SOCIAL MEDIA SPARKS MY EMOTIONS


real socializing

real socializing

Our society has led us to the path of non-involvement. FB did that,
Email did that, cell phones did that. Yea, I love em’  for the
thing they knew we’d love them for; a delete button.

We, I mean most of us that don’t control millions of political decisions, cannot handle much more. But we could save ourselves from a real famine, a civil war , or  war on our country.   Who  would come to our aid? I really wonder.  I bet on us; the ones who’ve always struggled.
We are not involved with each other anymore; it’s like having a manicure to break out of a relationship, and if you lose your job you won’t have enough money for a manicure. So you don’t lose your job; you work  eighteen hours a day and get paid less than your staff.   But nobody cares; not unless you go viral or if you have a million   Blog stats. Social media. Then you will go somewhere; you will have a job. Artists, are  digital: writers, photographers;  musicians. Who knows whose who anymore.  I think Theater is the only venue left of our physical   involvement.  Theater is life; and no one walks out without having something to say.  I also include: dance, concerts, opera, poetry readings, performance artist, and comedians.  I prefer to see it live!

MUSIC and DANCE INSTEAD OF PILLS


mq1tTIEMPO LIBREADVENTURES IN LIVINGNESS – CUBAN STYLE

SOMETIMES AN INTERVIEW WITH A MUSICIAN GOES DEEPER than a narrative history of recordings, concert calendar and early training. That happened when I met Jorge Gomez; founder, keyboardist and musical director of Tiempo Libre, an all Cuban born Timba band.

We met in a modest hotel room in Santa Fe, New Mexico where he and his six band members were invited to play for the second time at the Lensic Theater. It was steam-bath hot and muggy that Friday afternoon. As I stood in the doorway, Jorge wrapped up a recording session. After introductions’ everyone cleared out except Jorge and Raul Rodriguez, the trumpet player. Raul, propped up against the headboard of an unmade bed, one leg bent at the knee, the other straight out. He reminded me of Miles; cool in his skin and unflappable.

Jorge and I sat at the kitchenette bar, between us his keyboard on the countertop. Eagerness to begin was dilating from his eyes, so I began with my favorite question to all immigrants; how did it feel when you landed in the United States?

“Oh my God! It was my dream; all through childhood in Havana.”

“Do you love America now?”

His arms shot straight up, as he rose from his chair.

“Are you kidding? We love America! How can you not? This is the best country in the world. I’ve been all over: Europe, Asia, Mexico, and Caribbean. You have all the opportunities; you make your own life here, whatever you want.”  He shifts his attention to Raul, agreeably excluded.

“You can’t do this in Cuba—right Raul?” Jorge leans forward and I’m struck by the indisputable untainted smile.  Jorge continues to dramatize his arrival in Manhattan, with arms and eyes, “I got out because I had friends in New York.  They helped me get gigs in the bars, weddings, and then we got into the clubs.”  The room is silent except for Jorge’s satin smooth transitions from one question to the next. That alone is reason enough to meet Jorge for conversation.

“We were not allowed to listen to Cuban salsa music, or American music; only classical. I trained at the Conservatory all my childhood. I play all of them; Beethoven, Brahms, all of them.”

“Where did you learn Salsa?”

“From America! Yes. As teenagers we climb to the roof and we to wait till state programmed Cuban music goes off the air at 1:00am. Then we wrap aluminum around the antenna and turn our radio on. We pick up American music; like Gloria Esteban, Michael Jackson, everyone. We listened all night so we’d take the rhythms’ in our heads you know.”

“What’s the difference between Cuban Salsa and Latin Salsa?”

“Everyone claims this is their Salsa; it’s Latin, Marenge, Colombian… it is a blend of many cultures and musical influence. We take from each other. All the instruments I learn come from listening. They teach me everything; and I teach them.”

“Do Americans play Conga different than Cubans?”

