Pendersleigh & Sons Cartography’s Map to 1650 Gallery

Pendersleigh & Sons Cartography's map of 1650 Gallery and environs. 19 May 2015
Pendersleigh & Sons Cartography’s map of 1650 Gallery and environs. 19 May 2015

If you don’t like, have, or know how to use GPS — or you just prefer colorful, hand-scrawled maps — here’s a big scan of a map that I did for my upcoming art show at 1650 Gallery in Echo Park. X marks the spot! Feel free to download and print your own (just don’t try to sell them!)

No Enclave — Exploring Indonesian Los Angeles

Diversity has long been part of the fabric of Los Angeles and Southern California. Humans first arrived here at least 13,000 years ago and more than twenty Native American nations made their homes in the region before the Spanish Conquest. The Spanish pueblo of Los Angeles was itself founded by people of Native, AfricanEuropean, and mixed ancestries and in its early years as an American city Los Angeles attracted substantial numbers of ArmeniansBasques, Canadians, Chinese, DutchFrench, Germans, Irish, ItaliansJapanese, Jews, Mexicans, Russians, SerbiansSicilians, and others. For some, ethnic enclaves came into existence (and in many cases vanished). Other immigrant populations have tended to spread out across the region rather than cluster together — which makes exploring their presence in Southern California more difficult but no less rewarding.

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Map of Indonesia
Map of Indonesia

Most “overseas” Indonesians don’t actually live “over seas” but in neighboring Malaysia, a country with which Indonesia shares the island of Borneo. Another 410,800 or so Indonesians live in the archipelagos former colonizer, the Netherlands. The US has third largest population of Indonesians living outside of Indonesia; the 2010 census revealed that 95,270 Americans of Indonesian ancestry live in the country. Roughly a third of all Indonesian-Americans live in the Los Angeles metro area. In the Los Angeles area, however, the Indonesian population is rather diffuse, although Alhambra has the second largest population after Los Angeles. Neither city (nor any in the country, for that matter) has an official Little Jakarta or Indotown.

Considering Indonesia is the fourth most populous country in the world, it’s surprising how few associations most Americans (and probably non-neighbors) have with it. Consider the stereotypes and tropes attached to China, India, and the US — or even the fifth largest country — Brazil. Indonesia, on the other hand, tends to elicit nothing but a blank stare — at least among the people to whom I’ve mentioned it. To most Americans, “Indo” is a crossbreed of cannabis and the most famous Indonesian is Ardi Rizal — who’s not even known by his name or nationality but rather as that “fat smoking baby in the viral video.” Rizal has supposedly kicked his nasty habit; unfortunately the same can’t be said for the planet and its addiction to palm oil. The deforestation fueled by our own nasty habit amounts to ripping out our planet’s lungs.

ObamaKindergartenLarge

The most famous American with Indonesian roots is President Obama spent a chunk of his childhood there (after leaving Kenya, of course) but he’s not exactly the typical Indonesian — if there is such a thing. It’s entirely possible to have associations with regions of Indonesia without even being aware of what country said regions are part. For example, we tend to think of batik and wayang as being from Java, gamelan (and Balinese cats) as Balinese, wild men as coming from Borneo, Komodo dragons as coming from Komodo, and fat smoking babies as coming (along with tigers, rhinos, and elephants) as hailing from Sumatra.

Ethnic map of Indonesia
Ethnic map of Indonesia

Indonesia is an ethnically and geographically varied place. As a unified republic, it’s a pretty modern invention, created as it was in 1945. The term “Indonesian” refers to the inhabitants of 17,508 islands who represent more than 300 native ethnic groups and who speak about 737 languages. Indonesian, as an identification, isn’t especially closely entwined with any one ethnic group or the inhabitants of any one island although 58% of Indonesians live on Java and 42% of that island’s inhabitants are ethnically Javanese. Other large ethnic populations, in descending population size, include the Sundanese, Malay, Madurese, Batak, Minangkabau, Betawi, Bugis, Bantenese, Banjar, Balinese, Tionghoa (ethnic Chinese), and Makassar peoples.

Map of the Indies from Cary's New Universal Atlas, containing distinct maps of all the principal states and kingdoms throughout the World. From the latest and best authorities extant. London: Printed for J. Cary, Engraver and Map-seller, No. 181, near Norfolk Street, Strand, 1808.
Map of the Indies from Cary’s New Universal Atlas, containing distinct maps of all the principal states and kingdoms throughout the World. From the latest and best authorities extant. London: Printed for J. Cary, Engraver and Map-seller, No. 181, near Norfolk Street, Strand, 1808.

The first Indonesians to immigrate to the United States were primarily not of any of those aforementioned ethnicities. Nor were the first people in Indonesia of any of them. The first Indonesians to immigrate to America were the so-called Indos were the result of the Dutch East Indies long presence in the archipelago (part of what they referred to as the “Indies“). As for who the first people to immigrate to Indonesia were, that depends on one’s definition of people.

Papuan men
Papuan men

The extinct Homo erectus arrived in Java around 1.5 million years ago. In fact, homo erectus fossils were discovered in Indonesia in 1891 and ’92 and he was originally named “Java Man.” Much more recently, perhaps a mere 70,00 years ago, the ancestors of the Papuans (as well as other Melanesians) arrived in the archipelago as they migrated toward Australia. UNPO member West Papua, half of the Papuan homeland, was “annexed” by Indonesia in 1963 and the people have suffered horrendous human rights violations and exploitation at the hands of successive Indonesian governments. Unfortunately, Indonesia’s multi-ethnic nature has often been a source of strife although the optimist in me thinks that even as atrocities continue, things are slowly getting better. (Click here to get involved with protecting Papuans through Survival International).

Austronesian language map
Austronesian language map (Image source: La Salle University)

Austronesians (the ancestors of Taiwan‘s aboriginal tribes, Filipinos, Hawaiians, Malagasy, MalaysiansMaori, MicronesiansPolynesians, &c) arrived from Taiwan around 2,000 BCE. They settled in and and historically dominated the islands west of Papua.

Stylised view of the Moluccas and the main forts, by Portuguese Bocarro 1635 (Image source: Spice Island Forts)
Stylised view of the Moluccas and the main forts, by Portuguese Bocarro 1635 (Image source: Spice Island Forts)

The Maluku and Banda islands were once the only source of mace and nutmeg and an important source of cloves (clove cigarettes, or “kreteks” are still the most popular type of cigarette in Indonesia). They came to be known as the Spice Islands both to the Chinese and Europeans. It was to the Spice Islands that Columbus was attempting to sail when he “discovered” the long-inhabited islands of the Caribbean, located some 18,000 kilometers distant.

Map of the East Indies; the official trade zone (octrooigebied) of the VOC according to the VOC Charter, which was between Cape of Good Hope (South Africa) and Street Magallan (South America); printed c. 1700.
Map of the East Indies; the official trade zone (octrooigebied) of the VOC according to the VOC Charter, which was between Cape of Good Hope (South Africa) and Street Magallan (South America); printed c. 1700.

The Dutch East India Company (the Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie aka VOC) was established in Indonesia in 1602 and was later taken over by the Dutch Republic (Republiek der Zeven Verenigde Nederlanden). They remained in control of the islands until 1942 when they were deposed by the Japanese — who occupied the islands until 1945. After the defeat Japan in World War II, the Dutch returned to power and it wasn’t until 1949, following years of armed and political struggle, that the Dutch finally pulled out for good. However, the influence of centuries of Dutch colonization Indonesian cuisine are still evident in both countries’ cuisines. In the Netherlands the rijsttafel (“rice table”) reflects influence of Indonesia. In Indonesian markets, the sweets aisles are conspicuously filled with Dutch chocolates (and if you’re lucky, salty liquorice).

The shelves of Simpang Asia in Palms (Image source: Simpang Asia)
The shelves of Simpang Asia in Palms (Image source: Simpang Asia)

Dutch or mixed Dutch and Indonesian Indos (who include among their Southern California ranks, Alex Van Halen, Eddie Van Halen, and Mark-Paul Gosselaar) were the first Indos in the US. They came to Berkeley in 1953 to study medicine as part of program run by the International Cooperation Administration (now the US Agency for International Development). Soon, the heavily Dutch dairyland of North Orange County (then home to the towns of Dairy City and Dairyland) and Southeast Los Angeles (then home to Dairy Valley) became the primarily destinations for Indo immigrants, along with the neighboring San Gabriel Valley and the inner Inland Empire.

CHINESE-INDONESIANS (TIONGHOA)

Permanent settlement of Indonesians in the Los Angeles area increased after the passage of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 which opened (once it was enacted in 1968) the door a bit wider for non-European peoples. Indonesia’s so-called “Transition to the New World Order” kicked off a period of chaos, violence, and persecution in the second half of 1960s. Most of the hatred was aimed at the ethnic Chinese (Indonesian: Tionghoa; Chinese: 印度尼).

Another round anti-Chinese violence erupted in 1998, following government crackdowns on Chinese schools and institutions. Not surprisingly, that led to an increased number of Chinese-Indonesians seeking asylum. Thankfully, things seem to be improving for Chinese in Indonesia in the new millennium. In 2000, public expressions of Chinese culture were once again permitted and in 2002 the Lunar New Year was actually declared an official holiday. Still, today an estimated 60% of Indonesian-Americans living in Southern California are ethnically Chinese.

INDONESIAN CHURCHES

The congregation of First Indonesian Baptist Church in the early 1980s (Image source: FIBC)
The congregation of First Indonesian Baptist Church in the early 1980s (Image source: FIBC)

In Indonesia, 90% of the population are Muslim and Christians are only a small minority. In the US, however, the vast majority of Indonesian-Americans identify as Christian and it’s often been said that Indonesians tend to identify more along Christian denominational rather than ethnic ones — although the two identities are often intertwined.

