prosperity. Even though there are some people who do not care about these things, every time more and more teenagers and their parents realize the importance of advancement.

Our Beautiful History:
Many people from my community don’t realize the beautiful history of East LA. For example, my high school, James A. Garfield High School, participated in the East Los Angeles Walkouts (Blowouts) of 1968. On these walkouts, students demonstrated their interest in their education and their future. They proved that the Hispanic community of East LA is more than just “cholos” without education. With the arrival of Jaime Escalante, the students of Garfield High School proved their concern for their education once again. With excellent AP Calculus Examination results, they also that Hispanic students were not incapable of competing with the best, even though they were “impoverished.”

Garfield High
Photo of Garfield High, taken by a friend of mine, Jasmine.

Our Prosperous Present:
Yes, it’s true, the community of East Los Angeles is an unprivileged community with mundane people and Garfield High School is an underfunded school. However, coming from a humble background, the teenagers of Garfield High are more inclined to try their hardest in school and are advocated by their parents to go to college. Even teachers reinforce this idea on their students, that they are competing with many “rich kids” who can afford tutoring and that we “unprivileged kids” have to try a lot harder.

I have personally experienced this. All of my classmates, during my senior year in Garfield High, were always talking about going to college and having successful careers. One of my peers went to Yale, more than one went to Brown, and many went to UC’s.  Many others went to community college, also wanting to improve their lives. Students from East LA still care about their education; when Jaime Escalante left Garfield, AP Calculus test scores might have dropped but the disposition of students to have a better future did not drop, it rose.

Fundraising for Teachers
Group of students from Garfield raising funds to reach their dreams
of becoming future teachers. All of these students are now in great universities.

Our Pride:
East LA not only cares about their future, they have a lot of pride in their community. It is a mostly Hispanic community and everyone is proud of their heritage.  Everyone is proud of being Hispanic and of being from East LA. Garfield’s big bad bulldogs (I mean students) proudly call themselves Chicanos in the MEChA Club and proudly speak Spanish in the Spanish Club. Students demonstrate their “Bulldog Pride” every year in the East LA Classic.

Famous Couple
Garfield’s most famous couple showing their bulldog pride
in the East LA Classic of 2011 (in which Garfield won against the teddy bears).
Pride
Behind this beautiful lady we see Garfield’s bulldog
showing his Mexican pride, decorating his head with the Mexican flag.

Our Closeness:
The community is also very close. Every time I go to church, I pass by a taco stand and it has always drawn my attention, not because it smells delicious, but because there are always people eating there and I always see the same people, more or less. They all seem very close, even though they might not know each other. To me that is what my community is about. Most Hispanics are raised in a close community in which everyone knows each other and treats each other with familiarity and that’s exactly how people in East LA are.

Not only is the community close, but it has good places in which to be close. For example, outside of Garfield, there is a Burger King where many students go right after school.  It is a great place to relax with friends after a strenuous workout of the brain. There is also a Tutti Frutti where students from Griffith Middle School hang out. Every school has its destination place.

Tutti Frutti
Me and my friend eating yogurt at Tutti Frutti.
There are many immigrants living in East LA; many of the teenagers in Garfield High are immigrants and many more are the sons and daughters of immigrants. Many of these families come here to give their children a better future. The East Los Angeles community is humble but it is also filled with hardworking parents who would give the world to see their children grow up to be professionals with a great future. It is a community with students that dream of success. It is a community that cares about each other and has pride in being who they are. It is a community to cherish and to remember.
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"Where are you from?" (Compton) by Michel Martinez
martinez

whenever someone asks me where i'm from, i get a little flustered:
do i say where i was born? where i lived for the first half of my life? where i went to elementary school? high school? maybe they mean where do i live now? should i say where my family is from in mexico? or is that heritage and not what they meant at all...?
a seemingly simple question totally throws me, but to start the conversation, I usually say, "i'm from
los angeles." it's concise and pretty honest, considering most of my life has been spent in and around LA, and it's somewhere that i know really well despite it being so large and amoeba-esque. in all seriousness, i consider this whole region my home. i've lived in a dozen different neighborhoods, and without hesitation would call many more "home.
For me, family and friends are home, not just an address or an intersection or a zip code. it's a bike shop in whittier, a catholic school in compton, a softball diamond in la habra, a university in los angeles -- and many, many more places -- where i have whole other families.
my neighborhood, my family, my home: these are words with meanings so fluid, so dear, that there's no way precise way to pin them down.
and i like it that way.

"My Own Santa Ana" by Rodrigo Martinez
The Porch (My House).

I feel like I’ve been welcome with open arms in this neighborhood. This is the house where I’ve been raised in and I’ve made many great memories. When we moved here I was only 4 years old and I didn’t know anyone. Before moving here we lived in some apartments on Standard Ave. I sort of had a rough childhood being smacked around by my brothers and my mom, but I ended up just fine. My house is in the middle of the street so I’m close to two things. The Pacific Electric Bicycle Trail is to my left also known as “the Bike Trail” and to the right and down the street there is Ho’s Market. Ho’s Market is a liquor store owned and managed by Mr. Ho. My friends and I like to sit on my porch and we usually just talk and eat chips. I think my house has the best porch out of the houses that actually have one, plus my house has palm trees so we get a fresh breeze here and there.

Catching Up (Portola Park)

There is many fun and interesting things in my community. Santa Ana has many places to be in throughout the seasons. My favorite places to be in are parks. We have many parks in Santa Ana for example: Jerome Park, Portola Park, Centennial Park, and many more. But fact is we are lacking parks and green space in Santa Ana. Here in this photo my friends Marco and Nestor are playing catch with a football in Portola Park. I’m really into being at parks because I got used to it during my childhood and I have bonded with them. The reason why I made this strong connection with parks is because I’d be with my cousins and parks were always where we had the best adventures.

Our Park: Street Edition (My street)

Sports are a big part of my interest. I really like to watch them on TV and even play catch with a baseball or a football and sometimes I play basketball. My favorite sport is definitely baseball. I just love watching the Los Angeles Dodgers play. That’s the reason why my friend Marco and I have such a strong bond; we both love the Dodgers and we would rather play catch than stay inside. I wish I was put into sports as a kid so I could have played sports in high school but it seems things happen for a reason. If I could go back in time I’d like to put myself into little league so I could have been a part of a team. The thing I enjoy about sports so much is the challenge and competing against another person. This is how I like to live, I like being competitive and active.

The Infamous Mobb (The Yost Theater)

The Infamous Mobb in Santa Ana is crazy. Mobb Deep is a rap duo made up of Havoc (left), and Prodigy (right) from Queens, New York. These guys are a big deal, these guys were 2Pac’s East Coast enemies, and these guys have been involved with many successful New York rappers for example The Notorious B.I.G. and Nas, the other dudes part of this east Coast West Coast rivalry. This was here I Santa Ana at the Yost Theatre in late May. Music is just as big a part of my interest as sports are but only music is part of my life. Music has influenced me in lots of positive ways. When I was about 15 I started being influenced a lot by Immortal Technique. Immortal Technique is a real cool rapper and activist. He changed my mind set for the good and I’ve started writing my own lyrics. My dream is to be a person like Immortal Technique with good qualities and to have a positive impact on people.

This Is My Bike (My Backyard)

My life is just like this bike, I try to better different parts of it every chance I get. When I first got this bike it was heavy and it had some of the worst parts. As time went on I started upgrading it and I made it an elite bike. It was light in weight, fast and it held a lot of value. Now I'm trying to apply the same idea to my own life. I’m trying to become a productive person, a positive role model and a person with good traits and qualities. I one day want be able to go out there on my own and survive. This is the mentality and it has been shaped this ay by my surroundings. This is my life.

 
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"My Venice Beach" by Elizabeth Masciale

The Ocean Front Boardwalk, commonly referred to as the Venice Beach Boardwalk, is undeniably the thriving life source of my one-of-a-kind hometown.  Venice Beach is a place where disparate groups of people come together to create a vibrant and diverse community. It also has a negative reputation for harboring lower-class scum and drug addicts usually leading people to judge my beloved home without looking deeper into the positive aspects of this location. To me personally, the boardwalk is an unparalleled safe haven where I do not feel people casting harsh, judgmental looks upon me. I am accepted as another unique addition to the Venice Beach scene elevating this strange yet exciting place to another level. It is the overall accepting and inviting vibe of this quirky place that attracts me and so many others to Venice Beach. Various places along the boardwalk spark wonderful memories of being immersed in the creative and exuberant culture of Venice Beach as a child. As a local, I believe Venice has the ability to entertain tourists, bring people together as a community, and contain special memories.

Venice

Caption: This overview of the boardwalk includes the iconic palm trees,
beautiful blue skies, dozens of vendors, and hundreds of people.

People flock from all over the world to visit the renowned Venice Beach. Sprinkled though out the Venice Beach boardwalk are the brilliant street performers who constantly try to entertain and engage visitors. These talented, ambitious performers are composed of aspiring musicians, artists, magicians, and dancers. They strategically draw in the people passing by on the boardwalk often entrancing the viewers with their well developed skills. Even as a child, I admired the cleverness and confidence these performers radiate. While some people consider them disruptive amateurs, I see them as a diverse collection of talented entertainers breathing life and excitement into the boardwalk.

Venice

Caption: A large crowd has formed around this daredevil performer as
he is carefully balancing on a tall thin ladder hoping to impress his audience.

One of the most obvious displays of unity amongst the members of the Venice community can be found at the famous Venice Beach Skate Park.  Crowds gather around the perimeter of the dry concrete pools in order to watch the skaters attempt various tricks. The park is constantly bustling with an athletic community ranging from five to fifty years old. Many people have the common misconception that the skate park is filled with arrogant local skaters. However, I love witnessing the camaraderie between the more experienced old school skaters, the younger rookies, the locals, and the visitors.

Venice
Caption: A talented local skater displays his
well-developed skating skills for his viewers by executing some tricks

The Venice Public Art Walls, covered with creative and impressive graffiti style murals, exemplify the way Venice Beach fully embraces the unique artistic expression of the residents. The liberal art regulations allow artists from all over to form an off-beat artistic community. You do not usually see this type of artwork in the rest of Los Angeles because it is such a bold statement defiantly breaking the mold of conformity. However, people in Venice are not ashamed of being different and eye-catching which is reflected though these paintings. They represent the freedom of expression that is so vital to the vibe of this unique and quirky place. 

Venice

Caption: These graffiti artists contribute to one of the art
walls allowing their work to become a part of the scenery at Venice Beach. 

Walking past Muscle Beach, I always notice the fresh grass covering the soft hills of a small park. I recall meeting fellow capoeiristas early in the morning to train the exotic Brazilian martial art of capoeira at this very location. The brilliant energy created by the unified singing and clapping to capoeira music combined with the creative vibe of Venice beach makes for a joyous experience.I When I had the opportunity to enter the capoeira roda, circle of fighting, I was thrilled at the thought of playing a capoeira game at my favorite place in the world. Although some people simply view this place as a meaningless area that homeless people frequent, I am able to recognize the versatility and usefulness of this park along the boardwalk. Not only does Venice Beach bring people together in the local community, it helps unite people from all over the world by hosting transnational activities like capoeira gatherings.

Venice

Caption: This picture captures my best friend, who is an expert capoeirista,
executing a capoeira movement called beija flor at my favorite park in Venice Beach. 

Located just off the middle of the boardwalk, the Gotta Have It vintage clothing store has provided me with some hidden treasures. The eclectic blend of leather jackets, retro dresses, and funky hats sets this store apart from traditional boutiques. This vintage store, like the boardwalk itself, is rather unconventional and requires a certain taste. Each piece of clothing I browse through has a special story behind it. Similarly, I know that each Venice local strolling down the boardwalk has their own unique background and purpose.    

Venice Beach

Caption: The front window of Gotta Have It openly displays the
colorful, attention-grabbing items welcoming curious shoppers into the store. 

Although most people prefer to stay on the bustling path when they come to Venice Beach, the breakwater lifeguard tower is the first place I visit. For as long as I can remember, this particular station has been the place my family congregates when we decide to spend the day at the beach. Enjoying warm summer days at Venice Beach playing in the water, building sandcastles, and listening to music remain some of my fondest childhood memories. Each time I visit this seemingly ordinary tower, I experience a rush of nostalgic feelings reminding me of how truly lucky I am to have grown up in this beautiful place.

Venice

Caption: The breakwater lifeguard station rests peacefully on the
sand of Venice Beach overlooking a breathtaking view of the Pacific Ocean. 

I am certain that all the different components of Venice beach, from the inhabitants to the landscape, have had a profound effect on the person I have become. I have grown accustom to embracing my own distinguishing characteristics and imperfections without fear of conforming to the standards of others. Those who have labeled Venice beach as nothing more than a promenade of freaks will probably never fully understand what makes this place so beautiful. I believe my strong connection to my hometown stems from my ability to accept the imperfections of Venice beach as part of its charm and appeal. Judging by the thousands of skaters, street performers, artists, and locals that keep the boardwalk alive, it will not be difficult to preserve the rare beauty of Venice Beach. 

