El Gato Diabolico

I have inherited a cat. Not your run-of-the-mill type feline, mind you. I’ve inherited an evil cat.

Back in the fall when the deal was still in the making, the cat appeared innocent enough, all rural-looking and smelling daisies.

But now that I have moved in, the cat has lifted the veil of pretense, and is showing his true colors. All day long, he darts on me his evil eye contemptuously, as if I were a mere annoyance in his field of vision (he has only one evil eye, the left one; the right one is regular.) Sometimes I feel compelled to apologize for my presence.

I will be honest with you. At first, I attempted to buy his love with the most expensive tiny tins of gourmet cat food, and when that failed miserably, I resorted to tuna crumbs which Monsieur Boyfriend tried to steal for himself. Here is the thing though: that cat can’t be bought. He likes the cheap stuff. And lots of it too. That cat is FAT.

Zora the housekeeper mentioned the other day that he should convert to Islam and observe Ramadan. I tend to concur.

Definitely not the type of cat you carry around under one arm. It takes two. With muscles.

Obviously love has been previously purchased from the cat with quantity. It reflects in the protruding belly of the beast.

Now in all fairness, unbeknown to me, in South of France, a fair amount of lard around one’s bones may come in handy during the snow storms (I kid you not.)  During the last one, Evil Cat seemed completely unaffected by the dreary weather conditions and guarded the house perimeter, moving like a wild animal on the prowl…

The irregularity of the hair you may notice on the above photograph derives from Monsieur Boyfriend’s idea of a haircut. He has promised time and time again not to approach the animal with a pair of scissors anymore but I’ve caught him red-handed a few times. My theory behind the cat’s troubled soul is that he has long been ostracized by the South of France feline population because of his unbeseeming  hair appearance.

This shunning has resulted in a fear of abandonment which materializes itself in the weirdest possible ways. When you want to take a bath…

The cat beats you to the tub. The evilness part comes in play when…

He makes a point of licking his nether regions right where your bottom would be moments later.

And try to brush your teeth…

With a cat in the basin. Kind of difficult to circumvent, wouldn’t you say?

If you watch TV, he lies on the mantel, eyeballing you from above, with a face that tells you he disapproves of your choice of program.

The cat has also claimed the bed.

I am lucky if I manage to have a little room on my pillow at night.

And he has claims on the car too.

Since humans, on top of dexterous opposable thumbs, are supposed to have slightly more cerebral activity than Birman Cats (Myanmar Cats presently), I concocted a plan designed to give us all some space: the installation of a cat door big enough to accommodate all his extra pounds. Monsieur boyfriend and I waited with bated breath for the cat to make his first exit. And we waited. And we waited.

Let me mention at this juncture that this cat’s means of egress used to be limited to windows… which his human servants had to open and close for him 10,000 times a day, human servants beaten into hurried submission by the constant scratching at the glass. So where was I? Ah yes, so we waited. We baited. We shoved through the hole. We cajoled. We faked meeow on the other side of the cat door… To no avail.

He now waits in front of it. Annoyed-looking. Displaying his usual typical crunchy mood and expecting us now to get on all fours and push the flap open because God forbid he should make any effort with his precious noggin. Intellectual or physical.

I have pretty much given up. My dog will join us in three weeks and eat Evil Cat anyway. Or it will be the other way around. It will probably be the other way around. At any rate, I’m shitting with y’all people. That cat may have failed rocket science in school, but I do like him a lot. He is an acquired taste. And he has redeeming qualities. Let me rephrase that: he has one redeeming quality. I just don’t get tired of waking up to that spectacle every morning…

Fairy Tails

My fairies are very much unlike Lady Cottington’s Pressed Fairies. I say that… but when they come out en force at the Dallas Gay Pride Parade, some do bear a slight resemblance to the crushed pixies.

Cottington_016Parade Fairy showing remarkably naked ass

fairy002Lady Cottington’s Pressed Fairies showing remarkably naked bottoms

Seriously, my parade fairies seem to resist any particular kind of genre. They are all ages, dress very differently, and the only thing they appear to share is a love for exaggerated attitude. Totally not the macho type.

aFairies_001Accentuated hip movements associated with sashaying are a dead giveaway

Fairies_009Joining hands, and bottom to the side when expressing oneself, that too, throws you in my fairy catchall category.

Fairies_004Hands on the waist, bottom to the side, pursed lips, and underwear showing, well, that does not leave much to the imagination. Fairy!

Fairies_005Too pretty does it too…

aFairies_007And if nothing distinguishes you from the masses, you can always hold a sign!

This year however, the one who really threw me in the deepest confusion was little Miss Strawberry Shortcake. Coming down Cedar Springs on a bicycle, from afar, there was no doubt you had to be in fairy land.


