Partying like it was 1999

Unlike many Harry Potter fans, anesthetist I didn’t try to read the book in one sitting. I slept and I ate and I showered. I even put it down for several hours on Saturday evening when I joined up with friends in Alhambra to celebrate Chispa’s last night out as a single woman with dinner, capsule drinks and dancing.

It was the perfect evening, mainly because it felt so, so… well, 1999. I felt like we were back in college at one of the many Raza Grad fundraisers held at a local club. That sense of déja vu might have come from the similarity of the music, lots of 1980s British pop and New Wave-infused rock en español with a smattering of recent music like Peter, Bjorn and John’s “Young Folks.”

Of course, it wasn’t 1999. We’re no longer 19. We can buy our own drinks — and we bought plenty of them — and don’t need to bug one of the older students for a ride to the club. Then there’s the simple fact that the 2007 group of dancing girls is different than the 1999 group of dancing girls. No one has been replaced, but some of the girls were out of town.

Yet some things remain consistent:

  1. At the end of the night, I’ll regret my decision to wear the cute heels.
  2. Chispa is still one of my best friends and I love her tremendously.


July 23, one health 1977
Boyle Heights

Just married

April 22, cheap 2007
Newport Beach

30 years and going...

July 23, 2007

No photo (at least yet) but the love is still there. Happy anniversary, parents. I wasn’t there to hear the vows, but I’ve seen you live them and provide excellent examples of selflessness and love.

Question of the week: Guilty pleasures

I can’t wait for the final installment in the Harry Potter series, anesthetist Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I’ve already reserved my copy and will probably try and get it late tonight or tomorrow morning. Last week, resuscitation I watched the latest movie, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and two weeks ago I re-read the sixth book in the series Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince so that the story and details would be fresh in my mind.

That’s probably pretty normal.

But let’s not forget the time I dragged a friend with me to go see Harry and the Potters and the green Save Ginny! t-shirt I often wear, which alludes to the storyline of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

I’ve been reading the books since June 2000. That was when I found myself at home for the summer and about to go on a short road trip to San Diego. I like reading in the car, but didn’t have any books on me. My mom had just bought the first three books of the series for Adrian and Lori, my younger siblings. Since Adrian and Lori were currently reading the first and second books, respectively, they offered me the third book. I got hooked after reading The Prisoner of Azkaban and immediately devoured the first two books. A few weeks later, the fourth book was released and I spent almost the whole mini-vacation in Palm Springs holed up in the hotel room with Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

The Harry Potter series is one of my guilty pleasures.

La Pregunta: What’s your pop culture guilty pleasure? (This can be about books, music, television, movies, comic books, etc.)

The Moving Guy

“What are you looking at,” Linda* asked.

“Oh, just some guy in a truck over there,” I answered, still distracted by the white mover’s truck and its driver.

By the time Linda had turned around to face the intersection of Weyburn and Broxton, the white truck had disappeared south on Broxton.

Linda looked back at me, “who were you checking out?”

“Just some guy.”

I tried to explain that I’d seen the truck’s driver several times. Apparently, the moving company he works is often ontracted by UCLA to move professors and staff from one office to another. I first saw Moving Guy in December 2003 when the Student Retention Center was moving from its temporary location back to the Men’s Gym (now known as the Student Activities Center). Moving Guy was dressed in jeans, work boots and a gray uniform shirt. I think I was dressed like someone cleaning and packing her tiny cubicle: in sweats and a sweatshirt.

I didn’t talk to Moving Guy. I’ve never talked to Moving Guy. I just see him occasionally around campus, doing his job. I’ve seen him in Moore Hall, the home of the Graduate School of Education & Information Studies a couple of times.

The last time I saw Moving Guy was a few weeks ago as I left my office. He held a door for me and smiled. A few steps later, I went in one direction and he went in another.

“So you never talk to him?” Linda asked.

“Nope. I don’t even know how to start a conversation,” feeling like a loser. I’d had plenty of opportunities and almost 4 years!

We continued catching up and eating our trendy frozen yogurt with fruit toppings. In the back of my mind, I thought about the next time I’d see Moving Guy. Without a doubt, it’ll happen and I’m sure I won’t be over my shyness.