The first Indonesian church in the US was a Seventh-day Adventist Church, (Azusa Indonesian American SDA Church) established in 1972 by Glendale Indos (it has since relocated to Azusa). The second Indonesian church was a Baptist and predominantly Chinese congregation, (First Indonesian Baptist Church of Los Angeles), which met in Temple City and Rosemead before settling in MonroviaOther Indonesian churches in the Southland include Indonesian Ecumenical Christian Church (in Loma Linda), Indonesian Evangelical Church (Azusa), Indonesian Presbyterian Church of Fullerton (Fullerton), Indonesian Seventh Day Adventist Church (in Ontario), Indonesian Worship Church (San Gabriel), Jemaat Kristen Indonesia Imnl (Downey), Loma Linda Indonesian Seventh Day Adventist (in Redlands),  Marantha Christian Fellowship (Northridge).

INDONESIAN MEDIA

Many of the Southland’s minorities are represented on television and radio stations but for the most part this doesn’t seem to be the case with Indonesians. In 2004, pan-Asian LA 18 began airing Indonesian religious programming JKI Hosanna/RG Ministries as well as Indonesian English News but I’m not sure if either survived television’s transition into the digital age. Indonesians in the Southern California have founded several newspapers in the region, however. The first, Indonesian Journal, was founded in Fontana in 1988. Loma Linda’s Actual Indonesia News came along in 1996. Other Indonesian news outlets include Indonesia Media (published in Glendora), and The Indonesia Letter.

INDONESIAN MUSIC

I don’t remember what the impetus was for my first listening to Indonesian music — probably just curiosity or the fact that rock radio was taken over by the likes of Better Than EzraDishwalla, The Verve Pipe and their ilk. I don’t remember which Indonesian compact disc I picked up from the library but, like a lot of them, the cover depicted a costumed, Balinese dancer and it probably included a descriptor along the lines of “enchanting” or “mysterious.” To my ears it was just about the most wonderful thing that I’d ever heard and afterward I grabbed some of David Sidney George Lewiston’s recordings of Balinese musicians made in the 1960s and ‘70s and anything else I could find (which wasn’t much). 

It was about five years later that I even thought of listening to Indonesian rock music, although I discovered that the way bands from Burma, Cambodia, Indonesia, Singapore, and Thailand took garage psychedelia, surf, and pop and transformed it into something new was also to my liking. I don’t have a sense of how popular traditional music was in Indonesia in the 1960s  but playing rock music could be apparently be a bad career move for a musician, as the members of Koes Bersaudara (later Koes Plus) found when they were arrested for the crime of covering a Beatles tune at a house party in 1965.

dara-1

Dara Puspita formed in Surabaya, in 1964. They too faced hostility from the Sukarno regime, but simply relocated to Thailand until Sukarno was gone, and then released Jang Pertama in 1966. It was followed by several more albums before they disbanded in 1972.

For whatever reason, it’s now apparent that all varieties of traditional Indonesian music and instruments are especially pleasing to my ears including Portuguese-derived kroncong (and kerocong tugu) of North Jakarta and Maluku, angklung of West Java, and the sasando of East Nusa Tenggara (provided they’re not being used to abuse some terrible song on Indonesian Idol).

Gamelan music, though, (and not just the Indonesian sort) has continued to hold a special place in my heart. When they compiled the Music from Earth compilation and sent it into space on Voyager, a Javanese gamelan song, “Kinds of Flowers,” was given the second track, right after the first movement of Bach‘s Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 in F.

In 2010 I got to experience a performance at Royce Hall by the 26-member music and dance ensemble, Gamelan Çudamani. I have almost no idea what the music is trying to convey; to my western ears it is mysterious, alluring, and hypnotic. Then again, upon hearing the same music a friend asked why I was listening to Christmas music!

INDONESIAN FOOD

Indonesian buffet (Image source: Images and Places, Pictures and Info)
Indonesian buffet (Image source: Images and Places, Pictures and Info)

It’s my opinion that more than music and film, the most accessible entry point into most cultures is through the stomach. Despite its relative obscurity, Indonesian Cuisine is surely one of the world’s major ones. As will all major food traditions, it’s influenced by the outside world (in Indonesian’s case, primarily Chinese, Dutch, Indian, Middle Eastern, Portuguese, and Spanish) and its influence can be detected in the cuisines of its neighbors (especially Malaysian, Melanesian, Polynesian, Singaporean, and Thai). The synthesis is easily recognizable as something complex, distinct, and delicious.

Fresh tempeh at the market, Jakarta, Indonesia – traditionally, tempeh is wrapped in banana leaves. (Image source: Sakurai Midori)
Fresh tempeh at the market, Jakarta, Indonesia – traditionally, tempeh is wrapped in banana leaves. (Image source: Sakurai Midori)

Despite all of this greatness, the only Indonesian culinary invention known to a significant percentage of non-Indonesian-Americans is tempeh, a fermented soy food which like China’s tofu is beloved by most who’ve eaten it but seems to frighten the certain insecure types for whom soybean derivatives are somehow threatening to ones sexual security. Both those who love tempeh and those who are traumatized by tempeh are in luck, however, because there’s a lot more to Indonesian cuisine than than just beans.

Indo Café is coming back soon (Image source: Joan
Indo Café is coming back soon (Image source: Joan “of Yelp” S.)

My own Columbus moment with Indonesian food came around 1998 when in an attempt to avoid the almost endless rush hour crush from Santa Monica to Chino I tried to take National Boulevard and was blown off course. I washed ashore at the doorstep of Indo Café in Palms and — having never had Indonesian food before — did the only sensible thing that I could think of and ordered dinner. For years afterward the intense and unfamiliar flavors lingered in my memory like a wonderful, vivid dream. The problem was that I my hazy memory didn’t include the restaurant’s name and to this day I have a hard time getting my bearings anywhere west of La Cienega. To make matters worse, the internet was something that came on a disc in the mail and phones could only make phone calls.

Simpang Asia
Simpang Asia
Sayur bungkus which I started eating before thinking of photographing
Sayur bungkus which I started eating before thinking of photographing
Simpang's Market -- The Other Side
Simpang’s Market — The Other Side

As I scoured the Westside in search of this edenic dining experience, I found and ate at Ramayani in Tehrangeles and Simpang Asia, also in Palms. At Simpang I’d been very close — Indo Café had been located just across the street — but I didn’t notice it because it had by then been closed due to a kitchen fire. It later re-opened but by then I was in love with Simpang and had a hard time pulling myself away. I fully intended to return but Indo Cafe closed once more, this time for good.

Borneo Kitchen (Image source: Michael
Borneo Kitchen (Image source: Michael “Catfish” W.)

The closest thing Los Angeles has to a concentration of Indonesian food is West Covina, home to Bethania Depot, Borneo KitchenJanty Noodle, and Merry’s House of Chicken. Alhambra is home to three Indonesian eateries: Borneo Kalimantan Cuisine, Indo Kitchen, and Wong Java House. Also in the San Gabriel Valley are Chicky BBQ & Grill and the Pondok Kaki Lima – Indonesian Food Bazaar (Duarte), QQ Kopitiam and Top Restaurant (Pasadena), Java Spice (Rowland Heights), Banana Leaf (Temple City), and Sate House (Walnut).

Komodo Food Truck (Image source: Darin Dines)
Komodo Food Truck (Image source: Darin Dines)

Aside from the aforementioned Westside eateries, there’s also Kaya Street Kitchen (Beverly Grove), 5i Indochine Bistro (Culver City), Komodo Pico and Komodo Truck (both Pico-Robertson), and Komodo Venice (Venice).

Indo Kitchen (Image source: Anita
Indo Kitchen (Image source: Anita “mad hungry woman” L.)

Indonesian restaurants found in other regions include Bowld (Toluca Lake), Dutch Bakery & Variety Foods (Ontario), Gowess Food Truck (Koreatown), Indo Ranch (Lake Forest), Java Bistro (Rancho Cucamonga), Satayz Asian Cuisine (Colton), SEA Market (Loma Linda), Singapore’s Banana Leaf (Fairfax), Tempe House Spicy Food (San Bernardino), Toko Rame Indonesian Restaurant (Bellflower), Warung Pojok (Garden Grove), and Wok Coco (Anaheim).

INDONESIAN FESTIVALS

Varied reactions to a Los Angeles Indonesian Film Festival screening (Image source: The @America Center)
Varied reactions to a Los Angeles Indonesian Film Festival screening (Image source: The @America Center)

Indonesia celebrates independence on 17 August and the Indonesian Consulate General in Koreatown is the location of annual festivities. I haven’t yet been but this year maybe that will change. Another Indonesian cultural festival is the Los Angeles Indonesian Film Festival, which debuted in September 2014. Indonesian cinema isn’t well known in the US but Indonesia does have a respected cinema. The Pekan Apresiasi Film Nasional was established in 1955. Its name was changed to Festival Film Indonesia (FFI) in 1973.

Indonesian film’s international stature (or at least its European validation) peaked in the 1980s, when Tjoet Nja’ Dhien (1988) became the first Indonesian film to play at Cannes. In the 1990s, however, Indonesian cinema suffered from an onslaught of cinematic imports from Hollywood, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. In 1993 the Indonesian Film Board (Badan Perfilman Indonesia) stopped organizing the ceremony. In 1998, Daun di Atas Bantal was awarded Best Picture at the 1998 Asia Pacific Film Festival in Taipei. The FFI returned in 2004. On Netflix you’re more likely to find films made in Indonesia by foreigners (e.g. Merantau, The Raid: Redemption, and The Act of Killing) than you are actual Indonesian films although on video the story is a little better. In the US, the Global Film Initiative distributes Garin Nugroho’s Rindu Kami Padamu (Of Love and Eggs, 2004) and Opera Jawa (2006), as well as Nan Achnas’s The Photograph (2007).

