VERY LA: Inside the Melrose Trading Post

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Courtesy of @MTPfairfax

On the corner of Melrose and Fairfax an eclectic group of Los Angelinos set up shop in the parking lot of the local high school. To them, it’s just a regular Sunday of selling handmade graphics of Star Wars’ C-3PO meshed with Barack Obama and bartering for The Plays of Shakespeare, book-turned-clock.   

The pop up flea market that has inhabited the blacktop of Fairfax High School is the urban Melrose Trading Post. The post, which is a center for vintage fashion, handcrafted goods, and other unique items, has been making its name on the list of things to-do while in the city.  At the Melrose Trading post, a keen eye could find the missing piece to a collection of crystalline rocks or the decorative picture frame for a studio.

The Melrose Trading Post can be recognized for its lively yet mellow crowd. A colorful audience of different cultures reflects the unique, special valuables of the vendors. Around the corner a trio of women have a conversation in Japanese and within just a few steps a British pair contemplates buying leather shoes. The attendees were young enough to walk through the market on their own and old enough to reminisce on fashion styles of the 70’s.  The absence of police officers showed the tranquility of the post.

Established in 1997, the Melrose Trading Post has grown into a financial support system for Fairfax High School. The post has awarded the home of the Lions with funds for new sporting equipment and other projects benefiting the schools programs.

“We are a non-profit organization,” said Pierson Blaetz, Co-Founder and Artistic Director of the Melrose Trading Post.

Blaetz is part of the Greenway Arts Alliance program that unites communities through art, education, and enterprise. This specific role aids the theater program at the high school and supports their future productions.

A $5 admission fee is the backbone to the financial aid the school receives but still offers free parking. Along with the grants, the market provides student employment opportunities.

Albert Zarzau, 16, is a part of the student staff and was working with graduates to direct the staff what tasks needed to be done that day. He said that student staffers are required to clean tables, assist in parking, and help move items from one place to another. Their red crew work shirts distinguished these students from guests.

“I like it here because it takes effort in this job to get things accomplished,” said Zarzau. “[Everything] looks great today.”

Alongside the staffers are vendors who contribute to the bohemian ambiance of the post. At the Los Angeles Tea Company booth, where organic tea and fresh herbs are blended, Erin Wieczorek, 22 and co-owner, sold $5 bottles of green tea.

“It’s awesome meeting new people here but the best thing about [the Melrose Trading Post] is to people watch,” said Wieczorek. “It’s interesting to see what people are wearing in L.A.”

In between a tent featuring baby blue table furniture and another tent with prints of Milhouse Van Houten was Matt Warren’s booth. Warren, 33, owner of The Exiled Elite, a custom design and illustration company, took his passion for art from the United Kingdom to California. His products include hand drawn alternative-movie posters that were sold as prints or t-shirts.

He said about the trading post, “when no one turns up on hot days like these or there is an event, that’s kind of frustrating. But even if you don’t get many sales, it’s still good for exposure.”

Warren uses the slow days to his advantage.

“I still get to see what kind of people buy my stuff and age group- which kind of designs are the most popular, so they are the ones I can get.”

So far his top sellers have been prints of the films Amelie, Point Break, and Pulp Fiction. Tees of these prints cost $25 while copies of the print $18.

“We do not have a lot of competition, ” said Blaetz. “[But] we are an outdoor market so weather does affect us.”

Hot or rainy days attract fewer customers but when it’s overcast, more customers visit the post, according to Blaetz. His only solution would be setting up a tent that stretches over the market but because of space and monetary restrictions the staff opted out.

Just up a set of stairs across from Warren’s booth and past a flock of food trucks was the main stage for musical performances. Laid out carpets and small lunch tables invited attendees to watch punk band, Girl Fry’s first performance at the post.   

Alex Si, 25-year-old bass player, and band mate Jessy Espino, 25-year-old vocalist of Girl Fry, shared similar opinions of their first experience at the trading post.

“I wish they hadn’t kept telling us to turn certain things up and put certain things down. It made it difficult to play consistently,” said Espino. “But I kinda like the outdoor thing.”

“Yeah, it was the first time we played outside,” said Si.  

The female fronted band simultaneously agreed on returning again to perform- except this time with a sound guy.

Milli Dawson, 29, born and raised in Los Angeles, has been attending the Melrose Trading Post for the past 10 years. His style manifests the modernity of the city and showcases his sense of individualism.

“It’s a place to inspire, a place to find things you won’t find normally,” said Dawson. “It’s part of L.A.”

