Tuesday, December 25, 2007

HAPPY CHRISTMAS: Ramen Noodles Wisdom in Las Vegas

HAPPY CHRISTMAS to one and all... wherever you are, whatever situation you are in, whoever you’re with—PEACE AND LOVE TO Y’ALL!

SO THIS is Christmas and what have we done?
Well, I’m just about back on the groove of doing things, “madman” things, again... Hubris and stupor are kept on the background, and life starts to rock anew. Thank God.
To those who don’t know it yet, me and my friend Marta The Nicer are now officially “two ramen noodles months old” in Las Vegas this week. Fear and loathing in the desert, exactly. In fact, it’s more “loathing,” in the past few weeks before the holidays. My last attempt at reconciling with my next-of-kin (by way of my brother) – devout Catholics, dogmatic “Filipinos” – in Nevada and the West Coast failed, miserably. For the nth time, I felt like I was trapped in the Grand Inquisition. (So you know now why I named my column, “Like a Rolling Stone” – “no direction home,” indeed. “Home” is Manila and Asheville, that’s right—and, one day, I’ll be home again.)
But it’s over now, the loathing—I mean. I am “free” again.
Now, the good news.

IN THE past month, I have been kept busy—frantically writing (like my gonzo hero, Hunter S Thompson?)—this time, as journalist for Philippine News (PN), covering Las Vegas, Reno and Los Angeles, up to most of South CA. PN is the oldest (47 years old) and largest Filipino-American broadsheet newspaper that is circulated all over the US and elsewhere. We are talking about four million Filipinos in America—although non-Filipinos read/subscribe to the paper, as well.
This week, I scored a scoop, when I obtained a 23-year old court document that listed all seven accused Catholic priests who raped/molested a (then-) 16 year old parishioner, Rita Milla, in LA (from 1978 to 1984). Celebrity lawyer Gloria Allred handles Ms Milla’s case. All the other papers and news bureaus—including CNN and Los Angeles Times—didn’t report about details of the other accused, esp. the full names/identities of all seven priests. Covered-up in more than three decades, until Milla/Allred won last Dec 12. The Catholic Archdiocese of LA is the biggest and most powerful in America—for 23 years, this case got buried. For details,
One of my bigger stories also includes coverage of the 3-city (LA, DC, Frisco) media briefing on race relations, sponsored by the New America Media. This came in the light of a column piece that came out in a Frisco-based Korean paper with the title, “Why I Hate Blacks.” This developed as more blacks-Hispanics gang riots envelope LA; two weeks ago, another shooting in the predominantly Latino/Afro-American neighborhood in Mojave, north Vegas rocked the city. I am currently trying to gather data for an in-depth story on Asian/American gangs (eg Sigue Sigue Sputnik, OXO etc).

BUT IT’S not all police beat or rape cases for me though. I am also covering shows at The Strip—right at the heart of Sin City, USA. I just interviewed a Filipino performer, Ciara Sotto, who’s headlining a multi-million dollar dinner gig at The Sky this February. And I’m doing a review of another show at Flamingo’s next week. Meantime, I have been talking/interviewing “sequined demigods” on Valentinos, Dries Van Notens and Comme Des Garcons, dining at Smith & Wollensky or Wynn Las Vegas—for those “obligatory profile stories.” (I just had a free dinner of spicy miso lotus ‘chips’ with tuna, excluding Dom Perignon, at Nobu at Hard Rock, the most expensive sushi restaurant in Vegas, mind you. Tell me how much is a dinner’s worth at Nobu for one person? $350. I could’ve just asked for that cash to cover for our late car payment, you know...)
This “high stakes/high life” is so “unreal and absurd” in my own little impoverished world but then, just watching these incendiary spirits, spending few hours with them, offer me many ideas to write about. (I may have an entire collection of “desert stories” before I even finish my novel.)
On the “glamour” side of my new, reacquired journalist’s life—I’m also trying to nail down an LA interview with Metallica’s lead guitar, Kirk Hammett, and fashion designer Monique Lhullier—both half-Filipinos. (But, honestly, I’m more into the Asian gangs story.) Also, I just did a two-part “Asian gamblers in Vegas” story, and I am hoping to write a 3-part “homeless souls and aging hippies at Venice Beach, CA” series by end of January.
Please check all these stories on
www.philippinenews.com For unedited versions, I’ll be cataloguing them in a separate blog site.

