the believer fest 2017

The First Believer Fest: American Dreams

Originally posted April 24, 2017

I had the opportunity to attend the opening night festivities of American Dreams: A Festival, hosted by the UNLV’s Black Mountain Institute and their newly adopted literary magazine, the Believer. It was nice to get out of my head for a few hours.

Panoramic of Red Rock Canyon

I love Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. It’s one of my favorite places in the world, a little slice of heaven twenty minutes from home. You could be on one side of the canyon and see cars on the Loop but never hear them. As soon as I’m able, I plan to get an annual pass.

The readers were wonderful. I kind of wish they had more local talent. There was a pop-up reading I couldn’t attend the night before that did feature local writers so that worked out.

It was a solid cross-section of male and female writers, and people of color and Jim James from My Morning Jacket performed a song for us too. They all reminded me why we do this thing we call writing: it rips open wounds we didn’t even know we had. Hearing them read with the sandstone cliffs of Red Rock Canyon behind them was an amazing idea. It was my first outdoor reading, so that’s a fun memory to put in the bank.

Readers and performers at the inaugural Believer Fest
Readers and performers at the inaugural Believer Fest

I guess my reservations were about the audience themselves. They were primarily white. Nearly every reading I’ve been to, the audience has been white. It makes me second-guess myself when I don’t see myself reflected in the audience. I write about the struggles of my people, but if they’re not coming to these readings, who actually read me?

I hadn’t written anything in a few weeks, so it kind of dribbled out while I sat waiting for the reading to start.

Everybody here is white, middle aged, middle class. White dude next to me is talking about skiing, a perfectly normal hobby, I suppose, for white people with money. Where the brown people at? The unemployed working class, rising up against the bourgeoisie. That’s what I am. Maybe that’s the definition of my struggle, been trying to find what makes sense. I keep wanting to rise but then I fight and I battle past the Boss, and I get there wearing my crown, sitting on the throne and realizing in one swift motion that I don’t belong, won’t ever belong.

Can’t stop. Won’t stop.

But I don’t belong to my people either. They don’t want me. I will always want them to want me but if you’re reading this it’s too late. Young kid behind me is talking about water polo. The fuck? You should be running in the dirt, using your imagination & reading books. Like I did. What childhood is there for these generations after me? Helicopter parents don’t let them wipe their ass without supervision. Why bear a child unto this world, this insanely fucked up world where no one belongs? No one is sitting next to me. There’s a tiny black bug who is moving his spindly little legs as fast as possible away from me. I’m wholly repellant.

I wasn’t able to attend the rest of the events for the festival due to scheduling conflicts.

I think my favorite memory will be the fact that someone forgot what time we were supposed to leave and didn’t have anyone to open the exit gates in a timely manner. Like, no one could get out. Quite a few of us left as soon as the program was over but we all followed each other to each gate, and they were closed! Everyone was pulling U’ies. A few of us realized that the only way to get out was to go through the Scenic Loop.

When I left I was the third car of five. Let me tell you, driving the Red Rock Canyon Scenic Loop in the pitch dark with no lighting and no moon to illuminate the way was very spooky. The park typically closes at eight, depending on the time of the season, so there’s no need for the maintenance of light poles in the Loop. I suppose I could have driven back to the Visitors’ Center to strongly encourage the staff to open the gates, but I thought, I’m already in my car. Might as well keep going.

Thankfully, I only live about twenty minutes away, so it wasn’t that big of a deal to go through the Loop. You know me; I love driving, but only under safe conditions. I definitely don’t recommend driving around in the dark of a desert night with no phone reception, unless you know where you’re going. I would not have done that if I were visiting from out of town. No sirree Bob. I would’ve escaped back to the Visitors’ Center to freak out haha.

love, peace, and adobo grease, Guilliean
love, peace, and adobo grease, Guilliean
Photo by Cristian Newman on Unsplash

Mrs. Bumblebee

Over cinnamon apple tea,
technicolor pictures galore,
she dreamed of her lover,
and so much more.
I was a starving artist,
oil streaked carnations, arm's reach.
I danced with peasants,
and ate with kings.
The rustle of the quail song,
Pounding against the riverbed.
The opera of the nightengale,
to usher in a peaceful slumber.
Tributes of the birds, the bees,
of emptiness and the trees,
and my lover's calls.
I spoke layman's words
but dreamt of a space
at the dais of the demagogue.
I used to scrawl carelessly,
painted his portrait a thousand times
- or maybe just his smile.
I cry out in my light sleep,
I tell that girl everyday,
asking why God had to have His way.
One day the rain fell as thick as black oil,
as dark as my work-in-progress on the soil.
Asking him to stay, he faded away
A kiss of fog on a sunny day.
I sketched him with my hands,
I sculpted the wound with my feet,
I molded the lust in vanilla beats.
In this rocking chair,
I mumbled into the night,
until the voices told me
to take flight.
I stopped at this door,
craving to paint more,
of the lover I lost long ago.
Over oatmeal cookies,
acrylic paint galore,
I lecture on my lover,
and so much more.
love, peace, and adobo grease, Guilliean
love, peace, and adobo grease, Guilliean
Viva Elvis

