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  • Brent Ameneyro

Looking Back at June 3rd – A Celebration of Latinx, Digital, and Los Angeles Poetics

GPS said an hour and a half, but anyone who knows that stretch of the five knows to add an hour to that. Halfway between Oceanside and Venice, we stopped for some vasos de fruta with chamoy and tajin from a cart outside a gas station. Teddy’s Red Tacos was our first destination once we arrived in Venice. An overzealous local was coaching the tourists next to him in line: You don’t get food like this outside TJ. I ordered six tacos and a bottle of Squirt, the kind with real sugar like I used to get at the tiendita across the street from my childhood house in Puebla. We spent the next couple of hours people watching: daredevil kids at the skatepark; dudes with tall can Modelos taking a leak on the palm trees; half-baked girls in hammocks packing their next bowl, trap music blasting on a blown-out speaker—quintessential L.A. stuff. I thought of when I was that age, carefree on a blanket in Golden Gate Park; all those slow afternoons wandering in and out of Alley Cat Bookstore and Amoeba Music. Little pockets like these exist in all the best cities: heartbeats of a community.

Front entrance of Beyond Baroque Literary Center (Photo courtesy of heidi andrea restrepo rhodes)

Having been around for over 50 years, Beyond Baroque Literary Center is undeniably part of Venice’s heartbeat. Quentin Ring, director of the organization, told me about the building’s history, how it used to be the original City Hall. He went on to say this was one of three historic buildings adjacent to one another. The original fire department is still a functioning firehouse, and the original police department next door is now an art gallery. Poetry in City Hall and murals in the police department surrounded by fox tail agave, bird of paradise, rosemary and lavender bushes; it seems nature does find a way. Inside, the theater space is dark, intimate, the perfect environment for a hybrid showcase of in-person poetry readers and multimedia displays. I was here last year for the Poetry Film Festival where a film I worked on with my brother was featured. I can’t really capture the feeling of being in this theater, how the number of seats that get filled feels irrelevant because the magic in the room is there no matter what.

Special guest Luis J. Rodriguez reading poetry (Photo courtesy of heidi andrea restrepo rhodes)

After the reading, we went out back to the courtyard where we snacked on turkey avo sandwiches and sipped sparkling waters. heidi andrea restrepo rhodes told me about her plans to travel around the country for the next year while she works on her next writing project. Luis J. Rodriguez invited me to his bookstore and cultural center Tia Chucha’s. J. Michael Martinez talked about the software he uses to manipulate audio and video. Vickie Vértiz showed everyone pictures of the newest member of her family. We all hugged like we’d known each other for years. This is community. These were heartbeats. You won’t see any of this when you watch the archived livestream of the event, but I hope now you get a sense of the energy from that Saturday as you listen to the poets on stage. Watching this video, you are joining this community, and I invite you to transport yourself to that warm night in Venice.


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