YOUR LOCAL PUBLIC LIBRARY: INFORMATION AND INSPIRATION – FREE OF CHARGE

When I was a little kid, my school used to conduct bomb drills. Our teacher would line us up along the wall of the corridor where we were taught to do our best to protect our heads by crouching down with our heads between our knees and placing our interlaced fingers across the back of our heads. This was all in case the Russians decided to bomb us to smithereens for no reason except for that they were jealous of our freedom.

I guess the school administration was only acting in step with a national program for “preparedness,” the creator of which, I imagine, was unaware of the policy of Peaceful Co-Existence the Soviet Union adhered to at the time.

In the small town where I went to school, this practice took place for several years and well into the 1970’s.

Another exercise our class did was to line up in orderly fashion and walk single file to the public library next door. In my view, this was a far more pleasant experience. Of course, I always hoped I would get to walk over to the library next to the boy I liked, but once I got there, I didn’t really care. There were all those books.

On top of that, it always felt so cozy and comfortable in the library where everybody is supposed to act nice. They never conducted their terrifying bomb drills in the library.

Ever since that time, I have loved to be in libraries. As a result, I’ve also loved to read. Now an adult, living in the great city of Los Angeles, I’ve learned  that, although it is battle-weary from more and more budget cuts, the public library system still offers one of the best deals around.

I’ve since also learned that books aren’t the only thing you can use for free at the public library. You can also borrow CDs, DVDs, and books on tape. If you go to the downtown Central Library, you can look at microfilms of headlines and articles from any date you can think of, taken from newspapers around the world.

The various branches have comfy seating and free wi-fi too. How much better can it get as far as writing or researching?! You can poke around on the web all you want, and go over and find all manner of reference materials right there on site. The Los Angeles Times articles are all digitally archived and accessible at the various branches online.

Each branch has got all kinds of informative and fun events and workshops going on too. The Central Library has several exhibits going on right now, including one on the Treasures of Los Angeles and one on the Mexican Revolution. I’ll be reporting with video on some of these events very soon!

Recently, a friend of mine needed a whole lot of study materials to get ready for state and federal licensure exams. He’s recently unemployed and could hardly afford to buy all those books. He was getting ready to head over to the thrift stores in the hopes that they would be there. Not a bad idea, especially because you get to own the books; but the thrift stores are hit and miss if you need something specific. He ended up getting everything he needed right at the public library.

That’s a deal that can’t be beat in these hard times.

NEED TO KNOW:

There are libraries in every neighborhood in Los Angeles. Hours vary. There is usually some free parking AND free wi-fi!

Web: (link) www.lapl.org

 

THE WAR ON TERROR: ON IT’S HEAD

Naturally, there’s been a lot of comment today on the horrific terror attack at a premier of “The Dark Knight Rises” in Colorado. So far, the most insightful one I’ve seen said that something is wrong with a society when it is easier to get a cache of guns and ammunition than it is to get mental health services.

Apparently, suspect James Holmes purchased over 6,000 rounds of ammunition over the internet in the past 60 days.

Interesting as well that several journalists made sure that we knew that Holmes, “doesn’t appear to have anything to do with “radical terrorism or anything related to Islamic terrorism.” I guess what he did is just middle-of-the-road terrorism. Was this supposed to be a re-assurance?

Maybe this type of terrorism is in the same category as the bombing in Damascus on Wednesday that killed several top government officials — in other words, acts of terror that are not being defined as such.

I guess it’s also not terrorism for tweeters to post videos of the body of a tortured and murdered head of state and suggest that the president of Syria be murdered and mutilated in the same manner.

Speaking of terrorism, wouldn’t ya know it? One of the groups that is teaming up with the “rebels” over in Syria is none other than Al-Qaeda! I’m pretty sure they are Islamic and also radical. I guess once they were done with all their blood and guts freedom-fighting over in Libya, getting rid of that pesky Qaddafi who wanted the country’s oil money for the population, they just decided to pay al-Assad a visit and teach him a thing or two. After all, they’ve got the biggest boys on the block behind ’em. Boy, for constantly crowing about Islamic terrorism, the U.S. government sure is doing a good job of getting rid of all the secular governments in the Middle East!

I thought Al-Qaeda was the whole reason for this “war on terror” that we’ve been having now for eleven years.

