Password on the Southside: “Gabe the Babe”

Yeah, I know. I’m forever harping about the cold. But, really! God damn! My post midnight walk home on Saturday from Jump-Start (a mere five blocks) was crazy. My iPhone clocked it at 25 degrees, but it felt a lot more sever. Probably I should have worn a hat.

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I arrived back in town Tuesday, after midnight. I managed to work about five weeks in Dallas. And even though I drove back o San Antonio three weekends (when I could have put in some hours in Dallas), I made out quite well. The folks at the auction house are wonderful, and I hope they continue to enjoy working with me. I think I should be able to slide for three months, maybe more. Hopefully, by that time, a new auction will be opening up for me to work.

It’s nice to be back home. There are some things missing in my life here in San Antonio, but it’s one of the few places I’ve ever lived where I’ve felt I belong–where I feel connected. Probably just here, and in Redford, Texas (that’s at the southern-most asswardest point of Presidio County). Here in San Antonio I’m a legitimate part of the art and cultural community. Perhaps a position not terribly well-earned, but such can well be said of many of the higher profile folks in the upper echelon of the art scene here. I’ll take what scraps I can.

Because of this brutal cold-snap, I spent Wednesday and Thursday bundled up, eating take-away tacos and catching up on Hulu.com. By Friday I clawed my way back into the world, you know, to reconnect with folks. I dropped by URBAN-15. The gang were fighting to keep warm in that huge and drafty old church. Four rooms in the newer building were tolerable. As was the basement of the older building…sort of. George gave me a belated Christmas gift, and then proceeded to bring me up to speed on the chisme of the local art scene. Some tasty stuff, it seems, had gone down in the last few weeks.

My next stop was Jump-Start theater. I had to drop off a DVD. Actually, the previous two days weren’t completely filled with tacos and Hulu. I was also making a quick cut of a video. The artistic director of Jump-Start had emailed me asking if I had a short video piece to contribute to their upcoming annual performance party. I’m not sure when she sent the email, but I know I read it on Wednesday. I replied. Sure. A five minute piece? No sweat. I decided to edit some of the video I had shot with Deborah and her photographer friends during one of my December weekends away from Dallas. There was this lovely young woman whose name I can’t recall. Deborah had worked with her earlier as a model, and the images of that shoot were incredible–Deborah’s very talented. Anyway, Deborah learned that the girl was a fire-dancer. A date was set for a photo shoot of her doing her moves with fire…and I was invited. Who could say no to that? I was shooting with my DVX, and much of the footage was outstanding. I was quite pleased with the lighting. Anyway, I quickly slapped together a six minute video (more on it later). By early Friday afternoon I had a couple of DVDs to drop off at Jump-Start (DVDs are the devil’s media, and are far from dependable, so I try and provided at least one extra back-up copy). When I walked up to the office loft at Jump-Start I was pleased to discover that it was totally toasty. I tried to draw out my chit-chat with ST Shimi because I sure as shit didn’t want to throw myself out into the cold again; but, well, I had to eventually.

The next stop was a meeting with Seme Jatib. She’s a dancer/choreographer from Monterey, Mexico. She’s been in town maybe six months or so. Amber gave her my contact info when Seme said she enjoyed collaborating with filmmakers. When I looked at Seme’s work online (two websites: http://www.semejatib.com/ and http://www.danzadigital.com/ ), one thing quickly became clear to me: this very professional and talented woman has enjoyed working in the arts in that country to the south which we here in the US so often marginalize or even vilify as backwards. All it takes is a short visit to Mexico to learn that the Mexican’s have high respect and regard for the arts. I was hoping she’d not already have been disillusioned with our paltry underfunded art scene here in America, in general, and San Antonio, in particular. We met at a Starbucks in the neighborhood where she and her husband live. She’s amazingly charming, smart, bilingually articulate, and wise beyond her years (though I suspect she’s a bit older than she looks). She’s something of a technophile. One of her websites (see above) is this incredible interactive experience, where the user gets to play, to a limited degree, choreographer. I’m not sure if my humble and half-assed production work could benefit what she’s wanting to do. I would love to be part of what she’s involved with, because it all looks brilliant. Seme Jatib’s one of those artists from whom we’d all benefit if only someone would throw a shitload of money and resources her way. Remember her name. I have a feeling that whatever she’s involved with, it will be damn rewarding. And, here’s the kicker: she’s participating at the Jump-Start’s W-I-P series later this month, Wednesday, Jan. 27th. Come check it out. I’ll be there.