Viva Elvis (Aria)

Originally posted April 24, 2010

I enjoyed the show, only because I love Elvis as a pop culture icon. I do like the fact that Cirque de Soleil produced the show specifically for Vegas. I think the joining of the two was a great idea.

However, the show might’ve played better if this was thirty – or even twenty – years ago. Watching it reminded me that no one like him represents Vegas anymore. We don’t have iconic, bombastic figureheads as we did in the old days. It’s a nameless, faceless place. It’s been driven by the corporate overlords for years.

If Viva was playing at another hotel, it might’ve made for a perfect vibe. Experiencing the warm, colorful nostalgia of the show, and then experiencing the cold, unfeeling post-modern CityCenter made my stomach drop. The dichotomy of the two themes are a recipe for disaster.

Another show could do well in Aria’s showroom, not Viva Elvis. An abstract Cirque show, not this fun, breezy representation of the juggernaut that is Elvis.

I’m editing this to add that Viva Elvis closed about two years after I originally wrote this review, due to low ticket sales. I figured as much. Zarkana – another lovely Cirque production – took its place, until Aria decided to do away with a house show and focus on their convention center. Things don’t last long unless they’re making someone money. That’s the state of affairs here in Vegas.

love, peace, and adobo grease, Guilliean
love, peace, and adobo grease, Guilliean
rosemary's baby

Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

Rosemary’s Baby is a movie everyone assumes you’ve seen if you claim to be a student of film. I don’t think I’ve ever discussed it in casual conversation. I spoiled myself silly years ago because of random Wiki surfing. However, I never deigned to sit down & watch it until my 31 Days of Fear inaugural film festival.

I won’t say much that hasn’t been said before from a filmmaking perspective. No point in rehashing what the critics have said. Most likely I would end up agreeing with them. It plays well and isn’t terribly dated. Apparently it was a faithful adaptation. I won’t mention its director either, all things considered.

From a feminist perspective, I think it’s a powerful film that preys on a woman’s worst fear: the ownership of our bodies. They are used to create life. We are biologically created to carry a child to term, whether it actually happens or not. Who truly knows what kind of life we’re creating? Will the kid be evil, will it be a saint? We simply don’t know. We’re vessels. We have to trust in whatever higher power – if we believe in that sort of thing – that the child we created will be okay from beginning to end.

Buy the movie!

The destruction of Rosemary is a fascinating story as it unfolds. From the horrible night that she conceived to the actual birth drives home what feminism has been fighting for since the beginning of consciousness: my body is my own. We shouldn’t have to fear its use for demonic purposes, for political gain, or anything of that sort. We shouldn’t have to fear it at all. It shouldn’t be a weapon. It should simply be allowed to be without labels, without laws, without borders.

The theme of helplessness with the female body is wrapped up in a supernatural horror film. It could have been a drama, could have been a science fiction film, it could have been anything. Imagine for a moment that we removed the supernatural bits and stripped it down to a sketchy pregnancy. The fear remains.

A young mother fears for her life during her first pregnancy, one that she didn’t have any say in from conception. No one wants to hear what she has to say about her body. She knows something is wrong: the cravings are unusual, she is losing weight and has become sickly pale. You’ve got a male obstetrician who refuses to address your concerns, and your husband refuses to agree to a second opinion and seems entirely wrapped up in his own shit to worry about you. That’s powerful stuff, no matter how you frame it.

In the immediate moments of finishing up the picture, my knee-jerk reaction was: I really don’t want kids if this is something I am going to need to worry about. I then realized I was being silly, and that life will march on despite any reservations we may have about it. Women not being in control of our bodies is a very real issue today, and that is what we should take away from this picture. Rosemary’s Baby was screened in 1966. The disgusting truth is that we still have reason to fear the forces that are supposed to protect us during a pregnancy in 2013.

