Underwire: March 2022 ‘East of Eden’

East Hollywood. The neighborhood where I was born, eventually moved back to, bought a house, had my kids, and opened the first Jenette Bras. It’s a mishmash of old houses, crammed next to apartments whose only distinction is that they are designed in the worst style of each decade. It’s a neighborhood where Thai Town and Little Armenia coexist on nearly the same strip of Hollywood Blvd and where the once prominent Jewish hospital moved westward leaving the Scientologists to occupy the massive building.

East Hollywood is also a neighborhood where the Oaxacan, Japanese, and Ukrainian citizens, who fill the old houses and cheap apartments, dutifully send their children on weekends to Cultural Centers to maintain their language, learn their history, and practice their songs and dances. This is the view directly across from from our Eastside store. In 1961the local Ukrainians turned the old Jensens Melrose Theatre (which premiered the first talkie, ‘The Jazz Singer’), with its majestic auditorium, stage, and balcony level seating, into the Ukrainian Culture Center. Each Sunday we watch Ukrainian children, blond and reluctant, march inside for their lessons, sometimes dressed in traditional clothing for performances and various festivals. The rest of the week the building is rented out: QuinceaƱeras most Saturdays, various punk rock shows, and last week was a wrestling extravaganza. We held our Jenette Bras 10 year anniversary party there too.

I don’t have any personal connection to Ukraine, but they are my neighbors and I am devoutly hoping for their victory over tyranny.