Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Pellegrino's Top Fifty My Ass!

S. Pellegrino's annual "World's 50 Best Restaurants" list was released on Monday, and let me tell you, I’m more than a little upset about the greasy spoons they chose to acknowledge.

Most of the restaurants are in Fifi places like New York, Paris, London, but not a single restaurant on the list is located in what many Chicanos like me consider the culinary capital of the world, El Paso, TX.

En serio. Not a single El Paso eatery made their pinche list.

Check it out if you don’t believe me. Click this then.

El Chuco, Texas has in-doobid-lee some of the best culinary establishments in the world.

We have for example, Lucy’s at the King’s X, which is reported to be the place where Machaca was invented. ¡Ay! the way they smother it in American cheese sauce should have teased the taste buds of at least one of these pendejo judges of fine food.

And what about Carnitas Queretaro? Have they tried their pozole?

click on this then!

Ask them judges if they ate here. I bet they haven’t.

And the Good Luck café on Alameda?

That place is open all night long, so after the bars close and you want a little menudo or beans fried in lard to sober you up, you can go there.

Have even one of these so-called judges of good taste enjoyed one of their Lucky Burgers. Damn, they’re the best!

They’re served with two hamburger patties, bacon, ham, a weenie and a slab of spam and three slices of cheese.

(I found this picture online, and it don't even come close to the Lucky Burger. This is what you eat while you're waiting for your Lucky Burger.)

And the burger comes with a pile of French fries, which are fired so long in grease that they go wet and limp in your fingers, and if you don’t wash down each bite with horchata, the fat congeals on your tongue.

Sure, Paris may have their Chateaubriand, but El Paso has what is perhaps the world’s number one eating spot, La Pachanga Tortas. Now I admit, not a lot of people know about this place.

It’s downtown, only open for lunch, and they only have four tables. Isn’t that a sign of class?

Hey, you Pellegrino pendejos! Did you even try this place? Did you ever give this pig a chance?

The ham torta! Oh, man, ¡deliciosa!

Their Cubana is fat and juicy, and if you’re an insider, you know to slip the owner a little extra, and she’ll put together una Torta de colita.

How could these Pellegrino’s pendejos miss the places we Chicanos love so much?

The only conclusion I can make is that the judges are racist.

Sure, El Paso is nothing but a sprawling metropolis (including Ciudad Júarez) in the Chicanada. We are not powerful people, at least not the butt-load of us, but we are poor and afraid of what the day can bring to our cities. We are addicted to hope and despair in equal doses.

But ask anyone, Mexicanos know how to eat.

Like Burciaga suggested in a cartoon, if some UFOs were to land on earth, those little green people with antennas sticking out of their heads wouldn’t say to the first human they see, “Earthing, take me to your leader.” Oh, no.

They’d say, “Do you know where I can find some good Mexican food?”

We El Chuco Chicanos, I must proudly say, are some of the fattest people in the world with some of the highest rates of diabetes. I’m a type two. And I am, gulp, a little fat maybe. Here I am at the Andres Montoya homenaje with poets Lee Herrick, Oscar Bermeo, Craig Santos Perez, and Javier Huerta, and no offense to my homies, but I must be más Chicano de todos 'cuz look at my stomach!

Why are we big?

You think it's because we don’t get any exercise?

Hell no it ain't!

We can’t afford cars, so we walk everywhere, to our job in the early morning, to our job in the afternoon, to our night job on the graveyard shift. We walk to Wal-mart and then carry all that shit home by ourselves. We know what work is.

We clean houses, wash cars, scrub toilets, work on rooftops, we clean the grease from drains and we haul garbage bags down three flights of stairs in 100 degree heat and with a hangover. We can do anything with our bodies if we get paid for it.

We can pull giant palm trees from the ground, load them up on a truck and replant them in front of some rich man’s home.

We’re not overweight because we're lazy and lack exercise, we’re fat because we know how to eat!
Okay, maybe I'm a little lazy at times.

The heck with the Pellegrino pendejos (PPs), you don’t have to go to Europe or Manhattan to get great eats.

You can start right here in Aztlán with a chile relleno burrito from Ciros. And they’re so damn cheap you can get two.

Albeit, one of the resultants they listed as the top fifty in the world is in Mexico City, but it’s called Biko (Mexicans don’t even have a “k”) and how many Mexicans do you think can afford to eat there?

