Tag Archives: music

tango and transgression

Saturday night, it’s late, I’m playing soccer tomorrow morning, so just wanted to capture a few thoughts..

Went out to the Ford Amphitheater tonight to a show called Siempre Tango, the place is beautiful, it was my first time there and I hadn’t realized how beautiful it would be, nor how small…and we ate bread and cheese and fruit and dark chocolate, and had wine sitting on the stairs. Few things in life can beat that really!

I didn’t get a program…but the first half was a pianist, a modern composer. What is left to compose? I wondered. I am a lover of Beethoven and Mozart and Schubert, generally speaking modern piano leaves me rather cold, especially when jazzed up with a synthesizer added, the tap of cymbals, a bass…it sounds to me always like elevator music. I most enjoyed when he played alone, he was quite a superlative musician and I tried to follow the structure of the music, the sudden changes in key and tempo. Last night at Larry’s we were talking about how in this day and age it is no longer really possible to transgress, it is no longer possible to shock those involved in the arts (of course those not involved in the arts and living in the midwest are still susceptible) and I suppose it must be true of music as well. Nothing sounded really different to me, parts of it I loved and most of it I did not…I wonder how you can measure what is good and what is not…the age old question I suppose. But it is always nice to stretch my own musical knowledge and challenge my own likes and dislikes, find value in the new.

But those thoughts only occupied me for a short time, during the last number I sat and thought about Impromptu, where George Sand lies under the grand piano when Chopin is playing…in college I knew a pianist, and it is indeed quite extraordinary to lie under the piano when they are playing. And I wish I could lie under the piano in the Ford Amphitheater. It must be incredible.

The second half was…can you guess? Tango. Solid and traditional and I liked it much more, which worries me. I love tradition but I also like the new, I don’t always want to fall back on what has been done over and over, or always prefer the old to the modern. The dancing was beautiful, absolutely lovely…I must confess, however, tango has never been my favourite. It has that element of show to it that to me detracts from the beauty of the dance, it always feels choreographed though I suppose in small smokey clubs of Buenos Aires there are moments where it is not. Perhaps I would like it then. But as I have seen it, it always feels overly dramatic, as though the dancers in even their personal interactions must overblow everything, speak in self important and highly self-conscious periods, allow long tense pauses to stretch between lines, stare at people in a way that could either be sexy or more likely frightening. All that makes me want to laugh in a way, as it tickles my sense of the absurd as does anyone who takes themselves entirely too seriously, and the likelihood of me ever dancing with anyone wearing that much pomade or a black velvet jacket is pretty much nil. Unless he looks like Alejandro Fernandez perhaps. Who dances rancheras which I think after all I prefer.

So what I loved most about last night was the magician, he had a yo-yo sort of thing that he played with, he pulled flowers out of nowhere, he made tables and glasses of wine float. He made me happy. And even with all of my personal preferences above, the dancers were brilliant too, as spectacle they had everything to recommend them. Especially when one of the dancers fell out of her dress, well her top half fell out of her dress, and shocked the audience. Though we all knew it was ready to go at any time. That perhaps could count as transgressive though it was totally unplanned, so I suppose it must remain merely shocking. And I definitely enjoyed hanging out with Celine and the guys working with channel 36 over intermission, we saw a drunk couple tottering off downhill and knew that we would be friends with everyone when they suggested wheeling the two down on the moving dolly. Sadly the two of them had already gone round the bend before we thought of that.

A good night on top of many previous good nights and life is feeling above all good.

Living well in L.A.

You doubt it no? Disbelievers…L.A. can sometimes be one of the best cities in the world, and I say that because of everything I have ever written about it, both heartbreaking and heartlifting, who would want only one or the other in their life? You’d cut your wrists with the first and stare at the world through the translucent walls of your bubble in the second without ever truly living. This weekend I remembered once again why I love it so much…again full of writing and struggle and dancing and art and friends and dragon boats and…I can’t even tell you how much fit into this weekend.

Political truth (my own truth with a little ‘t’ though I think it might deserve capitalization): every community should have a central place to gather, to laugh, to eat, to dance…it is the distance between us that makes control so easy, that makes poverty such a burden, that allows each of us to suffer believing that we are alone…the more we come together the stronger we will be, and the better we can plan.

