Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Guest columnist Raquel Z. Rivera. The Gluten-free Chicano. Banned Books Update. Oedipus at Chicago. On-Line Floricanto.

Guest Columnist: Raquel Z. Rivera  

Review: Not Myself Without You. A novel by Lourdes Vázquez. English translation by Bethany M. Korp-Edwards. Tempe, Arizona: Bilingual Press, 2012.
ISBN 978-1-931010-68-9

Raquel Z. Rivera.

I loved this novel the first time I read it in its original Spanish edition under the title Sin ti no soy yo (Ediciones Puerto, 2005). And I loved it just as much now that I read it in its English translation titled Not Myself Without You (Bilingual Press, 2012).

A playful and powerful novel that in the book jacket is described as a fictionalized memoir, Not Myself Without You is a gripping tale centered around family and neighborhood life in Santurce, Puerto Rico, featuring numerous fascinating characters, love affairs, hatreds, betrayals, politics and a very popular Spiritist temple.

But though Santurce serves as the spatial axis, the novel also moves across various sites of Puerto Rican migration including New York, Spain and a few countries throughout the Caribbean Basin, thus making the text refreshingly immersed in the complex geographic movement that pervades Caribbean experiences.

Also significant is the fact that the social fabric of Vázquez's Santurce weaves together the inextricable experiences of the various ethnic groups that live and struggle together in that neighborhood—most notably Puerto Ricans, Haitians, Dominicans and Cubans.

This novel's understated but wicked humor, as well as its eroticism, are wonderful lenses with which to approach somber themes like abuse, trauma, poverty and political violence. Its aesthetic unorthodoxy that splices together prayers, rituals, family photographs, popular sayings, and interviews, among other imaginative sources, makes the narrative even more compelling.

Though no one character hogs the limelight, many of them leave indelible marks in readers' imagination. I was particularly impressed and intrigued by the cannabis-loving great-aunts who ask that, upon their death, their ashes be scattered throughout New York City's Central Park.

Lourdes Vázquez's deeply moving yet tricksterish novel is a delight to read and I am overjoyed that it is now available in English.

Meet Raquel
Foto: Jorge Vázquez
Raquel Z. Rivera is an author and singer-songwriter. Author of New York Ricans from the Hip Hop Zone (Palgrave Macmillan 2003) and co-editor of Reggaeton (Duke University Press 2009), she has also published numerous journalistic and scholarly articles on Caribbean Latino popular music and culture.

Her creative essays, short stories and poetry have been published in newspapers, magazines, literary journals and websites. Her musical debut as a singer-songwriter is Las 7 Salves de La Magdalena / 7 Songs of Praise for The Magdalene (2010), a concept album that weaves together Dominican salves, Puerto Rican jibaro music, bomba and other Caribbean roots genres. She has a Ph.D. in Sociology.

The Gluten-free Chicano Finds Vacation Eating Less Complicated  

Michael Sedano

Travel leads the gluten-adverse eater into a minefield of wheat-laced traps involved with dining on the road. At home, I have my regular haunts where I already know what to order and what to avoid and generally avoid the standard litany of questions about bread, flour, wheat, thickeners.

Travel trepidation comes with the road, so I expected my recent vacation would put me on edge every time I got hungry. Up on Monterey’s Cannery Row then down the coast, the Gluten-free Chicano discovered new levels of professionalism among food-servers and managers, earning some establishments the coveted and much sought after La Bloga Gluten-free Chicano Please, May I Have Some More? Award.

The Gluten-free Chicano Recognitions and Advertencias:
Restaurants & Eateries fall into four groups of gluten awareness:
Never Mind, just a salad.
Bad Dog!
Right Attitude…
Please, May I Have Some More?

Bad Dog!
Harris Ranch presents a great place for wheat eaters, dim prospects for the gluten adverse.

Harris Ranch Restaurant
24505 W Dorris Av
Coalinga, CA 93210

Delight stumbles out of the gate at this popular traveler’s eatery. Heading north on the I-5 from El Lay, I enjoy either Harris Ranch or pea soup at Andersen’s in Santa Nella, from there backtracking a few miles to Pacheco Pass.
Anxious to see if Pacheco Pass is showing its golden poppy vistas, my wife and I elect to gas the Prius in Coalinga and catch some chow.

We are not alone. Harris Ranch parking lot, gift shop, bar, and restaurant are crowded. Thousands of mouths pack this place monthly throughout the year.

It’s no surprise after seeing miles of cattle feed lots: Harris Ranch menu features steaks. What is surprising, given those thousands of customers, is the absence of gluten awareness in waitstaff. No one wants to be sickened from contaminated food, especially driving in the hinterlands miles from a convenience.

