• Many Senate Candidates, So Little Viability

    By Lyn Jensen, Reporter

    Look at the 34  candidates from California for the U.S. Senate and you might wonder if the race will prove as chaotic as the Republican presidential campaign.

    Read more on page 4 of the May 12 edition of Random Lengths News. Click here to find a location near your.

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  • American Wrestles for Sumo Stardom

    By Joseph Baroud, Contributing Writer

    Roy Sims is hoping that his success will help propel sumo wrestling in the United States.

    Sims also is hoping for success in the upcoming event, May 21, the 16th Annual U.S. Sumo Open National Championships at The Pyramid in Long Beach.

    With a couple of medals under his belt — or around his neck —  you would think Sims has already been wrestling for many years. Sims stepped into the sumo circle, which is called a dohyo, only two years ago and has helped put the United States on the map in a limited time.

    At 34, Sims has won a bronze medal in his first competition, at the Sumo U.S. Open in 2014 and another bronze medal in his weight class — the heaviest one available — in 2015, along with a gold medal in the open-weight class competition.  It’s odd that someone would take up a sport at 34 and be dominant enough to take home medals at national championships. It’s because he was an athlete preceding his sumo career.

    There’s a separation between mind and body, but, Sims made up his mind about the sport he wanted to play, because of his body type and 376 lb. frame  — some being fat, a lot being muscle. He couldn’t find another sport he would be able to excel in at his weight class.

    “I wanted to continue to do sports,” Sims said. “ I’ve always thought about sumo being a really amazing, traditional sport.”

    In the past, Sims played football and competed in mixed martial arts, judo and jiu-jitsu. He believes that football played the biggest part in his success as a sumo wrestler. Playing on the defensive line consisted of him practicing and training involving a lot of heavy pushing, pulling and moving your opponent out of your way to eliminate the obstruction he’s creating. It was as if he had an early lead when he began, seeing that training for sumo wrestling involved working out similarly.

    Sumo is a big sport with a long and traditional history in Japan and Mongolia. It began in Japan as a form of Japanese martial arts. It was used as a trial of strength in combat and also has a tradition in Japan’s Imperial courts. Representatives from each province were summoned to wrestle at the court. Sumo has also been used as a ritual dance where participants wrestle with a divine spirit and the ritual comes in the form of the individual’s movements.

    Sims said that it’s been around for almost 1,500 years. He said the sport’s tradition is one of the aspects that attracted him. If the U.S. sumo wrestling community continues its success, then it can build a rich and extensive tradition of its own and attract more Americans to it.

    “We got all these great guys that people can start to get behind and I think that’s making it more popular here,” Sims said. “When you got your own guys from your own country that are dominating the sport, that’s about 1500-years-old and plus, you got people like Andrew, who’s really supporting us and because of that, people get an opportunity to look at [the sport]. And when you see it, you’re like, ‘Wow! This is a really fun sport to watch.’”

    Andrew Freund is a friend of Sims who helps him locate and sign up for events and tournaments.

    “For the longest time, the international community really dominated, even the U.S. Open,” Sims said. “Last year, was the first year an American, myself, won the U.S. Open category.”

    The issue with sumo wrestling lacking the major popularity in the United States that exists in other countries abroad is financial. Wrestlers have to spend time and energy raising money in order to compete. It’s also at a point in many cases in which the wrestler must work in order to sustain a living, while wrestling on the side.

    That takes away from a wrestler’s energy and time to train. It also leaves them incapable of competing in some events because they lack the funds necessary to cover the registration costs and other costs related to competing in a tournament spanning a few days. This is contrary to wrestlers in some countries who can focus on, and only on, competing.

    “The hardest part has been that it’s not a predominantly accepted sport in America,” Sims said. “So, financially, a lot of the burden gets placed on the athletes. Most athletes here that are sumo wrestlers are really paying their own way in and are competing at high levels against countries where that’s their job, that’s what they do.

    “They don’t have normal jobs like us Americans, where we work 9 to 5, then we train. They wake up and they’re doing sumo wrestling and we’re going against those guys. That’s probably the hardest thing.”

    Thanks to a community with a lot of warm hearts, Sims has help in the area he describes as being the toughest. Sims said he receives monetary support from people in his community, which is Hollister, Calif. Lacking proper sponsors and coaches renders Sims at a disadvantage compared with other international competitors. America loves nothing more than rooting for the underdog though, especially if it’s one of their own.

    “I have an amazing community where I come from,” Sims said. “And so, for the most part, my small community has really been the ones that have sponsored me and allowed me to continue. There’s not major sponsorships, there’s not major companies coming into it. Maybe on a small degree for the sumo open itself, but not on an athlete base, it’s just not there yet, here in the United States.”

    Sims trains with other top wrestlers in absence of a coach. He said he’s developed good enough and enough relationships to be able to get by without a coach, but would jump on the opportunity to have one if it presented itself.

    He also said that it’s key to train with someone who understands the mechanics of the sport. You want to work with someone who knows the proper technique and who is familiar with the way you’re going to be moving your body when you’re wrestling. Since he has began wrestling, his training has focused more on building muscle mass and less on cardio.

    His training regimen for the tournament consists of doing judo once a week, yoga at least once a week and weight training five or six times a week. He also cross trains, consisting of various physical activities, such as playing basketball, hiking and even doing yard work. He exercises his mind and soul, spiritually, by meditating and paying homage to the sumo wrestling gods.

    His wife Libby helps keep his life and career in order. She arranges his scheduling, sets up his appointments and manages all of the fundraising. Sims couldn’t do that if he wanted to maintain a top-notch, professional, sumo wrestling career.

    Sims has a bachelor’s degree in exercise physiology and criminal justice, from Washburn University in Topeka, Kan., and is an information technology director. He enjoys the mentally stimulating pace being an IT director involves. He said it helps him stay sharp in the dohyo. He wants to open his own gym, with a dohyo, one day and invite big name wrestlers and fighters that do grappling and sumo to spar and train.

    Catch Sims competing in the U.S. Open at the Pyramid in Long Beach from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. May 21. Admission ranges between $25 and $120. Japanese cuisine will be served on site. Almost 60 competitors will square off in just more than 150 matches. This will be a tremendous opportunity to get to know more about the sport and to watch some of the world’s top competitors.