Personal truth: happiness could easily be as simple as live music every weekend, surrounded by friends that are family, and a little bit of dancing, preferably under the sky. And if the music be a mix of jarocho and cumbias and zapoteada and some old mariachi favourites to belt along with…well, so much the better.

Combine those two and you end up with my Saturday between 11 and 2 in the neighborhood I have worked in for years upon years and where we had established the Displacement Free Zone, saje and the land trust threw a little block party and it was small but lovely and we danced, first to jarocho with it’s amazing politics and message and it was a joy

and then to…se me olvide agarrar su tarjeta, I shall have to find out who they were…to the backdrop of Henry’s market. You can buy pretty much anything at Henry’s, and I mean anything. The Harpy’s feel pretty strongly that their tag needs to be covering that clear green wall, which is why it is white down below. I’d like to suggest they add a red stripe and an eagle, there’s no other excuse for such a shade of green…

and here is one of the women I most admire in the world, who danced the entire time and knows how to zapotear like no one, and has more heart and courage and knowledge than almost anyone I know…beauty along with it:

Monic dancing…

So I wasn’t sure the weekend could get much better…but I went over to Bev’s after. The fact I had destroyed my bike’s innertube first thing in the morning made this a bit slower, and it made me a bit sad, but I overcame. And then I was stung by a wasp on the walk over…how many years has it been since that happened? Took me back to the old desert days, I have been stung by almost everything but I shall tell those stories later. Or never. People who didn’t grow up in glorious yet hostile environments where everything can hurt you rarely seem to enjoy those stories. So I hung out happily sorry for myself with some ice in a towel pressed against my shoulder. Wasps hurt a wee bit more than I remember.

Through a strange and complicated turn of events Bev and Samantha were going to be rowing in the Dragon boat races at the lotus festival in Echo Park and had come back from practice, so we all headed over to a BBQ at one of their new team-mates’ houses. Turns out that everyone else rowing had worked for Mayor Bradley back in the day (and I mean back in the day), so the BBQ that we (well, I) had crashed turned out to be a more formal sort of dinner with the most amazing food. And then council member Wendy Gruel turned up with her family. Now this may not seem so exciting to most, but you have probably not done as many delegations to city council members where you sought to speak to them in vain about important issues, or carried out long power analyses where Gruel was invariably one of those that should be on our side but could always go the other way…at any rate, the irony was delicious, as was the wine. Also turns out that the following day’s race was to be a race to the death against Gloria Molina’s office, and in fact Michael (enthusistic team head), had flown in from DC just to paddle in this race and destroy the Molinistas in this rematch (after 15 years or so)…turns out me and those with me were all too young to remember Bradley but a few of us also had some serious beef with Molina (the rest could care less), so we joined together in a toast to the county supervisor’s bitter and inglorious defeat…

You’ll have to wait a bit for the outcome of that, first because I want to see the effect on my readership (cliffhangers seem to work for the networks after all), second because I’m tried, but most importantly because we then had to go see Luke in his play/sketch comedy “Touched in the Head” in a tiny theatre on Santa Monica, and we laughed…there was a fabulous sketch about the horrors of cat rape, and the victims were Tony the Tiger and Garfield and Tom and the Cat in the Hat…every male cat you can imagine in fact. My other favourite was a pyromaniac chola who comes to give a motivational speech to 1st graders about all the things they should set on fire when people talk shit to them. If it hadn’t been the last night I would have recommended it highly!

Still not done, cos it’s almost Laura’s birthday, so it was off to Highland Park to celebrate it with her and a ton of other people…there were cumbias playing in the front room, old soul playing on the back patio, watermelon soaked in vodka and negro modelo and rum mixed with lots of other things, there were friends and family, people I knew and people I didn’t know at all, all of them the kind of people you’d like to know. We left just after midnight, I was tired and Bev was paddling for glory and Jose just went along with it…

