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Scenes from la Cuenca de Los Angeles y otros Natural Disasters

Susana Chávez-Silverman

Publication Year: 2010

This is a rarity in contemporary writing, a truly bilingual enterprise, as in Susana Chávez-Silverman’s previous memoir, Killer Crónicas. Chávez-Silverman switches between English and Spanish, creating a linguistic mestizaje that is still a surprise encounter in the world of letters today, and the author forms one of a small but growing band of writers to embrace bilingualism as a literary force. Also like Killer Crónicas, each chapter in Scenes from la Cuenca de Los Angeles is a “crónica,” a vignette that began as intimate diary entries and e-mails and letters to lovers, friends, and ghosts from the past. These episodic chapters follow the Chávez-Silverman’s personal history, from California to South Africa and Australia and back, from unfathomable loss to deeply felt joy. Readers drawn into this witty book will confront their own conceptions of boundaries, borders, languages, memories, and spaces.
Honorable Mention, Best Biography–Spanish or Bilingual International Latino Book Awards

Published by: University of Wisconsin Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. ix-xii

Shedding darkness, encrypting through publicity. For the writer, such a daylit veiling has a clear and powerful appeal: a chance to shape the life and self that are disclosed and the contours of what stays withheld. But how does the reader of such a complex offering draw near to it? What would it mean to accept an invitation like the one extended by Susana...

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pp. xiii-xvi

For their support of me and my writing, often via the increasingly quaint—según algunos—medium of e-mail (no he caído presa todavía al Facebook, or CaraBobo, como le digo, pero never say never . . .), I thank the following friends and colleagues: José Cartagena-Calderón, Lucía Guerra, Andrea “Chabelita” Gutiérrez, Daniel...

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Introduction: Cartografía Humana/Star Maps Crónica

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pp. 3-9

Aunque se dice que ignorance is bliss y también que curiosity killed the cat, hay que reconocer que a veces you do have to scratch an itch. So, en caso de que quieras adherir a este último dicho, this one’s for you: un little road map pa’ que luego, while you’re reading, reconozcas a los principals en el cast of characters, la motley tripulación que me...

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I. Diary Inside/ Color Local Crónica

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pp. 10-16

Hmmm. Quizás abrir con algunos de mis diary entries. These fragments of “me.” Mi instinto me dice que it’s as good a way in as any, si bien un poco in medias res (pero quizás precisely because of this). Los diarios constituyen un modo más directo, a more ostensibly unmediated way (ja ja) to access, to convey la tremenda carga de intensidad, de...

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II. Montalvo Diary

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pp. 17-35

Me habré apendejado TANTO, en la vida cotidiana, I mean in my so-called (real) vida—todo predecible, safe, rutinario, protegida (by Pierre)—que ahora la más mínima desviación, cualquier ínfimo acto normal, “independiente” lo veo como GRAN hazaña and I’m soooo proud of myself, hasta me congratulo y me festejo y todo. Por ej: I just...

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III. On Going Back Crónica

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pp. 36-41

I totally hear you, Caroltjie, in re: ¿cómo aguanto tanta nostalgia? How can I even bear up bajo el peso de volver (volver, volveRRRRR) este spring/incipiente verano, tanto revisiting de nuestros former lugares en el mundo: San Francisco, the Bay Area? Sudden, intense, este reliving, después de dos décadas away. Hubo muchos return visits...

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IV. San Francisco Transcript /Diary

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pp. 42-52

Here are some entries from my 1982 diary. I copied the entries—all of them, longhand, nogal!—and sent them to you as letters back then, remember? I’ve been looking at our Transcript again, here at this artists’ retreat. Opening that little beige notebook has been like Pandora’s box, the ruby slippers, and Aladdin’s cueva all rolled into one: some baie powerful...

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V. In My Country Crónica

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pp. 53-57

Afrikaans words and phrases insinuate themselves into my head, my consciousness, aun sin querer. Meer en meer. Not sure I even want them in there, presies, although tengo que admitir they do stir something in me. Algo del orden de (pace Andrea Gutiérrez, your fave phrase, o al menos, one of them) la añoranza. Yebo: longing, comfort, long-ago...