     

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  • *** RLn Calendar of Events *** May 20 – June 4, 2016

    ENTERTAINMENT

    May 20
    Hollywood Stones
    Turns out you actually can get some sa-tis-fac-tion. Let Los Angeles’ premier Rolling Stones Tribute band treat you right all night long. That is, unless you’re not at least 21 years old.
    Time: 9 p.m. May 20
    Cost: $10
    Details: (310) 324-4384 ext. 239
    Venue: The Alpine Village, 833 Torrance Blvd., Torrance
    May 21
    Beth Rohde & Friends
    An intimate evening of jazz standards with noted South Bay vocalist Beth Rohde, the Alex Smith Trio and friends including additional vocals by Jamey Schrick.
    Time: 8 p.m. May 21
    Cost: $20 to $120
    Details: www.grandvision.org
    Venue: 434 W. 6th St., San Pedro

    May 21
    Michael Sessions Sextet
    Michael Sessions and his band play some good jazz. So, don’t forget to bring your ears.
    Time: 9 p.m. May 21
    Cost: $7
    Details: (562) 522-8488; http://seabirdjazzloungelbc.com
    Venue: Roscoe’s Seabird Lounge, 730 E. Broadway, Long Beach

    May 28
    Alphonse Mouzon
    Enjoy a night of all-star jazz and funk.
    Time: 9 to 11 p.m. May 28
    Cost: $20 to $30
    Details: (562) 432-5240
    Venue: Roscoe’s Seabird Lounge, 730 E. Broadway, Long Beach

    June 3
    MOVE does Prince
    Sometimes it snows in April. Prince left us too soon, but we can celebrate the music he left behind.
    Time: 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. June 3
    Cost: Free
    Details: The First Friday Street Fair
    Venue: EXPO Arts Center, 4321 Atlantic Ave, Long Beach

    Green Ashes – Bold Celtic Rock
    Green Ashes burst into the LA Irish music scene in 2009, with a powerhouse take on classic Irish pub tunes. With depth, range, and brazen musicianship, the band’s music runs the gamut from fierce rebel songs to soulful ballads.
    Time: 8 p.m., June 3
    Cost: $20 to $120
    Details: www.grandvision.org
    Venue: 434 W. 6th St., San Pedro
    June 5
    San Pedro Ballet Presents: Dance through the Decades
    The complete name of the San Pedro Ballet School’s annual summer recital is Dancing Through The Decades: A Magical Journey, and the students deliver on that commitment,performing  ballet, tap, jazz, modern and contemporary dance to take their audiences on a magical journey through the decades.
    Time: 2 p.m. June 5
    Cost: $20 to $25
    Details: www.grandvision.org
    Venue: 478 W. 6th St., San Pedro

    COMMUNITY

    May 21
    Waves ‘N’ Wheels
    Enjoy free Harbor boat tours at the Port of Los Angeles in Wilmington and San Pedro.
    Time: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. May 21
    Cost: Free
    Details: www.portoflosangeles.org
    Venue 1: Banning’s Landing, 100 E. Water St., Wilmington
    Venue 2: Downtown Harbor, 504 S. Harbor Blvd., San Pedro

    May 21
    Pet Parade
    Dress up your little sailors and head to the Wilmington Waterfront Park.
    Time: 9 to 10 a.m. May 21
    Cost: Free
    Details: www.portoflosangeles.org
    Venue: Wilmington Waterfront Park, Berths 136-147, Wilmington

    May 26
    The Queen Mary’s 80th Anniversary Celebration
    Launched on Scotland’s River Clyde in 1934, the most advanced passenger ship of the era endured more than two years ‘fitting out’ before her maiden voyage began on May 27, 1936. Come aboard and celebrate the Queen Mary’s 80th Maiden Voyage Anniversary.
    Time: 6 p.m. May 26
    Cost: $45
    Details:  queenmary.com
    Venue: The Queen Mary, 1126 Queens Highway, Long Beach

    May 30
    Tea by the Sea
    Celebrate the beauty of San Pedro’s lighthouse and its accompanying gardens by having a cup of tea with friends and family.
    Time: 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 a.m. May 30
    Cost: Free
    Venue: Point Fermin Lighthouse, 807 W. Paseo Del Mar, San Pedro
    June 3
    From Sewers to Sanddabs
    Dr. Jeff Armstrong, Environmental Supervisor, Orange County Sanitation District-Ocean Monitoring Program will profile department’s monitoring of treated wastewater that gets released into the ocean at Huntington and Newport Beaches and discuss their water reclamation efforts.
    Time: 7 to 9 p.m. June 3
    Cost: Free
    Details: www.cabrillomarineaquarium.org.
    Venue: Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, 3720 Stephen M. White Dr., San Pedro

    June 4
    Steinfest
    Steinfest is coming back in June with Festmeister Hans & Fräulein Gretel beer.
    Time: 8 p.m. June 4
    Cost: Free
    Details: www.alpinevillagecenter.com
    Venue: The Alpine Village, 833 Torrance Blvd, Torrance

    LB Vegan Food & Music Festival
    This festival is a free for all ages, all vegan outdoor festival with live music throughout the day. It will feature food trucks, food booths, activities and a cruelty-free market place.
    Time: 11a.m. to 7p.m. June 4
    Cost: Free
    Details: lbveganfest.com
    Venue: 295 E. Shoreline Drive, Long Beach

    THEATER

    May 28
    Lysistrata
    Lust, power struggles, and loyalty test both genders in this raucous trip into the past, proving some issues never change.  Well, in ancient Greece, a young lady named Lysistrata devises a plan to do just that.  Her solution?  Withhold the one thing men care about more than killing the enemy – sex.
    Time: 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 2 p.m. Sundays; runs through May 28
    Cost: $27
    Details: http://www.lbplayhouse.org/show/lysistrata
    Venue: Long Beach Playhouse, 5021 E. Anaheim St., Long Beach

     

    May 20
    The Boy Friend
    San Pedro youth theatre company, The Troupe, presents a revival of the 1954 musical comedy that was Julie Andrews’ American stage debut; The Boy Friend.  Set at Mme. Dubonnet’s School for Young Ladies in the carefree world of the French Riviera, The Boy Friend is a comic pastiche of 1920s-era musicals.
    Time:  2 p.m. May 21 and 22
    Cost: $25 to $40
    Details: www.troupescoop.com
    Venue: Warner Grand Theatre, 478 W. 6th St., San Pedro