But from up close, my sweet little Strawberry Shortcake morphed into…


So just like Adam and Eve got booted out of Eden, my little Strawberry got repudiated from my fairy world and sent to the hair removal lady. Wax on, wax off…

To be continued…

OMG! It was soooo GAY!!!

Vibrant stallions of luv in their underwear strutting their stuff on the boulevard… Where else can you revel in such awesomeness than in the Fabu Dallas Gay Pride Parade? I go every year. Mostly for the guys in their undies and I have no shame to admit that. Woohoo for almost naked men!!! But let’s ease into the event by describing the audience first, the normal folks like you and me.


So at Gay Pride, mostly, the peeps in attendance are not like you and me after all. They have a more… Flamboyant side. So the show is as much in the parade than on the sidewalks. Sometimes it’s even way better on the sidewalks.

bgaypride_032Bob, Grat, Bill, and Emmett (Joe, Jack, William, et Averell for the Frenchies out there)

bgaypride_033A cowboy needs nothing else than his hat and boots. Obviously!

bgaypride_036My buddies from last year! Still voguing!!!

gaypride2_005The only heterosexual present but so fearful he wrote “Vaginas r Awesome” on his chest. Dude! Was this really necessary?

bgaypride_014One always needs a little bear love…

bgaypride2_020Or koala bear love (check out the boots by 90 degree weather!)

bgaypride_006This type of skirt is totally in this year for your information

bgaypride2_016See what I’m sayin’? I must get me one of these

bgaypride2_008And also lesbian chic is mowhawkish… I had no idea!

bgaypride2_014King’s Road Revival

bgaypride_005If you don’t sport a Mowhawk, I don’t think you stand a chance with da ladies in 2009

bgaypride_031There is always a man with big balls (I think I already made that joke but I can’t resist)

bgaypride_028And a lonely man who would gain popularity, no doubt, if he wore better shorts

bDanceSome did a little dance, made a little love

adance2And others followed suit

bgaypride_007Some just looked way too cool even if their pants were tucked in their tennis shoes

bgaypride_004Some had primo seating arrangements (especially compared to me that had no seating arrangements whatsoever)

bgaypride_021A hippie looking dude reclined under the shaded trees while I, a GIRL, agonized in the burning sun and is that even fair?

bgaypride_012Thank goodness, this chick made up for all the non-moving reclined attendants with her enthusiasm. She was VERY enthusiastic.

agaypride_026And these two characters were rather rambunctious as well but for Pete’s sake, where was the Japanese short police?

bgaypride_020Did you know that gay men have very good taste in underwear? Probably because they show them to so many people!

Now, don’t think that everybody had as good a time as the folks above depicted. Oooh no! I think some had a pretty crappy time actually.

bgaypride_002There was the dog in a bag. He looked pretty downtrodden if you ask me.

gaypride2c_001Then there was the dog who fought for his life

bgaypride_035And the little boy who was so tired from all the gayness

bgaypride_034The dehydrated nonna

gaypride2b_001And last but not least this poor little horse that looked way too frail to accommodate all that weight.

Now that totally pissed me off big time! I hope that horse still has a back. In case no one had the guts to tell this guy, let me: “you are way too non-thin to ride a pony!” Sometimes, you just have to call a cat a cat.

To be continued…

The Vegas you don’t get to see… coz you’re thankfully sleeping

Las Vegas, Holy Empire of Bling-Bling and Ka-Ching! Not my ka-ching, mind you… After losing $100 in no more than 5 minutes at a Black Jack table on the first night (What? I’m not entitled to warm up for free?), I had wisely decided with my usual brand of practical wisdom to abstain from putting more cash in the casino owners’ pockets – even for fun. I’m sure they must be lining up at the unemployment office by now. Pfff!

After two days spent observing other folk’s money go down the casino’s drain, all I longed for was a bit of peace, quiet, and beauty, away from the masses, away from the constant din of the slot machines. I courageously set the alarm for 6:30 am, the standard price to pay for silence on the Vegas Strip. French Boyfriend (who has no faith in my ability to rise with the sun) looked on dubiously as I wrestle with the hotel clock.

At 7 am, I was up and running, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed…


No. I’m lying. When the alarm went off, I must have hit the snooze button because I emerged from bed like a flower at 11 am, and had to endure the ensuing mocking look on the Frenchman’s face all day (Y’all know how those French people are.)

But the next morning, mostly motivated by wounded pride, I really got up, somewhat eager to discover the city under a new light (or any natural light at all for that matter.) In all honesty, I attempted to circumvent the whole ordeal by photographing Vegas through the hotel room windows, but to my great dismay, they had not been cleaned for a while, so I had to bite the bullet and get on with it. (make mental note to address window cleaning with hotel’s customer service.)