TODAY IS Christmas, right?
Believe it or not, I almost forgot. I am here listening to The Who’s Roger Daltrey admonishing, “We don’t get fooled again!” Marta The Nicer is at work—at the Popcorn Chicago store at the Stratosphere Casino/Hotel (sometimes she’s at Circus Circus and Bellagio’s). She just called saying that she just passed through The Strip’s traffic, no sweat. Marta doesn’t get lost anymore...
We now live in a quieter apartment complex in the west side of Vegas, beside Southpoint and Silverton casinos, overlooking the freeway leading to California. I can see the sun set from the east... Believe it or not, I wasn’t allowed to hang old Traveling Bonfires posters in our old apartment that my brother got me when we arrived here; I wasn’t even allowed to wear my earrings! My relatives actually believe that I lost my religion and joined a voodoo cult in Asheville! But now, man—I just posted/hanged Bonfires posters on our walls. Very cool!
Oh well, I was thinking of spending my New Year’s night at Fremont/downtown’s block party which will feature The Doobie Brothers and Bangles, but poor as I am, I can’t even afford the $60 entry fee. (I get paid on a monthly basis—which will come first week of Jan.) No problem—I am anticipating a better year.
The publishers and editor of Philippine News expressed interest in having me as the paper’s Las Vegas and LA bureau editor (good/better salary plus free housing). So maybe when I get paid, I can at least watch magician Lance Burton at Monte Carlo or the Cirque du Soleil. But no Nobu dinners for me, please.

I HAVE been immersing myself, as well, with the local poetry scene. I read poetry at a small cafe on the eastern side of the city, called ReJAVAnate Cafe, every Tuesday and Sunday nights (when I am free). I met pretty cool souls out here—diverse spirits, hear that? Two of the local poetry organizers, Mary L Carter and Megan Milligan, also contribute photographs to my PN coverages, by the way...
But the scene is kinda caught in turbulence lately, nothing serious though. There’s been heated discussion between the “poets who slam or poets who memorize their stuff”/eg performance poets against those who simply climb up the stage and read their stuff (like yours truly). Flash vs content? The tempest came up following a recent local version of Slamfest at ReJAVAnate Cafe and Caesar’s Palace—when organizers disqualified poets who read their work.
Passions, you know.
Whatever the case, I am organizing three Traveling Bonfires shows by the first quarter of 2008: a “peace-themed” poetry reading at ReJAVAnate Cafe, a poetry reading with Asian/American (and American) students at UNLV, and a rock gig somewhere (most likely in Alameda near LA).
Depends on how/when money comes, I will definitely resurrect The Indie by late Jan or early Feb—but more of a “selectively national, pulp rag.” I already hooked up with an inexpensive printing press based in LA’s Chinatown.
In between, I plan to spend at least seven days at a Navajo reservation near Flagstaff AZ or at a beach flat near Ventura County in South CA . All these drunken neons and spaced-out lights of Las Vegas can overpower sometimes, you know. A little break should help.

LASTLY, before I forget, I’d like to congratulate my friend, Sarah Blackman (AKA Ophir Drive) for landing in Billboard’s chart for adult contemporary, adult top 40 (for 2007). Imagine, an act that I used to book (in New York, and lastly in Durham NC) made it to Billboard? At number 9 on that category, via her “Harmonic Half Life” piece; other “stars” on the top ten: (3) Mary Chapin Carpenter, (5) Suzanne Vega, (6) Ricky Skaggs & Bruce Hornsby, (7) Alanis Morissette, (10) Josh Groban.
So! As ever, live good, love good, and eat only good food.

Desert Meadows Apartments, Unit #244
Ensworth Street, Las Vegas NV
5:22pm / 12.25.07


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