    ARTS

    Surface Tension
    In May, Michael Stearns Studio 347 presents artist John Hillis Sanders in an exhibition titled Surface Tension.
    John Hillis Sanders’ original works reflect his movement within mediums spawned by necessity and concept. The work continues to grow and alter using space as inspiration. Sanders’ recent work is about using paint to develop a surface of color, tension, and texture on steel.
    Time: 2 to 6 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays through May 21
    Cost: Free
    Details: (562) 400-0544; http://johnhillissanders.com
    Venue: Michael Sterns Studio, 347 W. 7th St., San Pedro

    El Camino Student Show 2016
    The show features works by art and photo department students, in all media including: painting, drawing, digital media, sculpture, ceramics, design, photography, jewelry and printmaking.
    Time: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays and Tuesdays; 12 to 8 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays
    Cost: Free
    Details: (310) 660-3010
    Venue: El Camino Art Gallery, 16007 Crenshaw Blvd., Torrance

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  • Saving San Pedro (or the Nation) from Itself

    For every human problem there is a humane solution

    James Preston Allen, Publisher

    It’s happening across the country—a populist backlash from the right and the left—the flames of which are nipping at the heels of marginalized communities, whether they’re immigrants, Muslim, transgender or homeless or a part of the billionaire class or the corrupt Wall Street bankers and brokers. Both sides of this populist uprising can be heard via social media and other media outlets during this presidential election cycle.

    The cacophony of narratives and counter narratives of conservative and progressive authenticity has become only slightly less chaotic with the elimination of 16 GOP rivals from our rather curious  primary election system.

    It has often been said that all politics is local and it can’t get any more local than at any of the 95 neighborhood councils in Los Angeles that are also having their elections this month and next.

    There are 33 and 35 candidates respectively running for Central’s and Coastal’s Neighborhood Council’s 17 seats—vying for the privilege to donate hours of unpaid service to democratically represent stakeholders in a body that has no more than an “advisory” role in city politics.

    In the interest of  transparency, I am one of those candidates running for reelection to the Central San Pedro Neighborhood Council. I have also been a target for some people who claim they are “Saving San Pedro.”  This phrase sounds a similar note as Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again,” suggesting that San Pedro is in decline if not in some state of arrested development. In a political climate such as this, theirs is a great political slogan.

    Slogans, however, are not platforms. Nor are they an agenda that can accomplish anything. They are, at their root, a form of political propaganda intended to encapsulate an idea to motivate voters or to deceive them.

    Yet, so much of what is behind both Trump and the creators of Saving San Pedro– a Facebook group that rose up against the San Pedro homeless advocates and then belatedly filed for non-profit status– is a fear of all the things they don’t understand, be it immigrants or the homeless.

    Both the Trumpites and our local Savers are nativist, NIMBY reactions to serious economic conditions that are more complex and harder to solve than building a wall on a border or deploying the police to evict homeless encampments from public spaces. Anyone who knows anything on either subject will tell you that you can’t arrest your way out of illegal immigration or homelessness. Yet, that’s mostly what’s being done about the homeless in Los Angeles City Council District 15, with the exception of the work done by Harbor Interfaith Services’ workers and two LAPD quality of life officers.

    Since last August, when our Central San Pedro Neighborhood Council brought the plight of our unsheltered neighbors to the attention of the community and all of Los Angeles, Councilman Joe Buscaino quickly held a community forum on the subject and appointed a taskforce.

    Unfortunately, that task force held private meetings and didn’t include anyone from our neighborhood council and has yet to issue a report of its findings or even an action plan on dealing with our rather small, yet growing homeless population.

    Despite Buscaino’s enforcement approach and the Los Angeles City Council promising but not producing $100 million to address homelessness, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority announced May 9 that the number of homeless in Council District 15 rose from 1,544 in 2015 to 1,773 this year.

    Several of the San Pedro Savers are on Buscaino’s taskforce and as I’ve said before, they have yet to come up with a solution other than continued forced evictions and prohibiting the feeding of the homeless in public parks.

    Are you serious, you might ask? Sure, a small number of homeless people have been given assistance yet it is obvious by the increase that this clearly isn’t enough.

    The Savers have been very bold on shaming the homeless on their favorite medium, Facebook.
    Shouting down anyone who challenges them there and confiscating unprotected shopping carts while claiming that “all the homeless are criminals or drug addicts.”

    The statistics from the recent homeless count prove these allegations untrue, as mental illness tops the list and substance abuse comes in third just above domestic violence. Several of the Saving San Pedro folks, along with Buscaino are in the process of being sued for harassment and one of them, Joanne Rallo, is due back in court May 20 on a restraining order.

    While the challenge of homelessness has become a greater problem all across America, with Los Angeles County being the epicenter, it is not a singular problem solved with a simple solution especially with the decline in affordable housing, the loss of good middle class jobs, the pressure to gentrify neighborhoods and a flat-line growth in real wages for over three decades.

    Yes, I hear that people are angry and I actually understand that anger. But I don’t go around blaming the victims just to make myself or my neighbors feel better.

    I have said this before and I’ll say it again: Conflict precedes resolution. Only after everybody is done yelling can there be any commitment to resolving a problem. I believe that for every human problem there
    is a humane solution.

    As for now, the lines have been drawn between progressives and nativist populists, and the one solution we have come to embrace since the American Civil War is the ballot box. As you might well suspect, I endorse both the progressive slate at the Coastal and Central neighborhood councils, as well as
    Bernie Sanders for president. This is the point at which you connect your local interests to the national politics and then recognize that democracy only matters if you show up and vote.

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  • Mæry Queens Sinks the Ship Before it Sails

    By Zamná Ávila, Assistant Editor

    I love Long Beach! From its geographic and cultural diversity to its “chill” environment, Long Beach is the place I’ve called home for quite a long time.

    It’s surprising to me that the beach city, so rich in stories, is so often eclipsed by the larger metropolis. This is especially true when it comes to Long Beach-centric media content. Most people only know Long Beach for its iconic Queen Mary. Yet, the city offers much more than the big ship.

    So, when I received a very well written press release about a webisode series that was to spotlight the gay life in Long Beach, I was ecstatic.

    “Finally, someone decided to give Long Beach its due recognition,” I thought.

    Mæry Queens

     Mæry Queens (a wordplay on the mispronunciation of Queen Mary) promised to do just that by using the viewpoint of a foreigner to tell the stories of a local gay group. Mæry Queens bills itself as a dramedy, which the director, Henry Corzo, likened to Desperate Housewives.

    “It’s a perfect feature for our Pride edition,” I pitched to my editor.

    Well, not quite.

