Call Me Exotic, I Dare You

callmeexotic

My mom was born in Los Angeles — had me at seventeen

Call me exotic, I dare you

                                                    My dad was born in Los Angeles — beat his wife

                                                    Call me exotic, I dare you

My grandfather was born in Los Angeles — played jazz piano

Call me exotic, I dare you

                                                  My grandma was born in Camarillo, CA — lived her whole 

adult life in Los Angeles and my cousins were cholas

                                                  Call me exotic, I dare you

So, I’m not from South America

Call me exotic, I dare you

                                                  I’m not from Spain

                                                  Call me exotic, I dare you

I’m not from India, either

Call me exotic, I dare you

                                                 I grew up in Tuolumne, California

                                                 Call me exotic, I dare you

I learned most of my Spanish at Diablo Valley College

Call me exotic, I dare you

                                                I love Taco Bell bean burritos

                                                Call me exotic, I dare you

I can’t  salsa, cumbia, or do the tango

Call me exotic, I dare you

                                                I won’t wear a flower in my hair

                                                Call me exotic, I dare you

I don’t sing in Spanish, Nahuatl, or Portuguese

Call me exotic, I dare you.

                                                I play punk rock drums

                                                Call me exotic, I dare you

 I’m a hardcore, ball-busting, bra-burning

carpet-munching, dick-sucking, feminist, perimenopunk

Call me exotic, I dare you.

Punk Rock Reunions

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At a recent reading I did for The Spitboy Rule, someone said that they heard that Spitboy was going to reunite to play a reunion show. I would like to state for the record, and as publicly as possible, that the likelihood of Spitboy getting back together to play a reunion show is next to none. There are a couple of different reasons that would make doing so pretty impossible.

That said, since writing The Spitboy Rule: Tales of a Xicana in Female Punk Band, I have had the same or similar recurring dream. Spitboy is going to get back together to play a show, probably at Gilman, and just a couple of hours before the show I realize that I don’t remember any of the drum parts, and that some of us haven’t seen each other in like fifteen years. In the dream, I begin to panic. How will we play if we don’t even know the songs or each other, and then I wake up. When I wake up, terror is replaced with a sudden relief that it was all a dream, that I don’t have learn to play my own songs again in two hours, but then the Lookout Records Reunion show happened.

In January 2017, as a part of 924 Gilman’s 30-year anniversary activities, there will be a weekend of shows by reunited Lookout Records bands. I know that some people think that reunions are stupid and that they take away time, space, and money from current local bands, and while I sort of understand that argument, I am still super excited to announce that I will play guitar with Kamala and the Karnivores who will play one of these reunion shows. Here’s the ultimate irony. Not only did I suck at guitar when I was in the band in 1989, but I don’t even really know how to play guitar anymore, so like the dream, I have to relearn all these songs, songs that I knew how to play at one point. Thankfully, I have more than two hours to learn them.

It was Kamala who approached me about reuniting to play this show. She contacted me; I contacted Ivy, and Ivy contacted Lynda, the line-up on the Lookout Records 7, Girl Band. Ivy said, “Sounds like a fun time for some old ladies.”

Within a week we had set a time and date to have dinner to discuss how we’d approach practicing, knowing that we’d all need to relearn all the songs.

It all came together quickly that it made me think, this is why women should run the world.

Lynda who lives in LA and who has two small children, was not able to make it to the dinner, but Kamala and Ivy and I were all there with our husbands. Like punk rock, we are all well into our forties, and some of us our fifty, and being more or less cis women, we are all married with what our parents would call respectable jobs, but we’re still a bunch of weirdo music nerds, only now with grey hair and menopause.

