Surviving the flames

Happy 40th birthday to St. John Vianney Parish

Before I went to sleep last night, Adrian sent me a message.

“I have bad news, Chunk. St. John [Vianney] is on fire. Danny called right now, said it’s really bad, that they may not be able to save it.”

That was at 12:38 am.

I was shocked, but it didn’t hit me until the next message a minute later.

“[Danny] was crying saying, ‘Oh my God, oh my God,’ talking to Dad.”

I went to bed hoping I’d wake up to find out it wasn’t that bad, the LA County firefighters on the scene were able to save it.

St. John Vianney fire (LA Times photo)

I was wrong. The fire tore through the high roof of St. John Vianney. The church was destroyed, but the rectory was saved. The two priests and seminarian who live in the rectory beside the church awoke when they heard a blast (windows popping) and were not harmed.

Thanks to SJV friends on Facebook, I quickly found some news footage of the fire online. It was surreal to see flames lap at red banners and palm trees up for Palm Sunday services. I wanted to cry as I saw the external damage. My family’s home was destroyed.

My family has been active members of SJV for over 25 years. We were there every Sunday, bright and early for Spanish-language services. We made at least a few more trips during the week for CCD (religious education) classes, choir practices, weekday Masses we were assigned to serve as altar servers, event planning meetings, Bible study and more. For all us Mosqueda kids it was also where we made our First Holy Communion and were confirmed. I hoped to fulfill another sacrament there too, get married next year.

We celebrated festive occasions and sad ones there too. Lori and I both held our quinceañera Masses and receptions at SJV. It was host to the 50th wedding anniversary Masses for both Papá Chepe and Mamá Toni (1993) and Grandma and Grandpa (1994). It’s also where we held the wakes and funeral Masses for Grandma and Grandpa. And there are all the weddings. The last was Heather and Jorge’s in August.

The last Mass I attended at SJV was for the fiesta de la Virgen de Guadalupe in December. The church was packed, there was a lovely shrine set up for La Virgen. Lots of parishioners were dressed in Mexican garb. Aztec danzantes began the celebration with some dances. Afterward there was a big party in the O’Callaghan Center (SJV’s large multi-purpose room). I helped my mom sell drinks before getting some tacos.

That morning, I saw a lot of people I hadn’t seen in a while. People I grew up around and saw weekly hugged me as if it hadn’t been months since the last time I was there. For some it was years, but it didn’t feel that way. I still felt the same sense of community and love I grew up with.

SJV is more than just a beautiful church. It’s the community.

I know we’re hurting, but we’re strong. We have faith. And we’ll be okay.

Video after the jump.
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Offensive interference

Bryan Stow’s beating at the Dodgers’ home opener left me with a lot of angst and sadness. The whole thing kept me up one night and I started thinking of survey questions. I know my experience isn’t generalizable. After all, I call Dodger Stadium one of my happy places. Was I just wearing Dodger blue-colored glasses? Would others’ experiences be radically different?

I’m still unsure. I’m waiting for more response to the survey before I close it and begin analyzing.

In thinking about the atmosphere, I reflected on my own experiences. Dodger Stadium is one of my happy places, but I’m not always happy there. That’s inevitable as I’m going to see my team lose. However, my worst experience had nothing to do with the actual game. In fact, I needed Baseball Almanac to refresh my memory about the game details (SF v. LA, Giants won 1-0).

Rene, Chepe and adrian

In September ’08, I attended the last home game of the season with my brothers, Papá Chepe and six cousins. The cousin/grandpa outing was my cousin Ernie’s idea. He asked Chepe about the last game he attended and found out that it had been years, maybe decades, since he’d been to Chavez Ravine. We bought a dozen tickets in right field on field level. We chose those seats because they were close to the handicap parking and Chepe wouldn’t have to walk much or climb up/down too many stairs. We arranged ourselves in one row with Chepe in middle of his nietos.

The game was slow and scoreless until the 11th inning, but I still witnessed the kind of drama that gets my heart beating fast and makes my palms sweaty.

In the 4th inning a middle-aged Latino, I’ll call him el Veterano, in front of Rene turned around. Being a metiche (busybody) I leaned over across Adrian so I could hear what el Veterano was saying.

