Crank Arm Follies from a House on Guenther Street

Monday

The Texas Quarterly did this impressive two volume special issue back in 1969. Images of Mexico: the General Motors of Mexico Collection of Mexican Graphic Art. About 400 black and white images, each from a different Mexican artist (or artist who had become inextricably associated with Mexico). The collection spans 1900 to the 1960s. What is just as fascinating as the art are the black and white photographs of each artist. Some really wonderful images. Most of the people I’ve never heard of before. The art is, of course, amazing. Mexican art of the 20th century is so much more vibrant, alive, and, well, just better than that which we produced in this country.

In one of the preliminary essays, the unfortunately named Toby Joysmith sums up my personal stance on the subject: “A movement like New York Pop, which can make a cult out of a Coke bottle, deliberately limits itself to the banal and to the most stultifying material aspects it can find. […] Mexican art through its ability to pass through time and coexist in past and present, has, so far, avoided the worst pitfalls of the United States art market, which is geared almost entirely to art as a ‘commerce and an industry.'”

I was sprawled out on the sofa flipping through these prints, drawings, aquatints, collages, and so on, while listening Anthony Braxton with headphones. In the middle of jaunty off-kilter contrabass clarinet solo, I found myself really digging this intrusive percussion, BLAM BLAM-BLAM, so wildly off the beat. Man, I thought, these cats are way out.

It was, of course, someone pounding on my door.

I opened up to one of my landlady’s other tenants who lives over on the west-side (she has property all over the place). This guy does yard work for decreased rent. He explained that his leaf blower was electric, and could I snake an extension cord out my window so he could get to work? Sure, I said. I dropped a line out my kitchen window. And no sooner than I was back into the world of Covarrubias and Siqueiros, with the soundtrack of mid-seventies free jazz, I heard that crazy drum line again.

So, back off the couch. But it wasn’t the lawn guy.

“Alberto Martinez?” the young guy in the coveralls asked. He was holding a clipboard. The name tag stitched over his heart was accompanied by the logo of a local and infamous towing company. Over his shoulder I could see his ominous black tow truck.

“Excuse me?”

He looked up from his clipboard.

“Are you Alberto Martinez?” he repeated.

“Do I look like a Alberto Martinez?”

“Sir?” He looked back down at his clipboard. “Is this not seven one six east–”

“There are three apartments in this house,” I explained as succinctly as possible. I could recognize a former military man. No point trying to play with him. Although baiting a repo man had a certain appeal, this one was just too tightly wrapped to poke at. “The guy you want used to live in apartment B, on the south side of the building.” For further clarification, I pointed. “He moved out several days back. You know, in the dead of night.”

The idiom was lost on him. He tucked his clipboard under his arm, nodded perfunctorily to me, and walked to his truck. I watch out my kitchen window. He pulled the tow truck so it blocked the driveway to the empty apartment and he went up to the front door and knocked. After a few minutes, he returned to his truck and sat there. It looked like he was catching up on some paperwork. After about twenty minutes, I heard him drive off. Throughout the day, I would see that black tow truck skulking about in this neighborhood, waiting to pounce into prime repo action.

I’m tempted to stick a note to the door of apartment B. “Bertie, they’re on to you, man! It’s not safe. Lay low at your mom’s place in Poteet until this blows over. A friend.”

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Wednesday

I was out enjoying the warm weather with a bike ride down to the missions. A couple of things have been pestering me with the bike. I think a spoke is loose. The rear wheel isn’t deformed in the manner of a broken spoke (besides, that’s easy to check), but there’s, like, this little bulge to a very short arc of the wheel. It causes a slight bump at each revolution of the wheel. And if that wasn’t enough to slowly drive me nuts, my right crank arm is getting looser and slipping, causing a jitter every revolution of the pedal. And I think the left crank arm is going as well.

That’s it. I’m taking it in tomorrow.

When I was done with my ride, I noticed I had a text message from Konise on my phone. (Konise runs the cinema program at NESA — a magnet high school program at the North East School of the Arts.) People, please. No text messages. I’m not certain, but I think I get charged every time I receive one. And, really, like this iPhone isn’t costing enough as it is????

The message was asking if I would be attending a screening. Wait, allow me to quote: “Hey erik, r u comin the screening 2nite?” Even a texting Luddite such as myself could decipher the “words” — I just didn’t know what they meant. Was there a screening I was supposed to know about?

After a little snooping around, I learned that a low budget feature film from some young folks from Philadelphia would be screening in NESA’s high school gymnasium. Eight bucks seemed fairly steep (though only four for students), but I assumed it was for a good cause. Sure, count me in.

There’s a wonderful community spirit in watching a movie in a high school gymnasium while perched on wooden risers. They had a large rear-projection screen on the floor, with a PA system.