I kid you not, in Vegas, at 7 am, gamblers are still at work. Now, no judgment on my part, but if a person is still at it at 7 am instead of lying comfortably in bed after having eaten the little chocolate mint on the pillow, dude, you’ve got problems. Okay, well, I guess that was a judgment on my part after all.

Walking in Vegas in the morning is very much like…


Walking on the Champs Elysees. If you have imagination. Like, a vivid one.


Vegas morning fashion is a far cry from the glitzy scene of the night. One thing in common: too damn short!


French Boyfriend kept on commenting about the numbers of hookers roaming the streets and I could never quite convince him that these minimalist skirt wearers were not looking to get paid for sex. They were giving it out for free. (That was mean. I apologize to all these misguided pure and virginal chicks with no ulterior motives whatsoever.)


Back to the morning expedition… While housekeeping figures in my dictionary right at the end with all the Z words, even I, the ultimate consumed slob, noticed the filth littering the strip. It seemed a few folks had forgotten to pick up after themselves last night.


I think the city hires a street sweeper just to deal with hooker ads. At night, along the strip, women and men alike get accosted by people clicking their tongues and shoving big-boobed woman ads in their hands. I find this practice mildly annoying since, for one, I am small-boobed and second, these guys are attempting to get my man to stray. Right in front of me! Dude! Where are your manners?


I wonder how many guys look at the ads all googly-eyed and tell their girlfriends not to worry, they’ll only be gone for a little while, and that there is this damn thing for work they totally forgot to do. Really! As if!

I must admit the $35 offer with no hidden fees, full service, and in your hotel room in 20 minutes, seems like a good deal to me. I bet you guys get a really nice French manicure.


To police the street sweepers, cops ride Segway machines! Except they are three wheelers! That’s like the SUVs of Segways! Personally, I would not be caught dead on a thing like that, but the cop seemed to feel very impressive riding that thing standing tall and proud… at ten miles an hour.  I bet Vegas thieves are laughing their ass off!

The most entertaining thing on the strip in Vegas, besides cops on tricycles, is the insane  juxtaposition of genres.


The Statue of Liberty meets Disney Land…


The sweet old Coca-Cola ad next to the raunchy promise of round bottoms…


The statues from the Monte-Carlo in the foreground of the modern Aria Hotel which is scheduled to open in December (4,004 rooms!)

But I would not be surprised if all this glitz and bling bling made you forget to look in the street at the real people.


As I opened my bag to give money to this poor guy, a female cop (not on a Segway – which is a blatant case of discrimination if you ask me) emphatically made the no-no sign with her head, and frowned in a very serious manner. I apologized to the man, told him I had no cash, and walked away. The cop told me he was diabetic and that the minute he had money in his pocket, he spent it on booze, and then they had to call an ambulance. I contemplated getting him McDonald burger and fries… but then I reconsidered, thinking that might send him to the hospital too.


And then of course, this walk would not be complete without the usual lost tourist, the poor soul who drank so much the night before that he got separated from his friends, could not find his hotel, and decided to sleep wherever his legs were still capable to take him… but not before having one last beer for good measure. And now… He’s got his face plastered on the internet too. Rough night!

So all in all, the Strip in the morning is as interesting as the Strip at night. It’s just less crowded. And you have to get up early… I’d totally stick with the night if I were you.

Self-Sacrifice For The Greater Good. Yours.

For inexplicable reasons, my friends Monsieur Shinn and his wife turned into American Idol fans last season. The rabid kind. The glued to the little screen ones who won’t go out three nights a week for fear of missing something idolly earth-shattering. I believe they may even have voted once or twice, not that they would ever cop to that. Sigh.

Last week, the Shinns informed me the AI try-outs would take place on the 26th in Arlington at the new Dallas Cowboys Stadium. My interest was purely photographic, of course, as I have been known to kill wee animals when I attempt to sing anything. I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to capture the madness. For you. My faithful readers whom I’ve neglected lately because of a cute French man. Who could blame me?

I thought about planting a small tent in the stadium parking lot the night before, hanging out, being down with the peeps, roasting s’mores on a makeshift fire, and bursting into spontaneous Thriller choreographies with the kids. However I do not own a small tent (nor a big one.) My idea of camping generally involves a chalet and room service. And, let’s be honest, all these pretenders to the throne are artists, bohemians if you will, and probably not proper company. So scratch that.

I woke up early instead. A few unexpected events foiled my initial plan to arrive at the Stadium well before 7 am and photograph the mad crowd: a half hour struggle with the snooze button, the absence of Starbucks coffee dripping down my veins, and the fact that Arlington had decided, since the last time I was there, to add 1) a new street with a stupid name right where I was supposed to veer off the highway, and 2) a new stadium. In close to 20 years in Texas, I have yet to set foot in a stadium. My ignorance showed. I ended up at the Ballpark, the baseball stadium, instead of the football stadium. After realizing the error of my ways, locating the right stadium, and taking 15 minutes to find an illegal spot to park, I realized with great dismay the 10,000 hopefuls had already vanished in the confines of the new shiny building.