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VI. San Francisco Days Crónica

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pp. 58-61

Yesterday I drove up to San Francisco en la espuela del momento with la Cronopia Raz. You’re not gonna believe this. La Cronopia had invited me over to her pad (literally, she lives like a quarter of a mile del Montalvo) para acompañarla en un health walk, and then we were slated to have luncheon after. Llevé un sencisho change of clothes with...

Un Pico (De)presión Diptych

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pp. 63

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VII. Trincheras Crónica

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pp. 65-68

Me tengo que fortalecer, somehow, para outlast him. Al Juvenil. Pero, how? No entiendo cómo estas mujeres, by their own admission dañadas, vulnerables (como la abandonada-by-teen-mom, rail-thin, incest survivor, la lovely, mega-talentosa icy blonde Kathryn Harrison, por ejemplo), can be mothers. No me cabe en la cabeza. And not only...

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VIII. Hawk Call Crónica

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pp. 69-71

Esta mañana, I saw a pair of hawks. No. Primero los escuché: their wild, Native American, shrill calls punzaron la semi-calma de otra anodyne mañana en el Evil. El Inland Empire de Califas. Digo semi-calma porque hace semanas que I’m daily assailed by a sense of dread. La definición misma de la anguhtia. Is this “generalized anxiety...

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IX. Oda a la Ambigüedad Crónica

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pp. 72-75

Camino rápido por esta sudden, too-early primavera. A small, icy rivulet of sweat runs down my spine. My tissue-weight turquoise cotton top se me pega, cual ventosa, a la piel, semi-transparentándose. My lips part slightly; tiny casi jadeos se me escapan. Voy bien rápido, long limbed. Y hace un calor intenso, unnatural en este supposedly still invernal...

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X. Mountainess/Montañ(os)a Crónica

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pp. 76-82

The repair oke, Steve, came over this morning, perceived the unlockable condición of the upstairs studio sliding-glass puerta and later—su palabra—“fiddled” with the lock un chingo y finalmente proudly announced que le echó un lubricante (?). Pero all his fiddlin’ ended up being for naught: en cuanto saqué la llave, la puerta just slid right open...

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XI. South Coast Plaza Crónica

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pp. 83-87

Of course, se pueden imaginar the complete relief I feel after my BUSTO scare. Haven’t been able to “do” much of anything for a few days, primero por la hideous ansiedad (o anguhtia, como dicen en Argentina) de la espera, de no saber, y ahora, in that bland, soft, floaty relief del después. So, to celebrate the fact of my non-imminent salida...

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XII. I Want the Wrapper Crónica

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pp. 88-90

When I told you, a few weeks ago, aboard ese slow-as-lodo SEPTA commuter train que nos regresaba de Philly a un rainy, muggy y mega-stuck-up Princeton, tu nuevo “hometown,” que me sacaba de onda entrar a Rhino Records en el Village de Claremont, to browse through music, por la posible preponderancia de über-hip apenitas post-teens...

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XIII. Mini Geography Lesson Crónica

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pp. 91-93

I like things real, también. Por eso me choca toda esta fundamental duplicidad, the glaring hypocrisy de delimitar todo lo que es y no es (post- AIDS? post-Clinton?) “el sexo.” All that back-to-basics, essentialist parceling out of desire, de lo propio. Returning to or staying within ese limitado paradigma binario. Making it—grado superlativo...

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XIV. Arañita Cobriza Crónica

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pp. 94-96

Te pedí que eligieras un lugar en el mundo, un lugar ideal para transportarme, transportarnos. Si fuera un mundo ilimitado, I’d have asked you to just drive, straight through to Joshua Tree. Amo el desierto; aprendí el año pasado que you do too. Pero como el mundo siempre quiere invadir nuestros secret gardens, con sus clausuras, we had a time...

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XV. Westside Desilusión Crónica

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pp. 97-100

Pierre and I drove all the way out to UCLA last night, for a muchanticipated concierto de Richard Thompson. Tú y yo lo vimos en Berkeley, aeons ago, con Bonnie Raitt, remember? A couple of years after I’d returned from South Africa, y estaba en el programa doctoral en UC–Davis. Ni pihta who you were with esa noche: Eddie? Rupert...

