Summer cleaning

I’m cleaning my room. I mean really cleaning. I switched rooms last October, but still have a bunch of boxes of stuff piled around my room and apartment.

Cleaning always takes me a long time, mainly because I’m a sentimental pack-rat. As I sort between mementos to throw away and those to save, I take a look and try to figure out what made me keep such an item in the first place. I have about a dozen old journals and notebooks. They’re fun to look at for a sense of how I’ve changed, if at all. I opened a journal covered in a woven red cloth from Guatemala to find a collage of memories from September 2001 to December 2002. I found a post with a few words in a fragment of a sentence.

I quickly remembered the complete sentence and who said it, but can’t recall the context or if the words were spoken or written in an email or IM conversation. I can remember my reaction was the same as when I saw it today.

You remind me of summer, because you’re short, warm and beautiful, and I miss you when you’re gone.

I smiled.


El blanquillo

The grandparents take a break
Summer birthdays for the grandparents. Mamá Toni is June 13 and Papá Chepe is July 29.

I’ve heard the story dozens of times, but still gather around Papá Chepe with my younger cousins and nieces and nephews when he begins telling us of something that happened 8 decades ago. Each time he tells it his age changes to be the same as the listener, give or take a year. Some times he’s 4, other times he’s 7; but the age is secondary to the lesson.

Chepe loves the attention of his progeny, but he also wants to teach us something with the blanquillo (egg) story. He wants us to understand where he came from and the fact that a birthday egg was a treat. That’s tough to understand when you’re a kid who is accustomed to elaborate birthday parties with jumpers, piñatas, taqueros and dozens of gifts.

In 1920-something on el día de su santo Chepe received a simple blanquillo (I can’t remember how it was prepared… probably fried) for breakfast from Mamá Chila. This was his cake, presents and jumper combined. He wanted to savor his treat and placed the plate on the floor of his adobe home in el Cargadero. They didn’t have a table.

Bad idea.

A chicken (or was it a rooster?) ambled in and ate the blanquillo before Chepe could kick the cannibal out of the house. He was left dumbfounded, sad and hungry.


I started writing this as a birthday post for Chepe. I wanted to tell the blanquillo story; I love hearing Chepe tell it slightly different each time. I couldn’t just tell the story. My mind kept pushing me a different way. I kept thinking of contrasts. Adobe house, egg as a birthday gift. Home in the suburbs, a huge pachanga for Adrian’s 21st birthday. Jumper? No. Taqueros and dozens of gifts? Yes.

We have this because of Chepe and Mamá Toni’s relentless hard work and sacrifice.

Who knew an egg could make my love, admiration and respect for my grandparents grow.


Summer concerts revisited

I haven’t been listening to a lot of my favorite music lately, mainly because the CD’s are scattered all over my messy room and/or car and I’m too lazy to find them.

However, it’s not so bad. In fact, I think I’ll survive just fine especially considering the line up of great rock en español bands coming to LA within the next few weeks. The only problem? Not enough time…

Annotated calendar of upcoming concerts*

Friday, July 28

Quetzal (LA), Quinto Sol (East LA) and Maneja Beto (Austin) at Temple Bar

Note: I saw Maneja Beto perform in their first in LA. The MC hyped them up and described them as the band that would form if Café Tacuba and Los Lobos had a kid. Thanks again to César (EMC) for not only having great music taste, but being so willing to share that music with others.

Saturday, July 29

Barrio Economy benefit with Fandango Sin Fronteras (collective made up of Zach de la Rocha, members from Quetzal and Ozomatli and others), Maneja Beto (Austin), Aztlan Underground (East LA), Mezcla (LA), Sahua (East LA) at Self Help Graphics

KCRW’s Sounds Eclectico Evening with Nortec Collective (Tijuana) and Mexican Institute of Sound (Mexico City) at California Plaza

Note: I’m missing out on so much this weekend, but it’s okay because I’ll be at one of my “happy places” with my huge familia.

Tuesday, August 1
Manu Chao and Kinky (Monterrey) at the Shrine Expo Center

Note: I have my tickets! I can’t wait. The last time I had the opportunity to see Manu Chao live was about 6 years ago. I didn’t go with the rest of my friends because I was sulking or being anti-social.

Wednesday, August 2
Plastilina Mosh (Monterrey), Niño Astronauta (Ensenada) and DJ Santi (Anaheim) at the Knitting Factory

Saturday, August 12
Liquits (Mexico City) and Los Abandoned (Van Nuys) at the Knitting Factory

Note: while at the Knitting Factory tonight, I bought tickets for Liquits and Los Abandoned. I saw Liquits open for Café Tacuba and Maldita Vecindad two years ago in San Diego. They wore grey jumpsuits and all I remember was the nonsensical Chido song.

Gustavo Cerati (Argentina) at the Wiltern

Sunday, August 13
Gustavo Cerati (Argentina) at the House of Blues-Sunset Strip

Note: a bit pricey ($35), but the former frontman of Soda Stereo is worth it.

Rock Prendido with Molotov (Mexico), Zoe and Delux at Gibson (Universal) Amphitheater

Thursday, August 17
Amigos Invisibles (Venezuela) at Avalon Hollywood

Note: the last time I saw AI was also at Avalon. This is a battle of the bands, but I have no idea who will be there besides los AI.

Friday, August 18
Los Pinguos (Argentina), Cava and Las Rubias del Norte (New York) at Temple Bar

Los Lonely Boys (San Angelo, Texas) and Del Castillo (Austin) at the Greek Theatre

For more events, check out LATV Live’s Calendar.