The waiter’s frown signals either confusion or he’s put off when I persist in asking about ingredients, and ask that he hold the croutons. He makes no connection between wheat, bread, and flour. I settle for a small steak, no sauce, no fries, steamed vegetables instead. Over at the next table, a cowboy family munches onion rings that sound crunchy and look delicious. And I’m sure the kitchen fries papitas in the same oil as the onion rings.

We pay LA prices in the middle of nowhere. The steamed veggies are properly steamed; the broccoli stem resists the fork and the carrots crunch.
San Luis Reservoir at Pacheco Pass
Pacheco Pass shows why we’re called the golden state. Not owing to gorgeous poppy fields but sere landscapes of desiccated grasses and deep-green oak trees.

Right Attitude…
The Chart House waitstaff and management display professionalism in their knowledge and helpfulness but miss crucial small details in food display.

The Chart House
444 Cannery Row
Monterey, CA 93940
(831) 372-3362

An order taker is completely informed. I ask if a dish contains flour and she asks if I have a gluten intolerance. It’s the perfect answer and I’m prepared for a perfect evening. As we go through my order, she steers me off a bad choice, just in case. Shortly, the manager stops by to reassure me the food is safe for me to eat. I’m starry-eyed.

This Chart House’s fabulous salad bar brings me back whenever I’m in Monterey. The salad bar features the expected off-limits foods and sauces but with the cornucopia of naturally gluten free verdura, who needs crisp noodles and ranch or soy sauce dressing?

The restaurant arrays the minced and diced vegetables, tomatoes, raisins, seeds, nuts, chopped eggs and the like in stainless steel tubs racked four across and three down, it’s not really a horn.

Chow mein noodles and croutons occupy top rows. As customers dig in for these wheat treats, spills invariably contaminate food in the lower containers bombarded with wheat detritus. Instantly, otherwise gluten-free ingredients like celery or olives become off-limits.

Some oblivious diners drag crackers through the hummus or aguacate, all happy about the convenience, not minding the crumbs embedded in the once gluten-free dish.

A place for everything, and everything in its place. Move the wheat to the bottom row! Clean up the area just as you’d wipe a spill waterglass—immediately. Here is The Chart House Cannery Row’s prime opportunity to distinguish itself as a place where the gluten-free chicano and others can relax carefree and say, please, may I have some more?

Please, May I Have Some More?
and Bad Dog!
Trattoria Paradiso lunchtime awesome service but dinner shift falls flat. The sublime to the dangerous.

Trattoria Paradiso
654 Cannery Row
Monterey, CA 93940
(831) 375-4155

Trattoria Paradiso shares the building with our hotel at the opposite end of Cannery Row from the aquarium. Next door, derelict sardine factories, chainlink fencing, and homeless dudes smoking cigarettes drinking tall cans of beer laugh and take in the free sunset.

At this end of Cannery Row, pedestrians are striding to someplace else, so Trattoria Paradiso has a barker out front who slows folks down promoting free appetizers with anything inside.

Owing to the miracles of medical engineering, we don’t walk far nor often these days, which is fine because we enjoy the menu here. The calamari salad is safe. The catch of the day, grilled, is perfect. Better, we have some fifty steps from the table to the hotel elevator and we’re in our second floor room starting the fireplace blazing.

Given the highs and lows of last night’s meal at The Chart House, I’m unprepared for the excellence Trattoria Paradiso provides at lunch. Professionalism like this is what keeps specialty places going strong, once eaters discover the place.

I ask the order taker about wheat and immediately he targets gluten as the issue. He knows his kitchen, answering without consulting them. After taking the order to the kitchen, he returns to confirm my choices are gluten free. You get what you inspect, not what you expect are words to live by, for the Gluten-free Chicano, and this outstanding waiter.

A few moments later, the manager steps by to reassure me my plate will reflect the kitchen’s knowledge and care. Now I’m reeling with delight. Her sincere concern for food safety and customer satisfaction reassure me and I dine comfortably, especially when a sea otter floats past my window with a large crab on its chest.

That evening we exit the hotel main entrance, turn right, turn right, and we get “our” table at Trattoria Paradiso. It’s the night shift, that’s why my experience is day and night.

The order taker gives me an incredulous look when I tell him I cannot eat bread, wheat, or flour. He then assures me a dish I’d like to order “should be” flourless. He’s amenable when I ask him to check with the kitchen to be sure. He’s gone a long time, especially for a nearly empty restaurant.

He returns with a spring in his step. Someone in back has told him that guy’s not kidding, it’s true. There are people who cannot eat bread. Now he’s open to questions.