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Since I’m a grownup now and not 19, I paid money to have my guitar worked on before our first practice, rather than asking Kent (yes, of “Ask, Kent” fame), Ivy’s husband, and one of my fave people in the world, to do it for me. I’m actually playing my son’s guitar this time around, the best guitar in the house. I took it to Broken Guitars to have it set up for me to play. I told Justin who does that work there what I needed, easy to play strings, low action on the fret board, and new strings, which he’d had to put on for me, so I could start building up some callouses as soon as possible. The next day, I went to Ivy’s house to learn some of the songs. She had hand-drawn some tabs for me, and we were both surprised that I could remember how to form most of the chords without her showing me. We had a good laugh over the fact that when I was in Kamala and the Karnivores in 1989 that she had to draw very detailed diagrams of the fret board, the notes, and chords. Learning to play guitar a bit better when I played in Hateplate with Dominique made a big difference even if I haven’t really played since 1997. My son, who is a talented jazz pianist who can sight read and all of that likes to say that I really don’t play guitar, and he’s right. I’m really a drummer, but I can still add something, even if it’s just well-placed feedback or on-point tambourine. While Ivy and I ran through the songs way faster than either of us had anticipated, I showed Ivy what I did remember about how I was playing some of the songs. Arrangements that she herself had written.

“Oh, that’s so clever. I see what we were trying to do there,” she said.

“That was your idea.” I’d remind her each time.

We laughed a lot more than we did when she used to have to teach me how to play a song she’d taught me to play that I had gone and forgotten in a few days because I had barely any grasp on it at all. When we got to the song “Bone Bouquet” and I saw that it had a dreaded F chord in it, Ivy said, “Yeah, F is totally the reason to learn bar chords.”  Then I remembered I played tambourine on that song. Phew!

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On August 28, with Frank, Kamala’s husband, sitting in on guitar, Kamala, Ivy, and I played “29,” “Love Like Murder,” “Black Thumb,” “Bone Bouquet,” and Back to Bodie,” and we almost sounded like we did on the 7.” Kamala still plays drums with the sound and ferocity of a freight train, and Ivy can still sing like she did when she was 22. Frank was kind enough and is talented enough to learn all the songs by ear since Lynda lives in LA, and won’t be able to make it up to practice more than once a month or so. By the time she does come up, we’ll know at least three or four more songs, and we’ll be ready for her to come and put her stamp on them. Two hours went by quickly at that first practice, of many to come, and we, like Ivy predicted, had a lot of fun, but we had to stop practicing before Ivy lost her voice, and so I could get home and get into bed before 10.

I promise I’ll stay up later the night of the show.

 

 

 

The Spitboy Rule Book Tour: Back Home

Zocalo Coffeehouse, San Leandro, CA

 

IMG_33331 (1)My last reading was Friday night at a punk show in Kansas City at Minibar. The touring band Magnet School from Austin opened for the local band Emmaline Twist, and I opened for

Emmaline Twist

Emmaline Twist

Magnet School. Dominique, Spitboy’s second bass player and bassist of Instant Girl, came with me, while our husbands stayed home with the kids. I was scheduled to go on at 10:00, which is both late for a reading, and frankly, past my bedtime. There were a lot of late nights while touring with Spitboy, and I was always tired by 11:00 even though I tried to pretend I wasn’t. I was always the first one awake too because I’ve never been one to sleep that late either. In fact, I got up just a bit after Dominique got up with the kids at around 6:30 in the morning.

This guy named Sean who is in the Kansas City band, Red Kate, reached out to me on Facebook and helped me set up the reading. He even made a flyer for the reading using my book as the image. This is one thing Spitboy was always really impressed with: the kindness of people that you meet on the road. While there were definitely more people in the audience later when the bands played, there were at least twenty or so people in the audience when I read, and Sean said that a few people came just to see me read, and I sold 8 books, which is a good amount, definitely some gas money.

Dark bar photo with Dominique and Sean of Red Kate

Bar Selfie with Dominique and Sean

The band Emmaline Twist were great with an amazing post punk, Echo and the Bunnymen or Killing Joke – the kind of band that I’d like to be in if I were ever in an active band again. They are a female fronted band too(who also plays guitar), and they have a female bass player, Kristin, who saw Spitboy play in 1992 in Sioux Fall, South Dakota. When she met Dominique and I said that going to that show “was a very big deal.” It was a pleasant surprise to read with such a great band, and to share the stage with these women. When they release some music, I will listen to it all day long.

