Watts Up! Community Is Rich with Food For the Soul and the Tummy

I recently had the chance to take crashed a private tour of the Watts Towers Cultural Center with a friend. My friend was kind enough to invite me when he was invited to visit the historic site.  Prior to the visit, I had only really looked at the Watts Towers structure and admired the bright pieces of tiles, glass, bottles, seashells, housewares and other found objects attached to the structures.  Having worked in the area many years ago, I was somewhat familiar with the story of Watts Towers and about Mr. Simon Rodia, the artist.  But I didn’t know about or paid attention to the details which held the stories that truly made Watts Towers the special structure that it is.

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In addition to the Watts Towers, the Watts Towers Cultural Center has a gallery, art studio, music center, a garden, and other offer many arts programs. They partner with local schools, community organizations, and offer the programs to the community at-large.

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Homes across the street have similar art work that were done by students and artists from the Watts Cultural Center.

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Ms. Rosie Lee Hooks is the Director of the Watts Towers Arts Center Campus. She makes it happen! Rogelio, one of the educators, is from the community, took classes at Watts Towers, finished college, and now back in the community, giving back and enriching lives!

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After our tour, my friend and I wanted to grab a bite and discuss one of our projects.* The spot where we planned on meeting was under renovation and we were stumped on where else to go. Then a couple of young men suggested a place, Watts Coffee House, located half a block away. I was a bit wary because, although I could see the business sign, I didn’t any other sign that there was a business– a couple of tables and chairs outside, perhaps, or even one of those neon coffee signs.  When we asked the guys if they had food-food– as opposed to just coffee and muffins– they said, “They have everything!” It’s true!

Watts Coffee House is seriously a hidden gem– like, you have to find the door, walk in, then find the other door or follow the smell. Once you fine it, you will be rewarded with everything– soul food, pancakes, coffee. I had Gangsta #1 Combo which included a pork chop, link, salmon croquet, chicken wing, hash browns, three eggs, and a biscuit. OMG it was so delicious!

In addition to the deliciousness, it was so awesome to see Jordan High love and the wall signed by super cool musicians like Tony, Toni, Tone!

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My stomach, my heart, and my soul were full. What a great day!

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Notes From My Day With Really Smart Women

When my friend/psychologist/financial advisor, Diane, invited me to the 2017 Women’s Leadership Conference at Mount Saint Mary’s, I was super excited. I’m usually hesitant of attending ‘women’ events; more often than not, they don’t address issues and topics that I care about as a woman of color or one who has worked with women in underserved or low-income communities. But because 1) Diane was involved with the event, 2) there were academics, and 3)  Mount Saint Mary’s was leading and hosting the event, I knew that they were #gonnakeepitreal. Diane was a #keepitreal person and all the Mount Saint Mary’s alumnae I knew were women of color who were progressive or, at the very least, woke.

The theme of the conference was The Resilient Leader: Propelling Our Ability to Succeed.  The day was akin to soul searching/women’s empowerment workshop.  It made me think about who I was as a person and how I was serving in the community– but not in a preachy way. I really needed this conference. As much as I love working in the community with all kinds of people, sometimes I’m just tired! Despite my roles and titles, sometimes I don’t feel like I’m being treated the same as others because 1) I am a woman, 2) not white, 3) perceived age (over 40 but Asian so, you know), or 4) I am nice. And then there’s the endless explanations and having to call out or teach people why they shouldn’t say certain things that are straight up offensive. Can I just live? Can I just lead?

It was so cool to be around smart and powerful women. Forget their job titles. They were inspiring because they leveraged what made them unique and used those skills, qualities, and/or knowledge to propel their success.  One of the speakers, a manager from YouTube, shared her fun fact that actually correlated with her career success.  Her fun fact was that she was a first degree black belt, soon going for second degree. She practiced a martial arts discipline similar to ninjas. She explained that at the beginning of each class, one person had to stand in the middle of the room, blindfolded.  The person in the middle was then attacked by their classmates; and while still blindfolded, they had to defend themselves. She stated that 99.9% of the time, women knew where their attackers were coming from; men did not. She said that women had an intuition that most men did not seem to have. She and the other panelists believed in women’s intuition. During their careers, the panelists discussed how they felt they had to be more aware of situations and challenges more than men. Their belief in their gut instinct had helped them get through difficult situations, amongst other things. There was a discussion whether intuition was innate or learned. But they all agreed that we should trust it.

