Smalltown, USA: Mar Vista Block Party
Next Mayor? Jan Perry and my mother.
Mar Vista is a neighborhood located in the Westside of Los Angeles containing parts of well trafficked streets: the famous Venice Blvd which spans from downtown to Muscle Beach, the infamous Sawtelle Blvd – the bottom portion from the “Sawtelle” neighborhood, the secret artery – Palms, and Centinela which connects both Santa Monica airport to LAX. All neighborhoods have plenty of streets, each having their important characteristics, Mar Vista is part of that lore.
There’s been signs on the idyllic Charnock Avenue near where my parents live (yes there are garden islands on this two lane street) advertising a Block Party. It takes place annually just one block from my parents house. My father said he visited just once and the inevitable question from me, “were you the only Asian person there?” He answered, yes. I’ve always been curious at how block parties worked, yet never felt compelled to visit one.
I’ll admit, I’ve never been a great neighborhood guy. I like neighborhoods, but never cared to get out and purposefully meet with neighbors. My doors are shut, windows blocked off – same with my entire family. From mother’s doing, we decided to check out the “Potluck Picnic”. Joined by my aunt and uncle, myself, cousin and his girlfriend, we rolled seven deep to our first Block Party. What would it be like?
Walking in the blocked off street, it’s exactly how I’d picture it. Covered areas for food, picnic tables, a BBQ in front of someone’s house, a musician playing a keyboard and singing hits of years past, plenty of people standing and sitting, kids, bikes, a fire engine and fire men, the local neighborhood association members and even politicians. If the area was somehow uplifted and placed somewhere desolate, this would could be our lives in Smalltown, America.
Local announcements began by praising the efforts of the local organizers and the specialness of the area followed by the words of the “mayor of the area,” Councilman Bill Rosendahl who’s as charismatic as he is “the local regular guy”. He brought along three strong mayoral candidates, Jan Perry, Eric Garcetti and Wendy Greuel. It turns out my mother is a fan of Jan Perry, from who knows where or how and even gave her a hug. My mom has met George Harrison, Harrison Ford, Eric Clapton, Brian Wilson, and even John Candy and treated them like logs of wood, yet a local politician to her is a true rock star. Meanwhile, Eric Garcetti and Giant Robot have a great history in the arts. Although plenty far from their council areas, they made the trip just to say hi and perhaps the grab some votes for an election a year away.
My mother brought inari sushi which she placed next to various potato salads, veggies, baked beans, hot dogs, pizzas and burgers – yes much out of place on the food tables, but it was her touch on Americana. It was soon devoured. The vibe was welcoming and pleasant, the contributions of food was excellent – some of it entirely home grown in the area. Pitfire Pizza donated their “pies”, someone made great baked beans, the homegrown salad was perfect, and the chicken was grilled just right.
My mother was excited to have Starbucks Coffee and made me get her a refill.
That’s Jan Perry, Bill Rosendahl, Eric Garcetti, and Wendy Greuel.
Aunt and Uncle – I swear they were all smiles until I took the photo. They live in the neighborhood.
Dad with both burger and hot dog.
Myself and future mayor (?) Mr Eric Garcetti.