Venice

Caption: The sun is setting behind thick clouds, towering palm trees, and a unique sculpture during a perfect Sunday at the Venice Beach boardwalk. 
Picture 1: The Ocean Front Boardwalk, Venice Beach, 27/01/2013.
Picture 2: Street Performer, Venice Beach, 27/01/2013.
Picture 3: Venice Skate Park, Venice Beach, 27/01/2013.
Picture 4: Venice Art Walls, Venice Beach, 27/01/2013.
Picture 5: Capoeirista at Park, Venice Beach, 27/01/2013.
Picture 6: Gotta Have It Vintage Clothing, Venice Beach 27/01/2013.
Picture 7: Breakwater Lifeguard Tower, Venice Beach 27/01/2013.
Picture 8: Palm Trees at Sunset, Venice Beach 27/01/2013.

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"Alhambra" by Rosa Mazon
mazon
When people in L.A. speak of 'the valley,' they are usually not talking about anything east of downtown L.A. Usually, they are talking about the valley, the San Fernando Valley. But looking at a map you will definitely see that the San Gabriel Mountains continue to rise mightily eastward, hovering above a vast area known as the San Gabriel Valley.
The San Gabriel Valley shares the same 'El Rancho' history as much of the rest of the Los Angeles area; but like its surrounding neighbors, it has evolved into its own entity. Alhambra, named after the Washington Irving book, "Tales of Alhambra," is a suburb that sits rightly so between two different worlds; East L.A. to the south and South Pasadena to the north, calling itself, the "gateway" to the San Gabriel Valley. This is my neighborhood.
Suburbs often get lost in the shuffle, and not surprisingly; most share too many similarities with hundreds of other cities to be taken too seriously. When I was asked to a write a short essay on 'my neighborhood,' I thought it couldn't have come at a more perfect time in my life. I have spent most of my 29 years overlooking what my community means to me and what it has to offer; and even used to believe that because I lived in a suburb, it was not worthy of exploration or recognition.
I am able now to embrace the yin and the yang of Alhambra; the monotony and safety net of a suburb, and the individuality and uncertainty of a funky part of town. Recently, I've become immersed in our thriving Chinese community, one of the largest in the country. A few years ago, I came across an article in “National Geographic Traveler,” about good restaurants in the L.A. area. I was confused to find my humble suburb among the cities listed, along with neighboring San Gabriel, Temple City, Monterey Park and Rosemead. It turned out that the San Gabriel Valley was the place to go for authentic Chinese food, even matching Chinatown. I was surprised, pleased and embarrassed all at once; all I knew was the newest dish at Panda Express. I realized I had been living side by side with an abundance of excellent Chinese cuisine (not your everyday takeout) and culture, never looking beyond the numerous signs on the streets and venturing into the communities within the shops and restaurants. Since then I have set out to get to know the tastes of the San Gabriel Valley, thus getting to know the local culture and my neighbors a little better.
The hub of Chinese culture in the area is Valley Blvd. I have driven through my city for many, many years, but have rarely strolled around. Driving condenses everything around you, minimizing life into a single blur. Not surprisingly, life has a much stronger pulse when you are walking down the street of any city or town; arousing all of your senses, making each moment significantly more enjoyable and informative. Walking just three blocks on Valley Blvd instantly shattered my outdated impression of the busy boulevard: English is virtually obsolete; Chinese dialects and characters communicate the lives of its residents, international financial centers tower impressively over the street, blocking the remaining sunlight of the day, young, successful and hip recent Chinese immigrants chat and smoke at local cafes, alongside tantalizing smells of regional delicacies. There was a whole other world, existing just a few blocks from where I lived. For a moment, I almost forgot where I was, feeling like a tourist in my own hometown. It was awesome.
Beyond Valley exists a very different part of town, centered mostly around Main Street (originally called Boabdil Street, but changed because it was too difficult for Americans to pronounce), where Alhambra struggles to embrace the future, and preserve the past. New urban projects spring up all the time, including the recently rejuvenated "downtown," with its somewhat impressive lineup of trendy nightlife. Many small businesses have been fortunate and have managed to survive or flourish side by side with these new arrivals; like Olde Peking Arts and Antiques, Fosselman's old-fashioned ice cream parlor, and the up and coming Nucleus art gallery. But as I walked the streets, I saw not everyone was so lucky. There was a significantly high number of stores, both American and Chinese, that had been open for years, yet looked like the doors had not been unlocked for some time. There were also many stores with boarded up windows or completely vacant with "For Lease" signs in the window. It was an interesting, unsettling discovery.
As I get older, I realize it is not about 'suburb' or 'downtown' or 'ghetto,' but about the communal ties that bind, something that crosses all city limits. I now find myself eager to discover the local treasures within each city of Los Angeles county, from Santa Monica to South Gate to Monrovia. Every city has a beat to keep the people moving.
So try to get on over to Alhambra and the rest of the San Gabriel Valley, it's simply a loss for any Angeleno to neglect this little hub on the eastside.
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"My Life Story" (Santa Ana) by Marcos Medina Mendoza
How it all started.

Well, for starters, my name is Marcos Medina Mendoza and I am a 16-year-old junior at Valley High school. The woman you see in the picture is my mother and I am proud that she is. Most of the time she gets me mad, but then she spoils me and gives me great advice. I am very lucky to have her in my life and I realize I am very fortunate to have an incredible woman like this be my mother. I am aware that many don’t have a mother or a father. To me my mother is both. I am the oldest of 6. And if I mess up I know my mom will be there every step of the way to help guide me to be the best role model I can be for my younger siblings. I am lost with out my mom.

Tradition.
This isn’t just a tree that randomly combusted into flames. This, to me, symbolizes that the people on Townsend street will always have that spark of flame inside that shows that they are proud of there race and who they are. That too, firefighters they see a random tree burning due to trouble makers but little do they know that this burning of a tree is now our tradition. Every Fourth of July we burn this Palm tree. And every year the firefighters come and put it out. We do it to show our pride and our traditions as a community. Of course maybe it was just some kid burning it for the hell of it and there really is no meaning behind this tradition. If that’s the case then sorry firefighters.

Alex isn’t the only one with a girlfriend.

This is my girlfriend and her name is Goceline. For starters, she plays a big role in my life. Before this amazing woman I was a horrible boyfriend and I am being very honest. But the past few exes have showed me so much that I am actually changing into a better boyfriend that now I really do want to keep this one. She has taught me so much about women that I never really paid much attention to. She’s there when I am sad and I can tell her mostly everything. I know that my time with her will be a very fun learning experience.

Let's take a cute pose for this weird Mexican kid.

This was taken outside our library. Cynthia and me were outside talking about our photo essays when I saw these kids and asked to take a picture of them. On Townsend, you really need to watch out. Me, Johnny and a couple friends once saw a guy on his bike get shot right off his bike. Most of the times I am scared. I am scared that one night, as my mom says, “pinche vago te va suceder algo por estar de puro vago y mujeriogo" --something might happen to me as I have no older brother to look out for me like these two young brothers will look out for each other. I pray that this won't happen but I value life long relationships such as friends and brothers and sisters. What these guys have is an unbreakable bond that no one will manage to break. The only things I have are my friends.

My older brothers.

Which brings me to this. As a kid I moved so much after my mom and dad got separated. Before that I lived in a nice big house with two wonderful neighbors. Everything was ok. Then after their break up everything toughened up on me. Life literally screwed with my wits. I then began seeing shootings, stabbings, kidnappings, beatings, overdoses, and abuses. It all got even crazier when I went and moved to Townsend. But that is were I met my amazing friends which I consider some of them brothers. I met Johnny. He used to be over weight and so huggable but with his dedication he turned into that skinny loudmouthed annoying kid that everyone loves and cares about. Well for the most part at least I know I care about him. I met Robert. The guy that I talk to about certain things and without a doubt is my "ride or die" type of guy. I would go anywhere with this quickly tempered, loud-mouthed, "don’t share your feelings with me cuz I am a manly type of guy." And I've met Javier. Oh my god I am glad I met this guy. I don’t mean to smother this guy but he has taught me so much. I consider him my older brother. I know I'm not much to any of these guys but they mean a lot to me. Javi is the guy I can go talk to and ACTUALLY pour out my feelings with out being judged and receive incredible advice. Robert and Javi pick on me a lot. Sometimes more than they should, but I understand they do it because I am smaller and to toughen me up for the real world when one day I am not with them. That really hurts knowing I won't keep these guys forever, but for now I am happy with the time I have with them. I am looking forward to learning a lot more with these guys--with friends like these who needs anything else?

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Untitled (Santa Ana) by Marilynn Montaño
"Young Sisterhood."
I never had any blood sisters so spiritual sisterhood is very important to me since many of them have nurtured the motivation and inspiration that dwell out of every step I take in the ground. Every Friday in SanTana, we meet at birch park or El Centro Cultural de Mexico to talk about our journeys, our bodies and our sisterhood. It's only through grassroots efforts that we kept our Circulo de Coyolauhxqui alive. Whether we route in different directions, that doesn't matter because its only seven and more girls that have been empowered by sisterhood y community and that's stronger than any funded group project.
"Mis Pies Reflect in SanTana" 
For almost a year I have documented my feet, Los Piesitos every ground step  I take. Our bodies are wonderful temples that many times we have stopped to think about us. My feet are a reminder of my ancestors, my abuelas and my mama because they have small feet. The very small feet that nurture the ground and raised a family or that had the courage to cross a border desert for a better life like my Mama. Which without knowing came a young mujer who has walked urban grounds and works for community with ampolla or not. It's a reminder of who I am in SanTana, I am a collection of salsa spices dipped onto a plate called Mother Earth's ground.
 
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"My Neighborhood Essay" (Santa Ana) by Pablo Montoya
Run! Forest Run!

How many remember the chancla? Or the sandal in English? This is not the exact one but it doesn’t matter it will still fly, strike or be chucked at you. Whenever my mother would go into an angry rage she would take off her chancla and it was every person for themselves cause if you got caught you were done for. Hide, run, jump the only way to win is to not get caught which was impossible cause some how she would have super human strength and it would seem like she would open the closet door with one hand. This chancla did not only create fear in our hearts, but respect towards our mother in a sense this chancla has been the most feared weapon that I know every kid runs from because it wouldn’t be advisable to run towards it--that would just be plain dumb. I included this picture because it is something that I think a lot of kids bond to the different ways our parents would beat us, and we would laugh at the different stories we would tell.

Food is good!

As I grew older I would leave my house and not come back until I had a belly full of good food, and of course there was a taco restaurant 5 minutes away from my house. My friends and I would get together at 9 pm at night and be there until 2 in the morning because we didn’t want to go home to violent and messed up homes. What was the point when we had free horchata refills until we couldn’t drink anymore and the food was amazing? They have tortas, tacos, burritos every Mexican plate, dish and meal you could think of, plus desert like flan. I think food is something we all as humans can share and not have a big fuss about it. We can just sit down and forget our worries and enjoy the company we have around us. I still go eat here til this day the food is good they have wifi and they have free horchata refills. It also is my escape from the world outside that is probably why I return to it because it allows me to go back to my childhood.

Stop and smell the roses.

A lot of my life had negativity and I saw the world as negative but I came upon this rose at my “grandma’s” house and I just loved it because it was so beautiful I had to take a picture of it. The rose really gave me hope for the future and just like the taco restaurant I admire nature cause it’s an escape from the dark reality that life has, this rose is special not because it belonged to my grandma but because it showed me life keeps going and just like the rose if it dies out something new can bloom and that is just like hope. My city has a lot of beauty and many people don’t see that all they do is point out the negative things that we are criminals, drop outs and are always having kids, but really just stop and smell the roses and you might just see all the beauty and potential this city has.

Welcome second home.

Sometime the library isn’t all about books and grouchy old librarians, or old history books that only old people like to read. The library in my opinion can be pretty cool sometimes. It can become your second home or most of the time can help you get out of that situation you are in and you have someone behind you pushing you for the best and looking out for you and if you’re doing okay. I arrived here by accident. I didn’t expect to be here for 5 years of my life and complete over 1,000 hours of volunteer work, even at the least meet most of my friends which I have now and have continued to have and hope to keep for as long as I live. Dang, I didn’t even imagine getting a job here! I used to think the library was lame--who wants to go there? Only nerds go there or old people and annoying kids--but I guess I was wrong. I met cool people like Cheryl who was the head librarian and she helped me out by being my mentor. And Jose A. Mendoza and Manny Escamilla who taught me to love history and have an interest in my history because it matters. Kevin Cabrera who taught me about bikes and all I need to know about them. So I guess I was wrong. The library isn’t so lame it’s got good people doing good stuff, I know one day I’ll be that crusty old guy reading the history books and one day my annoying little kids will be running around this library.