Whether it’s festivals, film, music, organizations, or restaurants — or photos — if you have any to add, please let me know in the comments and if it’s appropriate, I’ll add a mention and add it to this interactive map of Indonesian Los Angeles). Terima kasih!

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Eric Brightwell is an adventurer, writer, rambler, explorer, cartographer, and guerrilla gardener who is always seeking writing, speaking, traveling, and art opportunities. He is not interested in writing advertorials, clickbait, listicles, or other 21st century variations of spam. Brightwell’s written work has appeared in AmoeblogdiaCRITICS, and KCET Departures. His work has been featured by the American Institute of Architects, the Architecture & Design Museum, the Craft & Folk Art MuseumForm Follows FunctionLos Angeles County StoreSkid Row Housing Trust, and 1650 Gallery. Brightwell has been featured in the Los Angeles TimesHuffington PostLos Angeles MagazineLAistEastsider LABoing BoingLos Angeles, I’m Yours, and on Notebook on Cities and Culture. He has been a guest speaker on KCRW‘s Which Way, LA? and at Emerson College. Art prints of his maps are available from 1650 Gallery and on other products from Cal31. He is currently writing a book about Los Angeles and you can follow him on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter.

Click here to offer financial support and thank you!

One Album Wonders: Baader Meinhoff’s Baader Meinhoff

Luke Haines has released music under several names and as a part of several bands including The Auteurs, The Black Arts, Black Box Recorder, The Deverell Twins, The North Sea Scrolls, The Servants, and the One Album Wonder that is the subject of this piece, Baader Meinhof. Baader Meinhof were named after the West German terrorist group who actually went by the name the Rote Armee Fraktion.

Baader Meinhof album

As a child in the 1980s, I remember the Weather Underground’s heist of a Brink’s truck, the MOVE firebombing, and stories about Carlos “The Jackal.” The first (and second to last) car that I owned was a still-boxy black BMW adorned with a bumper sticker informing anyone stuck behind me in gridlock “Ich gehöre nicht zur Baader-Meinhof Gruppe.” I only know about ten words of German but own an un-subtitled copy of the documentary Starbuck Holger Meins (I get the gist). My interest in Leftist urban terrorism is such that even if a completely generic whoa-oh band were to title a song “Deutscher Herbst,” I’d probably listen to it less critically than I would were it instead titled something like “England Skies.”

Felt’s “Space Blues”

How much better, then, that Baader Meinhof seemed to find inspiration in a weird and wonderful non-album Felt song, “Space Blues.” That song should’ve been the (space) blueprint for a new pop subgenre. After it’s release, however, Martin Duffy and Rose McDowall (Strawberry Switchblade) left the Felt fold to form Church of Raism (as in Gilles de Rais) with Robert Young (Primal Scream) and James Havoc. Their sole album hadn’t married Fender Rhodes and viola to softly sung lyrics, however, instead opting to trade in good ol’ fashioned Satanic New Age.

Baader Meinhof’s “Meet Me at the Airport”

Something resembling “Space Blues” only arrived in 1995, after Luke Haines took a break from The Auteurs and released “Baader Meinhof / Meet Me At the Airport.” Driven by tablas, handclaps, and cryptic lyrics aboutBaader Meinhoff b/w Meet Me at the Airportterrorism, it had a hallucinatory atmosphere quite out of step with British Top 40 then populated by the not-so-easy-listening likes of Céline DionEast 17, Oasis, and Take That and instead sounding rather like Felt’s penultimate single.

A self-titled Baader Meinhof concept album followed in 1996. In its 31 minute running time it managed to be more thought provoking than any traditional concept album of the sort packaged in a gatefold sleeve, decorated with Roger Deanart, and concerned with extraterrestrials or dragons (even though I often like those too). Befitting the subject matter the album is simultaneously mesmerizing, intoxicating, and disorienting. Although Haines has released a trove of great music, Baader Meinhof is probably my favorite (a statement easier to make when not listening to any Auteurs albums).

After the US invaded Iraq in 2003, I played a song off of the album in an anti-war DJ set. Favoring simplistic, didactic, shouty political punk and earnest, acoustic protest folk, my partner turned to me quizically and asked, “Are you sure this is political?” It’s not exactly The Clash or The Pop Group but grab a copy and decide for yourself.

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Eric Brightwell is an adventurer, writer, rambler, explorer, cartographer, and guerrilla gardener who is always seeking writing, speaking, traveling, and art opportunities. He is not interested in writing advertorials, clickbait, listicles, or other 21st century variations of spam. Brightwell’s written work has appeared in AmoeblogdiaCRITICS, and KCET Departures. His work has been featured by the American Institute of Architects, the Architecture & Design Museum, the Craft & Folk Art MuseumForm Follows FunctionLos Angeles County StoreSkid Row Housing Trust, and 1650 Gallery. Brightwell has been featured in the Los Angeles TimesHuffington PostLos Angeles MagazineLAistEastsider LABoing BoingLos Angeles, I’m Yours, and on Notebook on Cities and Culture. He has been a guest speaker on KCRW‘s Which Way, LA? and at Emerson College. Art prints of his maps are available from 1650 Gallery and on other products from Cal31. He is currently writing a book about Los Angeles and you can follow him on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter.

Click here to offer financial support and thank you!

No Enclave — Exploring Hawaiian Los Angeles

Diversity has long been part of the fabric of Los Angeles and Southern California. Humans first arrived here at least 13,000 years ago and more than twenty Native American nations made their home here before the Spanish Conquest. The Spanish pueblo of Los Angeles was itself founded by people of Native, AfricanEuropean, and mixed ancestries and in its early years as an American city it attracted substantial numbers of Armenians, Basques, Canadians, Chinese, Dutch,French, Germans, Irish, Italians, Japanese, Jews, Mexicans, Russians, SerbiansSicilians, and others. For some, ethnic enclaves came into existence (and often vanished). Other people have tended to spread out across the region rather than cluster together — which makes exploring their presence in Southern California more difficult but no less rewarding.

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Hawaii and California
Hawaii and California

The largest population of ethnic Hawaiians (“Kānaka Maoli”) living outside of the Hawaiian Islands live in the Los Angeles metro area. Obvious signs of Hawaiiana are mostly limited to Hawaiian restaurants and festivals. Less obvious but no less profound is the influence of Hawaii on Southern California as evinced by Surf cultureTiki culture, the hibiscus and palm-dotted landscape, and the existence of cities like Hawaiian Gardens.

HAWAIIAN HISTORY

Hawaiian navigators sailing multi-hulled canoe, c. 1781
Hawaiian navigators sailing multi-hulled canoe, c. 1781

The Hawaiian Islands are the most isolated landform in the world and it wasn’t until around 300 CE that Austronesian pioneers discovered the islands. The Austronesians were a people with origins in Taiwan who fanned out across a vast area and colonized the islands of the Philippines, Indonesia, Madagascar, New Zealand, Micronesia, Polynesia, and Rapa Nui.  The nearest landform to the 132 Hawaiian archipelago is California, located 3677 kilometers away and although far from conclusive there is some suggestion that the Hawaiians may’ve been in contact with California’s seafaring Chumash and Tongva/Kizh peoples.

Captain James Cook (1728-1779). Nathaniel Dance.
Portrait of Captain James Cook (c. 1775) by Nathaniel Dance

The first European to visit Hawaii was the English Captain James Cook, who arrived uninvited in 1778 and, ignoring the locals, introduced a new name, “the Sandwich Islands.” He came bearing gifts — mainly western diseases to which the islanders had no immunity such as gonorrheaHansen’s disease, small poxsyphilis, tuberculosis, and capitalism. By 1832 the population of Hawaii had dropped from approximately 300,000 to 130,000. It continued to dwindle, ultimately shrinking to as few as 30,000.

After Hawaii’s “discovery” by Europeans, England, France, and US sent in missionaries, troops, and capitalists to control and exploit the native labor force who increasingly found themselves employed on vast pineapple and sugar plantations where they performed back-breaking labor for little pay. As their numbers shrank, laborers had to be imported from Portuguese islands, several Asian countries, and Spain, who mixed with Native Hawaiians to create a new Hawaiian identity. As of the 2010 census, 23.6% of Hawaiians self-identified as being of mixed race.

Chinese family living in Honolulu in 1893
Chinese family living in Honolulu in 1893

The first Chinese arrived in Hawaii with Captain Cook’s crew. From the mid-to-late 19th century, about 46,000 more arrived — often remaining in Honolulu’s Chinatown after the expiration of their contracts.

Portuguese immigrant family in Hawaii during the 19th century
Portuguese immigrant family in Hawaii during the 19th century

The first Portuguese arrived in 1878, mostly hailing from Madeira and the Azores, and introduced the machete, the cavaquinho, and the rajão, instruments which in turn influenced the creation of the Hawaiian ukuklele.

Japanese sugar plantation workers in Hawaii around 1890
Japanese sugar plantation workers in Hawaii around 1890

Japanese were banned by their emperor from emigrating to Hawaii until 1885, following overtures made by Hawaii’s King David Kalākaua, when 153 Japanese laborers arrived. By the 1920s Japanese would comprise 43% of the islands’ population.

ln10a2_b

After Japanese laborers waged a strike, the first Koreans arrived in 1903 and by 1905 their numbers exceeded 7,000.

welived31

Filipino laborers first arrived in 1906 and today comprise the single largest ethnicity on the island.