    The producers and actors had good intentions when it came to this venture, but after reviewing a few of the 6-minute webisodes I came to the conclusion that Mæry Queens sunk the ship before it sailed. In its premise and storyline, character development and cinematography, the Web series fails to produce an authentic reflection of the city.

    It does not bring me pleasure to give a bad review, especially when it comes to local independent works from good people. Moreover, when I attended the premiere of the series April 30 at the Silver Fox in Long Beach, I realized that some of the people involved in the project were old friends and acquaintances.

    Like many low-budget productions, the cinematography is not exceptional. Some footage is shaky. And, because the director seemed to be using one camera to film footage in one day, scenes such as one by the pool lacked continuity and flow. This could have been circumvented by taking multiple shots. The better shots are in the flashback scenes, which you can tell took more effort. The music, which is reminiscent of 70s porn, also overwhelmed much of the footage. Yet, those details pale in comparison to the storyline’s shortcomings.

    The plot, which tries to take on race, surrogacy and relationship issues, is built around a “who dunnit?” kidnapping of … wait for it … a cat! Now, don’t get me wrong, I think of my own pet as family and pet kidnappings have happened in Long Beach. The problem with this premise is that it uses the catnapping as an anchor for the side stories.

     Mæry Queens also suffers from amateur bad acting. It’s so bad, I often wondered if it was a purposeful attempt at humor. I imagine that finding actors for an independent venture is not cost effective. One solution would be to seek out acting students from local colleges who would gladly work to primp up their resumes. One filmmaker even suggested finding a casting director.

    Beyond the excusable bad acting, the characters are cliché, stereotypical and a plastic representation of other (pardon my bias) communities — not Long Beach. The only way you knew this was a made-in- Long Beach product were the intro scenes with the Queen Mary, a flashback shot of the Silver Fox bar and dialogue in which one of the characters who claims to be born and raised the city mispronounces it, calling it Loonng Beeach. Maybe it’s just me, but I have a hard time grasping that there aren’t original stories that are Long Beach-based. Perhaps it would be best not to not use the cat as an anchor and instead independently theme each webisode.

    At the premiere, a couple of drunken attendees, were so angry about the misrepresentation that one of them went about asking each of the actors where they live. While the filmmakers made an honest effort to get an ethnically diverse cast, the characters are culturally homogenous—all in their mid 20s to early 30s, looking pretty in their tight-fitting clothing, spewing the bitchy attitudes of diva queens.

    Take the first scene: a pool party. Alex Correa, who plays Jose, walks toward the host with an entourage, while loud music plays in the background and guests obviously pretend to converse and dance to the un-rhythmic sound. Jose apologizes for being late because he says, “business has been picking up.” The birthday boy responds by sardonically asking, “The pet-sitting thing? So, you’re calling it a business now?”

    I don’t know any of my Long Beach friends— if I truly would call them friends and go to their parties—who would  viciously put me down and think it was funny. When I permanently moved to the city in my late 20s, I met a group of people who shared with me their friendships and experiences. We laughed and cried in the midst of school, careers, relationships and even such issues dealing with self-image and HIV in a kind way.  I believe the biggest failure of the writers involved is not drawing on their own experiences.

    “This is not Long Beach; this (pointing at the actors) is West Hollywood,” said the drunken man at the premiere.

    As inappropriate as his remarks may have been, he had a point. In fact, his survey resulted in finding that only one of the actors called Long Beach home.

    While the ship seems to have sunk, there still is a chance to rescue the crew and let the boat float back to the surface. It just may require going back to the drawing board, recognizing and reassessing Mæry Queens’ pitfalls, starting with the script and editing, and ending with the critical eyes of non-friends to give producers an honest assessment of the venture.

    Long Beach is still worth featuring and this venture can give it the spotlight it deserves. Yet, it honestly needs attention to details.

    Watch the Season 1 of Mæry Queens at http://tinyurl.com/M-ry-Queens-Season-1

     

     

     

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  • Slavery on the High Seas

    AP Reveals the Human Cost of Cheap Seafood

    By Terelle Jerricks, Managing Editor and Christian Guzman, Community Reporter

    This past April, Associated Press journalists Margie Mason, Robin McDowell, Martha Mendoza and Esther Htusan won a Pulitzer Prize for stories that chronicled modern day slavery. Men from Myanmar and neighboring countries were tricked, captured and forced to work on fishing vessels.

    During their 18-month investigation,  AP journalists found men held in cages, tracked ships and stalked refrigerated trucks to expose the abusive practices of the fishing industry in Southeast Asia.

    The Associated Press’ reporting led to the release of more than 2,000 slaves and traced the seafood to products sold in U.S. and European markets, including: Sea Best, Waterfront Bistro, Aqua Star, Chicken of the Sea and Fancy Feast. The San Pedro-based Tri-Marine Fish Company canned Chicken of the Sea tuna until its parent company sold its stake in the company in 2000.

    The newswire service published 10 stories from March through December of 2015, weaving a gripping narrative that’s akin to Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin or Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, except the characters in these stories are flesh and blood people.

    The AP identifies the Indonesian island village, Benjina, as a haven, and to a degree, the heart of a human trafficking ring in Southeast Asia. The crackdown by authorities made the ring scatter, extending the time it would take to free the remaining enslaved fishermen.

    The journalists talked to more than 40 current and former slaves in Benjina, during the course of their investigation, revealing how entire supply lines are tainted by slave labor while major corporate beneficiaries wouldn’t comment on the record. They only issued statements condemning the labor abuses.

    They also talked to escaped slaves living in the interior island’s dense forests. The runaways survived by foraging for food and collecting rain water, all the while living in constant fear of hired slave catchers.

    The newswire service also talked to officials in law enforcement, the government and suppliers (at least the ones willing to speak) in Indonesia. The AP also spoke with officials in the U.S. State Department.

    Several independent seafood distributors, like Stavis Seafood and Santa Monica Seafood did comment, describing the costly and exhaustive steps taken to ensure their supplies are clear of slave labor.

    The slaves who were interviewed recounted being forced to drink unclean water and work 20 to 22 hours shifts with no days off. Almost all of them reported that they had been kicked, whipped with toxic stingray tails or otherwise beaten if they complained or tried to rest.

    Consisting of two small islands separated by a 5-minute boat ride, the picture AP painted of Benjina was that of a regional Banana Republic in South East Asia with Pusaka Benjina Resources as the main villain, complete with a five-story office compound and slave-pen cages.

    Story Two

    In the second story of its series, the AP reported the rescue of 300 slaves from Benjina. This was reported 11 days after their first story was published, and included vivid detail of the experiences of three slaves, Win Win Ko, Saw Eail Htoo and Myo Naing.

