Now that's what I call a care package!
It's true, I'm another one of those annoying New Yorkers who moves to Los Angeles (Long Beach actually) and complains about how FAR away everything is.
In my neighborhood in Queens there were, in WALKING distance, four to five grocery stores, two to three bodegas, a Payless shoe store, a Staples, a Blockbuster Video (yes, an actual Blockbuster), a K-Mart, and several restaurants (Greek, Japanese, Italian, Chinese, faux Mexican, and Puerto Rican to name a few). I miss my Payless, my Staples, and my full-fledged grocery store just around the corner. Most of all, though, I miss my Goya aisle.
I didn't actually expect to find adobo, sazón, recaíto, and sofrito in Long Beach, or in California for that matter, but I hoped. I hoped.
You can imagine how that turned out...
I called Mami and during my second week in Long Beach I received a Puerto Rican care package (see the picture above). Besides the adobo, sazón, and other goodies, she included a brand new caldero (a Puerto Rican rice pot). Her package assuaged some of my culinary homesickness and gave me most of the tools I'd need to make (read: re-teach myself to make) arroz con gandules. Now if I could only find some gandules...
All that being said, I recognize I'm one of the lucky ones. I moved in with my boyfriend who lives in Long Beach, a very walkable city just south of downtown Los Angeles. Living in a pedestrian friendly neighborhood means I have yet to be compelled to get over my fear of driving (yes, I have a license; no, I do not drive).
I've also bought Long Beach Transit monthly bus pass. At just $65, this thing gets me everywhere I need to go in Long Beach. I've already checked out the basics, but what I'm loving about Long Beach is that it goes above and beyond those basics. Sure, there's no New York style pizza to be found (a fact that hurts my heart), but I can walk to spots like Lola's (Mexican food), Kafe Neo (Greek food), and Number Nine (Vietnamese food). And while I still miss Delight Diner and Donuts -- the Greek-owned diner/breakfast place just outside my subway stop in Queens whose owners have known me since I was twelve -- The Coffee Cup is the perfect place for a breakfast splurge in Long Beach.
Perhaps even more importantly for a dissertating poet like myself is that fact that there are excellent coffee shops and bookstores in the area. Portfolio Coffeehouse and Viento y Agua are both perfect places to work and eat. I especially love Portfolio's breakfast croissant and Viento y Agua's oat horchata. Gatsby Books and Apostrophe Books are a book lover's dream. They're both small and cozy, and each has a friendly staff and a great selection. Gatsby had some fantastic used Women and Gender Studies and Cultural Studies texts that I quickly snagged. Best of all they're just two of the ten bookstores listed in a Google Maps search of the area - yay!
And did I mention we live right next door to a wine bar (Art Du Vin), movie theater (Art Theater), and espresso bar (The Flea)? A ten minute walk from the ocean where I sometimes do Free Yoga on the Beach? A fifteen minute bus ride to the Metro's Blue Line that takes me right into downtown Los Angeles?
Besides, if after all of that I still get too homesick for Puerto Rican grub, I hear there's a pretty good PR spot called La Puma Rosa just north of us in Watts.
Yeah, I could get used to this...