Last Thursday I read at a place I am still entranced by, the East Harlem Café owned by Michelle Cruz, at 104th and Lexington in El Barrio. Two other authors from Hit List: The Best of Latino Mystery, read with me, Carlos Hernandez and Richie Narvaez. A few hours before, Richie and I appeared on the Victor Cruz Show, a radio talkfest from Brooklyn. Man, did I have a good time. This is the thing about getting out there, reading and talking to people about your work. You meet new people who wow you, you get to discover what they have created, and you feel lucky. Let me count the ways.
After you read this blog, turn off your computer or Kindle, and visit the East Harlem Café. I walked in, a few minutes early to the reading, and I was in coffee heaven. The place has these stylish mosaics on the wall, comfortable seating, and a long bar to order your café and pastries. I wish we had a place on the Upper Westside as welcoming, as cool as the East Harlem Café. Starbucks is not in the same league. That a young, savvy Latina was la jefa was just icing on the cake for me. These entrepreneurs who take risks to make a difference in their neighborhood should be enthusiastically supported, especially when they’ve created something special.
Just before the reading, I had been roaming Brooklyn looking for Jay Street and the studio of the Victor Cruz Show. I stumbled over the cobblestone and was almost to the Hudson River when I found it, a warehouse-like building whose elevator led me to a floor of indie film offices and Victor Cruz. I was met by this red-headed Puerto Rican with hundreds of freckles who seemed at the brink of laughter. Victor, his friend Gil T, Aurora Anaya-Cerda, owner of La Casa Azul Bookstore, and I had a freewheeling conversation about Latino Lit, Mexican-American border politics and history, Mariachi Plaza in the Boyle Heights district of LA, and fighting for the Latino voice in the arts. I kept thinking, as I listened to my new friends, we’ve got the brains, the talent, the drive, the laughter. We should be taking over the world.
On this special day, the two people I got to know the best were Richie Narvaez and Carlos Hernandez, the other authors in the Hit List anthology. Richie is this sharp Nuyorican who read from his story, “In the Kitchen with Johnny Albino,” about an “enterprising woman” named Iris. Carlos read “Los Simpáticos,” about the producer of a TV show “A Quien Quieres Matar?” I couldn’t stop laughing. Carlos, like his story, is mischievous and laugh-ready. I’ve always been too serious for my own good; it’s my nature. But I love it when people make me laugh.
Liz Martinez, one of the two editors of Hit List, also read a story, by Mario Acevedo. Thank you, Liz, for saying you loved my story, “A New York Chicano.” For a sourpuss like me who is all-too-ready to tear himself apart, kind words help get me out of my little world. This whole day got me out of my world, and I am happy I said yes and took the chance.
This Thursday, May 21st, Richie, Carlos, and I will be reading at the Mysterious Book Shop at 58 Warren Street in Tribeca. The reading will be from 6-8:00 PM. A free book to whomever makes me laugh so hard I pee in my pants. See you there.