¡Oye! A LAtina perspective on food, fashion, familia and art.

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Mandado a McCabe’s

by Laura E. Alvarez


As a kid my parents called them “mandados”. Essentially, the word translates as errands. Every word has connotations. I imagine a paige in a castle running errands. I see someone going to pick up dry cleaning and super glue. “Errand” originates in the Old English word, ærende, meaning “message, mission.” Yet it doesn’t matter who does the errand. It could be anyone. On the other hand, “mandados”… Is it just me, or does it carry more importance? “Mandar” means to command. It’s almost like what the “mandados” are comes from some higher source. It’s like God commanded you to go to the bank to deposit checks or God told you to go send that package to Mexico. My parents always said “mandados” with this seriousness. You don’t mess with “mandados”. You go respectfully, helping to put all positive energy into this command from God. The whole family would go. My dad would drive, my mom would have important documents and packages in hand, and my brother and I would go along when we were too little to stay home.

Once there, we would observe everything. There were people and there were things and there were things to mess with sometimes. There were things and scenes that might end up in drawings later… or a drawing right there if I remembered to bring a sketchbook.

Some people think learning to experience things completely – be it listening, touching, sensing, looking – is half of being any kind of artist. I remember going for walks with my brother and mom all the time and talking about the gardens. Touching plants, smelling flowers, stealing a strawberry or a cutting to plant later. In the fabric store we touched everything, talked about the colors, textures, weights. “Going for a drive”, my dad would point out trees, rain clouds coming, or what used to be where when he was a kid. Always looking, touching, listening. “Did you hear the waves last night?” The ocean was a mile away but in the middle of the night when all was quiet you could hear them sometimes.

We had a “mandado a” McCabe’s Guitar Shop the other day. There was a broken ukulele string in our midst and a higher source was clearing saying that not another day could go by without that ukulele being played. I mean, we had recently discussed with friends at a kind of ukulele-ish bbq that the playing of these instruments might be part of mankind’s fight against whatever evil is obviously forcing us to do bad things to our planet. Obviously.

A mandado to McCabe’s was a real gem as far as mandados go, and as far as full sensory experiences go. It was a high point of our day. The younger son’s friend was all over the old cash register as soon as we walked in. It felt like we had walked into a workshop, a club, an arts center, a school, and a store. There seemed to be teenage boys everywhere with guitar faces (You know, that face they make when they are playing guitar and you are trying to talk to them?) Were there ukuleles, you ask? There was a ukulele hallway of happiness where the young men in our party descended and stayed for the entirety of the visit. The woman who helped us made us feel like we were the first people to ever walk in and ask for a ukulele string. She generously replaced it herself on the guitar altar, behind which the guitar masters sat full of purpose. The masters clearly knew who they were. They were grounded in fretboards, and necks, and bridges. I tried to play it cool, but it was all too exciting. This was a super mandado. I look forward to the next time we are mandado to go there.

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wearing Hockney at Diego Rivera

First, we immersed ourselves in Hockney at the de Young in SAN FRANCISCO. How we got to the museum will be a whole other post on mistaken locations, unexpected journeys, and the genius of uber. I turned my nose up at uber as recently as two weeks ago, and in five minutes, in a tight pinch I became a devotee. Easy.

I’d been wanting to get to this show since I heard it was opening in October… I’ve been a long time fan of his work, loved his film, A Bigger Picture, and have been particularly interested in what keeps people interested and engaged in the new, in making things, in learning well past age 70… like my dad.

David Hockney is a life-long learner.  In a A Bigger Picture see how at an age when many people might just kick back, he moved back home to Yorkshire, U.K. and took up the Brushes App along with a new series of paintings.  He has long embraced experimenting with technology, so this is nothing new.  However, it reminded me of my dad, excited to get an IPhone in his eighties because he liked the camera… IPhone lessons commenced every Sunday.  The most recent lesson was how to access a Johnny Cash station on Pandora.  He loves it.  Ha!  I get it. Being open to the new, to change, and to being okay with not totally knowing what one is doing are ways in which we can stay young.  Willing to take risks is so Reggio, an education approach that has long guided my teaching and all around living.

David Hockney iPad Drawing printed on six sheets of paper (71 3/4 x 35 3/4 in. each), mounted on six sheets of Dibond,
143 1/2 x 107 1/4 in. overall. © 2013 David Hockney

Like the six year old I toured the almost four hundred works with said, “It’s almost all like fantasy because you’ve never seen a purple tree.”  Yeah.  That’s what I’m talking about.  If you’re going to make art, you might as well take advantage and make stuff up, but that’s just me.  This is why touring major exhibitions with six year olds is so essential.  They should be available at the entrance as private guides… wait, no that’s silly!  They could just do the audio for the headset tours.  Once again, do not, I repeat do not have a kid for the exclusive reason of having them give you tours of major exhibitions.  You’ve got to think these things through.

