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: detail from "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 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 Gonz?ílez, 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.
He publishes in NY Times, LA Times Sunday Magazine, Austin Chronicle and others. He writes poetry and teaches creative writing in LA County juvenile halls. Originally published on his blog