Sunday, December 27, 2009

Hodgepodge

hodge·podge
n. A mixture of dissimilar ingredients; a jumble.

Hace tanto que ya no escribo. Me impresiona lo tanto que afecta el ambiente en que te encuentras. Parece que cada vez que llego a casa, me distraigo con familia, con amigos, con películas y chismes, y no encuentro (ni busco encontrar) tiempo para escribir. Right now, I'm alone. Cada vez que estoy sola, pienso en cada cosa, una tontería o lo que puede parecer la cosa más importante del mundo. Cuando manejo por mi ciudad, o estando sentada en mi cuarto que ya tanto ha cambiado desde que me he llevado cosas a Austin, pienso... life seems to be arranged in a straight line, but memories break the timeline, little interruptions everywhere, with no particular order or importance.
Hay cientos de cuadros en mi casa, y hoy al ver uno me di cuenta, por primera vez en mi vida, que es un abstracto. Ya ni sé de qué hablábamos o qué comentamos sobre el cuadro, pero me lo dijo mi mamá: "...bla bla bla...abstracto." Y voltié a verlo por milésima vez en mi vida, a painting that's hung in the same place forever, y me sorprendí... porque yo siempre lo había visto tan claro: un dibujo de un monte, y dos arboles moviéndose con el viento. Everything's up for interpretation.

En el camino a casa, leí Less Than Zero, de Bret Easton Ellis, y a pesar de las escenas que a medio viaje en carro me causaron náusea, I really enjoyed it. El hecho de que Ellis lo escribió a los 19 años y para los 21 lo publicó sí lastimó el ego un poco, debo de admitirlo, but more than anything it's worth admiring. Durante toda la novela el personaje principal flota por Los Angeles, pasivamente aunque notando cosas pequeñas, como la letra de una canción en el radio, o un billboard deprimente, algo que le dice un amigo sin cuidado y él interpreta de más, de mil maneras. Disappear here. I wonder if he's up for sale. You're a beautiful boy and that's all that matters. People are afraid to merge.
Tengo dos cuadros en el mueble atrás de mi cama que hice en mi clase de pintura, años atrás. Es un tipo de collage usando óleo y fotografías, con frases y páginas de revista. Recuerdo cuando decidí hacerlos, no tenía una idea en particular en mente. I just took things, anything I liked, anything I found beautiful or funny or inspiring or negative...y los usé. Viéndolos ahora, no tengo idea si lo que decidí usar tenía que ver con lo que estaba viviendo en el momento, si alguna foto la relacionaba con una historia o con una pesadilla. Viéndolos ahora, they seem so personal and intricate yet hopelessly irrelevant. Protect me from what I want. Pero nos vendimos. It's better to burn out than to fade away. In the cut. Bob Dylan en el piano, una copia de un Picasso, mi mejor amiga riéndose, Donna Karan pintada de dorado.

Me han dicho que me meto de más a las cosas. I don't really know what that means. Que soy intensa, dramática, me han llamado hipersensible.
Hay una escena en Almost Famous (lo siento, es mi referencia para todo), cuando están hablando Penny Lane y William sobre Russell. William, desesperado, le grita. "Wake up," he says, "Don't come to New York!" Alguien recuerda la escena? Penny le dice que él no conoce a Russell, "you don't know the things he says to me in private..." Finalmente, The Enemy le da la noticia que Russell la vendió a Humble Pie "for fifty dollars and a case of beer". Y lo que pasa después es uno de mis momentos favoritos de la película: Kate Hudson stares, then looks away, tears in her eyes, hand to her mouth, then to her hair, puts her arms up then shrugs. She wipes away the tears. "What kind of beer?" she says, and smiles sadly. Cada vez que veo esta escena pienso, goddamn-that's acting. Porque por un minuto se me olvida que en la pantalla se encuentra Hudson, hija de Goldie Hawn, and all I see is a real Penny Lane, heartbroken and facing a humiliating reality.
Y así como acabo de escupir todo un párrafo acerca de una escena tan pequeña en una película de hace años, así hablo de todo. Sale una idea de la nada, hablo de eso por horas, me descarrilo, me distraigo, I pick up something else, y se repite. Una vez me dijeron que lo que le faltaba a mis historias era una buena manera de cerrar, una manera de conectar todas mis ideas y que tenga sentido y relevancia. Batallo mucho en eso porque la mayoría de las veces, al escribir, lo único que hago es seguir y seguir sin editar, así como todos pensamos, así como funciona nuestra mente y memoria. Life seems to be arranged in a straight line, but memories break the timeline, little interruptions everywhere, with no particular order or importance. Disfruto de la ausencia del orden a veces, porque parece tener más sentido y ser más real.