J Crew girl’s dress 

Who told this nine year old to wear an IPad drawing-like dress to the show?  Was there a memo?  No, just some indigo child fashion psychic powers at work here.  Might as well use those psychic powers for good, right?

This artist is soaking MORE art in at the Diego Rivera gallery post-Hockney.  A fresco in a deserted hilltop gallery at San Francisco Art Institute is just the ticket to balance out the bright screens and colors of a crowded, blockbuster exhibition.  Yes, this is a trip for serious art lovers.  Where a Rivera is like a nice cafe de olla after a Yorkshire dinner.

Ash ‘Babe’ Sneaker

We talked about how Frida used to bring Diego lunch while he worked on this mural… wearing shoes like these.  Okay, she didn’t wear shoes like these, but you couldn’t see her shoes because she had those awesome long skirts on.

The artist also picked up a lovely hat at Goorin Bros. Hat Shop.  But that’s a whole other post as well.  Oh, San Francisco.  So post-rich you are.  It’s a traffic jam of posts!  Stay tuned for more…

The Making of a Fresco Showing the Building of a City (“Making a Fresco”) (1931) is one of four murals in the Bay Area painted by Mexican artist Diego Rivera (1886-1957).


by Laura E. Alvarez

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grown ups need to create TOO!


What do you do when you have to say good-bye to a beloved companion of 18 years?  Apparently, you drink tequila  at 11 in the morning with someone who knows you, won’t judge you and then you get your craft on!




Monday, was a blur to me.  I knew my sweet Shakespeare, my calico kitty of 18 years had taken a turn for the worse.  On just the day before, the vet had informed me of the seriousness of her condition.    



Her diagnosis was in stark contrast to the Happiest Kitty on the Block of the previous year.   She had appeared to have a new lease on life.  With the passing of her dominating roommate last Christmas Eve (yes, Christmas was just around the corner again), she scampered through the house as though a kitten once again. 



I too, had a new lease on life.  After a life altering year, I felt like a phoenix rising from the ashes.  Our lives were parallel in many ways.  She was rescued as a young cat, living on the streets, just old enough to learn the ropes, but didn’t stay there long enough to become hardened to human touch.





The need for sane self expression, camaraderie and of course tasty food, is how I feel safe.  I called some friends over to my house.   We gathered in the dining room around a simple assortment of  salty and creamy cheeses, medjool dates, and decadently drank champagne while getting to know each other.  I do love a good Manhattan or Sazarac, but come holiday time,  bring on a good bubbly, some twinkle lights and I am happy!  I was so thankful to be surrounded by these thoughtful, creative, clever ladies, each with her own story to tell.  Some go deep, some stay protected, some deflect with humor.  But in the end, we all come together for that same bit of nourishment, a feeding for our souls.  We ate, drank, soaked each other in, and then moved on into the studio to create, where it was safe.





With various sized glass jars and colors to choose from, we dove into the vibrant blues, pinks, reds and greens.  Some commanded their projects with ease while others approached with trepidation as if a misstep might leave her (me) with a crappy craft.  Art is a place of safe self expression.  Isn’t it?  I love art and artists.  Unfortunately, artists are often their own biggest critics.  When does that little voice start inside our heads?  Who put it there?  We did not come into the world with it.  As adults we can provide a community for each other where we can be creative and productive without judgement. And if there is silence, it is not uncomfortable, because we are thinking, we are creating





That night I made a simple salad of roasted beets that were so sweet, just like the life I was living for that moment.  I savored the sweetness of life with each bite.  I don’t think that we are so different from our kids.  And, in fact, when I slow down, I learn from my kids.  For some attachment parenting pros that conceit is probably a no brainer (you know who you are), but for some, we have had to make a conscious effort.  For others, this is all brand new.  Whether you have children or not, it doesn’t matter.  As humans, especially women, we need to savor these moments of freedom and vulnerability.  I had huge plans to make a feast for us all.  It didn’t happen.  Honied little bites are what I prepared instead.  That’s all I prepared.  I used what I had, in the time that I had and didn’t make myself crazy trying to “create” under unreasonable time constraints.  Something that I have been known to do in the past.

Later, it came to me that that night the entire ceremony of the day and night was all a learning process.  For those of you already familiar with the Reggio Emilia philosophy, this might be old news (you know who you are), but just like when children find tools within their environment, they can make their environment their classroom.  Children also become active participants within their environment, hypothesizing and finding resolution within their day.  The Santa Monica Farmer’s Market and my kitchen became my classroom and those beets where my tools.  We drank, we ate, we talked.  There was no right, no wrong, no judgment.

– M. Byron Trent