The night is ours.

I love the night. It is most when I feel free, this up to my present time, the now in my life and I come alive at night. I enjoy it. I love it. I wish it would be night everyday but I might miss the sun and become to pale so I could go out enjoy the cold breeze on my face and admire the city for its night life atmosphere it has to offer. Santa Ana is beautiful at night--it is such a diverse community, the people are welcoming and there is always something to do even if you don’t have money. For example me and my friends are broke as a joke, but we have fun any way we can in this cool city. It’s not everything to me but to some this city is home and I think I am okay with that this place is home. The tower is a landmark that allows us to look up and hope for a better day. Something I have always wanted to do is climb it like in that 70 show but for now I’ll just stay on the ground and take a picture of it.

 
 
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"Westwood" by Elise McNamara
Is Westwood a place I would call home? UCLA certainly is. With its towering gothic structures and perfectly manicured lawns, the campus evokes the image of old school glamour and tradition. When its classrooms are filled with students and its walkways jammed with traffic, the campus becomes even more beautiful, as the tradition becomes alive. Sadly, in lots of ways this does not translate a few blocks south into the area known as “Westwood Village.”
Traditions have a way of being forgone, or maybe just forgotten. What was once a lively area filled with independent shops and bars is quickly becoming an homage to corporate America. The main restaurants are all chains, as are the clothing stores and other businesses. In many ways, Westwood is losing its character as one of Los Angeles’ many unique enclaves and becoming more and more assimilated into a larger, less defined Los Angeles culture. Tall buildings and movie theatres reign supreme, and dancing is no longer allowed within the boundaries of Westwood Village because the neighbors in Brentwood and Bel Air are worried about the noise.
But would it be so difficult for the students to take back what once was? I think not. There is something remarkable about the concentration of so many young minds in one area, an opportunity for a place become defined by these young people and not by the interests of corporations or rich neighbors.
Westwood is place I would call home because I am surrounded by people who I know and love. Together, we have the potential to make Westwood a more inviting place, a place that many more would enjoy calling home.
 
 
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"My Neighborhood" by Alex Mendoza
Santa Ana

Six plates, one belly… Breakfast is my kryptonite.

The first image displays my happiness. This breakfast consisted of honey sweet toast with powder sugar coat, an egg omelet topped with tomatoes and onions with spinach spices, a plate of bacon, eggs and a slow roasted beef biscuit, a double chocolate waffle with whipped cream and cherries, and finally, a hearty bread combination with sausage and cheese dressing. I cherish my moments once I see something worth living for. At that time, my girlfriend was in shock and awe about my appetite, she felt that it was necessary to capture this moment using my iPod. One of the things about me is that I do not take my nutrition lightly, and love satisfying my taste buds and my belly. Ever since I have been in sports beginning my 6th grade year, I have what trainers call a high metabolism rate, meaning my food digests pretty quickly. I love being hungry all the time; it gives me an excuse to grab huge plates of food.

Santa Ana

Yes, I was here.

The second image is a signpost with handprints on it. This took place at Black Star Canyon near Santiago Canyon Road at midnight. The trail there is said to be haunted and notable by hikers’ personal experiences. There have been reports of sounds of Native American drumming, rocks being thrown and soft whistling as well as sights of black shadows and dark figures appearing. What led me to come to this place is my personal interest in the paranormal. My curiosity has driven me to explore this area and write about my own experiences about the trail.  So far, I haven’t been able to see anything concrete, but I was able to hear soft whistling sounds and lots of bird singing, maybe the third time’s the charm.
Santa Ana
The man cave.
This is what it’s like at home. My space. It’s only inherent that a few cohorts would label me as a couch potato; my dad does it too. I spend most of my time web surfing and watching movies on Netflix. This is my way of keeping up to date with the most recent events and current news. I’ve dawdled about this habit before; however I couldn’t bring myself to find any other alternative to spend my free time. I do not see a downside to any of this lone space; my remote controls are right where I want them to be and the kitchen is a mere 10 feet next to my living room. Currently, the only reasons why I would leave my couch are my job, community events and school.
Santa Ana

Love-stuffed crust (with pepperoni)

Valentine’s Day, 2013. This was when I left the Santa Ana Library to go home. I’ve let my girlfriend know that I was tired and hungry and had only wanted the comfort my humble abode could provide. Her mother had picked her up from her job as well and wondered what her daughter may be up to on Valentine’s. My girlfriend had just the idea and had made a special request from the local Pronto Pizza. To my surprise, I opened the pizza box to find a heart-shaped pizza. I have not received this much appreciation from one person, or a sweet and savory, heart-shaped pie. Through her acknowledgment and support, I am now what I am today, an always-hungry individual with a huge heart waiting for me at the end of the day.
Santa Ana
The best kind of work is family work.
 
 
 
 
 
This is my Mom, older brother and younger sister. There was a community event being held at our church and we were in charge of providing the food for the people attended. My brother assisted my sister in assorting the vegetables, my mom made the huge pots of soup and rice while I made the hot dogs wrapped in bacon.  Our religious beliefs have guide my family to a more secure life. We would always look out for each other and hope for the best.
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"East Pasadena" by Nicole Murph
murph
Everyday my Mom and I do our exercise, sometimes walking from our home in Chapman Woods to Hastings Ranch. During our exercise, I always look at my surroundings and imagine the history behind it. What it was, what it is now and what it may be in the future.
My neighborhood, Chapman Woods, is one of many neighborhood communities that are located in East Pasadena. Some of these communities, including mine, are associations. When I was younger I learned about the history of Chapman Woods. The area was occupied by the California Indians and later was under the control of the San Gabriel Mission. When the great ranchos were created, Hugo Reid became owner of Rancho Santa Anita. Then in 1869, Alfred B. Chapman bought 1,786 acres of Rancho Santa Anita and built his home as well as displayed his interest in horticulture in the area. In the 1920s, the area was subdivided into properties by Jim Stewart and Ben Quigley. The Chapman Woods Association was incorporated in the 1930s and the community has grown since.
My Mom has lived in the association since the early 1970s and I have been raised since birth in Chapman Woods. Although in Pasadena, Chapman Woods is part of the County of Los Angeles. Just as the name states, the area consists of numerous plants and trees, like the woods. My neighborhood is surrounded by an assortment of businesses, restaurants, fast food places, shopping centers, markets, schools and the Metro Gold Line.
Rosemead Boulevard is the main highway bordering Chapman Woods and connects to major streets such as Foothill Boulevard and Colorado Boulevard. Some of the architecture surrounding this area have low, box like design that reminds me of an earlier era, prior to the 1950s, that these buildings were built in.
When we arrive to Hastings Ranch, it brings me back memories when I walk around the area. I attended LaSalle High School, which is located in the Hastings Ranch area. Sometimes we take the short way around for our exercise which allows us to pass by my alma mater located on a tree lined street. When we take the long way around, we always go by the First Church of Nazarene that my high school graduation took place. Similar to Chapman Woods, Hastings Ranch is an association. I learned that in 1925, Hastings Ranch was an underdeveloped area. Pasadena was in the top three for consideration to have the southern branch of University of California to be built in this area. The regents decided to build what is now known as UCLA in Westwood. Since the 1940s, the area was developed for residential homes and businesses in what we see today as Hastings Ranch.
Over the years, Pasadena has changed significantly going from “The Little Old Lady from Pasadena” to a suburban metropolitan city. Nearly ten years ago, the Metro Gold Line was built connecting Pasadena and Downtown Los Angeles. Sierra Madre Villa Station is located in East Pasadena, nestled between Foothill Boulevard and the 210 Freeway and is halfway between Chapman Woods and Hastings Ranch. It is the starting (or ending) point for the Metro Gold Line. It is one of the few train stops where you can go on top of the parking structure and have a 360 degree bird’s eye view of East Pasadena. Every now and then, my Mom would share with me that while she was growing up, Pasadena had a train and trolley car system. Then they stopped and ripped it up primarily due to the increase usage of automobiles. Now they are bringing back the train, as they should.
Either myself or both my Mom and I take the Gold Line when visiting a particular place in Pasadena or going to Los Angeles. The Sierra Madre Villa Station is also the starting point and ending point in my destination to school in Northridge and back home. Ever since my stay in New York City, I love the trains and subways. I was happy to see that we have a train system in place in Pasadena connecting us to Los Angeles and beyond.
A more recent change in my neighborhood is the construction work done on Rosemead Boulevard. For years, the surrounding neighborhoods and businesses have had discussions with representatives and officials from City of Pasadena and County of Los Angeles to update Rosemead Boulevard. Over the years, Rosemead Boulevard has aged and traffic on the highway has increased significantly.
Construction finally began on Rosemead Boulevard a little over a year ago. Some people think the construction is just to make Rosemead look pretty, but its more than that. Yes, the plan involves the beautification of Rosemead Boulevard but it also involves bringing Rosemead Boulevard up to code which includes: Increasing the height of the medians and curbs, altering and adding new medians, installing new sidewalks, transferring electrical poles underground, adding additional city lights up and down the Rosemead stretch, repaving the street, and eliminating or clearing up various ambiguities on Rosemead such as questionable crosswalks. The overall purpose is to create both a visually appealing highway and a safer flow for traffic and pedestrians.
The Metro Gold Line and the Rosemead Boulevard Project are the two of the recent major changes occurring in East Pasadena in addition to upgrades in the shopping areas, new businesses, apartments and condos being built or revamped. The makeup of my neighborhood has changed gradually over the years. A lot of families live in the area for a long period of time. It is a residential community, with nearby public and private schools and in walking distance to markets, restaurants, shopping areas and the train.
I love my neighborhood. I enjoy walking around, exploring and documenting the people, the architecture of the buildings, the businesses themselves and the neighborhood communities overall. Whether the changes are man made or natural, deep down I know this is part of the history of my neighborhood.
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"My Story" (Santa Ana) by Javier Morales
my life

My life? Is that what you are asking about?

My life can be explained by taking a stroll down memory lane with me. What can I say? I am 18 years old and was given the name of Javier Morales on October 7 1994 by two caring parents. My life is not perfect as you can tell right away. I am proud though of the person who I become and take pride in all the things I have done and currently do.
My life is perceived as “perfect” from the view of others as they try to see through my sunglasses.
My life is not perfect as I mentioned before. People cannot see the suffering of my eyes through my dark sunglasses. My life has been one that has gone through ups and downs such like hiding in a fenced ditch as a drive by occurs on your next to you in the alley. My only escape from this is a sewer passage that is led by the ditch. Such a filth of an escape but I am alive aren’t I? I was just trapped in my own escape route. It just happened to be that my escape was a sewage path but sometimes that is enough to help us escape not only the danger but reality. As I make my way through this path I come across patches of grass behind my home. As I make my way towards it I see a family of cats who do not trust me as I try to move along the grass. They do not trust me but that is part of my home. My home. I can see clearly that it is not only my home but theirs. Why then do I call everything I come into contact mine? I am not sure why I am guessing that it has not hit me yet and well it soon will. As I keep walking I finally reach a grassy patch that leads me into the outside of the danger into a safe zone. As I travel I see people next to me following me and helping me through this journey. I walk alone sometimes but I know I have friends that will be there for me at whatever cost.
Santa Ana
I keep wandering around and come across a single tree.
Why is this one tree so special you ask? I see the pain in this tree sees but beyond on that it keeps growing as the world around it grows in pain. This is the hope people are looking for in the world. I have found the light of hope in this tree. In extreme conditions this tree keeps growing and always looks great. This ray of light shines through my sunglasses and gives me the mindset of hope and that anything in this world is possible. As I wipe my eyes and put my sunglasses I start to walk again. I start reminiscing about all the things that this life has provided me.
As I glance up to see where I ended up I find myself at the biggest memory and piece of my life.
As I make my into my former and only high school, Mater Dei, I begin to look for my old hang spot. I sit down and begin to shed tears that drip out of my sunglasses.  Mater Dei was a home to me and always will be my home. I know the sun sets on this place with a smile never to be outdone by any other school. I know I have talked a lot about my story and life but I end with this last thing. 
Santa Ana
My walk back home.
I have understood my purpose in life up until this point.  Do I hate my life for being the way it has been and has ended up?  No I do not instead I tend to enjoy every second of it. I always walk tall and let the sun shine through my sunglasses instead of trying to block it out. . I never walk away from my struggles but instead take them head on. I also know that as I walk home I know the sun is shining bright on me. At the end of the day I am then at one with myself. Even though that cycle always repeats in the end I know I can walk home and have a smile on my face.
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"Boyle Heights Relived" by Joshua Navarrete
Boyle Heights is a common neighborhood for working class Hispanics. Over the years it has gained a bad reputation with gang affiliation, bad schools, tagging, dropping out increase, and teen pregnancies—at least that is what is heard around these streets. Yet it was not always like that. In fact Boyle Heights was originally a rich Jewish community that, as soon as immigration increased, many Hispanics began populating Boyle Heights. Also, it is an epicenter of the LA Walkouts of 1968 and Jaime Escalante program; both aiming for better and equal education. These movements are what I see in Boyle Heights, not the gangs and the violence and poor achievement. I see its lost history. With the following images I’ll take you down the path that saved me from the common stereotype of Boyle Heights and hopefully some its history is revived.
Iconic Orange Apartments
The first picture is that of the iconic orange apartments where I have lived since I came to United States in 1999. This is the starting point of my path. Each building has a white sign with a green number to distinguish each building; number 5 has been my home all this time. To me this apartment holds the key to my childhood simply because so much of it was spent around this single building. Soccer, tag, kick the can, slaughter house, and football were some of the games that my brothers and the neighbors would play around this building. At the time the space was huge, trees would only make it seem bigger and as a little boy all this covered the bad things around the rest of the neighborhood.
Eighth Street
And here is 8th street, a very big street, known for its gang named after it. Crossing this street is not always easy, but I have been doing it since I started school. There are pedestrian crossings at this street, but they make no difference in this street since cars still speed through it. Eight Street holds a special memory of my path, and much has to do with my mother since she would be the one taking me to school. As a little kid I was always very jumpy and unsteady making it really hard for my mom to control me when crossing this particular street. I remember having her yell at me to stay close to her and to stop moving, and at some point she would grab my arm and squeeze it for me to stay still.
Roosevelt High School
Hollenbeck Middle School
After crossing 8th street and walking a bit more this is the view that I would come across, my middle school Hollenbeck and my respective high school Roosevelt. Hollenbeck is now painted and both schools are in partnership with Villaraigosa to try to improve their academic standings. To society these school are bad places for educational success—I see different. I went to Hollenbeck, had great teachers and a great experience. To me this school is a great reason for my current standing in success and ambition to a better education. I surrounded myself with great teachers whom got me involved in competitions like History Day, Model UN, Science Fair, Math Olympiad, and Jaime Escalante; all with the purpose to engage students to education. It is in Hollenbeck where I developed the dream to become a scientist, a historian, the president of the United States, and other wild careers. Yes, there was wannabe gangs and tagging, but none of that was really visible when I was busy trying to win a Science Fair competition. Hollenbeck was my second home while I was there.
Mural
Boyle Heights

