Monday, September 15, 2014

Mullholland Memorial Fountain: Short Piece

Mullholland Memorial Fountain 
by Armando Ortiz
He walked past the fountain
and childhood chatter
got intertwined with the white noise
that came from there.

In summers past,
children jumped inside
and stood under giant spigots,
dancing and celebrating the sun.

They played
in fresh waters
brought by invisible

Time got lost
in rushing waters
that in days past
cooled his body.

joined the twang of the air
that awoke those memories
from its slumber.

Instances- forgotten,
mostly ignored,
but still there, out there,
were remembered.

He was soaked
in work and worries,
but that place-
the fountain
where he played,

where time lasted longer
than it does today,
was still there
that day.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Midwest Journey: A Reflection

Midwest Journey: A Reflection
by Armando Ortiz
            Yesterday I recalled driving around Kansas City, MO. It was a few years ago that I was selling books over there, in the middle of the US. It was during the autumn of 2009, and the landscape was unreal, but what could a guy from Los Angeles expect and how could he interpret what he saw? Coming from Southern California, where the sun is always out, and it seems that I never gets more than ten days of rain in throughout the whole year. Anyhow, walking past a giant oak tree brought back some memories of the fall colors in Kansas and Missouri, in fact I drove through other states, so I will say that most of the American Midwest.

            I’ve spent time in South Korea and China during autumn; this was different because it was many more times more colorful and much more magical. Trees seemed to contain the sun’s warmth in all its varying hues, even though the weather was rainy and cool. Some trees seemed to radiate pumpkin orange, and some leaves appeared to be made up of individual amber droplets that fell to the ground. The scenery here in the states was so much more vast, untamed and compelling. Trees, during the late months in East Asia seemed more like shrubs and controlled by man.

            Now I reflect and wonder, how much different is Fall in other places?
Beijing, China

Friday, September 5, 2014

Eres Mia: Spanish Piece

Eres Mia
by Armando Ortiz

Eres mi sol de mermelada
en las mananas y una taza
de luna en las noches,

Te conviertes
en agua helada
en el desierto
de mi mente,

Revives mi alma
y calmas las tormentas
del cuerpo sin calma,

Tus sorbets son de fresa
que deriten en mis labios
cubriendo mi ser con sabana.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Madvillainy: A Recollection

Madvillainy: A Recollection
by Armando Ortiz

I remember when I first heard the initial track. My friends and I were walking into Pennylane Records, a store in Alhambra, which is no longer there, and as we were looking through the cd stacks, some hypnotizing beats, with some gnarly lyrics began flowing out of the speakers. I went directly to the salesperson behind the counter, and asked who it was that was rapping, and he directed my attention to the record, Madvillainy. It was the first time seeing a rapper with a metal mask, which wasn’t the typical image I had of hiphop artists. This experience opened to the door to a diversity within a genre that I believed only had gangster and mainstream rap/hip hop.

No questions were asked about who it was or where he or they hailed from; the music resonated immediately, making me buy the cd. I wanted the album and wanted to take it home and listen to the entire thing. The comic book like lyrics, but clever word play triggered curiosity. In all honesty, this happened ten years ago, so to really gauge that moment is difficult. The cd came with the music video, ALL CAPPS, a comic book like video where the main character, who also wears a metal mask, breaks through the scenes onto other scenes.

Up to that point in my life only a handful of hiphop records had been purchased, and most of them were bootleg. I was in grad school at the time, so I had some loose cash, and enough to splurge on a cd. This happened sometime between March when the album came out and September of 2004, when I moved to East Asia. I do not clearly remember the date of when I bought the cd, but I took it with me to Beijing. I was on my way to study Chinese at Peking University. Preparing to live in China for a year, so a humble collection of music was packed which would be enough tangible things to take from the US to somehow manage to live in a foreign country, so Madvillainy, El Primer Instinto by Jaguares, Morrison Hotel and other albums by The Doors, and some heavy metal albums by Anthrax, and Megadeth’s Countdown to Extinction were put inside the suitcase. I couldn’t leave the US without Jimi Hendrix’s Life at the Fillmore East. Mp3 players already existed, but that technology had yet to make its way into my life, but that is another story.

