Saturday, June 28, 2008

Pan Dulce de Mi Corazon and SF Travelogue

I had written a long, detailed description of my recent trip to San Francisco, but it started sounding a bit like any other tourist's travelogue with the exception that I focused more on food than most tourists, save perhaps Anthony Bourdain, so I decided I should write about something else. As I started my second concha and Silk, I was finding it increasingly difficult to type between mouthfuls. My hands get a little crumby and truthfully I don't eat to nourish, I eat to savor - so I was getting distracted by the ecstasy dissolving in my mouth. I found it hard to focus on Haight Ashbury, Alcatraz, or even the wonderful Frida Kahlo exhibit at SF MOMA. All I could think about was pan dulce, or Mexican sweet bread.

My love affair with pan dulce goes back to my childhood in East L.A., of course. When I was a teenager, there was a period where I subsisted on a diet of nothing more than pan dulce and milk for breakfast and chicken gumbo for linner (lunch/dinner). That diet, along with daily Kung Fu lessons, helped me lose a lot of weight but I wouldn't recommend it to anyone. Imagine my delight when a few months ago, my husband and I discovered a little panaderia fairly close to our house in San Diego that has now become the supplier for my addiction. I go there at least twice a week and I have yet to taste a piece of pan that hasn't been delicious. The elotes are my favorites: they're shaped like a piece of corn in its little silk coat and are usually lightly sprinkled with sugar (editor's note: Alice uses the phrase "lightly sprinkled" interchangeably with "coated with" here.) I like the standard elotes but they make two or three variations of them here. Cocodrilos are a close cousin to elotes, as far as flavor and appearance go. They're long and appear to have scales; sometimes I go for those just so my family doesn't accuse me of getting the same thing all the time. My kids and my mom were always partial to conchas, which are light, puffy pastries with a crumbly hard, sweet topping applied to resemble a conch outline. They usually come in vanilla, chocolate or strawberry. My husband is an ojos de buey man - I mean that's the kind of pan dulce he likes. He does not have ox eyes, which is what ojos de buey means. In some places, Ojos de Buey are a completely different concoction and the coconutty red jam ball my hubby likes goes by the name of Yoyo in those places, because it resembles a fat yoyo much more than an ox eye.

There are more types of pan dulce than I can name: from Orejas de Elefante to Cochinitos, the selection is enormous. Fortunately, you don't have to know the names to sample their supreme yumminess. In a recent Yelp review, I read someone who described the pan dulce they loved as looking like a vulva. Well, I went over to Panchitas Panaderia that day, found the vulva looking pan and discovered that it was indeed one of the best pieces I'd had. If you haven't had pan dulce from anywhere but the grocery store, you owe it to yourself to seek out your neighborhood panaderia. Get a little taste of the glory.

As for my San Francisco trip, it was lots of fun. My husband was working, so my daughter and I were on our own for most of our adventures. We got Muni passes and went all over town like good little tourists. We walked until our feet throbbed then walked some more just so we could squeeze in as much fun as possible out of our vacation. We walked up the Filbert steps to the top of Telegraph Hill and then went up to the top of Coit Tower and I was glad that god invented cortisone injections for my bum knee. We went to City Lights and Cafe Trieste and saw an excellent Frida Kahlo exhibit at SF MOMA. My daughter got a kick out of the fact that this still life, which Frida painted as a gift, was considered so pornographic that the recipient refused to hang it in her home.

I suppose all of this goes to show that the connection between food and sexuality is fairly strong in Mexican culture - remember "Like Water For Chocolate"? My daughter and I ate our way through San Francisco at inexpensive little holes in walls like the Theater Two Cafe that was literally hidden behind a temporary plywood wall due to construction; we skewered tasty marinated tofu at the funky Asqew Grill in Haight Asbury. We packed so much into our little vacation that I was happy to get home and relax!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Punk Pictorial

I've just posted some new photos to my website/Flickr gallery pre-punk and punk galleries. While in the process of archiving our collection, we're trying to post high resolution copies of as many photos and documents as possible so that anyone who is interested can access this material through the website. Here are a few samples along with my commentaries:

"Joanie (top - Black Randy's main squeeze), Shannon (left) and I used to play dress up and take photo booth pictures when we were bored. Here Shannon is trying out a new hairdo. It goes well with that maniacal expression, don't you think?"

"Another shot of The Bags walking down Hollywood Blvd. Joe Nanini's doll looks obscene! Those green bubble tights have a crotch panel that makes my thighs look lumpy and I think Janet Koontz is having some serious misgivings about this band right around now. Patricia looks cool and Geza..."