Here are the walls and street of Roosevelt High School, another academic struggling school but its history shows so much more than that. It was place where the LA Walkouts of 1968 emerged with Sal Castro and the help of Victoria Castro (former principal of Hollenbeck Middle School). The LA Walkouts stood as a symbol of equality in education for minorities; which are the reason for the paintings around the school depicting Mexican pride. Roosevelt High School was a big supporter of this dream; the students driven with the ambition of achieving better education led the road to a better future, a road that is still there. On top of that history lays the story of World War II and the Japanese internment camps. At the time Roosevelt along with some of Boyle Heights was school and home to many Japanese-Americans who had to leave their education and home because of the fear of another Pearl Harbor attack. To this day a little reminder is still within both Roosevelt and Hollenbeck; Hollenbeck’s gym was used as a place to put the Japanese for a while to the moment they left to the camps. To this day Roosevelt teaches “Japanese” as a foreign language. Not many people know this, and I being a few that do look at all this as way to appreciate the history of where I walk by.

It is evident that Boyle Heights is not what it used to be; it is no longer a Jewish community, or the epicenter of some big educational movement. But knowing this history and letting other people see this will definitely help revive this neighborhood or at least open people’s negative perspective of this neighborhood. It is not the place that make the people, but the people that make the place. Boyle Heights is a perfect example of such expression, surrounding myself with teachers, and my neighborhood’s lost history I was able to see a different picture while not remaining ignorant to the bad things. I am not asking to think that Boyle Heights is a Beverly Hills or another ideal city, but it is not what people think. There is more to Boyle Heights, and exploring the history and walking in my shoes and my path will help people in my community and other see a different Boyle Heights.

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"Boyle Heights" by Nicole Padilla
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Picture#1: Evergreen Park. Was never allowed to join any park teams because my mom was paranoid to say the least. But regardless, I was here every Monday through Friday watching my dad and the Assumption football team, or Talpa football team. Saw my first boys' softball game under the lights here, Assumption vs. Talpa. Learned how to play football at this park and took my first dive into a pool of mud thanks to Frankie Tamayo.
Picture#2: A battle over Boyle Heights and its streets has been written on the walls since before the riot that shook up this neighborhood. White Fence, the oldest gang in East Los Angeles & the first to use weapons, has been trying to keep its name on the walls since before Evergreen had any street credit. But Evergreen is as strong as any other gang in the street. Is life hard being in between the two? I say no. The feud is with each other and not the innocent lives of Boyle Heights. Crazy as it may sound, but the gangs in Boyle Heights actually care about their little hood.
Picture#3: Two generations graduated from this elementary school. Our Lady of the Rosary of Talpa, or Talpa. I had rather drop dead than attend this school after my sixth grade year was over at Assumption. But if I had the chance to do it all over again, there's no other place I would had rather been for Seventh and Eighth grade. I had my first kiss here, my first "love," my first real problem, first time I was in real big trouble, my disappointment I had no one else to blame but myself for, and some of the greatest friends to this day.
Picture#4: A flower shop that always knew the Padilla girls or the Tamayos….Not always a good thing, when the daughter decides to show me my own flowers that were ordered for my senior prom. Established since c. 1950s.
Picture#5: The Hollywood's ghetto bridge. Seen in so many movies, the 4th Street bridge has become anything but ghetto for Hollywood.
Picture#6: Nicknamed the "Hole," after a week filled with practices at Evergreen Park, Saturdays at "the Hole" was were the team was tested. Assumption always did very well. Across the street is Salesian High School.
Picture#7: Looking out towards Boyle Heights with Hollenbeck Jr. High and Roosevelt Senior High School in the distance.
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“Descanso Gardens – La Cañada” by Chamara Russo
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It’s true that what we have access to we take for granted. Growing up in La Cañada, I didn’t think twice about Descanso. It was a destination for Youth & Government meetings or La Cañada High School special functions, and as I got older, became the site for memorial services of classmates or wedding locations for friends. However, I never took the time to visit the gardens for pure enjoyment until this year. Since the beginning of 2009, I have been to the garden four times. I can think of three times in the last 20 years, and now four times in the last three months.
What has changed since my youth? The gardens themselves have changed some. The camellia forest continues to expand and my first 2009 visit corresponded with the Camellia Show, which was a treat. The variety in petal type, petal density and colors are vast and wondrous, and I was impressed by all the local horticulturists showing their wares. I’ll never look at a camellia the same way again, but I will always appreciate them.
A rather new edition to Descanso is the lilac garden. Traditionally, lilacs have not flourished in Southern California but with ingenuity and determination a new hybrid has been created and they are flourishing. The scent overpowered me with memories of my grandma’s bathroom filled with lilac-scented shell-shaped hand soap that I wasn’t allowed to use. Perhaps the hybrid was created because we all are a bit nostalgic for our grandmothers. For me, it’s like wondering through a maze of beauty and fragrance and reminds me of what we should look for in life: beauty and sweetness.
My friend Erik was visiting from New York over Easter weekend. As we went to SC together, Erik is not an LA hater. He loves it here, but he’s fixed in New York ever since being there during 911 which is when it became his home. Undaunted, each time he visits me, I try to provide new and compelling reasons to return to LA. On Easter Sunday it was a glorious, clear day and I decided to take him to Descanso. He’d never been. As we walked through the International Rosarium he got an urge to walk in a different direction than I was.
He said, “I got a feeling there’s something I love over there.” I said, “There’s a children’s maze.” It was then I learned of Erik’s love of mazes and how often as a child he’d wonder around one in a park close to his home. Later in the day as we sat in the Native California section looking at the cloudless day and the San Gabriel mountains he remarked that he needed a day surrounded by nature and beauty and he doesn’t get that a lot in New York. It seems that my oft forgotten and now beloved Descanso may be the lure that brings my friend back to LA. I think I’ll pick apart a daisy and deliberate the possibility.
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"Untitled" (Santa Ana) by Robert Salas

Hey hello wassup how ya'll doing? Let me introduce myself real quick am Robert Salas I was born in Laguna Beach but I was raised in Santa Ana since I was 4 and this is the neighborhood where I grew up. When I moved here I didn’t know anything about violence, shooting, and gang banging. Moving here opened my eyes to how the world is and how people are. And now I know this is how the world was everywhere I would go. A lot of shit has gone down in my neighborhood--things I didn’t even expect myself to being seeing, only in movies. During the day it seems that everything is peaceful kids running around having fun but at night it’s like they’re having a war gun fire at every direction.

I went and yes graduated from Godinez Fundamental High School Class Of 2013!!! I graduated a grizzly RAWR!!! At first I didn’t want to come over here, I just wanted to go with all my friends to Valley because I didn’t know that many people over here but joining football helped. It was great getting to mess around with my friends--cracking up in class, messing around during lunch, and having a couple of food fights here and there. The teachers that I had were great but some of them were horrible--giving us projects after projects but that’s high school for you. My senior year had to be my best year because, come on it’s your senior year! You got to make it the best year. I had great teachers--they were chill and they were helpful when it came to grades. Having fun with each and everyone of my friends there was great. Am not going to lie --I am going to miss high school. I just wish I could do high school all over again, especially senior year.

Walking around Santa Ana, you see tagging everywhere--on walls, the ground, and on buildings. I sometimes wonder how in the hell they get up there because I always look around trying to find a way up there and I can’t even find it. I always thought that they brought some huge ass ladder with them to get up there. Sometimes I just want to walk around at night and see how they actually get up there. I always see tagging in the hardest places to get to, especially on the bridge where the freeway is and on billboards. Am guessing it’s true that we do come from monkeys because you have to be a monkey to actually get up there.

Going out with friends to the movies and being able to sneak into other movies you want to see. Just watching movies that make us crack up, getting scared and seeing action. These are the movies to watch and many more. Going to the bathroom and seeing a Jack Daniel’s where you were going to go to pee. My reaction was surprise because that’s the first time I ever saw this in a bathroom. I would think that you would sneak a bottle somewhere else, not into a theater. Am guessing people just like to drink and it doesn’t matter where they are. I was wondering where the person was that drank this whole thing by himself and I was thinking I was going to see somebody stumbling while they were walking or a throw up spot in the hallways.

Having to grow up Santa Ana is crazy because you get to see different things that you wouldn’t see when you grow up in a better neighborhood. I don’t regret living here because I grew up to like this city and everybody that I met was chill. They became good friends and I see them when I go out, talk to them, just start catching up, talking about old times. Going out and seeing places that bring back memories when I was younger and just remembering the stupid things that my friends and I would do. Getting caught sometimes and having to run in different directions just so we wouldn’t get in trouble. This is my city where I grew up in and I wouldn’t want to trap it in for any other city because I have memories that mean a lot to me and I have good friends here.

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"South Pasadena: A Color Extravaganza" by Sharon Sekhon

What I love most about my neighborhood and what immediately make it ‘home’ to me are the colors here. I have lived in South Pasadena for most of my life and it is here where I feel most comfortable. I appreciate its beauty, the people that work here, its wildlife and good food. All of these elements are colorful pieces to a beautiful place.
Carmine’s restaurant on Fair Oaks has delicious food and is family-run. I once told my husband (who loves entertainment trivia) that Carmine from the TV show “Laverne & Shirley” owned the restaurant. He was impressed, and it was only later that I revealed my deception. It turns out he told many people my story. So, if you hear that it is owned by Carmine Raguzzo, or the ‘Big Ragu,’ it is an entirely apocryphal story.
I also like Shaker’s Restaurant for its delish breakfast and Googie architecture. The waitresses here are the best. Not only are they nice, but they always remember what I like to order. How awesome is that?
I like that South Pasadena has lots of families and a great public school system. I like that various individuals and factions have successfully fought the 710 fwy.

Be sure to check out the Fair Oaks Pharmacy if you like ice cream. If you don’t, I am sorry for you.
I ruefully acknowledge the nostalgia that South Pasadena businesses use to attract tourism. I also respect and want to learn other history like about two legends Minerva Hoyt, who saved Joshua trees for us, and Doris Lilly, whom Holly Golightly from Breakfast at Tiffany’s is modeled after. Both lived in South Pasadena and are real ladies.
I feel connected to the creatures here--the people, the bugs, birds, flowers, plants and animals around me that make this the most beautiful place to live.
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"A Way Out" (Bell Gardens) by Francisco Sepulveda

Bell Gardens, the “hub of progress” as the city’s logo states. Throughout the years people from different cities have a common belief about how the city’s environment is. It is commonly described as “ghetto” or “crime ridden” or even “ran by gangs” contrary to what the city slogan portrays. This “belief” that people have contradicts my view of the city. I agree that there is a very bad gang problem, but this great city has many things to offer that can help children and teens stay out of these problems.