This is why I love watching movies, making my own movies and daydreaming about them all day long. The good ones get under your skin and make you think. That’s all a creative mind should strive for: getting under someone’s skin to draw them out of their comfort zone. Art isn’t pretty. It’s not safe. It should you rip you to your barest, basest instincts, whether you’re producing it, or consuming it. Tearing down the walls we build to protect ourselves from each other is what makes being a creative person worthwhile.

love, peace, and adobo grease, Guilliean
love, peace, and adobo grease, Guilliean
Rachel Weisz as Caroline Santiago

Center Stage

  • Rating: PG-13
  • Category: Humor/Action.
  • Summary: A notorious freelance agent returns to the Agency’s stratosphere, which causes people to question her allegiance.
  • Timeline: Mid-season 2.
  • Disclaimer: The Invisible Man characters belong to their respective entities. Made-ups are mine and mine alone.

It was a typical day at the Agency. Darien Fawkes had just gotten his shot of counteragent and Alex Monroe was already in the Official’s office waiting for Darien and Bobby Hobbes to get news about their new assignment.

“So what’s the deal, boss?” Hobbes asked the Official.

“Eberts!” Charlie barked.

Continue reading →
let me tell you by shirley jackson

Let Me Tell You: New Stories, Essays, and Other Writings by Shirley Jackson

I’ve always sought out stories about families – by birth or by choice – over the years.

I’m talking about Shirley Jackson’s “Let Me Tell You: New Stories, Essays, and Other Writings.” I found myself commiserating with her stories about her family and the goofy stuff they’ve had to suffer through together.

Even something as silly as who left the hose out.

I got to thinking why I gravitate towards stories about fictional families and not-so-fictional ones.

Buy the book!

Is there a universal truth about being a part of a family? Not that I don’t enjoy stories about orphans – though there is always a glut of those. But I think it’s because everyone has a story to tell.

I didn’t have the idyllic family life like Ms. Jackson and her husband gave to their kids. I won’t comment on the destruction of their marriage, because that’s not what the book is about.

All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.’

Leo Tolstoy

I grew up in a military family. There were long stretches where Dad was over there. Wherever over there happened to be. He couldn’t be there for my birth; he was on the ice in Antartica.

What hits me like a ton of brick about this collection is that all families are the same. No matter what your station. You have the annoying older brother, girly-girl kid sister, the dog who slobbers on your things, and you happen to also live in a creaky old house that moans and creaks during windy days.

I enjoyed this collection immensely. It gives you a peek into the mind of a brilliant writer. It shows her writing process in bits and pieces and how the bits and pieces of a mundane family life influenced the work of hers that we know and love.

love, peace, and adobo grease, Guilliean
love, peace, and adobo grease, Guilliean
mission santa clara, santa cruz, san juan bautista, soledad

Mission Santa Clara, Mission Santa Cruz, Mission San Juan Bautista, Mission Soledad

The one thing I miss about Northern California is the ability to do day trips. It’s so easy to get in your car, be in the mountains, be in the farmland, be in the ocean, be in Disneyland, be in the desert, all within hours of each other. I don’t miss the commute during rush hour though. Not ONE bit.

One of my goals in life is to visit all the missions in California, which I did a big chunk of them with my friend A and T during various trips back as well as when I lived there. I went solo to Mission Santa Clara and took my mother on the last leg of Northern California missions, which covered Mission Santa Cruz, Mission San Juan Bautista, and Mission Soledad.

Mission Santa Clara

The exterior of Mission Santa Clara
The exterior of Mission Santa Clara

Mission Santa Clara is located on the campus of Santa Clara University. The college grew around the mission. Finding it was easy and I parked across the street, so it was free, as was the admission.

My only sadness is that there isn’t an official gift shop; there’s a campus bookstore that has some mission-related items, but they were closed for the semester when I went to visit.

Rose garden at Mission Santa Clara
Rose garden at Mission Santa Clara

Santa Clara was pretty. My favorite area was the rose garden. Per the page on the SCU website:

The walled-off Rose Garden adjacent to the Mission Church is not accessible to the public, and commemorates the thousands of Ohlone, Californios and Rancheros who are still buried here. You can view the Rose Garden Cemetery from the old porch steps.

Their shrines within the worship space were some of the loveliest I have seen so far. They were bright and colorful and inviting. It had a huge ceiling. I grew up in a humble parish, St. Jude’s in Ceres, and it was a working-class church. Low ceiling, warm, earthy colors throughout. What I’ve always appreciated about the missions is their embrace of the Spanish style with bright colors and sharp architecture. Santa Clara looks humble from the outside, but inside is a frieze of colors. I really enjoyed that aspect.

