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An Ode To The Days Of Cruising Sunset Boulevard

A person wearing a brown top and pants walks past a big building that has signs saying Sunset Bronson studios, Netflix and KTLA5. He is holding a sign that says Writers Guild Strike.
WILD podcast co-host Erick Galindo talks about how his past and present collide on the Sunset Strip and how the WGA strike factors into that.
(Valerie Macon
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I’ve been chillin’ a lot lately on Sunset Boulevard in deep existential thought. If you know anything about me, or have listened to the latest season of WILD: I Think I’m Falling in Love, you know this is not a new situation for me.

Sunset Boulevard plays a key role in the newest season of the podcast, which is my take on a Hollywood rom-com: a serialized fiction podcast starring a primarily Mexican American cast. Making the podcast made me think a lot about my history with the iconic thoroughfare.

Listen to Episode 5 of WILD

Erick and Luna finally arrive in Milwaukee, but time is running out to save their relationship.
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About this season
  • Season Two of LAist Studios' WILD podcast is out now. We recommend you listen to Episode 5 as an accompaniment to this essay. The second season is a nine-part serialized fiction rom-com for your ears. It centers a couple from Southeast L.A., who embark on a road trip adventure across America. Will their relationship survive the trip? Find out on WILD Season 2: I Think I'm Falling In Love, co-hosted by Erick Galindo and Megan Tan, and starring Melinna Bobadilla, Gabrielle Ruiz, and Atsuko Okatsuka.

I don’t know if people still do this ... but there was a time when I would pack up the car with some Southeast LA fools and drive the 20 or so miles to Hollywood and pretend like we were in a TV show or a film by cruising the Sunset Strip. Back then, cruising Sunset felt like a right of passage, just like getting harassed by the police on Sunset felt like a right of passage. Like the movies and TV shows we were trying to emulate, like the film industry itself, the cops didn’t want a bunch of Latin youths around causing trouble.

Honestly, back then I didn’t know better, but Sunset Boulevard is as Mexican as Los Angeles itself. In the early 1990s, a portion of Sunset was renamed for Chicano civil rights icon Cesar Chavez. Cesar Chavez stretches east all the way to Los Cinco Puntos in Boyle Heights. Also, much of Los Angeles was once a part of Mexico, including the very land Sunset runs on. If you look at old maps of the region, Sunset Boulevard originally started in a terreno or a piece of land known as Rancho La Brea.

That means much of Hollywood, where the movies and TV shows have often marginalized or flat out erased my community, was built on a Mexican ranch. I thought about this a lot recently as I have been finding myself spending considerable time on Sunset Boulevard in many ways paying homage to the days of cruising the Sunset Strip by thinking hard about my future.

A few months ago, that existential dilemma was with me as I was driving around with my WILD co-host Megan Tan collecting tape for the podcast and seeing just how many places I remembered were gone. Victims of the pandemic or gentrification. I kept having to paint a picture for Megan of what this place was like. Of why it was so special to me.

I once lived on Sunset, first in a swanky apartment, then, after I lost my job and got evicted, in my Chrysler 300. I was definitely going through a crisis then. Wondering how I found myself living in the margins of my Hollywood dreams.

Many years ago, it was rolling with the homies in my old Grand Marquis bumping Tupac’s Me Against the World as we cruised with the big party-like caravans that used to bring Sunset to a near standstill on Saturday nights. I swear I saw Eminem jump out of a car and pee on the side of the road. But last I checked with the homies, that may have been just some white dude with dyed blond hair.

Years before we had the guts or even the gas money to cruise on the Sunset Strip, me and my friends would hang a right off Sunset in Beverly Hills and point at houses we were going to live in. Mind you we were all broke wannabe thugs with no idea what the future held for us.

I once lived on Sunset, first in a swanky apartment, then, after I lost my job and got evicted, in my Chrysler 300. I was definitely going through a crisis then. Wondering how I found myself living in the margins of my Hollywood dreams.

Before those days, me and my childhood buddy, Jose, would find our way out to Hollywood at the now-shuttered Arclight and walk around Hollywood dreaming of places we would go. We would stroll down Sunset stopping to take photos of advertisements for movies and TV shows. We would go shop at the old Tower Records, or find the big Hollywood guilds and be like, “One day we are going to be in there.” Since we were in high school, Jose wanted to be an actor. I wasn’t quite sure yet how or what exactly, but writing was my thing.

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Imagine my surprise when years later, after my buddy had passed away, after I had spent time living in my car on the strip, after dreams and nightmares came true, I got my WGA card in the mail.

Today, I am a member of two of those three Hollywood guilds: SAG-AFTRA and the Writers Guild. A guy who gets to write and host podcasts for a living and try to change it so that this town’s biggest international product is as brown as Los Angeles itself.

And still I found myself on Sunset having an existential dilemma on a recent windy Tuesday afternoon. I was talking to the WILD podcast team on Zoom via my phone when I heard this voice behind me. “Hello mister — what’s going on?”

I turned around to find two young Latinas talking to me through a fence at Helen Bernstein High School. They wanted to know why I was holding a picket sign. Why there was a protest happening just across the street at the Netflix building. “It’s an existential crisis,” I want to say. Because that’s what the world feels like sometimes, especially for me, in my many lives lived, hanging on the Sunset Strip.

Erick Galindo wearing red heart shaped glasses and holding pink flowers sitting in the front seat of a black car.
WILD podcast co-host Erick Galindo sits in a Chrysler 300.
(Samanta Helou Hernandez

Instead I say, “We are the WGA: the people who write your TV shows and movies and we are on strike because the big studios don’t want to pay us what we think is fair.” And one of the students says, “That’s dumb. You guys are the ones coming up with the ideas. They should pay you for that.” Then a car full of what looks like high school kids drives by honking and waving a Mexican flag in support of the picketers.

Damn. I think to myself. This next generation is so far ahead of where I was at that age. Maybe the future isn’t so scary.

How do I find the WILD podcast?

It's now available from LAist Studios. Check it out wherever you get your get podcasts! Or listen to the fifth episode on the player above.

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