I BRING YOU GIFTS!!! (and more)

So, I get this concerned email from some dude named Tomas in reference to a little Q&A that our Papi Chulo answered the other week for the LA Times in which he named “Mana, Ana Gabriel, Aventura, Banda Limon, Los Bukis, Vicente Fernandez, Reik, Camilla, Wisin y Yandel, Shakira” and the like as his favorite kitchen soundtrack.

Apparently, he thought that Chef Roy was a little too cool to be listening to KLVE isn’t exactly the coolest thing to do, concerning Latin music.  (PLEASE DON’T TELL THAT TO ANY OF OUR COOKS IN THE KITCHEN.)  That KLVE is akin to listening to KOST 103.5/KBIG 101 (both of which hold a soft spot in my daddy’s heart and hence both of which I hold some affection for).

To which I argued should I feel sheepish???  Should I feel embarrassed for also really, REALLY digging the classic 90s rock ballads of Mana?  For loving the poppy, disco-tech sounds of Miranda?  For having bopped my head to some of Manu Chao’s more popular tunes?


And to prove his point, he provided me a link to THIS Nacional Records, The New Sounds of Latin Music Vol. 2, an entire album of music that could be downloaded for absolutely FREE.  And it wasn’t 30-second snippets of their favorite tunes, but ENTIRE SONGS FOR FREE-99.

For a hot second, my torrent-hungry heart was singing “Yo ho, yo ho a pirate’s life for me!”

Granted, I noticed that in Tomas’ email signature, it said “Nacional Records,” so it’s part of his job as an intern to push this stuff, but honestly, I have a hard time resisting anything that ain’t bootleg that’s for free.  It’s like my mom always says, “Food always tastes better for some reason when it’s free.”

We spent a lot of our afternoons at Price Club during the 80s.

But I recognized that this intern, Tomas, was really earnest and super passionate about what he was talking about, so we chatted via email while I went about downloading the entire thing to listen to later.

So there we were, shootin the sh*t on a lazy Friday morning when he talked about how “in his youth” he had survived the streets of Manhattan.  I thought, “Oh, cute.  ‘In your youth.  How OLD are you, 22??'”

Turns out he grew up in NYC in the 70s and 80s.  To which I thought, “Oh, wow.  So you’re one of them older interns.  Wow.  You must be REALLY passionate about this record label!!!”  Which endeared him to me and made me all the more determined to listen to this little music compilation and watch out for the “currently cool” latin sounds he was sending our way.

He also then sends me a link to an LA Weekly article about Nacional Records.

I click on it to give it a good read.

I notice that the article opens with “Tomas Cookman, founder-president of exotic indie imprint Nacional Records, is nothing less than a self-propelled phenom.”

And then I look back at his emails.  And there it was “Cookman, Tomas” in his email signature.


So passionate, earnest, intern Tomas, turns out to be passionate, earnest indie record label founder/president Tomas Cookman.


These kinds of things tend to happen to me.  This whole time, I was talking to him like he was a young kid, and you know how you talk when you talk to young kids.  You get all big-brotherly, big-sisterly in your tone of voice.


So aside from being impressed that the actual founder and president of a record label sought out to “improve” Papi’s taste in Latin music, I thought it was really cool of him to actually shoot really quick back-and-forth emails all Friday morning in regards to schooling us on taste in a very well-meaning way.  As far as he knows, I’m also some lowly intern working for Kogi.  (LITTLE DOES HE KNOW…)  But yeah.  Yesh.  Had to share that with y’all.

I STILL LIKE MANA AND VICENTE FERNANDEZ, but I’m open to listening to other stuff that’s not on payola.

And, having listened to most everything at least once, I’ve got to say… and I’m not just saying this cuz I was given the head’s up directly by the label founder/president, but really, I’ve got to say that it’s a really solid compilation of music.

And not even “Latin music,” but just music in general.


You know how it goes.  There are 24 songs to get through and possibly 2 or 3 gems worth hanging onto.  It’s like digging through records in a 99-cents bin.  A lot of trash to sort out, a few to set aside to see if they’re salvageable and then one, maybe two, REALLY AWESOME FINDS.  And all of this takes a good hour or four.