It’s located in the Palanco neighborhood, and the menus are in English.

Need I say more?

Let’s protest this racists decision by PPs.

Let’s all meet tonight at La Malinche’s downtown for a bowl of caldo and some enchiladas montadas.

¡Ajúa! from the Writer’s Block!

Thursday, April 1, 2010


The image is a wormhole.

When we stop to look at something that strikes us, it can bring us out of our bodies and transport us to an alternate space-time. Images cuase our imaginations to lead us into another reality, or at the very least, they gave us a glimpse.

This a wormhole.

And so is this.

In fact, any image can be a wormhole at anytime.

If your imagination allows it.

The key to traveling the multi-verse is the imagination evoked through imagery.

We encounter a chair, and we see a chair, but if we look at it a certain way can we also see a face in the chair?

Can we look at an ordinary wall and see how the fact of my brain creating symmetry as I receive the image allows my memory, my imagination, my neural mapping to create something beyond the veil, that is something within the image that takes me out of my body and places me in another world?

Can I see a face?

I see dead people!

Doors and windows are two of the most common wormholes.

They are basic archetypes.

The fact may be that most writers who are able to travel to other universes rarely go beyond the world of the dead, because most of our relationship to striking images has to do with our attraction to archetype.

And in the world of the dead everything is archetypal, a skeleton key, a black cat sitting in a window, a tree on a misty hill.

In the city of the dead everything is archetype, and not much else, and that may encourage cliche. I found this image on the web. I think it's from a video game.

But we can experience images wherein the archetype is just one of its qualities or wherein we know there is archetype but we cannot define it (we just feel it). Some images are so far beyond our ordinary understanding that in order to "get" them we have to take a leap of faith and allow our imaginations to create something from the clues on the page.

For example this line from Lorca:

Por mi sombra están las ranas
privadas de las estrellas

I’m not entirely sure what he’s talking about, but I can create an image of frogs in the stars. It’s not an ordinary archetype, it’s something seemingly new, so it causes my imagination to go to somewhere new.

Look at this image from Rita Dove,

The door opens to a street like in the movies,
clean of people, of cats

The more we can see an image in different ways, the more our neural network can bust out loco.

We can access another universe.

Whatever you can imagine actually exists somewhere in the multi-verse.

Some physicists tell us that every time a particle appears in space and can be observed, multiple possibilities of where that particle could have appeared exist as well. They are shadow particles, and for every particle there are an infinite number of shadow particles, far too many to count, more than 100 to the hundreth power. And there are so many particles in ordinary matter that even they cannot be counted.

The math tells us that there are so many universes that it would be impossible for us to imagine something that cannot exist.

Physicists also tell us that it is impossible to travel from universe to universe or even back and forth through time, but I say we can, through images, sounds, and colors, to name a few ordinary wormholes.

Suppose subatomic wormholes existed but they are so small that mass cannot enter into the event horizon and be spit out into another reality?

Matter cannot travel from universe to universe or through non liner time, but the imagination clearly can.

When we see an image that strikes us, we see a reality in our imaginations. Maybe we are looking at Van Gogh’s peasants sleeping under the sun and we picture ourselves there there too, chewing on a straw of hay we pulled from a haystack.

What we are picturing is a possibility.

It’s a glimpse beyond the veil.

I cannot explain the physics (because I’m not a physicist) I can only say that intense feelings—even when invoked by an image—are chemical releases in the brain, and because chemicals are made of matter they are also made of elementary particles that make up matter, like nucleons and quarks.

According to the standard model there may even be a mass-less particle called the Higgs boson, the God Particle, and because this particle is without mass it might be able to travel through subatomic wormholes.

Matter at any rate is energy, and part of the energy of our imagination--an intense chemical release in the brain—can transport our thoughts and our ability to see into another reality, maybe a world where people are turning into rhinoceros or where non human animals can speak.

I once walked through an airport and saw a distinguished older man dressed in a silk Italian suit.

He had gray hair and was tall and thin, and he reminded me of pictures I had seen of Mark Strand.

Suddenly I thought of a world where everyone was Mark Strand, and I pictured all the people in the airport becoming Mark Strand. Mothers walking with children, teenagers listening to mp3s, they were all Mark Strand.