    Ko had four teeth missing, the result of a fish boat captain kicking him in the mouth.

    Htoo and Naing recounted being abused and tormented by a man known as the “enforcer.”

    During one particular incident, after Htoo and Naing were at sea for three months, working with only two to four hours of sleep a night, the two men fell asleep on the deck. As punishment, their captain used a motorbike to drive them to a hill above the port. They were handcuffed together and placed in front of an Indonesian flag. Then, they were punched in the face and kicked until they collapsed. The “enforcer” kept kicking them as they lay on the ground.

    The rescue came after Indonesian officials interviewed the fishermen and confirmed the abuse reported in AP’s story—a story that also included video of eight men locked in a cage and a slave graveyard. Indonesian officials ultimately rescued 320 people.

    Story Three

    slave

    Human trafficking and slave labor are a structural part of Thailand’s seafood industry. Photo courtesy of the Environmental Justice Foundation. www.ejfoundation.org

    The third story in the AP investigative series is a report on how the United States permits fish imports caught by slaves to come into the country, despite the law. The Associated Press found that the United States has not enforced a law banning the import of goods made with forced labor since 2000 because of significant loopholes.

    The AP also found that the United States has not slapped Thailand with the same kind of sanctions that it has against other countries with similar records on human trafficking. This is due to a complicated political relationship that includes cooperation against terrorism.

    Among the complications in U.S. regulatory policy:

    To start an investigation, needs to receive a petition from anyone—a business, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency, even a non-citizen—showing “reasonably but not conclusively” that imports were made, at least in part, with forced labor. A spokesman for the Customs department said they had only received a handful of petitions and none pointing to seafood from Thailand.

    Goods made with forced labor must be allowed into the United States if consumer demand cannot be met without them. Proving fish in a particular container is tainted by slave labor is nearly impossible, since different batches generally mix together at processing plants.

    Thailand has been a U.S. ally dating back to the Vietnam War and is considered a critical ally in the war on terrorism. Thailand is an emerging regional counterweight to China.

    Story Four

    The fourth story in the AP’s investigative series could have been named  “22 Years a Slave.” The story documented Myint Naing’s real life tale of hope, despair and redemption.

    Naing, left home at the age of 18 to earn money for his poverty-stricken family. The journey took him thousands of miles away from his family. This caused him to miss births, deaths, marriages and the unlikely transition of his country from a dictatorship to a democracy.

    Naing’s story also links the vagaries of overfishing and its consequences with the labor abuse and human trafficking. It’s apparent that Naing is the cost paid for First World nation’s insatiable appetite for processed seafood.

    Story Five

    In the fifth story of its 10-part series, the Associated Press tracked down the fish trawlers that escaped the crackdown reported on in its second story to Papua New Guinea.

    The AP accomplished the feat through the accounts of returned slaves, satellite beacon tracking, government records, and interviews with business insiders and fishing licenses. Further confirmation was achieved through images taken by one of the world’s highest resolution satellite cameras.

    Through the their reporting, AP documented how the trawlers were able evade detection, noting that even though skippers changed the names and flags of their  ships, hiding in the world’s broad oceans is easy.

    There, traffickers operate in an environment where boundaries are fluid, and laws are few and rarely enforced. The traffickers have depleted fish stocks, which have pushed boats farther out into the ungoverned seas.

    The AP noted that this lack of regulation means that even with the men located, bringing them to safety may prove elusive.

    In the follow up story published three days later, the AP reported on the second attempted rescue of enslaved fishermen and the capture of other fishing boats using slave labor. Eight fishermen were set free while the remaining boats were forced to go on the run.

    In each story, the AP repeated the documentation of the conditions under which these enslaved fishermen lived: held in cages, beaten beyond human dignity and buried under fake names to ensure that the victims could never be found.

    The AP also made sure to repeatedly document how the fishermen were enslaved in the first place. The stories were the same: desperate migrant workers, who were tricked by false promises of lucrative work to help them provide for their impoverished families.

    Story Seven

    The seventh story of AP’s investigative series was dedicated to the more than 2,000 fishermen who were freed since the news wire began publishing the series. In account after account, the newly freed fishermen talked about their enslavement, their struggles, their losses and their hope.

    The AP also noted their reporting and lead to the shutting down of a multi-million dollar Thai-Indonesian fishing business, the arrest of nine people and the seizure of two fishing cargo vessels.

    In the United States, importers have demanded change, three class-action lawsuits are underway, new laws have been introduced and the Obama administration is pushing exporters to clean up their labor practices. The AP’s work was entered into the congressional record for a hearing.

    Story Eight

    In November 2015, AP reported on Nestle’s public disclosure, the conclusions of its year long internal investigation, which found that virtually all U.S. and European companies buying seafood from Thailand are exposed to the same risks of being procured with slave labor.

    Nestle hired the nonprofit organization that studies labor abuses, Verite, in December 2014 after reports from news outlets and nongovernmental organizations tied brutal and largely unregulated working conditions to their shrimp, prawns and Purina brand pet foods.

    AP also reported that a class action lawsuit was filed against Nestle in August 2015, alleging Fancy Feast cat food was the product of slave labor. It’s one of several lawsuits filed in recent months against major U.S. retailers importing seafood from Thailand.

    Nestle posted their reports online and said they would post a detailed yearlong solution strategy throughout 2016—as part of ongoing efforts to protect workers.

    The final two stories exposed the use of slave labor in peeled shrimp—a story in which the AP recounted whole families with small children peeling shrimp destined for supermarkets around the world.

    This story spurred calls on Americans to boycott seafood all together, which the AP reported in its final story.

    The Associated Press concluded that seafood caught and processed with slave labor reached more than 100 markets and restaurants in the United States, including Wal-mart and Red Lobster.

    The impact of slave labor on Harbor Area seafood consumption is unknown, but it has an obvious influence on the price of imported fish versus fish caught and processed domestically.

    Steve Badger, a business agent for Teamster local 572 who also works with fisherman in the area, said none of them work with fishermen, or handle product from Southeast Asia. Hokkaido Seafood Buffet in Long Beach, and C-Food Co. in San Pedro, declined to comment on the sources of their seafood.

    Tommy Amalfitano, manager of the San Pedro Fish Market, said its barracuda and halibut are locally sourced when in season. The market’s other fish comes from the waters off Mexico and the Pacific Northwest. However, the contents of the “World Famous Shrimp Tray” come from throughout the world, including Thailand. More than 1 million residents and visitors a year eat seafood at the San Pedro Fish Market.