A brilliant day yesterday. Today was brilliant too. Maybe I’ll get to it tomorrow…



i got the fallin’ downs

A rare joy in life is chancing a fiver on a CD and finding a true gem, I’m sitting here tonight listening to a compilation of bottleneck blues and the smile of pure gut wrenching happiness has not left my face…it’s amazing. Blind Willie Johnson…pure magic in his voice and his hands, Robert Johnson, Son House and Lightnin’ Hopkins of course, he’s fucking brilliant though I knew that before buying this, I’ve been listening to ‘goin’ away’ over and over the past few days, makes you close your eyes and sway back and forth and it does something to your insides like few songs can. Been in a Lightnin’ Hopkins – Steve Earle – Van Zandt sort of mood lately, sort of that bittersweet sadly happy kind of mood like the weather racing across the sky in sunshine and rain. Still, the sweetness is in the pain and the smiles in the song on this called ‘Hitch me to your buggy and drive me like a mule” can’t get better than that, until you get to ‘Busy Bootin’ with the line “Take it easy greasies, cause I’m busy bootin'” and “don’t you remember when my door was locked, I had yo mama on the choppin’ block” with a chorus of “I’m busy bootin’ and you can’t come in” How have I never heard the phrase busy bootin’ before? I know it’ll be a hit when I next slip the phrase I was busy bootin’ into casual conversation. Great song Fallin’ Down Blues, “I got the blues so bad, it hurts my feet to walk…Mama, I feel like jumping through the keyhole in your door…She caught the rumblins, I caught the fallin’ downs…” Dunno what the rumblins are but I catch the fallin’ downs from time to time, never knew what they were called before. The only hitch is that it’s a compilation made in the Czech republic where they don’t seem to believe in liner notes, sound’s not the greatest either but that could easily be the fault of the original recording so I shall give the Czech republic the benefit of the doubt, anyways, there’s a version of Statesboro Blues from 1927 with Blind Willie McTell playing and an unknown woman singing who is brilliant and I’ve never heard before, I shall have to see what google can do but this might be a bit beyond its powers.

This all reminded me of the liner notes from T-Model Ford’s album Pee-wee Get My Gun, a title in itself as brilliant as Burnside’s Ass Pocket of Whisky, but the liner notes are the best I’ve ever seen, they go “Years before, when I was a kid, I owned a little Ford runabout, a Model T. And I took care of that car as a man takes care of his love – for I did love it. I was and remain a Model T guy, more comfortable with imperfection than its opposite, cherishing the ability to discern and shore up a latent weakness, I knew the car wasn’t a Cadillac. Hell, what would a guy like me do with a Cad? It was a Model T, and I treated it good and it treated me good. When I sold it after two years of trouble-free driving, it was actually in better shape than the day I bought it.
Two months later it was in the junk heap.
Less than two months after I split up with Ellen, she was whoring.”

So I know I know my sense of humour is darkly twisted and politically regrettable, but I find this brilliant, besides being myself much more comfortable with imperfection than its opposite. Given the humour, I do thank the sweet lord I didn’t get that job with the feminists that I applied for, but after an interview where I discussed the evils of pornography with false enthusiasm and yet made the fatal misstep of saying the words fluffy porn upon which the room turned ice cold and my breath came out of my mouth in clouds I knew I wasn’t taking it even if it were offered which it clearly wasn’t going to be. All activists should be required to have a sense of humour anyways, the ones that don’t destroy the movement and make the rest of us look bad.

Right, I’m off to listen to my other find which is John Peel and Sheila – the Pig’s Big 78’s, random recordings off of random 78’s which is just my style and quite ridiculous but also contains another Lightnin’ Hopkins track I’ve never heard, and Sonny Terry…and then I’ll be busy bootin’ or, well, just thinking about it, I’ve got the wee single bed blues myself.


Haven’t written this in ages, because I’ve been writing loads of…of…serious writing I suppose. And living brilliantly. But I had the perfect day yesterday, it was sparkling and glorious and included Hatch chiles on my breakfast eggs and incredible music and Iain Banks in the flesh and Macbeth performed on a jumping castle and activist writing and great company and drink and new friends and a drunk Welshman named Gary Cooper (!) and it went on and on, even continuing into this morning when I left folks sleeping as I headed out into the warm Edinburgh sunshine for my Glasgow bus, but a few hours sleep’s not quite enough and the day grew dark like the fog in my mind. Still I’m happy.