Spanish children disembarking from the SS Heliopolis in Honolulu, Hawaii -
Spanish children disembarking from the SS Heliopolis in Honolulu, Hawaii – “Immigrants arrive after many weary weeks at sea”. (Image source, The Hawaiian Gazette, 1907)

As racist sentiment against Asians increased and laws were passed to prevent their immigration, the Hawaiian Sugar Planters’ Association decided to court more laborers from Europe, despite the higher cost. From 1907 to 1913, 9,262 Spanish from the Málaga province were imported to work in the fields.

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For decades the US Navy had been tasked with protecting American economic and military interests in Hawaii. Pearl Harbor served as a duty free port mainly used to transport sugar to the mainland. In 1874, riots broke out between supporters of Queen Emma and King Kalahaua and the US Navy’s USS Tuscorora and USS Portsmouth along with the British HMS Tenedos joined forces to quell the unrest. Afterward, the US demanded and was granted exclusive rights to Pearl Harbor for use as a repair and coaling station.

Honolulu Rifles in full regalia
Honolulu Rifles in full regalia

In 1887, Americans in Hawaii founded a militia, the Honolulu Rifles, who seized the royal palace. In 1893, Queen Liliʻuokalani was overthrown by American forces. The Republic of Hawaii was declared on 4 July 1894 with Sanford Dole, a Honolulu-born son of immigrants from Maine, acting as president. His cousin James Dole founded the Hawaiian Pineapple Company, which evolved into the Dole agribusiness.

Queen Liliʻuokalani
Queen Liliʻuokalani

Against the opposition of the Japanese as well as many Hawaiians and Americans, Hawaii was annexed and made an oversea territory of the US. Unlike other conquered aboriginal Americans, Hawaiians retained no sovereignty in the form of reservations nor were they granted the same rights enjoyed by Americans. 

The USS Shaw exploded after being struck during the attack on Pearl Harbor December 7, 1941 (Image source: US Navy)
The USS Shaw exploded after being struck during the attack on Pearl Harbor December 7, 1941 (Image source: US Navy)

On 7 December, 1941, the Empire of Japan attacked several Pacific territories held by the Netherlands, the UK, and the US in Malaya, the Philippines, Singapore, Hong Kong, and most infamously for Americans, Pearl Harbor. 2,403 American soldiers, 64 Japanese soldiers, and 68 civilians died in the attack. The next day the US declared war against Japan. 

The 442nd Regimental Combat Team hiking up a muddy French road in the Chambois Sector, France, in late 1944.
The 442nd Regimental Combat Team hiking up a muddy French road in the Chambois Sector, France, in late 1944  (Image source: Army Center for Military)

Although Japanese-American troops from Hawaii served in combat as the all-volunteer 422nd Regimental Combat Team, over 110,000 Japanese-Americans on the mainland were sent to concentration camps in Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Utah, and Wyoming. By contrast 11,507 Germans and 1,881 Italians were detained during the war.

A view of daily life at Honouliuli Internment Camp. c. 1945
A view of daily life at Honouliuli Internment Camp. c. 1945

In Hawaii, where 150,000 Japanese-Americans comprised roughly a third of the islands’ population, only an estimated 1,500 to 1,800 Japanese were interned because to detain more would’ve been too detrimental to the islands’ economy. Hawaii was, however, placed under martial law. It was lifted at the end of the war but sovereignty was not restored. Instead, with the support of American-backed Hawaiian territorial governors and judges, Hawaii was annexed and made a state in 1959.

HAWAIIANS IN LOS ANGELES

Hawaiian children at home, c. 1961 (Image source: LAPL)
Hawaiian children at home, c. 1961 (Image source: Los Angeles Public Library Images)

Most of the early Hawaiian immigrants to the US had followed the route of the island’s sugar trade to Oakland and elsewhere in the San Francisco Bay. By the 1920s, for example, 95% of Crockett, California’s residents worked for the California and Hawaiian Sugar Refining Company (C & H). Soon, though, many Hawaiians quit the East Bay for Southern California’s San Pedro (the Harbor) and Santa Monica bays (the South Bay), where they often settled in the communities of San Pedro, Carson, Gardena, Hawthorne, Long Beach, and Torrance and where many were employed not in sugar refineries but in the aerospace and defense industry by the likes of Boeing, Douglas Aircraft Company, Northrup, and Jet Propulsion Labs.

SURFING

Duke Kahanamoku practices his golf swing will riding his surfboard towards shore. A long pier stretches outwards in the background, c. 1925 (Image source: Los Angeles Public Library Images)
Duke Kahanamoku practices his golf swing while riding his surfboard towards shore. A long pier stretches outwards in the background, c. 1925 (Image source: Los Angeles Public Library Images)

After sugarcane, the most important import from Hawaii was surfing. Although surfing additionally practiced in Samoa and Tonga, it was first brought to the shores of California by a trio of Hawaiians in 1885. In 1907 Hawaiian George Freeth demonstrated surfing for a crowd in Huntington Beach. Surfing quickly took hold in Southern California to the point you’d be forgiven for assuming it was invented there and Huntington Beach now bills itself as “Surf City,” hosts the International Surfing Museum, has a Surfer’s Walk of Fame, and a statue of Duke Paoa Kahinu Makoe Hulikohoa Kahanamoku.

TIKI CULTURE

Interior of Don the Beachcomber
Interior of Don the Beachcomber

Polynesia-inspired Tiki culture really began in 1933 when Don the Beachcomber (né Ernest Raymond Beaumont Gantt) opened Don’s Beachcomber Café in the Yucca Corridor section of Hollywood. Not specifically-Hawaiian in its theme (it served rum-and-juice cocktails like with Tahitian names like Mai Tais and American Chinese dishes such as the as well as the , or “pu pu platter”), its iconography certainly owed something to Hawaii… and Californians’ growing realization that their state was part of the Pacific, not the North Atlantic.

“Hawaiian luau, with appropriately garbed members of Van Nuys Women’s Club, was attended by these club members who helped arrange candlelight supper. Watching Mrs. D. Wendell Reid do authentic hula steps are, from left, Mmes. Fred M. Lawrence, Franklyn Buerck, V. D. Slocum and Lloyd G. Rainey, seated foreground.” (Image source: Dave Siddon)

The interest in South Pacific islands, especially, increased dramatically when veterans from World War II returned to the mainland with an infatuation for usually superficial aspects of Polynesian culture like straw hats, Hawaiian shirts, and smiling, grass-skirted hula girls. Renamed Don the Beachcomber, the pioneering restaurant soon grew into a sixteen location chain and many other tiki-themed restaurants opened in the 1940s and ‘50s.

After Hawaii became a state, Honolulu (and the Caribbean) rose to the ranks of London, Paris, and Rome as a popular destination for American tourists — especially as airplane travel supplanted luxury ships and dirigibles.

Pan-AmHawaii OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Pan-Am Hawaii Northwest Hawaii

The event of my mother’s family going to Hawaii was important enough to be covered by their small town Iowa newspaper (and important enough for my family to preserve). My maternal grandfather even built a tiki lounge in the basement of his rural, ranch home — complete with a hi-fi, wet bar, fireplace, fishing nets, sea shells, wooden masks, and even a sign proclaiming it “The Carib Room.

Kapu Tiki Apts. in Pico Rivera
Kapu Tiki Apts. in Pico Rivera

In Southern California, Hawaiian/Polynesian-inspired style influenced the architecture and decor of apartment buildings, bars, drive-ins, and bowling alleys. My own apartment, construction of which began in 1961, has a steep, peaked A-frame roof and extended roof beams. There are  many apartment complexes throughout the Southland with names like the Outrigger Apartments, Kona Gardens, Kona Kai Apartments, Kona Pali, and Aloha Apartments which make even more explicit their particularly Hawaiian aspirations.

The Royal Hawaiian in Anaheim (Image source: Tiki Central)
Postcard from Laguna Beach’s sister location of The Royal Hawaiian in Anaheim (Image source: Tiki Central)
Postcard from Bahooka Ribs & Grog in West Covina
Postcard from Bahooka Ribs & Grog in West Covina
Kelbo's Postcard (Image source: Old LA Restaurants)
Kelbo’s drink menu (Image source: Old LA Restaurants)

Although many beloved tiki bars and restaurants have closed (RIP Bahooka (1967-2013) and Royal Hawaiian (1947-2013) and Kelbo’s (c.1955-c.1985)), still extant tiki restaurants and bars include Damon’s Steak HouseDon The Beachcomber, Kahuna Tiki, the Purple Orchid, Tiki No, Tiki TiTonga Hut, Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar, and Trader Vic’s. The craze for Tiki culture is still in evidence at the Tiki Beach Festival in Long Beach, Tiki Night at the Egyptian in Hollywood, and Oceanic Arts in Whittier.

HAWAIIAN MUSIC

Although today the words “Hawaiian” and “music” almost invariably mean that one is about it hear Israel Kamakawiwoʻole‘s recording of Harold Arlen and E.Y. “Yip” Harburg‘s “Over the Rainbow,” often set to a YouTube slideshow of palm trees against a setting sun or a volcano, Hawaiian music’s influence on mainland music, especially in Southern California, is actually quite profound.

Although there’s no precise word for “music” in Hawaiian, highly formalized Hawaiian chanting (mele) and the ritualized, accompanying dance (hula) are often together characterized as being aspects of traditional Hawaiian music. It is heavily percussive, performed on the ipu and ipu heke (two types of gourd instruments), ʻiliʻili (lava stone castanets), pahu (sharkskin drums), pu`ʻli (split bamboo sticks)l, and ʻuliʻuli (feathered gourd rattles).

In the late 19th Century, steel guitars appeared in Hawaii, usually played with a knife or bottleneck instead of frets — a technique which first appeared in the American South. In the 1920s, steel guitar became popular in the US and in the 1930s and ’40s was popular with Western Swing bands and country guitarists like Speedy West, Missouri-born pioneer of the Bakersfield Sound and who released West of Hawaii in 1958.

