Twenty little kids, two by two, wearing matching blue T-shirts, are walking down Pico and chattering away, watched over by two teachers and five moms – no dads. The T-shirts say “Overland Avenue Elementary School, Mrs. Shaffer’s kindergarten class.”
“We’re going to Louise’s,” the teacher in the lead explains. “To make pizzas.”
At nine in the morning, in kindergarten, you get to go out and make pizzas?
“That’s right,” she says.
Then, to the kids: “Okay pay attention now, this is very important: two by two holding hands crossing the street.”
* * *
The Cemitas Poblanas truck parks outside the Pep Boys every morning as soon as the tow-away parking hours end. They serve tacos, but it’s not your usual taco truck: “Cemitas Poblanas are like a sandwich,” the good looking young guy inside explains, “with meat and cheese but no vegetables, except avocado and chipotle sauce.”
It’s clear he’s said this line hundreds of times to ignorant gringos like me.
At noon, half a dozen guys are waiting for their orders—they seem to be mostly from nearby construction sites. I’m the only one here speaking English.
The cemita poblana starts with a great big roll, a special kind of crunchy egg bread with sesame seeds, almost six inches across. They serve twelve kinds, including “Cemita Al Pastor”–marinated roast pork sliced thin; “Cemita de Cesina”–salted beef; and “Cemita de Milanesa”–thin pounded beef or chicken deep-fried in garlic breading. There’s also “Cemita de Pata”–they say it’s some kind of meat from a cow’s foot. They all come with shredded quesillo string cheese.
Poblanas, meaning from Puebla. Puebla is south of Mexico City. I ask him, you’re from Puebla?
“My dad,” he says.
I get the chicken Milanesa. Deep-fried meat, lots of string cheese, with avocado and sauce on a fresh roll—not terribly healthy, but of course it’s terrific.
* * *
The big doors are open at LA Fire Station 92—maybe they are waiting for a visit from a gaggle of schoolkids? Last night around eleven we went past a bad motorcycle accident on Olympic and Beverly Glen – the bike was on one side of Olympic, a bashed-in car on the other side, and a guy was lying in the street, helmet on, not moving. I ask the guys if it was them pulling up.
“Yeah, that was us.”
What happened to the guy?
“Killed instantly. Speed way too high, misjudged a car turning left in front of him, went right into the side of it, flew 50 feet through the air, broke his neck. Sad. But if you have to go, that’s not a bad way to do it.”
Jon Wiener lives south of Pico, near the Pep Boys at Manning Ave. Read the first entry in his diary here.