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Streetwalkin' Times Woman

Check out Los Angeles Times pundit Mike Downey’s riff on L.A. street etiquette, propounded during last week’s post-convention spat between Philadelphia Mayor John F. Street and LAPD Chief Bernard Parks. Parks’ shtarkers had nabbed the out-of-towner’s aide, Shawn Fordham, for jaywalking, leading to one of those white-boys-in-blue vs. black-man-in-business-attire face-offs that become national news when a big-city mayor defends his staffer. The hometown scribe-chauvinist scolded the East Coast politico for bringing his hooligan habits to L.A. “Mayor Street should know that we don’t take that kind of thing lightly here,” Downey blustered. Indeed.

Then the columnist had this to say: “As my media colleague and fellow street-walker Patt Morrison alerted tourists prior to the convention . . . L.A. crosswalks are like hallowed ground.

“‘You’d recognize us in any city in the world,’” Downey went on to quote from a Morrison NPR commentary. “‘We’re the ones standing on a deserted street corner at midnight, patiently waiting for the WALK sign to turn . . .’” Now, read that again carefully, out loud: “street-walker . . . ‘standing on a deserted street corner at midnight’ . . .”

What was Mike Downey thinking? He’s on vacation. But Morrison, the chapeau-wearing, self-proclaimed Times tout of British decorum, cheerily offered this explanation: “I’m sure it was intended to be a single entendre.” We are too. —Greg Goldin

Politically Incorrect

In addition to traffic gridlock and a (hopefully) temporary police-state apparatus, the late and largely unlamented Democratic National Convention brought to downtown Los Angeles a veritable township in the form of some 150 modular buildings, set up for extra office space. Spying the minihamlet one convention morning, L.A. Unified Board of Education member David Tokofsky thought he had found at least a tiny part of the solution to the district’s horrendous, and seemingly intractable, classroom crunch. Surely the Dems would have no further need for the single-story portables — modular buildings are just about the only answer the district has come up with for its overcrowding problems.

At Tokofsky’s request, the district looked into purchasing the buildings from the DNC. Unfortunately, it wasn’t in the cards. The DNC was leasing the modulars from GE Capital at four to six times the going monthly rate, according to one district source. And the buildings didn’t conform to the specs for classrooms.

In fact, L.A. Unified, which is seemingly incapable of finding uncontaminated land or the money to pay for new school sites, has literally moved up from the unilevel-portable business. The action now is entirely in two-story portables, which are indeed in short supply. The one-story jobs are a dime a dozen. To wit: “The district is installing one one-story modular unit [at two classrooms per modular] every day, 365 days of the year,” said a LAUSD source. Only the best for our children, eh?

—Christie Lafranchi

El Sancho

He strikes fear in the heart of the toughest macho man. Mysterious and deceitful, “El Sancho,” in pop Latino culture, is the guy who seduces your wife.

But now, El Sancho has met his match in Enrique Santa Cruz, a former water-delivery driver turned writer, whose first book, Las Aventuras del Sancho (The Adventures of El Sancho), aims to unmask the shadowy ways of this age-old scourge.

A blend of self-help and witty anecdotes, Las Aventuras narrates 18 real-life cases of adultery among Latinas. The stories were selected out of hundreds of interviews Santa Cruz conducted while working as a delivery man for Sparkletts in communities like South Gate and Cudahy.

Self-published and -distributed, the book can be found in most L.A. bookstores that carry Spanish-language books. The photograph on the cover is of the author and his wife locked in a voluptuous embrace.

Though sales are still in the hundreds-of-copies range in the meager local Spanish-language book market, Las Aventuras is moving more briskly than most books, said Ana Morello, the owner of Westlake’s Ana’s News.

“The customers, who are mostly men, seem to be morbidly attracted to it,” Morello said.

Santa Cruz’s fascination with El Sancho began when he was reunited with a former high school friend. Once lively and successful, his friend had turned into a downtrodden alcoholic, and he blamed his troubles on his wife’s adultery.

“After that, I became interested in the motives a woman would have to get involved in an extramarital affair. In a man, it is taken for granted that he will at one time or another be unfaithful, but in a woman . . .,” Santa Cruz said. “I wanted to show a portrait of El Sancho: to reveal the way how to discover or unmask him.”

And what Santa Cruz discovered was surprising. El Sancho is a far cry from the Casanova, Latin-lover stereotype, Santa Cruz said. In his book, women reveal the mysterious seducer to be their husbands’ best friends or brothers, or young, charitable churchgoing fellow parishioners.

“Many men think that El Sancho is the seductive stranger his wife might meet whenever he is not around,” Santa Cruz said. “But in most cases, El Sancho is someone the husband knows, even someone he completely trusts.”

Often, husbands push their wives into the arms of El Sancho by making them feel misunderstood or lacking in love. But there is hope for husbands, Santa Cruz said. Dropping the macho act, becoming good listeners and being more attentive are their best weapons.

“To keep love’s flame alive, the couple must imagine that they have a piggy bank that must be filled with a daily ration of words of love and compliments,” Santa Cruz said. “By following this simple advice, you can keep your wife from falling into the hands of El Sancho.” —Joseph Treviño

Homegirl Hors D’Oeuvres

Martha Ortega is not your typical catering waitress. In fact, her attire — jeans, sneakers and a T-shirt reading Homeboy — would have been more at home in her Boyle Heights neighborhood than in the elegant and historic Bradbury Building, where she circulated with plates of quesadillas with pineapple and guacamole, hummus dip, and salsa with pita crackers last Saturday evening.

Ortega, 19, was one of a number of current and former gang members volunteering at the $50-a-ticket benefit for Homeboy Bakery, one of the few anti-gang business success stories in L.A., before faulty wiring burned the building to the ground last year. Started by the legendary gang interventionist Father Gregory Boyle, Homeboy opened in 1992 as a tortilla factory, then branched into making French and Italian bread for hotel and restaurant distribution. It was a place where warring gangs could put aside their differences and earn money. The benefit, which also featured a sale of Latino-themed paintings by Los Angeles artist Sylvia Moss, was an attempt to get the business back on its feet. On hand were heavyweights including Sheriff Lee Baca, David Crosby’s wife, Jan, and Antonio Villaraigosa.

“It is for a good cause,” said Ortega, who is currently on probation after serving a one-year sentence in Juvenile Hall for beating up another gang girl. “It has helped people like myself stay off the streets.”

A few hours into her work, Ortega took a break to tell how working for Homeboy Industries 40 hours a week has changed the way she looks at things, although she insisted that she would not give up her gang ties. “Instead of gangbanging, it gives you something to look forward to,” she said as she tried to peer into OffBeat’s notebook. What are your future goals? we asked. “Just to see tomorrow,” she said matter-of-factly. Later, she added, she would like to finish college and become a gang counselor like Father Boyle.

—Christine Pelisek

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