Sandal-wearing longhair eden ahbez, (né George Alexander Aberle) composed the back-to-nature hit “Nature Boy” which was a hit for Nat King Cole in 1948. His only album, Eden’s Island, mixed poetry with exotica and was released by Del-Fi Records in 1960. Exotica, as its name suggests, was meant to evoke many “exotic” locales including Africa, the Amazon, the Caribbean, and the Orient, but perhaps no locale was more associated with the movement than Hawaii, which was made clear on numerous compositions by musicians like Les Baxter, The Polynesians, The Out Islanders, Martin Denny (who moved to Hawaii), and Arthur Lyman (who was born and died there).

In the early 1960s, Hawaiian music and iconography further influenced Southern California surf rock like Dick Dale & His Del-Tones, The Bel-Airs, The Challengers, Eddie & the Showmen, PJ & The Galaxies, The Journeymen, The Surfaris, and others, many of which were formed by teenagers living in South Bay and Harbor communities with substantial populations of Hawaiians. In the hands of bands like The Beach Boys and Jan & Dean, Hawaiian-indebted surf rock morphed into what came to be marketed and thought of as “The California Sound.”

HAWAIIANA

The First Hawaiian Renaissance refers retroactively to the nationalist revival which took place during the reign of King Kamehameha V in the 1860s. The Second Hawaiian Renaissance was in many ways a response to the appropriation of Hawaiiana which saw Americans don Hawaiian shirts and host suburban luaus, produced television series like Hawaiian Eye (1959-1963) and Hawaii Five-O (1968-1980), and saw musicians like Annette Funicello, Elvis Presley, Gidget, James Darren, and Ray Conniff produce Hawaiian albums and in some cases, make Hawaiian-Hollywood films — many of which (aside from a few establising shots) saw Malibu or a studio backlot stand in for Hawaii.

Although some Hawaiian-born artists like Arthur Lyman and Don Ho benefited commercially from the vogue for Hawaiian kitsch, artists of the second renaissance sought to create more authentic expressions of kānaka maoli culture informed by a revival of traditional music, language, art, and cultural studies.

Since the tiki and surf crazes of the mid-20th century and the Second Hawaiian Renaissance, mainstream American pop culture has less often been informed by Hawaiiana. There’s been Lilo & Stitch (2002), Dog the Bounty Hunter (2003 – the present), 50 First Dates (2004), Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008), The Descendants (2011), and the revived Hawaii Five-0 (2010 – the present), which briefly featured Hawaiian actress Kelly Hu, who moved to Los Angeles in 1987. Actress Tia Carrere was also born in Honolulu and moved to Los Angeles to pursue acting in the 1980s.

Etta Lee Duke Kahanamoku Poncie PonceTia Carrere Kelly Hu

Earlier high profile Hawaiians in Hollywood include Poncie Ponce (né Ponciano Tabac Ponce), who played a ukulele-strumming, straw-hatted cabdriver on Hawaiian Eye (filmed on a soundstage in Burbank). Even earlier, Duke Kahanamoku and Etta Lee each appeared in fourteen films, each beginning their acting careers in the silent era.

HAWAIIAN FESTIVALS & ORGANIZATIONS

Hula at the Long Beach Performing Arts Center (Image source: E Hula Mau)
Hula at the Long Beach Performing Arts Center (Image source: E Hula Mau)

There are several Hawaiian cultural festivals that take place in the Southland. Lei Day was established in 1929 on the first of May and is celebrated by many Hawaiians, albeit mostly in Hawaii. Locally, the Hawaiian Inter-Club Council of Southern California has hosted Ho’olaule’a on the third weekend in July in Lawndale’s Alondra Park since 1977. Hula Halau `O Lilinoe ame Na Pua me Kealoha was founded in 1981 by Sissy Lilinoe and Lincoln Kaio of Carson. Mary Kahihilani Duarte-Kovich launched the Lei Hulu of California in 1983.

Every Labor Day weekend in Long Beach, the E Hula Mau has taken place since 1995, offering live performances, art, crafts, and Hawaiian food. The Heritage of Aloha Festival takes place annually in Santa Fe SpringsThe Aloha Spirit Bash was launched in 2010 in Santa Barbara. The Imua Ho’olaule’a (formerly the Northridge Hawaiian Festival) takes place annually in Northridge (and is hosted by the Aloha Hula Dance Studio).Although not limited to Hawaiian culture, the Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific’s Pacific Islander Festival takes place in June. San Diego also has Pacific Islander Festival.

The non-profit Ho’oilina Foundation “provides grants, scholarships and/or resource assistance to support groups and individuals of California who are continuing the Polynesian culture through art, music, dance, education and recreation.”

HAWAIIAN CUISINE

Child laborers making poi (Image source: Maui Jungalow)
Child laborers making poi (Image source: Maui Jungalow)

Before the arrival of Polynesians, Hawaii was home to relatively few edible plants, notable exceptions being the fern Hāpuʻu ʻiʻi (Cibotium menziesii) and species of sea vegetables. The Polynesian colonizers of Hawaii brought introduced plants (breadfruits, candle nuts, coconuts, plantains, sugarcane, taro, yams, and other crops) and animals (chickens, dogs, and pigs) to the islands and additionally hunted local fauna including fish, mollusks, shellfish, and flightless birds, some of which were consumed into extinction. The taro was famously used to make poi, a staple dish of Native Hawaiians. Sweet potatoes, represented by as many as 130 varieties and indigenous to the Americas, may’ve been introduced through trade South America’s seafaring Mapuche people.

Spam musubi from 7-Eleven (image source: {Popsugar)
Spam musubi from 7-Eleven (image source: {Popsugar)

Modern Hawaiian cuisine reflects the islands’ contact with other cultures. Whalers from New England introduced salted salmon which developed into lomi-lomi. Chinese brought char siu bao which became manapuaPortuguese brought sweet bread and malasadas, and the Japanese brought bento boxes which evolved into the plate lunch. Spam became popular amongst many Pacific Islanders after World War II (nowhere more than in Guam), when it was introduced by Americans and Japanese cooks transformed into spam musubi. Another post war creation, loco moco, was likely invented by Nancy and Richard Inouye in Hilo. Hawaiian pizza, it should be noted, was invented in Canada, not Hawaii.

Aloha (Image source: Two Hungry Pandas)
Aloha Food Factory (Image source: Two Hungry Pandas)
Rutt's Café (Image source: Moms LA)
Rutt’s Café (Image source: Moms LA)
Canoe House (Image source: Margee Drew Design)
Canoe House (Image source: Margee Drew Design)

In Los Angeles County there are several Hawaiian restaurants including Aloha Food Factory and Shakas Hawaiian Flavors (both Alhambra), Back Home in Lahaina (Carson), Rutt’s Café and A-Frame (both Culver City), Aloha Café (Little Tokyo), Duke’s (locations in Malibu and Huntington Beach), Shakas (Monterey Park), Canoe House and Hawaiian Garden BBQ (both South Pasadena), Poke – Poke (Venice), and Waikiki Hawaiian Grill (Hawthorne). Ohana BBQ in Studio City offers a fusion of Korean and Hawaiian food.

There are also a few Hawaiian chains in the Southland, notably including Roy’s (with locations in Pasadena and Woodland Hills), and Aloha Hawaiian BBQ and L&L Hawaiian Barbecue — the latter two too numerous to name individually.

FURTHER READING

51Q4NBx09hL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_As far as I know, there hasn’t been a lot written about Hawaiians in Los Angeles. In 2012, Arcadia Publishing released Hawaiians in Los Angeles by Elizabeth “Nani” Nihipali, Lessa Kanani’opua Pelayo, Christian Hanz Lozada, Cheryl Villareal Roberts, and Lorelei Santonil Olaes. Online there’s a blog, Hawaiians in Los Angeles Blog.

If you have any additions, please leave a comment and I’ll try to add them. Mahalo!

*****

Eric Brightwell is an adventurer, writer, rambler, explorer, cartographer, and guerrilla gardener who is always seeking writing, speaking, traveling, and art opportunities. He is not interested in writing advertorials, clickbait, listicles, or other 21st century variations of spam. Brightwell’s written work has appeared in AmoeblogdiaCRITICS, and KCET Departures. His work has been featured by the American Institute of Architects, the Architecture & Design Museum, the Craft & Folk Art MuseumForm Follows FunctionLos Angeles County StoreSkid Row Housing Trust, and 1650 Gallery. Brightwell has been featured in the Los Angeles TimesHuffington PostLos Angeles MagazineLAistEastsider LABoing BoingLos Angeles, I’m Yours, and on Notebook on Cities and Culture. He has been a guest speaker on KCRW‘s Which Way, LA? and at Emerson College. Art prints of his maps are available from 1650 Gallery and on other products from Cal31. He is currently writing a book about Los Angeles and you can follow him on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter.

Click here to offer financial support and thank you!

Mother’s Day Movies

Mary Cassatt After the Bath (circa 1901)

Mary Cassatt’s After the Bath (circa 1901)

The American Mother’s Day was invented by Anna Jarvis in 1905, when her own mother, Ann Reeves Jarvis, died. Her mother’s death proved the inspiration for a holiday and by 1908 others joined her in this macabre celebration.After five years of dedication to her obsession, Mother’s Day was first observed in West Virginia in 1910. Although writing “I love you” on a post-it note would be more meaningful, by the 1920s consumers dutifully purchased pre-made Mother’s Day cards from the Hallmark corporation. Disgusted by this perversion of her crazy vision, Jarvis unsuccessfully tried to kill Mother’s Day.Whatever you do this Mother’s Day, please don’t spend $17.95 on a Spring Multicolor Floral Infinity Scarf, $24.95 on a Bronze Metal Birdcage Lantern Wall Decoration, or $29.95 on a Coral-inspired Jewelry Tree. Instead, take her on a hike, go for a swim, eat a type of cuisine neither of you’ve ever had before, go to the ballet… or watch one of these films.