*I originally posted this at in a longer entry. I always get annoyed with the concert listings on LA group blogs (e.g., LAist and Losanjealous) that ignore any Spanish-language music. What a shame.


Mil palabras: down by the riverbed

Kern River
Kern River

Last night, I tried to tell _____ that we need to spend more time together. He agreed, but then admitted that it’s tough to spend time with someone who keeps leaving town all of the past 5 weekends. He exaggerates, but he has a point. I’ll be out of LA the next two weekends.

Oops. Maybe I shouldn’t travel so much for the rest of the summer.

I’ll be camping with a whole bunch of family members this weekend at Kern River. I’ve been looking forward to this since last year when my mom reserved spaces at the camp site.

As a kid, my family — and by family, I mean extended family plus my parent’s comadres, compadres and their own kids — went camping almost every year and Kern River was the main destination. I celebrated many birthdays during the Labor Day weekend under more stars than I could count and the sound of the river flowing behind me. There was no need for clothes at the River, as we called it. No, we didn’t run around naked. We simply changed out of pajamas in to bathing suits and kept them on until our parents made us stop swimming in the river because it was getting to dark. There are home videos of me and my cousins dancing to Juan Gabriel’s “El Noa Noa” on boulders. Another video stars Lori as the mini damsel in distress. Her kiddie raft was tied to some brush on the river bank but came loose. Tío Chuy filmed Lori drifting downstream as her hero, my Dad, entered the river fully clothed… with beer in hand.

For a period of about 10 years, my family stopped going to Kern River and camping all together. Our camping equipment lay unused in our garage until last summer. I’m glad we’ve revived this tradition.


Ruega por nosotros

Have you heard the one about the undocumented Mexican woman who goes to court seeking a restraining order against her verbally and emotionally abusive husband? Well, the substitute judge in LA Superior Court, Bruce Fink, thought he was doing her a favor by telling her to leave the court or be deported.

In last Friday’s hearing in Pomona, Fink asked Gonzalez if she was in fact an illegal immigrant.

“I’m illegal,” she said.

“I hate the immigration laws that we have,” the judge responded, according to the court transcript, “but I think the bailiff could take you to the immigration services and send you to Mexico. Is that what you guys want?”

Fink then asked Salgado if he wanted his wife deported. Salgado replied he was helping his wife get her legal papers, according to the transcript.

“But she’s an illegal alien, right?” Fink said. “She has no right to be here at this point, correct?

“Yes,” Salgado said.

At that point, Fink warned Gonzalez to either leave his courtroom or risk arrest.

“I’m going to count to 20, and if you people have left this courtroom and disappeared, she isn’t going to Mexico forthwith,” Fink said, according to the court transcript. “One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Six. When I get to 20, she gets arrested and goes to Mexico.”

After Gonzalez left the courtroom, Fink asked Salgado if he wanted to stay, and he said yes.

Fink then dismissed the case: “Well, she brought the proceedings, and if she’s not here to go forward, I guess all of the requests are denied.”

On Wednesday, Fink, who has been a family law attorney for 35 years, insisted he was seeking what he thought was an agreeable solution for both parties.

“What I saw was nothing more than some yelling and screaming between a husband and wife,” he said.

“I also saw that they really didn’t want to not be together anymore.”

If he had issued the restraining order, Fink said, “we’d wind up with exactly the opposite of what these people wanted.”

“The cure could be far worse than the illness,” he said. LA Times

The story immediately reminded me of Chispa. After her first year in law school, Chispa worked at a public law agency that helped women like Aurora with their VAWA cases. I remember her telling me that it wasn’t too different from being a counselor, except that now there was a legal aspect and she was working with “clients” rather than students. That work fit in perfectly with her interests in immigration law.

Chispa just graduated from law school in May. Even though she’s now back in LA, I still haven’t seen her as she was intensely studying for the Bar.

As I read the story last Friday, I wondered what Chispa would have said about the judge’s reaction to Aurora Gonzalez. I probably would have been something along the lines of what immigration law experts said.

But immigration law experts said Fink overreached by issuing the threat. A state judge has no authority to order an arrest for violation of federal immigration laws, they said.

Regardless, Gonzalez, who lives in a domestic abuse shelter, would probably have been granted a stay of any deportation proceeding under the federal Violence Against Women Act, said Ed Pilot, a Beverly Hills immigration attorney.

“By issuing the restraining order, it could help her on her VAWA case,” he said. Also, if Gonzalez had a pending application for legal residency, as asserted, she would have been allowed a grace period while the issue was resolved, he added.

Fink “may have had the best intentions in the world,” Pilot said, “but he’s treading into an area that he understandably is not an expert on.”

Victor Nieblas, an immigration attorney and adjunct professor of immigration law at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, agreed that Gonzalez would probably have been protected.

“This is what the judge doesn’t understand,” Nieblas said. “You can’t assume that because someone is here without documents that the automatic result is deportation.”

Apparently, Fink was dismissed.


Prayer candles A week after we initially met, Chispa and I found ourselves in the Sproul Hall lobby on a Sunday morning with a couple other women in the Freshmen Summer Program. We were waiting for Maria a peer counselor/resident assistant who had posted signs in the hallways and bathroom announcing that any student who wanted to go to Mass Sunday morning should meet in the lobby a little after 9.

Our faith has been one of the many things we’ve had in common since then and it showed. Chispa frequently asked me to pray for her or her family, something I saw my own family and fellow parishioners doing all the time. The requests were numerous over the past eight years, but this time there was no email or verbal request. I didn’t need one. I think the three-day California Bar exam warrants a prayer or two.

I hope and pray that Chispa does well on the Bar. Judging from what happened to Aurora Gonzalez, I’m sure California could use more good immigration lawyers.