I felt myself becoming Mark Strand.

There may be so many universes, a number too large to imagine, googles and googles of universes, that our imaginations could never conceive of all the possibilities. In at least one universe (maybe millions of them) everyone could very well be Mark Strand.

When we create landscapes in fiction and poetry we are creating an infinite amount of wormholes, not by our intended landscape—that is, not the universe intended by the laws of our narrative—but through images a reader might find in our landscape.
Imagine a reader lowers herself into a fictional world, using the words on the page as a rope so she can climb down in there to the world of fiction, say, for example, she finds herself on a city street.

The reader (could her name be Lumilla?) walks around the city, and even though the narrative motion and velocity indicates where the reader should look and how fast she should travel the streets, the reader can choose to stop walking at any time.

She can look closely at any detail.

She can feel something that was not intended by the writer and that transports her into a universe in her memory (the past) or in her imagination. Each image in the fictional landscape can be closely looked at.

What kind of fiction and poetry do we want to write?

John Gardner calls the experience of entering a fictional landscape the vivid and continuous dream.

The vivid and continuous dream is when we are reading and we are so engrossed in the action that we forget we’re reading and language disappears and a movie plays in our head.

Obviously we may not always want language to disappear, we may sometimes want the play and movement of the language to create a non-material landscape, a reality in itself, but the fact remains that writers should be capable of creating a landscape that is not too superficial. We should be able to create landscapes within which a reader can enter and look around.

We want landscapes that can be entered not only once, but twice, three times a hundred times.

We want to create landscapes wherein the reader can enter into over and over again and find something new each time, some new connection, some new meaning, some new universe that was hidden the first time they read the work.

We (writers) can both suggest those meanings (for example on the sidewalk on a street corner there could be twelve math sticks, all of them burnt, and one cigarette butt) or we can have no intentions other than to give verisimilitude to our settings (a stop light flashing red), but the detail can be used to deepen the experience of the reader.

For example, we create a chair near a window, and on the chair we place reading glasses and a book called Bankruptcy and You.

The image creates back story, because the reader imagines the person who was sitting on the chair reading, and we imagine that things may not be going well for them financially speaking.

If we put an empty whiskey bottle next to the chair, we encourage the imagination of the reader in another direction.

Obviously what we would be creating with the chair would exist on the narrative level and may help push the story forward, but they will not be as complex as images not intended to create story.

Can you create an angel?

Other than narrative fact, the reader is just as much a creator of the esthetic phenomenon as the writer, and a reader can deepen the levels of meaning so much that the writer figures out what he or she has created through the reader’s response.

Sometimes college students are assigned to read my novel, and sometimes I visit their campus for a reading. They often tell me things about my characters that I had no idea about, but they seem right.

For example, in and the shadows took him students at Modesto Junior College wrote papers on how the sister Vero was sexually abused by her father. I had never intended such a thing but the details they pointed out as proof, the way she wears her big t-shirts, how she holds her hands, convinced me.

Obviously we can enter and reenter Kafka’s great works and find something new each time. Kafka is made greater by the generations, and he is certainly more brilliant now than when he was alive having trouble getting published.

Every time we enter his landscape we see some detail we had missed before, maybe the checkered tile in Gregor’s room,

and that descending geometry coming towards us as we peek into the room might cause us to remember Escher, or a memory, but we can stop and look at that pattern and it can lead us to other patterns.

We can see Escher.

He’s looking at that pattern as well, and because Kafka’s world is so unusual yet logical the patterns in the floor begin to shift and move around until we cannot tell which squares are on the floor and which are giving shape to the room itself.

When we enter Gregor’s room we see not only the details, but we also see others observing closely the same details. We can have conversations with Borges, because he’s in Gregor’s room as well, maybe looking at the apple rotting in the flesh of the bug.

Borges says that in fiction every detail is an omen.

What is an omen but a glimpse into the future from the present?

Details in our work are not just that, but they can allow us to travel back in time as well, not only fictional time but time in our own memories, or we can imagine things and end up somewhere the story never intended

This is why we never write “a room.”

We have a cold room with a telephone on a table.

This, of course, is nothing new to you.

Tukaram in the 17th century writes,

A good poem is like finding a hole
in the palace wall

Never know what you might see.