East Los

Mural on East Cesar E. Chavez Avenue

Drive East across the bridge over the concrete-walled Los Angeles River and you will find yourself in a reasonable simulacrum of a Mexican city. Boyle Heights used to be the city’s Jewish neighborhood, and there is the massive Breed Street Shul still remaining. If you have a hankering for some tacos muy sabrosos, you are in the right place.

East Cesar E. Chavez Avenue is the heart of “East Los,” short for East Los Angeles. Of course, over time, the Mexican population has scattered all over the county, but there are still some special places around the Avenue. Like La Parrilla, at Chavez and Detroit, probably my favorite Mexican restaurant in Southern California. Like the Anthony Quinn Library (I’ll bet you didn’t know that Quinn was Mexican). Like ELAC, East Los Angeles College, with some 35,000 students.

We tend to treat American Hispanics as if they were a cohesive voting bloc. The 2020 election gave the lie to the Democrat assumption that Hispanic voters were all for Biden. Not so. Their votes were all over the place. I learned that when I fell for a Chilean cutie named Valentina Palacios back in the 1970s, only to find that she was a supporter of tyrannical dictator Augusto Pinochet Ugarte.

And what is a Hispanic anyway? They could include Mexicans, Cubans, Spanish, South Americans, Central Americans, Puerto Ricans, and even some Filipinos. I remember being in an anti-Viet Nam war demonstration back in the 1960s and being attacked by rightist anti-Castro Cuban immigrants. We have to get used to seeing the Hispanic population as a broad spectrum.

And whatever we do, me must stop using terms like LatinX, which leaves a stench in the nostrils of most Hispanics.

In East Los

Downtown L.A. as Seen from East Los Angeles

Today, I drove Martine to her ophthalmologist in East Los Angeles. As she is on MediCal, her doctors are not always conveniently located. I don’t mind, however, partly because I find East L.A. (colloquially: East Los) to be a fascinating neighborhood. And the Adventist Health Care Center on Cesar Chavez Avenue seems to be well run. (It is a far cry from the Budapest Hospital I visited in 1977, where patients and staff smoked incessantly and dogs roamed the corridors.)

First I took Martine out for lunch at Philippe’s French Dip Sandwiches on Alameda, just at the fringe of Chinatown. The place has been in business since 1908 and is still very much a going concern. In fact, we had to wait in a 30-minute line to place our order. But my beef stew and Martine’s French dip beef sandwich were both winners.

It turned out to be a hot afternoon: 93º Fahrenheit, 34º Celsius. I set in the Adventist Health Center’s ground floor waiting room, enjoying the air conditioning while waiting for Martine’s tests to be performed. In the meantime, I read Ted Lewis’s British noir classic Jack’s Return Home, on which the 1971 film by Mike Hodges called Get Carter was based.