Question of the week: Urban myths

Why nobody walks in LA
People walk in LA, but sometimes it’s tough with construction on the sidewalks.

I hate when people say that folks in LA are all fake/plastic and that everyone just wants to get in to the entertainment industry. I also dislike when people think that nobody walks in this city ’cause I know people who regularly walk, bike and take public transportation.

La pregunta: What myth about your city/region do you hate the most?

Adrian at 22

This summer, Adrian introduced me to Guitar Hero. I re-introduced Adrian to Harry Potter (he stopped reading after book 5). We both got hooked. We’d play GH against each other after we bought a second guitar. Adrian would play on expert, while I was still having trouble with medium. When we got tired of GH, we’d find a cool spot in the house and read HP aloud to each other. Later in the week, he’d call and text message me with his thoughts regarding the books. It was fun.

¡Feliz cumpleaños, Adrian!

La Bamba

La Bamba (1987)

Director: Luis Valdez

Starring: Lou Diamond Philips, Esai Morales, Elizabeth Peña and Joe Pantoliano

Neighborhood: Pacoima (San Fernando Valley)

Based on a true story: Yup, which is what makes anyone with tear ducts want to cry when Connie Valenzuela learns of her son’s death in a plane crash. There really was a Ricardo Valuenzuela whose name was later changed to Ritchie Valens to “broaden his appeal.” He lived in Pacoima, California where he taught himself to sing and play guitar. He gained fame while still in his teens, but we all know how that ended. That creepy incident where the planes crash over the playground and kills hi best friend? Yeah, that was real too but Valens was absent that day. He went to his grandfather’s funeral. According to a close listener of the DVD commentary who posted on the discussion board at Ritchie Valens Tribute the following aspects of the film were fictional: Ritchie’s crush on Rosie; trip to Tijuana and visit to the curandero (what a surprise); Ritchie’s tattoo (not a flying guitar, but his initials instead); doing a rock rendition of La Bamba was Ritchie’s idea (Bob Keene, says it was his idea).

Edward James Olmos connection: No Olmos, but there’s definitely a connection. Luis Valdez wrote and directed La Bamba as well as Zoot Suit, which starred Olmos as El Pachuo. Esai Morales and Olmos both starred in Mi Familia.

Main themes: rags-to-riches, fame, family, interracial dating

Memorable quotes:

And pretty much anything that comes out of Bob’s mouth. I’ll add more after I watch the movie again. I’ve been meaning to do so all week, but haven’t gotten around to it.

Bonus: Joel/DCNatsWin featured La Bamba as part of his Film Vault Tuesday in January 2006 (link). Check out why he loves the movie despite bad acting and cornyness.

Question of the week: Kid theories

When I was a kid, I believed only white people had allergies. Really.

In fact, if I didn’t read books like the Baby-sitter’s Club series and watch television, allergy would not even be in my vocabulary. No one in my family talked about breaking into hives or sneezed around cats and dogs.

It wasn’t until much later, possibly when I was in college, when I heard a Mexican person say “I’m allergic to _____” that it all clicked. I guess white people weren’t the only ones who had allergies.

La pregunta: What kind of weird ideas or theories did you have as a kid?

Slow and dirty torture

Michigan Alum calls it slow and dirty tortute. Stanford Alum calls it academic hazing. I just call it quals.

As higher education PhD students, we’re expected to write three ten-page papers. The first question we’re given is supposed to be tailored to our specific research interest. The second is a general question on something we should have learned in our higher education coursework and additional reading. The third paper is a critique of an article pulled from a major higher education journal. Three days. Three ten-page papers. At the end of it, we get to advance and start working on the dissertation proposal. Well, that’s if you pass. If you fail, you can retake the exam. If you fail again, you’re out.

It’s just an exam. It shouldn’t be so bad, right? And even if I did fail once (or twice), leaving my program wouldn’t be so bad. I mean, who really wants to spend the last few years of her twenties in school?