“It depends on the person. See if the person is open to learn everything then he push through. For example we have been playing all these places like Michigan, Minnesota, Minneapolis…all those places that are so.” He pauses to express it precisely. Cold he says, laughing out loud.

“And I’ve seen American band playing Cuban salsa so so good, my God, so well. Blue eyes and blond hair.” Jorge breaks to howl out his enthusiasm and surprise, and demonstrate the memory.

“Who do you like to listen to do today?”

“I don’t know the names, but I have a lot of friends, and they call me and say, ‘I have a band, you come and hear me.’ So I go to the club and Wow! This is good music! Everyone is dancing. I love to see them dancing! I want to see them happy. If they want to sit and listen, good, if they want to sing along, good, they want to dance good.  Everybody have a different reaction. My job is to transfer the energy to the person; that’s the idea. Not to play the music for me; I want them to be happy.”

“ How do you do that?”

“ Sometimes you are sick, and no matter how many pills you take you are still sick. Right?”

I nod and watch his facial expressions twitch in thought.

“Then let’s say I come and say, Wow! You look so good man, you are looking good, and he claps’ his hands and pantomimes the joy he’s transferring. ‘You wanna a coffee cake and coffee, yea, come with me, (clapping again) you want to sit here? Yea sit here and see the sun.’ Suddenly, you feel good.” He nods his head. “Trust me.”

Jorge is toe tapping in place, his arms positioned in a warm world embrace.

“You forget all about the pills. Trust me, that is the kind of energy I give.”

“I suppose you don’t get sick?”

“Never. For sure. Never. I don’t know what this head pain is… how you say, headache? Like friends say I have so many problems, so many headaches, I can’t go out. I say, ‘What! Come on we go the beach, to the sand. Bring your conga. What are you crazy! Come on!’ So he comes and we play on the beach in Miami.”

Jorge drums on the counter top. “Have a beer, have another.’ And everyone on the beach comes to us. The whole idea is to forget your problems. So my friend says to me, ‘I had the best day of my life.’ Yea! Be happy! This is youth; this is how you stay young. Life is so big.”

I shake my head, “Not in America; we concentrate on sickness and misery.”

“Yea! You don’t have sickness yet, but you are going to get it.” He ruptures into laughter, and takes a sip of beer. My father tell me one time you have to hear your body; your body going to take you in the right direction. Just listen and you are going to feel so good. Sometimes I can’t go to sleep at night. All the songs and ideas in my head and I can’t sleep. I must write it down, and the next morning I feel so good, because I didn’t go to sleep. I drink beer because I am too happy-over happy.”

“Where did you learn this happiness?”

“From all the difficult paths I have in my life. Childhood was very difficult;no food, no water, no electricity, no plumbing. What you going to do? Party, go outside, dance, play basketball, baseball. I get my friends and they say, my problems’ are bigger than yours. Bla bla bla.”

I’m laughing now as Jorge continues to articulate his life philosophy.

“ At the end of the day you are so happy because you see people less fortunate and some more, and you are in the middle, and you want to help those people, you can’t go it alone.”

He chuckles again. His smile is broad as his cheek line. A streak of sunlight crossed the keyboard, and Jorge’s eye and brows are in motion, as much as his legs arms and hands.

“ What you’re going to hear tonight is a lot of crazy crazy energy, good music, a lot of stories. You’re going to see a lot of soul. When Raul plays his trumpet you’re going to turn inside out.”

“What is Timba music?”

“A mixture of jazz, classical, rock, and Cuban music.”

“Sounds like a musical.”

“Yes, Yes! We are in preparing for that.”