Walking around the streets of Bell Gardens you will always come across some sort of vandalism, from “tagging” on the walls or sidewalk to beat down alleys. Gang violence has been a big problem ever since I have lived there. I remember that at the bus stop or local store there was always a story about a shooting that had happened or gang members that had broken into the stores. Gangs in Bell Gardens were a part of everyday life. The smell of marijuana or some other type of drug could be smelled at any place that you walked. Gang members would gather and roam the streets in broad daylight forcing parents to not let their kids walk out in the streets by themselves at any time of the day. This was the environment in which I had to live through on an everyday basis.

Bell Gardens
*This picture shows the streets in which I grew in.
This street was not “ghetto” but it also was not the best of the best.
Bell Gardens
*Not only does the day provide danger but also in the late
night hours the Alleys can be very dangerous for anyone to pass through.
My parents were part of the “movement” of not letting kids out on the streets by themselves. As a result, they had to find other means for my sisters and I to be able to do what every child is supposed to do...have fun. This is where the city’s biggest park, Ford Park, came into play. I literally lived in this park. From the age of four, I was continuously involved in the recreational baseball league. Not only was I able to stay out of trouble on the streets, but also I was able to meet new people that were going through the same problem that I was going through. The people that I met at the park baseball league went on to being my best friends and currently we are all still really good friends.
Bell Gardens

*This picture shows the baseball field where I spent most
of my childhood practicing which in turn kept me out of trouble form the streets.

The entire 14 years that I lived in Bell Gardens I lived on the same street and went to the same schools as most of my friends from around the area. I began to open my eyes to all the problems of the city in high school. When I began my first day at Bell Gardens High School, I had an eventful welcoming. The high school was a place where “cholos” or gang members dealt with most of their “business”. The first day during nutrition I witnessed my first gang fight. This fight was everyone against everyone. As usual, everyone ran to see what was happening until school security as well as district police came and separated everyone and some even got handcuffed. I decided that I did not want to deal with any of that and decided to tryout for the baseball team at the high school. I made the team after days of extensive workouts. Similar to when I was younger, the high school baseball team always kept me busy so I had no time to get involved into any of the negative things that were happening in my surroundings. The coach made it clear that if we ever got involved with any “cholo” or school then he will waste no time in kicking us off the team. Since baseball was something loved, I made sure that I did not get into trouble.
Bell Gardens High School
*This picture shows the front of the auditorium at
my high school were the best 4 years of my life were spent.
*This is the main entrance to the park that was the home field
for the High School Baseball team. I was able to make many friendships because of this experience.

After my freshman year all problems began to calm down. The school hired more securities and more police roamed the streets surrounding the school. This created an overall safer environment for everyone including residents. Violence began to decrease, but two other areas began to increase. Recently, Bell Gardens High School was named as one of the schools having one of the highest pregnancy rates in the Los Angeles area as well as having the highest obesity rate in the Los Angeles area. These statistics made the city look very bad. Even after all these headlines I still feel that Bell Gardens is something other than common belief. Through time the city has changed greatly. I feel that this great city has a lot to offer. I was able to find ways to stay out of trouble and I did not become another statistic of being a high school drop out.

The stereotype of being “ghetto” shows how the city is on the outside. The inside of the city on the other hand is filled with many opportunities that can help anyone in the city. Bell Gardens is the place that I call home and the things that I had to live through shaped me into the person I am today. If you are able to learn more about the city and maybe even have the honor of living here, I guarantee you will enjoy the different ways that you can stay out of trouble and have fun with friends and family. Lastly, remember the golden rule about everything you do, do not judge a book by its cover.

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"Love Is Real" (Santa Ana) by Jasmine Soto

“Love is real.”

There was a point in my life when my life was messed up. I was lost full of disillusionment. But then, came along someone to lift me up, right when my world was crashing down. It was always hard for me to trust someone. But when you get to know that one person internally, you start to realize not everyone in is world is the same. This is a snapshot of the inside of “My love box”. This box means a lot to me because it’s full of memories that will always remain in my heart. We all have something that we keep, that means so much to us. There is about almost 90 flowers inside of my box and half of them are picked from my city the City of Santa Ana. Something I have learned through my youth years is that when the opportunity of love arrives to your life. You will accept that love with full hands only if you’re ready and you’re committed. You will cherish that love, appreciate and value it and most of all hold on to that love like a fragile new born baby and never ever take it for granted. The reasons why I say this is because, there is always going to be a person out there in the world yearning for that great love, you have. When it comes to your parents, siblings, from a woman or a man always appreciate and never take the love they have for you for granted. A day might come when they’re not in this world or even in your life no more and all you have wanted to say and all the appreciation you might have wanted to show will go the waste because it might have been too late. 

“No Games aloud, be that change that you want to see in the world.”

“No Games aloud,” means that in this life there is no time to play. The youth of today drive themselves by thinking that life is all about living it up. I agree, life is about living it up, but in a positive way. Anything negative you decide to do will bring you negative outcomes, even if you don’t think so, it does happen. Taking life seriously takes a big role in your future. It doesn’t  have to take something tragic to happen to you, for us to realize the wrong things we are doing. I believe that that our generation has way more intelligence then the past generation and even the one before that. In life, you go through a phase when your start to learn that we’re not in this world to stay forever. It is time for us to start to move, and do something positive that will leave a mark in this world. It’s never too late to get back up on feet and be that change you want to see in the world.

"My city is my home."
“My city is my home.” There are a few reasons why. I live in Santa Ana and the population of Hispanics here is about 253,928 (78.2%). I think Santa Ana is almost like Mexico. If I look to my right and to my left there I see my raza. This is the city where Mexicans, Mexican Americans just feel comfortable. I took this picture in my local Gonzales Northgate market. The reason why I snapshot this aisle was because there was a huge sombrero hung from the ceiling. It represents our culture and where we come from. I thought to myself that this was very unique because not in every market you walk in you will see this. In Mexican markets like these, you hardly see people from other ethnicities, and it’s funny, sometimes you’ll run into your mom’s comadre or your dads friend, Or even into your own family.
"The rose that grew from concrete."
I took this picture right in the corner of Civic Center and Ross by the Santa Ana Public Library. This picture symbolizes reality, that even if you come from a difficult background, you can become whatever you want. You just have to have desire and determination. This quote is actually owned by the one and only Tupac Amaru Shakur. The first time I read his poem I understood it that first time. The reason why is because through his poem there was a relation. He wanted to rise just like I want to rise. It also means that where typically not much of beauty grows, but in this case it did. This powerful meaning represents me. I, one day will be that rose, the positive thing that grew from concrete. This also represents the city and all of its evils overcoming the tendency for people who were born in the ghetto to never leave the ghetto.  I will grow feet and I will be able to walk away from it. I will be that woman who will be looked up to for my strength and excellence. Even if I don’t have full support from my loved ones. I will be that rose that grew from concrete when no one else even cared.
"The sky is the limit."
This picture was taken in the city of orange. A few minutes away from Santa Ana. The reason why I chose the caption “The sky is the limit” was because the sky has no limits to how high you want to dream and achieve anything you want to achieve. People take this quote a different way but in my opinion the quote is clear enough to understand it. It is never too high of how far you want to dream. Don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise. Because one day that biggest dream you have will come true. When the world says to give up, hope whispers try it one more time. All you need is that spark of hope and a little faith to make it all come true. In order to get what you want in life you have to go beyond what you thought you were capable of. Never be afraid to fail, because if you fail once, it doesn’t mean you’re going to fail at everything. Keep trying, hold on, and always always believe in yourself. Life is always full of negatives and positives but, the struggle you’re in today is developing the strength you need for tomorrow, DON’T GIVE UP.  Most importantly, keep smiling because life’s a beautiful thing and there’s so much to smile about.  
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"A Little Minnesota in a lot of California" by Calvin Va Her

“Well, I’m sure LA is a huge difference from Minnesota right? I mean, I bet there are no Asians in Minnesota. It’s all farms right”? Unfortunately, I receive this comment far too often when I tell people that I am from Minnesota. Having just moved from Minnesota to Los Angeles in September of 2012, right before the school year, people are always shocked to hear what Minnesota is really like. “Well not really. Minnesota has Asians. It’s not all white. As for farms, we do have farms, but for the most part it’s city. There’s even a section in St. Paul that looks just as Asian influenced as Alhambra” I explain politely while their face is clearly marked with shock, priceless. Minnesota’s Asian population is heavily centralized at the capital of St. Paul.
St. Paul
Minnesota holds roughly 45,000 Hmong people, making it the state with the largest Hmong population. Minnesota is also home to thousands of people of other Asian descent such as Laotian, Thai, Cambodian, and Vietnamese and many other South East Asian ethnicities due to the aftermath of the Vietnam War. As a Hmong American, I knew everything about the common life of Hmong teens in Minnesota. However, Now in LA, I was at a loss. People didn’t know what Hmong was, and additionally, they thought Minnesota was some kind of uncultured, racist area. I explained to them that certain parts of Minnesota even look like Alhambra, an immensely Asian populated area. Unfortunately due to these regional stereotypes hardwired into people’s minds, my hometown gets a bad reputation as somewhat uncultured. Because of this, I have prepared a photo comparison between University Avenue in St, Paul Minnesota and Valley Boulevard in LA, California. In doing so, fellow Californians will see the cultured side of Minnesota that is very similar to LA’s Alhambra.
University Avenue

University Avenue is a street that runs though Saint Paul and Minneapolis, Minnesota. University also runs right along the state capital. In Saint Paul, University Avenue is known for its densely populated Asian area. This area is mainly Hmong, Laotian, Thai, Cambodian and Vietnamese. After the Vietnam War, America allowed refugees to enter and Minnesota became one of the many places many South East Asian people inhabited. My own culture, Hmong, hailing from Laos, is one of the most populated in Minnesota, all centralized in the twin cities.

University Avenue is often called “Asian Avenue” as the businesses that run alongside the street are all Asian owned. Usually most of the stores range from restaurants, clothing shops, travel agencies, even car dealerships. This area is very South East Asian, as Minnesota became the refuge for these people in the 1970’s. Walking down University, you will see Vietnamese, Hmong and Lao stores all within a few feet of each other. In this photo you will see Cambodian and Chinese businesses in the same building. In the photo below, a Hmong building is displayed, with various shops inside.

University Avenue
Hmong Building

Recently, just this past summer, the city of St. Paul had decided to build a light rail system that would run across University Avenue.  This light rail construction has damaged the business of the Asian stores in this area as a result of the immense traffic that the construction has created.  The light rail is scheduled to be done in 2014, and currently, the Asian businesses are doing a little better as the construction is finishing up.  Here to the left you will see the Vietnamese restaurant, “Mai Village” and the light rail fence in the foreground.

This area of University Avenue is also very interesting to me as it represents and creates Pan Asian unity in the area.  Asians of different ethnicities are able to coexist in the same area and create this “Asian Avenue.”

Asian Avenue
Alhambra
When exploring LA, my parents had gotten me an apartment in Alhambra. Little did I know, Alhambra was a very Chinese and Vietnamese area. Valley Boulevard is a busy street that has many companies and stores owned by Asian people. This street reminded me of home as it looked very similar, almost identical to university Avenue, a street that runs through St. Paul. University Avenue is also quite Asian, populated with Hmong and Vietnamese stores. It was actually quite shocking to walk down Valley, for a moment I thought I was in Minnesota again.
Alhambra
Alhambra
Once again I saw Asian owned businesses. Walking down the street I noticed Chinese signs and writing on businesses. I quickly was told that Alhambra is a very Chinese and Vietnamese area. There were Chinese restaurants, and businesses, even a preschool for Chinese children. There were also countless Vietnamese restaurants along Valley. Additionally, I spied a Chinese owned hotel in which I stayed in when I was visiting LA for the first time in the summer. Again I saw that idea of Pan Asian unity exemplified by the fact that this area was both Vietnamese and Chinese simultaneously. As I was walking down the street I noticed a few Asian Americans walking down to the Asian grocery store as well. This was nice, as it reminded me of home and University Avenue. Minnesota is not what you think it is. It is not some farm land desolate area. It is a cultured are with different cultures from all around the world and some areas even mirror the most cultured and diverse areas of LA. So take a stroll down Valley Boulevard, because in actuality, you’re talking a stroll down its twin, University Avenue as well.
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"An Angel in Topanga" by Linda Vallejo
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Topanga Canyon is a place of angels, artists and nature all in a strange mix of California history, 60’s Hippies, modern technologies and conveniences, and natural lifestyle. The Angel of Topanga sits in the center of my neighborhood guarding passer-bys and residents. The angel, with its bright mosaic colors sits in a bed of pine trees and indigenous herbs and plants reminding me of many of the people that I know in my neighborhood; strikingly individual people with brightly colored imaginations and lifestyles living in the closest thing to pristine nature that we have here in Southern California.