On Saturday we took my son to the Jazz Museum at 18th and Vine in Kansas City, and I got to hang out with Dominique most of the day before we got back on the interstate and headed back to Minneapolis, back where we started the tour and from where we’d fly back home. It was a 6.5 hour drive, our longest on the tour, but we got to see Iowa again, and drive along side a cool lightening storm.

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Jazz Museum

As it turns out, I was pretty sick the whole trip. It started with a sore throat that turned into swollen glands, a stiff neck, congestion, sneezing fits, and a bit of a cough. I didn’t really say that I was sick out loud until nearly the end of the trip, but I went through nearly a whole bag of lozenges, and a lot of tissue. I must have made it through the readings on pure adrenaline and old-fashioned work ethic, but I know I could not have even done that if my marido, Ines, hadn’t done all the driving, and if my son hadn’t navigated the roads, so I could rest in the back of the car. I was thrashed by the time we got back to Minneapolis. We all were, and I slept off and on all Sunday. We all slept off and on all Monday too after getting back home, and we slept well knowing that we done so much and seen so much in just six short days.

It might be a bit too early for real meaningful reflection on this book tour, but here’s what comes to mind now:

  • Do include your family and bring them with you when you can.
  • Your kids won’t always want to, but you should make them at least once.
  • Stay with friends if you can.
  • Staying with friends can make such a trip possible because it’s more affordable
  • Staying with friends is also often better because you’re more likely to see more of each city and be with people who actually know it.
  • Don’t forget to bring each host a small gift of appreciation.
  • Take a chance on the kindness of strangers, like Sean in Kansas City!
  • If you publish with a small press, try not to do all your readings in bookstores because you can’t sell your own books in books stores, and it’s nice to make a bit of gas money.
  • Do read in some bookstores because bookstore people are your kind of people.
  • If you can allow more time for sightseeing if you can, but since time is money, know that it might not always be possible.
  • Consider doing a fund-raising campaign, complete with cool perks. I didn’t want to at first, at all, but I also didn’t feel comfortable spending all my family’s money on a trip that revolves around me.
  • Find ways to make the trip to not feel all about you.
  • Lastly, always keep a journal.

The Spitboy Rule Book Tour: Day 5

MG.DailyIowan

Interstate 80, en route to Kansas City

Tonight we get to see, Spitboy bass player, Dominique Davison. Dominique was Spitboy’s second bass player, and I was in her wedding in 2002, a few years after Spitboy and Instant Girl broke up. We’ve always hoped to visit her where she lives now, but I was never sure we would because one does not often plan to go to Kansas City. Tonight, will be the last reading of the book tour. It has gone by surprisingly fast.

I booked most of this tour myself, but I had a lot of help from my Mid-West friends. I’ve also had a lot of help from my family. This is how it works for us on tour. My husband drives our rented car, and my son sits in the front and navigates. In the early days of Spitboy, we all had specific jobs too: I fixed the van door latches when they got jammed; Adrienne kept things tidy; Karin was the expert map reader, and Paula was our mechanic. Later Dominique, who was younger than the rest of us was good at just about everything. My son is way better with cell phone apps than I am, and he gets car sick sitting in the back, so we’ve made him the designated copiloto. Just like in Spitboy, we pay him $10 a day for his services, which make it possible for me to sit in the back of the car, post to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, read, plan what I’m going to read, make contact with our next hosts, and write these blog posts. Even though I had a sore throat since Madison, I’ve only slept a little on these drives, which are usually about four hour long. Since my son has always hated long car rides, I tried to keep the drives at this length. He won’t like the drive from Kansas City back to Minneapolis, which is around 6 hours. He has, however, seemed to have enjoyed these drives, judging from the way he looks out the window, and the conversations he has with his dad about the scenery, reading music, and how many tolls we missed by accident. It’s really nice being, literally, this close together for extended periods of time.