Conozco a una persona que le fascina, después de una conversación, regresar y ver cómo cambiamos de tema en tema, ver cuál fue la conexión. Si vuelvo a leer lo que acabo de escribir, no puedo encontrar un camino concreto de cómo me fui de un abstracto a Ellis a mis pinturas a Penny Lane- pero de esto tenía ganas ahorita. Just a hodgepodge of ideas. More than confusing, it's kinda soothing...is it not? Y si eres de esas personas que necesitan la estructura, just think they're all ideas linked by randomness. See if it works for ya.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Bad Generation

El jueves por la noche platicaba con un amigo que es de Los Angeles. Estudió toda su vida ahí hasta venirse a UT en su carrera. Fue a una prepa pequeña, donde también atendían hijos de celebridades como Viggo Mortensen y Jamie Lee Curtis, y frecuentaba con la hija de Bob Saget (alguién recuerda el episodio de Entourage donde Saget le recalca a Vinnie, "Just don't fuck my daughter"? hay aún más historia ahí, pero no la puedo divulgar) entre otros. Aparentemente Neil Patrick Harris le presentó (accidentalmente) a su novio antes de que estuviera oficialmente fuera del closet. El jueves mientras platicábamos le pregunté si tenía historias de otros celebs...los que me interesan. Johnny Depp no, pues vive en el sur de Francia. "DiCaprio?" pregunté, al cual contestó, "I wish." Y luego, "Jack Nicholson?" el Dios de mis Dioses...Y me contó que sí. Conoce a la hija de Jack, y uno de sus amigos es vecino- de un lado tiene a Nicholson y del otro a Adam Sandler (whom, of course, we care nothing about). Bueno...I think people know me well enough to know...that if I ever saw Jack Nicholson, I would die. Or faint. Or have a heart attack. Or stalk him, find his house, crawl through an open window, and be shot to death by security. So...die.

Pero en todo caso, dejando fuera mi obsesión for all things celebrity and glamour, me acordé mucho de algo que hice hace poco. Mi revista favorita, Harper's Bazaar (US), decidió poner a las estrellas de la Twilight saga en su portada. Sí, Rob Pattinson está hermoso, that much I understand. Pero al ver la portada, mi reacción natural e inmediata fue escribirle una carta a la revista, o a la editora Glenda Bailey, o a quién de puro chiste la lea. It went something like this:

Dear Bazaar,
Why must you put these people on your December cover, instead of being the only respectful publication to choose someone other than Kristen Stewart, Rob Pattinson, Miley Cyrus, The Jonas Brothers, Taylor Swift, aka someone worthy.......... DIE DIE DIE!

No, no puse el "die, die, die", but I could've. No recuerdo mis palabras exactas, pero estaba enojada. Everywhere I go, veo imagenes de gente que en verdad, no entiendo por qué son famosos. Kate and Jon Gosselin? Famosos por tener octillizos y un terrible divorcio. C'mon. Mínimo GQ, en su último Men of the Year Issue, incluyó a hombres de todo tipo (como lo hacen todos los años). En su lista se encuentran Obama, Clint Eastwood, Tom Brady, los hombres de The Hangover, Kobe Bryant, los creadores de Twitter, entre otros. Leí artículo tras artículo, historia tras historia, y no encontré a ningún hombre en la lista menor de 29 años. Y no pude evitar preguntarme: are generations becoming stupider, less talented, and more annoying by the second? Hey, no offense to my generation, and I ain't calling myself stupid. Y sí, sé que en todas partes hay gente inteligente y talentosa y que con las oportunidades correctas, podrían ser el siguiente Einstein o yo que sé. Pero constantemente me doy cuenta que gente de generaciones previas critican a la nuestra, y pelean por sus actores, sus autores, sus músicos. Si yo pongo en mi Facebook status la letra de una canción ochentera, uno que otro adulto que tengo en mi Facebook me dice--"Hey. Get your own music! Put a Miley Cyrus song in there!" (F.U. Tony) O algo por el estilo.

Observo mi cuarto y veo fotos de Johnny, de Steven Tyler, de Diane Von Furstenburg, Andy Warhol, The Beatles, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Annie Leibovitz (entre fotos de amigos y familia, claro). Okay, maybe I'm the one living in the past. Sé que todo lo que a mi me gusta se debe a cómo me críaron y las influencias de mi hermana, también. But do I like older generations because of that, or because they're just fucking more talented, more influential, more interesting, more everything (even lame, if you include 80's No Wave and all that crap).

