Wednesday, November 29, 2006

97 Notable Books I Missed in 2006

I know it's been a crazy and strange year when I look at the New York Times list of 100 Notable Books for 2006 and I have only even HEARD of three of them (The Road, by Cormac McCarthy; Clemente: The Passion and Grace of Baseball's Last Hero, by David Maraniss; and State of Denial, by Bob Woodward).

I may have been busy, but I'm glad to see that people have kept writing anyway. All I do is readreadread, but I pledge to read an actual book in 2007.

Above: Allen Ginsberg — as photographed by William S. Burroughs — on the rooftop of his Lower East Side apartment, between Avenues B and C, in the Fall of 1953.

This is a great first paragraph by Walter Kirn that opens the Times review of his collected poems:

"Gay, in the lotus position, with a beard, wreathed in a cloud of marijuana smoke and renowned as the author of a “dirty” poem whose first public reading in a West Coast gallery was said to have turned the 1950s into the ’60s in a single night, Allen Ginsberg embodied, as a figure, some great cold war climax of human disinhibition. Ginsberg, the hang-loose anti-Ike. Ginsberg, the Organization Man unzipped. The vulnerable obverse of the Bomb. He had the belly of a Buddha, the facial hair of a Walt Whitman and — except for the ever-present black glasses that hinted at a conformist path not taken — he was easier to imagine naked than any Homo sapiens since Adam."

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

10 Months Old Today!

...and he's coming to get ya.

Nevada Ave., East LA, March 16, 1940

This is my grandmother, Gram Toni, and my dad when he was a little older than one. I really like this picture. Everyone looks so happy back when East LA had dirt sidewalks and driveways (don't know if the roads were paved yet, but I bet they were).

Monday, November 27, 2006

Hendrix - Band of Gypsys

Does anyone else totally get off on this album the way I do?

Happy Birthday Jimi, wherever you are.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Late November


I had a very rare day off yesterday (thanks Wendy! your turn today!) and I went to see Bobby, the new movie about the assassination of Robert Kennedy. As far as movies go, it was really interesting---good I guess, but with a ton of characters connected only by the fact that they happened to be present at the shooting. Tons of stars, Harry Belefonte, Demi Moore, Sharon Stone, Heather Graeme, Martin Sheen, Helen Hunt, Lawrence Fishbourne, Elijah Wood, etc., etc. Lindsay Lohan caught my eye. I had never seen her in anything other than the tabloids so I didn't recognize her. I wasn't even sure she was an actor. I thought she was just another young drunk celebrity. She was sure sweet in the movie though.

I love anything about Los Angeles in the 1960s, so this movie was cool in that regard. It was also great to hear Bobby Kennedy's words. It's unbelievable to me that a politician in the States could have come so close to getting a presidential nomination by running on such a strong peace and justice platform. His speeches sounded like he picked them right up off the desk of Martin Luther King, Jr. Was this the real Kennedy? You have to wonder what would have happened if he had won the election in 1968.

I kind of wish director Emilio Estevez would have taken the Oliver Stone-slant and done something about the conspiracy theories on RFK's murder. I love conspiracy theories, even if I don't believe a lot of them. But I have serious doubts that Shirhan Shirhan was the only one who shot Bobby. Except for a couple of exceptions (Mark Chapman, John Hinkley, Jr., Squeaky Fromm) I don't believe in the "lone, crazed gunman" solutions. Lee Harvey Oswald, Shirhan Shirhan, Timothy McVeigh---no way any of these guys did what they did alone. You can find some of the doubts about RFK's place here and here and here.

I was seven, but I actually remember that election. A bunch of us kids from Nevada Ave. in East LA went down to hear Jose Feliciano ("Light my Fire" was big that year) open for Hubert Humphrey at an outdoor mall on Atlantic Ave. That was probably during the actual presidential campaign.

The night Bobby Kennedy was shot, my brother and I were living at my BamBea's house in El Monte. I don't remember my parents being around. I woke up early in the morning to Bambea sobbing, buried in a mountain of pillows and psychedelic colours of her bedroom with the TV blaring.

I asked her what was the matter and she said they shot Bobby Kennedy last night. She had been up all night.

Later that morning, I walked to the end of street to wait from my school bus and I saw a German Shepherd get hit and killed by a trash truck. I wondered if there might not be something seriously wrong with that day.

(The photo of RFK is from the very interesting website of Mike Strong)

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Beatniks, Los Angeles 1962

My Mom and Dad. She was 20, he was 23. I was one.

Click it to see full size.