Mission Santa Cruz

Exterior of Mission Santa Cruz
Exterior of Mission Santa Cruz

Mission Santa Cruz was a short drive from San Jose. I will never get over the twists and turns of Highway 17, but it’s the shortest way to get into Santa Cruz. Admission was free as is parking, although as with most Bay Area locations, it’s first-come, first-serve. Bear in mind that Santa Cruz Mission State Historic Park is different from the Holy Cross Church/Mission Santa Cruz buildings that we visited. There is a lovely little plaza/park in front of the Holy Cross Church, and the area is surrounded by houses. I think that would be a cool place to live, to be able to walk to church.

This mission is unique in its history because it’s been rebuilt several times. Since this is only a replica, there really isn’t much to see. Their back garden is small and intimate, with a fountain, a statue of Padre Serra, and a statue commemorating the citizens of Santa Cruz who served in World War II. There is also a strange statue of a native coming out of the ground. It was strange because of the look on his face. He looked happy. Considering what we know of the enslavement of the natives, I don’t agree with the statue being there. But who am I? I’m nobody.

Mission San Juan Bautista

Welcome sign for Old Mission San Juan Bautista

Mission San Juan Bautista was a lovely location. There was so much to see and do there. You could probably take at least half a day, or make a whole day of it and explore the downtown area. We visited on the weekend of their Santa Run, so parking was super limited. We had to drive around a few times before I found a place. Admission is $4 for adults, and they gave my mom the senior discount.

I think San Juan Bautista ranks up there as one of my favorite church spaces. Their altar is humongous and eye-popping, but in its entirety, it still feels intimate. It needs a lot of work so they are doing it little by little. I donated what I could in my coin purse because there is a lot of promise in what they’ve restored and what they’ve got planned. I hope they’re able to restore it fully.

The Stations of the Cross

Their garden was probably one of my favorite things to experience. It had a lot of native plants and roses. What I loved about it was that they put the Stations of the Cross in an area of their garden. I had never seen that before, and I think it was an awesome use of the space.

Take a walk on El Camino Real

Another cool thing about San Juan Bautista is The San Andreas Fault Exhibit and El Camino Real Earthquake Walk. It is a small monument represented by a brass plaque placed in this location in 1979 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the U.S. Geological Survey. It was kind of cool to walk on it, just to say you did. I mean, yeah, I’ve driven on the San Andreas Fault by virtue of living in the Bay, but that doesn’t replace actually walking on it.

Mission Soledad

Sign for the mission.

Mission Nuestra Señora de la Soledad (Our Lady of Solitude) was my absolute favorite of the ones I visited on this trip. Admission is free and parking is plentiful.

Exterior of the Mission Soledad

To me, this is the most remote of the missions. It’s really far out there. Since I haven’t visited the missions farther south yet, I can’t say if they are as remote as Soledad is. I always equated the Soledad area with its prison, which we did pass by on the way to the mission. There is a lot of work that needs to be done. When you see white adobe walls at a California mission, you know that’s where the borders are. Due to its initial abandonment, neglect, and lack of funds, Soledad doesn’t even have that. Apparently, you can still find bones of the natives, and they actually had to put up a sign asking people not to pick them up. How sad.

Please honor the request of the Native Americans and DO NOT pick up or move any bones. Thank you.
Please honor the request of the Native Americans and DO NOT pick up or move any bones. Thank you.

What also sets Soledad apart is that instead of a statue of Jesus or another saint on the altar, it is simply Mary, Our Sorrowful Mother of Solitude. You think you’ve seen every side of the Virgin Mary as a cradle Catholic, and then it takes a short visit to a rural California mission to tell you that you haven’t. Seeing this side of Mary was extremely humbling.

Altar at Mission Soledad.

I’m glad I was able to see this leg of missions before I left NorCal. It was fun to experience with my Ma because for all the time that she lived in the Bay Area, she was never a tourist. Another fantastic memory about this trip is that she found a really nice statue of St. Anthony (who is next on the list of missions and my maternal grandmother’s favorite saint) at Mission Soledad. It was made in Italy, and Mom talked the gift shop lady down something like $10 because of some dings. I need to learn her haggling ways. It sits on our garden shrine now.

love, peace, and adobo grease, Guilliean
love, peace, and adobo grease, Guilliean
Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Mon Coeur

Où est mon coeur?
Il est dans les yeux bruns à mon amant.
Pourquoi est-ce qu'il est parti à chez moi?
Ma peau fait froid sans il.
Je penche ma tête dans une prière
pour mon coeur revient à moi.
J'entends la voix de mon petit coeur
de temps à autre.
J'entends l'amour, la patiènce, la force ...
mais le soupçon aussi.
J'avais oublié le soupçon.