The whole time living in Beijing, the music blasted from the speakers, inside my little apartment while sitting behind the desk, spending hours trying to decipher Chinese characters, and writing characters over and over and over and over again till I had memorized them. The symbols became internalized in my being in the same manner that the beats made me reach that level of energy of focus and creativity. The numerous tracks on the album helped me navigate through the labyrinth of Mandarin, helping to stay focused, giving a musical adventure that I never tired to re-experience.

At the end of the day I was just a consumer, and bought what I liked and never did read on the magnitude of Madvillainy till years later and hours of listening. There was no clue that it was a critically acclaimed production. The purchase had prompted me to find out more about the artists behind the album, but that happened two years later. I discovered that Madlib had produced the beats, and had his own Jazz band, Yesterdays New Quintet, where he played different instruments. MF Doom was the guy rapping and had a wide variety of other albums, such Mm.. Food.  They joined forces, and became Madvillain and produced one of the most critically acclaimed albums of the 21st century.

Not only did Madlib have stacks of beats on his CV, and to top it off back in 2006 when I was teaching English in Korea, I heard his beats on an aspirin commercial that would reappear every 45-60 minutes on the television.  MF Doom had other alter egos which manifested themselves in King Geedorah, Vikto Vaughn. Since then, Doom always appeared mysterious to me, so whenever I came across anything that was written about him I’d devour the words only to leave me with more questions about the artist. Madvillainy is and remains one of my favorite albums, and was key to exposing me to many other artists, and also became a door from where two prolific artist have served as templates of what inspiration, commitment, creativity and hard work produce. In addition they functioned as doors that led to a variety of musical knowledge.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Xochil: Spanish Piece

by Armando Ortiz

Xochil siempre sera morena,
piel de chocolate caliente
y piernas que tocan la tierra.

Princesa con cuerpo de sirena
y ojos de diamantes-
sonrisa de ceresa.

Desaciendo corazones de infancia,
derite tu alma como un pequeno molcajete,
que se calienta sobre un fuego que quema.

Sus manos son de tierra
con corazon de madre
labios naturales que besan mi cachete
y su recuerdo sigue en la mente.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Sublime Madness and Vortex of Loss

Sublime Madness and Vortex of Loss
by Armando Ortiz

It’s a religious experience
to lose it all.

A home up in flames,
being emotionally swindled,

everything disintegrating
turning into glowing
charcoal embers.

To be brought
to the edge
of madness

and with delirious steps
fall onto the ground-

tiny sand pebbles
inside a thirsty mouth
and between teeth grinding.

Though you have
the strength
of a lioness,

and the heart
of cotton candy.

Despite your delicate hand
being rough,

and the bones within

your silence is dread.

And when you smile,
inside you cry,

and when you get angry
it’s because you hurt.

And even if you flow
like dancing willows

with a wicked wind
that make branches sway,

And thought it feeds
fires and burning hills

it all passes through you
like a blooming blossom.

Men get lost
in the echo chamber
of their voice,

but you left me
wandering in a maze
of silence.

You were my
soothing song
that opened the door
to dreams.

You demanded affection
and all I had were words.

I fed you iced grapes
that popped within lips,
while I drank your red wine-

but all that is past.

