Beats And Rhymes: The 562

My audio poem "The 562" is my tribute to Long Beach and a companion piece to the essay I wrote about the San Gabriel River in early May. Read that piece for more history. The poem is my ode to not only Long Beach but the entire Southeastern quadrant of Los Angeles County, better known as a region by its area code, 562.

Before going to UCLA in 1992, I spent my formative years in Cerritos. I was born in Long Beach at St. Mary's Hospital on Atlantic near Anaheim Street . My parents went to Long Beach State and my recently retired mom taught elementary school in Long Beach for 35 years, especially around North Long Beach. I took many long walks and bike rides with my grandfather around the LBC. More recently I have performed poetry at Long Beach venues like the Bixby Knolls First Friday Art Walk and organized events at the legendary Blue Nile Café on Broadway and Open Books on 4th Street. Around the same time I connected with Long Beach musicians like the Visionaries, Josh One and Prach Ly. For all these reasons and more, I love Long Beach.

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Long Beach's relation to Los Angeles is comparable to Baltimore and Washington DC or San Francisco and Oakland. Though these cities are in the shadow of a larger neighbor, they are epic in their own right. Long Beach's 51 square miles are defined by districts and neighborhoods every bit as colorful as LA. Dynamic pockets include the East Village Arts District, Cambodiatown, Bixby Knolls, Belmont Shore, Belmont Heights, California Heights, Naples, Willmore City, the Wrigley, Los Altos, Downtown, the 4th Street Corridor aka Retro Row, the Traffic Circle, Terminal Island, North Long Beach, West Long Beach, Carroll Park, Shoreline Drive, Virginia Country Club, Rose Park and El Dorado Park Estates. Long Beach is packed with bustling boulevards, cultural diversity and historic architecture. One result of the 1933 Earthquake centered in Long Beach is the widespread use of Art Deco because it was the prevailing style when the city was rebuilt.

The 562 is a nexus:

A suburban, urban cross-section..

A small town big city,

affluent, yet gritty,

The 562 is somewhere between

Hollywood & Irvine,

Santa Monica & Anaheim..

The 562 is a good time 'cuz

its people are down to Earth..

Blessed by birth to be born

Where the vibes are warm,

Catch that cool ocean breeze

Blowing in from the beach.

The clouds come from the south

As the coast winds

around the peninsula of Palos Verdes..

A few years ago Mike Davis told Tyler Reeb of the Long Beach Business Journal, "Of any area in Los Angeles County that offers a canvas to create a genuinely new exciting urbanism, the opportunities are in Long Beach." Considering the dense city's inherent walkability, historic architecture, new bike lanes, forthcoming wetland improvement and other unfolding developments, it is easy to see Davis's logic.
The temperature is perfect..

This land was once marshlands & Willow thickets,

Intercepted by the L.A River,

Now surfers & grandparents kick it..

The 562 is all-American multicultural,

Folks from Iowa to Cambodia,

El Salvador to Ethiopia,

Aviation Okies & the aerospace industry..

Denizens OF Long Beach

Groove to Snoop Dogg & Sublime,

Garage rock & Freestyle rhyme..

On the streets of Long Beach

you can find oil in Signal Hill,

Broadway's alternative lifestyles-

Art in the Sat Village, Downtown lofts &

Rockabilly chillers!

How many Poly players are in the NFL?!

From Joe Jost's to the Prospector,

Cohiba to The Blue Cafe,

Drinking Sangria on a hot day,

Barflies cruise from

the 49er to Belmont Shore,

Fern's to the V-Room.

The 562 is a window into the future

with lots of history..

Like the powerful earthquake of '33,

The Pike is the place to be,

We salute Cameron Diaz

& her flavorful family..

Respect to Lakewood, Cerritos,

Bellflower, Paramount, Downey,

Cudahy, South Gate, Compton

to damn near Bell Gardens..

Not to be confused

with the 310,

This is The 562!

In the middle of So. Cal,

but its own little world,

It's another beautiful day

at El Dorado Park,

in the place of my birth

& the home of my heart...

This is the 562.

Here's to Long Beach and the 562. Like the San Fernando Valley, South Bay, the Inland Empire, Orange County, the San Gabriel Valley and other Southern California pockets, it is a vital slice in the vibrant topography of LA Letters.

About the Author

Third-generation Angeleno Mike "The Poet" Sonksen is a poet, journalist, historian, tour guide, and teacher.
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