I've been trying to get a picture of Amadisto (left) duplicating this baby picture of me (right), but it's been harder than I thought. Last night Amado was having none of it. He was wiggley and not in a smiling mood, at least until I picked him up off the floor.

Now I have a lot more respect for the Mexican photographer who back in 1962 went door-to-door taking pictures of kids in East LA and selling the portraits to the parents. (That's the story about this picture of me, right Mom?) The drool notwithstanding, he got me to smile and sit still. The fact that somebody combed my hair is an added bonus.

I'll have to keep trying the get the shot before Amado is too old!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Wild Thing

That's it....

...I'm calling a taxi and getting out of this place.

On the Move

These last couple weeks I've been consumed with two things: the launch of, and keeping the critter pictured above from jumping out of his crib, destroying the house by pulling down everything in sight, and falling over and bonking his head!

Amado loves being on the loose these days, crawling all over our apartment and trying to touch, pull, and eat everything he comes across. He's also trying to stand up on his own and gets mad that his little legs won't hold him up. This could be the only thing that is saving us as we hurry to child-proof everything in the house. is only a little less crazy.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

March 16, 1940

I'm still into these old family photos that I just received from my Mom and Irene, so please bear with me....

This is the Amadisto and Gallegos family on March 16, 1940. Noting the presence of the rabbit and how dressed up everyone is, I thought it would have been Easter Sunday, but I checked the date and Easter wasn't for another eight days that year.

From left to right, top row: Probably Pascual Rivas, my great grandmother Rita's uncle; Rita Rivas Amadisto, my great grandmother (her picture from about 40 years eariler is here); and Edward Amadisto, my great grandfather.

From left to right, bottom row: Antonia Gallegos, my "Gram Toni;" the baby Rex Gallegos, my dad; the rabbit; and my grandfather Benjamin Gallegos who went to San Quentin about 1944 for murder. (This is a story that I am still trying to find out more about.)

I guess my grandmother's sister Laura took the picture because you would think she would be there, but she isn't in this picture or any of the others I have from that day.

This is at our family house at 154 Nevada Ave. in East Los Angeles. Four generations of us spent our childhoods in that house, ending with my brother and I. It's the same house you can see behind me in this picture.

Working in the Dark

From Working in the Dark: Reflections of a Poet of the Barrio by Jimmy Santiago Baca:

I inherited this darkness. I am familiar with the ax and hoe, the obdurate silence of dirt that blisters my working hands. Each wound in me is a niche where icon saints champion pain, offering no way out but dreams of heaven. I caress the shovel handle as if it were a child's head whose hair I lightly tousle.

And this dark destiny formed my character. I am the man who didn't want to come home because domestic life was bad, the bill collectors waiting, the future bleak; and I drank to get the devil out of me. And when I spoke, my words left a dark mist on the air.

But darkness is that part of me from which I channel truth into my words, words like a virgin's first blood that stains the white sheets in lovemaking. It demands that I drink from life's bitterness, choking on the nauseous flavor. I hear the ancient resonance of Aztec drums in the stone-floor square, a language of the dead that cracks tombstones and flowers up out of the dirt, and I am consumed in fiery song. Words taken from the darkness are like birth-pain utterances. The sun wants a sacrifice and darkness wields a knife at my heart.

The language of barrio life is made of elemental images. Two birds clash in midair; a man snaps his fingers to a song of love won and lost; the earth trembles, souls change in the daylight dark. This is the poetry I mine, of my people and my place.

My words like spirit-sticks tap out songs, calling upon the darkness to evoke the spirits of our Chicano ancestors---Mayan, Olmec, Aztec, Mexican---and to make of their musics one Chicano song. Their breath, blowing through the hollow flute-shoots of my bones, gives me the song of the blue corn and Rio Grande water and pinto beans and green chile...and carnalismo.

My disinherited people have mated spiritually with horse and mountain, earth and llano winds. They mated with the great mothering darkness from which all life comes, flowing back into it, returning to the beginning to find the light that can reveal what their new beginning will be. We have not lost our darkness, as many cultures have. It is in that place we name ourselves Chicanos. And every bird, every rock, every glistening raindrop of our land call our name back to us.

Darkness anchors its hook in my blood. The great anchor drags my life this way and that. I am gaffed by the flower, raked across the plains, turned over with last year's field stubble; and I arise in my song as new grass in spring.

[AMG: This book is a shooting star shining in the night.....very bright and strong. Check it out!]

