Sunday, September 21, 2014

The Birds of Lincoln Heights: How Shitty Things Can Also Be Beautiful

Olga García Echeverría 

There is an elderly man on our block who loves to feed birds. My girlfriend and I call him Mr. Tom because he is not much of a talker and "Tom" is pretty much what we could get out of him. Every morning, at around 7:00 AM, Mr. Tom drives his Cadillac to the small "park" in the middle of our street. I say "park" in quotes because it is more like an island of grass with some palm trees, benches, and a sandbox.

Mr. Tom only lives a few houses away from this island of grass and sand, but he needs the car to transport the huge sacks of bird seed that he unloads from the trunk. After Mr. Tom has unloaded the sacks, he drags them to the sandbox, opens them, dumps them, and then carefully proceeds to rake the seeds into the sand, creating ripples and patterns on the ground. Mr. Tom is very systematic and serious when he does this. Once, our dog ran into the sandbox while Mr. Tom was raking, and he got terribly bothered, as if someone had just ruined a masterpiece he was creating. All we could do was apologize profusely and try to explain to our dear little dog that the park and the sandbox were off limits in the early mornings.

Because I don't want to bother him, I have always hesitated to ask Mr. Tom why he does what he does. Yet, it's been a lingering question in my mind since I moved here four years ago. Why do you feed the birds? I imagine the cost of feeding so many pigeons on a regular basis costs a pretty penny. This past Monday morning, as Mr. Tom was packing up and getting ready to leave the park, I rushed over to greet him. He was, as always, both civil and curt. Good morning. Goodbye. It's as if he's on a mission, and he doesn't have time for chitchat or bullshit.

Excuse me, can I ask you a quick question? I blurted out as the pigeons swooped around us, enjoying their morning seeds. He was already in the driver's seat and getting ready to start his car, so I did not wait for a response. Why do you do it? Feed these birds every morning?

He paused and looked at me as if the question had caught him off guard.  I like birds, he said turning on his ignition.

For a few seconds his words hovered in the air between us and I thought that was all I was going to get, but then he added, When I first moved to this neighborhood 20 years ago, the birds around here were so starved they hardly had any feathers. They have plenty of feathers now. Some people feed stray cats. Others dogs. I feed birds. Have a nice day, he said as he waved goodbye and began to drive away.

Thanks to Mr. Tom I call our block The Pigeon Capital of Los Angeles. Often when I leave for work in the mornings, there are dozens of birds perched on telephone wires and more dozens circling the sky. So many well-fed pigeons bring forth the hawks, who cruise the sky regularly, waiting for the right moment to strike. Then there is El Arbol de Las Palomas, where about a half dozen doves hang out and nest. Our street is literally the land of rustling wings. And at times, it is the land of gangs of birds, perched high, gawking. It's reminiscent of Hitchcock's The Birds, which is one of my favorite movies, so I don't much mind the ominous quality of having so many winged creatures looming.

The downfall, though, is all the bird shit--white-greyish airborne turds that fall like miniature bombs and splotch whatever they touch. Few on the block escape these droppings. Depending on where we park or which way the winds blew (do winds actually blow in LA?), our cars may or may not get plastered. I used to get angry when my car got bombed. Bird shirt calcifies very quickly under the LA sun, and it eats car paint. 

It's a pain to have to be wiping bird shit on a regular basis, but I admire Mr. Tom and his 20-year devotion way too much to complain or ask him to stop. Feeding the birds of Lincoln Heights is his ritual. Maybe it's what keeps him alive or feeds his happiness. It definitely keeps the pigeons and doves in our neighborhood happy, and by extension the red-tail hawks. And despite the caca-inconvenience, I cannot deny how spectacular the sky looks when so many pigeons are flying in choreographed circles, swooping down to the sandbox and then back up into the urban sky.





*An earlier version of this blog was posted at

Saturday, September 20, 2014

The tribe all around

I've been trying to digest the concept of Tribe that's appeared all around me in various forms this month.