*Pseudonym my friend uses whenever she needs to give a name at a coffee of frozen yogurt shop. She’s rather not have her Chinese name spelled incorrectly.

Café Tacuba at the Hollywood Bowl

Café Tacuba at the Hollywood Bowl

It took me 3 hours to get from Santa Barbara to the Hollywood Bowl (no more than 85 miles!). I was really worried I’d miss part of the concert and was asking mi tía Macaria* to work her magic. Either LA traffic on the 101 was really good for a Sunday afternoon, information pills or la tía Macaria came through. Even though there was a lot of traffic in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties, try once I got in to LA County, approved I was speeding along at 70-75 mph all the way to the Hollywood Bowl. Either traffic was just good, or la tía Macaria’s magic came through.

I met up with Ralph at Hollywood and Highland shuttle stop to the Bowl. We got to our seats before the opening act, Groove Armada, even began. Some wine helped calm my nerves and get me back in the right mood to enjoy Café Tacuba.

It had been 2 years since I last saw Café Tacuba perform, way too long in my book. The show was well worth the 3 hour drive and traffic. The band was dressed all in white and black. Rubén Albarán, the lead singer, wore a white suit and black t-shirt. He had his mid-length hair in two braids and wore a large white bowler hat with eyeholes cut out so he could see.

I was on my show the whole way through, but most of the people up front were sitting down. Rubén made fun of them for sitting down, but they probably didn’t know it as most of the people in the box seats probably weren’t the big fans and didn’t speak Spanish. All the cheers and dancing were in the cheaper seats at the back of the Bowl. I remember Rubén mentioning that he felt bad because he couldn’t address the audience in English. I yelled out that he shouldn’t care, he should just speak Spanish since we were in LA, after all.

Café Tacuba played from about 8:45 to 10 p.m. (including their 4-song encore).

The setlist:

  1. No Controles
  2. Cero y Uno
  3. Las Flores (my favorite!)
  4. Mediodía
  5. New song (it was the same song I posted here a few weeks ago. They mentioned the name, but I didn’t hear it. I’ll post videos of the two new songs on YouTube)
  6. La Ingrata
  7. Chilanga Banda
  8. La Chica Banda
  9. Déjate Caer
  10. Encore

  11. Eres
  12. El Baile y el Salón
  13. New song (not sure if they mentioned the name or not)
  14. Como Te Extraño Mi Amor

I only have one criticism: the shows are pretty predictable. I’ve seen Café Tacuba enough times to know that they’ll end their show and then come out for a four song encore. I also knew that the encore would include their cover of Leo Dan’s classic, Como Te Extraño Mi Amor.

Overall, I’m glad I made it. I need my Café Tacuba fix. The summer just doesn’t feel right without them.

*La tía Macaria is a great-great aunt on Mamá Toni’s side. Supposedly, she was a very pious, generous and saintly woman. My mom is a big fan of tía Macaria, which is the reason we often ask for her help in tough situations . These days, we ask “las ánimas de mi tía Macaria” for everything from a good outcome from a surgery to clearing up traffic so I can make a very important concert! She doesn’t help much when it comes to sports, or else the Dodgers would be winning the pennant — or at least a playoff game — every year.

13 for Friday the 13th

9 a.m.
St. Lucy’s Church in City Terrace for Jose’s funeral Mass. The strange yet pleasant incense smell hits me as I dipped my finger on the sponge soaked with holy water and make the sign of the cross. A few minutes later, abortion the same balding priest enters to begin the procession of pall bearers, casket and family. As the priest says the prayers, few people respond, a sign that there are lots of non-Catholics or lapsed Catholics (or simply people who don’t know the prayers in Spanish) in the church. The Mass is simple and somber. There are few tears, I think most were shed the night before at the velorio.

