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I was walking along Freedom Boulevard, in Freedom, Calif., looking for a photocopy store when I saw veterans selling fireworks for the Fourth of July. I then found out this area was formerly called Whiskey Hill, with the current name more about leaving behind its Wild West days than patriotism.

Independence Day this year fell on a Saturday, and the day before I got a chauffeuring job to rural Santa Cruz. Between dropping off and picking up, I ran a couple errands, but really had a few hours to kill. So instead of driving I walked.

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That’s when I saw Michael Baker, commander of The American Legion Post 121, with several others at their fireworks stand. Around the holiday, many community groups in California get permission to sell so-called “safe and sane” fireworks like sparklers and fountains. They don’t explode like firecrackers or shoot up like rockets, which are illegal everywhere in the state. With the backdrop of Freedom and veterans, I wanted to get a shot. Baker, a Vietnam War veteran dressed as Uncle Sam, was more than happy to talk about their group, stand and how things have been going. Last year they got $3,200, split between two groups. This year there are concerns with the drought. They unfortunately can only do cash since their credit card machine was not up, and a lot of groups got permits to operate, cutting the profits. Freedom may only be a few thousand people large, but everywhere has a story.

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A few blocks away I found the local photocopy store I saw in the phone book, but it was closed, probably because of the holiday. On the outside wall of a nearby bar and grill, a Pajaro Valley Historical Association, Monterey Viejo Chapter 1846, E Clampus Vitus plaque read “violence, hangings, drinking, and bull and bear fights were part of daily life” in what was formerly Whiskey Hill. Looking into it more, I learned it also had a reputation for brothels, and in 1877 the name was changed to Freedom in hopes of changing the image. The social issues with waves of young men during California’s early days wasn’t limited to here, but I had never heard of it being so connected to town names.

Since I was driving, I did not try the whiskey, and didn’t have a lot of time to look into the history further. But still an interesting first time in Freedom/Whiskey Hill.

Unfortunately I didn’t have time to get my photo of the plaque, but this is one I found online.

Yellow Curry Chicken

Curry chicken was a staple growing up. Besides its spicy comfort, especially with potatoes over rice, ga-lee gai makes the perfect at-home leftovers for enjoying the whole week. In fact, I suggest waiting at least a day for the flavors to soak in before making fresh rice. So when the Golden State Warriors won their first NBA title in 40 years, with star player Steph Curry, it was time to share the recipe. This dish is paired with blue margaritas to also honor the team’s colors, and add sweet and sour to an already complex mix of flavors. This also goes well with darker beers to draw out the richness.

Ingredients

* One whole chicken (or enough parts to serve four to five people)

* Three onions

* Six to eight potatoes

* Six to eight carrots

* One-half to three-quarters cup curry powder

* Two habaneros or other peppers

* Three-quarter teaspoon salt, or to taste

* Water

Directions

Cut chicken into parts and chop onions. Heat pot with some oil and put in onions. Put in chicken. Peel carrots and potatoes. Cut into pieces, chop peppers and put in pot. Add curry powder, salt and water. After 45 minutes the dish will be done, but I suggest letting it cool, even overnight, before reheating and making rice to put it over. It’ll let the flavors soak into the chicken and potatoes.

Blue Margaritas

Fill shaker with ice.
Add 2 oz. tequila, 1 oz. lime juice, 1 oz. blue curacao, 2 tsp. sugar.
Shake hard and pour into glass of choice.

After three years of drought, a heavy storm hit the San Francisco Bay Area the other day. There was street flooding, downed trees, and traffic accidents. There was a lot of hype, and it even got hashtags including #HellaStorm. I got some video of San Francisco Chinatown, North Beach and the Financial District. Thousands were without power, and businesses closed. It’s not the most visually exciting video, but what else was I going to do on a boring rainy day than edit video.

By Eric Louie

Last night I saw people dropping bottles off roofs to stop others trying to break the building’s windows. The cab driver who got me home said in his country there’s riots every five years, when someone overthrows the government.

Born and raised in San Francisco, it has been amazing to see the Giants win their third World Series championship since 2010. They had never won one since moving from New York in 1958.

Along with that has come the sports tradition of trashing cities. I had stayed in for the deciding Game 7, watching it at my grandma’s house, which I believe gave the team the support they needed to win. Afterwards, when the celebrations led to smashed windows, fireworks and fires, Ruptly TV wanted video.

With the bus system stopped (in 2012 busses were smashed during the celebration), my dad drove me to the Mission. There had also been a couple shootings and a stabbing. Police in riot gear were moving the crowd along. Bottles were being thrown at the cops from the back of the crowd, with a lot of them landing closer to the partiers. There was graffiti including some directed towards the rich techies that have been gentrifying the neighborhood, and some shouting against police in general, but many more were just cheering for the team. Eventually the crowd dispersed, and I took a cab since the busses were just starting to get back running.

Here’s some video I took.

Flogging is demonstrated at the Folsom Street Fair on Sunday, Sept. 21, 2014. By Eric Louie

Flogging is demonstrated at the Folsom Street Fair on Sunday, Sept. 21, 2014. By Eric Louie

Each year, college started with started multiple San Francisco State University photojournalism students taking this assignment. Yesterday, nearly twice a lifetime later, I got to shoot it.

This is one of those uniquely San Francisco experiences that words can’t describe. So check out this video I did.

 

By Eric Louie

Yesterday I worked for Ruptly news getting video of Betty Chu, a Morgan Hill, California resident and retired economics professor from San Jose State University who is also a prize-winning rabbit breeder.

Known for her French and English angoras, she breeds them for their long hair. She both enters them in competitions and makes scarves, gloves and other items from their wool. She said there is no money to be made, as it will typically cost $6 to enter a rabbit competition only to win a few dollars in return, but she enjoys the friendship and camaraderie of others. She was born in Shanghai and also lived in Hong Kong and Taipei where there was little space to raise animals before coming to the United States and having the space to raise them.

Chu started with French Lops, and moved to her current breeds the following year. The American Rabbit Breeders Association has about 23,000 members. The video I got was on Sunday, July 13, 2014 when she competed in a California Rabbit and Cavy Shows Inc. competition at the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds in nearby Watsonville.

 

Happy Chinese Lunar New Year!

I’m happy to also say I recently finished a video production certificate from the Bay Area Video Coalition, learning the basics of operating cameras, sound, lighting, editing and producing a final product. It was paid for through the California Training Benefits/Workforce Investment Act to help displaced workers from when I got laid off as a newspaper reporter at the Contra Costa Times.

In thinking about the end to the year of the snake, which happens to be my sign, I realized the value of laying low. It was a tough year for many around me, and there were higher expectations in the post-2012 apocalypse. But like the snake, you can overcome limitations by being set up for big things to happen, and striking when the opportunity arises. Besides the video program and working in journalism in ways I never imagined, including shooting for an internationally broadcast TV station, this year also brought other opportunities to look forward to in the next year. I picked up more work as a fine food catering waiter to fill the gaps of being a freelance journalist, and became a bartender. I started playing in a band again, and have a lot of other things going that I don’t want to jinx. I’m also glad to just be here, as just making it to the next day is an accomplishment for the opportunities of tomorrow.

With that we ride into 4712, the year of the horse.