Four hours later I was in the Lensic Theater, twelve rows from the stage. Lead singer Xavier Mill, Jorge, Raul, Louis Betran Castillo on flute and sax, Wilvi Rodriguez Guerra on bass, Israel Morales Figueroa on drums and Leandro Gonzales on Congas opened the set, and five minutes into it I was below the stage. Two and half hours later I was still dancing, along with half the audience. That’s entertainment! http://www.tiempolibremusic.com

The three-time Grammy nominated band will perform Thu, Sep 26, 2013 at a Special Event at the Arts Garage in support of AVDA, Inc. Arts Garage in Delray Beach, Florida.

LA POSADA is LA FAMILIA


posición en el baile flamenco.

posición en el baile flamenco. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The throw of the dice this week lands on the un-said and underscored vignettes that pass through us. Those moments which make us turn away from screens, cameras, and cell phones, to observe life around us.  Writers do this habitually, like addicts. It is our drug to examine what we feel no one else is seeing, feeling or thinking. These were last week’s vignettes.
I am outdoors on the patio of La Posada Resort.  The cotton wood leaves on the trees, are dancing in setting sun light. At the far end of the dining patio, the lawn is staged, and the grass is covered with folding chairs. On stage, under a white billowing tent, teenage Flamenco dancers’ switchblade their black and coral skirts, as the pillow soft breeze brushes my face. I’m smiling without envy, a massive leap, because for most of my life, when I see professional dancers, I’m scolding myself, for not following through with my passion for dancing. Tonight, it is gone. My joy erupts to the surface. The dancers are the same age I was when I began training.
Their painted cheeks and darkened eyes are highlighted by the sunlight; they look like paintings that have come to life. The music is burning through centuries of Spanish history, through blood and battles, and the eruption of their passion for dance.
We have a convention of insurance salesman, dressed in Eddie Bauer, and the ladies in Jones of New York, seated like birds with their wings clipped. The men are standing in huddles, roaring laughter at inside jokes. Three dancers break from tradition and are now dancing to Billy Jean, striking their poses and facing our table. the leader, whom the others bashfully imitate, plays to us, and I want to tell her, don’t stop dancing, don’t give it up.
 Seated in front of me is a couple in their late sixties.  Transparent by dress and manner, they look farm-bred Midwestern. He wears a hard-working no fluff or formality expression, and his wife, probably is his high-school sweetheart. She appears painfully restrained-but she covers this up with a contented smile. The husband is staring at me, his lips are scornful, his eyes like that of a disbelieving police officer, or judge. I’m behind sunglasses, absorbing them through my mental lens, as if we were having a conversation. I imagine him on a tractor, and his wife behind a white worn picket fence picking fruits and vegetables. We’re separated by the cultural divide, but I want to ask the farmer how his life has changed, how the economy impacted his crops, his dreams. What did he dream about when he was a boy? Maybe dreams were a luxury he could not afford.
Beneath a black lake of stars, the breeze whips my hair, Rudy smiles at me, without a word I know what he’s thinking. The evening volumnized when the band kicked into sixties soul, and the insurance salesman are now dancing with the insurance saleswoman, and their wings are unclipped.
We left, crossing through the festivities to our porch, where the music resonated. Rudy turned on the blue lights.
             “Don’t turn them on; they attract the moths.”
            “I tell you what I’ll do and what I won’t do.
            “They’ll eat your eyeballs when you’re sleeping.”
               “What!  Where did you come up with that?”
             “Don’t know. Look whose coming out to complain about the music?”  Then we see our neighbor, stomping across the lawn in his red T-Shirt and Beret. Professor J, demands to voice his rights at every opportunity. I’ve seen him argue with a Police Officer in the middle of the street, at one in the morning. “You have an obligation to police Santa Fe that is your job!” He shouted at the officer for thirty minutes.
 The night closes, like a play from the summer of 2012. Doesn’t sound like the summer of 1971, when we met on the streets, and just hung out, listening to radios, and watching people.  I think living next to a hotel, has kept me closer to street life.  I could do without the delivery trucks at six in the morning and the crashing bottles in the dumpster. It’s not unbearable any longer because La Posada is nowLa Familia.

