Friday, 11 January 2013
people go on vacation. their experience is beach, alcohol, people, culture, things. they buy expensive meals and tourism t-shirts. they take their designer ice cream cones (paletas are 100x better but to each his own) to the zocalo and watch a ridiculously talented guitarist, maybe even take a video to keep forever as an homage to the moment. they marvel over the artesania, they take photos, they make video, they are utterly enchanted. then they walk away, having taken all and left nothing. those moments are what made their vacation. those songs and dolls they will remember through the images they have captured. not the cookie cutter, often toned down and americanized meals. not the generic t-shirts, often super cheesy and unattractive. sadly, they don't consider for a moment that someone is trying to make a living on creating those moments for them. they might not even see that someone as a person, having taken on the systemaic lingo used to judge/exclude/ostracize anyone different, to discourage critical thinking, words such as hippie or bum, gypsy or vagabond. labels that if you begin to dissect have utterly no meaning, fall apart at the seams, having been formed by such valueless ideals.
these ideals create dual labels, words such as sheep, square, gringo, conformist. they create borders and frames, boxes and lines, encourage order, drawing inside the lines, being the same, not thinking too much. alcohol. pharmaceuticals. coca-cola. chemicals. fabrications. constructions of a reality that barely even exists. a reality with no pulse, no heart. why construct something synthetic when the real thing is right here, precious, priceless, free and fleeting fast
Tuesday, 11 December 2012
Thursday, 6 December 2012
this is a piece i wrote last year, during my first week in venice. re-reading it and being here now, it's all still very relevant.
I didn’t write in the Bronx when my boss had a half-million dollar debt because her now sixteen-year old son was born by a c-section. I didn’t write in Cuba while experiencing a completely different kind of mass repression than I had ever been used to. I didn’t even write at the peak of my frustration, in Houston living in an oil-funded community of consumerist conformists. And driving through the Sonora Desert as I entered California from the southeast, along the Mexico border, I never thought it would be the place that would entice me to pick up my pen, especially in anger. But every rose has its thorn, and one of the most eclectic and inspiring places I’ve seen, Venice Beach, is the reason I’m picking up my pen.
Driving into LA, the place we naturally ended up was Venice. It sounded more special than Hollywood, and everything else sounded too rich. We parked our van next to two minibuses that seemed camped out and headed out to explore. An enormous drum circle was pounding beats on the beach, the boardwalk was lined with artists and vendors, the view of the coming sunset was breathtaking, and the sweet smell of skunk was in the air. In other words, we were in heaven.
We walked along the boardwalk, checking out people’s work and meeting various locals and street kids, sampling Cali’s finest “medicinal” herb and discussing the possibility of setting up a stand with our artwork and jewelry and staying for life.
Then night creeped in. it sounds like a horror movie because it kind of felt like one. When the sun was almost down, the LAPD came out. They instantly brought me back to my youth with their aggressive, bully-like attitudes. They’re mean, they’re obnoxious, they pick on people; many call them LA’s toughest gang, and with reason. They drove their SUVs directly into the drum circle, honking and announcing that it was sundown and people had to go home. It felt like a war zone. A wandering German asked “why do they do this? An American skater replied “because they have guns.”
The next day, when we set up shop on the boardwalk, I could instantly tell the police had it out for me. Officer Rodriguez welcomed me by informing me that as of the 15th, my handmade jewelry would be taken away and I would be ticketed for selling it because it had a function (the politics involved in that situation I’ll save for another post). I asked a lot of questions, and he left, seemingly annoyed.
We made $12 that day, but the mere inspiration of the place kept us going, and we set up shop again the next day. We spent the day learning from a Venice legend, a brilliant but terrible alcoholic/artist who encouraged me to paint with his materials and then sold all my paintings. But that would come later. For the moment, he had just shared his dinner and we were having a beer and smoking a post-dinner j. The sun had just gone down and the breeze from the ocean was getting crisp. We were drawing the night to a close when Rodriguez appeared.
“I see you’re gonna be trouble,” he snarled.
“Oh, don’t be sorry, you’re new, you just don’t get it yet.”
