I'm just gonna to keep it real up-front right here.
During Part 1, Tuesday night, I had a nice dinner in the West Village with a friend, nice little Italian place, quintessentially New York, four cheeses. Later, in the dead of night, my stomach rumbled me awake. I got up. I then proceeded to puke up buckets and buckets of purple cheese sludge.
It was really disgusting. Came without warning, unprompted by alcohol or anything else. Just a violent expulsion. At a loss once more. Something in this city is disagreeing with me, I thought. Then Thursday happened ...
For starters, the panel at Columbia went really well. Party atmosphere achieved by the compa Romeo Guzman, the Pocho in Greater Mexico, with cheves and palomitas and all that dope D.F. bar food. Room was packed. Great questions. Professors Claudio Lomnitz, Seth Fein, and Imani Johnson had such remarkable, complex insights into the book, it left me wordless a couple times, talking in circles and just reaching back for the tallboy.
In a multimedia presentation, Romeo forcibly pushed back at the idea that "Down & Delirious" is about a "Mexican American in search of his roots," but rather that being pocho itself is being a little chilango, and vice versa. Make sense? Romeo will probably be unpacking further in the course of his work between Columbia, Southern California, and Mexico.
Overall, a great pleasure and a great honor. Thank you, Columbia, and thank you Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity.
These are some tags I saw in the tunnel at 116th on the 1 after the panel. Seeing throw-ups in the subway in New York can still happen, and it is so much more compelling here because of the history. Graffiti, commodified, institutionalized, but still one grand, anarchist middle-finger to all the rules, to all accepted norms of property, legality, art, advertising.
It's crashing together in L.A. right now. See here.
With beautiful Nina Mehta, New York native, just back from India, in the tunnel under 14th Street. We are heading to Williamsburg for the book party.
PARTY WAS AMAZING! Such a great time! The crew at Mex-and-the-City, and friends from Remezcla, including Marina, Iris, Erika, Claire, and Nuria, thank you. Marcelo, Felipe, and Jawnita, thank you for the jams! The projected images by Carlos Alvarez Montero were a hit. Thank you Cantina Royal! Thanks to my editor Paul Whitlatch and to author Francisco Goldman for showing up the scene and partaking. So good seeing so many familiar faces from fiestas in D.F.
¡Hijole, que pachanga nos hechamos, no?!! Y todas las chavas se dechongaron cabrón con Thalia!
Walking again in the 4 a.m. chill, looking for a deli and some inspiration. I'm feeling good. I think, I think, I might be getting into this New York thing at this point. Like, yeah, people are miserable and life is tough, but you gotta find your spaces, your people, and build from there.
You also gotta figure out how to look at it. Look! Delis are like discos! There's always music playing and bright lights and interesting people! And now a cheesesteak before sunrise.
FRIDAY, APRIL 15.
It occurs to me early on Friday that I need to stay in New York longer than my allotted week. I need to see more of Brooklyn. I want to go to a Dutty Artz party or to GHE20 G0TH1K or a D.F.-style sonidero. I want to see the Lakra show at the Drawing Center and more art in general; El Museo; Basquiat's grave. I wanna see more queer blatino New York, pan-Latino New York, more Mexican New York, and look into the intersections between mexicanos and other communities.
In the evening, I met my agent Katherine Fausset at a bar called Angel's Share. From World's Best Bars: "Head to East Village, 8 Stuyvesant Street, then go to the 2nd floor, through a Japanese restaurant and find an unmarked door. Sorry to be so specific, but you don't want to miss this place."
What a special place. We sat in the stools facing the floor-to-ceiling arched window, where you can't help imagining watching the first snow fall, with 3rd Avenue laid out at your feet. The service was sharp, the cocktails just perfect. Thank you, Katherine!
Joven Will and Chelsey weren't going to let me leave their city without seeing some raw. "Punk show in Bushwick." Let's go.
In several previous trips to New York since about 1999, I've visited all five of the city's boroughs. Brooklyn, of course, but only really Prospect Heights and a little bit of Fort Greene, I think. The Bronx, for a Yankees game. Astoria, Queens, to visit a friend at law school. Staten Island, where Irish-shadow-Chicana homegirl Erin Gallagher is from, and where I spent a week once, taking the ferry every night with the other kids heading home after going out.
This time, Bushwick beckoned. We got off at Jefferson and walked for a good while, looking for a birthday party that kept getting broken up and changing location. On the way, on one of Bushwick's desolate, industrial streets, Will stopped at a heavy tagged-up door, opened it, and we walked freely into a punk dreamland. A flophouse communal squat-style space, covered with graffiti and art. Made some new friends.
This is rad.
We made it to the party, in another big industrial space, right when a band was playing. Packed with kids moshing and flinging themselves all over the place. Lotta studs and hawks and unpretentious looks. Punk undercover. Made some new friends. Sweet Chelsey, as soon as the punks stopped playing, turned from me in the middle of a pleasant chat and yelled flatly at the musicians: "FUCK YOU. .... FUCK YOU."
This is rad.
The punk party turned into a hip-hop party when this kid from Philly named Raka started playing some tracks. More dancing. Went to a house, hung out, made it back to Williamsburg ("If anyone deserves to live in a gentrified neighborhood in Brooklyn, Erin, it's you."), totally happy and satisfied.
SATURDAY, APRIL 16.
The next day New York was still cold and drizzly. I had a couple hours before my flight. I wanted to go check out Sunset Park or Jackson Heights in Queens, but all I ended up having time for was another visit over to Bushwick, to try some local Mexican food. Poblanos, claro. NYPD ordering some tortas and lots of non-Latin kids trying hard to use their Spanish. Made another new friend behind the counter.
This is photojournalist Benedicte Desrus, who I ran into at JFK, searching for a Skype signal on her laptop about four hours into our unplanned evening together.
Turns out Bene and I were on the same flight to D.F. This was the first time I'd flown internationally to and from the United States since about 2003. Getting through security was pure loathing, nightmarish. Once inside, we were in airport-prison. Our flight was delayed six hours, the Aeromexico jet stuck in Boston. It was raining violently outside.
All around us in Terminal 1, gigantic airplanes loaded and took off for Riyadh, Rome, Paris, filling with women in hajibs, fussing over children, and men young and old who had laid down carpets on the terminal floor to pray toward Mecca.
All the Mexicans gathered in the wine bar. The cheapest glass was $10. Stout, working class poblanos rubbing shoulders and getting good and drunk with wealthy white folks from Valle de Bravo. To our delight, Bene and I watched as the scene got sloppier and sloppier. Turns out the bartender was Mexican, too. Paisas talking and laughing across class and social lines in a way that would never happen organically in Mexico.
In that sense, New York is cool.