Category Archives: Writing/write process

Something To Prove

karnivoresEveryone laughs a little when they find out that Kamala and Karnivores started practicing in August for a show that will happen on January 1, that we have a shared spread sheet filled with practice dates, that we don’t dare drink at before we play or during. We’re not afraid to suck; we just don’t want to, and we are women, so we have something to prove.

Women always have something to prove.

It might be why we went on to work for colleges and the city of Berkeley. It might be why we studied philosophy, became a multi-million-dollar fundraiser, a college professor, and a mathematician.

We are the kind of women who run the world, or who should, the kind of women who do things right. We don’t fake it, or half-ass things, phone it in, or drink beer at band practice. And we do run the world, or worlds within worlds, worlds that depend on one another for the other to exist, worlds that some might not even notice because our running them is so stealth, so efficient, like a plate spinning on a plate, and a saucer on top of that, a balancing act that you can only grasp the deftness of when something almost comes crashing down on your head but doesn’t because one of our Kali arms righted it just in time.

And the sound, oh, the sound, it may even be better this time, the songs tighter, the harmonies better, the anger, and loss, and joy in the songs felt so many times over by now.

My son a talented musician and a teen boy working every angle to feel separate from his mom, scoffed when I told him how hard it was for me to learn our old songs all over again. He talked about his jazz ensemble teacher, a man who plays saxophone and played in the studio and toured with the Grateful Dead.

I hate the Grateful Dead.

“Mr. E could learn all those songs in a day or two.”

“Mr. E is man.” I hit the edge of the pot I was stirring at the stove with the wooden spoon to get the potatoes back inside.

My son looked me in the eye, his cockiness fading to confusion, the soft glow of the light fixture shined behind his head from the dining room, casting a shadow.

“A man who probably never stopped playing his instrument or doing his art when he had kids. A man who didn’t get pregnant or carry a child for nine months, and a man whose wife probably stayed home with his kids when he gigged at night.”

One of my hands was most certainly on my hip and the other gesturing in the air with the spoon.

“Yeah, your probably right,” my son said, and he backed out of my kitchen.

One of the most disturbing questions I’ve ever heard asked of female artists is how has becoming a mother changed your art. Have you ever heard a man asked such a question? Sure some men give up artistic pursuits for jobs that support their families, but it’s always assumed that when artists become mothers that they soften, start writing children’s books, make a kids album. In the cases of some women the answer would be, I stopped doing my art because the pressure to leave the self behind in order to be selfless and to morph into the perfect mother was too great.

I was only nineteen when I started playing in this band that has reformed for a few months to play this anniversary show, almost thirty years ago, a band that I play guitar in when I am really a drummer, a band that I played in when I only made $4.25 an hour, when I had no children, and no responsibilities but paying rent, buying cheese and tortillas to make quesadillas, and guitar strings. In my most panicked moments about signing on to play guitar again, when I can’t play and F or an F# chord, and my mind starts to race ahead, demanding I recall the next chord, so I can make the change in time, or when I despair about how many songs I must memorize, I wonder why I said I’d do this in the first place, why I agreed to subject myself to the humiliation of possibly sucking on stage, but I know the answer. It’s not simple, but it’s true, and it’s not because music makes us feel young again because it doesn’t when you need a music stand to hold the tab charts for your punk songs — it’s the camaraderie, the female company, moms, a non-mom, making art together, resisting expectations, and because women always have something to prove. 

 

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

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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.

Spitboy Rule Book Tour Diary: Day 2

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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.

MoonPalaceCollage.6.20.16

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

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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! 

 

My Very Own Midlife Mixtape

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Me & Ivy of Kamala and The Karnivores

My friend, Nancy Davis Kho, writer, blogger, and other mother extraordinaire invited me to be a guest on her blog Midlife Mixtape, and she’s giving away a free copy of my book The Spitboy Rule Tales of a Xicana in a Female Punk Band.

Nancy and I met when we both earned spots on the San Francisco Listen To Your Mother cast in 2013. I loved the name of her blog Midlife Mixtape the moment she told to me; little did I know that I’d be going into perimenopause within a year or so of meeting her. 

Now a proud perimenopunk, I’ve made a guest post on Midlife Mixtape, and I got to make my own mixtape — check it out here! The Spitboy Rule Mixtape  and enter the free drawing for my book!