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Mother (마더, Bong Joon-ho, 2010)


Grey Gardens (Albert Maysles, David Maysles, Ellen Hovde, Muffie Meyer, 1975)


Treeless Mountain (So Yong Kim, 2008)


Be With You (いま、会いにゆきますNobuhiro Doi, 2004)


Strait-Jacket
(William Castle, 2004)


*****

Eric Brightwell is an adventurer, writer, rambler, explorer, cartographer, and guerrilla gardener who is always seeking writing, speaking, traveling, and art opportunities. He is not interested in writing advertorials, clickbait, listicles, or other 21st century variations of spam. Brightwell’s written work has appeared in AmoeblogdiaCRITICS, and KCET Departures. His work has been featured by the American Institute of Architects, the Architecture & Design Museum, the Craft & Folk Art MuseumForm Follows FunctionLos Angeles County StoreSkid Row Housing Trust, and 1650 Gallery. Brightwell has been featured in the Los Angeles TimesHuffington PostLos Angeles MagazineLAistEastsider LABoing BoingLos Angeles, I’m Yours, and on Notebook on Cities and Culture. He has been a guest speaker on KCRW‘s Which Way, LA? and at Emerson College. Art prints of his maps are available from 1650 Gallery and on other products from Cal31. He is currently writing a book about Los Angeles and you can follow him on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter.

Click here to offer financial support and thank you!

No Enclave — Exploring Burmese Los Angeles

Diversity has long been part of the fabric of Los Angeles and Southern California. Humans first arrived here at least 13,000 years ago and more than twenty Native American nations made their home here before the Spanish Conquest. The Spanish pueblo of Los Angeles was itself founded by people of Native, African, European, and mixed ancestries and in its early years as an American city it attracted substantial numbers of Armenians, Basques, Canadians, Chinese, Dutch, French, Germans, Irish, Italians, Japanese, Jews, Mexicans, Russians, Serbians, Sicilians, and others. For some, ethnic enclaves came into existence (and often vanished). Other people have tended to spread out across the region rather than cluster together — which makes exploring their presence in Southern California more difficult but no less rewarding.

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In 2010, 100,200 Burmese were counted by the US census and 15% of them lived in California. What “Burmese” means is slightly more complicated than it seems. Although “Burmese” refers to any citizen of Burma/Myanmar, regardless of ethnicity, the concept is closed entwined with that country’s dominant Bamar ethnic group (from whom both “Burma” and “Myanmar” are both derived). In the US, too, many Burmese are Bamar but a large percentage are ethnic Chinese. As of the 2010, there were 6,109 Burmese of any ethnicity living in the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana metro area.

p013_political_map

BURMESE HISTORY

Although the oldest known human settlements were established in Burma 13,000 years ago, the historic record begins in the 2nd Century BCE, when the Pyu entered the Irrawaddy Valley. By the 4th Century CE, the Pyu had adopted Buddhism and established several city-states. In the south, the Mon established their own city-states along the coast in the 9th Century, having arrived from the east. It was also in the 9th Century that the Bamar entered the upper Irrawaddy Valley, whose Pagan Empire (1044–1287) was the first to unify the region. After the empire’s collapse, stability returned with the Toungoo Dynasty (1510–1752). The Konbaung Dynasty (1752–1885) ended with after First Anglo-Burmese War (1824 to 1826), followed by the Second Anglo-Burmese War (1852 to 1853), followed by the Third Anglo-Burmese War (1885 to 1886), after which Burma remained under British occupation, who made it a province of British India.

In 1942, a Japanese occupation replaced the British one but their colonial relationship only lasted until 1945, when they were routed by the Burma National Army. Independence was restored to Burma in 1948, although the US-backed Kuomintang of China controlled areas in the north. The political situation in Burma was never stable and since 1962 Burma has been misruled by various military leaders whose dictatorships have left it one of them most underdeveloped nations in the world.

Aung San Suu Kyi
Aung San Suu Kyi

Thankfully, since 2010 there have been some reforms in the country, including the release of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, amnesty of 200 other political prisoners, general elections, relaxation of press censorship, and establishment of the National Human Rights Commission. However, Human Rights Watch and the National League for Democracy have remained critical of continued abuses of the Burmese people and borth the UNPO member nation Chinland and non-member Kayin State continue to struggle for peace and independence.

IMMIGRATION TO THE US

maung-shaw-loo
Maung Shaw Loo

The first Burmese to come to the US did so as students. The first was Maung Shaw Loo, who in 1858 enrolled at Pennsylvania’s University at Lewisburg (now Bucknell University). In 1867, armed with a degree in medicine, he returned to Burma. The first major wave of Burmese immigrants came in the 1960s. Most were ethnic Chinese who fled as refugees after Burmese military leader Ne Win established martial law in 1962 and even more so after anti-Chinese riots erupted in 1967. In 1988, Bamars, Kayins, and other Burmese people began fleeing Myanmar in large numbers following a national uprising and increased fighting in the Karen Hills.

As of 2010, there were 100,200 persons of Burmese origin living in the US and the largest concentration was in the San Gabriel Valley, especially in the cities of Monterey Park, Rosemead, and San Gabriel. The local population is still rather diffuse, however, and aside from a small cluster of Burmese businesses along Garvey Avenue, most are spread out around the San Gabriel Valley although there are a couple of Burmese businesses on the Westside.  Click here to see a map.

Louisa Benson Craig
Louisa Benson Craig

Outside of Southern California, Burmese populations can be found in the San Francisco Bay Area; New York state; Clarkston, Georgia; the Washington, DC area; Fort Wayne, Indiana; Chicago, Illinois; Cleveland, Ohio; Dubuque, Iowa; Indianapolis, Indiana; Tulsa, Oklahoma; Dallas, Texas; Houston, Texas; Raleigh, North Carolina; and Bowling Green, Kentucky.

Prominent Burmese-Angelenos include the late mixed-Sephardic-and-Karen beauty pageant winner and rebel leader Louisa Benson Craig, the late Jewish-Burmese actor Abraham Sofaer, the late poet Tin Moe, and Burmese-born/San Gabriel Valley-raised actor, Adrian Zaw.

BURMESE CULTURE

It’s been said that cultural stereotypes can serve in the culture’s favor when its exported abroad. Although simplistic and reductive, American stereotypes about British, Chinese, French, Italian, Japanese and many other cultures have helped them cultivate a following which has in turn sustained them and allowed western appreciations of them to grow more nuanced. Cultures like Burma, on the other hand, suffer in some ways because of their obscurity.

burmese kittens (6) burmese-python Neck Rings thanaka-7

On the other hand, the average American may have no associations with Burma beyond Burmese cats or pythons. If they read the news (or watched Rambo), they probably know a little about the pro-democracy movement and perhaps they’ve heard of Aung San Suu Kyi. If they read National Geographic, they might have seen pictures of Kayin women in brass neck rings although at the same time they might have no awareness of in what country they live. Speed-tourists who “do” countries, rather than immerse themselves in them, might remember Burma as the place where many of the the locals wore thanaka face paste. Sadly, since food is the greatest ambassador of just about any culture, most Americans have no associations with Burmese cuisine.

BURMESE CUISINE

Big Meal including a Pot of Vegetable Soup in Shwebo (Image source: See The World in My Eyes -- Travel Blog)
Big Meal including a Pot of Vegetable Soup in Shwebo (Image source: See The World in My Eyes — Travel Blog)

Around Los Angeles there are several Burmese restaurants to satisfy ones tastebuds and curiosity. About one third of Burmese are of the Shan, Kayin, Rakhine, Chinese, Mon, Kachin, Indians, Kayah or other another minority and these people all have their own culinary traditions, but with relatively few in the Southland, our options are more probably more mainstream Burmese — and likely Americanized to varying degrees.

Family Cooking in Kitchen at Home, Village of Pattap Poap Near Inle Lake, Shan (Image source: Eitan Simanor)
Family Cooking in Kitchen at Home, Village of Pattap Poap Near Inle Lake, Shan (Image source: Eitan Simanor)

That being said, most types of Burmese cuisines have certain commonalities. Burma is situated between several culinary titans — China (specifically, Yunnan), India (specifically, the Seven Sister States), Thailand, and Vietnam — and not surprisingly Burmese dishes bear the influence of all. Burmese food is generally mildly spiced and a typical meal consists of curry, soup, rice, tea leaf salads, and balachaung — a side dish usually made with friend vegetables and shrimp powder. The “national dish” is mohinga, a rice noodle catfish soup typically eaten, like ph, at breakfast.

Golden Triangle, formerly in Whittier
Golden Triangle, formerly in Whittier

In all likelihood, the now-closed Golden Triangle was the first Burmese restaurant in Los Angeles County. It opened in Whittier in 1991 and remained in operation until around around 2013, when it was replaced by a Thai restaurant.

Yoma Myanmar Restaurant
Yoma Myanmar Restaurant

Since the closure of Golden Triangle, Yoma Myanmar Restaurant is the oldest local Burmese restaurant, established by Kachin State-native Z Gyung (Joan) Lam in 2001. It has a fairly large menu which includes a breakfast section and a large selection of salads (including lemon, pennyworth, green bean, pon-ye-gyi, tomato, potato, ginger, tea leaf, preserved egg, samusa, pork ear, bean vermicelli, shrimp, and more), curries (street pork, shan hkat, chicken ton yam, chicken gizzard, steam hilsa, goat, as well as a separate section for spicy curries).