The film is titled “Happy Birthday Harris Malden.” There’s a core group of five filmmakers who take collective credit under the rather unfortunate moniker of “Sweaty Robot.” They’re all from Philadelphia, where the film was shot on location. Budgeted at about 50 thousand, and shot on HD. It’s beautifully shot in a vérité style. Lit impeccably. And just amazingly edited.

Two of the Sweaty Robots were in attendance. One of them was the DP and editor. The other played one of the lead characters (among other roles on the production side).

It’s a sweet, kooky, personal little film. Something of a cross between Wes Anderson and Michael Leigh. I won’t bother trying to give some sort of review. To the best of my knowledge, it’s not currently under distribution — still running the festival circuit. In fact, I believe Konise and her NESA students hooked up with the filmmakers during a screening at either Sundance or the Austin Film Festival. But, if you’re willing to shell out ten bucks, I’m pretty sure the Sweaty Robots will sell you a DVD.

http://www.sweatyrobot.com/

Also, I bought a copy. You can borrow it, but keep it on the QT, ’cause, really, they deserve the money. And, in all candor, I think they need it.

It’s a wonderful piece of work. Sweet, engaging. Loads of heart-felt performances. Oh, and the animated opening title sequence is just fucking amazing.

In a recent post I muttered something about how rarely I seem to see major Hollywood movies at the multiplexes these days. But why go see something like Benjamin Buttons, which I know I’ll hate, when I can go to the Robert E. Lee High School gymnasium and see the NESA Cinema Club’s San Antonio premiere of something as polished and smart as “Happy Birthday Harris Malden”?

There were about 65 people — mainly students — and the photo below of two Sweaty Robots fails to indicate the true size of the audience.

Photobucket

(Oh, mercy me, what a sad photo. iPhone camera, you’re killiing me.)

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There has been a recent mini-scandal concerning Mary Alice Cisneros. She’s city councilwoman for District One. That’s my district. (However, I voted for Kat Swift, the Green Party candidate.) It seems she wants to honor one of the most famous residents of her district, Sandra Cisneros (no relation). Now, I’m all over that. I’ve been a huge fan of Sandra Cisneros since I first read House on Mango Street almost 20 years ago when I got my hands on the galley proof of the Vintage Contemporaries edition. Sandra’s also my neighbor — we live on the same block. The article I read made it seem like Mary Alice was working to change the name of our street from E. Guenther to Mango Street. Having read the article, it was clear to me that this was one of several possibilities that Mary Alice was tossing out in a brainstorming fashion. But the fact that it looked to some like Mary Alice Cisneros was trying to fuck around with the deep history of the historical King William neighborhood meant that the city came unglued. The comments section on the on-line version of the article are filled with wonderful over-reactions, some by people I know. Check it out.

(As I look now, I see 123 comments.)

As for this Mango flap, hell, I’m all for it. When I give my address to people I have to make sure they get this freaky German spelling correct. Mango, that’s a breeze. Oh, well, the press never called me up. For some reason they got hold of Phil, the British gent two doors down. He actually gave a solid quote:

“It’s a historical street,” said Philip Brace, who’s lived on Guenther Street for 14 years. “As much as I love Sandra, and she’s a friend of mine, why should I change my address?”

I wonder what I would have said? Probably some blather about how I love, and I mean absolutely love mangos, the best fucking fruit ever! And let me tell you, Sandra Cisneros can write circles around us all! Best thing ever and I mean ever out of Chicago — fuck Mike Douglas and Joan Cusack. And best émigré to San Antonio, hands down (keep in mind that I, myself, fit in this list).

Speaking of city councilwomen in the limelight, I assume that everyone in San Antonio has been following Diane Cibrian now that she’s stepped up as a Mayoral candidate. She’s city councilwoman up in District 8 — you’ll recall, what I refer to as the outer cracker belt, that region where a goodly chunk of monied and paranoid anglos reside in their gated communities. True, I know very little about the woman, but it does look like she’s already about to implode. If you haven’t seen it yet, check out this wonderful video.

Wow. I only wish she were acting, because this level of nuanced histrionics delivered by a local actress would generate high accolades from, well, Fox 29 News.

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I’ve had some issues with my iPhone since I’ve owed it. The biggest problem is that it seems never to have been programed to connect to a WiFi signal. Cell phone and 3G network, fine. But no WiFi. I’ve been putting off addressing this. I assume I will have to go and make an appoint with a Mac “genius.” Here’s the deal. I know about six folks who have worked this gig before. Most have trouble chewing gum and walking on their hind legs at the same time. But Google hasn’t given me a clue to fix this problem. Fuck, It’s into the hell-mouth of the Mac Genius for me.

I will say that another iPhone problem was solved via Google. I’ve never been able to load video onto my iPhone. And music I have only been able to upload by placing the songs in a iTunes playlist folder and tell iTunes to sync this file with my iPhone.

Here’s the fix. On the iPhone summery tab in iTunes there is a check box. “Manually manage music and videos.” Make sure this box is checked. Now, feel free to lose yourself in a drag and drop orgy.

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