Musing on Drumming, Aging, Rocking Out, and Why the Hell Not

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You may have heard by now that I’m playing drums in Alice Bag’s band September 25 at 111 Mina in San Francisco for the Punk Rock Sewing Circle’s 40th Anniversary of Punk show.

What you don’t know is that I have signed on to play this show, and I’ll only get to rehearse once with the band before we hit Zappa Room stage. Alice sent me a link to the tracks of the songs we’ll play on Soundcloud, and I’ve been learning them on my own between teaching, writing, sewing, cooking dinner, reminding my thirteen year old to practice the piano more, paying attention to my media naranja, and walking the dogs. I have had a couple moments of serious doubt while sitting behind my drum set.

I totally don’t want to suck.

I learned the two slower songs right away, but those fast punk rock songs are harder to learn because they’re fast and because it’s a lot harder to hear what’s going on in the songs, what the drummer’s doing during transitions, and to hear the right rhythm of some of the fills. I saw Pat Libby at 1234 Go Records Recently, and he helped me remember that if I suck on one of the fast songs, at least I only have to suck for about two minutes.

Alice did say to go ahead and make the songs my own where the drums were concerned. That was nice and a real comfort, but I don’t want to change the songs too much because I don’t want to throw off the rest of the band who has probably gotten pretty used to playing them a certain way, depending on the drummer as those in a band must do. But here’s another thing — being an old-lady drummer is not as easy as being a youthful twenty-something drummer. At least I don’t have to memorize song lyrics!

There were several years there in my thirties when I didn’t play drums at all. I sold my beat up set when I went back to school, not quite being able to imagine that I’d be in a band again, that I’d have the energy for all of that, that I could handle any more nights tearing down drums, carrying drums, stands, and cymbals, setting them all back up, munching my fingers in the process, tearing them down again, and carrying them back to the van. Writing, school, then graduate school, and my future baby with my media naranja were the only things I could foresee at that point, (and writing a book) though in the back of my mind I knew that if I wanted to play drums again that I could just buy another set. The one I sold was quite old and beaten up and a real cheap set to begin with. I do regret getting rid of my ride cymbal, the heavy Zildjian hammered and lathed one with the super rich sound. That cymbal went with me all over the world a couple of times because it was one of the few I never broke.

I started to play again about five or six years ago when my colleagues and I formed an English department band – we’re like the Weird Al of English department bands. We play covers of songs, changing the lyrics to address whatever community college English instructor woe is most present at the time: the bad budget, revolving door administration, paper grading, convocation, and anti-intellectualism. Being in the Rawk Hawks has been great fun, and my colleagues got me behind a drum set again in our low pressure, two- shows-a-year band. I sing in the band too, trading that duty with Karin Spirn and whoever else wants to sing a song. Richard Dry plays drums too, and he’s a lot better than I am a lot more versatile. Seriously, name a beat and he can play it or figure it out by the next practice.

Over the summer, I took a jazz drumming class because I wanted to learn some new beats too to be more versatile and because I knew Alice Bag might call. The jazz beats I learned won’t help me play punk drums better, but drum lessons, beginning to learn to read drum music, learning about sticking, and having real specific practice goals have helped my drumming overall. It was nice too to see how much of my previous experience playing drums helped me learn quickly and to know that I can continue to improve as a drummer, even as ease toward my fifties.

And that brings me back to Alice Bag, or Alicia Velasquez. When I met her earlier this year, she played with Frightwig – they backed her up. It was wild. My first band Bitch Fight played our first show at Gilman Street with Frightwig. I remember I thought they were scary – all womanly and intense. I was just some young country bumpkin from Tuolumne trying to make a name for myself in the Bay Area. Alice and Frightwig are all about the same age, between eight and twelve years older than I am, and they are out there playing their old songs and writing new ones. Older women rocking out that hard is not what anyone expects, and I know that many people would find it shocking, and odd, and un-old-lady-like (meanwhile, Keith Richards is still revered). For all those reasons, it made me want to cry when I saw Frightwig and Alice get on stage and do what they’re good at, what makes them feel good too.

I don’t want to suck when I play with Alice Bag and her band, but even if I do, it will still be an honor to have been asked.