And so on. Useless, tense, hostile banter that is meant to intimidate, ostracize, gentrify, segregate and just plain make you feel shitty. The general message? You are different, therefore unwanted. conform or gtfo. basically what cultures have been trying to do to each other since the dawn of time, despite constant occurrences that have proved it’s just not the way. I’ve since learned, and keep learning (it’s a tough lesson) that you can’t change anything but you, all you can do is 'dare to be different', no matter what anyone says. Talk about duality.
|the LAPD parade|
|LAPD harassing local street artists. the artists are usually let go (they haven't done anything against the law), they just fuck with them because they can.|
Tuesday, 25 September 2012
sometimes when i talk or write my views and opinions come off as harsh, one-sided, or generalist and I really encourage others to question me or offer an opinion or a criticism, in good faith. a steady discourse can only have a positive outcome; i try to learn from others constantly, and hope to be able to share my knowledge as well. in fact, i encourage ANYONE to comment ANYTHING, just so i know someone's reading!
that said, it’s time for a post about yippies, otherwise known as “new wave”(which immediately makes me think of goddard but i guess there's a lot of new waves). these are terms I had heard reference to but had never actually experienced until I arrived in nevada city, california, where i was immediately immersed in it like a bitter, cheap whine vinegar in a shitload of fresh, pure-pressed, doubleorganic, extra-virgin olive oil.
i arrived in nevada city after a tiresome cross-america trip with a catalan and an israeli jew. very entertaining, but exhausting and fattening nonetheless. i was looking for good food and a good party. i found good food and the new earth festival, which was starting the next day. i ate well, drank a bit, slept and awoke with renewed energy; finally, a festival!! i wanted to dance SO badly after sitting in a car for 40 hours. little did i know what awaited me.
we got some coffee and made a friend in the shop who offered to show us the way up there. we drove far up the mountain, my excitement growing at how remote the place was. extra underground, nice. we drove up and saw a "VIP" parking area. ok, ok, maybe there were some names spinning, interesting.. continue on and arrive at a desk. huh? i'm not used to desks at underground festivals... and i'm not hearing any music...ok.. we get out to see what's up.
"hi guys! the price is $30 per day plus $30 for your car." oof.
"can we check it out? we came a long way.."
"where you guys from?" we explained our far origins and situation. "we're not really equipped to pay that much for a festival. can we check it out? is there music?
"of course there's music." the guy was getting defensive. he wouldn't let us in to see, but ensured it would be an amazing party. he made us an offer. "you guys can pay $100 for everything, how about that?" we conferred, decided yes, desperate for a party, and entered, wristbands and all.
cars and hippies everywhere. it defied my idea of hippieism. hippies don't drive, and when they do it's in big loads, in old cars. this had that, but also trucks and SUVs and a general car-centered space. there was a stage with no sound. "it's still early, maybe the speakers come later" we reasoned.
i looked around, creeped out. these people were like fake hippies. with fancy, fake hippie clothing and fancy fake hippie cars. they seemed cold and exclusive. nice, but without warmth, and somewhat uninviting.
"let's all gather around for the heart opening ceremony. we have the orpheus ensemble playing and aman has blessed us by brewing enough shamanic cacao elixir for all. gather around into a welcome circle."
oh, man. it was that kind of festival. but i was definitely intrigued. it was like entering a new dimension. these people were a walking contradiction, and it was pretty interesting to watch. as the yippie-zombies formed a circle in front of the stage and aman poured elixir into coconut halves, i scanned the area for one of my compadres, hoping to find a friendly face. i saw spaniard.
we watched the festival goers for a while, then got hot and found a 12-person swimming hole that the owner had built into his backyard. the festival was on a beautiful private property with a huge garden and beautiful outdoor area. the people 60 and over stripped down and jumped in; the ones in their twenties and thirties tended to strip shyly, revealing cover-all bathing suits.
i scanned the schedule, looking for something to justify the $100 we had just spent to enter this soundsystem-less cult gathering at someone's earth palace. some of these activities sounded super flaky: dance of universal peace, heart lounge, CUDDLE PUDDLE? but some could be cool. acro yoga and ecstatic dance sounded right up my alley, and who could resist "food share"?
"do you realize we spent a good chuck of our money to be here all weekend, with no sound?" artur interrupted my thoughts.
"i was just realizing that," i said sadly.
we tried to justify some more. "i mean, i could use some yoga and meditation and stuff. and the people are... kind of nice.." the most attention we'd been given was from a naked woman in her sixties who seemed intent on seeing us in the pond the next day. plus, we were already getting sick of it. People were going around wishing each other "shabbat shalom" as hari krishna chants emerged from the stage area.
"i think we should get our money back," i decided."this is bullshit. it's a rainbow gathering, but for profit. there are people filing in like crazy. this guy has made so much money, he doesn't need our hundred dollars."
in my head, i figured the guy might give us our money back, realizing we needed it more than he did and wanting us to get the most out of the experience. in reality, the guy was haggling. he offered us $50 back to stay the night. we politely declined, so he gave us $80 back and made us leave, which we did quickfast. i left nevada city shortly thereafter. although it's a nice little town and i met a couple of lovely people, it seems a little cold for being just out of the desert. the coast is much, much sunnier.