Arrival Story: Ruben Mendoza | KCET
Arrival Story: Ruben Mendoza
KCET Departures asks, "What's your or your family's Los Angeles arrival story?"
Today, we hear from writer and educator Ruben Mendoza:
"It's been almost twenty years since I first came to Los Angeles. I came to go to school at USC."
"I remember my first day here. My mother drove me down from East San Jose, where we lived, and helped me move into the dorms in Fluor Tower.
"The next day I took her to LAX. It was a very emotional moment because she was leaving me on my own for the first time in my life, and she was going back home.
"The plan was that I was going back to San Jose when I finished with school here. But I think she intuitively knew that was not going to happen.
"I remember I dropped her off at the airport, and suddenly and I was faced with the immensity of this massive, mysterious, sprawling entity of Los Angeles and all of these millions of people. And suddenly, I was here alone.
"I thought the only way I'm going to be able to grasp this was to lose myself and dissolve into it. So I did. I left LAX and I purposely got lost driving. I drove for hours and hours all over LA. I had no idea where I was. I remember driving through all these different parts, and only years later did I realize where I'd been.
"At one point I think I wound up driving near the beach. I was in South Central and Culver City. I even wound up in Topanga Canyon - I don't know how.
"I remember thinking, as long as I could find the freeway, I could find my way back. And I did. Eventually I found the freeway. I wound up in the Valley, and somehow I got back to USC, late at night.
"Over these twenty years, I've come to feel that this city has become a part of who I am. It's really shaped me; it's embedded in me. At the same time, I've become part of the city.
"So I know it now like a dream almost. It's all there in my head. I move around the city and navigate with a kind of instinct now.
"But at the same time, there are some days that I feel as lost and as in the dark as I was that first day. Through it all, though, my mother has been there, always helping me from back home any way she could."
-- Ruben Mendoza
(as provided to Jeremy Rosenberg)
Photo: Courtesy Ruben Mendoza