Last night, I read at Prairie Lights Books in Iowa City, Iowa. I’m pretty sure that Spitboy never played Iowa City, but I think we did play in Cedar Rapids. Iowa City is a very cute college town, the city center has many shops and restaurants, pianos outdoors on the plaza that anyone can play (in fact, an older-looking man all dressed in black who came to my reading and napped a bit while I read was playing one of the pianos when we walked by afterward), and the neighborhood streets are lush and tree-lined. I would love one of those houses with a screened in porch to write in and drink coffee and wine.

Before getting into Iowa City, I got a notification on Facebook from Shell, my Wayward Writer hermana who got me hooked with Prairie Lights Books, and who introduced me when I read, that the Daily Iowan article was up on the website. The piece turned out great and featured a photo of me taken by Ace Morgan. It was a real thrill to get press in the Mid-west. Ines thought to ask if the article also ran in the print paper, and we found out it did, when the cashier at the bookstore said that they had a copy in the bookstore café that I could take have. The print copy has a banner of a photo of Spitboy playing at Gilman at the top of the front page, and the Arts section had a full spread of photos that weren’t featured on the website, including a photo with Ines! Shell couldn’t believe it either, and she said that Steven King was in town about a week ago, and even he didn’t get a full page.

The reading itself was well-attended by about 25 people. One of Shell’s students came, her family, and Ariana Ruiz and her husband, who name I didn’t catch (sorry vato). Arianna supported the Indigogo campaign, and is friends with Mimi Thi Nguyen, and originally from the Bay Area. She brought a student of hers too after teaching my whole book already last semester. I know! I read an excerpt from “A Band is not an Identity” and “Not a Riot Grrrl Band,” and then Kathleen moderated a Q & A session, complete with a cordless mic that she took around for audience members to ask questions. Kathleen, who I adored right away, listed off a bunch of Clash songs, including “Guns of Brixton” when I couldn’t remember the name of one of the songs off of Combat Rock — “Rock the Casbah.” She also prompted me to talk about my book in relation to the other rock members written and published recently, which I think is a particularly interesting topic. We spent so much time at Prairie Lights Books and we liked the people there so much that we wound up buying four books. Normally, I would try not to buy books while on a trip because they are so heavy, but we came with so many books in our suitcases that we’ve since sold, we’ll have the space going back.

After the reading, we did one of my favorite things, went back to Shell’s and hung out in the cool air on her back porch. Shell’s partner, Sean, BBQ’d, including this cheese and garlic bread (not store bought), which almost gave me an orgasm when I bit into it, and Shell and I drank a bit of wine. LM finally ate after not eating since breakfast, which made Sean super happy. When you’re on tour, there’s not much time to sightsee, but we could have done a bit. Still, I preferred sitting still, eating, and having a good laugh with Shell and her family.

The Spitboy Rule Book Tour: Days 3 and 4

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Interstate 88 West, en route to Iowa City, Iowa

Madison, Wisconsin is such a great city. I can see why people love it there. We stayed with Jen Rubin who wrote “The Meat Grinder,” which is in the Listen To Your Mother anthology, along with Dana Maya’s Mother: a Multiplication Lesson.and my “Does Your Mom Play Drums?

The last time I was in Madison was when we played the Fang Gang house garage, a show organized by Karoline Collins who would later go on tour with us as roadie and photographer. She took the great shot of on the cover of the book and a bunch more, including the photo of me at the Fang Gang house on page fifteen of the book, the photo for the story “Punk Points.” I vaguely remember playing that show in the hot sweat basement, and I remember taking a walk to the lake with Aaron Cometbus after the show. It was dark, so I couldn’t see the lake well, but I did get bitten by a bunch of mosquitos.