There Was Blood Diptych

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pp. 101

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XVI. Unos Cuantos Piquetitos Crónica

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pp. 103-107

Well, mi colega y amigo el José C-2 accompanied me to the hospie yesterday for a biopsy. It was extremely unpleasant, to say the least, and, as could be predicted, my BP was off the radar, que digamos Richter (more el upper que el lower numerito, pero I forget which way is more dire, lo cual me hace stress out even more, OB-vio . . .) en los...

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XVII. Momentos Hemorrágicos Crónica

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pp. 108-116

I must be what they call a bleeder (uf, suena a oscuro insulto británico, ¿no?). I mean, I guess I literally am (ay, qué drama queen). Especially después de esto último: cuando el teensy agujero diagnóstico (por el cual me habían insertado un chip, I mean, un clip de titanium, para marcar el lugar de la herida and that Chris Sadiq, mi masajista, llama...

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XVIII. Currawong Crónica

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pp. 117-123

Te tengo que escribir mi sueño. A pesar de los cries—penetrantes, ghostly, badgering o hechizantes—de los pájaros, some of which seem to go on and on, far into the night (y uno de los cuales me despertó por un momento anoche, around 3 a.m.: an electrifying, piercing, mournful, downward-falling wail que me hizo pensar en el último...

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XIX. Por Montalvo Crónica

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pp. 124-129

Al subir la cuesta—pretty steep—desde mi “live-work studio” hasta los otros estudios, I pass green, slender-stalked sorts of clumps, topped with yellow, miniature orchid-looking flores. Some get fairly tall— about three or four feet—y despiden un olor dulce, pero no cloying. Algo más cercano al flowering plum (that delicious, damp masa harina...

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XX. Alchemy Armisteadiana Crónica

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pp. 130-134

Aquí en este sendero al pie de (¿en la falda de, se dice?) las montañas San Gabriel. A la izquierda, chaparral still slightly charred from the wildfires hace ya cuatro años y al ladito mero del trail, esos tiny young trees droop. Their long, white, dandelion-puff blossoms appeared briefly en la primavera del año pasado—triumphant, thrust...

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XXI. Tuberose Frenesí Crónica

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pp. 135-139

Pasé un día bien enJOY intentando escapar el again-blistering heat con la Cronopia Raz, who decided to jugar al ganchito from her workrelated seminar en el hotel St. Francis. Desafortunadamente, it was 88 degrees, even in San Francisco, con el resultado de que hasta agarré un slight sunburn on my upper back! Llevaba uno de esos sexy...

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XXII. Solstice/Shamanic Magia Crónica

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pp. 140-145

Bien podría titularse, this episode, “Pérdida y recuperación del bolso” (pace J.C.). El cielo está sólo lightly nublado, pero se siente bochornoso y sopla un African-like zephyr outside. Estoy sentada aquí, en la Mission District de San Francisco, waiting for my charioteer, mi carnal el film studies expert Serge of the Berry. A la izquierda, outside la...

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XXIII. (Almost) Milagros Crónica

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pp. 146-150

A borbotones vienen las palabras. At last. Después de bastante— demasiado—tiempo. Digo, way too much time, for me. ¿Dos meses? ¿Tres? Well, no ha sido un período fallow, or not exactly pues están, of course, mis dreams. Bubbling up, también—con el tarry viscosity and regularity de ese glug glug glug que se escucha at the La Brea Tar...

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XXIV. Todavía Wild (at Heart) Crónica

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pp. 151-153

Pero pensándolo de otro modo (menos resignada, menos defeatest)— putting el acento en otra sílaba, por ejemplo—maybe el concepto mismo del edge debe ser recalcado. Al filo de. Not wild (no vives en los San Gabriels, after all, en una cabañita: uf, somehow hasta la sola imagen de eso reminds me of the Unabomber!—con wood-burning stove...

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Afterword: Linguistic Perspectives on Code-Switching

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pp. 155-159

What’s your reaction to these sentences? How do you feel when you hear people speak like this? Do you find it pretty? Are they examples of broken Spanish or broken English? Examples of how some people just can’t stick to one language? Or perhaps the skillful expressions of a fluent bilingual? All of these thoughts are common reactions to what...

E-ISBN-13: 9780299235239
Print-ISBN-13: 9780299235246

Page Count: 157
Publication Year: 2010