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Home | Tag Archives: jose rico

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Jose Rico – Beyond the Barrio: Tweety Bird, Ofelia and the Overnight Makeover

In the Southern California town of La Puente, my sister Gloria shared a home with her good friend Ofelia. One summer in July I visited my sister and upon arrival, I immediately noticed Ofelia’s collection of Tweety Bird figurines all over the kitchen and living room.

Tiny plastic Tweetys, porcelain Tweetys…so many of them “decorated” the place. It was a large collection that included framed pictures of the silly cartoon birdie – there was even a Tweety rug ( don’t step on it ).

The most memorable item was hanging from the ceiling, in the living room’s corner. It was a large yellow plastic cage with a seven inch tall Tweety Bird perched on a swing.

Ofelia said, “Walk up to it”. So I did; and when I was a couple feet away, Tweety proclaimed in a loud, squeaky voice, “ I tawt I taw a puutty cat!”

I cracked up thinking, no home is complete without a Tweety Bird Cage motion-sensor alarm – cause you never now who’s gonna be coming in late at night.

Ofelia owned a modest three bedroom house in what appeared to be a quiet neighborhood. To my surprise, before

I woke up on my very first morning there, I was startled by the crowing of a neighbor’s old rooster. It sounded like it was sitting on a fence just a few feet from my bedroom window.

And when I say an old rooster, I mean he sounded old…or sick.

He had a gravelly crow that hardly sounded like a typical “cock-a-doddle-do”. No, this “foul fowl” was bellowing with a very rusty windpipe. It sounded more like, “Er-er-er-er-errr!”….with a slurring at the end that trailed off which made it both annoying and amusing.

So for the next six mornings I was awakened by the day-breaking or glass-breaking rooster with a sore throat

During my visit, one of the first attractions I was fortunate to see was the Getty Center, located about eight miles north of Santa Monica. The J Paul Getty Museum showcases Greek and Roman artifacts, a separate building where a photography exhibit is housed, American and European art, impressive architecture and wonderfully designed gardens.

“Perseus” Ricci
“Irises” Van Gogh

We spent the day wandering and engaged for almost five hours, mesmerized by multiple classic paintings by the masters.

One of which was “Perseus Confronting Phineus with the Head of Medusa” by Italian painter Sebastian Ricci, circa 1705–1710.

But an especially unforgettable piece by Van Gogh titled “Irises”, actually brought a tear to my eye.

“Sunflowers” Van Gogh

I simply could not believe that I was standing a few feet from the 1889 painting by the Dutch artist – who had completed at least 300 works in his lifetime, but never sold a one. Fast forward to the late 80’s when a tycoon purchased Van Gogh’s “Sunflowers” for 39.9 million. Not only is life unfair, its damn ironic.

During my stay Ofelia would come and go, leaving my sister in charge of the house. On certain days we’d have a catch-up chat with Ofelia. In my vacation-mode relaxed state I was up to socializing anytime.

Sometimes Ofelia’s boyfriend, Steve, would stop by to pick her up. One afternoon the four of us sat in the living room chatting for a while when the conversation took a turn. Ofelia began reminiscing about her late brother Tomas.

The story took place in the very same home when her daughter Cecilia was only eight years of age. Cecilia always looked forward to her uncle’s visit. They would all go to the beach, Disneyland or Sea World and have a grand time. At the end of the day they settled in for a quiet night and Tomas would neatly tuck and pull the bedding around Cecilia and then he brushed her long hair.

Ofelia would sit close by reading a favorite bedtime story.

As a year or so went by, the tragic early passing of Tomas saddened family and friends. Things were not the same anymore. At bedtime, a heartbroken Cecilia would cry herself to sleep.

One morning Ofelia was awakened by her daughter’s desperate call, “Mama, mama!” Ofelia ran to her Cecilia’s bedroom to find her in bed, covers tucked around her evenly and her hair had also been nicely brushed. “Oh”, gasped Ofelia, “your Uncle Tomas stopped by to visit you!”

Steve, and I sat there listening, transfixed. He broke the augmented pause by saying,”This is freaking me out!” I then thought to myself, he’s freaked out? I have three more vacation days to spend in this house!