“For the past 45 minutes I’ve been sitting here listening to you talk shit in front of my wife and kids. I’m tired of it.”

I wasn’t surprised he was complaining. Earlier in the game, I shushed Adrian and Rene because of their language. I expected someone to turn around and ask, “can you guys watch your language?” They talked a lot too and only quieted down to drink their beers, munch on snacks, and eat Mexican candy.

I knew the guys were at fault, but I was on their side as soon as el Veterano began speaking and said “shit.” I didn’t like his tone nor hypocrisy. I figured he should use FCC approved or “pre-school toy” friendly words if he was going to complain about cursing.

Rene responded with a half apologetic, half surprised look. Adrian remained quiet. I leaned in closer.

El Veterano went on, “And it’s even worse that you sound like a nigger.”

I was shocked. Really? He used that word? In public? To complain about strangers’ language? And next to his wife, teenage son and pre-teen daughter?

I couldn’t help it. I jumped in.

“You’re offended by his language and then you go and use a racial slur?! I can’t believe you’re complaining about our language and saying you’re offended. You’re offending me with that word!”

My face reddened, my hands shook and my blood pressure shot up.

El Veterano shifted in his seat. His wife and kids, who had previously been listening, didn’t dare turn back to look at us.

“I… I’m sorry,” he said. He turned back to face the game and never turned around again.

The guys looked at me, still in shock over what had just happened. Beside me, Chepe sat oblivious as to what had just happened. Danny and Nancy leaned over to be filled in on the chisme. Adrian said, “I knew as soon as he said that you were going to jump in. I’m glad you did.”

Later in the game, Adrian (also a metiche) told me he’d read El Veterano’s pre-teen daughter text message to a friend. It read, “what are you doing, bitch?”

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Survey: is Dodger Stadium safe?

Too many "thugs"?

I’ve been reading a lot about the beating of Bryan Stow after opening day at Dodger Stadium (March 31).

Stow, a 42-year-old Santa Clara paramedic and father of two who traveled to Dodger Stadium on March 31 in Giants regalia. Walking through the parking lot after the game, Stow was accosted by two men, who taunted him, punched him and kicked him as he lay injured. [Source]

His injuries were serious enough to put him in a medically induced coma. He is still in critical condition.

Like many fans, I’m horrified, disgusted and deeply saddened that some pendejos would do this. I pray for Stow’s full recovery and hope such violence never occurs again at Dodger Stadium (or any other sporting event).

Other fans have expressed outrage online or called in to talk radio shows. Many shared their own concerns about going to Dodger Stadium and some brought up the race element before sketches of the suspects were released. The suspects look like your average pelón gang-banger. The comments section of the LA Times were filled with racist and anti-immigrant remarks. I started reading “thug” as a code word for young Latino male. Honestly, I wasn’t surprised by the racism.

However, I am surprised by the number of levelheaded people I know who no longer go to games, worry for their safety and think the atmosphere is not family friendly. My personal experience is much different and I go to lots of games (even if I grumble about how much I hate contributing to the McCourts’ profits).

What do you think? I’ve written a survey about the atmosphere in the stadium, in the parking lot and the surrounding area. Fill it out and share it with others who go to lots of games or just a few every couple of seasons. I hope to share some of the responses next week.

Dodger Stadium atmosphere survey

Edit: The survey is now closed. You can chime in on the responses when I post about the survey results.

Disclaimer: I’m just a fan. I have no affiliation with the Dodger organization, LAPD or city hall. Thus, the survey is focused on experiences and opinions rather than suggestions for improvement.

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CicLAvia (on foot)

CicLAvia 2011

For the first time in a few weeks, my weekend running didn’t include a race (running or cheering). That didn’t stop me from making in to an event thanks to the second CicLAvia.

I headed out to Boyle Heights to run the route east to west. The not-a-race event is mainly marketed to cyclists. I don’t own a bike, but that didn’t matter to me. The 7+ mile route of LA streets were closed to automobile traffic and open to cyclists, skateboarders, kids on scooters, pedestrians and runners. I missed the first CicLAvia when I was in New York last October and didn’t want to miss another free opportunity to run car-less LA streets (free!).

