You've got about 36 hours of quality Christmas shopping time left before the Big X. Cut to the chase by going to Santee Alley — which, legend has it, was created by an old Russian nobleman, Count Knockoff. Here you can buy cheap while sucking in the urban experience, Blade Runner-style. Down this mean alley a man must go, and I've been going here since the early 1980s for last-minute bargains. I still haven't discerned a pattern to the the shops but have learned to enjoy the sheer chaos of it all — a chaos perfumed by illegally frying bacon and onions that are quickly scooped onto hot dogs and sausages.
These are the three shouts you're most likely to hear:
“Cinco Dolares! Check It Out! Good only for today!”
This holiday season there are a trillion and one Barack Obama
items (T-shirts, hoodies, bags), lots of tees emblazoned with phrases
that tend to include the words “Krazy” and “Pink,” though I've yet to
see anything that reads “Krazy in Pink.” And, of course, guayabera
The kid with the elephantine feet still stands in the
middle of the alley, sometimes you'll be blasted by a Spanish-language
evangelical and none of the vendors will let you take their picture. At
the newer south end there's a pet store, a Mexicano wrestler-stuff
guy and several places where you can buy toy AK-47s.
(Try not to walk into an LAPD station with these to complain about a
I recommend starting out at the south end of the
alley, between Pico Blvd. and 13th
Street (where all the sweatshirts for ghouls, bangers, Razas and
regular joggers are concentrated.) This way, you won't be staring into
the sun while you elbow your way past what seems to be half of Los
Angeles and parts of Beverly Hills.
Survival Kit: Pringles, sodas, WD-40, bongs, cock lighters and Ajax.