Of course, I don’t want to fail. I want to be prepared so that when I see the questions I’ll be set and know exactly how to answer them. In order to prepare, I’m working with six other students including Michigan Alum and Stanford Alum to draft abstracts of important articles and books on a plethora of higher education topics. This part of the quals preparation is simple. The tough part will be working on my worst habit: procrastinating. If the weekend of the first-year exam is any indication, I have a lot self-improvement I need to do. Here’s a list of all the things I did during that 3-day weekend to avoid writing the two 6-page papers:

  1. Eat lots of candy.
  2. Visit Alfred (for the hookup!) at the Coffee Bean.
  3. Listen to Dodger games or follow the play by plays online.
  4. Go to a Dodger game with A.
  5. Go to dinner at a Los Feliz diner full of hipster kids with A post Dodger game.
  6. Write blog posts and read blogs.
  7. Clean my room.
  8. Wash the dishes.
  9. Play solitaire and freecell.
  10. Take random pictures.
  11. Sleep.
  12. Have dinner with my mom and play with the puppy.
  13. Mess around with Isa and her friend.
  14. Go for a jog.
  15. Change clothes a lot, fix my hair, and shower more than I needed to.
  16. Look at photos on Flickr.
  17. Write haiku.
  18. Chat on IM with a few friends.
  19. Catch up on celebrity gossip in Us magazine.
  20. Eat breakfast.
  21. And check and write email.

I have ten weeks to find mis ganas, mentally prepare myself and try out different strategies for using my time wisely. Wish me luck (or give me useful advice, I need it!).

Question of the week: Dealing with the heat

It was really hot in LA last weekend. The mercury reached triple digits and was the cause of way too many deaths and blackouts. In my west LA apartment, I closed all the blinds and tried to keep it as dark and cool as possible. I’ve lived in the same place for 7 years and have never needed a fan. I dressed in light clothes and drank lots of cool water. And when I couldn’t handle it anymore, I went and watched a movie.

Back in Hacienda Heights, it was much worse. My grandparents were the main beneficiaries of the new portable air conditioner which only cools up one room of the house. The rest of the house — which gets a lot of sunlight — was as hot inside as it was outside. Lori and I washed my car and tried to cool down with water from the water hose, it helped like it did when we were kids. A cool shower didn’t help much, according to Robbie, a family friend. Robbie said the cold water ran hot for at least ten minutes.

Further east in Ontario, my cousin Valerie asked tío Pancho if she could turn on the central air conditioning. They never turn on the a/c, even though it gets pretty hot out in the Inland Empire. Valerie didn’t want a/c so she and her sister could cool down. Nope, the a/c was for the crying puppies. As soon as the house cooled down, the puppies quieted down, snuggled together and fell asleep.

La pregunta: How do you deal with the sweltering heat (and humidity, if that affects your part of the country)?

Colorful thoughts

One of my closest friends recently left town for graduate school in Seattle*. At the going away dinner, I noticed that he looked a little different.

“Hey, E, you look darker than usual.”

“Yeah,” he replied, “I’m trying to get as much sun as I can get because when I come back from Seattle I’m going to look like you.”

Ouch. Come on. I’m not that pale.

I was going to end this post with that line up above, but I changed my mind. E’s comment was a joke. It made me laugh, it made other people laugh and I wasn’t offended. Well, maybe a little. I’ve heard comments like this before. Way back when I was in college, my aunt asked me, “¿porqué estás tan blanca? estás enferma?” I wasn’t sick. It was just my color, oh and it was winter and I didn’t get much sun as a full time student.

A bit later, at Adrian’s birthday party late in the summer one of my sister’s friends asked, “what happened to Cindy? Why is she much lighter than the rest of you?”

Well, because we come in all colors. I like to joke that I have the potential to be much more prieta, to have skin like my brothers or to just be a little more morenita like my sister. But I came out pale, and I’ve gotten lighter and lighter as I get older and spend less time out in the sun and more time in front of a computer or book.