The angel sits overlooking Topanga Canyon Boulevard guarding over residents and visitors with its blue hues reminding us that the beach is very close by. Its hands are positioned with palms upwards welcoming all and presenting its spirit to nature itself. In the evening the angel becomes a ghostly figure surrounded only by moonlight and the whisper of crickets.

An artist’s vision is one of individuality and unique place. The Angel of Topanga has a unique and unusual presence, made of uncommon elements living in the midst of “a strange space.” Artists live in their own “space” much like this angel. Artists present their palms up offering the fruit of their creativity to the world and to their neighborhood. Topanga is home to hundreds of painters, potters, photographers, filmmakers, poets and writers. They too are the angels of my neighborhood!

I often wonder what people driving through on their way to the beach or the San Fernando Valley think of our neighborhood and its zany mix of realities. Southern California is not known for many natural settings, but Topanga Canyon is an exception to the rule with many homes situated on multiple acres of land, native plants and trees including the California Valley and Canyon Oak, and animals of all kinds including bob cat, cotton tails, quails, hawks, and coyotes, among many others. In the winter the Topanga Creek becomes is only little raging river with small waterfalls and pools. Croaking frogs come to life in their renewed, wet environment and their song arises just as the sun goes down each evening.

There are no street lights in Topanga which makes it possible to see and appreciate thousands of stars and the planets. There is little traffic on the small roads, and police and emergency vehicles turn their sirens off when visiting. It is so quiet that on a summer’s day you can hear the thousands of bees gathering their pollen and making honey. The silence is an angel’s silence, a silent prayer for nature in a city where nature is hard to find.

I moved to Topanga in 2006 and promised myself that I would wait for my new home and the beauty of nature to affect me. Now, I am surprised when I enter a crowded, noisy urban area of our city and wait anxiously to return to my Topanga Angel and the quiet of nature. The Angel of Topanga has inspired me to stand calmly and strong with my palms facing skyward as a symbol of my dedication to my art and my neighborhood.
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"Connecting Home (Arcadia)" by Stephanie Wong

I remember the very first time I laid eyes on Arcadia and without thinking, blurted out, “Is this home?” Everyone has his or her own unique definition of what ‘home’ is. To me, home is a place filled with laughter and tears. A place where success flourishes and dreams come alive. Home is not a place where you sleep every night but a place where you can connect with family, friends, and neighbors. Looking back at the times when I never paid much attention to my neighborhood, I can honestly say I feel a sense of regret. I regret not putting in as much effort to connect with my neighbors or to get to know the history of my blossoming city. As I matured, my city now holds more meaningful memories than ever before. Memories that I would want to relive forever and some that I wish would just disappear- never to be opened again. Today, I am able to retrace my steps from the very beginning to relive those euphoric memories of my youth. On the way, discovering the hidden gems of Arcadia that connects people of all race, religion, and gender together as one tribe.

Signpost

Sign post of Arcadia in Arcadia. Picture taken on January 25, 2013.

It feels like it was just yesterday when my parents forced me go to the Arcadia Historical Museum to learn more about our new neighborhood. I never thought an ordinary looking brick building would provide much adventure to a ten year old. Much to my dismay, the museum was actually a little cool. Just a little. I was able to catch a glimpse of Arcadia’s history and evolution through photographs and historical items. I learned that Arcadia was named after the ancient Greek city, Arcadia, a city celebrated for its unspoiled harmonious connection to nature and its citizens. Arcadia is located in the San Gabriel Valleys in California with the scenic Santa Anita Canyon as a backdrop.

Artesia Historical Society

Arcadia Historical Museum in Arcadia. Picture taken on January 25, 2013.

The Santa Anita Park is one of the most memorable buildings located in Arcadia. Even though the park’s racetrack may look dull, it holds many ambivalent memories of the past. The racetrack was once home to thousands of Japanese-Americans forced to enter internment camps during World War II. Today, the racetrack is a place for people to gamble their life savings away. A bittersweet memory to some that has been forgotten over time.

Santa Anita Park

Santa Anita Park in Arcadia. Picture taken on January 25, 2013.

For eight years, the Arcadia High School pool was my second home. I would breathe the chlorinated air every time I step foot onto the pool deck. It was my safety-shield against the ‘real world’ a place where all my worries would disappear. My only focus was to swim like it was my last day- to give up all my energy. I was able to push myself to swim and train better with the help and encouragement from my teammates. Competing against one another over our times or laughing at our awkward goggle tans. In that short time I gained lifelong memories and friends that I will cherish forever.

Arcadia High School Pool

Arcadia High School Pool in Arcadia. Picture taken on January 23, 2013.

Arcadia is lucky to be home to the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanical Gardens. The garden attracts visitors like bees to honey with flowers and plants of all shapes, sizes, and colors. Before entering the gardens you can smell the sweet aroma of roses filling the air. Parents bring their children to see the plants in full bloom and the majestic flowing waterfall. The garden is home to a variety of peacocks, geese, and ducks wandering mindlessly through the arboretum.

Arboretum Sign

Sign post of the Arboretum of Los Angeles County in Arcadia. Picture taken on January 22, 2013.

Peacock

A peacock resting inside the Arboretum in Arcadia. Picture taken on January 22, 2013.

Water fall

Waterfall in the Arboretum in Arcadia. Picture taken on January 22, 2013.

When I was younger my favorite place to hang out with my friends was at the Westfield mall. I don’t know how it happened, but I would always see a familiar face at the mall. In a way, it made me feel closer to my community. The mall is the perfect place to go to when you are tired of the scorching weather. On the weekends the mall is packed with people who want to watch the latest movie, grab a quick bite, or shop for the latest trends. It is the perfect place to relax and enjoy the livelihood of the crowd.

Westfield Mall

Entrance to the Westfield Shopping Mall in Arcadia. Picture taken on January 31, 2013.

When walking down Baldwin Avenue you can see every restaurant ready to entice you with their umami aroma wafting from their store. There is a wide variety of ethnic cuisine to choose from on one street. If you are indecisive like me, you could order ramen one day and the next day order a falafel plate. The diversity of restaurants will appeal to everyone’s taste buds even the pickiest of eaters. The benefit of having traditional food without the hassle of traveling pleases the community of Arcadia.

Baldwin Plaza

Sign Post of Baldwin Plaza in Arcadia. Picture taken on January 31, 2013.

One of the most important places in Arcadia to me is the Arcadia Methodist Hospital. The hospital is a place where I am able to connect with patients and their families, doctors, nurses, and other volunteers. The hospital is a place where my hopes, dreams, and future lie. The thought of becoming a nurse and caring for people in my community is what drives me to pursue my career path. Volunteering at the Methodist Hospital has changed the way I view life. It has taught me to appreciate what I have and to live life without regrets.

Arcadia Methodist Hosptial

Arcadia Methodist Hospital Entrance in Arcadia. Picture taken on January 31, 2013.

The ever-humble city of Arcadia was home to millions of people from the very beginning. The memories from the past have long faded with time- never to be unfolded again. Yet this city has brought together people from all race, gender, and religion to become one again. The modernization of Arcadia has opened up a way for people to connect with their neighbors to move forward.

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"Solano Canyon - Casanova" by John Wu
wu
Hi, my name is John Wu attending Salono Ave. Elementary School. I am 11 years old and I live in the community of 90012. I live the neighborhood of Salono and Casanova which are in the 90012 also. I have great friends around this neighbor hood and also in the community of 90012. I have friends that support me and friends that I can have fun with. I have friends down in Chinatown and in Salono. They are great to me. We all help each other out. If I weren’t to live in this community I wouldn’t have such great friends and priority. This is one of the many great communities that you can choose to live in. Even though the neighborhood of Salono and Casanova is very quite, it’s still safe. You can walk home from Salono Ave. Elementary School and back home with no problem encountering and bad things. You can play around the neighborhood with your friends during the day time and it is still very safe. This is neighborhood is a nice environment.
Also the neighborhood can be a little scary at times. Like at the night times when you walk home the neighborhood is pretty dark so you can see much so things can happen and be hard to witness it. During the night time our community can be a little more freaky because it more extremely quite. So you can never the less expect anything to happen, so can’t be to sure nothing is going to happen to you. So most of us stay of the streets during the night.
wu
Rain or shine, dry or wet, it still makes a great day to be in this neighborhood. You still see people soaring around this community either it’s rain or shine. You see people are the park. You see people going shopping still. You see people outside in the rain enjoying it. You see people enjoying the sun shine also. Running around, playing, talking, and so much more the people can do. No matter what kind of weather it is, you see people on the streets enjoying it.
The other neighborhood that I go to a lot. It’s a small little place called Chinatown. I love that neighborhood. I used to attend Castelar Elementary School there before. I have a lot of good friends there, but I had to leave them behind for two years because I had to transfer over here to Salono Ave. Elementary School. Chinatown is a great neighborhood. I have my best friends over there and they are still my best friend. There an old Chinatown in Chinatown. It’s called Old Chinatown because it was there for a long time before a new Chinatown came. A lot of people come by there. There is a lot of tourist who comes by there now. Buying stuff learning about our culture and the town. Chinatown is a great neighborhood also. There is an great historic park just right down the block of Chinatown. It is not finished building yet, but it is 60% done. The park was grand open not to long ago. But they still are going to finish up the park. The historic park is very nice and big. It can allow too play a big game of football with your big group of friends. Even though the park is just built with trees and grass on it, it is very great park to walk around or play on. It is the greatest park in the 90012 community you can ever have.
This is why I like to live in the great community of the 90012. I would say that you can try it out for yourselves and you would enjoy this nice peaceful neighborhood. If I weren’t to live around this great community that I have right now it would not be the same if I have lived somewhere else. This neighborhood gives me great experience and memories that I can’t seem to forget. I would stay here for a part of my life because this community is so good and so great to me.

“One Man’s Trash is Another Man’s Treasure”
Virgil Ave, Los Angeles by Neilanie Yadao

Virgil Avenue
 
Virgil Avenue

When people think of Los Angeles, many refer back to the movies that display a bustling city filled with garbage covered streets and extremely rude people. But beyond the smog and skyscrapers, there is a different kind of Los Angeles that only Angelenos are fortunate enough to call home. Specifically on Virgil Avenue, a street located on the outskirts of downtown Los Angeles, is place that I call home. Landmarks such as the Virgil Nightclub, the El Unico Pollo Taquero Mexican Grill, and the Virgil Street itself may not be the sole reason why I call Virgil my home, but rather because of the memories that the places hold.

