Dogz in the Hood

When I saw this tumblr post I had to laugh out loud. You see, it can be taken both ways.

Most people will think its about the hot dogs you can get on the street corner after a hot, sweaty night dancing away at a nightclub, or shopping in Santee Alley. Alley dogs are usually piled high with grilled onions and green peppers...sometimes they are wrapped with bacon. People crowd around and excitedly get their grub on. Yes, they are as nutritious as they sound--nitrites piled with some carcinogens and then some more nitrites.


But when I see the term alley dogs, I'm not thinking about hot dogs. No. I'm thinking of the nasty and mangy dogs that run around the streets and alleys of L.A's industrial neighborhoods in packs. I used to work out there, off Olympic Blvd. near Soto Street. Right down the street from the Farmer John factory with it's famous pig slaughter murals.  It reeked of dead a$$ around two in the afternoon like clockwork. Whenever I'd return from lunch or get ready to leave for the day, you'd see them coming: around five or six of the ugliest, dirtiest, mangiest dogs I'd ever laid eyes on.

I know what you're thinking. Those poor animals! Abandoned. Hungry. Dirty. Poor little creatures!

Before you get all Sarah McLachlan on me, I have to say that they were kind of scary. They looked diseased. Most of them were nearly bald because of the mange. They were aggressive. Hood dogs don't have an owner to teach them manners and they don't have anything to lose.

One very memorable dog was one we christened "Sunflower". He might have been a Chow mix so he had alot of fur. But it was nowhere on his body, just around his face and neck. Thus the name sunflower. He also had a rope tied around his neck that was frayed on the ends because he dragged it all over the street.

I had a co-worker who was a bleeding-heart-animals-are-people-too type of person who was always trying to feed them and calling animal services but no one really cared. Yes, it was sad. But they terrorized us. There were many days I wouldn't get out of my car because they were out there waiting for me to throw them a piece of my Sausage McMuffin. And I'd always be like, I'm a fat girl-there are no leftovers, dog. Duuh.

They reminded me of Lady and the Tramp. Hood dogs prowling through the neighborhoods, all mangy, dragging rope and whatnot.

Now that's an alley dog.


Keeping it fun and cheap for the family

We haven't really been anywhere this summer. Finances are slim, as usual, but even more so (if that's even possible) to the point that anytime we do go somewhere, we are really grateful to have had the opportunity to do so. It's not easy to take a family of eight out anywhere, even on a budget. I keep my eyes peeled for free events and we pack a lunch and a few snacks, with about a billion bottles of water.

We decided to take our kids to Tom's Farms, which is this little free farmer's market that has a bunch of small shops and you can sit under a really cool pergola around the pond and feed the ducks for free. Did I mention it was free? Anyhoo, we usually take a few snacks and then buy turkey, roast beef, big fat pickles and yummy french baguettes warm from the oven and make sandwiches for the kids. They love going to Toms Farms because it's a place their grandparents take them often.

My sister was on vacation, so my mom brought my three nieces along. The weather was a little warm for my taste, but then again anything past 82 degrees is a little warm for my fat ass. On our way home, we stopped at the Dos Lagos bridge so the kids could let off a little bit more steam.

All the old people chillin' with their wine and cheese at Toms Farms were giving all nine of our kids the side eye.

This bridge is made from bamboo and it's really cool. There is a winding path between two lakes, with water spilling down the sides, so you hear the constant hum of rushing water. There are also benches along the walkway. I took this time to take some pictures. I definitely want to come back when I am not sweating profusely down my butt crack so we can take a few family photos with Michael's good camera, and not with Retro Camera on my phone. Am I the only person who has completely ditched their camera in favor of camera phone apps?

We wrapped up our day at Trader Joe's for an ice cream (we decided to pass on Pinkberry) and we went home happy and exhausted and my wallet was none the wiser.


A day trip to downtown L.A

I recently took a trip to downtown L.A without the chil'rens for a little shopping excursion in the famous garment district. My mom didn't want to brave driving through the crowded downtown streets and she couldn't bear the thought of me or my little brother being behind the wheel either, so we hopped on the Metrolink and made it to downtown L.A by the time I was finished putting my face on.

What? I was too lazy to wake up extra early to get all dolled up.

We wanted to find some cool stuff for Dia de los Muertos which is coming up in GASP almost two months.  

Where has this year gone?

We picked up some really cool scarves (which shall be screen-printed), jewelry, candles, shoes for the chil'rens (hello fake leopard TOMS shoes for $5.99!!), flower pins for our hair, leopard-print suspenders etc. etc.

But, dude. We walked. We walked and walked and walked and walked. Like eight blocks. Chub rub was in full effect. It was a hot day, too. And if you have never been to downtown L.A, suffice it to say, there are very few pleasant smells on a hot L.A day.

My biggest regret: I didn't buy that tan suede cross-body bag with the fringe. Kill me now.

My biggest surprise: Some to-die-for-smack-my-face-and-call-my-mama Frida Kahlo fabric from Michael Levines.

We wrapped up the day having dinner at La Placita Olvera where I got to feast my eyes on some very nice and overpriced Mexican wares.

All in all, a great day.


Dear diary....

I would kill to read my old diaries/journals.

I've been a faithful diary and journal keeper since elementary school. I would hide it so my brother and my mother couldn't find it. Then I had one during my middle school and high school years. Bet that would've been hilarious to read. My mom found it one day. She said she respected my privacy and didn't read it. Then she added on, "Actually, I didn't want to read it because I was afraid of what was in there."