On Tuesday, Jen Rubin took us to the Terrace at the lake just before the sun went all the way down. We saw a beautiful pink and purple sky over the water, the wide expanse of lake Manona, and lightening bugs. If I wasn’t going to get bit by mosquitos, I could have stayed out all night to watch the lightening bugs flash off and on and, surprising me each time. My son scoffed at me for gasping each time another one sparked it’s light, but I couldn’t help myself.

The reading was intimate, and it took place in the Village Community Housing community space. I read two pieces – one was “The Threat,” which addresses female stereotypes and how freaked out Spitboy was the first time we heard our backing vocals recorded live, and it went over surprisingly well. There were about 20 people there, which is actually a few more that are at most Bay Area readings. My Listen To Your Mother hermanas, Jen Rubin, Dana Maya, Araceli Esparza, and the LTYM founder Ann Imig. There were also to teenage girls, Dana’s daughters, who have each already written their own novels and had them self-published! They bought a book to share and one for their friend. I’ve heard a lot of adults say that young people don’t read, but this isn’t exactly true, is it?

We got up quite early in Madison on Wednesday, went to Walgreens to get Ines’ thyroid medication, which had forgotten at home and been trying to get since Minneapolis, and then we hopped on the 90, and headed to Chicago. Driving to Chicago was just like I remember it. There are a bunch of signs that say you’re in Chicago way before you ever get to where you’re actually going. Our first stop was Independent Publishers Group, one of the PM Press distributors. I had to pick up books to sell, and when I went to the bathroom, I walked through stacks and stacks of new book waiting to be shipped off to books stores all around the country. I wanted to go and browse the stacks, but I didn’t because, after all, it’s not a library.

We got to Martin’s apartment in Chicago around 12:30 or 1:00, which gave us lots of time to relax, visit, prepare, and drink wine before the reading. We did realize later that we should have gone and done a bit of sight seeing, but Ines and I took our son to see the Bean in Millennium Park and to walk a bit along the lake this morning before hitting the road again.  MG.Chicago

The reading was at a café called La Catrina in Pilsen, the part of the neighborhood that Martin said is becoming more and more gentrified. Martin, at my request, opened, not with a boring bio, but with the forward that he wrote for the book. I’ve always wanted to hear him read it aloud, and I hope it wasn’t too self-serving to ask him to read it, but I sort of had the idea because Araceli in Madison had commented on what a great piece show was, and home much she liked it even though she usually never reads forwards to books. All 94 people who said they were going to come out did not come out, but there were well over 40 super attentive people there who asked a lot of great questions, which I answered, sweating a lot, under hot stage lights (Spitboy used to call them French fry lights) amidst a sudden thunder and lightening storm that produced torrential rainfall that raged as the reading ended and we ran to our cars.

Tonight I read in Iowa City, Iowa, at Prairie Lights Books, and I was interviewed and written up for an article in the Daily Iowan – thanks, Tessa Solomon!

Spitboy Rule Book Tour Diary: Day 2

MG.MoonPalace LM.MG.MoonPalace.6.20.16

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Somewhere in Wisconsin

Moon Palace Books in Minneapolis was an amazing first stop. The store adopted The Spitboy Rule: Tales of a Xicana in a Female Punk Band as one of their Rock-n-Roll Book Club reads; the photo of the book with my 25 year old face on it was in the window; around 40 people showed up; local writer and Spitboy fan, Venessa Fuentes read beautiful poems about the Summer Solstice and an excerpt from her essay “With an e” from the anthology A Good Time for the Truth: Race in Minnesota; people brought their kids, including an infant, the crowd asked amazing questions during the Q & A, and my Minneapolis bestie, Jennifer Barshack, sat in the front row, smiling the whole time, serving as my anchor. It’s good to have your own support person when you perform or read.