Where is my heart?
It is in the brown eyes of my lover.
Why did he have to leave me?
My skin is cold without him.
I bow my head in prayer
for my love to return to me.
I remember the voice of my lover
from time to time.
I remember the love, the patience, the strength,
but I remember the suspicion too.
I had forgotten about the suspicion.

love, peace, and adobo grease, Guilliean
love, peace, and adobo grease, Guilliean
eh, eh, nothing else i can say about 2010

Eh, Eh Nothing Else I Can Say About 2010

My top 10 played songs of 2010, according to last.fm.

  1. Alejandro by Lady GaGa
  2. Telephone (featuring Beyoncé) by Lady GaGa
  3. Happy Hour by Cheryl
  4. Eh, Eh (Nothing Else I Can Say) by Lady GaGa
  5. All I Wanted by Paramore
  6. Chess by Alphabeat
  7. Ruby Blue by Róisín Murphy
  8. Only You (Take Me Away) (featuring Kidz in the Hall) by Nina Sky
  9. Undisclosed Desires by Muse
  10. DJ by Alphabeat
love, peace, and adobo grease, Guilliean
love, peace, and adobo grease, Guilliean
winchester movie

Winchester (2018)

I have been keeping up on the press for the movie since it was announced. I almost went so far as to watch the premiere at the actual Winchester Mystery House. That meant touring the mansion, enjoying a reception, and then walking across the street to CineArts on Santana Row to watch it. I’m a huge fan of Mrs. Winchester. I’ve owned annual passes to the House over the years. It’s one of the best examples of Queen Anne architecture that survives to this day.

I really enjoyed it. It took generous liberties with Mrs. Winchester’s story, but who’s to say this stuff couldn’t have happened? Maybe I’m drinking the Kool-Aid, but I do think she had a connection to the ghosts. I mean, wouldn’t you feel that guilt eventually too?

For those who don’t know her story, Mrs. Sarah Winchester married into the Winchester Repeating Arms Company family. Her husband and daughter died, and she inherited her wealth upon his death. Her doctor recommended that she move from the East Coast to the West Coast. She settled in San Jose, California for its Mediterranean weather, which helped her persistent health issues.

She felt possessed by ghosts and spirits who were killed by the Winchester, and thus became the start of her exceptional story. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, save for holidays, Mrs. Winchester had workmen building and then breaking down what they built, based on her seances with ghosts. It wasn’t all that bad. Most of them lived on-site, brought their families. It was good work for the 19th century going into 20th century America. The house itself is a technological marvel of the time. She used the latest tech, stuff we take for granted today. I can’t even list them all here!

Buy the movie!

The film itself had the appropriate amount of horror and thriller, without being too corny or too over the top. I’m not one for out and out gorefests in my horror flicks, and Winchester filled that need. Horror’s not supposed to be just slapstick jump scares for horror’s sake, it’s supposed to reflect the darkness of human nature, make us uncomfortable, make us question reality.

The plot itself took the standard approach of bringing an outsider into an established universe, which is what Jason Clarke’s Dr. Eric Price does. The Winchester Repeating Arms Company engages his services to address the mental stability of Mrs. Winchester. Price had an interesting backstory, and it played out wonderfully on-screen.

I loved Helen Mirren as Mrs. Winchester. The real Mrs. Winchester is actually much shorter than Helen; she barely cleared 4 feet, if memory serves me correctly. That’s why there’s a staircase in the house with impossibly small steps. I had hoped they would address that, but again, artistic license. I’m cool with that.

I already knew the villain was a villain because of the way he was lit in one scene. I won’t say anything else, but look out for that.

I loved how they incorporated actual bits of the house, such as the Tiffany windows, the Shakespeare windows in the ballroom, the rooftop, the kitchen, the Door to Nowhere, the beautiful entryway, the spiderwebs. There’s so much more they missed. So honestly, if your interest was piqued by the movie, take a trip to see the actual house. You won’t be disappointed.

All in all, if you’re looking to have a fun night out, give Winchester a shot. It’s not a perfect movie, but it was an enjoyable way to give you a glimpse into the source material.

Bonus

My favorite pics of the Winchester I’ve taken over the years. Enjoy!

love, peace, and adobo grease, Guilliean
love, peace, and adobo grease, Guilliean