Southern California

Staying at the hostel was interesting. I met people from Atlanta (in LA for “the life”), Florida (for amazing Hip Hop dance teacher), also a Muslim girl (for school), and some white guys and Latinos who just liked that it was a cheap place to stay. I would stay there again, but I had some coffee yesterday afternoon and could hardly sleep last night; it’s going to be a long time before I have another latte!! When you’re tired sometimes it’s just better to take a nap.

Yesterday (Saturday) was supposed to be a really intense day, but it went really really easily. Driving around the USC and Boyle Heights areas were no problem. Boyle Heights was really interesting. I only felt uncomfortable in the neighborhood I actually stayed in, and perhaps down in south San Pedro. I skipped 3-ish sites down there because I was extremely hungry at that point and I felt like I was so clearly an unwanted stranger in the neighborhood. Also, I wanted to leave the city before traffic hit. All in all, I had a couple successful finds. It’s hard to write about the specifics or to even analyze my observations in progress… I will compile my field notes when I’m home this week and my plan is to highlight the handful of active organizations I found.

Made it to San Diego easy. Took a nap in a parking lot in San Juan Capistrano on the way, but that was just really pleasant! I also missed the rush-hour traffic that way. I like the vibe in San Diego a bit better than the buzz of LA. San Diego has a bunch of cute neighborhoods, and the suburbs more integrated. It also has the whole coastal fog thing going on like San Francisco. Why has no one ever mentioned this about Southern California?? It’s foggy until 10am, and again after 5pm. So far it has been very grey although there are great sea breezes. I mean based on this visit it really doesn’t have that much, weather-wise, over northern California…

 Luckily, I got to spend the weekend with a friend at the family home.  It felt like a liberal newspaper-reading bastion here, as I get a sense that San Diego has this military/conservative undertone. While I always considered SoCal more conservative, LA was definitely liberal, but in a different way than the Bay Area.

Older buildings in downtown San Diego
Older buildings in downtown San Diego

So on Sunday we took off to explore the ethnic hall sites, 10 in all. It is a big adjustment having a research buddy, so far everybody I bring along has a different attitude towards these places!  By chance, I took a wrong turn and found a Polish American Association having their Sunday dinner. I stopped in and had a short chat with a friendly woman, and took down their number. She said they’ve been active for 70 years, so I could have just missed them (1940+70= 2010?) or they just weren’t listed. Unless they were listed, somewhere else in the records! There were tons of polish people there too, and not just the elderly. She said they’re waiting for a young guy to come back from Poland because he offered to make them a website for free. It was a cute little place, mostly just a hall room with an attached kitchen, in an older residential neighborhood. It was right next to the “Alano Club” and likely the street (30th) had once been a streetcar line. Among my other research sites, the only ones still active were a Jewish synagogue [the whole JCC sitatuion again] and a Catholic church hall. I’m starting to recognize different types of buildings which can accommodate gathering spaces. So far there seem to have been three types of ethnic halls common in southern California at this time: a standard ‘20’s two-story office building with a rental hall upstairs, a bigger multi-purpose hall affiliated loosely with a nearby religious group, OR a fancy fraternal temple that rents out meeting rooms.

Anyway, I think I’m just heading straight north after this up the coast road. I have invited H to accompany me to Fresno. It would be fun to camp a ways out of town, maybe even go to the Forestiere Underground Gardens! The plan is to head down there next weekend, after regrouping and catching up on all this research…

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