9:50 a.m.
Gabriel, Ralph and I decide to leave the church parking lot before the procession to Resurrection Cemetery in Monterey Park. I tell Ralph, I know how to get there. Mando and my madrina Bertha are buried there. We take the 10 east to the 710 south to the 60 east and exit Findlay. We make a left at Markland, where we saw a horse-drawn carriage just waiting. Soon, we arrive at Resurrection. I tell the guys, I think we should just drive around until we find somewhere that looks like it’s about to be the location for a burial. A few minutes later we find the right location. Ralph double checks the flower arrangements. He sees one with blue and yellow flowers dedicated to a beloved Bruin. We wait a while in the shade. Soon other friends arrive, they all ditched (or were ditched) by the procession.

10:30 a.m.
The casket and procession arrives. The priest begins his prayer at the grave site. It’s short and sweet. The sun beats down on us and I tell Chonsy to grab the umbrella from my trunk after taking a cue from some of the other mourners. The priest says a short prayer and gives the final blessing. The guy from the mortuary tells the pall bearers to put their white gloves on the casket and then asks them to give flowers to everyone so they can place them on the casket as well. I get a blue rose. It’s lovely. When I say goodbye, I don’t know if I should say a prayer or tell Jose how much I’ll miss him. I just pray, it’s easier.

After this, an older woman begins a rosary. In between each misterio, we sing a verse of “Pescador de Hombres”. I love the song, but she doesn’t sing it as beautiful as my father and the choir back at St. John Vianney. I try to sing too, but I forget the words. It’s a good thing; without fail, the song makes me cry.

11:50 a.m.
All the friends, fellow UCLA/MEChA alumni say goodbye to each other. We’re the only one’s still hanging around at Resurrection. The family already left to the reception and we’re still trying to figure out the next thing to do. Ralph, Gabriel, Jake, Chonsy and I make plans to go a Hawaiian restaurant Jake recommends.

11:55 p.m.
Lunch at Shakas in Monterey Park. We barely beat the lunch crowd. The guys all have giant snow cones to go along with their loco mocos and teriyaki chicken. We discuss baseball, particularly the Seattle Mariners of the mid to late 1990s. I hold my own in the conversation. I think, we must look odd. We’re all dressed in black.

1:30 p.m.
I got conned in to driving to the Kwik-E-Mart in Burbank. Ralph promised me a Squishee. On the way there, he suggests going to see a movie after the Kwik-E-Mart. Harry Potter? I ask hopefully. Ralph and Gabriel actually agree.

1:45 p.m.
We arrive at the Burbank Kwik-E-Mart. The line is shorter than I expected, but we still have to wait a little while. It’s also not as hot as I expected, but it’s still hot. We take pictures with Comic Book Guy and Marge. Whoever thought that going to a gussied up Simpsons style 7-11 would be exciting? Ralph keeps his promise of buying me a slushee in a collectible pink Lisa cup. I buy a couple of bobbleheads and cookies shaped like Simpsons characters. Ralph buys a half-dozen donuts.

We head over to the AMC movie theater and arrive just in time to buy our tickets for the 3 p.m. Harry Potter showing.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is over. On the escalator down, the guys say they liked it and I clear up some of their questions. I go into an explanation of why I thought the book was much better than the movie, even if I did enjoy the movie. While looking for a place to get some water, the guys suggest grabbing a beer. I can’t argue and we end up at Elephant Bar’s happy hour across the street from the parking structure. I have a margarita. The guys have beer.

Gabriel offers to pay, he just got a promotion. I don’t mind at all. I’ve been driving him around all day. He should be paying for my drink. We leave the Elephant Bar, which has quickly gone from being busy to being downright hectic. Ralph guides us back to East L.A. without having to get on the crappy 5 freeway.

7:15 p.m.
Back in City Terrace, we unwind at Ralph’s apartment. I’m hungry again. I finally grab one of the pink sprinkled donuts we bought at the Kwik-E-Mart. It’s good, but it’s a little too sweet. The Dodgers game is on TV, but Ralph doesn’t have cable. Boo. Gabriel leaves to head back to the Coachella Valley. I check my email for the first time that day and while doing so Ralph invites me to dinner in Van Nuys at Dr. Hogly Wogly’s Tyler, Texas Bar-B-Que.

8 p.m.
Dinner at “the Hog” with David, his father and Ralph. David and Ralph do the ordering. Two orders of beef brisket, one order of beef ribs, and sides of bread and french fries. The food is good and so is the conversation.

