I’ve blogged before about my roots in Boyle Heights Los Angeles. And as the saying goes, you can get the boy out of the barrio but not the barrio out of the boy. And so I remain drawn to stories from the neighborhood, especially the good ones about its people, its memories. The Los Angeles Times is blessed with one of the more talented story-tellers in Hector Becerra, also a son of Boyle Heights and a graduate of Roosevelt High School.
Hector’s stories have a way of making an impression, a lasting one. I thought of an especially touching one last week when I shared it with a couple of colleagues after first ruminating about what it means to have a connection to ourselves and to a community, and to those who make up the myriad life experience that is our mortal coil. The account this time was from December 2009 and it was about Eddie Goldstein, also a son from the ‘hood, “One Of A Kind In Boyle Heights.”
Hector’s bona fides in being from a neighborhood he intimately knows give authenticity to what he writes about. That authenticity is evidenced throughout his superbly drawn and poignant biography of then 76-year old Eddie Goldstein.
Eddie, a Jewish man with “a lilting East L.A. accent,” a long time friend of Armenian Art Manassian, and who though Jewish, is a compadre to many, stayed in the Boyle Heights neighborhood as it transformed itself from heterogeneous Jewish, Japanese, and now Mexican immigrant Los Angeles neighborhood.
The story is mostly about Eddie and how he stayed because he became deeply wedded, literally and figuratively, to his beloved Esther Guzman, a devoutly Catholic Mexican-American girl he knew growing up and who he married in the early 60’s. And while Esther passed on in 2004, Eddie remains and cherishes how she kept him “connected to the Jewish side of his life” while at the same time uniquely enriching his cultural identity so much so that he felt “like I had Mexican blood in me.”
It’s a story about staying connected to who you are and in Eddie’s case, not only to his Jewishness, but to his shul and to the people who became his people. It’s a story worth reading because it helps us understand the best of who we become as we define and redefine our own ‘melting pot’ memories.