"At the Canterbury. Lise looking new wave, me, happy to cut Terry's throat, Joanie thinking she can do it quicker and Terry Graham in the throes of ecstacy. Note the Fonz poster in the background. Someday, someone's going to make a punk sitcom just like Happy Days. Who will be the punk Fonz?"

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Punk Summer Reading List

With the renewed interest in the history of American punk, there are many new books popping up, so many that it can be overwhelming and confusing at times. As with any history, getting the most complete and balanced information means seeking various sources rather than relying on just one or two "experts." Some of the books that I've come across lately are worth a special mention because they tell the story of the very early and very unique punk scene in Los Angeles.

A while back, a couple of friends brought over their copy of Live at The Masque: Nightmare in Punk Alley, which was written by Brendan Mullen and features photos by several of the original scene photographers. As I flipped through the pages of this punk year book, I was transported back to my crazy, fun teen years. There are lots and lots of candid photos and the general mood of those first few months of the Hollywood punk scene really comes across. Brendan and I have had our differences lately and even though I'm mad at him right now, I have to say that this is an excellent book and a must have for anyone who was there or who is interested in understanding what went on at the Masque when we thought no one was looking.

Punk Pioneers by Jenny Lens is far and away the most awesome coffee table quality book about the early punk scene. The book, published by Rizzoli/Universe, contains an incredible range of artists that were around during punk's conception, birth, and childhood. Its scope is much broader and helps the reader understand where punk was coming from and what was going on in the parallel musical universes of bands like Van Halen and artists like Bob Marley. I think this aspect of Jenny's book is really important, because as I've said time and time again, seeing early punk in isolation does not really convey how far it was from the mainstream nor does it acknowledge the influences of what came before it. Jenny's book acknowledges the New York punk and early glam bands that set the stage for what would become a unique West Coast cultural movement. Punk Pioneers cements Jenny's status as punk photography's Alpha Bitch.

Finally, I'd like to say a little about a book a friend of mine made. Louis Jacinto is a talented photographer who has the largest collection of Bags photographs that I've ever seen. Louis approached me several times about collaborating on a book with him and although I love his photos, I just never found the time to sit down and write a book. But Louis would not give up. He kept writing to me and finally I suggested that he write his own narrative and takes quotes from my blog for his book. Well, at my Eastside Luv show a couple of weeks ago, Louis surprised me with the book he self-published. I love his D.I.Y. attitude! The book contains great photos of The Bags with quotes from my Diary of a Bad Housewife blog and various interviews I've done. The blog excerpts are odd for me to read because I know there is a complete blog entry that goes with those quotes. Luckily, Louis does send people to my website (thanks Louis!) so they can get the whole story if they feel like it. But to tell you the truth, the real stars are the photos. Louis deserves all the credit for making this book happen. So, if you want to see some cool Bags pictures, check out his book The Bags, from Onodream Press.

I know I've mentioned Punk 365 before, but it also features several of the best photographers of the time and is well worth investigating.

Book Reports are due at the end of summer : )

Monday, June 09, 2008

The Real Victory

I spoke to my 13 year-old daughter on the phone yesterday as I sat waiting for my plane at Sea-Tac airport. I had to figure out how to explain to her why our candidate was pulling out of the Presidential race and what it meant to us. Not that we hadn't been through something similar before; she still remembers voting for Al Gore in her elementary school's mock elections and learning that her candidate had lost in the real elections. It was a big disappointment (he had won at her school), but this year was different.

As with many families across the nation, this year's race for the Democratic nomination had become very personal. My husband supports Barack Obama and my daughter and I were backing Hillary, while the paternal grandparents are going for McCain. Over the past few months, we have found ourselves in many a family squabble over the qualifications and shortcomings of our respective candidates, so hearing that our candidate was out of the race hit us hard. It was not really a surprise. Although we were always hopeful, we knew we were fighting an uphill battle. Still, I had the feeling as I spoke to my daughter that she was waiting for me to say something to reassure her that this was not the end.

"What do we do now?" was the question she finally asked.

"We keep going. We make a little progress at a time and we keep going," I said to her. We were both talking about the same thing, not just the presidential election, which of course we will continue to participate in, but about our struggle to break through the glass ceiling. Hearing Hillary Clinton's speech in which she reassures her supporters that we have made "18 million cracks in the glass ceiling" was inspirational. It was just what we needed to hear. We didn't need to hear that our candidate didn't win, nor that we now need to throw our support behind the presumptive Democratic candidate, but that our candidate and millions of her supporters still recognize that women have not only "Come a long way, baby," but still have a long way to go. Thanks to this campaign, we're a little closer and that in itself is a victory.

