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August 17, 2020

On Saturday, we made a trek to East Los Angeles (almost 24 miles from Sierra Madre) to pick up the additional 10 pleated face masks Petra, Mario’s wife, had made for us. They were colorful and perfect! These days, I don’t think there’s such a thing as too many face masks. Sometimes we rush out of the house and realize we left without a mask. Now we can keep extras in the cars, or in our totes.

Colorful covid-19 masks

A visit here is always a trip down memory lane. Louie and Mario grew up in ELA with many adventures from childhood to their teenage years. So, out came the nostalgia, complete with verbal jabbing and laughter. I’ve heard the stories a “thousand times,” yet they still make me laugh. But for Petra and their adult sons David and Carlos, they were hearing some amazing stories for the first time. It was pure joy to see uplifted spirits, especially during times of isolation placed upon us by Covid.

While inside the house, I heard a familiar sound outside. “Is that the ice cream truck?!” Now that was reminiscent for me. The music playing loudly over the speakers is still the tune I remember as a child. I ran to the front door to snap a photo, but it had gone up the hill. I missed it again when it came down the hill. Oh well.

But as we departed and slowed down at an intersection on Cesar Chavez Avenue, a big truck pulled up on my side of the car to make a right turn. I looked at the signage. “An ice cream truck!” I yelled out. This one was as big as a food truck.

We couldn’t leave ELA without passing by Louie’s childhood home that his father built – that Louie, Mario, Louie’s brothers, and other friends used as their “boys club” headquarters. It still looks nice with what appears to be a fresh coat of gray paint.

A home in East LA

We also made a stop at Liliana’s Tamales to pick up fresh green chile tamales, rice, and beans for dinner. With an efficient outdoor set-up and behind clear plastic curtains, staff who hadn’t seen us since pre-Covid, waved and smiled underneath face shields and masks. They took temperatures of diners waiting to be seated inside the bright yellow and blue party tent that -- with peaked tops, see-through netted windows and an audible motor -- looked like a cross between the Cirque du Soleil tent and a jumper.

Delicious tamales

But on a somber note (before arriving at Mario’s), we passed Evergreen Cemetery in Boyle Heights. Headstones on its dry 67 acres seemed to go on forever. It’s always a sad scene for Louie as it recalls his high school years when many young men from ELA were drafted for the Vietnam War, including his 19-year-old Uncle Gabriel. Sadly, Gabriel died in the war not too long after his draft. Louie recalls with vivid memory when dead soldiers were brought home from the war and cremated at Evergreen. Something he will never forget.

Evergreen’s official name is Evergreen Memorial Park and Crematory. It dates back to 1877. There are a lot of graves here -- over 300,000. If the gravestones could talk. Evergreen is also the resting place for Southern California pioneers -– like Bixby, Coulter, Hollenbeck, Lankershim, Van Nuys, and Workman. (I worked many years with a Workman descendant.)

And no space goes to waste here. The innovative neighborhood made use of Evergreen’s expansive perimeter and in 2003 installed a rubber 1.4-mile jogging track around the cemetery. In the spirit of keeping citizens healthy, there are also exercise stations and benches for resting along the way.

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