We's in California

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Questions questions.

Three questions.
1) To anyone who lives in Van Nuys, can I get some clarfication on the (ok, I'll say it, mostly Mexican/Spanish) people who stand on the corner of Kester and Oxnard every morning at 8:30? I think I know what's gong on here, but I'm not sure. Usually there are around a hundred or so people milling about on the sidewalk, many more than can be made out here. I've heard it's people who get picked up and do manual labour for cash every day. Is this like most other legit work-a-day businesses that most cities have, or is this more like a hire-undocumented-workers-illegaly setup? I would honestly like to know if anyone who (for some reason) reads this and lives here knows any more.

2) We finally found a breakfast place that at least in some way reminds us of the mighty Don Deli at home. I know, that's not a question. Or.....? Now in Winnipeg I can think of maybe one or two place where there are signed pictures of stars (or musicians) on the wall and usually it's only two pictures, both of Buffy Saint Marie. Out here, different story. This place we went to (Nats) had many and was one of a million places in LA that is a "stars favorite". In most places these stars are, well, not really stars. Alot of second rate scrub actors that were in supporting roles of movies from the 70's that nobody has ever heard of. Usually it's a BAD thing that they've been there. In fact I think I've seen people serving food that look very much like one of the people up on the wall. Awk...ward. Anyway, again, not a question. The question does this actually work? Do stars just carry pictures around with them when they eat out? Do they sign a picture and give it to the owner INSTEAD of paying? Is there any real criteria you must meet to qualify for a picture on the wall? Because I don't think there is. Has a star ever come in with a picture in their pocket then been like: "So you've NEVER heard of me? You've NEVER seen any episodes of 'That 80's Show'? OK. Is there a bank machine around here?".
Seriously, if anyone has actually seen how this all goes down, let me know.

3) Question #3: Ryan made me realize what a geezer I've been by not even trying to surf since I've moved to LA. So I am going to try that tommorrow. Again, not a question. But it is profound and worth contemplating.

"Pull out yer sack and sit back" - the streets (Yuck. I'm sorry. The rudest you'll read here.
But it is profound and worth contemplating.)


  • Same as Every Corner, Everywhere, “Its inhabitants are, as the man once said, "whores, pimps, gamblers, and sons of bitches," by which he meant Everybody.”

    Have fun with that January surfing thing; evidently a hockey injury and freezing without gloves doesn’t serve as sufficient proxy. Geezerhood is granted only after a chronology of survival, and if that thought isn’t enough to give you pause, bear in mind that nothing says TOURIST like a bright white guy in a Speedo on a beach in January. A denizen of the southeast coast once told me that he used this exact method to suss out the “Yankees”. But it evidently worked for everyone as the Yankees had fun paddling about and the locals were entertained by the vista. So no matter what happens when you ride that wave, you can go with the peace of mind that comes from knowing someone is enjoying the moment.

    By Anonymous chancesare, at January 15, 2006  

  • Hi, I live in Reseda when I'm not away at Cal Poly State University - SLO, my over-priced public university (lucky Canadians and your affordable education). The people who stand on the corners are looking for work. Usually doing manual labor for around $10 an hour. A lot of them are undocumented but definitely not all of them. It is not legit, the pay is usually in cash (ie. tax-free), and not endorsed by the city but as long as no trouble arises the police usually don't go after them.

    By Anonymous Nelson, at January 15, 2006  

  • That's sort of what I thought. When I first saw them I thought "Why would you risk it and go through all that trouble of hopping the border?" Then I had to go to Tiajuana.

    With all the focus on the problems at the US/Mexico border and the fact that the government is starting to look at root cause of illegal border crossing (working for cash and sending it back home), I'm surprised that these employers aren't being scrutinized.

    Putting even more security at the border makes about as much sense as putting yet another lane on the 405 and thinking that it will fix the problem, not mitigate it (for a while anyway).

    And $10 an hour is probably a LOT better than students who work for less than that AND pay taxes on it. Shame shame.

    Anyway, thanks for the info.

    By Blogger Gareth, at January 15, 2006  

  • Yup, they're day labourers. They hang out at Kester and Oxnard because there's a Lowe's on Sepulveda and Oxnard -- if you go to the Home Depot on Van Nuys and Saticoy, or the one on Sherman Way between Tujunga and Lankershim, you'll see them there too.

    When they built the new Home Depot on Flower Street, the city of Burbank forced the company to build a work centre for these people, where they register and if you want work done you go and pick somebody via a lottery system. There was a lot of hullabaloo about it.

    While I'm not in favour of illegal immigration, I'm also smart enough to realise that a large whack of California's economy is based on it and thus just stopping it is probably bad for all of us in the long run.

    There was a very mediocre movie a couple of years ago about this called "A Day Without A Mexican", where all of a sudden the Mexicans disappeared from the area and how all the rich white people had to clean their own toilets and the restaurants shut down, etc.

    By Anonymous Dave the Ubergeek, at January 16, 2006  

  • Oh, and to answer your second question -- one of three ways. B- and C-list stars may actually have photos with them. The owner may request a picture and one of the entourage makes a note of it. Or the owner brings out a camera and takes a photo with the star.

    The only time I've seen it is when Erik Per Sullivan was behind me in line at Albano's in Studio City (the pizza place with the giant metal garlic bulbs on the building, I kid you not)... one of the people with him had a photo and he signed it for Louie.