Tomorrow, Sunday, the People's Climate Gathering-Denver will coincide with the larger NYC event where 100,000 people may march. They will also gather around the planet, one becoming increasingly unlivable for our species.

When my dog and I attend the Denver rally, I already know what I'll be thinking--that a different species, Neanderthals, could have replaced us on those streets, if not for better methods of survival that our species possessed. Possessed, as in past tense.

Among the theories about the Neanderthals' disappearance are 1. that our technological superiority doomed our extinct cousins, and 2. that homo sapiens practiced superior divisions of labor within their tribes.

In the British sci-fi film, The Machine (2013), a CIA-type says about us, "The technologically advanced tribe always wins." He obviously learned nothing from the Vietnam War or Iraq or what goes on in Gaza. But Western science tends to attribute everything positive to "progress" and technological superiority, even if it's undeserved. Like when it ruins a planet for that species.

I attended one workshop of The Americas Latino Eco Festival in Boulder last week. Entitled "We Stand on Their Shoulders,” it was led by community organizer/facilitator Daniel Escalante.* Participants were to discuss ways that Latinos have been living sustainably for thousands of years, due in large part to our spiritual relationship with the Earth and its inhabitants. We were to share ancestral stories of how they lived green. And to "come with an open heart and a commitment to listen to each other with the intention of learning."

What I learned was that I was hearing the concept of Tribe from many peoples' words and thoughts. That linked to point number two, above, about our social superiority over Neanderthals. However, modern Western society has replaced our tribal superiority with corporate, governmental and class divisions of labor that we all live under. Divisions that have taken the power away from our tribes and given it to the 1%. A 1% intent on planetary self-extermination.

Escalante's workshop also reminded me of "In Lak'ech Ala K'in," a Maya (not MayaN--that's their language) phrase translated as, "you are my other self." It's often explained as a spiritual culture of empathy and collective effort, like at the artistic exhibition being held in Denver through next month.

"We stand on the shoulders of those who came before." At one time our species all did stand on those shoulders, and some of us are attempting to revive such a way of life. To learn how our tribes succeeded and how we can change ourselves for the same purpose. The purpose of survival.

If our ancestors hadn't practiced "you are my other self," if they hadn't stood on each other's shoulders, the tribe over in the next valley could have exterminated us like we exterminated the Neanderthals. If we hadn't practiced and believed such concepts, our tribes wouldn't have made it through years of drought or glacial eras. But we did and we did survive. Up to now.

"It takes a village to raise a child." Whether it's actually an ancient African proverb, you hear it come up whenever a community rallies to support a kid who suffered a tragedy of some form. However, the phrase should be logically extended. If it takes a village to raise one child, doesn't that mean that every child should be raised by a village? Not just the kid on prime time.

Clinton's book of the same name wasn't received well by conservatives, one responding, "No, it only takes a family to raise a child." Does it? Our Western society has steadily eroded our tribal connections down to family, with mixed results. Alienation, angst, drug addiction, suicide, mass shootings, teen pregnancies and a few other problems might appear differently if more than families were involved in nurturing our children. Perhaps.

Definition of Tribe: "a people united by ties of descent from a common ancestor, community of customs and traditions, adherence to its leaders; a local division of an aboriginal people."

Our modern-day family is what remains of the old tribes. Of the village that raised our children. Of the tribe that was superior to other homo species. Of the tribes that stood on ancestral shoulders and said, you are my other self. Facebook and other circles of "friends" lure us with their tribal attributes. Could such technology return to us what we need to deal with the 1% and climate change and enable us to survive? Seems unLikely.

Especially because tribes were "local." Local like "buy local," support local, small farmers, etc. Such organic-food movements also ring of Tribe.

I wrestle with the concept of building my own tribe, not to lead but to belong to. Our tribe, one of many. Locally. Of necessity, including my non-Chicano neighbors. Something larger than my family or extended family.