Again, I’m not all super “cultured” and into music, but yes, once upon a time, I dated a musician whose main staple was constructing beats, so spending our days digging through records and other free-99 together-activities was part of our dating repetoire.  (BTW, he was NOT a singer.  And as far as dating goes, I would WARN people dazzled by singers and front men to STAY AWAY.  It’s just a lot of self-made suffering and drama that nobody needs to deal with.  REALLY.)

He was a really beautiful person with a really beautiful heart.  Siiiiigh.  Memories!


And if you don’t think you have the patience to download every single track and find my questionable taste somewhat trustworthy, I’ll give a brief run-down of my favorites:

“Vamos Ya” — If you’ve heard Kanye’s “Touch the Sky,” then you are familiar with the uplifting sounds of Curtis Mayfield’s “Move on Up,” whether you’re aware of it or not.  From what I’m getting from giving Los Fabulosos Cadillacs’ “Vamos Ya,” Curtis Mayfield’s “Move On Up” has been given a bumpin summer beach party makeover.  I thought “Move On Up” was pretty upbeat, but Los Fabulosos Cadillacs punches it up further in this update of a 1970 classic.

“Chau” — I dig it!

“‘BabyRock’ Rock” — I haven’t listened to Japan’s SuperCar lately, but if they came out with a smashing new sequel to “High Vision” and “Futurama,” I’d love for this track to be on it.  It’s an updated version of a lot of the Japanese electro-pop music I was into in college.  Only warmed up with more organic sounds, like accordion and a tall glass of sunshine and whimsy.  REALLY GREAT STUFF.  PLEASE DOWNLOAD THIS AND FALL IN LOVE WITH IT TOO.

“Blackbossa” — DJ Bitman.  He’s adorable.  Give it a listen yourself.  For some reason it makes me feel like doing the two step to a bossanova beat.

“De Momento Abril” — La Bien Querida.  I really like this song!  Partly because it’s called “De Momento Abril” and it reminds me that my birthday’s coming up.  (APRIL 10th.  MARK YOUR CALENDARS, PEOPLE. VIVA LAS ARIES!!!!11oneone) Also partly cuz it’s just really… good.  Even though I can’t catch 50% of what she’s singing about — ROSETTA STONE, I MUST CONQUER YOU!!!  She initially has a solid singer-songwriter feel to her, but her song immediately picks up with updated latin folksy romantic rhythms that endear this track to me further.  I’d say this would be my 2nd favorite on the compilation, following “‘Baby Rock’ Rock.”

“Niña Sara” — I’m assuming they’re singing about a girl named Sara.  (Yeah.  That’s as far as my Spanish goes.) Yummy singer songwriter stuff that’s just a little more juiced than what can evoke memories of free wi-fi and the smells of stale coffee, especially cuz it really picks up a minute or so into the song.

“One Night” — not bad.  Not bad at all.  Definitely worth a listen!

“D.I.S.C.O.” — Poncho.  Is this what house music sounds like?  In general, I wouldn’t be into this kind of music, but it’s decent if you want to drop some e (NEVER DONE IT) and lose yourself in the carbonated, paint-can synthetic rhythms of Poncho.

“Sometimes” by Polock.  If Jason Mraz came out with a slightly cooler, slightly more happy hipstery album (in a good way) this track would be on it.  It’s definitely something all the children of those Flower Children can bop their heads to.  It sounds like part of a soundtrack for Joseph Gordon Levitt’s character in 100 Days of Summer… during his more happier period.  (Not my favorite movie in the world, but the ending makes up for it!)

“Mis 32 Dientes” — (my 32 teeth.) Yummy, yummy, yummy music.  Did I ever mention that I absolutely melt whenever pop artists incorporate singing children and exploit them for their adorability?  My heart melts.  And it’s a great song.  Definitely going to be one of my spring/summer staples.

YES!!!  So check it out!!