After two hours with Seme (just a cafecito), I drove to Blue Star to look in on Deborah. Her studio was fucking freezing. Just like my house. Sure she had a little electric heater, and yes, we sipped hot tea, cupped in our hands, but, man, this winter business isn’t for pussies like me. We hung around for an hour or so. Some guy was going to drop by and buy one of her Tara photographs. The sad fact is, her teaching gig had been fucked over–one of her classes at the Alamo Community College District didn’t make. A significant cut in income of which she had no control. This photo sale was important. After the gentleman (with very good artistic taste, I might ad) wrote his check, gathered up the work (a hand-tinted photograph on canvas), and left, we shut down the lights, heater, and computer and headed out to get dinner. At the bottom of the outdoor staircase at Blue Star, Deborah saw a couple of guys hanging out. “It’s Avi,” she said with a grin. “He’s got a show in a gallery on the first floor. You want to see? I really like it.” Of course I wanted to see it. And when we walked up to Avi and his friend, he let us know that, yes, he’s like us to see his show as well. This was the second Friday of the month. And because the January First Friday (first friday is the meat and potatoes of art shows in the Blue Star art complex) was screwed over by New Years, it was suggested that artists show their work on Friday, January 8th. But, fuck, it was in the twenties. No one wants to be cold. Not in this town. So we were the only one’s in the gallery where his work was displayed. I loved it. The guy’s young, playful, full of ideas, and possibly a bit full of shit. But I loved his giant Lone Star Beer can with giant cigarette butts. His silk screens were also damn cool. One of the Mexicano icons he was playing with was the oh so common boxes of vermicelli, aka, fideo. His name’s James Avalos, and his business card gives his name, in shorthand, as Avi.

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And after I’d taken a couple of photos and we’d bid our farewell, me and Deborah soon found ourselves at Tito’s. I, of course, ordered their renowned cheese enchiladas. But Deborah, still with those images in her head–she ordered a bowl of fideo, which I had never before noticed on Tito’s menu. I had a taste, and, yes, the perfect sopa for a cold and miserable winter night.

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Saturday I started the morning reintroducing myself to my desk at C4. Todd and Debbie were at the space, over-seeing an event. The judging for the ADDYs was going on there. This is for the local advertising and marketing scene. The ADDYs award ceremony is a big deal, or so I hear.

I played around some with a book description that needed some punching up–a request from the auction house. When I got bored with that, I called up Deborah and left a message. She was thinking of doing a video with dancers wearing lights. I’d called Catherine Cisneros to asked where URBAN-15 bought their LED lights. She’d given me two local sources. I let Deborah know I was interested in hunting down some lights, if these places were open on a Saturday.

We connected around noon. The first place was a failure. It’s a local party store on S. Flores. I’ve been there before for other things they didn’t have. But I can’t shit on them. They have loads of cool stuff. The second place we tried was Tex-Cap Toy Warehouse down on the far south-side. We took S. Flores way south, jut before it joined Roosevelt near Stinson Field. It’s in a light-industrial warehouse, sharing a space with a punk rock record shop. Them is high credentials in my book! And, yep, they had the goods. Not only did they respond when I said that Cat Cisneros from URBAN-15 had suggested the place, but when I noticed that a pair of LED novelty sunglasses they sold had been sported by local wrestler/actor Gabe the Babe, the guy running the place just smiled–“Gabe? Oh, yeah, he’s in here all the time.” On the south-side, and this seems legit, mention Gabe the Babe–he’s name is sure to open doors.

After buying a shitload of very cheap LED toys we drove to a Mexican cafe on S. Flores I pass every time I drive to my grocery store, the La Fiesta on S. Flores. If you’re motoring down S. Flores, near Theo Street, pull into Cafe Taurino. The people there are warm and friendly. The food rocks. And, if I understood the fast Spanish of the owner, Sunday is the day for pozole, If that’s the case, I need to visit on Sunday. Since my visit to San Miguel, I’ve been jonesing for a good pozole venue.

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Saturday night I walked to Jump-Start. I’ve made their annual performance party every year since….well, I can’t recall that first year. I’m gonna guess. I’ve been to five.

It’s a great opportunity to gain a sense of belonging to a community. And–this is important to me–it’s the first time I’ve been invited to participate.

Fuck, I’ve got a program in my hand. My name’s on it. This is so fucking cool! Perhaps the coolest venue in which I’ve yet to screen.

So, I walked to Jump-Start. Paid my five dollar donation. Took a seat. I’d hoped that Deborah would be there–not only do I enjoy her company, but she was there when I shot the footage for my little film, a creation that would never have happened were it not for her. She’d mentioned an obligation that she didn’t think she could escape from. I don’t hold people to come and see my shit. They almost never do, and, to tell the truth, it ain’t always that good. But, as I was sitting on an aisle seat, bemused to see my name in the program, and basically waiting for the show to begin, I’d almost given up. But then I saw her. Across the aisle, three rows down. She was sitting next to her artsy cousin and her friends.