Tomrrow when I head to the Colorado Capitol Building at Civic Center Park 
in Denver for the Climate rally, I'll be wondering how many years my species yet has to prove itself superior to the precipice we've allowed our village-idiot leaders to lead us down. And maybe I'll see you, at 12:00pm. In future posts, I'll work more on this Tribe concept and am interested in hearing other's thoughts.

* Daniel Escalante manages Casa Taos, a small retreat center in Taos, N.M., for activists, educators and families. The  center is a living example of green living and draws on the ancient ways of Latino and Indian people, while incorporating current approaches to caring for mother earth. I highly recommend its affordable options when visiting northern N.M.

Es todo, hoy,

Friday, September 19, 2014

Notes From the Rocky Mountain Front

Culture War? If there is such a thing, I think we are winning. Here are notices about a few artistic skirmishes in the Mountain West. Cultural warriors unite.


Call for Entry: El Dia de Los Muertos

CHAC Gallery & Cultural Center
774 Santa Fe Drive Denver

Attention Artists, Students, Teachers and Community Members!

 2014 “El Dia de Los Muertos” –A Celebration of Life!

Best of Show $100, and two honorable mentions $25 each!

Judges Stephanie Shearer and Chris Bacorn owners of Pandora on the Hill and Soul Haus!

Show Dates: Wed. Oct. 1- Sat. November 1, 2014
Opening Reception October 17th 6-9 PM 
With a procession with Aztec dancers, and traditional refreshments
  • Artwork drop off is Sunday September 28th from noon to 4 PM at 774 Santa Fe Drive Denver CO 80205. 303-571-0440
  • You may also drop off your work ahead of time during regular gallery hours the week prior.
  • Requirements: Work must be Festive, Fun…new, never shown at CHAC, and based on the  cultural theme of El Dia de Los Muertos  (Day of the Dead). Work must be ready to hang. (Student artwork is the only exception) Art work must be suitable for a family friendly, environment, and be all age appropriate. 25% commission on all sales.
  • All Mediums are welcome including, but not limited to paintings, photography, sculpture, drawings, carvings, mixed media, fabric and jewelry.
  • Artwork may be refused for any reason if deemed inappropriate for the exhibit.
  • Altars-We are encouraging small altars due to limited space. Sunday set up only! Please call to reserve a spot beforehand. $20 donation required.
Entry fee: Free for CHAC Gallery members, $10 each or 3 for $25 for non members Teachers and schools $1.00 per art piece per child. We will work with you on pricing and sizes. Please call Crystal at 303-571-0440 with any questions!




September 15, 2014 (Denver, CO) – The Denver Film Society (DFS) is proud to announce special guests Edward James Olmos (Producer), Richard Montoya (Director) and Nicholas Gonzalez (The Purge: Anarchy, Sleepy Hollow, Grimm) will attend CineLatino on behalf of the Opening Night film Water & Power on September 25. The film, a Sundance Lab Project and official selection of the LA Latino Film Festival and San Diego Latino Film Festival, revolves around twin brothers nicknamed “Water” and “Power (Gonzalez)” from the hard scrabble Eastside streets of Los Angeles.

“We are thrilled to make this announcement on the first day of Hispanic Heritage Month,” says DFS Programming Manager, Ernie Quiroz. “CineLatino is a celebration of the accomplishments of Latinos in film and I can’t think of a better person that exemplifies this than Mr. Olmos. He has opened the door for multiple generations of Latino actors, writers, producers and directors and continues his tireless work with the new film Water & Power by Richard Montoya.”

The Festival will open on Thursday, September 25 with a special pre-reception beginning at 6pm. The film will begin at 7:30pm immediately followed by a Q&A with Mr. Olmos, Mr. Montoya and Mr. Gonzalez. The DFS will continue to celebrate Edward James Olmos’ legacy on Saturday, September 27, by presenting a free screening of his film, Zoot Suit. In addition, Antonio Mercado along with students from the original North High School production of Zoot Suit Riots will host a panel discussion following the film. In 2004, Mercado and the students of North High School made history with their performance of Zoot Suit Riots and the play became the first high school production to be staged at the Buell Theater. Ten years later, the students have grown to become community leaders, actors, and activists.

