Monday, July 27, 2009

Brooklyn & Boyle... A State of Mayan

If the ever-so-kind and generous Kevin Roderick over at LA Observed has followed the progress of Brooklyn & Boyle, I think I can ascribe it to a parallel sense of optimism and a general commitment to media both in and out of our respective communities. Roderick, an amazing journalist and scholar of everything LA, is a model and an anti-model simultaneously, and there's a part of me that would like to think he's genuinely pleased with me and the David-and-Goliath allegories inherent in what we're trying to do. Lil' bit upstart mag on paper, no less and without a website tilting at windmills, while the big time daily paper dwindles and founders. While the legion-like online community that assembles at Roderick's site daily is scattered nationwide and formally entrenched in all media matters having to do with LA (an unheralded feat he is to be commended for), over on this end we’re just as excited about reaching those with maybe less access to the web. I’m talking Metro riders who sit in front of the space where the magazine is assembled (also called Brooklyn & Boyle, BTW) every morning to catch a city bus to work. I’m talking Metro commuters who bus it to Union station from City Terrace and Red Line it to Hollywood where they staff restaurants and offices and medical centers. These are the readers we look for, the ones we want, and we’re thrilled at the possibility that the Gold Line will make transit for them more fluid, giving them a few extra minutes to read the latest issue and still get them to where they need to be more quickly. Though I'm not ruling out the possibility that we might eventually have an online presence, I'm pretty psyched at simply being out on paper with ink that stains your fingertips and a broad range of writing.

So, here we are feeling both goofy and giddy, at some kind of a midway point, on our sixth and—I dare say--finest issue yet, a newsprint tabloid created in the spirit of community. Organically, B & B has evolved into just the kind of locally-based arts journal I’ve imagined for nearly 10 years, a neighborhood voice which looks forward and inward and outward, all at the same time, while spotlighting the very real arts and culture treasure trove to be found on this side of the river. I find it hard not regard the project as the child I never had, a small saludo content to circulate in hand-to-hand exchanges and at bus stops throughout the still largely Latino neighborhoods it hopes to cover and serve as adroitly and honestly as possible.

Above all, it is an expression of gratitude, a thank you to la ciudad de Los Angeles, the world-class pueblo that took me in as a child and then again as a grown up. It is, for me, akin to that mythical place of herons, a homeland that continues to open magical doorways into a multi-layered, global mystery, a world where hipsters and Southsider cholos and norteño cowboys with glittering accordions slung over their backs rub shoulders with each other on a daily basis. A place where the fantastic media convergence that is LA Observed can nurture and root for a start up newsprint platform that hopes with plucky chutzpah that it will see another month and another edition.

Being indignant about gentrification and the hipsterization of our barrios is odds, perhaps, with a need to create a tentative peace and a lasting harmony, but it is a worthy exercise. It is a conversation that is far from over even if the progressive, liberal, tattooed and pierced peaceniks are tired of hearing it. Even though I’m no one to tell the new neighbors flooding in that they’re not wanted, I do feel a tinge of dissatisfaction when I see a transplant from outside of LA settling in Los Feliz then launching a website called Eastside Living Los Angeles, to cover the “fabled Eastside.” Sometimes, the hippest and coolest folks in the ‘hood are the ones with third-generation ties to the sacred lands where our ancestors grew corn and squash for centuries before the hemisphere was colonized. Please be mindful and respectful of that in your attempts to find and "break" the cool new spots.  In some cases, these third-generation Angelenos wind up being the most worldly, navigating between the Getty and Skirball while doing business in downtown and heading home to unincorporated East LA county at the end of the day for te con miel de maguey with their parents.

From where I sit, on a maguey and cactus and palm and lemon tree-encrusted bluff overlooking Obregon Park, just blocks from Self-Help Graphics and under a new moon, I think of the Lakota brothers, warriors who often said hoka hey, meaning, roughly, "it is a good day to die," the implicit converse being equally true. "It is a good day to be alive." And while I may miss Warwick Ave. y la familia Perez in El Sereno, I bring it here, to these new digs on an Eastside cliffside that still feeds and nourishes in a way that the Gold Room in Echo park will never do again. Here atop the five-story drop, I must simply remember that I bring all of the Chicano barrios and suburbs I’ve ever inhabited along with me, glued to the luminous fibers stretching outward from the metaphorical ombligo, the belly-button that connects us to all to one another and finds itself reflected in the serenity of the lunar mirror, the face of our abuelita lending light to earth after the sun has set. And who cares if Castañeda merely imagined or made up the curanderos we have come to know and love as Don Juan and Don Genaro?

So yes, thank you, Rosaura Ramirez, for giving me the opportunity to inhabit a hilltop precipice, and thank you Dona Ofelia Esparza for carrying the light these long many years. Gracias por exponer su obra en la galeria y por haber traido tantos hijos e hijas al mundo. The talent and visionary grace you embody have transferred to your children, who have earned every right to ask hipsters and newcomers and even die-hard Chicano literalocos y literatontos like me, “Where you from?”

Welcome to Brooklyn & Boyle, not just an intersection but a state of Mayan…