I was thinking thinking thinking about music and writing and wondered if poetry could always become song or song always be poetry, but that thought wasn’t deep enough for my mood and I sang to myself “I’ve legs to walk and thoughts to fly, eyes to laugh and lips to cry, a restless tongue to classify, oh I’m born to grow and grown to die,” which I love because the music and the words together turn my heart inside out and I think perhaps words demand their form as you write them and words meant to be sung must be different than words meant to be spoken aloud must be different then words written to be simply read by someone who can understand them. They all live in the spaces between people; to write for no one is to write words that lie dead. To breathe them life you must strip yourself bare, give everything, spare yourself nothing, seems to me music is the same, the hardest fucking thing you ever do and lucky there’s something driving you to it. And you truly love those few who have somehow found this immense generosity, you know them right away…yet still it is only between the one who gives and the other who truly hears that the greatness happens, I think that’s the beauty of the thing Es algo imprescindible. It’s a fierce rare joy to write something and get it exactly right, you ring golden like a bell, and you share its resonance then it becomes magic…songs, words, music, they are gifts, I saw it yesterday, think that’s partly why I am so happy. So tonight I’m wandering among some of my favourite words and tunes…and I have to say that without paper I would write my words into the sand even if I were the only person on earth, but it’s an amazing thing to give what you create, and to share what others have given.

At my window,
watching the sun go,
hoping the stars know
it’s time to shine,
the day dreams
aloft on dark wings,
soft as the sun streams
at day’s decline,
living is laughing,
and dying says nothing at all,
my babe and I lying here,
watching the evening fall
Townes Van Zandt

Lady in the frilled blouse
And plain tartan skirt
Since you have left the house
It’s emptiness has hurt
All thought
In your presence
Time rode easy
Anchored on a smile
But your absence
Rocked love’s balance
Unmoored the days
They buck and bound
Across the calendar
Loosed from the quiet sound
Of your flower tender voice
Seamus Heaney

Así te amo porque no se amar de otra manera..
Sino así de este modo en que no soy ni eres
Tan cerca que tu mano sobre mi pecho es mía
Tan cerca que se cierran tus ojos con mi sueno

(I love you thus because I do not know another way to love
Only this way where I am not I and you are not you
So close that your..nhand on my chest is mine
So close your eyes close with my tiredness

the moon is hiding in
her hair
of heaven
full of all dreams
draws down.

cover her briefness in singing
close her with intricate faint birds
by daisies and twilights
Deepen her.

upon her
the rain’s

pearls singly-whispering

Possibly the most beautiful poem in the world, ee cummings

With singing
Darkness kindled back into beginning
When the caught tongue nodded blind,
A star was broken
Into the centuries of the child
Myselves grieve now, and miracles cannot atone Dylan Thomas

Las palabras fueran avispas…………………The words were wasps
Y las calles como dunas…………………….And the streets like dunes
Cuando aun te espero llegar…………………While i still wait for you.
En un ataúd guardo tu tacto………………In a winding sheet i keep your touch
Y una corona ……………………………….And a crown
con tu pelo enmaranado……………………..tangled in your hair
Queriendo encontrar…………………………wanting to find
un arco iris infinito………………………….An infinite rainbow
Mis manos que aun son de hueso……………my hands that are still of bone
Y tu vientre sabe a pan..…………………….and your stomach tastes of bread
La catedral que es tu cuerpo…………………the cathedral that is your body

No se distinguir………………………………I don’t know how to distinguish
entre besos y raíces………………………….Between kisses and beginnings
No se distinguir………………………………I don’t know how to distinguish
lo complicado de lo simple………………….The complicated from the simple
Y ahora estas en mi lista……………………..And now you are on my list
De promesas a olvidar……………………….Of promises to forget
Todo arde si aplicas………………………….Everything burns if you apply
la chispa adecuada……………………………the adequate spark
Los Heroes del Silencio

Forgive what I give you. Though nightmare and cinders,
The one can be trodden, the other ridden,
We must use what transport we can. Both crunching
Path and bucking dream can take me
Where I shall leave the path and dismount
From the mad-eyed beast and keep my appointment
In green improbable fields with you.
Louis MacNeice

Green improbable fields, damn I wish I wish I’d written that…and to end, all the things I try to believe in, Silvio Rodriguez, though cantera is hard to translate…talent isn’t quite it, ability perhaps…and masa’s hard too…dough might be better than flesh, corn flour mixed with water, but it could never mean the same in English