Gloria was quiet when Ofelia turned to her and said, “Isn’t it true Gloria?” Smiling, my sister replied, “Yes, it happened to me too. I woke up one morning with my covers nicely tucked in and my hair was brushed as well.”

As I sat there frozen in place Steve got up and said, “Okay, time for us to go….”, and he and Ofelia left to wherever they were going. My guess is that Steve wanted to go have a shot or two of Jose Cuervo.

Because of the hot summer nights, my bedroom window and door always remained open. That evening, I couldn’t get the story out of my head. I was no longer distracted with anticipation of the morning’s sounds of a sick rooster.

My senses were now heightened. I laid there in a sleepless state still as could be, not wanting to move one bit. It was late and the house was very quiet. All I could hear was my breathing.

Then, from the living room I heard a loud squeaky voice say, “I tawt I taw a puuty cat”. I gulped. The tweety bird cage sensor had gone off – something had walked close to it!

Then, silence again.

In the darkened house I finally fell asleep ….with one eye open and one eye closed.


Jose Oswaldo RicoLeave a comment! I’d like to hear from you.

José Oswaldo Rico, Guest Contributor Previous  columns HERE

Back to the Barrio: A Look Back at Life in the Projects – It’s All Relative

My parents grew up in the Juarez neighborhood known as La Chaveña. The youngest of five, I was the only one born on this side, in El Paso’s St Joseph Medical Clinic.

My siblings all gave their first cries in our grandparents house on the street called La Cinco de Febrero.

We made the move to EP in the mid 50’s moving from one rental house to another. I have blurry recollections of a tot’s life in the 2nd Ward or, El Segundo barrio. It was when we moved to central EP that we settled in the projects next to Paisano Drive from 1960 to 1965.

I fondly recall the countless outings and weekly visits to our abuelos house; it was like clockwork every Sunday.

Next door to my grandparents was my aunt Emma and uncle Fito’s house (who were also my godparents), and at the end of the block was a mighty fine taqueria that served delicious flautas.

I was a quiet kid, never saying much around grown-ups when we visited our relatives. I’d whisper my hellos but mostly listened to the adults and their platica (chats). If asked about school or my scribbly drawings mom would ask me to bring along, I would respond in a painfully shy manner while staring at my shoes. Then, I’d anxiously seek my cousin’s company for a game of hide and seek.

If my cousins weren’t home, I’d slowly stroll around my grandma’s or uncle’s house, gazing into framed images that transported me to another time: Someone in uniform; an older cousin with a somber look and posed slightly to the left. As the adult conversation continued, I stared at my abuelita’s wedding picture and her beautiful gown, and admired my abuelito’s nice suit.

Another photo caught my attention of another wedding party where even the bridesmaid wore a veil. And as we visited other aunts and uncles, I always took time to see the ceremony photos that were prominently displayed and noticed how the wedding party had absentee smiles.

My grandparents Antonio & Francisca Rico

But all these captures had similarities; the dresses were exquisitely detailed and the men’s suits were tailored to perfection. Gloves added class and formality; most of all, the photographer’s composition and capture of light and shadow was immaculate.

As the years passed I still wondered about my parent’s wedding pictures. Why weren’t they displayed? Were they stored away in a box somewhere in the house?

Eventually, with some photography know-how in my later years, I made some very good quality copies of my relative’s vintage photographs using a digital SLR camera with high resolution settings. (My tias would smile as they noticed my camera bag in hand).

I made prints of my grandparents wedding, my aunt and uncles, and sadly, portraits of tios and tias that I haven’t seen in a couple decades. I was now on a mission and wanted to find my parents collection to complete my set of family photos from yesteryear.

So one day at my mom’s I was ready to ask some pointed questions. I approached her and said,”Mama, I’ve seen my abuelo’s and some of my tio’s wedding pictures in their homes – why haven’t I seen yours and dad’s? Did you have a photographer at your wedding?”