I didn’t write down all the stories as I just wanted to just take them in. But below are some of the quick takeaways. We probably already know them. But a lot of times– because of the fights we have to take on and the challenges we have to deal with while and because we are women– we forget.  So a quick reminder lest we forget:

Danielle Harlan

  1. Be yourself (be a good person). Be authentic.
  2. Be courageous and embrace failure.
  3. Visionary leadership is a process, not necessarily an innate talent or gift.

It’s in the calm that we find ourselves.

Abby Allen

What is the life you want to create? Write it down!

Don’t think about a ‘career’; think about the life that you want.

Where you 1) show up best, 2) make the greatest impact, and 3) are your best self -> life that you want.

Mallika Chopra

Intent comes from the soul; Goals come from the mind.

Peep the slideshow, which includes the session topics and speakers.

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I attended the event not as a representative of the organization for which I work or as someone from the commission for which I serve.  I attended as a community member who just wanted to learn.  I was probably one of the few that didn’t have a title or organization on their name card, which was absolutely awesome.

 

 

 

 

From Mochi Factory to Art Space+

BRIGHT colors, solids, and structured look is how I roll. But last Saturday, a friend invited me to the east side of town to check out The Container Yard. Since I was going to be in that part of town for work anyway, I agreed. So, I donned jeans that were slightly ripped and rolled ’em up and put on an orange long sleeve shirt.  I added a long, blue scarf with pasley pattern around my neck, then finished up the look with some blue booties and a large handbag. I looked at myself in the mirror and did not see the structured Westside style I am comfortable with.  I must be ready for the east.

The Container Yard is located in the heart of the Arts District.  It’s on 4th Street, just south of Hewitt and around the corner from the Arts District Co-Op.  A large gate shelters the view of the space from 4th Street passers-by, both pedestrians and cars.

I wasn’t sure what to expect.  My friend said that the space was an old warehouse.  And that Saturday, the owners were opening the space to the public for the first time.  Then he mentioned that there were going to be food trucks and lots of art.

It was exactly as he described.

I was going to write a bit more about its history and the owners but LA Weekly covered it all in this article.  But below are some of the pictures I took from the grand opening.

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If You Give Me An Oreo, I’ll Tell You About Earthquakes

I love field trips. I enjoy experiential learning out in the field. Fortunately, I have a diverse group of friends from various fields who invite me to their events. My favorite kind of field trips are science field trips where I get to learn about my super smart friends’ worlds. Through my friends, I have been able to get a closer look (get special tours) at really cool places such as JPL and SpaceX. Recently, my friend Matt, an earthquake engineer, and I toured the San Andreas Fault with the Southern California Section of the American Chemical Society.

It was an early Saturday morning road trip to San Bernardino but it was worth it. The group met at Cal State University – San Bernardino, which was pretty much right next to the mountains. The tour was led by Dr. Robert DeGroot, a.k.a. Bob, who was the Project Manager at the Office of Experiential Learning & Career Advancement at the Southern California Earthquake Center at the University of Southern California. Got that? But, at the end of the day, Bob was a chemist at heart. He quipped about his colleagues from “other sciences” such as biology throughout the day. He’s still friends with them.

Anyway.

Bob took our group of 40 or so to the geology lab where he gave us an overview– an orientation– of the items in our packets, the plan for the day, and an activity to get us started. The group was comprised of professionals but there were a couple of families who brought their teenagers. The presentation, as well as the entire day, was very newbie/regular person friendly. I do not have a science background but I understood a lot of the concepts. It also helped that the first activity to explain the basics of tectonic plate movements involved Oreos. The activity was actually created by Robert J. Lillie, who wrote a book called, “Parks and Plates: The Geology of Our National Parks, Monuments, and Seashores.” Science and food… I will have to check out this book.

Below are my takeaways from the lab intro:

I thought we were going to drive to the Fault but it was about a 2 kilometer hike from campus. From the campus, you could see where the Fault might be just by looking at the vegetation. You could see that there was a change in landscape, e.g. bushes not present in other parts of the mountain. Bob encouraged us to pick up rocks and feel the dirt in our hands. We stopped several times and he explained to us the geology of the area. For example, Badger Hill was 60 million years old and made up of metamorphic sedimentary rocks. Bob explained the concept of erosion (movement and transport) to us and why some of the rocks we picked up were not jagged (because they have not been transported enough).

Hike takeaways:

  • Mountain High Ski Resort is on the San Andreas Fault.
  • Faults, in general, have many different strands.
  • The San Bernardino Strand of the San Andreas Fault is on the Pacific Plate and the North American Plate.
  • On top of Badger Hill, there is a GPS that could detect the plates’ motion in millimeter square. It moves 15 millimeters per year.
  • Why everyone is and should be freaking out:
    • There have been a 7.8 magnitude earthquake in most of the Fault’s stretch every 150 years, BUT
    • the southern portion of the San Andreas Fault (from San Diego to San Bernardino area) has not had one in 350 years.