And you know me, I don’t EVER recommend anything that’s not worth recommending.  (YAY FOR QUESTIONABLE TASTE!!!)


Craigslist.  I really love you.  Because you find save me the shipping and handling costs that incur w/ ebay and also connect me with THE MOST HILARIOUSLY SUSPICIOUS PEOPLE ON THE PLANET!

So, I’ve gotta tell you, my español isn’t too great.  It’s rusty.  It’s from high school.  And even in high school, it was all a big blur of having no idea what conjugations, past-present perfect or vosotros was all about.  I HAVE NO IDEA HOW I PASSED.  ALL THREE YEARS.

Really!  I had no idea what I was doing in that class!

To my credit, my accent is fairly decent despite my inability to roll my “rrr”s.  (Doth this imply a handicapped tongue?  Please don’t notify my future lovers.  TMI, ALICE.  TMI.)

So the few phrases or words I could manage during the oral exams, I usually sounded like I knew what I was talking about.  Even if my grammar was completely incorrect, my command over the accent tended to be above and beyond the realm of America gringo.  (PLEASE DON’T TEST ME.)

I’ve been meaning to pick up Spanish again, though.  Especially now that I’m a part of Kogi.  There’s just so many lovely people that I hang with sometimes in the kitchen and it really hurts my heart that sometimes I can’t find the words to express a joke or how much I absolutely adore Daniel and Tulio.  Or understand what Walter’s saying to me before giving me a hug goodbye.  I picked up “te cuidas,” but that’s about it.

ALSO… I’ve been embarrassed to find that my brother Eric (Rosita lunch manager, and occasional accidental TMI/personal life tweeting on the Kogi Twitterfeed), has a much, MUCH stronger command over the Spanish language, which bothers me on two counts.  1) I’m his big sister, so I should be better than him at EVERYTHING.  And 2) HE TOOK FRENCH IN HIGH SCHOOL.

Hence Craigslist.  And hence my recent purchase:

This is my 3rd Craigslist purchase this year, and is it just me, or do most Craigslist people tend to have an overabundant fondness for Starbucks?  I guess they never want to run into the threat of an unhappy seller of, “I KNOW WHERE YOU LIVE.”

Of course, this doesn’t breed much trust in the buyer, either, but whatevers!

So I found a seller for a brand new Rosetta Stone, levels 1-5 for $250, which isn’t too bad at all.  It ain’t cheap, but it’s still a decent deal.

He leaves a phone number in his posting, so I text him if it’s still available.  He tells me to meet him at the Starbucks in Santa Monica on Santa Monica Boulevard by the 405 freeway at 10AM the next day.  He will be parked outside the window in a black BMW.

He instructs me to bring no phone, no cameras and no shoes.  <– KIDDING.

But it already smells faintly like the rapport one would feel with a friendly but alert drug dealer.

Traffic is thick from East Hollywood on over to the west side.  Santa Monica Boulevard at that time of day is not forgiving.

But I arrive.

I notice a black BMW parked outside the Starbucks, next to the window as promised…even though there is a half-empty parking lot RIGHT THERE.

I take his cue, suddenly paranoid, and park further down the street.  For some apparent reason, he doesn’t want to park in the Starbucks parking lot — maybe he wants a quick getaway, I don’t know!  I find a spot next to a meter and can’t find a quarter to fill it.  I reason with myself that it’s just a quickie, in-and-out, I hand him the cash, he hands me the Rosetta Stone and we’ll part ways before a meter maid can smell that something’s afoul in regards to the unattended meter.

So I walk out in the bright sun and knock on his window.  He’s on the phone speaking some kind of Persian and holds up a solid finger.  Silent, commanding.  “Hold on a second.”  He then types something into his iPad really quickly and then rolls down the passenger window.

He’s wearing a silk shirt pinstriped in purple and really dark sunglasses.

He smiles and suddenly gives me his full attention, suddenly very kind and patient.  “Hello, what language?”


“Windows?  Mac?”

“PC.  I mean, Windows.”