Now, I just stare
at what is before me
crumbling and black,

up in flames
and with sudden
shivers of fright.

turning into ash

At what love
does to us all
when it takes flight.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Antemasque and Le Butcherettes: At the Observatory

Antemasque and Le Butcherettes: At the Observatory
by Armando Ortiz
Two weeks ago, I went to The Observatory, a venue located in Santa Ana, CA, to see Antemasque. The show was off the hook, but reasons for that were unexpected, more on that later. Before I start talking about the show, I will briefly describe what happened before that. I woke up and went to the event being held by the writing club I belong to, Zzyzx Writerz, who for this month are hosting poetry readings across the city. I had no idea it was an early show, so when I got a text from my friend, asking if I wanted to carpool, I figured it was not a bad idea. For this day, Poetrypalooza would be held at DiPiazza’s Italian restaurant, located in Long Beach, CA. I quickly showered, and ate some toast with Nutella and left the house. I wasn’t able to drink coffee so I had a slight headache. The reading event was really good and a lot of poets from Long Beach, CA were there to read. In addition to poetry readings there was a really good artist there showcasing his ink and watercolor portraits, Fernando Gallegos.

By 6 in the afternoon, I was already on 405 freeway and on my way to Santa Ana. I got to the venue, parked my car and walked to the wooden structure that lay hidden behind low lying office buildings/warehouses. I entered the place and was impressed by the lay out of the venue. The floor level was good, but decided to check out the upstairs balcony area, and chose to stay there for the rest of the time. Teresa Suares aka Teri Gender Bender, lead singer of the band Le Butcherettes put on a solid performance. I had seen her last year when she was on tour as a member of the Bosnian Rainbows, and in that instance she was solely doing vocals, but this time I got to see another side of her showmanship, where she used a synthesizer and a guitar.
The music had a different beat; it was faster, and though the long wails from the Bosnian Rainbows debut album were missing, traces were still there. The drummer of the band, Lia Braswell, was also in the pocket the whole time. I recall thinking, “wow, those drum beats are really good and could be looped for hip hop beats.” The fact that the drum set was not in the center towards the back was a bit odd, but it definitively made me look at her and her drumming skills. Lia is certainly very talented. The bassist put on quite a performance by keeping pace and maintaining a tempo.
Le butcherettes

Le Butcherettes sounded very good, and the crowd was visibly pleased to see the great performance. One aspect that makes this band unique is that their sound is very unusually experimental, and hard to describe, yet when you hear it there are traces of many influences that one can call familiar, it made me think of My Morning Jacket, Elevator and various other punk bands. They really blew me away, it was a great performance. Geri Bender was cool and takes control of the stage. With the change of light hues it made the show even more preternatural in the manner they performed different songs creating an atmosphere that blended well with the different hues that were radiating from the flood lights.

The band I’d gone to see finally took the stage, Antemasque. They began their set, and one couldn’t help but feel the raw energy that emanated not only from the instruments, but from the bandmates themselves as they began performing. It might have been the huge fan that was next to the drummer David Elitch, but it certainly could not explain his rapid drumming and hypnotizing beats that blended with the bass player and Omar Rodriguez-Lopez guitars. Cedric Bixler-Zavala’s vocals made the whole show seem as if one was in the different world with vocals that were eerily high pitched, but at the same time short enough to make you want to hear more. At times I felt that their performance was like drinking beer and the more you drank the more intoxicated one became. Their versatility with their music and their ability to produce a wide variety of rock and roll melodies certainly left you feeling that they were one of the best groups you’d ever seen perform.

I’d never seen The Mars Volta so for me, seeing any manifestation of any off-shoot bands from members of that band have always interested me, and for this band it certainly was one that triggered curiosity because most of them had been in The Mars Volta previously. The pace at which they played and the variety of music as pointed out earlier really was pleasing to my ears and definitively made the trip to Santa Ana, CA worth the drive. The show in Los Angeles had already sold out.

The two bands that performed and every single member of those groups really gave me inspiration. They inspired to me to keep working on my passions and interests, and to let my self be carried by the flow of time but also of creativity. They certainly are living a life that most people dream of having, but who is to say that one cannot find the same success in whatever we put our hearts and minds to and that the work and time put in our creativity will not give us the same results.  Hopefully one day, I do get to see The Mars Volta live and that is as pleasing as what I saw on this Sunday evening.