All photos by Andrea Arias, @crythengrind

Los Freddys. This melancholy backdrop, these whinny synths… I have to play that old cassette when I think about growing up here. 1984, I think. It’s faint, gets stuck occasionally. Just now was my third time having to skip forward & back, forward & back. Could I play the album off the internet? Yes, but it wouldn’t have this sound, this slight buzz, these ancient muffles. I don’t want the remaster. That’s not what my mom played when these stills & moments were alive. We listened to these tapes religiously.

I’m looking back at the photo spreads. I wish there were more so I could piece the blanks back together. There’s a few pictures of my older brother & I as kids. We look happy in those, but, again, I wish there were more to help capture the brother-sister dynamic we had. The one I cherish most is him & I standing in front of our home on move-in day. I’m holding Legos for some reason & he needs to take a knee to be at the same level as me. In another photo album he’s 17 and pushing me away from him. I don’t know what changed.

The family bought our first house in the late 90s. Stained carpets, beige-faded linoleum turned muddy red anywhere the sun had shown, white tiles, off-white grout, a sliding door. Cat shit & dry grass. But if I could go back, I wouldn’t change a thing. Most nights my mom played Los Yonics or Grupo Venus out the kitchen radio. The light above the stove was covered by a worn-out slab of plastic that turned the house a deep yellow when everything else was off. Just bright enough to do homework on the table while my mom folded clothes in her bedroom. You’d think a 6 or 7 year old wouldn’t remember scenes like that with so much clarity. But they do.

I felt stuck in Rialto. Stepping out I would see mountains stretching around my head, wrapping the city like the rim of a bowl. I would sit outside & wait for a flood to come & drown everything out… freeways, cars, planes, screaming, arguments, dogs, helicopters. Like that line in Taxi Driver, I hoped that one day a real rain would come and wash away all this filth, all this pain. ​

I really believed the Inland Empire had nothing to offer; I made myself believe it was actually draining me of creativity as a teenager. Of all the places my parents could have settled, why did it have to be here? We’d visit Mexicali & locals would ask us what part of California we were from. Over time I learned the easiest answer was ‘Una hora lejos de Los Angeles.’ That became my identity. One hour away from the big city.

I’ve had the opportunity to work with photographers from all over Southern California, & every time I meet someone genuinely talented & unique, I ask myself:

Why does the culture assume talent can only come from big cities?

LA specifically. Is it networking? Showcasing opportunities? The people? The scenery? The beach? Air quality? Money? I really don’t know. But now that I’m older, I’ve realized that there’s nothing like the calm of a small town. Especially when you’re trying to hold onto whatever youthfulness you have left in you.

I’m not ashamed of my zip code anymore. I love waking up to mourning doves & the sound of my parents cleaning up the backyard. I love walking on our little plot of land, breathing in the spice & soul that is the Arias family. My mom hechando tortillas a mano, or having her morning cafecito on the couch with a piece of Mexican bread. My dad at the table eating huevos rancheros y frijoles with a glass of agua fresca, Pedro Infante on the television. My little brother outside, cutting grass & being yelled at do this or that. Playing games with my niece, my little twin, how beautiful this simple life is.

All photos by Andrea Arias, @crythengrind

How could I have ever hated this?


Flyer by Kromosome3.

Meet crythengrind at our July issue release/show at The Smell on 7/8. Proceeds go to CCA Environmental Justice & LA Animal Services. Tickets here.


By Hector Zaldivar

Professional magician. @hexzald