A complete Festival pass to CineLatino is $50 for DFS members and $60 for non-members. The pass includes guaranteed seating to all films and panels, as well as access to all receptions and parties. Tickets to the Opening Night Film and Reception are $20 for DFS members and $25 for non-members, Closing Night Film and Reception are $15 for DFS members and $20 for non-members – both receptions include complimentary food and drink courtesy of Lifestyles Catering and locally based, Suerte Tequila. Regularly scheduled films are $10 for DFS members and $12 for non-members. Visit for more information and to purchase your tickets. 
Direct Link to full program and to purchase passes and individual tickets: click here.
The Man Behind The Mask
Other notable films in the festival (twelve total) include:
Thesis on a Homicide (Argentina) 
Who Is Dayani Cristal? (Mexico, documentary with Gael Garcia Bernal) 
Frontera (USA, starring Michael Peña and Ed Harris)


Tirar Chancla

Great band, great venue, great people having a good time.


Latin@ Book Festival - Pueblo

Hard to see in the image (the only one I could find), but this all-day event offers author presentations, panels on getting published and banned books, and more. La Bloga friend Mario Acevedo is featured at 2:45 PM when he will talk about Murder Your Writing Demons, while I will speak at 9:30 AM on Chicano Noir: It's Black and It's Brown.

September 27
Rawlings Library
100 E Abriendo Ave.
Pueblo, CO 81004-4290
(719) 562-5600


Enrique's Journey


Michael Nava in Boulder

On a very warm but beautiful afternoon (September 18) I attended a reading and discussion with the popular and award-winning author Michael Nava on the Boulder campus of the University of Colorado.  The event was hosted by Professor and author Emma Pérez of the C.U. Ethnic Studies Department.  Michael read from his excellent novel The City of Palaces, reviewed on La Bloga here and here. Retirement allows me the spontaneity to take in events such as these, and this was an interesting and enlightening time enjoyed by all who attended.

Emma Pérez, Michael Nava, Manuel Ramos

Final note:  I had a great time at the Literatura Hispana event sponsored by Arapahoe Community College in Littleton, Colorado on September 16. I read and answered questions about Desperado, and shared the stage with fellow writers and friends Denise Vega and Sheryl Luna. This was the first time this college hosted such an event but the organizers hope to make it an annual event for September 16th celebrations.  That would be swell.


Thursday, September 18, 2014

Chicanonautica: Media and Messages in New Mexico

When I travel, I try to plug into the local media. It gives me clues as to what’s going on, and provides an alternative to my usual habits. And if the ol’ cerebro diabolico gets knocked into a new configuration, so much the better!

I even found a copy of Marshall McLuhan’s Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man in an Española thrift store. Hmm, wonder what a roadtrip through New Mexico would have done to McLuhan’s theorizing. 

Sure, I could have gotten online at the Wired? Cafe in Taos, where we parked next to a guy who looked like a latter-day Quijote/road warrior on the run: His car was dented and mud-spattered. Mud seemed to deliberately obscure the license plate. His door was open, a muddy boot touched the ground as he used a hand-held device.

Screw it, I decided, I’m on vacation. 

In these times of vanishing newspapers, I found local papers everywhere in New Mexico. There are even people hawking them at intersections. 

In Pojoaque, I picked up a gratis copy of El Semanario de Nuevo México, “El Périodico de Nuestra Gente.” It’s a modern newpaper with a website, Facebook page and YouTube channel. It also had ads that offered discounts on consulta espiritual, limpias-baño de yerbas, lectura de cartas, aguas espirituales, talismanes, jabones y mucho más. 

Unlike Arizona and California, in New Mexico, Latinos -- or maybe I should say Hispanics, are visible, almost a majority, as it should be since some families here have been around since before 1776. They blend with both the Anglo and large, diverse Native populations, but in a different way from the Hollywood ethnic-neutral androids. There are still stories about Hispanic criminals, but they are covered by brown news people. The us/them angle I’m used to seeing is lacking even when the subject of criminals, in the country illegally, comes up. 
And there are Hispanic conservatives. (Actually, we have them everywhere, but somehow they don’t get mentioned much.)