I say nothing to him when he pretends to knowledge, asking me if I’m sure I want the potatoes because... Because nothing. I explain that rice and potatoes are good, that it’s wheat, bread, flour, that the Gluten-free Chicano cannot eat. Rice and potatoes are fine I inform him and I hope he learns.

The night shift manager keeps her distance. She’s eavesdropped my ordering experience and chooses to have nothing to do with that guy.

Right Attitude…
The Sow’s Ear has delightful people open to information. This makes up for abysmal lack of food service knowledge.

The Sow’s Ear 
2248 Main Street
Cambria, CA 93428
(805) 927-4865

A few years ago, I discovered Alburquerque’s Gruet champagne along with this place in Cambria, and it’s why I return tonight.
Massive Cypress trees mark start of the walk to beyond the end of the street.
My former Cambria favorites—The Brambles, The Dover House--long ago closed, so that day The Sow’s Ear looks as good a choice as any. Mejor, the restaurant is a short walk from our lodging, The Bluebird, where we’ve stayed since our honeymoon in 1968.

The grandeur of a drive along the edge of the continent from Pt. Lobos through Big Sur to Cambria raises appetites. Astounding beauty does that to city people. That’s why I make an early reservation via the internet the prior week. We’re ushered to the separate dining room in the casí empty place. There’s a large Snow White Disney lithograph over our heads.

My order taker has no idea what I am talking about, flour? wheat? “Gru-ey” especially perplexes her. Up in Alburquerque, where the wine originates, the locals call the name with that frenchified vowel instead of a dental stop. Target and targeay, sabes?

But she and her co-worker make the evening such a delight with their chatter and challenge. She explains all seven dwarves hide in the textures of the reproduction. She stops by between visits to another table and gives us hints to the seventh dwarf. The dining couple over there are whispering about our chatter and laughter. I'm sure they feel left out and leave quickly.

It’s a family place and I suspect the kids are familia. Doing a good job there, with these kids, gente. But the Gluten-free Chicano insists they go ask the kitchen about ingredients. That’s a safe SOP in any restaurant where the order taker answers “Huh?”

Please, May I Have Some More?
Medusa's is Cambria's early morning breakfast place, the only one in town.

Medusa’s Sunshine Taqueria
1053 Main St
Cambria, CA 93428
(805) 927-0135

How can you go wrong with blanquillos over-medium, beans, rice, and tortilla de maíz, especially when Medusa’s is the only restaurant open at 630 on a Saturday morning? Still, remembering a Mexican restaurant in Glendale Arizona that adds flour to the arroz and frijoles, I ask about wheat. The vato is confused and maybe a little offended by the question. Así es, inspect/expect.

Santa Ynez Valley heavily planted with wine vineyards.
I order tortillas de maíz, say “hi” to the owner’s scurrying daughter before mom takes her on some errand in their shiny SUV parked outside, then dig in and nourish myself before hitting the road for the Santa Ynez Valley, Santa Barbara, and home.

Home. The Gluten-free Chicano knows where to go and what to order. It’s the most encouraging development in gluten-free eating on the road to discover how effectively some food service professionals do their jobs, accepting responsibly to learn about food allergies and know how to ensure their gluten-free guests dine safely and feel good about it.

Banned Books Update

Your country, if you're a Unitedstatesian, continues to support ethnic animosity in Arizona. The Supremes say it's OK for the cops to ask you for your papers.

Arizonans, keep your Driver License in the banned book Drink Cultura. Use your papers to bookmark the page where the essay on "pendejo" starts. I apologize in advance if this gets you shot while reaching for a dangerous book.

Yes, this and all those other books on the same subject continue as before. Banned.

Alfaro's Oedipus El Rey to Entertain Chicago

Back in 2008, I enjoyed the opportunity take in a staged reading at the Malibu Getty of Luis Alfaro's reworking of Oedipus. The staging I enjoyed was rough and a la brava, and thoroughly engaging. Alfaro injected wild humor into the Sphinx scene that I hope stays in this production with different cast and Director.

The piece has advanced quite dramatically, fittingly enough, and now reaches the stage Directed by Chay Yew at Chicago's  Victory Gardens Biograph Theater, 2433 N Lincoln Ave., June 29 through July. For details, click this link or visit the Theatre site at http://victorygardens.org/onstage/oedipus.php

Alfaro, right, and then-Director Jon Lawrence Rivera in 2008.
Lucky Chicago. Only one letter away from being puro Chicano, two letters from pura Chicana, and a couple days from the opening of a month-long run of Luis Alfaro's engaging Oedipus El Rey.

