Let the words of Helena María Viramontes serve as an introduction.
After months of exasperated apprehension, Day 2 of the 12th Annual Los Angeles Latino and Family Festival is here. Mission Accomplished. You see, Virginia, there is a Satan. Like Santa, I received thousands of letters asking me to give them a little something something. Day 1 was not enough, the masses clamored for more. I heard you, my peeps. Now, will you shut the… Of course, there were some scrooges who wrote/commented that my Day 1 report was not polite enough. Bah! Those scattered patrons of the mainstream like their artists untouchable. Here, like in The House of Usher, everybody gets touched. On with the show.
Hit the door with ipod, camera and a bottle of water. And a notebook. Now I’m important. Bust a left at Eastern and get to McDisease’s at Ramona. Yummy.
I’m not much of a newspaper reader, but the headline of the day was interesting (and misspelled).
Get to Granny’s Donuts and I near my destination.
I cross the street on University Drive and look up to see they threw up these gigantic buildings. I hear not one classroom in them.
Makes me think bout that 30% fee increase? During a recession? The business of America is business.
I get to the fair and am met with a wonderful sight.
This is almost as colorful the last time I did mush… I mean, what a combination: beautiful outfits and dance customs from down South. Wait, we are down South, no?
It’s fun to see parents encourage kids, especially when it’s not just to conquer the other team.
What a pleasant start to Day 2, no? You see, I can be quaint too.
First panel is almost up and it will include Luis J. Rodriguez. I wrote him a letter about 15 years ago. I asked him about Chicago bookstores and Chicano friendly zine distributors. He was and is very supportive. We have had several conversations over the years. One year I brought him to RHS and the veteran teachers were impressed at how students listened to Luis. One said, “I have been here for 25 years and the auditorium has never been that quiet.” Luis has always been honest about his past and his present. Very forthcoming. Often mislabeled “that gangster writer.” He has written 13 books I believe and to be measured by one is unfair. I have read most of his books and his poetry I often revisit.
He is one of my favorite poets. I don’t have many. “Tia Chucha,” “Always Running,” “The Concrete River,” etc. How about that classic “Meeting Animal In Washington Square Park?” Now, that’s what I’m talking about. Here is the latter half:
How he had been to prison, and later ended up homeless
in New York City, with a couple of kids somewhere.
And there he was, with a mortal enemy from East L.A.,
talking away. I told him how I was now a poet,
doing a reading at City College, and he didn’t wince
or looked surprised. Seemed natural. Sure. A poet
and boxer. Drinking beer. Among the homeless,
the tourists and acrobats. Mortal enemies.
When I told him I had to leave, he said, “go then,”
but soon shook my hand, East L.A. style, and walked off.
“Maybe, someday, you’ll do a poem about me, eh?”
Sure, Animal, that sounds great.
Someday, I’ll do a poem about you.
(from Troche Moche)
Short intros. The title made me think of my cuz, but I dye gress. All but one have written memoirs. How they came up and that street experience. Most seem new to this and most seem humble, as opposed to some of yesterday’s panels. Maybe I just connect with that street scene. If I remember correctly, they all read excerpts and you know how I feel about that. I like how some deferred to Luis in a way. Respect. Then Luis speaks on it: “The real world doesn’t want you to dream… a librarian, no!… a bookstore…no!” Now, I must confess these quotes are not 100% accurate. I hate paraphrasing but holy shit if I can read my own writing.
“I didn’t know how to put two words together. I didn’t know what I was doing.” He went how to recount how Mr. Takagi at ELAC reached out to him and recognized his hunger. Funny story. He went on about forging your own path, on “the pathless path,” “the gateless gate.” Hey, he is a poet, he has license. The guy used to sell books out of his trunk. Come on, now! He created his own press! Much respect. I heard the other authors and they are new to the game, one I think even self-published, so tip of the hat, and their voices will develop. They have already shown such drive, not just in writing a memoir, but just in their experiences. I know, homeboys look young and already a memoir?
Whatcha gone do? Danny Boy wrote Mi Revolución/My Revolution. David Bueno-Hill wrote I Wasn’t Born A Teacher and Mr. Clean and The Barrio. At the Q & A, they were asked about inspiration and some mentioned teachers. They recounted some positive and negative experiences.
12:30 Chicano/Latino Thought and Art
Panel: Francisco Letelier, Eliud Martinez, Luis J. Rodriguez
I liked the name of the panel. That’s what I’m talkin bout. Honestly, I listened to the others but they were pretty dry. Luis, I don’t think has ever been a professor, so he remembers to not speak like it’s a lecture. I have heard him recount how his bouts with abuse interfered with his parenting and how sometimes the demands of his art does the same. You have to sacrifice a lot. But, he reminds, you don’t have to lose the precious things for your art. He speaks, in the context of the panel theme, from experience. He presses the point about The Primary Agreement, where you have to try and make your own accomplishments. What could they be? Rodriguez says “you’ll know when you get passionate… you have to realize your gift.” Here is a little more:
I went for some grub. Homey gotta eat. Even so-called vegans get cranky, that you already knew. Went back to the food vendors. It was alright. Like I wrote, at least the option is there, not everyone enjoys masticating carcasses or drinking shit that has been in an aluminum can for 25 years. Not even.