All that was left for me to photograph was the lazy ones, those with not enough drive to get at the audition on time like the other 10,000.


Some looked just too cool to care about the time.


Some looked like bad reincarnations of the Village People


Some brought home-made paraphernalia


Others, their good-luck tattoos, some of which looked… original and frightening at the same time:

AI_007Kinda looks like me when my brother shoots my portrait!


Even scarier than the above-referenced tattoo, Heather Elmer, 27, who has already auditioned SEVEN times (some folks do not know when to call it quits), and was going to sing… Yeah, that’s right. Over the friggin’ Rainbow. Incidentally, she made it to the next round. How creepy is that?


And oh surprise, reporting for the TV Guide Network, Alexis Grace who finished 11th last season. She is minuscule.


Here she is, interviewing Jason Castro’s brother, Michael. For all of you non-Idol initiated, Jason was a semi-finalist on Season 7, and Michael got eliminated at Hollywood’s final round of Season 8. Was Michael going to audition again? I have no idea! I did not ask. I’m a crappy reporter. I’ll have to ask the Shinns next Season.


While all of this exciting stuff was going on, Pat was chilling. Numerous were the peeps who did not know they could have registered to enter the stadium as supporters. Pat was waiting for her granddaughter. 7:30 am. A forecast of 100 degrees for the day. The auditions concluded at 6 pm. I hope she found a way to stay cool.


This girl got the cooling part down pat, sending herself to oblivion.


Some, like this lady, had brought their own sitting apparatus. 10 hours of wait. I would have brought a damn sofa. And fluffy pillows.

Not auditioning but making a lot of noise anyway, a bunch of youths with ‘tudes:


The kids and not so kids were part of a new step ensemble, managed by a savvy business chick (mommawonder, I suppose) who immediately made them pose with the banner displaying her contact number. I need an agent like that.


The band was led by a tough cookie, a small girl who, I’m sure, could kick my butt in one minute tops.


I hung out a bit, being all hip and stuff


The boy with the light colored shirt up front is Dominic who speaks French. Salut Dominic!!!!


DJ Wild Hair (on the right) was in da house (see how I’m down with it?)


And there were also very menacing looking men (who were actually the sweetest kids ever and who posed for me forever – we were having a swell time!) But a hot time too! Too hot for comfort. Time for me to head home but not before snooping a bit and taking a photograph of the $1.15 billion Stadium.


This is what a $1.15 billion stadium looks like. Some call it “Six Flags over Jerry” (that’s Jerry Jones, the footballers owner. Even I know that!) The City of Arlington participated to the tune of $325 million. Personally in my own opinion, I think that I would have insisted for the Cowboys to be re-baptized Arlington Cowboys had I been the City of Arlington. To thank them for the $325 million, the new Stadium will only charge the honorable citizens of Arlington and others $40… for parking at major events. That’s $40 for a parking spot. Let’s say you decided to attend the U2 concert on Oct. 12. The ticket in the nosebleed section would cost you $30.00. Parking: $40.00. In other words, it would be more expensive for you to park your car than to attend the concert. Mmhmm…

I continued snooping around and guess who suddenly appeared in my line of vision?


That’s right! The Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders, all decked out with their sparkly pompoms, their wholesome cleavage, and their almost non-existing shorts!


They were being filmed saying something very intellectual like “Texas is hotter!”


A dude snooping next to me screamed at them: “I thought you’d be taller!” I turned to him and told him “I’m sure they thought you’d be slimmer!” That silenced him. Don’t you be rude to my sistas! Anyway, this did not excite me much but I thought that, after depriving my readers from Miami models, I owed them the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders. It was time to hit the road and find the closest Starbucks. I felt I deserved a extra humongous  latte. After all, the snooze button could have totally won…

I’m the photographer who says poop

Bathroom humor? Not exactly my cup of tea. My mother would have never allowed it. In my family, bodily functions either were frowned upon or simply did not exist. The mere utterance of the word “caca” would have provoked desert deprivation for days… and if you know anything about my mom’s baking abilities, this is not a risk you would ever be willing to take. So caca became the much more poetic lala. For cake sake.

Zap to 40 years later and you have one pretty screwed-up adult. Moi. Laid back and uptight at the same time, all wrapped up in a small neurotic package.

The day started early. I packed cameras, lenses, and all the other good stuff, grabbed a latte with a few extra espresso shots, and met Julie, Barbara, and the two terrors for a photo shoot at the Arboretum. I had photographed the kids on many occasions but when they are so young, a few months elapse, and you find yourself in front of very different little peeps… And there always comes a time, ALWAYS, when the dreaded “cheese” comes into play.