Mi novio me dice: pues yo estoy bien con lo de ahora (pero no se preocupen, él también odia a los Jonas Bros). Mucha de la gente que yo conozco está feliz con escuchar las mismas 5 canciones R&B en cada antro (y Lady GaGa YA fue suficiente), comprar Vanity Fair con Rob Pattinson en la portada, que la escritora más reconocida de este año sea Stephanie Meyer (no offense to her), y que los American Music Awards nominen a Taylor Swift en la misma categoría que a Michael Jackson. De hecho, en el último issue de Glamour, una lectora mandó una carta (dudo que mi hate mail lo publiquen) preguntando que por qué nos quejamos tanto con las revistas por poner a los "teenyboppers" en sus portadas? Que no por que sean más jovenes significa que no tengan qué ofrecer...Fine. She's right. Lástima que en serio dudo que Miley Cyrus tenga CUALQUIER cosa qué ofrecer. Even the Spice Girls had more spice (jiji) and originality.

No sé qué sea...Capáz y debo de dejar de vivir en el pasado, and embrace the legacy of my own generation? Ey, debo de admitir que la niña de 13 años dentro de mi MUERE por Zac Efron.

But yes, I'd still choose Jack over Zac.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Antone's

Tomando un merecido break de mis trabajos esta semana, quería compartir un trabajo que hice para mi clase de música. El trabajo consistía en ir a un concierto y hablar del artista, su música, el ambiente, y la importancia de la música en vivo. Desafortunadamente, no había tenido el placer de ir a un show aquí en Austin, which ironically is known as the Live Music Capital of the World. El día después de Thanksgiving fui a Antone's, y esto fue lo que encontré...

Austin, Texas takes pride in having the title of The Live Music Capital of the World. Antone’s Nightclub has been in business for 34 years, hosting bands and launching careers of many musical talents such as Stevie Ray Vaughan and Los Lonely Boys, and it’s a monumental reason for earning that title. The club, dark and dirty, with its peeling wallpaper and posters of Muddy Waters and B.B. King hanging proudly, is a place you know has its regulars, people of Austin who are passionate for live music and look forward to going to Antone’s two to three times a week, for what they know will be an amazing show. Last night, the Friday after Thanksgiving, was no exception.

I arrived eager to watch Gary Clark, Jr. and paid my $15 for general admission. Clark Jr., an Austin gem—born and raised—has gained his reputation throughout the years playing around the city and has graced the stage of Antone’s several times already. He was scheduled to play at 11:30, and at 10 o’clock the place was half-full. Looking around the crowd, it was strange to notice I was, hands down, the youngest person at the bar. Mostly caucasian, there were people in their mid-20’s, but the clear majority were in their 40’s and 50’s. Many were sitting down at their tables, beer in hand, ready to hear some music. Some were standing, with their spouses or group of friends. Others were gazing up at old Antone’s advertisements or lingering at the front table, which showcased t-shirts, stickers, and assorted CD’s. Everybody was waiting.

The thing about live music is that the unexpected nearly always happens. I arrived last night with the sole purpose of watching Gary Clark, Jr., so when at 10:15, I heard a female voice yelling out, “How’s everybody doin’ tonight?” I turned to the stage, surprised. The opening act was Blues Mafia, a group of kids that looked even younger than I am. Four guys, two at guitar, one bass player, a drummer…and a girl.

The girl, by the name of Sasha Ortiz, was the lead singer. As soon as they began, murmurs and whispers took over the crowd, positive comments all around me, people pleasantly surprised. By the middle of the first song there was an energy about the place, as if everybody knew they were witnessing something great. The girl, whose raspy yet soulful voice resembles that of Amy Winehouse, had such a spunk that when looking around the place, I saw all sets of eyes on her: attentive, willing, completely hooked. She was young and relaxed, wearing a Jimi Hendrix shirt and a yellow scarf she used as a prop, playing around with it as she swayed and jumped and danced around the stage; the girl gave a whole new meaning to “singing your heart out”. Their music, blues-based rock with a touch of deep soul, turned the crowd on, getting people who were sitting down to stand up and dance or just gape at the talented singer. Between songs, Ortiz happily talked to the crowd, about the Thanksgiving holiday and the Texas-A&M game, clearly knowing her audience. They played a 9-song set, including an amazing cover of Hendrix’s “Purple Haze”, in honor of his 67th birthday.

Never had an opening act caused such great reaction. The band had talented musicians; one of the guitarists and backup singer by the name of Max Frost had a voice so sweet and smooth that definitely acted as a powerful force to their sound, but Ortiz was undoubtedly the star. When they were done, the crowd roared and applauded. I’m sure many, like me, were left wanting more.