Friday, November 17, 2006


My Mom and Irene sent me a whole bunch of family pictures I had never seen before for my birthday. Here's two of me when I was about two-and-a-half years old in East LA. Wonder what I was so dressed up for?

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

You're another year old today....

...okay, don't remind me! This fat little chap was born on this day, many many years ago.....Yes, it's me. I've been trying to get Amado to duplicate this pose so that I could put up a picture of us together at 9 months, but I haven't got a good shot yet.

The coolest thing about this photo is the long string of drool running from my mouth to the floor. Now that's remarkable! (though it may be hard to see at this size, even if you click to enlarge the photo)

Monday, November 13, 2006

Middle Age in East and West

I did a short interview about Emerging Spirit with Mr. T. Sher Singh (above) this afternoon for the program "3D Dialogue" on Omni 2. After years of arranging TV interviews for colleagues and taking them to the studio just to make sure everything went alright, (aka a "handler"), I finally had to do one myself....not that I wanted to, but I did what I had to do ;-)

Even though we were only together for a short time, I was very impressed with Mr. T. Sher Singh. At one point in the interview he asked me a question I found to be very profound. In the East, he said, there is an understanding that a person who is aged 30-45 (which is the demographic our Emerging Spirit initiative is reaching out to) will not participate in religion as they did in their youth and will again when they are old. Instead, this time in their lives is for family and business, and that's expected. Maybe this is what the United Church is experiencing by the relative lack of people in this age range? he asked.

I forget what I answered...we will see in February!.....but his point stuck with me because I am in the age range he referred to and because, especially since our baby was born, I have been so busy I really have had a hard time finding time for my spiritual life. In the East, if Mr. T. Sher Singh is right, this would be expected---it's not seen as a problem. For me, in the West, it just seems like an ominous sign of trouble to come....

You can read more about Mr. T. Sher Singh here.


No hay mejor salsa que un buen apetito.
--dicho mexicano
There's no better sauce than a good appetite.
--Mexican saying

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Working Under the Table

I've been super busy these past few days working with all the stuff related to the aftermath of the launch. Wow! Crazy! Nuts! We got a ton of press in Canada, which has really been amazing and made the ad campaign something of a pop culture phenomemon. The Globe & Mail had a lot of coverage, including two days of political cartoons about it. The ad campaign was on all the major networks and was seen by 5.5 million T.V. viewers. I heard even Rex Murphy commented on it the other night, which most Canadians will know is pretty cool. It's also been picked up a couple places in the States, New Zealand, and Australia. Then we threw in a congregational training for a 100some people on Friday and Saturday just to make things even more fun.

But today it's back to my baby! He's crawling for real now (not just doing the "human-dustmop" thing). He's eating apples....and we're heading to the park right see ya later!

Above: Amado working under the table this morning.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

My Dad's First Job

Today would have been my Dad's 68th birthday. I first saw this picture only a couple of years ago and I really love it. It was taken in April 1952 when my father was 14. I brings me a lot of joy to think that somebody in his family was so proud of my Dad's new job that they went down and took this picture.

This soda counter was at a pharmacy, just a few blocks from our house (my brother and I lived in the same house where my Dad grew up) in East LA. I believe it was at the corner of N. Record Ave. and Brooklyn (now Cesar Chavez Ave.), right across the street from East LA Self-Help Graphics.

Not too many years later after this picture was taken, my Dad would be taking me to the same place and buy me a few Batman and Aquaman comics. Just that little memory brings a smile to my face.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Wondercafe - EZ Answer Squirrel

Here's the video from, featuring E-Z Answer Squirrel. Yes, it's a real squirrel who was trained to offer simple answers to big questions. Check it out and forward it to your friends if you have a chance.

Yesterday was a huge press day for and the United Church's media campaign....way more than we had hoped for. It's raising a lot of discussion about Christianity and the church, which is part of the point of the whole campaign. It's been crazy, but fun...except when crashed a couple of times yesterday because of too many hits (30,000 in about 2 hours...including 3000 hits between 12:00 and 12:02!). That part wasn't so fun. But it's back up now and running fine.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Let's Roll!

The launch is on! Here's an excerpt from a long front-page article in today's Globe & Mail:

"The United Church of Canada is launching the largest advertising campaign ever by a Canadian church in an attempt to spark debate about religious issues and encourage people to come back to the pews."

"The series of advertisements poke fun at some traditions and tackle controversial topics such as sex and gay marriage."

"One includes statues of two grooms on a wedding cake and asks, "Does anyone object?" Another features a can of whipped cream with the question, "How much fun can sex be before it's a sin?" Still another depicts a bobble-head Jesus on a car dashboard and asks, "Funny. Ticket to hell. What do you think?"

