In my urban fantasy novella set in the hills above Los Angeles, a doctor from Chinatown makes several house calls to the injured residents living in Chavez Ravine.
Chinatown is a little over one mile away, and less than five minutes by car without traffic. I don’t know how many Mexican American families had doctors in Chinatown, but mine did. The same doctor treated my grandmother, mother, aunts, and cousins. When anyone was too sick to go to his office, he paid a home visit.
Since my mother drove my grandmother to all her appointments, it seemed like I spent a lot of time in this doctor’s waiting room. I loved going. He stocked the latest issues of Highlights Magazine for children, plus one wall had jars filled with herbs that were interesting to look at, and occasionally, the receptionist would explain their uses. I also remember visiting my grandmother at The French Hospital in Chinatown after her cancer surgery and seeing other Latino families there, too.
The Chinese American-Mexican American connection was nothing new to me.
I grew up in Monterey Park, a city of 60 thousand people in the San Gabriel Valley, and often referred to as “the first suburban Chinatown.” My parents were the first Latinos on a block of white residents. Later, the demographics shifted, and our street became a mix of Latino and Asian families.
But back to the doctor who treated my family. He came to have almost mythic status, credited with saving my grandmother’s life, my father’s life when he suffered a burst appendix, and my cousin’s too, who was born in Palo Verde.
I can remember this doctor paying house calls to my grandmother when her cancer returned. By this time, she’d taken the payout from the city of L.A. for her house on Bishops Road in Palo Verde and had bought a tiny house on busy E. Olympic Blvd. in East Los Angeles. He was tall, thin, and had a lovely deep voice. He was a snappy dresser, too.
So, when the story required a doctor to make a house call, of course, he had to be from Chinatown.
Dr. Eng also plays a role in my short story (quiet horror) also set in Chavez Ravine, The Bride from Bishop. Bishop was the smallest of the old neighborhoods and closest to downtown.
My memories of the doctor who treated my family are fuzzy now, but I remember his calm, warm demeanor. The rest I made up. Still, I can’t imagine any other doctor getting in his car to visit a patient in the mostly Mexican American neighborhoods where Dodger Stadium now stands.
If my mother were still alive, I’m not sure what she’d think of monsters roaming around Palo Verde, but she would definitely approve of the character of Dr. Eng.