213 FB Hikers

Late last summer I saw that some of my friends were in a group called 213 FB Hikers. I read their page and asked to join. The page said they hiked every Tuesday night and Saturday mornings in Griffith Park. The first night I went happened to be a full moon. It was also my first time hiking in the north side of the park and at night. It was beautiful. The moon lit up everything. We were about 30 people ranging from late 20s to about early 40s in a single file line. We started up a small dirt path. About 200 yards from the parking lot where we had started, I looked to the side of the small dirt path we were on, and there standing in all its glory in the moonlight was 6 foot tall deer. I was hooked.

Since that first hike in late summer I have gone almost every Tuesday night. I went to one or two Saturday hikes, but I much prefer the night hikes. The first time I went it was a little tough. I had been going to the gym, but hiking works out other muscles, your balance and brain (especially at night) in ways you can't get at the gym. I didn't know how to breathe and my calves were burning from scaling a hillside. With people in front of me, that I didn't want to let get too far ahead of me, and people behind me that I didn't want to slow down, I had to keep up with the pace, so it was tough.

The leaders of the group encourage everyone to push themselves to their limit, to work it! They encourage us to try to move up in the group: if you are in the back, get to the middle; if you are in the middle get to the front, and most importantly, "we leave no one behind." The encouragement, kindness and patience given by the leaders of this group to people that are really having a hard time is another huge plus of this group. They keep a good steady pace, but if someone falls behind, because they are having a hard time, there is always someone in the very back with a walkie talkie communicating with the front lead to slow down or to wait up. I've seen a couple of people get picked up by their elbows and helped up some exceptionally hard parts for them. Thankfully I was not in that bad shape when I began. By the fourth week I was up in the front and loving it.

Every week it gets a little easier and you get to take in more of the beauty of the park at night. The creatures all make appearances or sounds like the hoots of the owls, the coyote debates, the bats sonic beeps, the misunderstood potato bugs, the super cool rabbits and I heard about, but haven't seen any hairy, tarantulas. They should be out by the summer. I'm looking forward to catching the city lights come on around dusk.

I have found a peace in these hikes and from the benefits of knowing the trails and gaining the ability to go through them with relative ease. The physical ease allows my mind to function on other levels. The Tuesday before my father passed I had to hike. I missed the week before because I was at the hospital with him. All week I had been there and that day was the last day he was most conscience. My body was racked with stress, my mind filled to its brim, my heart in pain, I needed to work my body. Pump my blood by breathing, pushing and pulling my self up those darkened paths.

I was quiet. At this point no one knew my dad was in the hospital except for very close family. I flew up the paths like they were nothing. My body loved the challenge, and I stepped up to it. I pictured in my mind the 'strands of light' that Casteneda wrote about, pulling me up. My eyes in harmony with my legs, helped my feet land on the perfect spot(s) to launch from. At some points it felt like I was gliding up by pure will and thought.

When I made it to the top, I knew my dad was with me. He had brought me up there as kid by scaling the south side of that same hill. The same hill I would climb up after Philosophy class at LACC to read my books and watch the largess of my city. Standing there that Tuesday night, I knew I would be ok. I knew my dad was going to be ok. All is as it should be. All is as it could be. All is as it will be.

213 FB Hikers rock! I've met some very nice people and each week new hikers join. Some return and some don't, but they all learn where they are hiking wise and usually it encourages them to get into better shape so that their next hike won't be so hard. Others get hooked and join other hiking groups. Those folks say 213 are the funnest and most challenging compared to other groups. For now I'm happy with the Tuesday night hikes.

(most photos courtesy and copyright David Negrete, all rights reserved)


Film Review: "Casa De Mi Padre" A Mexican film that happens to have Will Farrell in it.

When I saw an early trailer to "Casa De Mi Padre," about three months ago, I thought it was a Will Ferrell film where he will make fun of contemporary rachero/banda/narco culture. I was expecting a lot of racism and laughs at Mexican culture. I was expecting the worse. On my FB feed, a prominent scholar I look up to, posted about the film being racist based on their viewing of the trailer. They posted a scholarly article about how Hollywood makes fun of the Other's speech and builds films around that one joke. Other followers of this scholar's feed chimed in with their own thoughtful responses that also recognize this pattern in Hollywood of degrading cultures for laughs. After I saw "Casa De Mi Padre" I can say this film is not any of that. "Casa De Mi Padre" is a very Mexican film that happens to have Will Ferrel in it speaking Spanish as good as many (and better than some) Chicano/as.

