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

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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.

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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.

Does Your Mom Play Drums? — Listen To Your Mother 2013

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MCG and her son LM after the show

When I was playing drums in a punk band, rocking out in a tank top and no bra, or just a bra and no tank top, I didn’t imagine my favorite performance would be with my ten- year-old son.

For three years, Luis Manuel played piano in his school’s variety show. In fifth grade, he decided to play guitar. Guitar was way cooler. He had taught himself to play guitar in like three months, you know, on youtube: chords, notes, picking, everything. He was going to play a rock song for the variety show; Sean was going to play with him. They began practicing three months before auditions because they didn’t want to suck and they had girls to impress.

Then Luis heard a rumor that Sean wasn’t going to play with him.  When he heard it again, I suggested he find a third person for his act just in case, but he said maybe Sean was just too busy to practice. Then two days before the audition, only two weeks before the actual show, Sean admitted that he was going to be in a dance act with his popular friends instead.

A dance act? Who in the hell would rather do synchronized dance moves like some boy band over playing actual music? It occurred to me that for fifth graders this variety show had more to do with showcasing your friends than actual talent.

 “Do you want to be in their dance act?” I asked.

He rolled his eyes. “No, I want to play guitar.”

I was relieved.

In tears the night before the auditions, Luis sat on the couch with his Les Paul.

“Maybe, I won’t do it,” he said.

I took a deep breath to hide my panic; then I told him to play every song he knew. I would help him decide which sounded best. He played “Float On” which needed another guitar, The Beatles’ “Blackbird,” sounded good, but the picking needed work, and the Weezer song had one really hard chord. When he played Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” we both knew it was the one.

Then it hit me. Luis’ participation in this event had become our family’s way of not being totally invisible. I worked full-time and made an effort to be involved, volunteering in the classroom and going on field trips when I could, but I was not part of the blonde moms’ crowd, the stay-at-home moms’ crowd, or an attending member of the PTA. I was the Chicana with chest tattoos married to a dark-skinned Mexican with an accent. I wasn’t going to let some fucking dance routine, keep my son from changing his mind about performing in that show. Besides, I knew he wanted to.

“I just wish I had someone to play with.” He looked dejected.

“You know, I can play that song on drums in my sleep.” I tried sounding nonchalant. But it was true, anyone who played rock drums in the 90’s had learned to play that song, had wanted to rock as hard as Dave Grohl.

You want to play with me?” he made a face.

 “Look, I know you don’t think it’s cool to be in an act with your mom, but the auditions are tomorrow; there’s no one else.”

“Okay, “ he said, sounding the way you do when you know you’re totally out of options.

I wanted to hug him, jump off the couch, plan our outfits, and gush about how fun it was going to be, but I restrained myself.

 “What if someone teases me?”

“Just say this: “Does your mom play drums?”

Still nervous that he was going to be teased for being in a band with his mom, I knew I had to tone it down, wear a loose fitting tank top and a bra, and no flashy make-up. I did put on red lipstick called “Rocker” before leaving the house. I wanted to stand out from the PTA moms and help my son show his friends what real and inspired talent looked like. Getting on stage and playing the drums in front of the entire school without lipstick wouldn’t achieve that. 

 “Next, we have Luis Manuel Peralta playing ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit,’” the MC on other side of the curtain read from the intro we wrote,  “and no, that’s not his mom on drums.” I heard loud laughter, the curtain lurched open, and Luis launched into one of most recognizable chord progressions in rock and roll, drawing whoops and cheers from the crowd. Then I came in on drums, careful not to hit the snare as hard as I could or move my head wildly as I had in my band Spitboy. 

Like we practiced to combat nerves and to help us stay together, we made eye contact across the stage, mother and son. I nodded as we made the transition from the intro to the soft part that follows, and by the time we got to the distinctive chorus, da, da, da diga, diga, diga, da,da,da, the crowd was roaring. Luis looked up from his guitar, and I saw his anxiety slip away. Then as we wound down for the big finish, Luis locked eyes with me and smiled wide like he did when I nursed him as a baby. The crowd went wild and Luis’ girlfriend swooned in her chair; his friends in the dance act jumped to their feet and clapped; my husband stood at the front of the stage with the camera grinning, and lots of other husbands rehearsed what they’d say as they approached me afterwards. And me and my son punctuated the end of the song, hitting each beat together, ba, ba, ba.

This piece was written specially for submission for the cast of Listen To Your Mother, of which I was member with thirteen other women who told their stories too. Special thanks to all my LTYM sister — what a great adventure!