Si no creyera en lo mas duro…………..If I did not believe in what was hardest
Si no creyera en el deseo……………………If I did not believe in desire
Si no creyera en lo que creo………………If I did not believe in what I believe
Si no creyera en algo puro…………….If I did not believe in something pure
Si no creyera en cada herida……………If I did not believe in every wound
Si no creyera en la que ronde………….If I did not believe in what surrounds
Si no creyera en lo que esconde……….If I did not believe in what is hidden
Hacerse hermano de la vida…………………In becoming a brother to life
Si no creyera en quien me escucha…….If I did not believe in who listens to me
Si no creyera en lo que duele………………..If I did not believe in what hurts
Si no creyera en lo que quede……………If I did not believe in what remains
Si no creyera en lo que lucha………………..If I did not believe in my struggle
Ay que cosa fuera……………… …………..Ay what would I be,
que cosa fuera la masa sin cantera………What would the flesh be without talent
un amasijo hecho de cuerdas y tendones…A mass made of cords and tendons
un revoltijo de carne con madera…………….A mix up of meat and wood
un instrumento sin mejores resplandores……An instrument without greater splendour
que lucesitas montadas para escena………Than little lights staged for a scene
que cosa fuera, corazon, que cosa fuera…..What would I be, heart, what would I be
que cosa fuera la masa sin cantera……What would the flesh be without talent
un testaferro del traidor de los aplausos…A figurehead of the traitor to applause
un servidor de pasado en copa nueva………..A server of the past in a new cup
un eternizador de dioses del ocaso……….…An eternalizer of the western gods
jubilo hervido con trapo y lentejuela…Experience boiled with rags and spangles
que cosa fuera, corazon, que cosa fuera…..What would I be, heart, what would I be
que cosa fuera la masa sin cantera……..What would the flesh be without talent

Fucking hell this is long, inspiring at least to myself but long, I cannot be concise when this tired, and i can never tell whether what emerges from the fog is truth or rubbish…and there are so many lyrics poems words I love, better than sleep to read them but no, I’m off to my bed…


Moving is a bitch. I’m going through all of my things, and I have far too many things…This weekend I’ve started going through my books which is heartbreaking enough, but the big news? The boxes of old tapes I’ve dug out of the closet…all those mixes I made back in the day (I was a huge mix maker cause music just happens to be one of those things I most love in life), mixes friends made for me, stuff I taped off the radio. I’m listening to them all, downloading all the songs I don’t currently have on my i-pod, and…and…and…throwing them away. I must say, it’s bringing a tear to my eye, and an avalanche of memories. And an embarassed chuckle or two, I found the electric slide AND la Macarena, what was I thinking?

Anyways, had a good day today aside from the trip down memory lane…who knew that John Waite’s Missing You could still make me cry? It’s going to take me all week, this playing tapes and throwing away and remembering things (Christ, just found some Ton Loc! Carlos from homeroom in Jr. High used to sing this fucking song all the time, thought he was a playa…and he was. Took steroids in the drinking fountain and was a dad before graduation…) So, anyways, I went on down to the farmers market in Hollywood on the train…just wanted to show an example of LA’s finest public art as seen in the Civic Center metro station

They have any number of these guys suspended over you, they all have numbers on their chests, and I find them a bit frightening.

I did overmaster my fear, however, in my quest for fresh vegetables. After the vegetables i went over to Amoeba music, the best music store in LA and I believe the world. I know I’m supposed to be getting rid of all my music but it’s depressing and what cheers me up more than looking at music I don’t have yet? Anyway, I wanted to buy The Doors Morrison Hotel on vinyl so they can all sign it for me on Wednesday Night. Didn’t find it, but thought I’d get some R.L. Burnside and found what might be possibly the best album cover ever:

A Ass Pocket of Whiskey? Why is there no n? How did they get that bottle of whiskey down their shorts and what will happen if they sit down? What is he going to do with his belt? It’s a good album and so I’m giving it to Dan for Christmas, he’s in law school and has no time be reading his sister’s blogs I hope…he doesn’t respond to my emails at any rate, so serves him right.