I had a lazy morning and didn’t get out to Boyle Heights until 1:30. Sean dropped me off by the Shakey’s at Cesar Chavez and State. He was too bummed about his broken MacBook to join me on foot or his bike so he went home to troubleshoot. From Cesar Chavez and State, I ran South past White Memorial to 4th Street where I joined a swarm cyclists heading west on the 4th Street bridge (traffic was going in both directions).

Since I’d read El Chavo’s post on the first CicLAvia I knew I’d be way outnumbered by cyclists. And I was. I didn’t feel too safe in the street with cyclists weaving in and out (mainly the kids who weren’t really paying attention and don’t know how to drive), taking pictures and texting. Most were riding at a leisurely pace, but occasionally some guy would come speeding by. I stuck to the “gutter lane,” as El Chavo called it, or jumped up on to the sidewalk where I’m accustomed to running. The sidewalks through Little Tokyo and most the Historic Core of Downtown LA were too crowded, so I had to go on the street. I kept the sound on my iPod Shuffle low, but I probably would’ve been safer turning it off.

CicLAvia 2011

The streets weren’t completely shut down to automobile traffic. There were several points along the route where cyclists and pedestrians were required to stop at crossing points for cars. Traffic officers directed motorists, pedestrians and cyclists. It all went pretty smooth. I think we stopped at every intersection through downtown, which was a nice breather. It was a pretty warm day (high 60s and sunny) so the rest helped me get through my first long-ish run since the marathon. I didn’t stop at any of the rest stops at Hollenbeck Park, City Hall, MacArthur Park or the Bicycle District. I did stop for a few minutes when I ran in to Pachuco3000 (above) and bought some lemonade from some kids at a lemonade stand in East Hollywood at the end of the route (below). When I finished I called Sean and we arranged a pickup spot for me a few miles south in Koreatown.

CicLAvia 2011

Even if it was a little lonely for a runner, I’m glad I got out. I did 10 pretty flat miles through areas of LA I never run through and don’t visit often enough. I saw a friend, had some great lemonade and got a nice tan from my racerback tank and capri running pants. Fun times.

All photos by srd515 and used under Creative Commons license.

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This day in Chicana herstory: Dolores Huerta (1930)

April 10, 1930:
Dolores Huerta (nee Fernadez) was born in Dawson, New Mexico*

From a biography put together by the Girl Scouts:

Dolores Huerta is the President of the Dolores Huerta Foundation, and the co-founder and First Vice President Emeritus of the United Farm Workers of America, AFL-CIO (UFW). She is the mother of 11 children, 14 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. Dolores has played a major role in the American civil rights movement.

Dolores Huerta was born on April 10, 1930 in the mining town of Dawson, in northern New Mexico, where her father, Juan Fernandez, was a miner, field worker, union activist and State Assemblyman. Her parents divorced when she was three years old. Her mother, Alicia Chavez, raised Dolores, along with her two brothers, and two sisters, in the San Joaquin valley farm worker community of Stockton, California. She was a businesswoman who owned a restaurant and a 70-room hotel. Dolores’ mother was a major influence in Dolores’ life. She taught Dolores to be generous and caring for others. She often put up farm workers and their families for free in her hotel. She was also a community activist, and supported Dolores and her Girl Scout troop. [Source]

Since college — when I first became aware of Dolores Huerta’s legacy of activism and leadership — I’ve seen her speak a few times at rallies or organized labor events. Those always left me inspired. However, it’s when I see her unexpectedly at an airport or restaurant that I’m left a little star struck. Can you blame me?

Her life’s accomplishments are impressive. As an octogenarian she’s still going strong and continues the work to improve women and poor peoples’ lives as the president of the Dolores Huerta Foundation. For her 80th birthday party, her organization hosted a benefit concert for the foundation. She speaks out on sexism and homophobia, often ignored in the Latino activist community.

Dolores Huerta is an inspiration to women who want to be leaders and affect change in their local communities and beyond. She’s a mujer to be reckoned with. If you have any doubts, simply listen to the strength in her voice as she discusses her life’s work in an interview with Maria Hinojosa on Latino USA. (Make sure to scroll down… you’ll see someone familiar.)
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