"The $10.5-million project, to be officially unveiled today in Toronto, includes advertisements in magazines, community newspapers and on the Internet. It will also include the creation of a website called which will feature discussion forums on a variety of social issues. The church also plans to hold seminars to teach its 3,500 congregations how to be more welcoming to newcomers."

Full article

Monday, November 06, 2006

Amadisto's 9-month Check Up

Amadisto had another check up today with the amazing Dr. Harkamal Randhawa. Here's what she found:

Head: 48 centimeters / 18.8 inches
Length/Height: 78 centimeters / 30.7 inches
Weight: 9.67 kilograms / 21lbs. 4oz.

The poor guy also got the first installment of his flu shot. He has to go back in one month for part two. Unlike when he got his vaccinations when he was younger, he definitely felt this needle! Ouch!

Overall, he's doing very well.....and, in my non-professional opinion, he's a super wiggly boy!

So now we're "Internet experts"! We've been working like crazy getting ready for the big launch of tomorrow. Some of the magazines with the advertising are already should be fun. I hope you all check it out.

From Canadian Press:

The United Church of Canada is launching its new interactive website on Tuesday. The site, developed by the church's Emerging Spirit team of Internet experts, is aimed at connecting with 30-45-year-old Canadians who don't have a faith community but are deeply interested in things spiritual. WonderCafe is a three-year media campaign that also includes a national magazine, community newspaper advertising and a grassroots program.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

I have a book to recommend to Pastor Ted Haggard

I'm not saying the accusations about the evangelical pastor Ted Haggard are true (ok, maybe I am), but something just doesn't seem right about his explanation that he "only bought meth and had a massage" from the gay escort who claims he saw Haggard for sex and drugs once a month for three years.

I'd like to recommend that Pastor Ted check out The Confession by former New Jersey governor James McGreevey. After he was caught in an affair with another man, McGreevey came out as a "gay American," left office, left his wife, and went into counselling.

I saw an amazing interview with him on Larry King just after he returned where he humbly, tearfully explained how terrible it is to live a double life. He looked like a liberated POW or something, broken but now free. He was so heart-breakingly honest, begging people to be "true to who you are."

Obviously, I don't think it's a problem if Pastor Ted is a gay man. I don't think it's a problem if he's a gay Christian minister (I know several). I don't even think it's a problem if he's a gay Christian minister who opposes same-sex marriage (an odd position, but I could imagine it. There are some gay people who don't want anything to do with the institution of marriage).

But it is a problem when you say you're one thing and you live like you're another. In my opinion, this an especially serious problem if one is a spiritual leader who is called to a higher level of authenticity. McGreevey said that his double-life led him into all kinds of degrading situations. It's a lifestyle that is very destructive to oneself and to those around you.

I think most people would have had a lot more respect for Pastor Ted if he had just come out and said he was gay. Sure his life and ministry would have to change---he might find it difficult to remain a politically active conservative Christian evangelist who is chummy with the President---but it certainly isn't the end of the world.

Come on out Pastor Ted. The Lord will still love you.

In God's Country

In this article in the current issue of The Nation, "Eyal Press writes that the secular left errs in casting religious people as its foes. Isn't alienating potential allies and confining ourselves to a small sect of like-minded believers what fundamentalism is all about?"

This is a very good article, more like something I would expect to find in Sojourners, not The Nation. Glad to see some some people wrestling with the issue of religion in America on a deeper level than just echoing tired, old partisan positions.

Here's an excerpt....

"Shortly after John Kerry's defeat in the 2004 election, an e-mail made the rounds among disgruntled Democrats suggesting that the United States be divided into two nations: the liberal coasts (where the educated, open-minded people live) and "Jesusland" (where the zealots reside). The only way to halt the retreat of modernity, it appeared, was for the cosmopolitan blue states to secede from the increasingly intolerant white evangelical heartland."

"One problem with this view is that a large number of evangelical Christians don't live in the Bible Belt. Another is that many of them aren't white. Some years ago, the Chilean-born photographer Camilo José Vergara began taking pictures of places like La Sinagoga, a Latino church located in a run-down neighborhood of junkyards and metal shops in Brooklyn, and Emmanuel Baptist Rescue Mission, which is situated on a corner of Skid Row, Los Angeles, where drug dealers ply their trade. The photographs in Vergara's richly documented, visually arresting book, How the Other Half Worships, illustrate how indelibly religious most poor minority communities in America are, not least because in many blighted urban neighborhoods churches are the only viable institutions around."