Susana Martinez,the Republican incumbent governor, is a Hispanic woman. When she criticizes Washington, it doesn’t sound like she’s running against Obama. In Arizona, you’d think Obama was running for just about every office in the state.

Rio Arriba County Sheriff  Tommy Rodella and his son were arrested by the FBI. “The pair were accused of civil rights violations, falsifying documents, and violating federal firearms laws.” Joe Arpaio would be proud.

There are more Spanish TV channels -- not just Univision and Telemundo, you can see Latin music videos, and catch a Chinese martial arts period pieces dubbed into español.

A PSA from the Santa Fe police kept popping up in which brown officers showed off shiny, new SWAT and riot gear, explaining how it's all to promote “diversity.”

Meanwhile, in Albuquerque, folks protested the upcoming NRA Police Shooting Competition because officers involved in recent fatal shootings were slated to participate (then backed out). “Many of those protesters have been affected by officer-involved shootings in the city. They say the competition is an insult to them and everyone else.”

Back in Santa Fe, the city council voted to decriminalize the “possession of less than one ounce (28 grams) of marijuana.” Which, of course, caused more controversy

Looks like the near-future in New Mexico is going to be interesting.

Ernest Hogan is an Irish-Chicano whose family came from New Mexico. The new Kindle edition of his novel Cortez on Jupiter is available for pre-order.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Viva Frida

Written and illustrated by Yuyi Morale
Photography by Tim O'Meara

Roaring Brook Press

Frida Kahlo, one of the world's most famous and unusual artists is revered around the world. Her life was filled with laughter, love, and tragedy, all of which influenced what she painted on her canvases.  

Distinguished author/illustrator Yuyi Morales illuminates Frida's life and work in this elegant and fascinating book.

Praise for Viva Frida
"Morales artistically distills the essence of the remarkable Frida Kahlo in this esoteric, multigenre picture book." - Booklist

*"There have been several books for young readers about Frida Kahlo, but none has come close to the emotional aesthetic Morales brings to her subjects . . . an ingenious tour de force." - The Horn Book, STARRED REVIEW

"This luminescent homage to Frida Kahlo doesn't hew to her artwork's mood but entrances on its own merit . . . Visually radiant." - Kirkus Reviews

*"Kahlo's unusual life story, background, and art have made her a frequent topic of biographies. Morales's perception of her creative process results in a fresh, winning take on an artist who has rarely been understood . . . Morales's art and O'Meara's photographs take this book to another level." - School Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

STARRED REVIEW "Frida is presented less as a historical figure than as an icon who represents the life Morales holds sacred; Frida lives because she loves and creates." -Publisher's Weekly

Making Viva Frida

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

News and Notes

Michael Sedano

Being a shut-in means missing every poetry reading, art gallery opening, the Hollywood Bowl, and such normal activities as grocery shopping or gardening. The aftereffects of my double surgeries in July have mostly subsided now, and I am looking forward to getting out among 'em by the end of the month. There are so many events not to miss.

From Texas to California, this week's mailbag brings a handful of excitement.

Santa Barbara • September 27

The sixth season of the Mission Poetry Series kicks off on Saturday, September 27, at 1 p.m. in its new home at Antioch University Santa Barbara. “So Deep a Sound: Three Poets in Autumn” features Melinda Palacio, Michelle Detorie, and Blas Falconer. The reading will be held at Antioch University Santa Barbara • 602 Anacapa Street • Santa Barbara, CA, and is free and open to the public. Refreshments, complimentary broadsides, and poets' work for sale.

Houston • September 27
Arte Publico Press sends news of LibroFEST held at multiple locations across the city. Visit LibroFEST website for details.

