Berth 55, Joseph Lapin

I went back to Berth 55 on Pico, down at the Long Beach Port, to interview the owner for a story I’m writing.  What an experience.  I walk in, and he offers me a drink — I take a water — then he gives me three fish tacos.  On the house.  It was a great birthday present, and I didn’t even tell him it was my birthday.

Fish Tacos at Berth 55

Everything is fresh at Berth 55.  The fish comes right from their backyard.  In fact, I watched a woman walk in with her family, and, without any hesitation, she pulled three crabs out of a tank and brought them to the register.  I watched her pluck the crabs out by their legs.

So I talked to Larry, the owner, and he’s a great guy.  It’s a shame they’re trying to close them down.  That’s what my piece is going to be about, so I won’t go into too much detail.

But it was great, sitting on the back patio, talking to all the different types of people.  I spent about twenty minutes talking to a crew from an oil refinery.  You know, this is something I’ve always wanted to do with my life — go out into the community and listen to people’s stories.  Mostly, the people there are blue-collar workers — you know, people who work hard at a different type of labor.  It reminds me a lot of home.  It’s just a different speed, a different mindset, a different voice all together.  And there is a real story happening there.  I’m looking forward to writing it.  

But this side of Long Beach, the ports, the refineries, the hard-working industries, the unions, the seagulls hanging out on an empty landing, well, is what I want to write about. I want to learn more about this whole area.  And it’s probably because when most people across the country think of Southern California, they don’t think of industry.  They think of the beach.  They think of movie stars.  They think of sand and wearing sun glasses inside.  But take a look at some of these pictures.  This is the California I’m interested in.

And when it’s all said in done, I hope I can tell some this area’s stories.  Because as I was talking to some of these workers frustrated over losing a place they call home, I started to wonder, “Where was their voice heard?  Who spoke for them?”  They were frustrated.  They thought, once the government decided to take someone’s land, well, then there was no changing their mind.  That kind of upset me.

So I drove around the ports afterward, and I marveled at the machinery we have built along the coast.  There is good and bad to this.  I can’t even begin to negotiate these polarities.  And I took some more pictures.  Because there is beauty in work.  I would like to capture it someday.  As for tonight, I’m off to an Alabama-Shakes show in Pomona.  It’s my birthday!