" pundits routinely equate biblical Christianity with right-wing politics when African-Americans, 'who are in nearly every respect as religiously conservative as whites,' nevertheless 'vote overwhelmingly for Democrats?' By, it appears, mistakenly assuming all Bible-believing Christians are reactionary white Southerners who write monthly checks to the likes of Jerry Falwell. As a survey by Religion & Ethics Newsweekly found, a majority of evangelicals actually hold an unfavorable view of Falwell. A large number appear to care more about jobs and the economy than issues like gay marriage and abortion..... Most hold views somewhere in the middle. These are the scary inhabitants of 'Jesusland' many analysts wrongly assume march in lockstep with the religious right."

Friday, November 03, 2006

Rita Rivas (1879-1958)

OK, while I'm into it, here is some more family history.

Rita Rivas is my great grandmother on my dad's side. She was the mother of my Gram Toni. Rita Rivas was born in 1879 in Pitiquito, Sonora, Mexico. Her family was from the Mayo tribe. When she was three years old, she came with her parents Francisco Rivas and Antonia Flores Callioux to Anaheim, California. There, her family had some problem with a Catholic priest who wanted to charge them for performing one of the sacraments, so they left the Catholic Church. There was pride in my grandmother's voice when she told me these were the first Protestants in our family (my grandmother was a Missouri Synod Lutheran).

The picture above is from about 1903, when Rita Rivas graduated from a business college in Santa Ana or Anaheim to become the first bilingual female professional secretary in California.

In the anti-immigrant climate of the States, I always said that my family has been in California since the 1750s, which is when Colonel Juan Osuna arrived with Father Junipero Serra. But now that I look at the family tree, I see that almost every generation has somebody from Mexico in it too. Amado Amadisto, Rita Rivas, and Benjamin Gallegos all came to California from Mexico when the border wasn't as militarized as it is now. In fact, for much of that time there was hardly a border at all and families like mine went back and forth as they pleased. That's back when the people and land of California and Northern Mexico were one. It's something I will have to tell my child about.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Day of the Dead

Today is Day of the Dead, a celebration of ancestors by Mexicans, Native Americans, Chicanos and many other cultures. Although hyped up in North America, I don't think there's really any special hoodoo-voodoo about Day of the Dead that people should be afraid of. It's simply a day to lift up the living memory of your family members and friends who have passed on and to celebrate their ongoing presence with you throughout your life. It's a celebration that mocks death because death can never have the final word.

Someday I hope to be able to come up with a more complete list of my ancestors (especially those on my Mom's side), but these are some of my folks I am remembering today.

Joey Andes (cousin) c. 1969-2007
Vaughn Procter II (Uncle Vaughn) c.1940-2004
Vaughn Proctor (grandfather) c.1920-2004
Antonia Gallegos (Gram Toni - grandmother) c.1909-2002
Beki Fuch (Aunt Beki) c.1947-2000
Beatrice Kadau (Bambea - grandmother) c. 1922-1977
Jack Kadau (step-grandfather) c.1912-1973
Rex Gallegos (dad) c.1938-1972
Laura Amadisto (grandmother's sister) c.1912-1962
Benjamin Gallegos (grandfather) c.1909-1959?
Rita Rivas (great grandmother) c. 1879-1958
Edward Amadisto (great grandfather) c. 1879-1952
Jim Maddox (great grandfater) c.?-1936
Amado Amadisto (great great grandfather) c.?-1916
Juana Portilla (great great grandmother) c.?-before 1909
Sosten Portilla (great great great grandfather) c.?
Colonel Juan Osuna (great great great great grandfather) c.?

Significant Others:
Donis Arias - died 2003
Louise Smith - died 2003
Danny Sepulveda - died 2001
Roger Bowen - died 1996
Ginny Earnest - died 1993
Ron Owens - died 1989
Claude Owens - died 1984
Raymond Beard - died 1972

Alice Coltrane - died 2007
Elvin Jones - died 2004
Babatunde "Baba" Olatunji - died 2003
Cesar Chavez - died 1993
Miles Davis - died 1991
William Stringfellow - died 1985
Bob Marley - died 1981
Pablo Picasso - died 1973
Martin Luther King, Jr. - died 1968
John Coltrane - died 1968
Thomas Merton - died 1968
Albert Einstein - died 1955
Frida Kahlo - died 1954
Mahatma Gandhi - died 1948
Wassily Kadinsky - died 1944

Corrections and omissions welcome.