Putting the focus on women's issues is a victory too. Hillary was much more than a women's candidate. I truly believe she was the best qualified candidate, regardless of class, race or gender. Even my husband learned to respect her tenacity and resilience. In debates, she was focused, articulate and quick-thinking. She has inspired me. I've never seen a fighter take so many punches and still keep getting up. When I told an interviewer for CBS-TV in NY that I thought Hillary and punk music went together well because Hillary is hardcore, this is what I meant. Hillary never backed down. She took her punches like a woman, as strong and as big as Sojourner Truth. Can you imagine those two in a slam pit? Look out, all those who doubt! I am reminded of a speech Sojourner Truth made so long ago, at the Women's Convention in 1851: "If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back and get it right side up again! And now they is asking to do it, the men better let them." Now that's Hardcore!

American Sabor: Latinos in U.S. Popular Music

Hillary's concession speech was even more poignant and meaningful to me because of the history I've learned recently from participating in two museum exhibitions: "Vexing: Female Voices From East L.A. Punk" at the Claremont Museum of Art (which I've written about previously) and "American Sabor: Latinos In U.S. Popular Music," currently on display at the Experience Music Project in Seattle, WA. I was invited to fly out and view the exhibit along with my friend, Teresa Covarrubias. Teresa and I also had the privilege of facilitating a class last Friday at the University of Washington. I think it was a wonderful learning experience for all concerned. As with the Vexing show, albeit on a much larger scale, I was able to immerse myself in the history of Latino musicians and artists who have contributed to popular culture and music. Many of these artists often worked in semi-obscurity and achieved minimal mainstream recognition. Others are internationally recognized.

One of the most rewarding aspects of participating in these exhibitions and symposiums for me is hearing directly from young female artists that my own music inspired them in some way. It reminds me that the real victory is sometimes not in the "winning" or in mainstream success, but is most often in the doing and in the legacy one leaves for future generations. Progress and societal change are part of a continuum. Seeing and hearing the amazing contributions of so many Latina/o artists who came before me and in many ways, paved the way for me to take chances in my own music was truly inspiring, perhaps in the same way Hillary Clinton has now inspired my own teenage daughter.

So thank you, Hillary. Thank you for fighting the good fight.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Unearthing Bagasaurus Rex

More stuff from the archives today, a vintage Bags flyer from the infamous Trashing of The Troubadour show (uploaded in high resolution to my Flickr page) and a couple more audio files, courtesy of the folks at Artifix, who originally surfaced these and brought them to our attention. I believe these live recordings are from 1978 at the Hong Kong Cafe, but I am not certain. The first song is our cover of the old standard, "That's Life," popularized by Frank Sinatra, but more specifically, this is a cover of a cover. Actually, it's a cover of a popular TV commercial from the 1970's for Sanyo home electronics which featured a pretty, glamorous actress named Susan Anton singing the tag line, "that's life, that's what people say...Sanyooooo!" Obviously, it sounded nothing like the Bags' version. It's immediately followed by a version of TV Dinner, much different from the version which was released on the Live At The Masque cd.

These bootleg recordings are very raw and we cleaned them up as well as we could. Enjoy!

The Bags - Sanyo Theme/TV Dinner-Mp3

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Rummaging Through The Archives

I'm in the process of archiving some of my personal collection of photos, flyers, clippings, video and audio recordings from my various bands and musical projects. It's a daunting task and we are taking it a little at a time. The plan is for this material to eventually be archived at UCLA, but my husband is frustrated because he would like to scan it all and put it up on the website, only he doesn't have the time. Here's a vintage Bags flyer for a show at the Masque in January 1978.

As we were sorting through some of the boxes tonight, we came across a disc labeled "Bags Recordings" which no doubt had surfaced during the search for material for the Artifix Records LP, All Bagged Up. Some decent bootleg recordings of the Bags performing live, probably in 1979, were on that disc. My husband corrected the speed because the original source tape was warped and the results will be posted on my media pages for anyone wishing to listen.

Here's the Bags doing our cover version of the Standells' song, "Sometimes Good Guys Don't Wear White."

Left click HERE to play in your browser OR RIGHT CLICK AND "save file as" to download the song to your desktop!