The mainstream reviews mostly dissed or gave it luke warm like at best. I read one review that said it was a big inside joke that they didn't get. Well in a way it is a big inside joke.

To really understand the nuances and enjoy "Casa De Mi Padre" you need to have grown up having seen some 1970's Vicente Fernandez films and know the acting style and typical story lines of Mexican novelas. In other words, if you grew up with telenovelas and Mexican films playing in the background at your parents or anyone in your family homes then, this film will be chingon!

You will remember/recognize: the hats, fancy suits and boots, cheesy sets with fake rocks, mustaches, thick sideburns, slow but loyal side kicks, rasquache especial effects, bad editing, stiff or over the top acting, beautiful women and of course the cold machos and the sensitive machos. And if you enjoy Mexican retro disco chic, ala Mas Exitos , then you will love the soundtrack. Check this, there is a cameo by El Puma, for chrissakes!!! El Puma guey!

Let's get this out of the way, Will Ferrell's Spanish is almost as good as Erik Estrada's when he was on "Dos Caminos, Una Mujer."

Mexican legend Pedro Armendariz, new starlet Genesis Rodriguez (El Puma's real life daughter), and Mexi-Mega international film stars Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna lead the Mexican majority cast.
Everyone plays it straight, so it is part homage, part satire. One witty scene gets socio-poli-critical and calls out America's drug addiction and reliance on Mexican suppliers. The seriousness of the massacres and violence of the Mexican drug wars needs to be addressed and comedy seems to be one way that hasn't gotten anyone killed.

"Casa de Mi Padre" is a pretty funny film in general. When I first saw it I immediately thought of "Austin Powers" and how that spoofed 70's spy films. If you did not grow up watching those films you may not have gotten ALL the jokes, but it was still funny.

I also thought of other films that I have recently viewed that have come out of Mexico that are taking on current issues and putting comedic twists. "Saving Private Perez." is a spoof of gangster films, in a Mexican narco context -where the money and power allows for a mission to Iraq to find a kidnapped brother. This is a funny film as well, but with the reality of violence and death in Mexico due to drug wars, cheering for a narco as a hero was a little weird.

Might be a trend?

I've always imagined writing a Western with strong Mexican or Chicano male characters in the vein of The Wild Bunch, or any of Clint Eastwood's westerns. A majority of Westerns are informed by the years surrounding the Civil War. There are also many stories that need to be told surrounding the Mexican-American War or Manifest Destiny on the West Coast. How did Mexicans, Natives, Mestizos, Mulattos, Blacks and Asians cope with the transition from being part of Mexico to being part of the US, the Gold Rush, violence and racism? What were those encounters like? The trickle of Hollywood films with Latino majority casts and relevant story lines has not improved much. Films such as the above serve a purpose. Think about the impact that Chalino Sanchez had on Chicano youth in South Central Los Angeles.

Sam Quinones wrote in his book "True Tales From Another Mexico" an essay on how Chalino Sanchez gave Chicano youth a strong role model that was street (and rancho) tough, carried a gun, had a distinct fashion, attitude and street power. Up until Chalino, Chicanos in South Central LA had black rappers as the only male figure they see daily on their streets and in the media. Many Chicanos in South Central adopted Black South Central LA hip hop culture to the point that they were known in the vernacular as Blackxicans. When Chalino offered another male figure with street power Chicanos flocked to him to reclaim their Mexican-ness and now have a male figure, for better or for worse, that they can see on their streets and in the media.

"Casa de Mi Padre" with its SNL and Mexican lineage has hit a mark that I hope will continue to provide relevant stories with talented Mexican/Chicano actors in the lead roles who offer something more than the typical, yet familiar to many. Mexicans in media are usually portrayed as immigrants from ranchos, what media ignores is the generations of Chicanos living in the US and the many Mexicans that migrated from Mexico's large urban cities. There are big differences between the Rancheros and the Mexican urbanites. Maybe that could be another film. For now go see "Casa de Mi Padre."


Gracias Papi, 3/9/2012

When I wrote about my mom crossing over in Aug of 2009 circumstances were very different. I was in a holding pattern. I had left Power Tools to have more time with my mom as she had chosen no more treatments for her cancer and just wanted to stay home and await death. Today life has been hitting from angles. A new baby on the way. Death struck here at home in December as Great Grandma Keta crossed over on December 26, 2011. Work has been hectic as the economic strains wear on everyone and people are on edge. The end of 2011 and 2012 have been kicking my ass.

