Somewhere between the billboard and the gutter


A lot has happened in the last few months, but the most exciting event has probably been my family showing up on a billboard. Months ago, we had been contacted by a representative from UTLA (LAUSD’s teachers union) asking if we could be photographed for an upcoming campaign. We weren’t sure that we wanted to have our mugs plastered around town but, after some discussion, decided that our family should do whatever we can to support the excellent public school teachers that have been expertly and lovingly guiding our daughter. Since we do a lot to help the students at Castelar Elementary–starting fund raisers for the music program, organizing to protect the campus from co-location by a charter school, launching math/science and art nights, promoting movie nights, working on the yearbook, volunteering in the classroom, providing valet services, and so on–shouldn’t we assist the teachers, too?


When the billboard went up a couple of weeks ago, we were informed by a number friends who were surprised to spot our faces overlooking the popular thoroughfare where Beverly and Temple connect. It’s gigantic! And despite the super saturated color and extra product in our hair, we actually do support all of the bullet points: Public school teachers, safe schools, reduced class sizes, more nurses, librarians, and counselors. We believe that public education is critically important in this increasingly privatized, segregated, and otherwise divided environment, and hope that UTLA’s billboard campaign can make a difference.


Not long after the billboard went up, I saw Save Music in Chinatown mentioned in not one but two publications that I read and respect for totally different reasons. That our little project would be mentioned in the South China Morning Post‘s Sunday magazine is astounding. We don’t even get press here in Los Angeles! But then there we were, described in detail by the big-time Hong Kong newspaper that I look to for the latest movie and art news. The article was about the resurgence of zine culture in a digital world. It was less shocking to find us mentioned in the latest RazorCake because I have pals on the staff of the nonprofit punk zine, but to naturally come up in conversation between publisher Todd Taylor and bassist Mike Watt was a real honor. Those two are not just pillars but lifers in the world of underground music and DIY culture. And friends and supporters of our cause. That our shows, which bridge Chinatown’s punk rock heritage and the needs of immigrant kids of today, gets some recognition from high and low, east and west, near and far, strangers and peers, is meaningful to me.


I always expect a fall whenever a string of cool stuff happens and, of course, I got laid off two days ago. But while my second dream job has run its course during these holidays,  I can’t be sad because most people don’t even get one. And, as if on cue, tonight my in-laws made tangyuan soup to mark the shortest, darkest day of the year. It gets brighter from now on.


Next year I’ll find a new gig but right now I’m grateful for my awesome family and supportive friends. I appreciate the good work I’ve had opportunities to do. And I look forward to the unknown, interesting, and important tasks ahead.


Author: martinkendallwong2014

Co-founder of Giant Robot magazine (RIP) and Save Music in Chinatown (since 2013)

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