One day the kids give you the most natural smile in the world, then, perhaps victims of school photographers (note the perhaps if you happen to be a school photographer), the kids start grimacing painfully every time you point the camera in their direction. It takes a whole lot of patience and coaxing to get them back to being themselves. And sometimes, the habit appears so ingrained that nothing works. If you ask them not to smile and just relax, this is what you get:


But sometimes a miracle happens and you see the light!

abb_032Look, the statue is NAKED!!!

Naked. That’s all it took!


After this, piece of cake. When you find a cow, you must milk it for all it’s worth.


abb_090Shake your BOOTIES

abb_101The frog is PEE-PEEING!

So here is the sad truth. I have become the photographer who says poop. I feel quite certain my mother would disapprove greatly of this pathetic turn of event, but I discovered I would really do anything to get that shot. Sigh. Julie recommended the book “Everybody Poops” to get over myself. It really seems like a good idea.

Nevertheless, I still much prefer the images of pensive children, the ones where, if they smile, it’s subtle, and if they don’t, they are simply caught being themselves.





I wish I had a more serious photograph of the little dude, but after the first time I said poop, there was no going back. Point of no return was reached. The kid had a smile plastered on his face for the remainder of the session. Perhaps I would have been a happier kid too had I been allowed to say caca. Just writing this word is enough to make me feel guilty and ashamed.

Some say you never recover from your childhood. Isn’t that the truth?! But today, after this session, I definitely feel one step closer to my deep-down buried inner scatological self. I’m just not sure it’s such a good thing… I need to go call my mom.

The Night I joined the Peace Core

It was a dark school night of March when Dorin the Cougar showed me the full extent of her groupiness (in the spiritual sense, not Pamela De Barres way – which would make this post much juicier but even cougars have morals nowadays. sigh.) I had had hints of her fierce rock ‘n roll  attitude in the past but had never really had the pleasure to witness it first hand.


For her birthday week-end, Dorin had driven more than 200 miles to Oklahoma City on Friday to catch a concert of Roger Clyne and the Peacemaker (RCPM for the initiated – and I will consider you initiated for the rest of this story), then had come back to Dallas on Saturday to attend The Old 97’s gig, and on Sunday night, she picked me up and drove another 40 miles to go see… RCPM play AGAIN! Thank goodness for the environment it’s not her birthday very often!


After duly plugging my ears and breathing a set of second hand smoke from The Drams (good but hellbent on destroying lung tissue), I saw Dorin head to the bar and order tequila shots in anticipation of the main event – the shots, not for her… but for front man Roger Clyne.  Along the edge of the stage, tiny glasses began to appear from all directions. A tradition. A bit like buying beer for the sushi chef in a mark of appreciation. But beforehand. The atmosphere was quite friendly. People seemed to recognize each other from previous shows, and were exchanging hellos and knowing smiles. Dude, love was in the air.


Then… there was Tim. Young blond Tim with the huge sombrero. Tim who was celebrating his birthday. Tim who knew no one  at the beginning of the show and was everybody’s best friend at the end (but I doubt he remembers any of this very clearly.)


Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers were born out of the ashes of the Refreshments (think “Banditos” or the King of the Hill’s theme song.) The band split in 98 not through lack of talent, but unsupported by new management at Mercury records, and plagued by various personal problems of band members (think rock ‘n roll: drugs and nervous breakdowns.)


When offers from other record companies did not pile up in the mail, freshly unRefreshed Roger Clyne, a ranger’s son who majored in anthropology and psychology at Arizona State, and P.H. Naffah, the quiet drummer with the pre-med degree, packed backpacks and guitars and set out to the desert near Tucson in search of a new direction. The soul searching venture was to last the biblical 40 days… but it got hot and they ended up in a bar after 17 days (which Roger deemed plenty.) They took the resulting songs to Phoenix bars for happy hours, and fairly rapidly received an enthusiastic response from the audience. The band with the name of a Colt bringing out peace was created.


Three other musicians joined the Peacemakers through natural circumstances, almost by accident.  Gin Blossoms’ clean-cut Scotty Johnson on guitar, consummate rebel guitarist “Dirty” Steve Larson from the defunct Dead Hot Workshop, and a walking music encyclopedia, bassist Danny White who brought his country sensibility to the Peacemakers. The odd quintet boarded a van (dubbed rolling germ tube by P.H.) and hit the road with Jamie Lee, the road manager.


The Peacemakers never benefited from the support of a major label. As an independent band, they had to gain their audience the hard way: “Get in the van and pour your heart out for two hours everysingleshow” Clyne commented in the documentary “Long ride Home.” Fans began to follow the band from town to town. This first vague of traveling adulators called themselves the Texas Troublemakers. They are the reason why, to this day, the musicians select a different set list for every show and make sure to pack enough clothes never to have to wear the same outfit two days on the row. They’d, like, totally get called on it.