Unico Pollo
As you first walk down Virgil Avenue, from the 101 freeway not to far away, you will encounter a small kiosk painted dark green and red. From 12pm-10pm Sunday-Wednesday and 12pm-12am Thursday- Saturday, the tiny kiosk serves delightful and semi-affordable Mexican entrees that are appealing to the starving pedestrians and students looking for a quick bite to eat. Many times has the grill saved me from starvation and even my occasional cravings for Mexican food. With my home only a few feet away, El Unico Pollo Taquero has been the go to place to re-energize after a night out, for it is the only thing within blocks that still has their kitchen open. Although there’s a twenty-four hour 7-Eleven across the street, Twinkies, a dollar soda, and a bag of chips is the closest thing that you’ll get to a meal at the food mart. The Virgil night clubbers seem to agree with my logic because as I drive home on the weekends, groups of people would come to their window and order the type of meal that they deserve after a night full of dancing. But the selection of tacos and burritos weren’t always available to us. Many other restaurants before El Unico have owned the little kiosk serving various foods ranging from Greek and Indian cuisine to sloppy joes made by Jay’s Burgers. Regardless of the many restaurants that have come and gone, the important thing that remains is the memories of the various food smells and that a delicious meal is readily available to us a few feet from our doorsteps.
Virgil Avenue
As I had briefly mentioned before, there is a 21+ nightclub on the corner parallel to El Unico on Santa Monica and Virgil Avenue appropriately named, Virgil. Not as ext ravagant as the Vegas or even Hollywood nightclubs, the Virgil nightclub is home to many interesting characters wearing clothing that makes them seem like they were born in the wrong century, belong in the next Grease movie, or about to pass out from suffocation. The Virgil night clubbers however, are not why I include this landmark in my essay, but rather because of the sounds from the club. Many clubs are located away from residential areas and are placed exclusively in commercial areas. Most of Virgil Avenue contain commercial buildings however, the cross streets of Santa Monica Boulevard and Sunset Boulevard mark the residential area. This means that the blasting music that originates from the nightclub resonates into the homes and apartments that are unfortunate enough to be within its sound wave radar. Thursday through Saturday nights featured surprise performances from Rock-n-roll and/or Hip-Hop artists courtesy of the Virgil nightclub. Countless times have I slept and woken up to the bumping bass of the music and the loud voices and footsteps of people, often in clothes not fit for the night breeze, rushing from their parked cars to the club outside. Losing hours of sleep have been the result of their fun but as my sister and I walked many times past that place, we had often spoken about the one-day we will be able to the see the inside.
Virgil
The last landmark that makes Virgil Avenue my home is the street itself. Being one of the major streets in Los Angeles besides Sunset Boulevard, Santa Monica Boulevard, and Vermont Avenue means that the flow of automobile and foot traffic is high. Learning to maneuver around the traffic and non-traffic times is essential when you live on a busy street. The late morning and early evening are the ideal times to be driving down Virgil Avenue toward the 101 freeway and all other times are a pain to drive in. Parking, as well as driving, is a difficult issue on my street. With mostly all the homes built close together means that the luxury of having a big driveway for all your cars is nonexistent. The lack of driveway space forces my neighbors and myself to park their cars on the street. Besides abiding to the street parking rules such as avoiding red curbs and obeying the designated no parking times, there are a handful of additional unofficial rules. Rules such as the ideal time to find a street parking spot is between the hours of 9am-7pm and on Thursday nights in order to find a parking spot, you must park your car on the street in the early evenings because people go clubbing at Virgil on Thursday nights. I have recently taught myself how to parallel park because it is an essential skill to have if you want to find a good parking spot on the street. Another occurrence on Virgil Avenue would be the excessive amount of times emergency vehicles sound their sirens on this street. Never have I witnessed that many sirens in my life until I had moved to my house in L.A. It does not matter the time or day, I will assure you that you will hear a siren at least once a day for the rest of the time you live on Virgil Avenue. The sirens usually yank me from my thoughts and pull my back into reality whether I am reading, studying, or watching T.V. But just like the music that blasts from the club down the street, the sirens are a way to tell me that I am home.
Virgil Avenue
Virgil Avenue
Los Angeles may be a bustling city, but behind its tall buildings lie a hidden beauty that few outsiders are able to witness. What we define as the hidden beauty of Los Angeles are aspects that help us call this garbage ridden town our home. El Uncio Pollo Taquero, the Virgil nightclub, and Virgil Avenue are all landmarks that I find beautiful about my town not because of its functional value, but for the memories that each one holds.
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"In the Neighborhood" (Chinatown) by Jeanette Yue
yue
In my neighborhood, I have two places I can call home. My original home and my granma’s house, which, by the way, is about ten houses down from my house. How convenient for me.

There is nothing that can make home, home, besides family. I have my mom, and dad, my older sister, and a pet hamster! his name is Scruffy. Scruffy is what you would call a teddy bear hamster. Unlike his siblings and parents, Scruffy’s hair is really... long and scruffy. That’s how Scruffy got his name. I thought that hamsters don’t have blonde fur, but he proved me wrong. (He is in fact a male!)

By day, Scruffy sleeps in a warm, comfy, cozy, -my sister’s friends think it’s weird- sock. At night, when no sounds are abundant, nothing is on, he does the unexpected. Creek. Creek. Wee! Scruffy has tons of fun in his wheel.

I have an older sister named Cynthia. We are about six years apart. She takes naps in the day, because she has loads of homework. Between you and me, it’s, because her friends keep chatting with her on the internet, but what else takes up her time is tennis. She s in her school s tennis team.

My mom and dad are always at work. They come home late, but they get Wednesdays off. I sleep at home when they don’t have to work. When my sister has the time, I play tennis with her (handball style), in our backyard. I used to play with my friends who lived parallel to me, but now I don t do it that often anymore. I hate my allergies.

I usually sleep at grandma s house since she is the one who takes care of me and Cynthia. Her (Grandma) front yard has a gate and a small garden. in the back, instead of a backyard, there are two small houses for tenants to live in. When I m at my grandma s house, I live with four other people: Grandma, Uncle, Auntie Donna, and Auntie Anna. Grandma puts a roof over our heads and keeps our stomachs full. If we were talking about power, Grandma would have the most power.

Auntie Anna is my mom s smallest sister. I look a lot like her when she was my age, except I m taller and my hair is longer.

Uncle is really sensitive about things. You could say that he s a perfectionist. He sometimes buy junk food like jerky for the family that seems expensive to me, like the laptop he bought.

Auntie Donna is really sensitive about how many times I go outside. She says that I need to go outside and soak up some sun. True, but whenever I go outside for a long time, I get nauseous. Sometimes, she even forces me to go out, but when I get back home, my neighborhood is able to: melt away my eyes out of happiness, send music to my ears, and I m so joyous, I can just leap up into the moonThere is a place I always go to, Monday-Friday. Can yu guess? If you re baffled, the answer is school. There I can play with my friends, but the steback is that I have to do schoolwork.I have close friends from years back to rely on that live close to me. Nearly all my friends live within walking distance from my house. The majority of people who live in my neighborhood are Chinese. Since they re Chinese, it s easier to relate to one another, because we share the same culture, food, and holidays. In the end, we're all like one big family.

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Untitled (Santa Ana) by Cynthia Zul
Artistically Strange.
My beautiful neighborhood, I was born in the city of Orange and raised in Santa Ana, second largest city in Orange County. Its filled with many things I love, for example there is a Zoo a couple minutes away, there is an art gallery display every month, there are many volunteer opportunities the list is endless! It’s been eighteen years living here and I’ve visited many other cities but I can proudly say Santa Ana will always be my home. Everyone has something that intrigues them or that catches their attention, mine happens to be art. I enjoy drawing and painting though I am not good I still love it. On the first Saturday of every month there is an Art Walk located in downtown Santa Ana it’s very unique and interesting and I always enjoy going. 
Colors of the Rainbow. (artist unknown)
I love this picture of an art piece in the art gallery because of all the colors used and how they were used. And since I have a really big imagination I can paint my own picture of what’s in the actual portrait. There are so many talented people around Santa Ana and it’s good to know that there are opportunities for artists to show off their skills for others to admire. 
City Lights! Taken by Sarah Benitez
City Lights are everywhere, coming from a light post, street light, a restaurant they all make the city glow. I like this picture that my friend Sarah took when we were walking down a street by my house.

La Cuatro.

Historic Downtown Santa Ana has really neat places! Lately I have been going to the Starbuck on the intersection of Broadway and 4th Street and walked around the historic buildings after work.  Which leads to my next picture,
Let's grab some lunch!

Café Calacas is one of my favorite places to eat lunch at. It’s also located in Downtown Santa Ana and they have delicious sandwiches and their small place is filled with lots of culture and positive energy.

Momma's Garden! I love nature! Its beautiful, a simple tree, flower, bee, they all have wonderful characteristics that will always catch my attention. Thankfully I can find all these things in my backyard thanks to my mother’s gardening techniques.
I have lived in the same house all my life, my neighborhood is pretty calm.  Years ago I remember it being very violent, there would be gun shots, fights, drive byes and other things that have almost disappeared. Nothing like that happens in my street anymore but I hear it happening in other surrounding streets.  Nonetheless, I consider my house to be safe; one of the places in my house that I love and cherish is my mother’s garden. She is always growing the prettiest flowers, vegetables, and even fruits all year long. Santa Ana has a Nature Center where they provide families with knowledge on how to grow their own fresh fruits and vegetables. Luckily for me my mother teaches me all her gardening techniques that I will carry on for when I have my own garden.
 
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"Imagine Beauty" (Santa Ana) by Victor Elias
The Big Streets.
Born and raised in Santa Ana I do not remember much about my neighborhood just that I would always stay in front of the television watching cartoon network and stuffing my face. As I got older I learned that my street wasn’t that pretty as I would get hit up often by gang members by the way I looked and dressed. I would say "screw it" and eventually started to kick it with them. Still, my street Monta Vista is a great neighborhood with ice cream trucks and little kids playing all the time.
The National Park.

Jerome Park is probably one of my favorite places to hang out when there is nothing to do at home it’s a great place where I hang out with my friends and play handball. Families are always walking their children to the playground and having barbeques, the old guys are always sitting in the benches playing cards or chess. When I needed to get back in shape I went to Jerome there is just so many different activities that people can do from running and boxing at the Jerome center. All this things are really fun but when the fair arrives once or three times a year I always attend to it, I usually don’t get on the rides with the price tickets being a little pricey but it‘s just nice walking with your friends or with a girl, and yea theirs gangsters here and there but they sure play a good game of handball.      

Best Pizza Place in Santa Ana.
Like every neighborhood there is always some kind of fast food restaurant in mine there is Husky’s and Dino’s but none of them compare to the Pizza Loca. It is not as good as other pizza places, still it has been a tradition for my friends and me since we have been in Intermediate school. It brings back memories when we first hang out at my house, all the good times we had watching cartoons and playing video games now we just drive to the block but we always talk about those good memories.
The Vinyl Room.
There has always been music in my neighborhood growing up from corridos and cumbias to gangster rap. It’s amazing how music talks about life and makes it better as Marvin Gaye once said “I sing about life”. One thing that has really open my mind is vinyl collecting it’s just that feeling of opening it and seeing the art work. I think every neighborhood should interact through vinyl.
The Garden.

My mom’s garden is a paradise, I still remember all my child hood memories playing around with the ball and chasing my dogs as a little kid. At first when we moved in all the roses were not even there only a lemon tree and a rusty fence but my dad put in a new fence and my mom planted her roses and Guayabo tree including her herbs. Her garden symbolizes a place where we use to have great family barbeques before my dad got deported, it is place when I would get sick my mom would make me a tea out of her herbs. I think it is the best garden in the neighborhood I always invite my friends over and we play music on my turntable, my mom’s garden is full of great memories everything being filled with sunshine and birds stopping by to steal my dog’s food.

 
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"Untitled" (Santa Ana) by Kevin Cabrera
Santa Ana Circa 2006.
Downtown Santa Ana was my first real experience of The Golden City. I attended Saturday nights with friends went to the clubs and bars. Proof was the preferred spot because my friends were the Dj’s that played there Saturday nights. I was completely ignorant of the fact that Santa Ana offered much more culture and history than I recognized. I find it ironic that Proof is housed in the historical and community loved Santora Building, a building I did not pay much attention in 2006. Today it is one of my favorite buildings in the city.
Rebirth and Enlightenment.

After losing fervor for Business Administration, I decided to switch majors to History. My search a college internship ended here, the Santa Ana Public Library History Room. It was here I discovered my love for archives and research, collecting and documenting local history. My love for Santa Ana increased exponentially as I met and developed relationships and friendships with colleagues, residents, and community leaders that share similar passion. I am truly indebted to the Santa Ana Public Library for leading me in my quest to become a great Historian.

Bike to the beat of my own drum.

I find solace either indoors secluded in a corner or outside being one with nature. Cycling has become one of my favorite outdoor activities. Santa Ana gives me the opportunity to cycle from home to work and travel throughout the city. However, I also see how much the city can improve to make Santa Ana a more bike friendly community. Assisting in helping improve the city’s bike master plan is a project I wish to be a part of. I feel the potential of creating different means of transportation to travel around the city is what makes Santa Ana so great.

Can't forget TeenSpace.

Aaaah, TeenSpace. Tutoring, mentoring, and working with youth in the Santa Ana Library TeenSpace are what solidified my love for the city. Giving the opportunity to help youth and provide them with guidance is a wonderful experience. We are also allowed to work on some very cool projects such as our Santa Ana My Town/Mi Pueblo float for the Fiestas Patrias Parade. The float was my introduction into creating a piece of art and I could not have done it without the help of TeenSpace youth and Arist Kailim Quevedo (pictured in blue shirt with red pants). You can see some of the historical and significant monuments of The Golden City on the float such as the Water Tower, Santa Ana Zoo with parrots and monkeys, Spurgeon Clock, and Santora Building.

Reach for the stars...or flowers.

Although the prevalent opinion of Santa Ana is dirty, riddled with gangs and violence, and overcrowded apartments to those outside of the city, Santa Ana is home to some of the clean, quietest, and finest neighborhoods such as Floral Park.  My parents instilled the qualities of hard work, dedication, disciple, desire, and determination from a very young age. And although I do come across the other qualities of Santa Ana on a daily basis, I hope to pass on these same attributes to the youth I meet and work with each and every day. In closing, my advice to all is to work hard and dedicate yourself to whatever you are passionate about and reach for the flowers because if I can do it you can as well.

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"A Humble Yet Rich Existence at the Corner of 1st and Newhope" (Santa Ana)
by Brandon Sandoval
Sometimes less is more than all the riches in the world.