The main act, however, was Gary Clark, Jr. He began playing at 11:30 on the dot, and the crowd welcomed him with cheers. He began the show with two songs, fast-paced, that shone and leaked of influences such as Curtis Mayfield, Otis Redding and James Brown, deeply rooted rock and roll with a hint of soul and reggae. The audience danced, much more than to Blues Mafia. Many people, you could tell had heard Clark, Jr. play before. After the first two songs, which were played back-to-back, the singer stopped to thank us for the warm welcome. There was a sense of familiarity in the club, comfortable enough for the singer to say, “Sorry to be a bother, but there’s a need for adult beverages up here on stage,” which the audience chuckled to in response. The band followed with more mellow songs, all original Gary Clark, Jr. If there’s a way to describe his sound, I would call it comfort food for the ears. Bluesy, folksy, very sensual.

The main difference between Clark Jr.’s live performance and recorded music is the actual experience of watching him play the guitar. In every song, he inserted 4- to 5-minute guitar solos so insane and vibrant you couldn’t help but stare with the fear that his hand might melt off. The artist went through three guitars throughout the 15-song set; each time he needed to switch the instrument, the audience laughed and cheered, appreciative of his mad energy. His talent appears effortless, his eyes closed as his hands managed the electric guitar so perfectly.

His fifth song was a beautiful cover of Elizabeth Cotten’s “Freight Train”, which clearly shows his love and respect for the folk, blues and roots genres. When listing his influences, you can’t help but notice it’s made up mostly of African American icons and artists, ranging from the Jackson 5 to Marvin Gaye, Jay-Z to Notorious B.I.G (Clark Jr. May 2007: MySpace.) He also includes rock and roll influences like The Beatles and jazzmen like John Coltrane and Miles Davis. His style is multifaceted, yet intricately cohesive.

The artist already has well-established recognition, especially in Texas. Having begun at age thirteen, he could easily be considered a veteran performer by now. May 3rd, 2001 was declared Gary Clark, Jr. Day in Austin, and he was honored by the mayor for helping the city maintain its claim to fame as the “live music capital of the world” (Xiola Sept. 2, 2009: current.com). Clark, Jr. was also recognized for Austin’s Best Blues Musician in the Austin Music Awards in 2004, 2006, and 2007. He’s worked for years now as a songwriter, having written all the lyrics for his albums Worry No More and 110, and the score for Jason Wiles’ movie Full Count (Xiola). The artist has even segued into acting, seen in the 2007 John Sayles movie “Honey Dripper” (Xiola). He’s a well-rounded artist; in addition to playing the guitar, he plays the harmonica, bass and drums.

After 12 songs, the band left the stage only to return after loud requests for an encore. Three more songs followed, the last a cover of B.B. King’s “Three O’Clock Blues”, which was received enthusiastically by the crowd. Gary smiled, knowing that at Antone’s, there was no better way to close his set than with a B.B. King song.

Clark, Jr.’s performance was polished yet appeared completely natural and spontaneous; one could tell he felt at complete ease with what he was doing. Near the end of the show, he pointed out his family in the crowd; his mother and sister sitting at a table to his right, his father at the back, who waved when everybody turned to see him. The artist was at home.

While I was at Antone’s I vividly remembered something Lester Bangs said in the Cameron Crowe film Almost Famous: “Music, you know, true music, not just rock ‘n’ roll, it chooses you. It lives in your car, or alone, listening to your headphones…” I thought about that, and looking around the bar, the bar filled with young twenty-somethings and middle-aged men dancing with their wives, and homeless men huddled at the door hoping to score a free concert for a night, I thought about the difference between the music that lives in your car or in your bedroom… and live music. Live music is a whole different experience. Live music is something we share with complete strangers for one night, where we learn enough to feel closer to the artist or the band; it’s something we end up loving and enjoying not just because of the music but because of the whole thing- the heavy smell of beer and the swaying of the crowd, the expression on everybody’s faces, hoping that their cheers are loud enough for the band to come back for an encore. Live music is personal.

At the end of the night as I was walking out, I noticed the young band members from Blues Mafia standing in a group with their friends, talking and listening to the playback music that now followed Clark, Jr.’s performance. Clark, Jr. himself had joined his family at their table, enjoying his night after a successful show. When I passed the bar I saw Sasha Ortiz talking to a young man who then asked her to dance. When they’re up at the stage they strike the crowd as simply musicians, artists who put on a show because that’s what they love and that’s what their job is. It doesn’t matter if they’re an up-and-coming band like Blues Mafia, or a well-known performer like Clark, Jr; you forget that when they walk off the stage, they have a life, they have friends, they like to dance and drink and be with their family.

It is Austin’s pride to have the title of the Live Music Capital of the World, and at Antone’s last night I understood why. Like in the city of Austin itself, the bar buzzed with a close and familiar atmosphere, where live music isn’t just watching a show, but a way of life that brings strangers together, at least for one night.