Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Before 'n after

The crash landing in dizzy-land after the magia of a visit to tierra liberada comes suffused with mixed feelings. Have to say, at the onset, that it's always refreshing to read compa' Jimmy Mendiola's critical take on the pop cultura tip. Recently annointed with a kudo in Ciudad Magazine's "Best of Latino LA" issue, his blog--monikered with a tongue-in-cheek "Ken Burns Hates Mexicans" sobriquet--is right on in pointing out how we are truthfully devoid of Chican@ superheroes. His criticism of the brown folk dearth in New York-generated rock histories deserves mention. And I particularly enjoy his terse, unadorned writing style. It's in that spirit that I almost feel like offering up a joke about how Ciudad fingered his blog for notice and then went belly up. While I personally disagree with JMs blanket dismissal of Journey as a serious musical standard, I can condone the efforts to separate punk rebellion from the '80s extension of the oldies heart-thump songs that fueled Whittier Blvd. cruises and crushes and heartbreaks while many of us were in diapers far away from East LA. That said, or as Jimmy often adroitly observes in classic Marvel Comic guru Stan Lee-speak "Nuff Said."

The last three weeks, while defined by post-poetry withdrawal symptoms have also been largely balanced by what seems to be an explosion on the cultural front. From the exhibition at LACMA of art by Chicano painters from the personal collection of Cheech Marin (picture above: "Chino Latino" 2000 by Chaz Bojorquez) to the black-and-brown "Changing Ties" show at Ave. 50 as well as the eye-popping "Rebel Legacies" show of abstract Latino art curated by Ave. 50 director Kathy Gallegos at the Pharmaka Gallery in downtown LA, there has been very little time to breathe. Toss in a healthy mix of music and theatre at California Plaza's "Grand Performances" that included former Tijuana No rocker Ceci Bastida, new work from playwright-actor-director Adelina Anthony and music from Seun Kuti & Fela's Egypt 80 and the mercury in LA's ahts-n-kultcha thermometer skyrockets. Makes one dizzy just getting from one show or worthy cause-related event to the next.

As a sweat-drenched and stirring example, this recent weekend began with a stop Friday night at Cal Plaza for Egypt 80 and a barrage of African beats. Saturday started with a Very Be Careful headliner performance at El Cariso County Park during the Tia Chucha Cafe Cultural's third annual Celebrating Words Festival held out in Sylmar which was followed by a garden party to celebrate the 80th birthday of Don Normark, a photographer who was on hand to document when Chicano families were being evicted and having their homes razed in 1949 to make way for Dodger Stadium. The Highland Park hilltop backyard was literally aglow with about 75 friends and artists for a sit down, serve-yourself-on-real-china and crystalware affair that rivaled the poshest La Brea Avenue art happening. Flip-flops and Hawaiian shirts were the encouraged optional attire. Sunday found me at a Cornfields park in Chinatown for an equally lovely birthday potluck BBQ in honor of Daniel González, a printmaker and artist who turned 28 and was recently commissioned to create a public art piece for a station on the new Metro Expo line. Meanwhile Ave. 50 hosted Trekking LA's summer-long demonstration of traditional comida eaten in LA's distinct art communties by hiring a Pachuca, Hidaldo family now-based in Riverside to prepare barbacoa in a fire pit filled with maguey cactus leaves. It smoked for 12 hours and guests who didn't eat lamb or chicken could still make due with grilled veggies. Trekking LA is a project of LA Commons, which art and stories to help foster better understanding between communities.

If you get out to one thing this coming weekend, check out the goodbye event at Antigua. We're all upset that it's closing down since it was the source of so much El Sereno pride and leaves a hole in the cultural and politically active community that calls this beloved neighborhood home.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Encuentro Mundial & Chronic Cubanitis

Still reeling with the euphoria of it all. Que les puedo decir? Imagine poetry in the original Guaraní delivered with quiet elegance and dignity by Suzy Delgado, an elder, poet and journalist from Paraguay. Just imagine contemporary poems shared in Mapuche and Aymara from the altiplanos or Wayú desde Colombia offered selflessly by indigenous bards and word warriors who represent the soul of the hemisphere. From El Sereno to the sierra andina where the eagle and the condor soar as one, I bask in the afterglow. Suficiente decir que en algunos lugares, los poetas son bienvenidos como sagrados sacerdotes. Never before have I felt so welcome. As a result, I'll have a poem appearing in a Peruvian literary magazine. I'll eventually make my way to Madrid for a "lectura" organized on by a poet originally from Las Islas Canarias. If that were not enough to celebrate, uno de mis mejores camaradas, Francisco of Smokin' Mirrors, and I will one day be able to share a documentary on the state of poetry in the world today and its urgency in our time. I'm thankful to the grandmothers and grandfathers, to all my relations, for providing the doorway and the words with which to express my amazement and gratitude. Stay tuned for oblique references and periodic stammerings in a effort to share at least slivers and snippets of the glorious cascade, the fusilade of spoken word and glistening verse I was blessed by only recently as a participant en un encuentro increíble.