**This article was written in the past for a previous assignment, some start up organizations or brands may no longer be up to date

Ode to Los Angeles

El Mercadito

I woke up today with a craving for the city. In its name the Spaniards once called the small pueblo something related to the angels. As divine intervention would have it, the pueblo grew into a city of mestizos and Americans and its origins boomed into one of the greatest places for cultural diversity. Then when the second World War hit, a young Mexican man served his duty defending civil rights and left to a world unknown. He came back to the United States with his indigenous wife and the two planted the Salas family tree in Los Angeles.

I developed my relationship with this city in the womb. I was born in Garfield Medical Center but was stripped from the urban jungle and taken to the suburbs in the nineties. My father, a baby boomer spawn of the fifties, always took my siblings and I back to where he came from, showing us every different house he lived in and every different memory that came with it. I remember never understanding how large the city was because my father always knew every street corner, every exit and every short cut of the municipality. Los Angeles was etched into the map of his internal system, like every boulevard and avenue were the routes directing his veins throughout his body and every landmark was a functioning organ. I am convinced he can navigate Los Angeles better than he can navigate his iPhone.

Somewhere in between East L.A. and El Monte I first heard the word Chicano. Then I heard it again when I saw Selena for the first time. I was confused, unaware of the differences what it means to be Mexican and what it means to be Chicano. Before I knew what an identity crisis was, I was already in it. But the city had so much to tell about both ways of living. Through Los Angeles I discovered cultural roots in Olvera Street and was struck by the burst of colors of ornaments and crafts that brought back faint memories of a trip to Guadalajara in my youth. I learned empathy for immigrants who refresh our definition of diversity and enjoy the fruits of their street vending, literally. Just like my father, I became a sports fanatic of the purple and gold and the boys in blue and just like him I verbally abuse my tv when they play. We became accustomed to carne asada on Saturdays and menudo on Sundays, también always finding time for a chelada on the weekends. I found a happy medium being Chicana-Latina-Hispanic-Mexican-American and an Angeleno in the mix.

Something about Los Angeles’s mysticism calls me; never knowing what it feels to be a true inhabitant of its county lines but always wondering what it has to offer. Once I started working near the city I reached half a goal I set for myself- to work and live in L.A. The commute is just as bad as you imagine but at least my heart has found where ‘X’ marks the spot. When I leave the city parameters and see downtown disappear from a magnificent set of skyscrapers to a object of nothingness in my rearview mirror, I feel dejected and again, I’m sitting alone in traffic.

I’ll admit it, it even upsets me when I meet out of staters that live in the city that I should be living in. Maybe now is not my time, but one day I’ll be there.

Los Angeles, I love you.

Hill St & Broadway

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After spending the holidays with my lover, I decided to spend some time with my lover of 12 years. So, my best friend Stephanie and I left the suburbs and trekked to the city where my heart longs to be, Los Angeles.

I spent the day daydreaming about a fabulous life in downtown, walking in my 6 inch Timberland Glancy boots, repping my giant gold hoop earrings, eating at the Grand Central Market during the lunch rush hour.

While enjoying my seafood paella I realized that three weeks into 2018 my personal goals have never been more adamant. Stephanie and I made a list of resolutions for us to have and to meet for the new year: to loyal friendships and relationships, to career growth, to new travels, and to a bigger wallet.

Already, I feel something inside me changing. I feel celestial but also earthly, like the moon guiding the current of the ocean and the waves creeping back and forth onto the shore. Like I’m finding the happy medium with the person I’m becoming.

I found solace in Amy Winehouse’s lyrics and admiration in Frida Kahlo’s photography. I also have a regeneration in self help using cooking and exercise as my therapy sessions. 

I worry less about what my significant other does on social media and have little to no worry at all about his past relationships. I’ve advanced in not jumping the gun when it comes to dating. Taking things slow and at my own pace. In return, I’ve found my heart growing in all different directions.

If 2016 was the “Year of Yes” and 2017 was the “Year of Uncertainty,” then 2018 is the “Year of Self.”

Making lists and writing things down help organize my thoughts so here are just some things I’ve jotted down for 2018.

-Plan a trip to NYC (Xmas time or earlier, watch a game at MSG or Yankee Stadium, drink a Manhattan in Manhattan)

-Buy a Nikon camera for blog

-Plan a trip to Vegas for Cinco de Mayo or go to Miami for my birthday

-Write about makeup and politics and how they’re intertwined; write a piece for Los Angeles Affairs

-Learn how to make paella and attempt to make it once

-Stop saying “lol” in texts

Fin!