I think I’m pretty confused about Killary and Company’s version of terrorism. And, I wonder what Clinton means when she says that Russia and China will “pay a price” for suggesting that Syria’s problems be handled by Syrians. That sounds pretty scary too.  Boy, she says Russia and China will “pay a price,” but there’s ole Al-Qaeda themselves, waving their big black flag all over Libya and Syria and I guess that’s just okay with Killary.

 

FOOD FROM THE SOUTH AND SOUTH OF THE BORDER

Guess what? Everybody’s eating at CJ’s. And their menu is nearly as diverse as their clientele. On the front, it reads: CJ’s Café. From the South to South of the Border. For breakfast, you can get your basic bacon and eggs, omelettes or egg sandwiches. The sandwiches are a great deal. They range from just over $4 to just over $6; they are really big; and they come with fries, fruit or cottage cheese.

They’ve got an awesome waffle and wings deal for $8.50; and, they’re dishin’ up soul food to beat the band: Red Snapper and Eggs or Catfish and Eggs, each at a little over $11; or Corned Beef Hash and Eggs at a little over $8.

I spoke with Jesse Cisneros, part of CJ’s namesake, for a little minute this afternoon.

Jesse’s Mom’s name is Jessica. She opened the place in 1988; and named it after herself and her son, Jesse – only she flipped the initials. She didn’t want anyone to get it mixed up with JC Penney.

Jesse tells me that, back in ’88, the neighbors wanted some soul food on the menu; but, Jessica didn’t know how to make it. Determined to offer what the people wanted, she asked them to show her how it’s done. So, that’s just what they did. The soul food offerings at CJ’s came from the recipes of the grandmothers and grandfathers of folks who still come to CJ’s to enjoy that good home cooking.

The Mexican portion of the menu is nothing to sneeze at either. If you’re feeling spry, you can opt for Chorizo and Eggs, Platanos Con Crema y Frijoles, or the good ole stand-by that everybody knows – Huevos Rancheros. For those who don’t know, chorizo is a spicy type of sausage. Platanos Con Crema y Frijoles is Plantains with cream and beans. I love that stuff!

The burritos are enormous and delicious. You can get them smothered with chili if you like; and, yes, menudo is available!

Lunch is a very affordable affair, with most of the sandwiches, burritos, burgers, soups and salads coming in at right around $6 or $7. The soul food entrees range in price from $10 to $12. These plates include Catfish, Pork Chops, Short Ribs or Oxtails, and come with a choice of two sides like black eyed peas, candied yams, and collard greens, among others.

Did I mention the staff? Wow. I feel like I’m visiting my small hometown when I come here. Everyone is so welcoming. Service is prompt and friendly. It seems like they have some kind of team policy, because you will often get more than one server taking your order, bringing your grub, refilling your coffee – but it is never overbearing.

This place is one of my true faves. I always bring friends and family and so far, everyone has been charmed. Nothing fancy. Just solid affordable good home cooking in a comfortable spot.  And, the thing I love the most about CJ’s is the same thing I love the most about this city of Los Angeles – the diverse nationalities that come together in one special place.

NEED TO KNOW:

CJ’s does not serve dinner.

CJ’s Café  on Pico  5501 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles 90016

Hours: Mon-Sat  6:30 – 6:00; Sun 7 – 5

Phone: 323-936-3216

Limited parking behind the restaurant; Plenty of free and metered street parking

CJ’s Café Baldwin Hills  3655 S. La Brea, Los Angeles 90016

Hours: Mon-Sat  6:30 – 6:00; Sun 7 – 6

Phone: 323-292-9221

The restaurant has it’s own free parking.

Web: (link)  http://cjscafe.net/Home_Page.html

A LIGHT PROLETARIAN LUNCH FOR ONLY $2

My Mom has really taken to keeping up with Deals and Discounts, even though she doesn’t live in Los Angeles, and she’s been after me for some time to say something about Mao’s Kitchen. She says it’s her favorite Los Angeles restaurant, and definitely a great deal. That’s saying something too, because I’ve been living here for a while now; so, she’s been to quite a few.

I think she is a little partial to the place because she knows something about the way women lived in China before 1949 and, she was inspired to learn about it because of her visit to Mao’s!

