Main Street, South L.A.-Style.

Oh, Snap! 90th and Main, photo: sahra.

When election seasons heat up, politicians are often quick to assure constituents that they represent Main Street, not Wall Street. But they way they conceptualize of “Main Street” has very little relation to an actual urban Main Street, such as ours. Wouldn’t you love to see Mitt Romney getting a bacon-wrapped hot dog from a street vendor? Or stopping in a 99-cent store in the heart of South L.A.? Or Obama popping into the soul food place that bears his tagged-up visage? Where are those photo ops?

Cheers, a Soul Food Cafe. Photo: sahra

I was thinking about some of these things as I rode down Main St. to Century Blvd. yesterday. I had spent the afternoon speaking with Jamecca Marshall of the Advancement Project about the possibility of supporting their efforts to reduce gangs’ vice-like grips on the housing project developments in Watts and needed to blow off a little steam.

I figured Smokey the Bear could help clear my mind a bit. There are at least four billboards within a twenty-block stretch along Main where he accusatorily finger-points at residents and informs them that only they can prevent wildfires.

Which is ironic, given that South L.A. is distinctly lacking in both trees and parks.

Smokey warns residents not to set their trees on fire. 99th and Main, photo: sahra.

As I rode, the many colorful, hand-painted storefronts that mark much of South L.A. lightened my mood. I recalled a piece by the folks at OnCentral that was rather dismissive of home-grown storefront signage in the area. While I understand where they were coming from, I disagreed with the larger argument that such signage could be bad for business. In contrast, much of the home-made signage brightens and adds character to streets that the City often neglects. I find many of the places much warmer and more inviting because of the care that owners have taken to decorate their stores.

I’ll let you be the judge.

Before and After. An auto-body repair shop at 84th Pl. and Main, run by two super-nice Nigerian guys, David and BJ. Photo: sahra.
Sometimes the children's characters depicted are more creepy than cuddly. But it is still better than a blank wall. Photo: sahra.
Welcome to your vitamins! Gage and S. Main, photo: sahra
Restaurante Salvadoreño. Gage and S. Main, photo: sahra.
La Mas Meat Pollo. Even the graffiti ("Only Us Remain") is equally cryptic and existential. Photo: sahra
Jesus makes an appearance at the mini-market. Photo: sahra
Someone's not a fan of Bugs Bunny. 54th and Main, photo: sahra
Ice, Ice Baby. And other things. 51st and Main, photo: sahra
Heavenly Carolina's. 49th and Main, photo: sahra.
Alexa's spices up the street. 42nd and Main, photo: sahra.


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