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  • Dealings with Former Harbor Commissioner Scrutinized

    By Paul Rosenberg, Senior Editor

    The Port of Los Angeles is anxiously trying to turn over a new leaf in light of the mitigation measures it failed to implement at China Shipping and TraPac.

    But, the port’s problems are deeper. Its problems are rooted in POLA’s corporate culture—a culture profoundly resistant to outside accountability. An old face has re-emerged as the new poster boy for this core institutional dysfunction: former Harbor Commission President Nick Tonsich.

    His business dealings with port tenants and the port itself since leaving office have again raised serious questions, not just about him, but about the wider business culture. A pollution-control company he founded received a $1.5 million grant in 2015 and he is in line to get millions more via his involvement in Pasha’s Green Omni Terminal. But community members are increasingly calling “foul.”

    On Dec. 17, 2015, homeowner activists Kathleen Woodfield and Janet Gunter raised initial concerns to the Harbor Commission. They were joined by environmental justice activist Jesse Marquez on Feb. 17, and again on April 5, focusing on how port staff appears to have given Tonsich favored treatment.

    As more concerns have been brought to light, the port’s response has begun to lag. While Woodfield’s initial request for information was mostly answered in less than a month, the port still has not replied to issues Marquez raised in February, despite Ambassador Vilma Martinez, president of the Harbor Commission, directing staff to “look into the serious allegations and report back.”

    When Marquez noted this lack of response on April 5, Deputy Executive Director Doane Liu mistakenly confused the issues raised by Marquez with the earlier request, saying that staff had already replied in a memo, and he would “be happy to give you another copy.”

    Woodfield kicked things off in December by referencing her own recent Los Angeles ethics training, saying that a former commissioner has to ask written permission from the city attorney to become involved in business related to their former post, and asking, under the public request act, for Tonsich’s letter and the city attorney’s response.

    On Jan. 6,  Liu responded to the commissioners’ request with a summary of information about Tonsich and a link to the city attorney’s letter to Tonsich in September 2009.

    “You are subject to a permanent ban on receiving compensation to attempt to influence any City agency regarding matters in which you were personally and substantially involved,” the letter stated. “You are also subject to a permanent ban on receiving compensation to assist or advise a person who is attempting to influence action on those matters.”

    It went on to specifically address his involvement with China Shipping, noting that the ban applied to him with respect to the lease agreement. It did not address a more fundamental concern shared by many: whether his involvement in developing the “No Net Increase” plan precludes his work on air quality mitigation, which he has since tried to capitalize on.

    On Feb. 17, Jesse Marquez raised additional concerns, primarily focused on port staff adhering to its own internal guidelines with respect to matters involving Tonsich, specifically, his ownership role in Clean Air Engineering-Maritime, which appears to have received favored treatment in receiving a $1.5 million grant in 2012. Tonsich had previously represented Advanced Cleanup Technologies Inc., which developed the first prototype for capturing ship emissions while docked—a process which has been under way at the Port of Long Beach since 2006—but then formed Clean Air Engineering-Maritime to compete with Advanced Cleanup Technologies Inc.

    Tonsich had claimed to be a part owner of ACTI, but the company claimed it rejected his ownership bid, and that afterward Tonsich formed Clean Air Engineering-Maritime to compete with them.  As of 2012, ACTI had a working prototype, Tonsich’s company did not, yet his company got the $1.5 million grant without a competitive bid process.

    In a comment letter, Marquez alleged that POLA failed to provide a “fair, objective selection process for all agreements and procurement opportunities,” failed to, “purchase without prejudice, seeking to obtain the maximum value for each dollar expended,” and failed to “avoid unfair practices, giving all qualified vendors equal opportunity.”

    Random Lengths asked POLA to respond to specific aspects of his letter.

    For example, Marquez wrote, “The Port of Los Angeles issued a $ 1.5 million Technology Advancement Program (TAP) contract to Clean Air Engineering-Maritime (CAEM)  to build the Clean Air Engineering-Maritime/Tri-Mer ship emission treatment unit. Clean Air Engineering-Maritime had no previous experience in this technology or any clean air technology.”

    When asked if POLA had any evidence to the contrary regarding CAEM’s experience, port spokesman Arley Baker replied, “Sure do. The CAE system is made by Tri-Mer. You can read about their experience in this technology at tri-mer.com.” However, Tri-Mer had previously worked (and is still working) with ACTI, who unlike CAEM had built and tested a series of units before CAEM contract was signed. It appears that Clean Air Engineering-Maritime’s “experience” was actually that of its competitor’s.

    “The standard protocol for POLA  Technology Advancement Program grants has been that a company must have a prototype to demonstrate,” Marquez also wrote. “Clean Air Engineering-Maritime did not. POLA illegally waived this requirement.”

    Baker said that POLA normally asks that the grant program go toward testing and verification of performance for the Technology Advancement Program.

    “So, yes, a prototype is typically what we seek, though the two ports and the TAP advisory Board try to be flexible,” he said. “In this case, this was not a TAP grant. It was a TraPac EIR [environmental impact report] mitigation measure requirement that POLA, not the TAP, provide money to TraPac for development of such a system. TraPac selected CAE to develop the system.”

    However, the port’s own documentation contradicts this explanation, referring to the $1.5 million as a “TAP grant,” even though it does not appear on a list of TAP grants. It was identified as a TAP grant in two separate staff documents included with the agenda item on May 17, 2012, when $1.5 million funding agreement was approved. In the compensation section of the “Agreement Between The City Of Los Angeles And TraPac Inc.,” it stated that “The TAP grant award is calculated based upon the estimated expenses of the PROJECT as reported by GRANTEE in its application submitted to the TAP Committee.”

    “ACTI is the original inventor of the AMECS-Advanced Maritime Emissions Control Systems technology and the only company that had a ship emission capture technology prototype immediately available for demonstration but was not invited to receive a TAP Grant or invited to bid,” Marquez further stated.

    Baker disregarded the context of Marquez’s account, the $1.5 million contract in 2012.

    “We did give them [ACTI] a TAP grant,” Baker said, directing to the 2015 TAP Annual Report, which lists a 2008 grant, which AQMD also participated in, for a demonstration project at the Port of Long Beach, which was obviously the lead agency involved. POLA’s share—$150,000—was only a fraction on of the 2012 contract.

    POLB had begun working with ACTI in 2006, according to Heather Tomley, POLB’s director of environmental planning.