Not just anyone could join the troublemakers. Oh no siree! You first had to be initiated to belong (which basically meant you hung out with these folks for a few days, and if they liked you, you were in.) They used to wear nametags at RCPM concerts. They even gave Roger his own: “Hello, my name is Roger” that he stuck on his guitar, and a “Roger for President” bumper sticker that he put on the back of the instrument. There always was a genuine connection between the band and its fans.
The current second vague of rabid fans constitutes the Peace Core. The prevailing attitude is largely that the band makes music for them and the fans give back in their own way. Their faithful following always propels the band instantly to the top ten internet sale chart when they release a new CD… Quite the accomplishment for an independent band.
It’s not rare to see a Peace Core member come to a concert bearing gifts. The boys like their sweets! I have it under good authority that P.H. likes anything butterscotch and I surmise Roger likes Tequila – 100% Blue Agave – more than anything else in the “things that you ingest” world. Home-cooked meals are a hit for guys who spend most of the year on the road: Dorin even has a friend who brings spaghetti at their concerts!
After studying the band for the sake of this story, I suggest gifts of fireworks (you would not believe the excitation provoked by the sight of Evil Warlock or Monkey Car exploding devices!)
Talking about fireworks, twice a year, the Peacemakers stage a big concert (4 hour set – 50 songs) in Puerto Penasco in Mexico, a three-day Circus Mexicus Extravaganza where the musicians mix in casually with the audience at functions such as the Mananathon, formerly known as “hangover brunch” on Sunday. Over the years, the almost intimate gathering which started in 2000 has become a huge deal where thousands descend for a week-end of music, tequila, and the sea (oh, of course, the boys detonate a shitload of fireworks too!)  Some old fans long for the days where only a few hundreds of them made the trip down to the Sea of Cortez and the accent was a little less on the partying aspect. But for now, let’s just hope that the swine flu scare does not affect attendance too much this year – the next Extravaganza is scheduled to take place from June 5th through June 7th, 2009.
The Peace Core most definitely possesses a sense of ownership. It’s their band. The attachment appears almost cultish in nature. The current line-up includes only two members of the original band: Roger and P.H., and every time the band sheds one of its own, you’d think it’s the frigging end of the world! The new musician has big shoes to fill. Pressure… The same sinking feeling happens when, with the band’s increasing success, the old fans have to fight their way to the front of the stage. It did not use to be that way. They are “losing” their band to strangers… and young’uns too! How dare they?!
brcpm_0941Guitarist Jim Dalton who replaced “Dirty” Steve Larson, the newest addition
rcpm_070Nick Scropos on bass
rcpm_074P.H. Naffah on drums
I’m no rock critic. I count strings before being able to tell the difference between the bass player and the guitarist. In other words, I’m the least qualified individual to speak in knowing terms about music. All I know is when these guys hit the stage, they deliver with crazy energy and conviction. The Clyne dude has the charisma of two Obamas and he is funny too. It’s bandido rock at its best!
Audience response? The attendants freakishly know all the lyrics and sing along like it’s gospel except what’s lauded here is the love of tequila amidst other southwestern themes. In 2007, Clyne even produced his own 1,000 bottles of Tequila, Mexican Moonshine.
tequila_001Clyne meditating amongst the pinas destined to be chopped, roasted, shredded and fermented into tequila
What is also cool about this band is that their independence gives them the opportunity to explore uncharted territories and relate the experience to their fans. In January 08, the band rented a small seaside house in Mexico, and produced 8 songs in 8 days, “from creative impetus to final mix.” J. boots, the official videographer (self-taught guitarist at 27, former roomate of American Pie’s Steve Stiffler, and compelled occasional trumpet player) filmed the experience which was then shared every day on the RCPM site. The end result was the CD “Turbo Ocho.”
This year, breaking grounds once again, they are unveiling their new musical endeavor “Glow in the Dark”, one song at the time, on their website… Website which is currently kaput but no one is perfect and they sent out a nice note to all their fans to acknowledge the problem.

brcpm_0641J Boots (a hottie in his own right)

In the end, I understand better now why my buddy Dorin shows so much interest in this band. I’m converted (in a non-practicing sort of way.) More than anything, these are lovable good guys that play intelligent organic rock (I mean organic in the sense that they don’t rely on any fancy shmancy clicktracks or samplings – it’s just the four dudes with vocals, guitars, bass and drums… and J Boots being thrown on stage with a trumpet occasionally.) They do it the hard way, trying to ride a very fine line between art and being able to pay their bills, and it’s in my nature to root for the underdogs (especially quality mutts.)

After the show, they hang out a bit, talking to the fans and letting them take pictures.

rcpm2_014Dorin and P.H.

rcpm2_011Dorin and Roger

scan0003Roger and Dorin in 1996! They haven’t changed a bit! Hee! Hee!