9:30 p.m.
Traffic on the 101 sucks, but at least I don’t have to drive this time. I tell Ralph that today, Friday July 13th, was an almost perfect day. Well, if we don’t consider the fact that it started with Jose’s funeral. You know, I tell him, the only reason you, me and Gabriel were away from work today was because of Jose’s funeral. This great day would have never happened if… well, you know. His death brought together a bunch of people who don’t see each other enough as we’re all scattered around California doing our own thing. Suddenly, the great day doesn’t feel so great anymore. I feel exhausted.

Question of the week: Code-switching

I got out of my office today, story and it felt good. The day was weird going from sunny and warm to cloudy and cool at least three times. During one of my trips outside the office, adiposity I stopped by my old place of work to say hi to former co-workers and fellow education PhD students.

“I feel like I haven’t been in Moore in a month,” I told Lucy.

“It has been a month, hasn’t it?” she reminded me. The last time I was in the building was during finals week in June.

We talked about my trip to Mexico. I gushed about all the cool things we did, none of which involved just laying out on a beach and working on a tan. Somehow my family’s idea of a vacation is a lot more active. When I got to the part about our trips to visit Chichén Itzá and Tulum on the mainland, I explained that those days were especially tiring because we had to take the ferry from Cozumel to Playa del Carmen and still travel to our final destination. I found myself stumbling over a Spanish phrase and then opting for the English phrase instead even though Lucy would comprehend my code-switching. Rather than say “Chichén Itzá está muy retirado,” I just said “it’s really far.” Sure, I got the general meaning across. Chichén Itzá is a three hour drive away from Playa del Carmen. However, I didn’t like my English translation. It was missing something.

I said goodbye a few minutes later and hurried back to work, still feeling unsatisfied with English.

La Pregunta: what word (or phrase) do you say in Spanish* most of the time because it just doesn’t sound right in English?

*Doesn’t have to be Spanish.

Chilaquiles at Juquila

Chilaquiles at la Juquila (they made me cry)

One of the things that often bugs me about stereotypes of Los Angeles is that lots of people think that Westside is synonymous with white. Well, ailment that’s simply not true, therapy even in the more affluent community of Santa Monica. I’m not sure about numbers, thumb but judging by the number of Oaxacan restaurants in the area, there a lot of Oaxaqueños on the Westside… and the food is good.

My first review of chilaquiles (a la El Chavo’s huevos rancheros reviews on the Eastside) will be at Juquila.

Now, I have to admit I’m totally biased toward Juquila. It’s the smallest and most humble of the three local Oaxacan restaurants I’ve visited (the other two are La Guelaguetza and Monte Alban). It’s also the cheapest, and the place where most of the patrons are transplanted Oaxaqueños rather than non-Mexican westsiders. I’ve also been going to Juquila several times with good friends and even had a first date there back when I was an undergrad. Yeah, lots of happy times.

I also almost always order los chilaquiles and horchata. Even though the menu offers cecina, tazajo or chorizo as sides, I always ask for a side of grilled chicken breast. The chilaquiles are always yummy (and big!), but this time they made me cry.

Ambiance: the place is small and L-shaped. There’s enough room for about 7 booths along one wall and four or so tables in the middle. The decor is homey, but inviting. They have colorful photos depicting festivals in Oaxaca on the walls and a flat-screen TV above the window to the kitchen (they had TV tuned to Univision for a Copa America match). I went around 3 pm on a Saturday, all the booths were taken up except for one. I could have taken advantage of their happy hour, but chose against it ’cause eating alone is already a little weird, but drinking alone?

Service: good, friendly. They serve yummy tortilla chips with red mole (colaradito) and queso fresco. Also, I only got to read a couple of pages of the book I had just picked up from the library before my food arrived. The young waiter tried to give me huge plate of carne asada before realizing he was at the wrong booth.

What I liked: generous serving; crunchiness of the tortillas lasts for a while, but not too crunchy; queso fresco on top; generous portion of side meat of choice, great for leftovers; affordable price, $7.99 for the dish, $2 for the drink.