Someone asked if a bunch of smaller earthquakes– the 5.0 magnitude variety– would be better than just having The Big One. Bob answered it with the spaghetti strand experiment:

  • 5.0 magnitude = 1 strand of spaghetti (listen for the crack; look for how it breaks)
  • 6.0 magnitude = 32 strands of spaghetti (try to listen for the crack, or if you can even crack it; note how it breaks and how it doesn’t break in the same place)
  • 7.0 magnitude = 32 x 1,000 strands of spaghetti
    and so on…

    • Bottom line: The larger it is, the harder it is to break. But when it finally breaks as a group, notice how each strand breaks at a different place and how, the more strands there are, the more it is all over the place. That’s basically our situation: When The Big One hits, huge and all over the place. That gives a whole different perspective to our 4.5’s, doesn’t it?  Like, whatevs.

We hiked back down to the lab to eat our lunch. As I chewed my turkey on white Subway Sandwich which, at that time, tasted like filet mignon after the warm and super breezy hike, I thought about how much nature is all around us, how much is going beneath and above us even when it feels still, and how little most of us know about it.

We all need to take more field trips.

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Other info:

What to do if there is an earthquake: DROP. COVER. HOLD ON.

A Flavorful Community

Culver City is bursting with flavors. While Akasha and City Tavern continue to be Downtown Culver City institutions, new hot spots, such as The Wallace, are also attracting foodies and locals alike. West on Washington, the Alibi Room continues to be a stronghold with their drinks and unique bar food, while A-Frame gets re-conceptualized. And in the middle of West Washington Boulevard and Downtown, there is an occasional gathering of food entrepreneurs and restaurant hopefuls.

I recently attended the World Foodie Fair held at LA Spice Cafe on Sepulveda Boulevard. The gathering was a pop-up: eight food entrepreneurs who want to kickstart their dream offer a sample of their food to determine if their food is good enough. Cost to sample is minimal: $1 for one tasting ticket, most samples cost three tickets. I sampled four of the eight stations: Pablo Chang, Cheeky Styley, Mexicain, and Opium Chocolate. Attendees also received a bonus ticket to sample Craft Meatball.

Craft Meatball is possibly the best meatball I have ever had; it was meaty and flavorful without the flavor overwhelming the meat. The roasted meatball was topped with cream Roquefort sauce. Cheeky Styley’s beef cheek cream puff was made with traditional French Choux pastry filled with tender Bordelaise braised beef cheeks and blue cheese potato mash then topped with horseradish cream and grated parmesan; it was also delicious. The description was true– it really melted in my mouth. And Pablo Chang did a great job fusing the flavors with his Asian barbecue pork belly with slaw and wasabi mayo. As to be expected, my sweet tooth required something post eating anything savory. I tried Opium Chocolate’s macaron with a surprise flavor. It was good, but I couldn’t identify the flavor: sweet with a slightly sweet/sour after taste. But the talk of the night was Mexicain’s French-inspired churros with sea salt dulce de leche. From the time I checked in at the door, I was urged by everyone I encountered to make sure I save three tickets for the churro station. They were right. I should have saved six.

At the end of the evening, attendees were asked to vote for their favorite. Food entrepreneurs who received the most votes got invited to the next World Foodie Fair along with a new set of entrepreneurs. After five minutes, two sheets, and checking and unchecking my vote, I finally decided on one and submitted the sheet before I could change my mind again.

Besides the food, what I appreciated about World Foodie Fair was the community effort. Husband and wife team Steve and Leanne Schwartz, who owns the building and operates LA Spice Cafe, respectively, not only opened up the space– including the kitchen– to the food entrepreneurs, but were also present and supportive throughout the event. World Foodie Fair organizers also explained that, prior to exhibiting samples at the event, food entrepreneurs met with a World Foodie Fair chef for feedback on the flavor and presentation.

With already exciting restaurants that align Washington Boulevard from the east to the west, coupled with a community supportive and nurturing of food entrepreneurs, Culver City will continue to be an exciting food destination.

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One Friday Afternoon…

Hidden gem in the City of San Fernando.  A cool place to be alone with other people.

Spotted:

  • A girl organizing her personal finances (as can be seen with her receipts and other files)
  • Someone on their laptop, intently typing
  • A group of three guys in their 20s, discussing how to improve instruction in schools
  • A group of women, just chit-chatting

If you are in the City of San Fernando, definitely check out Compañía de Café.  Check out this LA Times article to learn more about their story.

Compañía de Café

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