    At some point a lot of these people actually WERE stars, or else you'll get the unknown ethnic stars. ("Oh, he's the greatest soccer player Lebanon has ever had!")

    You should try Dupar's in Studio City or at the Farmer's Market.

    By Anonymous Dave the Ubergeek, at January 16, 2006  

  • Thanks Dave, that's interesting. It's true about us all being pretty much screwed without these workers. The longer I live here, the more obvious it gets.

    By Blogger Gareth, at January 17, 2006  

  • Ok. I think I have answers for question #1, and #2.
    1: Youre right in that this IS a group of people looking for work for the day, possibly 2, mostly to do construstion work, or just manual labor, such as helping someone move, etc. I'm sure that many of them are undocumented, at least that's what a friend of mine told me who is a cousin of one of these people standing in one of the thousands of locations just like this. Anyway, Ive actually hired a couple of them to help me move a few times. My experience with them was positive. They worked very hard, didnt take any breaks, were respectful, all that. I asked them what they expected to be paid, and they said anything I could. I ended up giving them about 40.00 each for about 4 hours of work, so that's $10 an hour, which isnt bad. Ive been told that the pay is often like $40.00 for the entire day by other friends of mine whove also hired them. It's a pretty common thing to do actually in LA. It's easy, cheap, convenient, and they are very grateful for any work they can get so they work hard. Plus, I felt good knowing that I could help this person and his family counting on him. I didnt have too much of a problem with his citizenship, or the encouragement of him, and other illegal aliens being here, I just knew that they have families to feed, and that's all I cared about. I felt bad for them, I guess. To leave your country like that, take that risk to cross the border with your family, I mean, life mustve been extremely hard for them in Mexico. Who wouldnt do this? I thought if it were me, and my family were living this sub-standard life, my babies sick and not able to see a doctor, not getting an education, I too would try everything I could to get to the states. Yes, it's wrong to do, it's illegal, but I cant imagine what I would feel like if my children depended on me for those basic things, and I couldnt provide them. These guys I hired, I asked them about their families, and they told me that they had small children. I went through all my things, clothes, pots and pans, children's clothes, whatever I could find and could do without, and gave it to them. It amde no sense to me that this would sit in a closet, or garage, collecting dust and on it's way to Goodwill, when there were families out there that would LOVE to have a warm sweater, or fashionable kids clothes to wear for the first time, to feel like all the other "american" kids at school. It's not thwir fault at all the situation theyre in, right? Sorry for the long answer.

    Answer #2 I do know a bit about this, as my husband used to be an actor, (not that he did any of this) but he did have friends that were very succesful actors, and actresses. Also, my sister is engaged to John Enos, a soap actor, and a character actor that is recognized quite often. What happens is, only when they go to the restaurant a few times, the owner will ask them if they could have a picture to put up, and the actor will bring it by next time theyre in, or depending on the caliber of the actor, will have theyre PR people send it to them, or send it to them themselves. I know a lot of them keep their headshots in their cars in case anything like that happens. I have never heard of using this as a payment, and doubt that any celebrity would do that.

    Well, I hope I answered your questions! I like your blog, you sound like a very intersting person. Keep it up!

    By Blogger The Bieniek Clan (LA), at January 17, 2006  

  • Yowzers! That's detailed! Thanks a bunch. I hope I'm not giving the wrong message about my questions about the people on the corner. I guess my only beef is that they don't pay taxes. Although this might sound like a hangup, I don't think it's acceptable. If they get hurt they can go one of many hospitals. If they get robbed or beaten the cops WILL respond (although maybe not as quickly as for others....), if their houses are on fire blah blah blah, you know what I mean. And some other poor documented refugee immigrant family is paying taxes so these people can work for cash. In that way, it's quite unfair. Anyway, thanks again.

    By Blogger Gareth, at January 17, 2006  

  • I'm really enjoying your blog. Being an L.A. local (!), it's insightful to see someone discover this place with fresh eyes.

    Swing by the Home Depot on Roscoe near Balboa, any morning but doubly so on Saturday, linger in the parking lot and watch it happen.

    It's not the handfuls that get hired for day work that turn the local economy, it's the garment manuf'trs and the restaurants and the construction/maintenance trades and retail and ...

    99% of it will stop if we put people who hire (wage supressing) undocumented workers into prison.

    By Blogger James Hames, at January 17, 2006  

  • Gareth:
    Because this post is getting t be old news, and i doubt people who would be offended don't care about what this post is i'm going to tell a little story:

    A friend of mine dropped me a line, it said, "man, I gotta run to the USA. I got no money, got no job." She skipped out of Mexico to stay alive. You've got a problem with her living here, but what did you do to help her before she fucking came? What did the country do? What did the people do? I stand not by my country, but by people of the whole fucking world. No fences, no borders. Free movement for all. Fuck the border. It's about fucking time to treat people with respect. It's our culture and consumption that makes her life unbearable. Fuck this country; its angry eyes, its knee-jerk hordes. Legal or illegal, watch her fucking go. She'll take what's hers. Watch her fucking go. Fuck the border.

    By Anonymous Ryan, at January 19, 2006  

  • ...and now to Mein Kampf for some lighter fare...

    By Anonymous chancesare, at January 24, 2006  

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