USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘Los Angeles’
Folk speech
Proverbs

“El que no trampa nunca avanza”

“Él que no trampa nunca avanza.”

“He who doesn’t cheat never advances.”

Context: The informant is an Uber driver in Los Angeles. He speaks Spanish and English fluently. His parents are both from Mexico.

“My Uber passenger from Mexico City told me this. He said that a lot of people in Mexico City believe this, but he was raised to be honest no matter what. He told me he thinks that a lot of people in Los Angeles think this way.”

Interpretation: This is illustrative of American values, where success and personal gain outweigh honesty and altruism. This could also speak to Narcoculture in Mexico, where money and success often come from crime, dishonesty, and trickery. Perhaps it draws similarities between these cultures and unifies people who are willing to find success regardless of the moral implications.

 

Legends
Narrative

Devil’s Trail

Main Piece:

 

The following was recorded from the Participant. They are marked as LG. I am marked as DG.

 

LG: Up around JPL and La Cañada, um there’s different times, even the Indians thought that there were demons, although they didn’t call them that, they called them negative spirits, but because that was known, there was some big name scientists that started an occult up there, and they would have satanic ritual sup there, and there’s a place called the Devils Trail up there. And they would-in fact up in the 50s, a few children disappeared up there in that area, I mean they were running up the trail with their parents, they turned the corner, and they never saw those kids again. Yeah it’s not even really a great trail now, there’s just something funky about it. But um when we went up there hiking that one time up there, and Dad was throwing his knives at the trees, this sort of blood looking stuff was coming out of them. And to this day, I have never ever seen that in any other tree. And I looked it up! I can’t find it. Now Danny [the interviewee’s brother] said he found it but I looked and I can’t find it. So to this day that is not a trail I want to ever go on again.”

 

DG: Where did you hear this from?

 

LG: I’ve heard the Devils Trail from a lot of people, I’ve seen it on the internet, heard it from different people, including my mom, and seen it on TV. It’s kind of like one of those-it’s a warning, but I think it’s also like a lot of the time like egging people to go onto it. But I think it’s mostly like a warning, to parents like don’t let your kids go on there. But they’ve had like um a couple teenagers disappear in that area too. Yeah don’t go there.”

 

Context:

 

The conversation was recorded while sitting on a patio in Glendora, CA. The sun is setting and a group of us are sitting around all sharing folklore. The context for the tale is to be told to your children, mostly in the JPL/La Cañada area, to warn them about going out on the trails alone.

 

Background:

 

The interviewee is a 54-year-old mother of two, who is married. She grew up in Los Angeles, before moving around, and finally ending up back in Los Angeles. Her and her parents had a very tight-knit relationship, and she comes from a religious background.

 

Analysis:

 

This story has one of the marks of a folktale, in how it is most often used to warn young children about the area. Interestingly enough, LG has also heard of it in the context of “egging” on other children to do it. This is a very local tale. Someone from New York would not understand what the Devil’s Trail meant, except maybe in the context of a different trail. Having been on this trail myself, I can attest to how terrifying it can become. My own experience was that the trail suddenly became dark and freezing, during the middle of the day. This folktale is also interesting in that aspect, as it shows that many people can have different experiences of the same item.

 

Folk Beliefs
Legends

California breaking off

My mom, who grew up in Los Angeles, recalls a folk belief from her childhood that California would break off from the US and float away:

“So when I was growing up there would be these periodic panics or rumors that on a certain day, California was gonna break off and float out into the ocean. And I remember being- it would’ve been the year that um, the Elton John song ‘Crocodile Rock’ was out because I can remember listening to that song with [my cousin] Robert–maybe 1971 or something?–and being terrified, knowing that it probably wasn’t going to happen but just having a fear in the back of my mind that maybe there was some truth to this rumor…”

I asked if she remembered where she had heard the rumor first. She said, “well that’s a good question. It certainly wasn’t in the newspaper, it wasn’t like fake news and it wouldn’t have been- we didn’t have the internet, so how did that spread? And it seemed like it was mostly kids who knew it, i mean it wasn’t- adults weren’t, y’know, propagating this rumor. So where it came from, I have no idea. That’s always fascinating to me.”

This piece of folklore falls somewhere between the genres of folk belief and legend. It concerns something frightening that could happen, as many legends do, but it is not a narrative, and is believed to be occurring in the future, rather than the past. It could thus be classified as a “folk rumor” in the same category as conspiracy theories. This folk rumor likely stemmed from the reality of the San Andreas fault and the resulting frequency of earthquakes in Southern California. It spread, particularly among kids, because it seemed plausible and because it fed off of fears about natural disaster.