La Bloga invites Chicagolandia readers to write a review and share it here as a guest columnist.

On-Line Floricanto as June 2012 Wraps and Summer Starts

Francisco Alarcón and the moderators of the Facebook group, Poetry of Resistance: Poets Responding to SB 1070, bring June to a close nominating a slate that includes four poets who respect their art and audience. Abrazotes welcoming these four poets: Alma Luz Villanueva, Nancy Aidé González,  Andrea Mauk, John Martinez.

"Heat" by Alma Luz Villanueva
“Tapestry of Dawn” by Nancy Aidé González
“Hush Tones” by Andrea Mauk
"Words Can Set The Meter Of Healing" by John Martinez

by Alma Luz Villanueva

"...this glowering shadow
touched the edge but did not wholly absorb
the Goddess's orb..."  
"El Sueno," Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz

We were born from
Mother Africa's
heat, Womb-
the Americas were

in heat long
before Europe, the
migration from, to
heat    heat    heat,

great cultures,
agriculture, astronomy
literature, poetry, oh
the poetry, the dance,

Pyramids swirling to the
song of stars, great
Cosmos over head, great
Earth beneath feet-

Mother Africa, Egypt,
Great Isis, dreaming
to the Americas Turtle
Island, Spider Woman

Changing Woman, Great
Ixchel, these fertile
Turtle Islands in
heat, makes me crazy

with joy
burning beauty
undying poetry
what they
burned is
etched in
our dreams
poetry spouting
from our
mouths our
eyes our
fingertips our
feet our
testicles our
wombs in
heat    heat    heat
we blossom
the ancient
the new
always in
heat in
spring in
to the
Sixth Sun
I am crazy
in love
in heat
O beauty
O poetry
scorch me
heal me
birth me
teach me
ancient dreams
ancient heat

To Summer Solstice HEAT, Sixth Sun in bloom...

                                      Alma Luz Villanueva
                                      San Miguel de Allende, Mexico  June 2012
                                      Always traveling the ancient trade routes, Kokopelli by my side...

Tapestry of Dawn
by Nancy Aidé González

Sun, summoning dawn
truth will come with portraits of consciousness
narratives of shelter

interlocked woven fabrics
find equilibrium
strings of transcendence in cosmos

beyond ancient knowledge alive
planets orbit echoing memory of universe
saffron stars manifest wholeness

nimbus treasures – rain
jaguars roam spirit realm
leave prints where

trees take root
in tierra firme
drawing humanity closer.

© Nancy Aidé González  2012

by Andrea Mauk

In the hush, there is calm.
In the breeze, there are whispers.
In the whispers, there are tones.
Golden threads that connect.
We are time, we are space.
Made of carbon, like in triplicate.
So our history echoes.
Breaks the still like a drop,
and ripples. ))))))))))))))
Cuts the earth, digs a wound.
When we move, there is pain.
In our words, there are echoes.
Nothing ever gets healed,
unless the tones echo love.

In the sun, we seek warmth.
In the soil, we touch roots.
Spirit fingers reaching up
to connect us to knowing.
Knowing happens deep inside
and defies common logic.
It does not come from books
or from one's life experience.
We breathe in oxygen
that's been exhaled once before,
yet we dare to entertain
the thought that we are original.

In our books, we seek words.
In our words, we gain knowledge.
Filled with knowledge, we want more.
Become greedy, go to war.
We contrast, we compare.
We compete, fill with fear.
We multiply, then divide.
Then we look to the sky
and we seek absolution.
Become deaf to the tones
sung by the wind's
chanted whispers,
stomp the roots at our feet
as we walk, the helpless blind.

In our mouths, we make sounds.
On the page, we form letters.
In our minds, we assign
what we want for our meaning.
Our ideas fill our heads,
make us toss in our beds,
as we sort truth from lie
soliloquy from simile
improper grammar from
fluid beauty.
On the winds ride our words,
elemental rebound.
All the tones echo hollow
unless they're ancient,
sewn together with golden thread,
sung in notes filled with love.

by John Martinez

Para El Maestro, Francisco X. Alarcón

If I could give myself,
Without speaking,
To the suffering,
To the clenched body,
I’d give that part of me
That does not hate,
That does not want
When others
Cannot have,
I’d give the song
That has no sadness.
If I could give
In silence,
Just a piece
Of myself
To those who have lost
Everything to greed,
I’d give my soul,
All seven ounces

