I was born in West Los Angeles at UCLA Hospital. At the time, my parents were living in Venice, part of the 11th district of Los Angeles. We relocated to Mar Vista for a few years off Centinela until my parents were able to buy a home in the unincorporated community of Lennox. It was a short 11 mile commute for my father who worked off of Cloverfield in Santa Monica, especially at 6 in the morning or earlier. Sometimes my mother and I would go to his job for lunch or for other reasons and I romanticized the stretch from the 10 freeway until we hit the Cloverfield exit. I would look all around excitedly. It was a whole different world coming from Lennox.
And it was in this new world where I discovered NaNa’s. In the 5th grade at Larch Elementary, a teacher’s aid came to work one day with a pair of grey suede shoes with thick sole and laces. They were the best looking shoes I had ever seen. I asked him where he got them and he said, “They’re creepers, I got them at NaNa’s in Santa Monica.” I asked my mother to take me and when she did, we were outraged by the price. $60, and in those days I was mostly wearing $3 Chinese shoes and $7 Zig zags. I got on my knees, I begged her for the shoes, and everyone around looked at us with amusement. She gave in after minutes of me begging, probably because she was embarrased by people’s stares. The only thing she said was, “Don’t tell your dad how much they cost.” So I got a pair, black leather with a cow skin design, and I walked around school like I owned it.
Over the years I kept going there to buy other clothes that catered to individuals who were different and into alternative music. If you shopped there, you were different, you were underground. The clothes went with the type of music you listened to. I liked new wave and dark wave, mostly from U.K. bands, so everything was directly influenced from their street style and in my school it went against the status-quo. But then I got to junior high and everything was different. More people, more styles, more influences, more gang members. People didn’t think my creepers were so cool then, but I still wore them because I didn’t care what anyone thought. That’s what makes you an individual, standing out, being different, being yourself. But then the phrase, “Where you from,” took on a whole new meaning.
So when people ask now, “Where you from?” I can easily say, “Los Angeles, from the Westside,” it’s where I grew up, where I stomped ground, it’s what made me. It’s who I am…a Westsider. But in those days the phrase was gang-related and the wrong answer could cause serious repurcussions. So I ask you now…Where you from?
(For a great article on NaNa’s go to: http://articles.latimes.com/2009/apr/05/image/ig-nana5)