At the main stage, I hear music and words. East L.A. legend Marisela Norte is reading some poems.
The back up group was jamming so bad ass, homey’s shirt went up in flames.
3:30 Cinema of the U.S.-Mexico Border: Alambriste! and The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez by Robert Young
Robert M. Young is old but he’s young. Just one of those movie makers who has an idea and goes for it. I had heard of “¡Alambriste!” but I had never seen it. He showed some excerpts, but more interesting is this man’s journey. He has traveled the world, damn he did a movie about eskimos and one about the war in Angola. He’s done many. The man even worked on “Dominick and Eugene,” one of my favorite movies.
He is a world of info. I was tired so I didn’t take many notes. It was fun to see Professor Cantú so excited to have this man speaking. His enthusiasm was contagious. Despite the technical difficulties, Robert M. Young had no difficulty speaking quite candidly and enthusiastically about what he does, a most interesting human. I was actually inspired. That’s saying something, knowing my curt, hard ass way.
As I got back to the programming, I bumped into a good buddy from Homeboy Industries. Fabian and I go back. We met at ELAC many years ago, when he worked in the Transfer Center. He was reading Blood In My Eye, so you know we got along right on the spot. He tells me that he and others are gonna read some poetry. A few minutes later, he’s up on the stage, reading.
Here is an excerpt from his poem, “Will You Tell Her?”
Will you tell her?
the truth that her abuelita
looked like a holocaust Jewish women
but dressed in Mexican
And that her Abuelo was homeless
at 62 in the streets of LA, broken spirit
trying to live
ex- heroine addict , fought that disease and won
but couldn’t fight the disease of poverty
living in his brain
would you tell her
the painful truth
the bloody truth
or would you mask it up
and tell her that they
loved her if they never got to know her
and that they were stupendous citizens
of this place that hated them
Would you say to her
that her fathers family
and her ancestral indigenous
each day and night
to just survive
and that they’ve
been to hell and back
with burnt skins,
but with their souls
still fighting to live another night
Then Luis lays out a few.
I salute Luis and Fabian, and then my friend and I ask Luis if he needs any help with some of the materials at the Tía Chucha stand, he thanks us and says he’s alright. Ana splits to meet another volunteer, and I head out to the final panel of the day.
4:30 Editors and Agents
Panel: Toni Plummer (St. Martin’s Press) and Adriana Dominguez (Full Circle Literary)
I also want to write a couple of books. Why the hell not? I have some fun stories to share. A panel of agents and editors, meaning one of each. Miss Plummer is from South El Monte, she now resides on the East Coast. You know what that means? No, she wasn’t snobby. I’ve heard from several that if you be from the East Coast you just might favor writers from that coast. In fact, both are based out there. Why no West Coast reps? We in East Los. Both were pretty straightforward agents/business people. Dominguez once handled Rayo’s children’s division. I kinda liked their frank manner.
They had the proper responses to some basic questions. “What is selling? Who do I send the manuscript to?” Their general response was: “Write from the heart, what you care about…blah blah” Very agenty. But, they did spell out one important business reality. Short story collections and poetry collections currently don’t sell. So, what kind of books do I want to write? You fuckin right, a short story collection. Will it sell? Of course not! The audience was very participatory and some appreciated the inside industry talk.
I paraphrased both Miss Plummer and Mrs. Dominguez, but they wouldn’t call me a liar. Is this why there are so many shitty novels everywhere? Do suckas just take a short story and just stretch it out? Should you now be dissuaded from some of your literary pursuits? Should you despair? Course not! Does that mean to throw out that journal of poems you wrote when she dumped you? Huh? “Do you… sniff sniff… think… she’ll take me ba.. ba.. ba… back?” Don’t ask me. On second and third thought, throw em away.
So there you are. All done, I wash my hands of this. The LBF has been documented, so now it exists. It is now legal. I do appreciate these events, in fact, i enjoy books and fairs and when they meet, come on, let the fun begin. The book fair was run very well and I do appreciate the efforts of all those who brought this to CSULA. It is never easy to manage any type of affair consisting of panels and various speakers. I salute the movers and shakers who brought this to La East Side. I raise my carrot juice in solidarity. To those few “writers” who came to this event, just one block from City Terrace! mind you, to push product, you know who you are, ima let you in on a lil secret: We are not fuckin fodder! To the authors who respect their craft and gladly share their knowledge and experiences, we salute you.
I then took a little stroll on the campus. It was a beautiful day. CSULA, we thank you for the hospitality.
Until next year, I wish you all the stimulation you can stand, intellectually and especially otherwise. We hope you haven’t been conditioned inside and out, to the point of no return. We leave you with a little farewell melody. Also, I wanna thank the academy…
Not Fucking Fodder!
Conditioned inside and out
To the point of no return
To what we may have been without all this shit we were born into: Conditioned inside and out
To the point of no return
By a world not crafted by hands of our own
Yet still we march in step to the cadence of its irregular beat
(Chorus) Poverty, depression, power and despair
Conditioned inside and out
To the point of no return
To what we may have been without all this shit we were born into:
The damage has been done- irreparable and all-encompassing Nature is an archaic word that could never explain this shit
Words become obsolete like ideas
And they won’t have to burn the books when no one reads them anyway.