“Oh,” she quickly replied,”We couldn’t afford a photographer”. Puzzled, I pressed on, “But you were married in a church in Juarez?” “Yes”, she casually replied, “I wore a pretty dress and a horse and buggy picked me up at my house and took me to the church steps where your dad waited for me.”

With raised eyebrows, I now felt like I was getting somewhere…“Wow mom, how nice….and our relatives were there?” “Of course they were!” (How silly of me to ask).

With the short Q&A over, I was disappointed that we never owned any photos of my parents wedding day. Mom didn’t elaborate and I sat there wondering how we could have pictures of my grandparents, tios and tias, but none of my very own mom an dad. It wasn’t making sense to me.

I sat there with no further questions and left that it at that.

Until much later when the subject came up when discussing family times with my oldest sister Gloria. I could ask her anything and she was the best contact in our immediate family that could clarify and correct any stories or half-truths anybody told.

“Sis”, here’s a question from left field”, I said. She listened to every word of my conversation with our mom and her recollection of her “wedding day”. Gloria nodded slightly with curious attention and the patience of Job. When I finished, she looked at me with a wry smile and uttered, “Mom said that to you?”

With some hesitation in my voice I managed a “yes-s-s?”

Her cheshire cat grin said it all. ”Oh, my!…Dont you know that mom and dad eloped? Se fueron a caballo!” I gasped. “No, I had no idea”. Gloria was now on a roll…there was no stopping this surprising confession, “Her dad, Abuelito Rosendo, never liked our papa! One day he caught our dad running down the block after visiting mom at their apartment. Abuelito went inside, got his gun and came out firing at our dad!”

My grandfather Jose Rosendo Moreno.
(My mom’s gun-totin’ father)

”WHAT?” My eyes got as big as saucers. My sister wrapped this up with, “Papa knew that our Abuelito Rosendo would never approve of their engagement!”

You could have knocked me over with the proverbial feather. Gloria sipped her soda as I sat there speechless, taking it all in. These were big family headlines and I was there to hear it first. Or was I the last to know? I shook my head and left it at that.

Maybe not.

I should have been an investigative journalist because I couldn’t leave this alone. Questions persisted so I continued my mini quest to tie up a loose ending to this story which had taken a major left turn. All I wanted was a copy of my parents wedding picture.

Instead I learned about a grandfather with a gun, my parent’s not-so-secret romance, their elopement and a wedding that never occurred. Sounds like an episode from a mexican novela (soap opera).

Not convinced about any of what I had been told, I sought my Tio Abelardo’s version. Mom’s younger brother, he had moved into our house after my dad had passed, and kept my mom company for many years. I was visiting them when the right moment came. I casually began the conversation with one of his favorite topics: old cinema.

He loved talking about movie stars from the golden era, enjoyed sharing trivia and at times it was hard to get him to stop. I casually switched topics and asked him about my parents eloping.

“Tio, I need some clarification. I was talking with mom about her wedding day, and she mentioned a horse and buggy picked her up and took her to the church”. He listened. “So, I told Gloria that story and she was surprised, because she told me my parents eloped. She said Abuelo Rosendo did not like my dad and caught him leaving his apartment. He got his gun and shot at my dad as he ran down the block”.

Relaxed and composed, my Tio said,”Yes, he had a gun…but he didn’t shoot bullets at your dad. They were blanks!” He nonchalantly got up to get his coffee in the kitchen where mom was reading the paper.

I didn’t know know whether to laugh or yell out loud in frustration. Running the layered account in my mind, from beginning to end, I realized this story had multiple endings…depending on which relative I asked.

I sat there shaking my head and I left it at that.


Jose Oswaldo RicoJosé Oswaldo Rico, Guest Contributor Previous  columns HERE

El Barrio del Diablo: FastForward to the Music – My 2nd Rock Show

December 1969: A couple months had gone by since the Steppenwolf concert and I wondered what band would be next to rock the county cow barn.

As I inked my drawings one evening with the local FM rock station on in the background, I flipped in delight when a radio spot announced the Iron Butterfly were scheduled to play the Coliseum.

ironbtflI was ecstatic. I’d been a fan for almost a year and owned their first three albums. BALL, their third LP, was played daily on my tired old turntable.

