Showing posts from November, 2014

Every Veteran's Day

By Abel Salas Every Veteran’s Day, I call my father. He’s 82 and comfortable with a cell phone. He raised a total of nine children, seven with my mom and two with his second wife. He is proud that all nine of his kids finished high school, that one is a doctor and another works in Washington, D.C. for the Labor Department. He is not proud when he talks about his military service as a member of the 7th Infantry Division in Korea. In fact, he has a hard time talking about it at all. Like many Americans of Mexican descent, he enlisted. Full of the belief that he was going to defend his country, he hopped on a Greyhound from Houston to Killeen, Texas for basic training. He was so thin and slight in stature that he was only charged the children’s fare for his bus ticket. At Ft. Hood, he boxed in the lightweight class before shipping of to Seoul. Fighting alongside Ethiopian and Colombian battalions who were there as part of a United Nations force, he was wounded during the months-l

Honoring Our Forgotten Heroes

​ This month, we honor Latino heroes, veterans who served in the armed forces and came home, often to face difficult readjustment. My own father was wounded in Korea, was awarded a Purple Heart and, finally after much prodding from his children, sought treatment for PTSD during his late '60s. He is now 82. I am extremely proud of him for his bravery and for making it back from what he describes as the worst nightmare anyone should ever have to bear. Even as children, we were not allowed to use or play with fireworks on New Year's Eve or the Fourth of July because the sounds made him uncomfortable and reminded him of the hell that was war. He saw terrible things as an 18-year-old enlisted man, things he has been very reluctant to describe. Every year, I call him on Veterans Day. This year, he said not to wish him a happy Veteran's Day but to instead wish him luck with a surgical procedure he underwent yesterday to replace two stents in his heart. Here in Los Angeles


Welcome to Sam's Barbershop, the funniest (and cheekiest) column on LA's East Side! “Is there a long wait?” “Maybe ten minutes. Just one ahead of you.  Chuy there is next.  This is Carlos, and over there in the other chair is Al Valdez, better known as Buckets.  Buckets is getting his haircut by my partner Art, my name’s Sam.” The stranger nodded in acknowledgement, picked up a copy of Sports Illustrated off a table, and sat down. “Hey you guys, what do you think of Gloria running for City Council?” asked Chuy. “I thought she got turned out and couldn’t run anymore,” said Art. “Termed out,” corrected Sam. “Whatever.” “That only applies to Supervisor,” said Chuy. “What’s the difference?” Sam shook his head in exasperation and continued to cut Carlos’ hair. What’s the matter Sam, don’t you think it’s a good idea?” asked Chuy. Sam remained silent. “He doesn’t like her,” declared Art. “Come on, man, you know that ain’t true.  Molina has done a good job, but it’s ti

The Slow Death of Día de Los Muertos

by Abel Salas Are we witnessing the slow death by commercialization of the Día de los Muertos tradition? Each year, with the ever-growing tidal wave onslaught of events, art exhibitions and celebrations sponsored by corporate interests who are only keen on marketing products that are at best unharmful and at worst, far from benign, I have to ask myself. For the record, I won’t go to Hollywood Forever Cemetery ever again. Sure, it was cool for a while, an opportunity to see some interesting altars, hear some great bands, many of whom I’d known from work on the real East Side and as a former record business professional in the Latin music industry. But after witnessing half-hour to an hour lines for watered down margaritas there and paying a cover at the door, I threw up my hands and said, “enough.” Día de los Muertos in L.A., as an expression of creative energy wrapped in the rebozo of our spiritual ancestry and our indigenous roots, was first celebrated by artists and communit