After the photo op, it was time to go home, but then our good friend Tim showed up, walking what seemed to be a winding sidewalk, and crushing his sombrero on the wall for balance while his poor loyal pal tried to put some sense into him: “Tim, man, you’ll be plastered all over the net tomorrow!” Well it took a little longer than that… but to prove your friend right, here it is:


Just time to take another one of Tim with fans who were lining up to have their picture taken with the infamous birthday boy…


For the people who regularily read my blog, you’re probably wondering about my subject matter this time. Not exactly my usual stuff. I just had so much fun at their concert I felt it would be a good thing to spread the love. Their next gig in Dallas is on May 9th, 2009, at House of Blues… but a word of caution to the newbies out there, I have first dibs on front row. I would not want the love to come back and bite me in the bottom either.

I have pillaged many many sources to write this sprawling piece of more or less random facts: the brain of Dorin and her Troublemaker friends, the Canadian documentary “Long Ride Home”, The article “Tequila-Fueled Tunes” from High Country News, the interview of Roger Clyne by Keith Howardson from Americana Music Times, fan posts, and other articles I failed to bookmark because I’m imperfect.  Alas.

See y’all at House of Blues!

Red Hot Cuban Love: Denied!

Forbid me to go somewhere and… I probably won’t go. It’s not sheep mentality, but cheap mentality. Getting caught traveling to Cuba can land you a fine up to $65,000 if you are an American citizen… and that would probably be the most expensive tan you’d ever get!

The next best thing would have to be Miami’s Little Havana (New Jersey’s Union City also boasts a large Cuban immigrant population but Havana On The Hudson lacks beach proximity and a modicum of exoticism.) I could already imagine myself walking down the colorful streets, surrounded by bustling Americano Cubaneros smoking big cigars, and in the background, the Buena Vista Social Club musicians (the ones that escaped) playing on the sidewalk.


Unfortunately, it seems I had picked the wrong day. There were about two people on Calle Ocho and the guy in the top photograph was one of them.


No music either! Just a Julio Iglesias astral mark of adoration on the Walkway of the Stars. Sigh. Of all people…


The party was only on the walls. Where was everybody? I stopped in a store to inquire.


Newsflash: no one speaks English in the neighborhood. It’s exactly like Japan! I asked: “Donde esta el mondo por favor?” but I could not understand the shopkeeper’s reply. Probably because I had asked him where “the clean one was” instead of asking him where everybody was. I think it may also mean “Where is the world?” but that would not make any sense, would it? I thought he was just a happy fellow but, with hindsight, I think he was totally laughing at me.


I tried my luck at a small sidewalk eatery. Perched on a bar stool, I ate a multitude of pollo croquettas and drank seven cafecitos which I loved very very much. Cuban food rocks. I was up all night and I think my eyes pretty much bulged out of my head but it was totally worth it.

Noticing that I was way over my cabeza (and probably under the charm of a customer that ate like 10 people), the waitress walked me close by to a small enclave… next to the McDonald. It was the Maximo Gomez Park, the famed domino park. That’s exactly where all “el mondo” was!


The park was briefly closed in the eighties for restorations. The shopkeepers of the neighborhood attempted to make this shutdown permanent because of vagrants and drug dealers congregating in the park. When it reopened despite their best effort, no one under 55 years old was allowed on premise! They seemed to have relaxed those rules since then because they willingly granted me access (either that or I had a really bad face day!)


The park consists of a bunch of domino and chess tables protected from the elements by an overhead striped canvas. There were no unoccupied tables. All the guys and the one woman (whose colorful bling is displayed in the above picture) were concentrating very very hard. This was obviously serious business and serious business is difficult to photograph.

No one was smiling at me. No one was looking at me. I took that as an implicit ok and so I proceeded.


I will tell you that, fashion wise, hats are very much the trend this year in the Cuban community.


Men waited patiently on the side lines for a table to open. Sometimes, they glanced at me with not a discernible ounce of friendliness. I am insecure. When people do not show me love, I think they hate me. I was not feeling very comfortable.


Perhaps it’s the pain of being away from their native country… At least, since April 14, 2009, Cuban Americans can go back to visiting their relatives once a year instead of once every three years, one of President Bush’ policies enforced since 2004. I’d probably have a long face too if I was precluded from traveling to Belgium to see my friends and family (except my sister who I think should move to Cuba, like now.)


After about an hour, a little guy wearing a dark suit pointed at me and gestured exaggeratedly towards the exit. I realized I may have had overstayed my welcome. I called a cab and hung out not too far from the security guard (the park rules state that bringing a firearm on premise as well as using bad words will get you suspended from park activities from two to four weeks – I guess someone needs to be there to enforce that.)

