“What a shot, yaar! SHABASH!” The batting team roars with excitement, cheering on the teammate who just successfully smashed our taped tennis ball outside of Cromwell and into Brittingham Field. Another six runs are added to the score. Immediately, I check my camera and scroll through the photos to make sure I got a good shot of the small white ball whirling past the bleachers; content, I kneel back down in the dugout and poise myself for another set of cricketing clicks. This is the focus of my life for the next six hours: it’s Friday Night Lights, and there’s no place I’d rather be.
In fact, this is my life every Friday night. From 6:00pm until midnight, I trek from my nearby apartment to the Cromwell Track and Field Stadium to manage our Trojan Cricket Club’s Cromwell Premier League (CPL) tournament and photograph our players. Now as the acting club President, it’s amazing to believe that just over a year ago I couldn’t even describe the rules of cricket, let alone partake in this fun, competitive pastime.
I owe that to USC.
Given that USC has the highest percentage of international students enrolled in the world, it’s no surprise that some of the first friends I met here came from countries far outside the U.S. In my freshman year, the International Residential College toured me around Chinatown for the Mid-Autumn Festival, where I tried my first moon cake (red bean is definitely the best!) and ogled over traditional dragon dances. My Kenyan choir friend taught me how to play the congas after a rehearsal session at the Caruso Catholic Center. And the Indian graduate students who worked in our dining hall introduced me to cricket.
To call one person the face of Los Angeles would be reductive. With its diverse cultural representations and geographic vastness, it seems disingenuous, if not impossible, to represent this city with a single face. But perhaps, I could suggest a single thing—specifically, a food truck. More specifically, the Kogi truck.
You may not have heard of Roy Choi, but certainly you’ve heard of his food. With vehicles catering the entire city, the Kogi truck is perhaps Choi’s most famous creation. Check the Kogi Twitter account (@kogibbq) for live updates on where they’ll be for the day; sometimes they stop at USC for a brief late-night dinner! With all the other food truck options around USC (and in LA for that matter), you may wonder what makes Kogi so special. Well, for starters, the Kogi truck essentially launched the food truck revolution in Los Angeles, so you have them to thank for the gourmet offerings on Jefferson and McClintock. If that’s not enough to impress you, consider this: Roy Choi’s Kogi truck exemplifies the fusion that IS Los Angeles.
Spanish-speaking and Korean-speaking communities make up a significant portion of Los Angeles, particularly in the areas adjacent to USC. Bustling Koreatown is just a few miles away, and authentic tamales and pupusas are available for sale pretty much everywhere—even on our campus each Wednesday at the McCarthy Quad farmers’ market. Roy Choi was born in South Korea but grew up in Los Angeles, specifically South Central. The food he concocts for his Kogi trucks reflects the city in a bite, a effortless combination of two vastly different cultures. Thanks to Roy Choi, kimchi tacos are as popular as french fries. Well, maybe not quite, but more and more people becoming familiar with the combo and favor it as a go-to treat.
Fusion is a sticky subject among food lovers; it tends to stir up issues of authenticity. Roy Choi did grow up in a community where both authentic Korean and Latin flavors ruled, but does he have the right to repurpose the burrito—a staple of a culture not his own—to highlight Korean ingredients? The thing is, Roy Choi has always credited his creations to his community, emphasizing the role the city’s people have played in his flavor combinations. Though the burrito is not his own to repurpose, he sees his fusion as an expression of gratitude.
Even though I was born and raised in Los Angeles, I often feel like a stranger in my own city. As funny as this it might sound, I sometimes feel like tourists know more about Los Angeles than me, a native! This city is so large and has so many different sections that it seems like an impossible city to intimately know, especially for someone like me who tends to stick to her own backyard. So when my sister suggested that we go to one of Cinespia’s cemetery screenings, I decided to give it a go!
Cinespia is an organization that hosts screenings of classic films at the famous Hollywood Forever cemetery. They project old (and some newer) classic movies onto a large wall that is surrounded by a huge grassy lawn for people to lay out and watch the films. Most people bring picnic-style food and drinks to enjoy while watching the movie. My sister and I came prepared with an endless array of snacks and drinks so that we could maximize our experience. We arrived at the cemetery about an hour and a half before the movie began but, understanding the popularity of this summer event, we weren’t surprised to see that a long line had formed and was already spilling out onto Santa Monica Blvd. It was all worth it though once we got to the front and were allowed onto the grounds of Hollywood Forever. The area of the cemetery in which the films are projected is somewhat toward the back of the grounds; you actually have to walk through a portion of the cemetery in order to get to the final destination. Along the walk, I was drawn in and fascinated by all the over-the-top marble tombstones and mausoleums; some had effigies (or drawn likenesses) etched into the stone so that you could see what the deceased looked like when they were alive.