If I could give myself
Like a hush
To the mother,
Whose child
Weeps in the corridors
Of death, wanting to
Hold her like air,
I would give my two hands
Touch her face
With fingers of rain,
Assure her with my eyes
That he will be waiting
Near the fountain
With the others,
If I could rise one day,
Knowing that pain
Is being lifted like a shawl
From the Countries
Beneath the boot
Of my U.S.A,
I would rise
In love again

Today, I have words,
Not medicine, not guns,
Not the rabid teeth
Of a killer,
But words, I have words
That I can shout,
That I can throw
Like brown birds into
The audience,
Because these birds
Know the meaning
Of peace
And these words
Can push
A convoy of donkeys
Down an indigenous path,
With medicine to treat
The sick, the starving,
Words yes words
Can set the meter
Of healing,
If I could give myself,
To the suffering,
I would give myself
With words,
Words yes words
Can set the meter
Of healing

© John Martinez 2012

"Heat" by Alma Luz Villanueva
“Tapestry of Dawn” by Nancy Aidé González
“Hush Tones” by Andrea Mauk
"Words Can Set The Meter Of Healing" by John Martinez

Alma Luz Villanueva was raised in the Mission District, San Francisco, by her Yaqui grandmother, Jesus Villanueva- she was a curandera/healer from Sonora, Mexico. Without Jesus no poetry, no stories, no memory...
Author of eight books of poetry, most recently, 'Soft Chaos' (2009). A few poetry anthologies: 'The Best American Poetry, 1996,' 'Unsettling America,' 'A Century of Women's Poetry,' 'Prayers For A Thousand Years, Inspiration from Leaders & Visionaries Around The World.' Three novels: 'The Ultraviolet Sky,' 'Naked Ladies,' 'Luna's California Poppies,' and the short story collection, 'Weeping Woman, La Llorona and Other Stories.' Some fiction anthologies: '500 Great Books by Women, From The Thirteenth Century,' 'Caliente, The Best Erotic Writing From Latin America,' 'Coming of Age in The 21st Century,' 'Sudden Fiction Latino.' The poetry and fiction has been published in textbooks from grammar to university, and is used in the US and abroad as textbooks. Has taught in the MFA in creative writing program at Antioch University, Los Angeles, for the past fourteen years.
     Alma Luz Villanueva now lives in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, for the past seven years, traveling the ancient trade routes to return to teach, and visit family and friends, QUE VIVA!! And taking trips throughout Mexico, working on a novel in progress, always the poetry, memory.

Nancy Aidé González is a Chicana poet who lives near the lush grapevines in Lodi, California.  She graduated  from California State University, Sacramento with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature in 2000.  Her work has appeared in Calaveras Station Literary Journal, La Bloga, Everyday Other Things, and  Mujeres De Maiz Zine. She is a participating member of Escritores del Nuevo Sol, a writing group based in Sacramento, California which honors the literary traditions of Chicano, Latino, Indigenous and Spanish-language peoples. Miss González has participated in several poetry reading events in Northern California.

Andrea García Mauk grew up in Arizona, where both the immense beauty and harsh realities of living in the desert shaped her artistic soul. She currently calls Los Angeles home, but has also lived in Chicago, New York and Boston. She has worked in the music industry, and on various film and television productions. She writes short fiction,
poetry, original screenplays and adaptations, and is currently finishing two novels. Her writing and artwork has been published and viewed in a variety of places such as on The Late, Late Show with Tom Snyder; The Journal of School Psychologists and Victorian Homes Magazine. Both her poetry and artwork have won
awards. Several of her poems and a memoir are included in the 2011 anthology, Our Spirit, Our Reality, and her poetry is featured in the 2012 Mujeres de Maiz “‘Zine.” She is also a moderator of Diving Deeper, an online workshop for writers, and has   extensively about music, especially jazz, while working in the entertainment industry.

John Martinez. I studied Creative Writing at Fresno State University and have published poetry in El Tecolote, Red Trapeze and in The LA Weekly. Recently, I have posted poems on Poets Responding to SB1070 and this will be my 9th poem published in La Bloga. I have performed (as a musician/political activist, poet) with Teatro De La Tierra, Los Perros Del Pueblo and TROKA, a Poetry Ensemble, lead by Poet Laureate, Juan Felipe Herrera. I have toured with several cumbia/salsa bands throughout the Central Valley and in Los Angeles. For the last 17 years, I have worked as an Administrator for a Los Angeles law firm. I make my home in Upland, California with my beautiful wife, Rosa America and family.

1 comment:

Suze said...

'Its aesthetic unorthodoxy that splices together prayers, rituals, family photographs, popular sayings, and interviews, among other imaginative sources, makes the narrative even more compelling.'

Beautifully-articulated, Raquel. And it does incite interest in the text.