I chose to begin this essay with an old family photograph of our Christmas tree in the living room because I feel that this picture says a lot about not only my family but my community as a whole. It emphasizes the fact that my family doesn’t have the resources or money to pay for a real pine tree like some others who are better off.  It displays a small two bedroom apartment that isn’t very big and which has forced our family to reuse a small plastic light up tree for years now. And somehow I wouldn’t want to change a single thing about this. I feel that this little tree is a symbol of my family’s ability to persevere with what little we have and make the most out of our situations. It proves, at least to me, that it is not necessary to have expensive items in order to have a good time or be happy. All it takes is the love and warmth of those around you, of your family and friends. And like us there are many people in Santa Ana who live under the same or even worse conditions. However I don’t feel that this is bad at all. I feel as though it exhibits some of the best traits that the residents of Santa Ana have: tradition, simplicity, and most importantly resilience.

Perhaps the party lasted only one day but the memory will last a whole lifetime.

Now up next follows a wonderful photograph of Rosita Park taken during one of my little sister’s birthday parties. At first I’d decided to write a bit about this photo because it reminded me of a much simpler and innocent time period in my life. During this time I loved having these types of parties because I was able to gather all my friends, play games, eat food, and celebrate with cake. But it wasn’t until I seriously thought about this picture’s true significance that I realize just what exactly made these parties special. It was a moment when family and friends would join together and make an effort to give someone an extra special celebration. My parents sometimes didn’t have the money to pay for all the expenses, but all their friends would come to their aid at a moment’s request. Any contribution, no matter how small, would always be greatly appreciated and useful. In retrospect my parents never had to do anything this grand, and it was obviously a strain in their pockets most of the time, but still they would go through the trouble of doing it for the sake of giving their kids a pleasant birthday. These parties were an act of love from parent to child, a sacrifice that although unnecessary to others was simply obligatory to my parents. And that…that really touches my heart.

The grass is always greener.
Continuing on is a photo that I took from my porch of a lovely little field hidden behind our apartments. It is here that I often played with my friends as a little kid and the place where many families would throw parties for their own children. The amazing thing about this field and the reason I included it inside my essay is that children from every apartment complex nearby would all gather up here and play together. Kids from all over, kids who knew nothing about each other, kids who were just looking to make some friends, had finally found a place to just be themselves. Sometimes we just wrestled, other times we would play soccer, and if by any chance we found long tree branches we pretended to be mighty swordsmen. This is a place that holds so many great and beautiful memories that I felt it necessary to include it in my project. But not just for what it stands to me personally, but to every other child that felt this same connection. To every single child that was able to be part of this amazing experience. This field felt like a sanctuary for the children of my community, one that would open up its magic to anyone no matter who they were.
Beaten and worn, yet so full of life.

Moving on, I present a picture of a field in Fitz Falcons Intermediate during a warm weekday afternoon. Now perhaps this picture means nothing to others in its current state, with its dried grass and patches of dirt, but you’d be surprised with how it brings my entire community together. During the weekend this lonely field is converted into a theatre of movement and action. Lines are drawn, flags are posted, and people come with their children from all over town for one reason and one reason only. Soccer. Kids from all ages come here to play the sport and with them often times come their parents. In my community the love for this sport is resonant and deep. In my experience this was one of the only ways in which I was able to just focus and dedicate myself to something positive and healthy. To me it was an art that took time and patience to master. It was a challenge to go against people you didn’t even know and test your abilities with them. It was a way to create bonds of friendship and rivalry. I love this picture because in a way Santa Ana is just like it. We may not look like much but deep down inside there is life and hope and happiness all around, one just has to take a closer look.

Where it all began...
Last but certainly not least is a picture of the Newhope Library right down the corner of my street. Now the question isn’t really why I included this photo in my essay but rather how couldn’t I include it when this place has had such an impact in my life. This place is like my second home and I’ve made some incredible memories within the four corners of its walls. But in actuality, I’m not the only that feels this way. Many of people that live around here can also say the same. It provides my community with the resources it needs, whether it be computers or tutors for its children. It provides a safe and quiet place for people to study and learn. It is not only educational but fun at the same time. The Newhope Library holds a special place in my heart because it gave me a path to follow. It helped me create wonderful friendships bonds with some of my closest friends, and now that I look back at all that’s happened I’m grateful. I’m glad to live in a community where its residents live through hardships and adversity and yet we are able to come together and move on with our lives. The library was my guide and where a new chapter in my life began. And I know that as long as this library exists it will hold that same significance that it held for me for the children of tomorrow. 
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"Untitled" (Santa Ana) by Alejandro Mendez
The closer you get the farther you are.

They say family is always there when you need them the most, always have your back when you need the support and always watches out for you even when you think the world has turned its back on you. Family to me means a lot to me, most of my life I depended on my family support because I never had those friends who actually cared for me, most of them used me for their advantage when it came to money or video games or even homework. I never had the motivational support that others had until my sophomore year, but more of that later. The photos above mean a lot to me because of three reasons. The first being the fact that other then my mother, my grandmother was a huge support to the whole family, even though we were thousnads of miles apart for basically my entire life she always saw our family in a positive aspect. The second would be that even that though my brother wasn’t there growing up with me, he still made a huge impact from when he was born to the present day, I have learned to care for other because the support they might bring you later could be a life changer . The Final reason is the that even though these two figure have made me see my family as the main reason why I’m still here to this very day, they could never meet each other or even had the chance because of day difference.

Family can make a difference even if they aren't really family.

Remember how I mentioned my sophomore year? Well this is what I meant. These past years volunteering at TeenSpace have really made an impact in my life because it got me to see that not everyone is the same. Before I joined TeenSpace I had no idea what I was going to do with my life. I was always hanging with the wrong crowd, ditching school using drugs and not giving a crap about life was what I was use to during for most of life so I never saw a reason to change until I started volunteering at the TeenSpace. Accidently volunteering at the library on March of 2010 might as well be the day that gave me a reason to change the way I see life. I got to admit it first started because of a girl but it changed rapidly because TeenSpace went from a volunteer place to what I see as my second family. Like I said family is important, blood related or not there will always be people that will see you as family.

Pokemon, aw man what can I not say about pokemon? This franchise has always been my favorite; no other series has caught my attention as much as Pokemon has. The earliest I remember playing the games would have to be back in 2001, the game was no other then the indirect sequel to pokemon red/blue/green, silver version. I fell in love with the series since then, playing and collecting every game that I’m able to grasp has been on my bucket list ever since. Someday I when I have my family and my children ask what my childhood was like I’ll have something to show them, not just boring stories that they want to hear.

Birthday C-A-K-E!
There’s not really much I could say about this photo that I haven’t said already. No wait… yes there is actually? You ever had a memory that will always be with you forever? Yeah this is one is one of mine. This photo was taken last year around October, literally after the birthday of three people, me, Pablo and Cheryl. We decided that it’ll be fun to cake Cheryl for her birthday, well caking one person turned into caking three, and elson too. This was probably the start of a tradition that will probably continue for a while. Like I said memories are important
Fond Memories.
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"My Neighborhood Photo Essay" (Santa Ana) by Manny Escamilla
My Friday night lights.

I start here with a portrait of a man. My father for whom I am named and will forever be indebted to. He is a man who bends, cuts, and shapes steel for the machines that automate the world. Hidden away next to a shop where the 5 and the 55 meet he taught me what it takes to persevere despite a start in life less fortunate than most. From the freeway exit you can see the company sign “ADAPT” captured in bold black lettering along the renovated World War Two era Aluminum siding. I can remember the predawn moments in my early life when my father would wake and place a golden cross upon his chest before standing up and beginning the day. It was under the fluorescent lights of that shop floor amid the scent of oils and singed metals that I learned my most important life lessons of hard work and determination. From the age of 12 my father and I would conspire against Federal labor laws to put an oversized blue coat on my body and an equally oversized broom in my hand. Bit by bit I picked up on his trade during my evenings and weekends sweeping pieces of shrapnel off the floor and moving into ever more complicated tasks. I still have the first piece of aluminum I was ever allowed to mill in a box of keepsakes from my youth. These were the happy moments with my dad. Those double shifts that left me in awe also gave me few other opportunities to spend time with him. It was only through work that I could get the chance to know him and he could get the chance to know me.

Around the dinner table.

A college friend once told me that appearances are for guests and my family is no different. My moments with my immediate family were for the most part pleasant. My mom and dad were hard working people that did what they could to shelter me and my little sister from the troubles surrounding our neighborhood. Yet if you look closely you’ll find the expressions of stress and distance from my extended family you’ll begin to understand the other side of growing up in an overcrowded home and the downside of having so many family members so close. Living in a crowded household I learned to play 5 minutes at a time while looking for something to do in the outside world. The leaves of grass on our front lawn would keep me entertained as I tried to understand the different types of plants that spouted up between the rows of post-war housing. I grew up in a house along with cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, live in boyfriends and extended tribesmen just passing through. The issues facing them never took very long to affect the rest of our family. My cousin/Godfather was a local drug dealer and I remember those moments riding down the street in a blue Cadillac making a series of stops along the way back from the local store. When his friends were over I would need to step away from my corner of the garage for a day or two and simply leave my toys where they stood. On two separate occasions a warrant for his arrest led the SWAT team to wake me up to the sight of shotguns and ski masks. My dad was too loyal to his sister to ever leave and I was never empathetic enough to forgive him for staying. My home was a place where I learned to quietly escape into my own thoughts and imagine a world far away.

“The capacity to hate is frightening human reality. We are always ready to blame another if the circumstances can free us from our own self-guilt." – The Berzerker”

Half way through this I thought it might be good to introduce myself as the outside would have seen me. I was a youth with a somewhat dead stare and in my neighborhood the obvious signs of a noncombatant. My long hair, metal t-shirts, and all black boots marked me apart from bald warriors doing battle on the streets in defense of ‘their’ neighborhoods. I never felt that same sense of misplaced loyalty or cultural machismo in the same way that my peers did. The only altercations with these defenders of the hood would come in the form of verbal assaults mocking my appearance. The taunts of fag, homo, and joto were more common than I care to acknowledge and continued to leave me a morbid outlook on life and the potential of my world. It was hard to grow up as a science and history nerd when your neighborhood has one of the lowest educational attainment rates in the state. By my teenage years I’d had lost faith in most things and only worshiped at the altar of Metal as bands from across the globe would descend on the Galaxy Theater to thrash into the early hours. Having always felt like an outsider I was free to wander the city and find out what it meant to follow my own path no matter where that led. If it wasn’t for PBS, NPR, and the underappreciated joys of late night C-SPAN sessions I would have never thought to apply myself towards higher education to the extent that I did. The years of futilely trying to help my own family left me with a sense of powerlessness. I freely admit that I doubted whether or not I would ever be able to make a dent in my own community. It wasn’t until I graduated from UC Berkeley in 2008 that I came back home cut my hair and began the difficult process of growing up and looking to see the other side of things.

July 4th - Santanero Style

My time in Santa Ana has taught me that joy and happiness can only be fully understood through the ups and downs of life. There is a remarkable amount of beauty in this world but sometimes you have to wait patiently for that right moment and the right light to fully see it. Otherwise we are unable to appreciate those fleeting moments that bring meaning to our lives. I feel like the unnamed man in the photograph standing in the middle of the dark looking on at the bright shining display happening in front of him. The people in Santa Ana have lived through a lot but they are still able to stand strong and light up the night. I have seen people in my community give everything they have to perfect strangers in need of help. The opportunities in my life have been made possible by several generations of individual and community struggles to make this a better place to live. The parks that I played in, the libraries I read books at, and the community spirit I encountered from my mentors instilled a sense of duty that I would not have received anywhere else. Beyond the demographic reality of being in the largest U.S city with a Latino supermajority, the intangibles of living in a youthful city with a still developing culture give you  hope for a better future. One in which I have begun to take my place in.   

Show others the joys of this world so that they never cease to wonder.

As I have now officially entered my late 20's it's been a time to transition from my years of training to one in which I actively help others. I chose to end with this photo because it reminds me of what I was like when I was constantly discovering new things about the place I grew up in. Hidden away in the corners, alleys, and between the side streets of this city there were always murals to come across. Each one of these has its own story and connection to the neighborhood in which it was painted. My archival work at the Santa Ana History Room has given me the unparalleled opportunity to stay in contact with events in my community and the people that make this city come alive. On this particular day I served as a local tour guide to two of the volunteers that had never known or been told about the history of the Downtown area and the little bits that the passing of time leave behind. I never set out to help others learn about their communities past it just sort of happened naturally through the love of my city and the opportunities that it gave me in life. More importantly these two youth volunteers taught me about the wonder of the 'diablito' drinks being sold on the corners of the 4th and Spurgeon that I had never noticed before. Having spent so many years going to the other little food stands I had never come across Santa Ana's favorite mixture of mango, chile, watermelon, candy, and limon. It just goes to show you that the youth of this city have a lot to teach those that take the time to listen.

 
 
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