After the reading, I signed a lot of books and met a lot of really nice people, like Rachie who ran home, she must have lived nearby, to get her Spitboy 7” for me to sign, and Kate Beane and Carly Badheartbull, Lakota Indian twins, who grew up in El Cerrito and who hung around with members of the band Raoul. They were super excited when I told them that there was a photo of Phyllis, the Raoul drummer, in the book. I met another woman, whose name, I don’t remember, who saw Spitboy play in Minneapolis in a super hot sweat basement in the summer of 1992, and many others including the Moon Palace Books staff, which is made up of Angela, co-owner, a woman I’d love to hang out with all day some time, Angela and Jamie’s daughter, who ran around giving people in the audience stickers and hand made glitter art that she made on the spot, and Andy who also works at the bookstore. During the Q & A session, Andy asked about my feelings about Joni Mitchell today, as she is featured prominently and affectionately in the prologue of my book. My feelings about Joni haven’t changed – they’ve probably grown deeper, and I’ll never tire of listening to Court and Spark.

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I actually planned the whole book tour around Moon Palace Books because Jamie Applebutter asked if I’d come to read at his family-owned bookstore before my book even came out. I have found that I make the best decisions when I trust my gut, don’t wait for something bigger and better to come along, in the case of book publishing that would be a book tour in New York/East Coast when you don’t have as many contacts there as you do in the Mid-West, and go with friends; friends always do you right.

Tonight, I read in Madison, Wisconsin, and I get to meet several of my Listen To You Mother sisters/friends – women who I am in an anthology with and/or who participated in the LTYM movement of stage shows nation wide that was founded by Ann Imig. I’ve not met Ann Imig, Jen Rubin, Dana Maya, or Araceli Esparza in person. It’s fun to meet people in person you only really know from their writing or from Facebook. I will say that getting to know people through their writing is a good way to get to know them. Still this reading was harder to book than the others, and I’m reading at a community center, and not a bookstore. I love bookstores, but I don’t see any money from bookstores until I get royalties from book sales later. Reading in a community center or a non-bookstore setting gives me a chance to sell some of the books that I brought with me. It’s nice to make a bit of cash for gas and food while on the road. Of course bookstores are great at getting out the word, so it’s six of one and half dozen of the other.

I’ll report back tomorrow on how it goes tonight and if anyone who comes to the reading heard about it on WORT’s 8 O’clock Buzz radio show.

Spitboy Rule Book Tour Diary: Day 1

MG.RosevilleMN

LM having an okay time after all.

LM having an okay time after all.

Roseville, Minneapolis

June 20, 2016

After feeling like I was in a holding pattern all last week, a holding pattern of doing laundry, packing bags, getting subs for my spin classes, sending work e-mails, and listening to my son complain about how he didn’t want to go on a stupid book tour, and not writing, I am finally on the Spitboy Rule book tour.

The three of us my husband, son (14), and I took a red-eye from SFO to Minneapolis. Our friend Evan (who happens to be a lawyer and business instructor who I used to work at the college where I teach) picked us up at the airport at 6:00 AM, took us to his house, where I took nap to sleep off the 1/4 xanax I took on the plane to sleep, and got up at 8:00 to do a phone interview for Madison, WI’s WORT, 8 O’Clock Buzz radio show. The host, Brian Standing, was a real pro and totally did his homework, reading up about Spitboy, and asking all the right kinds of questions, not shying away from race or class at all. They lead the interview with the Spitboy song “What Are Little Girls Made Of” which I’m sure woke up a lot of people half asleep in their cars real fast. When that interview was over, I had an e-mail from Tessa, from the Daily Iowan, who interviewed me Friday. She wanted more photos for the piece. Tessa asked great questions, and I’m really excited to get Mid-West press, to maybe have a chance to reach midwestern latinx/punx. After all that I went for a walk around Evan’s neighborhood while my son slept — it sure is lush here, flowers blooming everywhere, and very mild. 

Tonight I read at Moon Palace Books in Minneapolis with local writer Venessa Fuentes who was recently published in the anthology, A Good Time for the Truth: Race in Minnesota. Moon Palace is owned by Jamie Applebutter, or at least that’s what I call him. Applebutter is the punk name that I gave him. I think it’s because he really loved applebutter. I do too, and it will be really great to reunite with him after about fifteen years!