The previous year, “In a Gadda da Vida” was released to critical acclaim becoming a massive commercial hit for the band. The album produced an abridged single for AM radio play, clocking in at 2:52, while FM rock aficionados were treated to the entire seventeen minute psychedelic anthem.

The album was a study in itself. It sold 30 million records world wide, guitarist Eric Brann was a mere 17 years young when the LP was released, and the title song was recorded in one take. Very impressive by 1969’s standards.

On the day of the show I arrived around 4:30, and couldn’t stop looking at the marquee with the band’s name in big black letters. It was a wow moment for me – this event was my second rock show and I had a feeling I’d be witnessing music history along with several thousand other fans.

The huge delivery doors that faced Paisano Drive were still open and no one was around.

As I nonchalantly walked inside the Coliseum’s main floor I was immediately distracted and puzzled with the stage set up. It was centered on the east side of the venue atop the first few rows of bleachers, above the cement wall that separated the floor from the stands.

irnbtvBecause of this layout, the entire half of the seating on the east side was closed.

It looked odd, and it was unusual to see the staging so high up above where the audience would be – on the cement floor.

Gone was the intimate four foot stage that was predominantly used in so many of those late sixties–early seventy shows.

Eventually, my lingering was noticed and I had to leave and wait outside for the main doors to open.

Evening came and a large crowd had gathered in front of the main doors. Once we were let in, many fans walked down a big ramp that had been set up to allow access to the floor from the bleacher section.

I made my way to the tall stage as close as possible as hundreds of others had also joined in sitting festival style. At showtime, a local band called McKatush were first up – a garage type trio that covered popular hits like The Plastic Ono Band’s “Cold Turkey”.

They rocked it good, and what a gig it was for them to open for such a high profile and established rock band.

After intermission the lights dimmed and amid the cheers, I was puzzled to see a couple spotlights reveal several dignitaries alongside the members of the Iron Butterfly.

The band was being honored for their “In a Gadda da Vida” album’s mega sales and popularity in Mexico, and were presented with butterfly pendants that were placed around their paisley shirt collars.

The four guys stood sheepishly at the front of the stage as the presenters posed for a photo-op with the “band of the year.” The camera’s flash ended the impromptu Kodak moment and as some polite applause dissipated, the band quickly took their places ridding the the moment of the awkward formalities.

Eric Brann, Guitar • Ron Bushy, Drums • Lee Dorman, Bass • Doug Ingle, Organ & vocals

The opening guitar riffs to “You Cant Win” tore into the air.

It was loud and heavy, just as expected.

The band then cranked out “Flowers and Beads”, “Soul Experience”, “In the Time of our Lives”, without any banter in between the music.

As their set continued into the evening with their psychedelic colored compositions, the final entry was no surprise to everyone as the keyboard’s familiar intro notes to “In a Gadda da Vida” was met with thunderous applause.

In the middle of the long jam, during Ron Bushy’s trademark drum solo, guitarist Eric Brann stood close to the drum kit, bouncing in place as he hooted and hollered indian style.

The crowd loved the long anthem and rose to an ovation as the last note was played.

For the encore the band churned out the Iron Butterfly Theme; a slow, hypnotic instrumental from their first album, accented with Doug Ingle’s haunting background vocals within parts of the densely electrified music. I was in awe; the Butterfly enveloped the audience with a powerful and dream-like sound that closely paralleled their studio albums.

It was a show I have never forgotten.

I’ve heard first hand stories of what acid trips are like and in retrospect, The Iron Butterfly Theme’s layered effects and heavy production could be the epitome of tripping out on LSD.

Google the song and if you listen to all four minutes and thirty-five seconds, you’ll need to be snapped out of your trance when its over.

1969 gave way to the new year and after witnessing a couple of heavy rock acts just months apart, I wasn’t prepared for what was headed to EP.

Do you recall any rock shows from that era? Leave a comment! I’d like to hear from you.

Jose Oswaldo RicoJosé Oswaldo Rico, Guest Contributor

Previous  columns HERE

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