Highland Park Los Angeles • September 28

Highland Park's Avenue 50 Studio hosts a pair of monthly readings, including the recently-held Bluebird Reading, and the upcoming La Palabra. Both series showcase emerging and established talent from diverse LA poetry communities. In addition to the spotlight readers, a lively Open Mic generates energy for the often SRO audiences. Parking in the rear is available.

Pomona CA • October 8

Move over, LA's westside. Make room for the westside of the Inland Empire, Pomona, where an arts community thrives, centered around the dA Center for the Arts.

Ventura County's Santa Paula • October 18

Magu's "the family car" always brought a spark to his eye when he talked about it. Now in the hands of a generous private collector, this show offers a rare chance to see Magu's masterwork in person. 

There's yet another special feature at the opening day celebration. One of Magu's sons plays with Conjunto Los Pochos, who will be joined by Los Fabulocos for musical festivities.

Monday, September 15, 2014

WeHo Reads: Noir!

The City of West Hollywood celebrates National Literacy Month in September 2014 by launching a new, free literary-based community event “WeHo Reads: Noir” and a month of free Saturday programming for adults and children at West Hollywood Library and Park. The programming includes not only great literature, but also special screenings of noir classics.

I want to note that on Saturday, September 27, there will be a day of author panels beginning at 1:00 and running to 7:00 p.m. Here is the full schedule. I am delighted that I will be a panelist on “Noir in Color: Voices from Beyond the Pale” that starts at 3:30 and lasts until 4:15. Here is a description of panel: Color blind or color in mind? Noir, neo-Noir and not-so-Noir? Join us and look “beyond the pale” at characters of color in Noir and into the “pale of Noir” to examine the broad nature of how Noir is defined. The panel will feature:

Gary Phillips (Moderator) is the editor and contributor to the bestselling anthology “Orange County Noir” and “Black Pulp.” His novel “Warlord of Willow Ridge” was about a career criminal hiding out in suburbia and “Big Water” is his graphic novel about a community’s fight against water privatization.

Gary Phillips (Moderator) 

Gar Anthony Haywood is the Shamus and Anthony award-winning author of twelve crime novels and numerous short stories. He has written for both The New York Times and Los Angeles Times, and for long-form television. His short fiction has been included in the “Best American Mystery Stories” anthologies and Booklist has called him “a writer who has always belonged in the upper echelon of American crime fiction.”

Gar Anthony Haywood 

Nina Revoyr is the author of four novels, including “Southland,” which was a BookSense 76 pick and a Los Angeles Times “Best Book” of 2003; the “The Age of Dreaming,” which was a finalist for the 2008 Los Angeles Times Book Prize; and “Wingshooters,” which won an Indie Booksellers’ Choice Award, was one of O: Oprah Magazine’s “Books to Watch For,” and was one of Booklist’s Books of the Year for 2011. Her new novel, “Lost Canyon,” will be published in 2015. Revoyr is also co-editor of the textbook “Literature for Life: A Thematic Introduction to Reading and Writing”. She has taught at Cornell, Antioch, Occidental, and Pitzer, and is executive vice president of a non-profit children’s service organization in Los Angeles.

Nina Revoyr

Désirée Zamorano delights in the exploration of contemporary issues of injustice and inequity, via her mystery series featuring private investigator, Inez Leon, published by Lucky Bat Books. “Human Cargo” was Latinidad’s mystery pick of the year.

Désirée Zamorano

Daniel A. Olivas is the author of seven books including the award-winning novel, “The Book of Want” (University of Arizona Press), and “Things We Do Not Talk About: Exploring Latino/a Literature through Essays and Interviews” (San Diego State University Press). He is the editor of “Latinos in Lotusland: An Anthology of Contemporary Southern California Literature” (Bilingual Press), and has been widely anthologized including in “Sudden Fiction Latino” (W. W. Norton), and “You Don’t Have a Clue: Latino Mystery Stories for Teens” (Arte Público Press). Olivas has written for many publications including The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Review of Books, La Bloga, High Country News, and California Lawyer.
Daniel A. Olivas 

For more information about WeHo Reads: Noir, visit here.