Now that is one wise woman.

I had a very detailed journal I wrote during college. Let me reiterate, it was very detailed. All my time carousing, getting high, going to concerts, partying and getting into all manner of craziness was outlined in that bad boy. When I got married, I promptly ripped it up and it threw away. I was actually embarrassed by what was on those pages. The last thing I wanted was for my new husband to read it and then wonder why he ever married a wannabe hoodrat crazy chica like myself.

Not like he didn't already know.

Still, I didn't want something as incriminating as that laying around. But today, I'd love to read it. Shoot, I'd make myself some popcorn and serve an ice cold Arnold Palmer and I would read those things from front to back. All these years later, I'm almost positive it would feel like I was reading someone else's story.

The journals I started for the chil'rens are still intact. And I guess you could say the last five years of writing this blog could be considered my journal as well.

Only, I leave out the juicy parts.


Memories of death and life

When I turned seven years old, an event took place in my family that was life-changing. My mom was eight months pregnant with my sister and my little family (dad included) lived in sunny San Diego. We got a phone call one afternoon. An accident happened. My grandfather's truck was struck by a drunk driver. He was dead. My 18 year-old uncle was severely injured with a broken neck. They didn't think he was going to make it.

My memory is foggy but there are several things I remember about this event. I remember coming in from riding bikes with my little brother on the sidewalk. Mom was crying hysterically in the bathroom. It was her father. My dad was holding her and trying to comfort her. When I heard my grandfather died, it was a strange and hollow feeling. I never knew anyone that died before. I just saw him recently, he drove down from East L.A for my seventh birthday party. My aunts dressed up like clowns. I hated the scratchy black velvet dress and white tights my mom made me wear.

And now he was dead. And my uncle might die, too. My mom's baby brother, number six in a family of seven siblings. The youngest boy.

The funeral for my grandfather was dark and foreboding. It was a rainy day, cold and grey. During the wake, the immediate family was sequestered under a black canopy. It scared me. It was something out of Rosemary's Baby. My mother was inconsolable. My Nana fainted and they revived her with smelling salts. I sat in a long pew, surrounded by my cousins. To witness our parents grief was frightening. My older cousin started to cry and it was like a domino effect. We all started to cry.

I looked over and saw my little brown Nana from East L.A--my father's mother. I ran over to my family and they took me to their hotel room that night. It felt so good to be around normal people, people who weren't mourning and sad and grief-stricken.

The next morning, we buried my grandfather. It was a dark, dark day. I remember being disappointed that he didn't have a big tombstone, like the ones I'd seen in the movies. It was just a flat grave marker. We stood under our umbrellas in the rain as they sprinkled Earth on my mother's father.

I happen to live about five minutes away from the cemetery where my grandfather is buried. I drive past it all the time. It's a beautiful, old cemetery with lovely old homes nearby. It's green. Peaceful. So unlike the day I was there with my heartbroken family, thirty-two years ago. I recently took the chil'rens there to see it. I remembered where my grandfather was buried clearly, as if it were yesterday.


Beating them off with sticks

I took this photo of my son Diego last week. He won't turn 13 until next year, but he's taller than me, wears a size ten shoe, weighs about 130 lbs and he looks like this.


It's boggling my brain that my little boy with curls and chubby cheeks is turning into this handsome young man.

This was definitely a pose on his part. 98% of the time he is a goofball, cracking jokes, laughing loudly and he usually has crust on his cheek, the corner of his mouth, his eyes, etc.

You get it, the dude is crusty.

But the just the fact that he can pull it together and look as gorgeous as this at the age of 12 is kind of frightening. Soon, I'll be beating these fast little girls off with sticks.

Good Lord, he's like his father all over again.


Free lunch

Growing up, my Nana used to get the government cheese. I remember standing in line alongside her at Sacred Heart Catholic Church. She would get that big ole block of free cheese and we would be on our way.

I hated that cheese. Hated it.

It had a very distinct taste. Like plastic, fake cheese. I could taste government cheese in a second, so Nana had to be sly with it. She would slip it in the beans, the enchiladas...and I'd always turn my nose up at it because I knew this was that nasty free church cheese she insisted on getting.

Fast forward to now. It's summertime and I have six hungry kids. Work has been slow. Money is scarce. I'm wearing my poverty like a noose around my neck and its getting tighter and tighter. My neighbor started to take her two sons to the local park where they were offering free lunch to kids aged two to eighteen and they invited a couple of my boys to come along. Afterwards, they would rave about the delicious meal they got.

Free! Can you believe that, mom? 
Will you take us tomorrow? 
Can we go again? 

So everyday around 11:30 am, my kids start to circle me like a shark after some chum.

One afternoon, I stood and chatted with my neighbor as our children got in line for their lunch. She said that even though we might not "need it", we should take advantage of the programs our city offers or else the program could be cut and the people who really benefit from it would be at a loss. I agreed. But do you want to know the sad part? Its not the raggedy, ghetto, (insert whatever adjective you want here) poor people who "need" this free lunch. As I am sitting in my van waiting for the chil'rens, I study all of the nice, newish SUVS and vans driving up with their children.

Everyone is hurting. Not too many people are turning their nose up at free lunch. It makes me sad that our economy has so many of us down. But at the same time, its like another layer of pride that I tightly cling to is being pulled and more of the real me is showing.

Would you take your kids for free lunch?
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