Inside Yoma Myanmar Restaurant
Inside Yoma Myanmar Restaurant

Praise has come from food writers James Gordon (The LA Weekly) and Tony Chen (Eater LA). It’s served by Metro‘s 70 and Rapid 770 lines.

Daw Yee Myanmar Café
Daw Yee Myanmar Café

Daw Yee Myanmar Café has a young vibe (there was R & B playing when I visited) and does delivery. The restaurant is run by Delyn Chow and named after his mother. Although only the samosas and fried tofu are listed on the menu as vegan, there are many dishes which appear to be vegetarian including the deserts, several of which are made from coconut milk, pandan, and tapioca. Their specialties include curries (egg curry (hard boiled and deep fried), fishcake, vegetable (okra, eggplants, potatoes, lentils, and daikon), chicken, beef, mutton, pork, and prawn. Daw Yee has found favor with Anne Fishbein and Besha Rodell (both of the LA Weekly), and Tony Chen (Eater LA). It’s served by Metro‘s 70 and Rapid 770 lines.

Fuji West opened in San Gabriel in 2013 and offered both Burmese and Japanese food before ditching the latter and changing its name to Rangoon Kitchen. Then, in 2014, it relocated to West Covina. They have a buffet, which is generally a good way to figure out which Burmese dish is right for you. It was praised, in it’s Fuji West incarnation, by food writer Clarissa Wei in a piece she wrote about several Burmese restaurants. It’s severed, in its current West Covina location, by Foothill Transit‘s 178, 185, 272, 281, 480, 488, and 707 lines.

Golden Owl Restaurant
Golden Owl Restaurant

Golden Owl is small, clean and cute. It has a small menu, including several vegan and vegetarian dishes, including a coconut tofu noodle soup, a rainbow salad, and a vegetable rice bowl, among other dishes. I had the vegetarian version of the mohinga, the samosa salad, and a fried tofu noodle dish. All three were quite good and if I had to pick a favorite it would be a toss-up between the mohinga and the samosa salad.

Golden Owl

The owner, Shwe Lynn Chin, is herself a vegetarian but even the meat dishes are designed to be light and healthy. Chin continues to tinker with and perfect the menu. The sandwiches were scratched off, the delicious samosa salad was brand new, and she said that a tea leaf salad is in the works. The restaurant’s praises have been sung by CJ Greenspan (KPCC‘s Off-Ramp) and Christine Chiao (LA Weekly). Golden Owl is located right next to a stop of Foothill Transit‘s 178 line.

Jasmine Market (Image source: Oh My Food Coma)
Jasmine Market (Image source: Oh My Food Coma)

Outside of the San Gabriel Valley there are only a couple of Burmese places — both of which have roots with Myo Aung. First the chef established Jasmine Market, located in Culver City, which has kabobs, tandoori, chicken biryani, kauswe, and more. It was sold around 2007 and subsequently positively reviewed by Jonathan Gold. Jasmine is served by Culver CityBus‘s 1, 6, 6R, and 7 lines as well as LADOT‘s Commuter Express 437 line.

Muritiara (Image source: Emily
Murtiara (Image source: Emily “The Smack Talker” S.)

After selling Jasmine, Myo Aung opened Mutiara Food & Market in Inglewood. Yelp reviews of it mention Bangladesh, China, India, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and usually, halal meats. One review, which Yelp chose to hide for whatever reason, simply stated “Pan-ASEAN” which seems a fairly accurate and helpful way of describing the restaurant and market. It was postively reviewed by food writer Miles Clements (LA Times) both it and Jasmine stock a few South and Southeast groceries. Mutiara Food & Market is served by Metro‘s 40, 111/311, 115, 211/215, 212/312, 442, 607, and Rapid 740 lines.

Good reviews and glamorized spectacular visual presentations of food are all well and good but they don’t keep restaurants in business so I heartily encourage you to regularly patronize as all of the Burmese restaurants and help sustain Los Angeles’s increasingly unparalleled culinary diversity.

BURMESE MUSIC

Image source: Southeast Asia Library Group (SEALG)
Image source: Southeast Asia Library Group (SEALG)

Burmese music can be divided into folk, classical, and pop. The folk music of Burma is played by ensembles known as hsaing waing.

It is characterized by sudden shifts in song structure and of the array of local instruments, the harp-like saung-gauk is probably most celebrated.

Classical Burmese music compositions are compiled in the extensive canonical work, the Mahagita.

Pop (especially K-Pop) and hip-hip dominate popular Burmese music today, and Seattle-based Sublime Frequencies’ two volume Guitars of the Golden Triangle: Folk and Pop Music of Myanmar are popular with enthusiasts of ‘60s and ‘70s westernized-Southeast Asian rock.

BURMESE DANCE

Burmese dance can be divided into folk and village, dramatic, and nat. Although all are particularly influenced by Thai dance, Burmese dances retain a distinctly Burmese style characterized, like the music, by dramatic shifts in music and an emphasis on poses. Unfortunately I know of no Burmese dance companies and even traveling ones have rarely, if ever, graced the stages of the Southland, although there are dances at local Thingyan observances.

BURMESE FESTIVALS IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

The most important Burmese festival is Thingyan, a four-or-five-day celebration tied which precedes the lunar new year also observed in Cambodia, India, Laos, Sri Lanka, and Thailand. It begins in the month of Tagu, and usually takes place in mid-April. Observance of the holiday involves water throwing, and locally observances take place annually in Rosemead and at least sometimes in South El Monte’s Whittier Narrows.

There’s also an annual Myanmar Film Festival Los Angeles, held every year since 2007 in at the Downtown Independent theater (previously the Imaginasian) and which seeks not just to serve the Burmese community but to promote Burmese culture in Los Angeles. It’s organized by Network of Myanmar American Association (NetMAA).

BURMESE TEMPLES & ORGANIZATIONS

There are only two or three Burmese temples in Los Angeles that I know of. Several Burmese Buddhist registries list Bodhi Vepullakari Monastery in Pomona, but I’m not entirely sure whether or not it’s still there. The not-always-accurate Google street view seems to suggest that it’s not. 

Burma Buddhist Temple
Burma Buddhist Temple

The oldest such temple that I do know of is the Burma Buddhist Temple in La Puente. It was founded in 1980, making it the oldest Burmese monastery in the US.  It is served by Foothill Transit’s 178, 280, and 486 lines.

Azusa Myanmar Buddhist Temple
Azusa Myanmar Buddhist Temple

The Myanmar Progressive Buddhist Association was founded not far away, in Monterey Park, in 1986. Later that year they purchased a house in the foothills of Azusa which became the, the grounds of which also host a modest sculpture garden. It’s not especially well-served by public transit; the nearest stop of Foothill Transit’s 187 line is located 2.4 kilometers to the south and the Metro Gold Line‘s Azusa Downtown Station (scheduled to open quite soon) is located 2.25 kilometers south.

Other Burmese organizations include Burma Community Builders, Burmese American Medical Association of Southern California, Burmese American Muslims Association, One Myanmar Community, and Southern California Burmese Association.

*****

Eric Brightwell is an adventurer, writer, rambler, explorer, cartographer, and guerrilla gardener who is always seeking writing, speaking, traveling, and art opportunities. He is not interested in writing advertorials, clickbait, listicles, or other 21st century variations of spam. Brightwell’s written work has appeared in AmoeblogdiaCRITICS, and KCET Departures. His work has been featured by the American Institute of Architects, the Architecture & Design Museum, the Craft & Folk Art MuseumForm Follows FunctionLos Angeles County StoreSkid Row Housing Trust, and 1650 Gallery. Brightwell has been featured in the Los Angeles TimesHuffington PostLos Angeles MagazineLAistEastsider LABoing BoingLos Angeles, I’m Yours, and on Notebook on Cities and Culture. He has been a guest speaker on KCRW‘s Which Way, LA? and at Emerson College. Art prints of his maps are available from 1650 Gallery and on other products from Cal31. He is currently writing a book about Los Angeles and you can follow him on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter.

Click here to offer financial support and thank you!

May the Fourth — A Look at Star Bars and Deep Space Discos


The original Star Wars had a huge impact on pop culture. As a child, nothing in the film had more impact on me than the cantina scene — and judging from the changes in dance music and imitations that followed I wasn’t alone. What better occasion to reflect on the film’s impact than May the Fourth, also celebrated as Star Wars Day.

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Star Wars
was released on 25 May 1977. I was probably three years old when I saw it in the theater because my fourth birthday followed a couple of weeks later and there were Star Wars dolls* emerging from the middle of a birthday bundt cake. After The Empire Strikes Back, George Lucas would increasingly strain to appeal directly to children by introducing cuddly aliens and increasingly relying on cartoonish CGI but for me and many other children, Star Wars was already deeply appealing, dark and sometimes frightening as it was.

http://www.criticalcommons.org/Members/ccphanson/clips/the-cantina-scene-from-star-wars-episode-iv-a-new/embed_view

For comparative mythologist Joseph Campbell, the cantina scene was the “threshold crossing” in the “hero’s journey.” For me it was a bit like viewing an ethnographic bestiary — or a Halloween party (in the 1970s, Halloween hadn’t yet been hijacked by adults and turned into streetwalker cosplay). One of the cheif appeals of Star Wars was its mystery and world building — something which the expansion of the franchise would later explain away with banal backstories — but on full display in the cantina. Of all the characters, only Greedo was addressed by a name. The rest of the assembled wore no pageant sashes, name tags, or hash tags and aside from the viewers’ understandings of evolution there were few clues as to the conditions of their home worlds.