    “It began with Metropolitan [Stevedore],” she said.

    POLB got involved and drew in the rest of the funding team. There were a series of refinements. In 2013, POLB approved a little more than $2 million for a demonstration project, using a competitive two-fold selection process: a request for information followed by a request for proposal. POLA participated more actively in the early stages, Tomley noted. Only ACTI and Tonsich’s company were in the final running, and POLB selected ACTI.

    In October, the California Air Resources Board gave final approval to ACTI’s system for container ships.

    “Our next phase of testing is for other classes of ships,” Tomley said. “We’re waiting for CARB to establish specifications.”

    “This is the only TAP application ever received from either company, by the way,” added Baker. That contradicts the 2012 contract language identifying it as a TAP grant. Scrambling the protocols relied on is part of POLA’s persistent dysfunctional culture.This calls into question how the program is being run and underscores the need for outside oversight.

    “The service is ordered up by the shipping line or terminal operator, not POLA,” Baker said.

    But diffusing a corrupt practice does not make it less corrupt. It simply involves more people in the corruption of good government. Obviously, Tonsich has used his past position to create self-serving business relations—representing TraPac as an attorney, while creating his own pollution control company to do business with TraPac, funded by the port. His underlying friendliness to terminal operators and hostility to the general public made him an ideal candidate for terminal operators to hire and do business with — as TraPac and Pasha have done. While POLB’s Tomley said it was good to have more than one company competing to provide the technology, Clean Air Engineering-Maritime’s success so far seems limited to POLA, where all of Tonsich’s long-time connections lie.

    “The public and environmental justice organizations have recommended the ACTI AMECS Technology for multiple POLA Project EIR Mitigation for the past 8 years,” Marquez also pointed out. “Why was such a long record of community input repeatedly ignored?”

    “We’re the first port in the world to support and test this type of technology; so to say we have ignored community input in terms of deploying the technology is a little disingenuous,” Baker responded.

    But, as noted above, it’s actually Long Beach that has taken the lead.

    In her April 5 testimony, Woodfield noted that the city attorney’s letter “indicates Mr. Tonsich cannot do business in China Shipping for life, due to his involvement in the settlement agreement, however the letter does not indicate a lack of conflict at other sites.”

    In particular, TraPac’s EIR was certified in September 2007, long after Tonsich left the Commission.

    “But it does not follow that there were no prerequisite discussions between Tonsich and TraPac that may be influencing the TraPac EIR,” Woodfield said. “In 2002, he was involved the West Basin Development Program, which involved extensive extensions and improvements to the TraPac terminal itself, and emission reduction strategies.”

    Add to that Tonsich’s role in creating the clean air framework and the conflicts of interest that should bar him seem overwhelming.

    Tonsich didn’t act alone, however. His actions reflect much broader problems of governance. In her December testimony, Gunter recalled that, in her audit reports, City Controller Laura Chick had said that the port was operating “more like the backroom than the boardroom,” and that it had “an open disdain for good government” and that Tonsich had responded to later by calling Chick “unqualified and politically motivated.”

    But every few years brings new revelations of how past port decision making has been deeply flawed, and Chick’s observations still seem as apt as ever.

    “This is a former port commissioner who had nothing but contempt for this community until he figured out a way to profit from it,” Gunter added. “This behavior needs to stop, now.”

     

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  • Sirens Welcomes LA Poet Laureate

    By Zamná Ávila, Assistant Editor

    Luis Rodriguez loves LA.

    I can’t forget its smells
    I love to make love in LA
    It’s a great city
    A city without a handle
    The world’s most mixed metropolis
    of intolerance and divisions

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    That’s an excerpt from A Love Poem to Los Angeles, a poem he released this past January. In it, he professes his unconditional love for the city of angels with all its virtues and defects. His life probably exemplifies this love-hate relationship, where injustice meets activism and community service.

    Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti recognized these attributes and named him the second Los Angeles Poet Laureate in 2014, succeeding Eloise Klein Healy. The poet laureate is expected to compose poems to the city, host readings and classes or workshops, and serve as a cultural ambassador. Rodriguez is scheduled to visit San Pedro and share his poetry, life experiences and writing.

    “Through poetry you are able to make a statement, you are able to improve your life and lives of others,” said Raymond Regalado, project supervisor with the Commission on Human Relations of Los Angeles County. “In a sense, provide the opportunity for people in the Harbor Area to listen, ask questions and maybe hear the story of someone who was born and raised in LA, and has been able to overcome challenges in his particular life.”

    Regalado helped organize the event, working with his wife Yolanda, to host this event at her coffee shop, Sirens Java and Tea, which she owns. The May 21 event will allow attendees the opportunity to get autograph copies of the novelist, memoirist, short story and children’s book writer, journalist, community activist and youth advocate.

    Always Running

    Rodriguez is a major figure in contemporary Chicano literature. He has received numerous awards. His best-known work, Always Running: La Vida Loca, Gang Days in L.A., received the Carl Sandburg Literary Award, among others. Due to its gang life depictions, the book was the subject of controversy when it was included in school reading lists in California, Illinois, Michigan and Texas.

    “Reading some of his books, you see that, challenges don’t keep you down,” Regalado said. “And, that’s a story we can all learn from.”

    Regalado said Rodriguez’s experience is a great example of how people’s lives are not defined by who they are.

    “He’s got a good story to tell,” Regalado said. “He’s had challenges like every single one of us.”

    Regalado said he wants youth and older generations alike to experience Rodriguez’s works.

    “His work could inspire young people and old people alike, to be able say, ‘I can be part of change in the community,” Regalado said. “With that said, I want to be in a place to create my change for my community’”

    Born in El Paso, Texas, Rodriguez’s moved to South Los Angeles in the 60s. They later relocated to the San Gabriel, where at the age of 11, Rodriguez joined the Lomas gang.

    Rodriguez became an active gang member and drug user in East Los Angeles. He even lived in the San Pedro housing projects for some time. Despite his gang activity, Rodriguez became involved in the Chicano Movement of the 1970s. Later in life, Rodriguez came into contact with the John Fabela Youth Center in San Gabriel.

    Regalado said, despite his older age, he has benefitted and learn things from Rodriguez’s experiences. He hopes the reading will inspire conversation.

    “That’s what Luis is all about,” Regalado said. “It’s not just Luis writing a book and hoping to sell. He is trying to inspire.”