Anyways, to continue with the music theme, here’s a lovely view of capitol records and some typical Hollywood frontage:

The cave, nice! They even have a cash machine inside.

I also got a hair cut.

Clamor & Craziness

It’s late, not too late but I just want to write now so I don’t forget anything, not sure how I’ll be doing in the morning…the minor question on my mind is shall I be up at 6:00 am to play golf?

So, Clamor event was, in a word, surreal, one of those evenings to go down in the yearbooks, and Ludin came!  But before I get into that just wanted to remember another fav eating spot, el rincon chileno, it’s a great chilean restaurant right next to a little chilean deli that sells empanadas and really good chilean wine really cheap, and caramel in jars and T-shirts that say Chile and the staff call you mija which means little daughter, and it looks like this…

I forgot to eat today, so we dropped by before setting up for some empanadas and a cachito (pastry and caramel dusted with confectioners sugar – yum!) which last I also forgot to eat and am now realizing with terrible regret is still sitting on a battered table at Il Corral which is truly a tragedy.

So, Il Corral is a tiny underground place where some musicians live and they let people put on shows, and so here’s a photo of one of tonight’s acts…Cookie Jar is the guy in the pink dress (he had already lost the fairy wings and pink boa sadly), they were really quite entertaining.  And please note the stuffed, er, raven?  On the wall.  And the rope hanging down from the ceiling, it’s for swinging.

Next up was…was…it shall come to me…experimental though, highly experimental, and that’s about all I can really say about it.  A cello with much foot pedal action, high sustained humming noises, something that sounded suspiciously like a jack hammer, the guitar making low moaning noises.  Our slide show was in the background, a hit with the cool fugazi lyrics and photos of slum conditions and adds for the new lofts coming into downtown…looking something like this…

but the unforgettable bit was meeting Tomatoes and friend, can’t believe I forgot the friend’s name, terrible thing to do, but before I go into their lovable characters I shall let you see them in the flesh…my coworker Lidia is on the left, she’s a character as well, but not quite in the same way.

It is indeed a bit hard to believe…When Tomatoes wandered in the front door of Il Corral as I was sitting there with Bev minding the cash box, he asked me if his outfit was all right…I told him as long as the trousers stayed on he was just fine, I just had to say it, they were already at half-mast.  They didn’t stay on in the end, but I shall get to that later.  You can’t tell but he’s also wearing a red cape that sparkles.  I wandered outside a bit later to smoke (I was drinking don’t you know, and Bobby and Lidia were pushing cigarrettes) – which is when above photo was taken, and Tomatoes was saying that he had been doing coke all night the night before, and it had been a really bad idea.  His friend was drinking something called Sparks which was funnier, I’ve never heard of it before, but it comes in a can that looks like a battery and is essentially carbonated cough syrup with malt liquor.

So, why is Tomotoes called Tomatoes?    Apparently his friends from the barrio in Houston Texas gave it to him because of his rosy cheeks.  He is sometimes called pureed tomatoes because apparently he used to be a skater but was a really bad one and so he had quite a lot of accidents.  He really likes getting his picture taken, I was racking my brains after I first saw him come in about how to get one tactfully, but there was no need for tact!  And then Lidia started him talking about his tattoos and that’s when he dropped his pants, dear oh dear.  So I have a great photo of him with pants down and lidia bending over to inspect his legs, but I have decided in Tomatoes’ best interests not to post that.  I quite liked him actually, he was a very happy and mostly respectful drunk and I imagine meeting Cheech and Chong back in the day wouldn’t be much different.  let us just say that he was wearing some kind of silver bikini thong sort of thing…Bev and I are both agreed that boxers are really the only repectable underwear for men, I mean, you can wear the other kind but it really does detract from your image.  That’s an aside, I shall just leave you with one last glimpse of this facsinating man…he wanted this picture to be a good one…sultry, beer gut sucked in, I think both of us did all right:

And to cap off the evening, as we were standing outside a group of about 15 mariachis came ambling by, softly strumming their instruments and singing bits of sad songs, which made tonight a truly LA experience.  I tried to get a shot but Tomatoes kept jumping into it.  Ah well, after a bit of chatting with the other folks there and a little clean-up we packed up my laptop and the projector and drove on home…