Customs
Folk Beliefs
Homeopathic
Legends
Magic
Narrative
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Rally Monkey

Okay, uh, in like, um, in like 2000, so like the 2000, 2001, baseball season, uh, the Los Angeles Angels, who, er, at the time they were the Anaheim Angels, uh, they were losing in a regular season game with the Giants, and, uh, during like the bottom of the 8th inning, uh, one of the, on the Jumbo Tron, one of the graphics people, uh, played a clip from Ace Ventura, the Jim Carrey movie, that had like uh, uh, a foot long monkey running around, and they wrote, uh, “Rally Monkey” on it, and so the crowd that went to the Jumbo Tron, and I guess they kind of laughed about it, and in that inning the Angels came back and won, and so that became a huge phenomenon for like Angels fans and stuff. Even throughout the MLB it was like a iconic thing. It was like the Rally Monkey they would call it. And, uh, it got to the point they would bring, they actually, the Angeles organization actually bought like a monkey, I guess, and they had like a little Angel’s hat, and they’d bring it out, uh, in between innings. And the crowd would go crazy for it, and they started selling, uh, like plush toys of it that people would buy. Like I had one. And, um, so like whenever in the later end, the later innings, when the Angel’s were losing, uh, you’d like swing the monkey around, so you’re in the stadium, there’d be like hundreds—like thousands of people, all just like swinging monkeys around, and yelling, like, “Rally Monkey time!” And in the 2002 season, uh, they ended up winning the World Series, and it was like at the height of like the Rally Monkey era, like they would play it on the Jumbo Tron and it was like there were known for like, “Oh, the Rally Monkey!” stuff. And so they won the World Series and that’s the highest honor you can get, and so that was like a huge part of the season. And, um, after that season the Rally Monkey was around, but they started losing a lot, and now it’s gone forever. And it was kind of like, uh, a 2 season thing that’s gone now.

This is the story of the rise and fall of a sports tradition. The Rally Monkey was a superstitious, homeopathic form of magic, where swinging a plush monkey could bring luck to the players of the Angels. The tradition died after the Angels won the World Series and started losing, and it is now a part of the team’s and the fans’ heritage. Knowing about the Rally Monkey also was a way of creating group identity and community. One had to be initiated into the team fan group to be aware of the superstition, and to understand why Ace Ventura would play at the Angels games. At the time you were not really a fan unless you knew the tradition and participated.

general

The Haunted Mansion

One can only imagine the things that a building security guard sees after hours when all the residents have gone to bed. With this in mind, I decided to ask my friend who works at University Gateway if there were any ghost stories he had come across in his time working there. He informed me that while there weren’t any he had from Gateway, he also works at the Alexandria Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles which is considered a haunted hotel by many. He had this to say:

“I had heard stories about the building, about the daughter of the guy who built the building. Her name was Alexandria and she was on the seventh floor playing with her orange ball, when it fell down the elevator shaft. She went after it and fell in and died. On December 28th, I was driving into work, I pulled up and went down the car lift to the second floor basement to park my car. I drove in and parked, I started walking to the car lift when I heard a little girl laughing. I stopped and looked around, but ignored it. I continued walking to the elevator and got in and when I was half way up, an orange ball rolled in and bounced into the second floor parking. I freaked out because that whole month there were different things happening with the building: from people jumping out the seventh floor and killing themselves to us security finding dead bodies in the rooms. When I got to the security desk I told my supervisor about it. He laughed and I asked him to check the footage out. We rewound the footage and the orange ball came out of the stairs where there’s a heavy metal door you have to push to get out of the second floor garage. Then it started rolling slowly and stopped in front of the car lift waiting for me to come up. People were walking straight into the ball and no one would notice it. When I came up, it looked like the ball was rolled back and pushed into the car lift. When my supervisor saw the footage, he flipped out and clocked out right away. Residents in the building have pictures and stories too. I’ve witnessed more things during my time there. Every resident I have gotten close to has passed away there and I can still feel their presence there. If you want a tour, I can give you one and you may witness some out of the ordinary things in the building.”

Already knowing the illustrious ghostly history of the Alexandria Hotel, I was immediately intrigued by this story and acknowledged that the forthcoming story could very well be true. The security guard admittedly believes in ghosts so I had to scrutinize every detail of the story for some semblance of bias, yet could find none.
The fact that the guard’s claims were supported with video evidence is compelling enough for me to believe his tale although I have not seen the footage personally. I look forward to the opportunity to take him up on his offer and explore the haunted mansion for myself.

Folk speech
general
Humor
Stereotypes/Blason Populaire

Blason Populaire Joke

The informant learned this joke, which falls under the category of blason populaire, from one of his friends in junior high school. He says that he has also heard it from other active bearers as a “black joke”:

“How do you stop a Mexican from drowning? The answer is, of course, take your foot off his head.”

The informant says that when he performs this joke it is usually in a group of friends who consider vulgar jokes acceptable and that he varies the ethnicity to match the group’s prejudices. He also admits that sometimes he tells the joke when he’s “around people who are racist” and he doesn’t “want to make any waves.”

He considers it to be a “pretty bad joke” but says it’s “easy to use for a cheap laugh, as an icebreaker.”

The informant grew up in Tujunga, which according to the LA Times’s 2009 “Mapping LA” project has a black population of only 1.8%. It is therefore not surprising that he would have heard the “black joke” cognate, since the members of the audience to the joke would have been unlikely to be black or have black acquaintances on whose behalf to be offended. However, it is perhaps more surprising that his friend told it to him as a Mexican joke, since according to the same project, 14.7% of Tujunga’s residents have Mexican ancestry. It may be that the joke was more acceptable to tell because some members of the active bearer’s audience had Mexican ancestry and were willing to laugh at themselves, or perhaps the informant’s friend had Mexican ancestry himself.

Source: Ardalani, Sarah, et al. “Tujunga.” Los Angeles Times. 2009. Tribune Newspaper. 25 April 2011 <http://projects.latimes.com/mapping-la/neighborhoods/neighborhood/tujunga/#ethnicity>.

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