JAMMING UP HIP-HOP


Free your mind and the rest will follow; the words from EnVogue’s latest release played all day on the radio. Every time I got in the car to hunt up real estate listings, I heard that song.
I worked in an industrial building along an industrial highway in San Diego. I shared a warehouse with twelve men, eleven of them tall, weight trained football on Sunday guys, who ate at expensive restaurants amongst a club of commercial real estate agents, where they’d be noticed. They were pretty decent guys, except the partners who each had severe a case of ego malnutrition and competed for attention like two tottlers. Greg was the only short one in the bunch, and he wore a rug, manicured his nails, and surfed on the weekends. He was always talking about his Karate black belt, and how he knocked guys out. He rarely laughed and when he did he sounded like a chirping bird. Greg used to give me his wife’s unworn clothes and waited in my living room while I tried them on. It was sort of strange, but he never played the trump card and asked for anything in return.
One day in the summer of 1992 I called the office secretary.
“Gail, I’m not coming in for awhile. Will you forward my calls to my home?”
“Are you all-right?”
“Oh yea. I’m fine.”
“What should I tell Sam?”
“Tell him I’m on leave of absence.”
I lived in a little cottage house in North Park. It was all white with a picket fence and a squared grass yard where my dog played. The front room was small but the carpeting was new, so I could curl up on the rug and watch the clouds from the windows.
I threw my nylons and navy pumps in the garbage, and folded the business suits into boxes. I knew I wasn’t going back, but where I was headed was a throw of the dice.
Mornings I ran through Balboa Park before the crowds arrived, and got to see the zoo keepers feeding the animals, and the actors going into The Old Globe Theater. I filled my senses with virgin light and morning silence, unfamiliar sensations to office workers living with florescent lighting and partition walls. In the afternoon I lounged around in sweats watching music videos, reading magazines and dancing.

I watched some new music videos, maybe EnVogue or Bobby Brown, and tried to imitate the hip-hop moves on the carpet. It was like watching a cat in the snow. I called all the dance schools, and no one was teaching hip-hop. I didn’t know back then my mother was a dancer; so this impulsive and implausible scheme to start a dance troupe startled me as much as everyone I told.
The last lease deal I did was for a group of soccer players from Jamaica. They needed a space to open a reggae dance club. They told me they’d called other agents and no one would take their business. I found a disheveled warehouse and struck a deal for them. They fixed up the warehouse themselves, with colored lights, and some tables, but Rockers was really about the dancing. I walked into the club one night, and they were all doing their part; greeting customers, spinning vinyl, and serving drinks. I danced with Leroy, the leader of the group, and watched him unfold from the waist down. He danced so low to the floor, he appeared boneless.
“Leroy, I’m going to start a dance troupe. You guys inspired me.”
“What kind of dance?’
“Hip-Hop and jazz funk.”
Leroy covered his mouth with one hand and laughed.
“What’s so funny?”
“You’re a business woman; I didn’t know you was a dancer.”
“Well, I took lessons a long time ago.”
“Hip Hop?”
“No, Jazz. I’m going to find the dancers to teach. I know there out there.”
“Yea, they out there all right; lots of them.”
“Well see! I’d like to use your space, pay rent of course, when you’re not open.”
“Well that’s all right. You don’t need to pay me.”
I hugged him, and he shook his head. “I don’t think there’s much money in teaching hip-hop.” he said.


At the community college I posted a sign for dancers, and observed some classes. When I got the call from Piper, he asked me to come see him teach at the Church on University Avenue. I drove over one night, and found Piper in a little room upstairs, teaching Jazz Funk to one woman. He was tall and lanky with a smile that creased his whole jaw. He came over, shook my hand, and said, ‘How you doing? I’m Piper.’ He wore an immaculate shield of confidence that defied his nineteen years, and moved at the intersection of Michael Jackson and James Brown. The groove spiraled through his body.
“I’ll help you get it started; if you’re not a trained dancer you need help.”
So Piper and I met every week and finally landed on a group that incorporated Jazz-Funk, Hip-hop and Afro-Cuban. I named the company United Steps Dance Productions, and the Jammers were the hip-hop troupe.