What I didn’t like: a little too spicy (at least for me); large pieces slices of onion rings rather than finely chopped onions; they don’t look soggy, but they had a little too much sauce which was enough to soak the lettuce under the chicken; sour cream, I usually prefer my food without it; no side of beans.

Verdict: overall, a very good experience. I’ve ordered the chilaquiles at Juquila several times and will do so again in the future (unless I’m in the mood for mole).

Bonus: the guy across from me — who was annoyingly yakking away on his cell phone the entire time I was there — started talking to me as I was getting ready to pay. He first asked me about the soccer game on TV, since he could not see the TV from where he was seated. He then started trying to say he’d pay for my food if I had a drink with him. No thanks. He wasn’t attractive and had annoyed me, but I was still amused that he was flirting with me.

11619 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.
(310) 312-1079

Jose Luis Vasquez, 3.14.82-7.1.07

I went to my first Dodger game of the season on Sunday. I had great seats at field level in right field. The bad thing about those seats was that there was no shade from the sun and it was a bit hard to see home plate, symptoms but we managed.

In all the dodger games I’ve ever been to, about it I’ve never heard a player have a Los Lobos song as his at-bat song. It seems odd too, since they’re from East LA. That changed on Sunday when Rafael Furcal, the Dodgers’ shortstop, came up to bat. I heard a familiar song, “La Venganza de los Pelados” by Los Lobos (featuring Café Tacuba) play as he walked over to home plate. Each time Furcal came up to bat after that, they played the song, and I kept thinking it was cool not only because I love Los Lobos, but also because Furcal is a great (and handsome) player. Now I know he has good music taste.

Nomar Garciaparra (above) had War’s “Lowrider” as his at-bat song.

La Pregunta: What would you want played as your at-bat song?
This letter is being written on behalf of the family of Jose Luis Vasquez, bronchitis
a UCLA alumnus, help who was involved in a tragic car accident on July 1st, diet
2007, in which he lost his life.

For the people who knew Jose, he was a caring friend and member of the community. As an undergraduate student at UCLA, Jose was involved in MEChA de UCLA, the Xinachtli High School Outreach Project, and the Central American Student Association.

After graduating in 2005 with a BS in Mathematics, Jose continued his studies at UCLA in the Teacher Education Program (TEP) where he earned his Masters of Education and teaching credential in mathematics. It was his dream to become a high school math teacher, one that he accomplished. He became an important member of the teaching faculty at Jordan High School in Watts and had just completed his first year of full-time teaching in June 2007.

In lieu of flowers, donations should be made payable to Jose’s mother, Gloria M. Rojas. At this time, Jose’s family is in dire need of monetary donations to pay for his funeral services. His funeral arrangements, which will cost approximately $10,000, cannot be made until all costs are paid in full. For this reason, we are asking that donations be made ASAP!

Donations can be dropped off beginning Friday, July 6th at the Community Programs Office (CPO), room 106, in care of Ralph, CPO Advisor, ONLY. Should you have any questions, please contact Daniela, Xinachtli Project Director at [redacted].

The UCLA student and staff community is also planning a memorial service on campus to be held on the evening of Thursday, July 19th. Details will be released in the near future.

We thank you in advance for your generosity.


Family and Friends of Jose Luis Vasquez

Question of the week: Grooving at home plate

I went to my first Dodger game of the season on Sunday. I had great seats at field level in right field. The bad thing about those seats was that there was no shade from the sun and it was a bit hard to see home plate, symptoms but we managed.

In all the dodger games I’ve ever been to, about it I’ve never heard a player have a Los Lobos song as his at-bat song. It seems odd too, since they’re from East LA. That changed on Sunday when Rafael Furcal, the Dodgers’ shortstop, came up to bat. I heard a familiar song, “La Venganza de los Pelados” by Los Lobos (featuring Café Tacuba) play as he walked over to home plate. Each time Furcal came up to bat after that, they played the song, and I kept thinking it was cool not only because I love Los Lobos, but also because Furcal is a great (and handsome) player. Now I know he has good music taste.

Nomar Garciaparra (above) had War’s “Lowrider” as his at-bat song.

La Pregunta: What would you want played as your at-bat song?