Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Respite from the Sun

From the jam-packed Very Be Careful show on Friday at Grandstar's Firecracker in Chinatown to the Amsterdam Cafe in the North Hollywood arts district on Sunday for an afternoon of poetry, there was no avoiding the extreme heat that laid low the greater LA-area. At the moment, the much cooler sound of an El Sereno rooster accompanies the hint of fog under partially overcast skies. He must think it's the breaking of a longer-than-average dawn. This contrasts with the smoking VBC fusilade of Colombian cumbia and happy-fingered accordion riffs which was brief but beautiful. Unexpectedly caught sight, from across the room, of a healthy contingent from Proyecto Jardin, a squad of white-clad artisans and community comadres who support, nurture and cultivate--literally--the independent Boyle Heights green space and gather once a month for the Mercado Caracol to break bread while trading/selling books, jewelry, crafts and herbal products. Bumped into Azul and his camera yet again for an equally pleasant surprise. Of course, the foursome I was part of raced madly thereafter to Eastside Luv for last call with Guillermo "Pata de Perro" Uribe, whose entirely too hip and too cool night spot was the subject of an LA Times feature the following day. Felicidades to Guillermo and Arlene. You have to love an in-house DJ that plays Morrisey and Ramón Ayala back to back. And what's with all these husband and wife teams showing the rest of us how that sort of thing is possible? Unfortunately, I missed the Mentiritas show there the next night, but that's another story. Do yourself a favor and catch Lysa Flores there this Friday if you can't make the history of LA DJ culture event on Thursday.

Running on Firecracker fumes and residual Eastside Luv glow from the night before, I still managed to catch the last part of the First Annual Latino Student Film Festival at Lincoln High School in Lincoln Heights, the neighborhood directly south of here on Saturday morning. Organized by Harry Liflan and the Latin-American Cinemateca of LA, the one-day fest was chock-full of future directors, producers and writers. Alternately touching and hilarious, the short films were marked by uncanny understanding of teen angst and its place in the world as a harbinger of passion and the creative spirit. And the vegetarian tamales I brought home are off the hizinges.

Qwik-ee Round Up: I'll save the personal take on Linda Arreola's "Vaguely Chicana" exhibit, which closed on Saturday afternoon at Trópico de Nopal Gallery and the Vexing show which opened at the Claremont Museum of Art on Saturday night for another post. Suffice it simply to say here that Arreola is an El Sereno neighbor whose work is con[text]ually divine in its geometric and mathematical precision. At the other end of the spectrum, the Claremont exhibition is intended to highlight the contributions of women to the underground LA Chicano punk scene during the late 70s and early 80s as well as the bastard, hybrid art spawned by that era. Much of the work, which ruptured outward into the mainstream consciouness with an LA Weekly article on ASCO and again with the opening of "Phantom Sightings" at LACMA, is reprised, but not a rehash. Despite the fact that at least two of the show's curators were children being reared in places other than LA when the scene unfolded, the exhibition is extremely well put together. The research was spot on. The raucous opening night performances by queen of Chicano rock Lysa Flores and Alice Bags were fever pitch odes to the Sex Pistols and Clash-inspired turbulence I flirted with in high school while at the same time, I was ordering by mail a compilation album titled Los Angelinos: The Eastside Renaissance, a 1983 issue that included tunes by both The Brat and The Plugz. And who will ever match Alice Bags neé Alicia Armendáriz shouting "Chinga tu madre" in a song at the top of her lungs repeatedly then joking about the need to end her set because the vehicle from the senior citizen's home was waiting for her outside?

In the sin verguenza, mire lo que hice department, I read a few poems at the Amsterdam Cafe in the North Hollywood (NOHO... How pretensious is that?) Arts District on Sunday alongside Gloria Alvarez who has been like a sister, a literary co-conspirator and all-around comandante brillante through a tumultuous year, and Gabriela Jauregui, a heavy-duty wordslinger packed into a tiny, five-foot frame all decked out in a gauzy white dress, red undergarments and cat-eye glasses. Her book, Controlled Decay, is available on Chris Abani's Black Goat poetry series. Born and raised in Mexico City, she out-Conrads Conrad with an urgent, dangerously sublime command of el idioma de los gringos. Her poems are visceral yet captivatingly femenine. Obviously, being educated at some of the best schools in two countries as part of the elite, privileged class is no hindrance. But hers is a language that trancends, that couples freedom and liberation and dreams of a society without class distinctions or exploitation. Muscular and at times venturing compellingly into the realm of the pyrotechnic, her work is necessary frontburner reading and at the leading edge of Latina letters in the U.S. Props to Rafael Alvarado for coordinating the monthly Amsterdam event.

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