I compared them to Mariachi El Bronx because they also wear the traditional Mariachi outfit and they use the somewhat comically over sized guitarron (played by Lisa Maree Dowling).
But about a minute through the first song, “Let Down” when the three women sing harmony (a wonderful three-part harmony)–it’s already amazing. And it just gets better.
“Let Down” is a slow song sung (in English and Spanish) by Shae Fiol who also plays vihuela (which has a great sound for a tiny four-stringed guitar). The trumpet solo (by Anna Garcia) is great and interesting and the pizzicato violin notes really add character. But when the song suddenly picks up tempo half way through it gets really fun. And then Shae sings the first of several beautiful and amazingly long notes.
The second song is a cumbia called “Dicen.” This one is sung by the violinist Mireya Ramos who says “dont be shy, shake you shoulders “. There’s group harmony and then she gets the audience to sing the chorus “Ay Ay Ay.” The song merges into a verse of “Blue Skies” which makes the song even more fun. Shae sings this part and once again shows off her vocal skills with some more amazingly powerful high notes. And then Mireya really shows off her fiddling skills with a great solo and some dexterous bow work. And then she shows off her own amazing vocal notes–holding an incredibly long note through several octaves with great control.
After those first two songs (16 minutes worth), they do yet another one. This one straight from Mexico (the roots of mariachi) called “Guadalajara.” It opens with great harmony vocals and a cool vihuela strumming until the trumpet announces a good old mariachi song. Shae once again amazes with her high shrieks and calls. And by this time the entire audience (even those of us listening at home) are totally into it.
How do they hold these notes for so long? (Some are around fifteen seconds). It is truly a wonder to behold.
This was only a fraction of the band and apparently when they are all together live they are really something to see.
[READ: January 9, 2015] “The Reptile Garden”
With a name like “The Reptile Garden,” this story did not do anything that I thought it was going to. In fact, when I finished I had to rethink the story to remember why it was even called that. That’s pretty cool (since it works).
The story is set in the fall of 1972. The narrator is a half Native American woman who is going to study at the University of North Dakota. She is very smart but she knows she doesn’t fit in. She chose to study French because she dreamed of going to Paris some day.
She says the white girls listen to Joni Mitchel and grow their hair long, while other girls–Dakota, Chippewa or mixed blood like her were less obvious on campus. Aside from a few who swaggered and had American Indian Movement boyfriends.
So she wound up reading a lot. The library was full of poets and French authors and she read them all until she fell in love with Anaïs Nin. She started to think like Nin–writing journals, reviewing every thought she had and making all trivial details momentous.
She didn’t do much in the way of partying until one day her cousin Corwin came to campus. He put a piece of paper in her mouth and she tripped on strong acid for several days (this is where the reptile garden of the title came from).
The experience (aside from being terrifying) also convinced her that she needed to work as a psychiatric aide. So she found employment at the state mental hospital.
From here the story shifts direction in a major way.
She helped all of the patients–making sure they took their pills and listening when they needed someone to talk to.
And then one day Nonette came into the ward. Nonette was but a few years older than her, and, more importantly, the narrator realized that Nonette looked French which piqued her interests.
Nonette is delighted to have a young woman to talk to. She tells the story of her debasement by her cousin and then says that she wishes she could be a man. The other nurses say that these stories are very common and all have similar themes to them.
But the next time they are alone, Nonette kisses her. And she didn’t resist.
There was nothing strange about it, not then, or at least it was no stranger than the other occasion in which I’d kissed someone for the first time. There was the same thrill, the same hush of attraction and mutual daring. Only she was supposed to be crazy, I was supposed to not be crazy and we were women.
They quickly develop a physical relationship. And the narrator imagines what will happen when they both leave the hospital together some day. But then unexpectedly, Nonette’s parents call on her and say they are going to bring her back home.
This hits the narrator harder than anything that has happened in her life so far. And she wonders how she will ever cope with the news.
I really enjoyed this story–the meandering style and unexpected turns were a real treat, even if the story was pretty dark.