My father began his final battle with cancer in September. We had been through it before, but this time we were going to do it solitos. I went with him to most of his appointments, especially the chemo ones. He had been living out his life, going out with friends, dancing and hanging out with the neighbors. I imagined he was happy and ready to beat this round with cancer again. The chemo didn't effect him much. He would get severe hiccups and not much else. We would go out to eat every week and to special events. For his birthday in October I took him to a work party, a party on a roof top where I DJed and to dinner.

Come Thanksgiving I noticed he started to slow down a little. He got very quiet. He was always quiet, but now even more. I figured it was just with me because I still saw him on the phone chatting away with friends and relatives. In December he said the doctors said all was good but wondered why they wanted two more chemos when all was supposed to be ok. By late January he needed pain medicine but he would say it was only once in great while when the pain would come. By the time we got to February he was declining fast. Not eating and tired he made a lot of excuses. When my aunt spoke to me she told me that he had said he was done, tired and ready to die.

He entered the hospital on the 24th of February. I was in Arizona with 60 students on a bus. I had arranged for my aunt to come be with him since I was leaving town for the weekend. When I got back Sunday night he was in West LA hooked up to an IV that was keeping his blood pressure up for him, keeping him alive. He was alert and chatting. All week the doctors spoke of a gall bladder infection, never anything about the cancer. Western medicine in its linear mode of thinking is so wack. Either way, when my aunt and my dad's best friend both told me that he told them he was ready to go, I knew he wouldn't be leaving that bed.

A parade of people came through telling him to fight, and how he will win, and how they will go out again, and toss some back, and dance, and hang out. I wanted to tell them to say good bye because he made up his mind.

I was angry on one level and sad on another. I was angry for him not being honest with me and telling me how he was feeling and thinking. I was sad because, like with my mom, I was power less they made up their mind to leave. The social worker spoke to me about long term care, maybe it is routine, but I knew he wasn't leaving the hospital.

My favorite uncles Chelo and Manuel, aunts Elsa -the nun, Olvia and Elva, sat with me in the hospital watching my dad, their big brother, fade away. The last three nights I slept over in the hospital, when someone would arrive I would go home to shower and come back. I learned so much from them in those two weeks. In a way I learned more about my family and father than I did my whole life. I promised my daughter that would not be the case with me and her. I want her to know me, all of me, not from others, from me.

The last three days he couldn't communicate. He could hear some but could not respond. He left quietly in peace. Chelo and I were in the basement cafeteria when it happened, I will never forget his face as he put his coffee down after answering his phone.

I haven't been able to go back to work. I barely speak to anyone about it much. I have so much to say but no one to say it to so here I am trying to keep it interesting in text.

There was relief of course. Sadness and pain of course.

One day I went to go pick up my dad's wallet at his house. When I walked in it felt like that dream I wrote about in my blog about my mom passing. Like my parents had moved away and forgot to tell me. I was all alone. My dad said when my mom passed, ahora estamos solitos, as I stood there in the house where I grew up I really felt solito. I hadn't been back there more than five times since my mom passed. I would pick up my father outside or he would come to my place when we would go out. There I was looking at the mirror that watched me grow, the corner in the kitchen where I would bump my head when I ran in the house, the doors I would slam and hide behind, everything about my past looking so distant and close for the last time. I am so afraid of having to go and clean out the place.

My dad was the eldest of 11. He was beat if he was caught with a ball, because as his father told him, he was here to work not play. His grand mother raised him for the most part. He had tenuous relationships with some of his siblings that didn't buy into the elder brother attitude he threw around. He loved going back to his tiny little town every year, despite my and my mom's dismay. He did work his whole life. At 17 he came as a bracero and would go back and forth until he decided to stay in the late 60's. He was a welder, shipyard worker, construction,...physical labor. He would come home with a gash, a bruise, limping, covered in dirt or dust, but he was always ready to play with me. I would jump on his shoulders as he came in the door. He would shower, eat and come and play more. Some days I would beg him not to leave to work or to Mexico by holding on to his leg. He always had to go. He would tell me to study so that I didn't have to use my body for work, so I could use just my mind. He taught me we are all connected to everything on this planet. We all breathe the same air and need water. Everything. From the smallest to the largest. He taught me about 'all my relations.'

We all lose here. We will lose everything and everyone, eventually. Knowing this does not make it easier.