As it says on their menu, Mao used to love to say, “Wei renmen fuwu!”  “Serve the people!” That’s what’s going on at Mao’s Kitchen. The food is fresh; the produce is never taken from a can; dishes are made to order and priced for the proletariat – no MSG.

Mao’s is full of cultural accoutrements, from the décor at the two locations, right down to the visual arts and music on their website. I love to click on the site and listen to the little guy on the accordion accompany the chorus of children chanting militantly.

It’s a real education to dine in at Mao’s. The first thing you notice is the artwork on the walls. They are sporting genuine Chinese pop posters. These posters, created over the decades, reflect the many social, cultural and political changes China has gone through since 1949. Chinese opera is also projected on an overhead screen.

While you soak up all this revolutionary culture, you can order plates with names like Gang of Four fried shrimp – $6; Peace not War won-ton soup – $8 and Long March camp-fry – $7.  If you’re really down on your capitalist luck, you can surely afford a light lunch of a humungous and scrumptious egg-roll and a tasty salad for $1 each.

They’ve got the best ginger ale around – homemade right there in the restaurant. They don’t serve alcohol; but you can bring your own bottle and there is nary a corking fee! If you haven’t thought to bring a bottle, there’s a little liquor store within the next couple of blocks west on Melrose.

Mao’s now has lunch combinations and they’re on offer all afternoon – from 11:30am to 5pm.  This is great. Don’t you just hate it when you don’t get to lunch til 2:00 or 3:00 p.m.; you look at your watch; and, you just missed the lunch special? For take-away & delivery, lunch combinations include your choice of entree plus steamed rice, salad & spring-roll –   $7.50 ($8.50 for seafood & smoked tofu entrees).

The Venice Beach location is a block from the beach. As we all know, that’s a double edged sword. Nice for some beach time but parking is catch-as-catch-can. Free parking is available right beside the restaurant at the Melrose locale.

NEED TO KNOW:

Web: www.maoskitchen.com 

7313 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles 90046
Hours: 11 a.m. to 12:00 a.m.    Delivery: 323-932-9681

1512 Pacific Ave., Venice, 90291
Hours: 11 a.m. to 12:00 a.m.    Delivery: 310-581-8305

MARCH AGAINST LOW WAGE JOBS

Photo credit: Neil Jacobs/Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO

This past Saturday, I joined thousands of other folks here in Los Angeles for a march through historic Chinatown. The reason for the event? – the impending arrival of Wal Mart in Chinatown. It seems that the urban areas are a significant part of the Walton family’s final frontier.

Although the LA County Fed officially dubbed the event a “March Against Low Wage Jobs,” there were really two big beefs going around. One was indeed the matter of low wage jobs and the heinous record of Wal Mart towards its’ workers and towards organized labor. United for Respect at Wal Mart, an organization formed by associates at Wal Mart, were in the house. They were really great – brave and inspiring. Can you imagine working at this giant company and having the courage to stand up and fight for better wages and conditions?

Click on Wal Mart march for Part One of the coverage I did for City Watch to see Girshriela Green, one of the leaders of this group, calling Wal Mart out!

Another issue that was raised, by some almost exclusively, was how small business in Chinatown would be adversely affected. This is all pretty interesting since, I’m pretty sure that small business has been ferociously anti-union for decades if not ever since unions existed.

Sure, you have some folks saying, “Oh, yes; Mom and Pop have been good to me for twenty-five years. I’ve been treated well” That may be true, but that is almost totally up to their discretion, isn’t it? Mom and Pop could be the Cratchets and that would be just too bad for anybody who happens to work for them, right?   Without unions, a poor worker soul really has no recourse apart from a few bare bones labor laws regulated by the National Labor Relations Board, which has practically had all its’ teeth pulled over the years. So, it just seems an unlikely pair – organized labor and small business.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not sticking up for Wal Mart or thumbing my nose at small business. I come from a long line of small business owners myself. I love the diversity of Los Angeles. It’s my favorite thing about this city. I would hate to see Chinatown, Koreatown, Little Ethiopia, East Los Angeles, or any of LA’s culturally rich neighborhoods disappear.

BUT:

Wal Mart is not the problem – it’s a symptom of the problem. If it wasn’t Wal Mart, it would be another big corporation. That’s the way this system works.

The market is not sentimental or nostalgic – and that’s not just in Chinatown, Jake.