The title my film showed under is “Ribbon and Fire.” It shows a girl dancing with red ribbons, and, later, fire. The piece runs just shy of six minutes. Back when we shot the piece I was trying to find the best place to set up a single light. I was surrounded by a bunch a fucking still photographers–a couple of them were feeding me their opinions. I wanted something extreme so that I’d be shooting directly into the light. But the other folks weren’t quite getting it. However, the compromise worked fairly well. All I did was change my camera placement. For the most part I put the central light source hitting the subject from behind, yet on the same side of the central axis of the camera. The piece I put together is damn rough. I was squirming as it screened. The only good thing I can say is that the disk played, and it never froze up. What I gleaned from watching was that this six-ish minute two-part film was probably two to three minutes too long. It dragged. And then there’s the music. Deborah liked he original version I’d cobbled together from loops, basic keyboard work, and a fair amount of embellishment with sound effects. I wasn’t a fan. But I didn’t have the time to re-score this little clip. I made some minor changes. The organic sound effects (birds, monkeys, wolves) were not strictly banished, but my re-edit took the volume down so low that those effects can’t be recognized.

The piece is not horrible, but I should have done a tighter and smarter job with the edit.

I guess the work has to stand. The best thing that happened tonight: Pocha was in the house (with Payan), and I know I heard Pocha shout out “Bosse!” when my little film began. She’s so sweet!

Anyway, it was a great evening. However, I should have done better work.

There were some standouts, of course. Sam Lerma screened his Trash Day film. The Peace Posse (poetry and performance art) were back after a two year hiatus. Leonard Cruz, who isn’t getting any younger or skinnier, did one of his amazing dances, so fluid and organic that had him moving as free from gravity as more expects from a teenage bulimic ballerina on a double espresso. URBAN-15 rocked the house and pulled about a third of the audience onto the stage to dance with them. Melissa Marlow did a drop-dead brilliant selection from the Vagina Monologues. And I don’t know who the fuck Plutina & Her Plutonian are, but the costumes and the singing–fuck yeah! Shimi, as Shimarella, did some hoop dancing. The hoop was lit with LEDs, and she was wearing a psychedelic robot-esque costume. She’s a beautiful woman with an incredibly toned body. Her dancing is flawless. But the most striking thing about any of her performances is her stage presence. Fucking charisma to burn! The Guadalupe Dance company did a solid set of folkloric dance. Doyle Avant did a wonderful little original monologue that reminded me of JG Ballard’s “I Want to Fuck Ronald Reagan,” where he’s admitting to finding a strange and compelling sexual energy emanating from Rush Limbaugh. Doyle is, hands down, the best writer around, and a hell of a powerful performer. Azul–singer, songwriter, guitarist. She’s our Lila Downs. Phenomenal! There was also some Methane Sisters stuff going on. I adore Monessa and Annele no matter what they’re doing. But their Methane Sisters personae is just awesome. They’re gonna be putting on a new Methane Sisters show this year, expect the local media to slobber all over them…as they should. Also, the grand finale was a bit disappointing. It looked like the Jump-Start company was going to do their fire-eating schtick, just like years before. Yep, this they did, but I was charmed when Steve Bailey, Jump-Start founder, came out totally naked. I must say, speaking as a confirmed heterosexual, god damn, but that middle-aged man looks pretty fucking good. All in all, I think my favorite part of the evening was the skit done by Marisela Barrera and Anna de Luna. They are, of course, very accomplished on their own, but together, when they do these little pieces at the Jump-Start parties, they are just so perfect. Individually, they are both very smart performers with pose and intelligence and beauty. But together, there’s this enormous charismatic chemistry. They need to build some major show around this chemistry. Saturday they did a performance where Mari (as in the past) played a south Texas vato Lothario, As she was vamping and playing into all those machismo stereotypes I found myself getting a bit nervous. Mari’s wardrobe, makeup, and glued on beard made her look unmistakably like local chicano artist LA David. (I’ve said it before, but if you called up Central Casting and asked for a Chicano Artist, you’d god damn well better get an exact replica of LA David. I love his art. But I also love his look and attitude.) Maybe, I thought, the resemblance is accidental. However, I was vindicated. Near the end of the piece, LA David, himself, walked out on stage. Smiling, without a word spoken, he gently stole the pretty girl (played by Anna) from his pretender (played by Mari). It was sweet, funny, and 100% Puro San Antonio.

I am honored beyond words that Shimi allowed me to be part of this 2010 Jump-Start Performance Party. A landmark, really, as it was their 25th anniversary. I have been silly in love with so many of the folks who work and perform at this extraordinary place. To see my name associated with them is the best gift I could ever hope to receive for this new year.

The whole of the night at Jump-Start can be seen on video. Michael Verdi video-taped the evening for internet streaming. He also parked the footage online. Check it out: http://jump-start.org/2010/01/10/performance-party-xxv-archive/

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