This morning I covered a special presentation at City Hall in connection with Latino Heritage Month. You can read the whole write-up over at Intersections.
Mayor Villaraigosa gave awards to Sal Castro, Fernando Valenzuela and Cesar Millan.
For a quick reference, Castro was the teacher who helped lead the 1968 East LA walkouts. HBO made a movie about him and his students.
Valenzuela is the only baseball player in Major League history to win Rookie of the Year and the Cy Young Award in the same year. I admit I didn’t know this until this morning, but several baseball fans have since confirmed that this is a big freakin’ deal. He started a craze called Fernandomania.
And Millan is the Dog Whisperer. Duh. I’ve seen Councilman Bill Rosendahl speak at lots of events, but until today, I had never heard him address anyone by saying, “Cesar! Woof! Woof! That’s from my dog! He’s a German shepherd. He loves you! Woof, woof!” Later, I saw a man RUNNING up to Millan, holding two Chihuahuas, one wearing a mini Mexican flag like a cape and the other donning a sombrero.
In some ways, it was a weird day. In other ways, it’s just LA.
As I was walking back to my car, a guy in a gray sweatsuit kinda jogged up to me and started chatting. He asked if I was from LA (nope) and how long I had lived here (just over a year). He said he was LA born and raised. Then he asked if I knew where the closest Wendy’s was. The look on my face must have betrayed my thoughts (if you’re the one who was born and raised here, why are you asking me where to get a Frosty?), and he explained. “I just got done doing time, and the Wendy’s I used to go isn’t there any more.”
Suddenly the (county-issued) gray sweatsuit made sense. When he said just got done serving time, he really meant JUST GOT DONE. I felt bad that I didn’t know where a Wendy’s was. And I wasn’t even able to offer him a good alternative. “I’m sorry,” I said, “I’m not all that familiar with downtown.”
“Me neither, anymore,” he said.
For a moment, it felt very “Strangers in a Strange Land.” Then we made it to my car. I wished him well and got in, feeling kind of hollow, wishing that as one of the first people he interacted with post-incarceration, I had been able to offer him something more.
But before shit got all depressing, I took some fun pictures at the Latino Heritage Month event. After the jump, you’ll see that I wasn’t lying about those Chihuahuas.