He reaches into the black leather backseat of his really nice car and finds a yellow box that he hands to me.  I hand him the envelope of cash, but he holds up his hand, like, “No, we’ve got all the time in the world, you don’t need to give me the money now.”

The sun’s really hot right now and I look at my car parked a good 200 feet away, unattended.  I hear the meter maids (PC: parking patrol services) are particularly aggressive in Santa Monica.  So I already feel a little more nervous than I otherwise should be.  I tuck the white envelope back into my purse and hold the yellow, factory-fresh box in my left hand as he beckons me to lean inside for further instruction.

He magically conjures up a shining white MacBook Pro.  Suddenly the iPad has disappeared.  His phone goes off, but he ignores it.

“Can you see?” he asks, trying to fight the glare of the sun on his shiny screen.

“Yeah, yeah,” I say, wanting to hurry it along, one eye on my car.

“You sure, because this is very important for you to see,” he says, concerned about the quality of my visual understanding of the installation process.

Part of me stays because — I dunno.  I dunno!  Maybe there is a trick or a super complicated installation process to Rosetta Stone other than putting in the CD and clicking CONTINUE, CONTINUE, CONTINUE until you see the button FINISH.

There isn’t.

I’m starting to sweat and also become hyper aware to all the normal people walking into Starbucks while I’m leaning half my body into the passenger side of a nice black car with tinted windows, holding an envelope of cash.  I wonder if they think I’m a call girl.  It’s hot so I’m wearing pretty short shorts and not much more on top.

I wonder why he didn’t want to meet me inside.  I wonder why he didn’t want to meet in the parking lot.  At least in the parking lot it would’ve been less awkward because of the lack of heavy foot traffic on one side and cars whizzing by on the other.  I wonder why I’m leaning into a stranger’s nice car and feeling like an accidental criminal.

“So, the 250?” he asks in mid-sentence of his very laborious explanation.  It’s kinda jarring, especially since he waved it away a few moments ago.

I take out the envelope of cash again, this time very aware of the brief glances some pedestrians were taking in my direction.

He then finishes the installation process and walk-through and then takes my hands, very soft, very kind, in an almost avuncular way.  “Are there any additional questions you have for me, dear?”

“No, no.  I’m good.”

He then pushes my hands away, gently, and sticks his key into his ignition.  “Great!  Well, I hope you have a wonderful day and call me if you have any questions or needs regarding your Rosetta Stone!”

I lean out and he rolls his windows up.

I walk to my car and by the time I turn around he’s gone.  Like he was never there.


I now understand “Que esta haciendo?”  “Estoy leyendo.”  “What are you doing?” “I’m reading.”


SUPER LONG BLOG POST TODAY, but I don’t mind since I’ve been unable to post for the past 2 weeks.  VERY GLAD TO GET PAST LAST WEEK’S SITUATION:

Last week was not a great week for me to be tweeting out schedules.  But now that I’ve got a brand-new amazing motherboard and power supply, my PC is all kinds of excited about connecting me to the internets and giving my Droid-savvy thumbs a rest.

HAPPY TUESDAY!!!  AND DOWNLOAD THAT MUSIC.  IT’S FREE AND IT’S GOOD.  And obviously a very great example of how the two aren’t always mutually exclusive.  Chau!!

Love and tacos,

P.S. This is a really super cool trailer for a documentary called Wake Up about an average dude who woke up one day and was able to see various kinds of entities.  I’ve seen the film and it’s really worth watching.  RECOMMENDED.


0 Responses to I BRING YOU GIFTS!!! (and more)

  1. sleepyhead says:

    Dear Alice: Per our arrangement, please meet me at the Venice traffic circle for the “exchange”. I’ll be the guy in the primer grey minicooper driving counter-clockwise.

  2. mr pete says:

    If u want some more super eclectic happy good meximusic on nacional, MEXICAN INSTITUTE of SOUND is one of my favorrites! I think they were on vol 1 of the nacional compilation . Good. Wild. Mashup stuff spans electro cumbia to mariachi bittersweet symphony and more!

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