I’ll never forget the look on the partner’s faces when I told them I was starting a multicultural dance troupe. They just stared at me blankly. Then within weeks all five of my unclosed lease deals were signed at the same time. I walked out with enough money to live six months. That was real security in my mind.


Piper and I held our first audition at Rockers. When I opened the doors that morning, dancers were already lined up outside. They came dressed in street clothes; wearing scarves, baseball caps, loose pants, and tank tops. I watched them leap, kick, split, and turn inside out for the job. I knew that I was in the right spot.  One dancer walked out, stood still for a moment, and then leaped into a break-dance pop-lock routine that silenced the crowd. “Him Piper, definitely him.” He’s bad, yea he’s real bad.” At the end of the auditions, Piper mocked me.
“Lue, we can’t sign every dancer just cause they hip-hop. Anyone can do that.”
I can’t hip hop and it’s my company.”
“Yea, and you’re crazy. I swear, Lu you’re crazy.”
We agreed on pop-locker Vince-Master Jam, and Monique, a young Afro-Cuban dancer. That was the beginning.
When Vince and I met, he told me he lived in Escondido.
“But that’s an hour away.”
“It’s cool, I’ll be here. Just give me the chance.”
Vince showed up twice a week at night for his class. Many times, we sat in the cold damp club, listening to music and Vince tried to teach me to pop-lock. I apologized for not having students and he looked at me, and said, “ Don’t worry Lue, will get it going on.”


Our first performance was at the Red Lion Hotel. I hired a video tech to record the performance. We got a free dinner and a hundred dollars. We had a good crowd, and everyone loved them. Afterwards in the dining room, they were talking, laughing and elbowing each other. Piper was ranting about Monique taking too much time, and Vince was telling Piper to chill because Monique was so good. I sat there just listening, with a big smile on my face.
The Jammers belonged to the no smoking, no drinking, no drugs group. For the first few months, they taught on tiled floors under a leaky roof, without any heat. But they kept coming back to teach and their dedication moved me to find a better location. We relocated to a well-heeled Health Club downtown San Diego and the classes filled up with students, dancers, and office workers searching for a new lunch. They came from all different races; Asian, White, Hispanic and Black. I danced with the classes and promoted our troupe. The Jammers laughed at my attempt to be a soul sister, and I laughed with them. We were reviewed by KPBS magazine, and a photographer took pictures of us and featured us in the magazine.
Searching for gigs proved to be an exasperating struggle. I called department stores, festival producers, shopping centers, nightclubs, hotels and everyone had the same line, “I don’t think hip-hop is right for our clientele.”
When I ran out of money I took a job managing a condominium project, where I lived rent free. After a time of observing the Jammers self expression, I asked myself, what is mine? I still refused to get on stage. Vince used to bawl me out because I made Piper introduce the group.
After two years Piper moved to Los Angeles to launch his dancing career, and I let Vince take the troupe where he wanted it to go. He turned it around, adding twelve dancers and broke more ground in San Diego. Monique developed into a serious stage actress and we all lost touch. They were the sparklers in my life; like that star you think you’ll never hold. I left the Jammers a different woman. They put the rhythm back in my spirit and soul.
When I recently located Vincent on an Actors website, I called him right away. He is a missing link in the chain of my life. Without that adventure, I might still be imitating the kind of business woman I wasn’t. We met in Los Angeles, and watched Vince perform in a club. He kept his vision and now acts on television and video. “ Lue, now you have to find Piper.”
It was Piper, who said to me one day after reading some of my poetry, “ Lu, you’re not a dancer. You’re a writer.”
Any dice to throw Email: folliesls@aol.com