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Arts & Entertainment

5 Every Week: Heritage Square, mochi and mariachis

A mural along Boyle Avenue, just off Boyle Heights' Mariachi Plaza.
A mural along Boyle Avenue, just off Boyle Heights' Mariachi Plaza.
Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

Here are five great things you should do in Southern California this week from the makers of the 5 Every Day app.  Get this as a new podcast in iTunes.  If you want five hand-picked things to do in Los Angeles every day, download the free 5 Every Day from the App Store.

Art: The Seth Bogart Show at 356 Mission

Seth Bogart is one of this city’s leading low culture heroes. He’s also known as Hunx, the lead singer of the camp-rock band Hunx and his Punx, and he’s the mastermind behind a pop-cultural clothing line and occasional store called Wacky Wacko.

Imagine if the joyful trash of John Water’s early movies had infected a whole generation of left-coast punk kids, and you start to get a sense of Bogart’s leopard-print aesthetic. This week at 356 Mission — an airplane hangar-sized gallery space on the edge of Boyle Heights — Bogart’s vision gets full license for The Seth Bogart Show, a month-long installation that opens Thursday at 7pm.

We’ve seen some shots of the installation going up, and it looks amazing. Like if "Pee Wee’s Playhouse" were built on Salvation Mountain — with large-scale sculptures, ceramics, and a whole televisual spectacular produced by Bogart’s collaborator, analog video artist JJ Stratford. We have the feeling this will be the show of the summer.

City: Heritage Square

You've probably seen it from the 110: The gabled steeple of a Victorian mansion and the roofs of several dollhouse-looking buildings peeking over the and freeway walls. Maybe you’ve wondered. Maybe not. The answer is this. It's the Heritage Square Museum.

Eight buildings, all rescued from demolition and transported from different parts of the city to create a mishmash historical neighborhood. It’s designed to educate the public about the everyday lives of Southern Californians at the turn of the 20th century.

Visit Heritage Square's collage of old-timey places — a train depot, carriage barn, pharmacy, and a newly-installed colonial drug store — for a radical temporal disconnect. That is, if the entire place isn’t rented out for a movie shoot. History, after all, is a marvelous set piece.

Food: Mikawaya

In Little Tokyo, no storefront is without history. Take Mikawaya, a little ice cream and sweets shop in the Little Tokyo plaza. Founded in 1910, it was forced to close at the outbreak of World War II, when its owners — Koroku and Haru Hashimoto — were interned and sent to a camp in Arizona.

They reopened their shop after the end of the war, and when the elder Hashimoto passed away, handed the keys over to their daughter, Frances. Frances was a 27 year-old schoolteacher at the time, but she made a more than competent CEO. She ran the family business for decades, opening new locations all around California and Hawaii. In the 1990s, she had a really great idea. Bam, mochi ice cream was born!

Mikawaya brand mochi ice creams are now sold pretty much everywhere, but they make them fresh every day with creamy gelato centers at the Little Tokyo location, in a rainbow of changing flavors. The original and the best.

Music: Mariachi Plaza

In an 80-year old tradition that draws its roots from Mexican custom, Mariachi Plaza in Boyle Heights, is a place where mariachi bands gather. Fully decked out in charro suits, they hang out in the plaza, hustling for gigs at parties and restaurants. Many of the musicians live nearby in Boyle Heights, or in the plaza's historic Boyle Hotel, better known as “Mariachi Hotel.”

If you’re in the market for a live band, come out here and haggle. But if you’re just a spectator, you can sometimes catch Mariachi performances on the plaza’s big community bandstand during the neighborhood’s weekly Friday farmer’s market. Which, speaking of, we’d be remiss not to mention the $2 bags of churros at said farmer’s market. 

Wildcard: Moonlight Rollerway

The sign at the entrance to Moonlight Rollerway in Glendale reads: "Following Not Allowed: Gum. Refunds. Spectators." They do not rent rollerblades. This is not a game.

Built in the 50s, Moonlight Rollerway is an old-school, disco-throwback rollerskating rink in Glendale with all the trappings of a time-capsule. There’s greasy snack bar and a dingy arcade. The carpeting is mesmerizingly kitsch. It's been owned by the same man, Dominic Cangelosi, since 1985; he's been the rink's live organist since the 60s.

And the regulars, they skate as though they haven't left the rink since 1976. So basically, in circles around you. Moonlight is open seven days a week, but every Tuesday night Cangelosi sits behind his trusty Hammond B3 for a weekly two and a half hours of live accompaniment. Please add this to your Angeleno to do list. It’s a peak experience for the cost of a skate rental.

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