miguel carvante baby photo.jpg

Miguel Carvente: A Better Life, A Paranormal City

KCET Departures asks, "What's your or your family's Los Angeles arrival story?"

Today, we hear from Miguel Carvente, a teaching assistant at UCLA.

"My mom, Maria Hernandez, migrated to Los Angeles after her older brothers told her of the better life she could make for my older sister and myself.

"From Puebla, we took a long bus ride to Tijuana, where we had an extended stay in a hotel in a neighborhood so dreary that nobody shut an eye for days on end. Eventually, after many sleepless nights, I climbed into a light brown 1979 Chevy Nova that clicked and sputtered as my padrino whispered to it, asking it to make it not fail him on this trip.

"As I shut my eyes and at long last fell asleep, I woke up five hours later in the bright lights and busy bustle of Downtown Los Angeles.

"My first memories of Los Angeles encompass a defunct residential building smack in the middle of Downtown, accessible only by one of four alleys. I vaguely remember the building's location; I was five years old and so everything, from the lowly two-story building to anything bigger, seemed gigantic in my eyes.

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"Because I was recreationally restricted, I spent my time playing with my older sister, Nancy, opening bag upon bag of bolis and spraying each other on the emergency stairs.
Shouts of ten cuidado -- "be careful" -- kept us safe from harm.

"Sadly, every night, the fun ended when darkness overtook the day. Few people maintained residence in the building because, as I discovered at the age of five, the existence of the paranormal.

"The shower and toilet in the building could be heard going off at all hours of the day -- which at face value was normal, until you realized that no one in your family was in the bathroom. Vertical, horizontal and diagonal shadows paraded the hallways, going from one end of portal to the other but somehow getting lost and appearing again the next day.

"My mom said we moved to La Estrella -- 'The Star' -- because we would be moving in with my uncles; she said that we would be more comfortable because their apartment was slightly bigger than our Downtown home. It was; there was room enough to comfortably place two mattresses on the floor in an extra large closet and space immediately facing the front door.

Miguel Carvente, visiting Yosemite National Park in July 2010. Photo by Laura Enriquez

"I lived in La Estrella for 11 years -- elementary, middle and high school. I lived southwest of the crossroads where the 10 meets the 110. My own park, el parque, hugged the southbound railings of the 110 and invited us to play in its sands, grasses, dirt and paths. It was here that I first learned to ride my bike by crashing into a big tree. More than that, the green space that hugged the 110 was a wilderness we often traversed to play war games with our homemade bottle cap and rubber band throwers -- craft fully made by idle hands, too much time and little supervision.

"In La Estrella, I confirmed my belief of the existence of the paranormal. At night, diligent sweepers attacked the dust at two and three o'clock in the morning. Footsteps rumbled in the hallway only to dissipate halfway through. Living on the third floor of my building, I was captivated and horrified of opening the apartment door, or even my eyes, lest I invite the unknown into my home.

"After I graduated high school I moved out of La Estrella to different parts of Los Angeles: Washington and Vermont, Hooper and 33rd, 32nd and Naomi, 33rd and Orchard, and now, Venice and Overland. I stay in Los Angeles because this is my home; here my fascination with the paranormal became real and a daily occurrence.

"For example: my younger sister Betty received a singing doll for her third birthday. She carried that doll when she went to the park, when she went the store, when she played in the hallways with her friends, in the bath and when she brushed her teeth.

"Over the course of the years until my sister turned ten, the doll's head had but a few strands of hair, dreadlocked and precariously holding on. The doll's right eye had been gauged out when my sister took a liking to surgery and wanted to discover the anatomy of her beloved. The bright yellow dress that covered the doll had been washed and dried so many times that it slowly disintegrated into the air.

"Of course, the wiring that made it sing a melody of jumbled words, 'Ambam bam, I live e-bambambam,' stopped working the first time my sister threw it in the washing machine at the laundromat on Hoover and 21st.

"Looking at that decrepit, dirty, ragged one-eyed doll struck fear in my heart. I often refused to go to the bathroom at night, opting instead to hold it until somebody else got up first.

"One summer day, Betty went to Mexico to visit our grandparents. She left her doll. As my mom cleaned the apartment, the doll burst into song. My mom took the doll and said, 'I know you miss your owner, but she'll be back soon.'

"She carried it and placed it in the bed. After walking away from the bed, she looked back and stared at the doll, walked back towards it, turned it around, and opened the back compartment that held the batteries, hoping to find four AA batteries powering the singing. To her surprise, she found the compartment empty.

"Immediately, she hurled the doll towards the bathroom and ran out of the apartment. She did not return until my uncle Jorge, who lived with us at the time, came from work and disposed of the doll, which he found silently sitting on the bed.

"When I move to a new part of town, the first thing I do is search for the unseen in hopes of expanding my repertoire of unique experiences that I am fortunate to have because I live in Los Angeles."

Top Photo: Miguel Carvente as a baby, in Mexico. Photo by Maria Sara Hernandez

Do you or someone you know have a great Los Angeles Arrival Story to share? If so, then contact Jeremy Rosenberg via: arrivalstory AT gmail DOT com

About the Author

Jeremy Rosenberg is a Los Angeles-based writer, editor, and consultant whose work has appeared in various books, magazines, newspapers, and online.
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