An ancient Cuban grabbed my arm and tried to get me to go with him. He was cooing and doing a not so good job at wooing me (I’ve never been crazy about the forceful arm grab.) Then the dude with the cigar from the photo above showed up and asked me if I had taken his photograph. He did not seem very happy. Quite the opposite actually. I saw my cab, disengaged my arm, ran towards the car, jumped in it, and, like in a gangster movie, told the driver to roll out of there.

Some of the domino players appeared actually quite friendly but they sure did not make up for the ones that eyed me suspiciously or the one that was just a nasty meanie.  I was denied the red hot Cuban love I was hoping for so dearly. Yes, I did get some love from the eighty-nine year old dude with the golden teeth who attempted to kidnap me in broad day light but, sincerely, I was expecting something quite different. As in younger and with real teeth.

Calle Ocho is probably a more interesting place to visit the last Friday of each month when the Cubans hold their Viernes Culturales fair.

To close the chapter on Pequena Habana, I saw the dead over there. Playing dominoes. Very amusing.

anthony-quinnAnthony Quinn

hav_028Cuban Anthony Quinn, undead version.

Astonishing, isn’t it? Or is it just me fantasizing again?

note: my friend Dorin saw the Quinn photo and thinks I’m smoking crack. Whatever.

South Breach

Standing on the sidewalk, he crumbles his Starbucks paper bag into a compact ball and throws it in the air.

“Wherever the wind blows us” he says to his companion. The ball lands smack in the middle of the street.

“That way!” he says. They begin to cross the street.

“Excuse me! How about the wind blows you towards the beach instead, eh? Like that I could take cool pictures. What do you say? Yes? Please, pretty please?” Well, obviously I can’t let these two escape without at least trying. I had been eying them for the last half hour on the Starbucks patio, building up the courage to talk to them.

bsobe3_0401Villte and Brother Ra


vsobe3_037Listening to the music of the wind playing the pan flute

Villte was on her way to Peru. I assumed she was hitchhiking her way there but modern hippie chicks take the plane nowadays. Brother Ra… Well, I’m not exactly sure what he was doing in South Beach. An artist from DC (link), he seemed strangely out of place among the rest of us, non-dreadlocked tourists. Still, I can’t imagine Haile Selassie hanging out at Starbucks, eating coffee cake…

Le South Beach hodge-podge finale. Well, not quite final but close.

Too bad I can’t find anyone to finance my street photography activities. The deal would work like this. A very very nice individual would buy me a plane ticket to a destination outside of Dallas (preferably somewhere I can swim and where no one wields a machete), put me up in a hotel that would not have to be a Mandarin Oriental (see, I’m not asking for the moon), and in return I would provide this extremely endearing person with a photographic slice of life from said tropical destination. This arrangement would work particularly well for someone with a fear of flying and who would want to live vicariously through me. Living is something I do really well. I’m just throwing this idea out there. You never know…

Last day of my South Beach mini-vacation before emigrating to Downtown Miami for a couple of days. Last walk on Ocean Drive.

sobe1_007You can’t make noise on Ocean Drive unless…

sobe1_014Unless you attempt to save the South Beach sinners. South Beach is a great place for sinners.

sobe1_0161I think this one is a sinner. If not, I’m volunteering to take him down that path.

sobe1_0371The parrot downing shots? Sinner.

sobe1_056Women in total need of atonement.

sobe22_101Not a nun.

sobe1_059South Beach’s idea of day entertainment: Mango’s

sobe22_102It’s good to know that the repentance people are right across the street.

sobe2_007Moving on… This man has been waiting to get paid for three months. It is however unclear whether he has been waiting three months in this chair. Conversation proved difficult due to the bitterness that comes with not getting paid for three months.

sobe2_0452South Beach cops get to wear cool beach attire and ride funky lawn-mower looking machines.

sobe2_023I have developed a liking to photographing people and their cell phones. Like here…

sobe1_009and there.

sobe2_011These, I just had to photograph for the hair awesomeness

sobe2_015These guys were totally messing with me, a stark contrast from the very well behaved hair ladies.

sobe1_036The Muscle Beach. Some need it more than others.

zsobe1_003Reviewed beach attire, not great for tanning, but definitely beats an SPF 50+

sobe1_005Four days in South Beach and I saw four retirees total. Retiring in Miami must totally be an urban legend. Either that or someone keeps them well-hidden from the general public (or the repentance people got to them and they all moved to Utah.)

I think that when I retire (which is probably never if the markets do not rally to my long and plaintive moans of despair), I would not want to be surrounded by six-packed stud muffins and sixteen year old Brazilian models (photographing these must have slipped my mind – so sorry.)  I’d sincerely prefer to live among the arthritic wrinkly folks attached to oxygen tanks who still want to have a good old time (Utah is out.) Wait until I blog about that!