When an experience exceeds expectations, the only thing you can do is be in awe that you are bearing witness to it and somehow absorb what is happening to you. Because at that moment, you have never ever dreamed you would be in that place doing what you're doing at that time. A place where the intersection of bizarre and sublime reach something new in grandeur, glamour, darkness and depth.
This is Chuck Palahniuk and Carlos Fuentes meeting at Burning Man and dropping acid in a kind of crossroads that only California, the land of borders, earthquakes and burning, can produce. It's the Gogol Bordello concert in Los Angeles.
Little Fi and I drove into downtown and settled into the normal club scene at a refurbished grand and ornate art deco movie palace turned salsa club called The Mayan. The show being at the Mayan had a particularly disorienting effect - surrounded by symbols of the beginning and end of time - see above photo - according to the ancient Maya, waiting to see this engaging and fabulously energetic world gypsy punk band born in the Ukraine. Not only that, but the band's leader, Eugene Hutz is an immigrant whose family were refugees from the Chernobyl accident, and who struggled to survive in refugee camps across Eastern Europe before finally settling in New York.
All of this in goddammed LA, the land of economic and ethnic crossroads, one of the factory cities of American culture, in an America once again troubling over its own immigrant populace. We were immersed in a multi-culti artistic and social barrage from every corner of the globe.
The wait, by the way, was hard enough. The warm-up band from New York provided an hour's worth of audio which had the musicality of flight in a low-pressure cabin of a twin engine puddle-jumper from Chicago to Traverse City, Michigan. You were glad it was only an hour. But then Hutz came and the room took off like a circus gone berzerk. Bug boys in goatees and t-shirts smashing into one another and everyone else. I was fortunate enough that Little Fi and a group of young couples took me and my weak knees under their wing, as we stood together as a rear battalion determined to not get knocked down by wild young punks on dope.
When Hutz started playing with the audience leading up to "Start Wearing Purple", we were all ready to go vertical. Fi had a hold on me and we bobbed upwards for the length of the song. Some young man continued to be bounced from the audience as he floated above us, the crowd dying to pitch him onstage where the two Chinese drum and cymbal players flanked Hutz on both sides. When he played, GB's Ukrainian violinist caused a swoon-like crush across the multigenerational spectrum of females (and some males) in the audience.
This was more than a punk event, there was enough range of folks from ethnicity to years there to deem it a high cultural event, a site specific retablo of a living cultural collage that is musical, visual and global. All of us immigrants in a grand dance palace that is a mecca for the entrenched immigrant population of Latinos that make up the majority of immigrants in Los Angeles and yet were part of this land long before the concept of California was even born. Hutz and his band members--all representing the major continents, were here before us under the ancient Central American symbol for the Wheel of Time, marking the Creative and the Destructive cycles that are part of the Universe.
Little Fi and I are dancing as hard as we can, looking out for each other in this crush of madness while the music plays and the hills surrounding us continue to burn. We are the daughter and granddaughter of immigrants ourselves. Our hearts lurch on, exhilarated and sad, like the feeling you get when you hear gypsy violins play a bittersweet song that grows faster and faster and faster. Even as your heart hurts and its getting harder to breathe, you must continue to dance.
We are indeed at the very edge of the world.