    He found a mentor who recognized his abilities as an artist and community leader. With the help of mentors he painted several murals in the San Gabriel Valley. Eventually, Rodriguez quit the gang life and his drug use, and dedicated himself to Marxist study and community organizing. He’s helped negotiate gang truces and urban peace efforts in Los Angeles. He’s run for the Los Angeles School Board, worked as a bus driver, truck driver, construction worker, carpenter mechanic and welder.

    As a night student of East Los Angeles College, Rodriguez worked as a writer and photographer for several East Los Angeles Publications. He later covered crime and urban issues for the San Bernardino Sun. He also led a group of writers in publishing a ChismeArte, a Chicano art journal. In the early 80s Rodriguez began to facilitate writing workshops and talks in prisons and juvenile lockups.

    “Everyone can find a little bit of their lives in his challenges,” Regalado said. “It’s a story we can all benefit from. And, he is such an easy person to listen to.”

    In 1998, Rodriguez received the Hispanic Heritage Award for Literature.

    Rodriguez also is known for co-founding the Tía Chucha Press, which publishes the work of unknown writers, the Tía Chucha’s Centro Cultural, a San Fernando Valley cultural center, and the Chicago-based, Youth Struggling for Survival, an organization for at-risk youth.

    The Regalados are working with the arts district, local media and schools to promote the event. They are expecting about 100 to 200 people to show up for the reading. Regalado hopes that Harbor Area residents will invite the poet laureate to come back. He and his wife also would like to have similar events at her coffee shop.

    “We would like to think that this won’t be his last time in the area,” Regalado said. “We are hoping that this place is a place where people to come, be inspired, maybe get a little knowledge and go out and create some change. Whatever that change might be.”

    More details about Luis Rodriguez can be found at www.luisjrodriguez.com.

    Time: 2 p.m. May 21
    Cost: Free
    Details: (424) 477-5609
    Venue: Sirens Java and Tea, 356 W. 7th St., San Pedro

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  • Gina Experiments with Enchiladas:

    Aztec to Tex-Mex

    By Gina Ruccione, Cuisine and Restaurant Writer

    For most of us, Cinco de Mayo is a holiday that we don’t really understand. We use it as an excuse to eat Mexican food, take shots of tequila and maybe call in sick from work the next day.

    Instead of getting completely sloshed, this year I’m taking on a culinary exploration of my own in the comfort of my kitchen: Mexican food, margaritas, followed by a serious nap on the couch.

    Read more on page 11 of the April 28 edition of Random Lengths News. Click here to find a location near your.

     

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  • Dining at Panxa Cocina

    Old World Meets New Mexican Cuisine

    Panxa Cocina’s Tom O’Brien. Photo by Phillip Cooke
    By Gina Ruccione, Restaurant and Cuisine Writer

    It takes serious balls to open a restaurant. Competition is fierce and customers are fickle. Answering to investors can be a total pain in the ass, but without them your next-best option is digging deeper into your own pockets to pay for just about everything under the sun. And, what restaurant owner doesn’t just love sifting through to toxic Yelp reviews by people who just don’t get it?

    When Chef Art Gonzales opened Panxa Cocina in Long Beach a year ago, he obviously knew what he was getting into, and thank God for that — the food is wonderful.  But let’s get one thing straight: It’s not Mexican food. I made the mistake of calling about their plans for Cinco de Mayo, and I want to spare you the same embarrassment.  While there are similarities between Mexican food and the food at Panxa, it is much more than that. Think fusion. Think Old World Mexico meets New Mexican Cuisine with a Santa Fe twist and some slight German components. I know, right? What does that even mean? If you’re confused, bear with me. I’m going to walk you through it and by the time I’m finished you’ll be on the phone booking your reservation.

    Gonzales does what I wish most chefs would do — he cooks with passion and from the heart. It’s more than preparing a dish. For him, it’s a form of self-expression. Each dish at Panxa is curated and reminiscent of something Gonzales experienced during pivotal moments in his life. As he walked me through his dishes, he recounted stories of his mother making German food while his grandmother would whip up some mole. His style of cooking has evolved from dishes he grew up with and flavors he fell in love with while working in New Mexico.

    It’s inventive, yet comforting. Though it may be inspired by mom and grandma, it’s obviously much more elevated.

    The atmosphere is hip, slightly modern and in no way over the top. The southwestern motifs aren’t kitschy— in fact, they’re stylish. Handmade Native American prayer beads hang over pieces of reclaimed wood and the hand-painted mural of the Native American woman in the dining room is stunning.

    The ceviche mixto is a must. It is clean, refreshing and incorporates several citrus elements topped with pico de gallo, shaved onion spirals and pepitas for an added crunch.

    Another favorite are the potato-cheddar pancakes. Gonzales channels his German side in this dish, but unlike most potato pancakes that tend to be underwhelming and only seasoned with salt, these proved to be the perfect vessel to transport the delicious hatch green chile and apple chutney topping straight to my mouth.

    Of course, the showstoppers on the menu are the stacked enchiladas. Unlike Mexican enchiladas that are rolled and fried, this dish incorporates layers of tortillas and slow-cooked, tender short-rib. It’s almost like lasagna — but somehow, quite different. Choice of meat varies in this dish from chicken, beef or pork and so does the chile (sauce) that accompanies it. The red chimayo chile is salty and smoky, but finishes with a heat that hits back of your throat. The hatch green chile is slightly tangy but definitely has a kick. I ordered the “Christmas” version, which comes with both. I say go both or go home. And, if you’re a real bad ass, add a fried egg on top for the win.

    I also had a chance to try the mole, which is more flavorful and complex than other moles that I’ve had in the past. In his version, Gonzales uses over seven different kinds of chiles, sesame seeds, pistachios and apricots.

    I’m going on record to say there wasn’t one plate that I didn’t completely devour.

    The desserts are phenomenal, and I don’t typically order dessert. Like every other dish at Panxa Cocina, everything was thoughtful and even incorporated different textural elements. I’m still dreaming about the strawberries that came out in yuzu citrus juxtaposed with dollops of cream and little crunchy meringue bites— it was heaven on a dish.  For you chocolate lovers, order the tort de chocolate. Just trust me.

    Dishes are between $12 to $28. Full bar.

    Panxa Cocina is at 3937 E. Broadway in Long Beach.

    Details: (562) 433-7999; www.panxacocina.com

    Gina Ruccione has traveled all over Europe and Asia and has lived in almost every nook of Los Angeles County. She is also a member of the Southern California Restaurant Writers Association. You can visit her website at www.foodfashionfoolishfornication.com.

     

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