Tuesday, July 22, 2008


Last night, while I was lying in bed, I thought about how I was going to move to San Jose in roughly about a month. And I thought about all the experiences I had gone through in Los Angeles, reflecting back on my childhood along with all the momentous events that occurred when I was growing up. These thoughts didn't keep my up for long, but I just kept looking back at my life and what I had done.

Before I leave Los Angeles for school I want to chronicle the time I spent as a kid. Return to my memories, or what memories I have left. Whether or not you know this, I spent a lot of time helping my parents out at their restaurants. My parents were (and still are technically) immigrants who owned a small family business that was handed down to them by my grandfather. For the first portion of my childhood I could have been found on West Adams and Crenshaw serving coffee and eating mashed potatoes in an old 1940's coffee shop. That was J&R Cafe. There isn't anything left of that place since it burned down in the Los Angeles Riots. I never went with my family to visit the smoldering site, sifting through the ashes looking for anything that may have survived. I just remember my parents finding scorched quarters at the site, and nothing else. A photo I remember to this day was lost in Riots. It was of me and my mother standing side by side while I held a coffee pot. Oh yes, I am certain that helping out my parents probably violated some sort of child labor law but it happens.

Sometimes I go through the packed boxes in our garage and still find a menu from J&R. I tried to picture in my head last night what the coffee shop looked like, and what the lay out was. Orange chairs lined the diner, with about four tables that were perpendicular to the side wall. The swinging doors leading to the kitchen and the hallway that led to the back entrance and restrooms. I remember growing up listening to music on a juke box in that store. But mostly, I remember the customers, our family friends, that came like clockwork to our restaurant. Many of them were African American who were most likely involved with the Civil Rights movement. I remember them, and I wish I could go back and ask all these questions about their lives, about changing times... historical oral accounts. But they are all gone now. I remember all their nicknames, and names. Family friends. And we lost contact with most of them once my parents moved to the present work location.

So my journey will be to photograph (as an amateur of course) the changing direction my life has taken throughout the years. I am trying to document the way I have seen Los Angeles through my personal memory and present day evidence. On occasion I do drive past our old coffee shop. All that is left is the parking lot. The corner lot is still empty from what I recall, and the corner gas station, which used to be a 76, is now different. The burger joint across the street is gone, and on the south-east corner stands a bbq place. Our neighbors, who were sandwiched between the old run down theater and the gas station were small business shop keepers who sold African garments and other miscellaneous things. Our direct business neighbors were the Diamond family who ran a furniture store. And in 1979 we bought their house in North Hollywood, the house I spent my entire childhood in.

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