LAX Theme Building
The Star Wars cantina was what I wish Encounter in LAX‘s Theme Building had been, and what it will be if they get it right when it’s re-opened. What the cantina wasn’t was every lame, uninspired hive of pretense and conformity which bills itself (despite having a liquor license) as a “speakeasy.”  It wasn’t illuminated by Edison bulbs, the wines weren’t listed on a chalk board, there was no unfinished wooden sign on the building’s exterior describing it as an apothecary, and it was probably cash only. The bartender wasn’t a lumbersexual and he didn’t spend twenty minutes rubbing herbs on a mason jar in the name of “mixology.”
Encounter at LAX Theme Building
Retro futuristic LAX Theme Building restaurant, as imagined in the 1990s

Before Star Wars, 1970s science-fiction works like Ark II, Logan’s Run, The Starlost, Jodorowsky‘s Dune, EolomeaSolaris, Stalker, or Zardoz attempted (and often failed) to exploit the genre, entertain, and elevate consciousness. There was little pretense to Star Wars though, which had less in common with contemporaneous science-fiction literature than to escapist science-fantasy of pop music.

In 1952, Ella Fitzgerald released “Two Little Men in a Flying Saucer.” After her, Sun RaJoe MeekThe VenturesThe ByrdsPink FloydJimi HendrixDavid Bowie, Flaming YouthUFOYesT. RexHawkwindRoxy MusicGenesisFunkadelicElton JohnStevie WonderJobriathBrett SmileyKlaatuRocketsParliament, and Rush all pointed their creative telescopes toward the skies in search of inspiration and crafted — even in the proggiest instances — pop songs essentially about weird aliens and shiny robots.

Star Wars, like it’s pop music forebears, didn’t appear to be any more thought provoking than Deep Purple‘s “Space Truckin'” or The Steve Miller Band‘s “Space Cowboy.” It had less in common with the literary works of Arthur C. Clarke and Stanisław Lem than it did pulp magazines and Republic serials of the 1920s, and ’30s.

I can’t help but wonder whether or not that had anything to do with Star Wars film scorer John Williams‘s decision to make the only diagetic music, the music played by the cantina band, sound like Artie ShawBenny Goodman, or Woody Herman where the rest of the score plumbed the works of Gustav HolstSergei Prokofiev, and Igor Stravinsky for inspiration.

Cantina band

Thankfully, the cantina band did not inspire a host of imitators and the universe would be spared from the horror of a so-called swing revival for two more decades. The music of the cantina band had little direct musicological influence on pop music, although its hedonistic multiculturalism did affect the dance floors of the world’s discos.

Although Giorgio Moroder and Donna Summer actually recorded the pulsing, Moog-driven “I Feel Love” in 1976,  it wasn’t released until July of 1977, a couple of months after Star Wars. So although it wasn’t influenced by Star Wars, it certainly moved disco from its soul and funk roots on earth into the future.

A more explicit connection between disco and space opera (and Star Wars in particular) came courtesy of Meco (Domenico Monardo), who released his disco-fied “Star Wars Theme/Cantina Band” which topped the American pop charts in October of 1977. Donna Summer, Giorgio Moroder, Meco, and Star Warscombined to spawn the short-lived space disco subgenre, which would produce several hits, primarily in 1977 and ’78.

1977 was also the year that the Paradise Garage, Studio 54, and The Warehouse opened, which would not only be natural homes for space disco but spawn what came to be known as garage and house music. 1977 saw Kraftwerk go from from singing about radios, roads, and trains to space labs and mensch-maschines. It was the year that Space released “Magic Fly,” Cerrone released “Supernature,” and Droids released “(Do You Have) the Force.”

In 1978 time kept on slipping into the future with Dee D. Jackson‘s “Automatic Lover,” Sarah Brightman and Hot Gossip‘s “I Lost My Heart to a Starship Trooper,” and Ganymed‘s “Saturn.” 


Television shows like Space Academy and Jason of Star Command would never have happened were it not for Star Wars, but aimed exclusively at children as they were, there were no space discos to be found within three parsecs of them.
The first appearance of a Star Wars cantina-like bar that I’m aware of was onThe Richard Pryor Show‘s debut in September 1977. There, the great 20th Century satirist played a bartender at “Star Bar” and had the impossible task of explaining the appeal of baseball to the unindoctrinated.
Ralph Angus McQuarrie artwork for Battlestar GalacticaRalph McQuarrie artwork depicting Carillon, which is much better than the film version
The cantina was next an obvious inspiration for the “chancery” on Carillon that appeared on the Star Wars-indebted series Battlestar Galactica in “Saga of a Star World.” The costuming, if not budget for writers, was sometimes impressive on Battlestar Galactica but the four-eyed, two-mouthed macrocephs which lured visitors into the Ovion‘s trap were as laughably clunky as the three-armed Martian and three-eye Venusianat the Hi-Way Café in the 1961 episode of The Twilight Zone titled “Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?” On the other hand, the song, “It’s Love Love Love” as performed by The Space Angels owed far more to space disco than it did anything by John Williams.
The original Star Wars cantina made another appearance of sorts on The Star Wars Holiday Special, which aired in November 1978. By then the bar was tended by Ackmena, played by the wonderful Bea Arthur who sings some Kurt Weill-esque number based on the original cantina theme. I’ve only seen the special once but although it’s infamously unpopular with George Lucas (who has prevented its release or re-airing) I’m pretty sure that most audiences would find it any more challenging to enjoyment than The Ewok Adventure,Ewoks: Battle for Endor, The Phantom Menace, or Attack of the Clones.
 
Sadly, space disco proved to be short-lived and Sheila (and) B. Devotion’s “Spacer,” released in 1979, was one of the last exemplars of the scene. Electro-funk, Italo-disco, Hi-NRG, spacesynth, and techno in many ways all carried space disco’s space torch but never had as much impact on pop culture as had disco.The space opera series Buck Rogers in the 25th Century appeared in 1979 and its theme song, although massive, was a Jobriath-esque ballad sung by Kipp Lennon rather than a pulsating futuristic ditty (click here to watch a video). The drugs had clearly changed, a fact perhaps underscored when Twiki approached Buck on the dancefloor and said, “We brought you some pills, Buck… it’s a very strong relaxant. You mustn’t take more than one at a time.”
Had Starstruck made it beyond the pilot, audiences would’ve been treated to another Star Wars cantina-inspired set. Starstruck was to be set on McCallister’s Midway Inn, a tavern situated on a space station located “somewhere between Earth and Pluto,” set in the 22nd Century, and broadcast by CBS. The fault, it seems, was not in the stars but in the writing… and perhaps in the fact that space disco was dead and Star Wars was, in pop culture terms, ancient history (although that didn’t stop Mel Brooks from skewering it a mere eight years later, with Spaceballs).

NCC-1701-D’s Ten Forward
Filmmakers continued to attempt to mine cinematic gold, or at least the box office variety, with films likeBattle Beyond the Stars and Flash Gordon (both 1980), Ice Pirates (1984), and Starchaser: The Legend of Orin (1985), but no star bars would make any sort of impact until 1988, when Ten Forward appeared on season 2 of Star Trek: The Next Generation. However, although it appeared to be perfectly suited to a calm, civil game of strategema over snytheholic drinks, it makes some public libraries that I’ve been to look like raves in comparison. Not long after, in 1990, a book called Cowboy Feng’s Space Bar and Grille was published, which my brother assured me was amazing but which I never read. The next time anything with anything appeared with a scene at all resembling that of Star Wars‘ cantina was on another Star Trek series, Star Trek: Deep Space 9.
The Las Vegas version of Quark's
The Las Vegas version of Quark’s
Deep Space 9 debuted in 1990. Where the concept of the original Star Trek was described “Wagon Train in space,”  Deep Space 9 was intended to be analogous to “The Rifleman in space.” Instead of exploring all corners of space, Deep Space 9 would instead depict visitors arriving from them… and where better to congregate than in a public house and casino over a game of dabo, tongo, or darts. Whereas Ten Forward was run by a sage Guinan Goldberg, the proprietor of Quark’s was a Ferengi and petty criminal. As much as star bars attempt might seem to imagine the future, they’re also one of the space opera’s most obvious echoes of the saloons, taverns, and inns that are such key settings in the westerns, samurai, and fantasy fictions from which they space opera’s draw most of their inspiration. Unlike Ten Forward, Quark’s actually inspired a real bar too at Star Trek: The Experience, one of the only things that I liked in Las Vegas but which closed in 2008.

I’m sure there have been more examples in the decades since, but the only obvious nod to the Star Wars cantina that know of in remotely recent years was in a 2010 episode of Doctor Who, The End of Time (Part 2).” I actually haven’t seen that episode but from the looks of it was a pretty overt homage. If there are any others, please let me know in the comments!

*action figures are dolls

*****

Eric Brightwell is an adventurer, writer, rambler, explorer, cartographer, and guerrilla gardener who is always seeking writing, speaking, traveling, and art opportunities. He is not interested in writing advertorials, clickbait, listicles, or other 21st century variations of spam. Brightwell’s written work has appeared in AmoeblogdiaCRITICS, and KCET Departures. His work has been featured by the American Institute of Architects, the Architecture & Design Museum, the Craft & Folk Art MuseumForm Follows FunctionLos Angeles County StoreSkid Row Housing Trust, and 1650 Gallery. Brightwell has been featured in the Los Angeles TimesHuffington PostLos Angeles MagazineLAistEastsider LABoing BoingLos Angeles, I’m Yours, and on Notebook on Cities and Culture. He has been a guest speaker on KCRW‘s Which Way, LA? and at Emerson College. Art prints of his maps are available from 1650 Gallery and on other products from Cal31. He is currently writing a book about Los Angeles and you can follow him on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter.

Click here to offer financial support and thank you!