Whereas there are many Mexican women (and other women of color) who would love to have lighter skin, I’m not one of them. I’m color struck in the much less common direction. I’d love to be darker, I don’t want to be called white. And even though I do want more color, I’m not about to lay out in the sun or lie in a tanning bed. I gotta keep away the wrinkles (and worse! skin cancer), or else how will I make sure people keep under-guessing my age?

*Hmm. Maybe he’ll run into Daily Texican and convince him to begin blogging again. That’d be cool.

Birthday notes

Reasons why my 27th birthday was so enjoyable:

  • See above. Rio surprised me with a birthday activity sheet. I printed it out and shared it with family at a small family BBQ on Friday night. They got a kick out of the trivia corner, but were a little lost when I mentioned the ghost of Corky Gonzales.
  • Oso had his own little birthday greeting, with a photo of me doing a cara de fuchi.
  • My sister, Lori, and her boyfriend gave me the coolest shades ever. There will be more goofy photos of me in sunglasses.
  • Lori and I tried to beat the heat (triple digits!) by washing my car. Never underestimate the power of playing with the water hose on a hot summer day.
  • Despite the heat, the family BBQ and night out at the Little Temple was a lot of fun. Thanks to DJ Anthony Valadez for spinning some excellent music and putting my family and friends on the guest list. There were several times when I wanted to sit down and take a break from dancing, but then was compelled to keep going because the music was that good.
  • Partying with new friends and old friends alike. Lots of smiles.
  • I got to see (well, more like hear since I couldn’t see the stage) Los Lobos on Thursday evening. I kicked myself when I saw them doing a post-concert signing and realized I didn’t bring a single CD. Damn.
  • I got messages of folks singing/texting Las Mañanitas. Too bad I insisted on sleeping in.

Now… if only it would cool off a little.

Question of the week: Escribiendo

I’ve never been good at conclusions. I don’t really end things, they just fade or stop abruptly. It happens with papers and blog posts, romantic relationships and friendships, projects and goals.

I’m never satisfied with my endings. When it comes to a paper, the conclusion is just annoying, even though I know how important it is to tie things together in a cohesive conclusion. Ever since I learned about the basic essay, I always had the most difficulty with the closing paragraph. Red ink would surround the last five lines and I got lots of comments like “weak conclusion.” The papers I write now never feel complete. That’s probably because most of the time, I’m in such a rush to turn something in and forget about it, that the conclusion isn’t even an afterthought. I could revise and revise and revise… and the conclusion still would not feel like a real conclusion.

Oh, and let’s not even talk about starting. I always procrastinate.

La pregunta: What’s your achilles heal when it comes to writing? How do you deal with your weakness?

Si volviera comenzar, no tendría tiempo de reparar

Five things I’m looking forward to:

Los Lobos at the Santa Monica pier. It’s been a couple years since I’ve seen Los Lobos. I don’t think I’ll come away feeling as nostalgic as I did last time, but I intend to enjoy it. Oh yeah, it’s free.

My birthday. I don’t usually look forward to my birthday, in fact I kinda dread it, but it’s different this year. I’ll have a small family BBQ and then go out dancing at one of my favorite clubs/lounges. The DJ is a friend, so I know he’ll play good stuff and not the crappy dance music you hear in other clubs.

The Dodgers having a winning September and making a run for the playoffs, actually getting in to the playoffs; baseball playoffs in general; UCLA football and tailgating for the first time ever at the Rose Bowl.

The start of the fall quarter. Weird, I know. Still, the sooner fall quarter starts and ends, the faster I make real progress toward getting the hell out of grad school. I’ll also get to know the incoming class of students in the program I help run and welcome back the sophomores.

Café Tacuba’s new album, Sino, which will be released on October 9th. To listen to the first single, “Volver a Comenzar,” check out this e-card (have your speakers on). Yes, that’s the same song I posted a while ago on YouTube from a Mexico City concert. The official website hasn’t been updated, and the splash page points to their MySpace page. My friend Hector sent me a link to Este Encanto where you can download the single. A new album means new tour, possibly in December. Hopefully when los Tacubos play LA again, I won’t be able to predict the setlist.