Don’t Forget to Dig Your Toes In

Today I was feeling very nostalgic.  Actually, it began last night, as I took Chester out for a walk – he’s my (almost) 2 year old Basset Hound.  I love living in the middle of a big city, but I sometimes miss the countryside.  I grew up there.

Needless to say, in the middle of Dallas, one is not often very inclined to walk barefoot anywhere.  I saw a particularly inviting patch of emerald green grass outside the loft while walking Chester this morning/early afternoon.  I had slipped on some flip flops to quickly take him out.  After examining the spot to ensure it was free of detritus, I slid my foot out and let it make contact with the grass.  I smiled instinctively, and dug my toes in – it was cool, nearly cold, to the touch, and felt wet.  It wasn’t, though, and I was glad of that.

It reminded me of the endless grass growing up, and the way I’d walk barefoot outside as a kid.  Yeah, I was that country, I guess you could say.  I miss it.  It was a nice feeling, so I snapped a pic.  Now I have something to remind of that feeling…

Incidentally, while I am classically Euro-white, and perhaps prone to haunting the house with my whiteness, the hipstamatic effect enhanced it. ;-P

Chucks & Grime – South Dallas February 2011

Picture post…

This photo was taken during shoots for a photography book I’m working on, celebrating my neighborhood south of downtown Dallas, the Cedars.

It’s a brilliant, gorgeous spring day in Dallas – even though it’s only February 15th.

Partly Cloudy
74°F
Current: Partly Cloudy
Wind: S at 17 mph
Humidity: 46%

I hope this isn’t one of the weather teasers we usually get.  A little over a week ago we had the “ice storm of the century” followed by 6 inches of snow – now it’s 75 degrees.   ¡Bienvenidos a Tejas!

Album Review: Dustin Cavazos – I Think In the Shower I Dream On My Bike

Dustin Cavazos – I Think In the Shower I Dream On My Bike
©2010 Dustin Cavazos Music

Dallas born-and-bred rapper Dustin Cavazos burst onto the local scene last year with his debut album, I Think In the Shower I Dream On My Bike.

Rather than trying to write a play-by-play for each song, I’ll give you the basics and then let the music do the talking – it says it all better than I could anyway.

The first half of the disc is the most radio-friendly and accessible from a mainstream perspective – but Cavazos’ art is anything but conventional and mainstream.  He knows how to spit a meaty verse, but remains organic, indie, and legit throughout.

“Skip This Day” opens the set as a slow burning short track, a sort of intro to the meat & potatoes of the disc.  He quickly segues into “First Things First,” a tune that establishes his priorities – getting up off the couch and “getting on his grind” to make something happen.

“Everything Everybody Told Us,” one of the album’s standout tracks, plays on the familiar “someday we’ll understand our parents were right about everything” theme many people realize as they enter adulthood.

“Fresh,” arguably the best cut on the disc, deftly samples the Chi-Lites, which serves to compliment Cavazos’ hand-clapping beats well, as he raps about dismissing his haters and his strapped upbringing in a close-knit but poor family.

On “Eye to Eye With Myself,” Cavazos gets a helping hand from the talented R&B/gospel darling Ayiesha Woods.  The track builds from a bubble of sound to a frenzied peak, with the two voices melding effortlessly into the soulful finishing lines.

“The Last Song I’ll Write About You” cleverly turns from Cavazos’ own personal final farewell to an ex girlfriend, into a shout out to the scandalous Everywoman, thanks to help from fellow MC Ty City.

The disc’s midpoint, beginning with “Fountain,” sees Cavazos take a distinctly cerebral turn for most of the last half of the album.  While the bulk of his work introduces musical experimentation, with interesting and unexpected blips and twists abounding, it is this slew of tracks that really turns the pace down a bit, but the headspace up to 12.  Cavazos creates lush walls of luxe sound landscapes, and truly puts his focus into perspective on superb tracks like “Is This It?” “You Choose,” and “I See the Future.”

The album serves not only as Cavazos’ open book of his philosophy, but also a love letter to his beloved Dallas.  (seriously, the city practically plays a recurring character – rarely do hometown shout-outs sound this sincere, rather than zip-code posturing)

While the disc is chock-full of homeboy-with-a-heart rhymes and clever lines about growing up relatively poor, and his staunch belief and support of his friends and family, his overall message of positivity connects each and every track like a chord running throughout the middle of the disc.

It’s perhaps on the album’s closer, “I See the Future,” where the philosophy of Dustin Cavazos the man becomes most clear – he’s not too troubled by the rough patches in life, because he knows in his heart that he has himself to rely on, and his friends and family as a never-ending source of support.  As he raps in the song, “Is it over? / Or will I wake? / Tomorrow’s never promised / And I will never finish / And you could never handle what it is that’s on my plate…”

Cavazos leaves the tired raps about “bitches, hos, and money” to lesser MCs (“Money and fame is better off in the toilet,” he raps early on), preferring to simply rhyme about the daily struggles of life in the hood and trying to make a name for himself, with his friends, family, and fans in tow.  He may just be the future savior of the local rap scene…and if music fans are lucky, he will be.

This review comes just before the highly anticipated (hopefully this month!?) release of his sophomore set, Be.Leave.Me.

Now, for that music I was telling you about.  For more on Dustin, visit him online at:

www.dustincavazos.com
www.myspace.com/dustincavazosmusic
www.twitter.com/dustincavazos

30 Days – Day 11 – Something People Compliment Me On

If you’re following this blog, you know I’m participating in the ‘30 Days of Truth‘ project I’ve seen on other blogs.  It’s helping me commit to posting every single day, since I’m also taking part in The Daily Post project.

Day 11 → Something people seem to compliment you the most on

People have often complimented me on my humor and/or wit.  I guess I am pretty quick with a snappy quip.  Is that a talent?  Perhaps it is; although I’m not sure I’ve put it to the best use over the years.  Like many things, I can’t force it – guess that’s why I probably wouldn’t want to be a comedy writer or comedian (the pressure). 

I’ve also gotten compliments on my art and photography (fyi, I did not take the photo above – click on it to see more tilt shift images).  I have had no formal art or photography training.  I’ve drawn since I was about 2 years old, and I guess I had a natural affinity for photography from a fairly young age.  I used to carry those Fun Saver cameras with me everywhere.

I actually would like to take a digital photography class – something non-credit where I could learn tips & tricks to better my craft.  But I’ve been told I have a good eye for things.  That makes me feel pretty good.  🙂  And I’ve learned some interesting digital processing techniques through friends and just messing around with various programs and websites such as Photoshop, GIMP, Pixlr, etc.  I’ve also learned some cool tricks from the wife.  She took digital photography and editing classes in college. 

I got into painting last year.  I really took to it after my first piece.  I decided I’d like to try something on canvas.  For many years, though I was pretty adept at drawing, painting intimidated me.  I was afraid to try it.  Mind you, I am no Picaso, but I think I have been able to successfully translate my inspiration and vision onto the canvas.  My work leans toward pop art, with major inspriations/themes running the gambit from Mexican cultural and/or religious iconography, fantasy art, rockabilly, vintage, retro, and so forth.  Although I’m atheist, I must confess I have a sweet spot for Mexican Catholic iconography – the Virgin of Guadalupe is a personal favorite. 

I’ve been photographing a lot outdoors lately.  I moved to a loft in South Dallas the weekend of Halloween, as I’m sure I’ve mentioned previously somewhere.  I love my neighborhood.  I feel very at home, and I’m discovering more about this part of the city every day.  I’d never ventured down here much at all – it was verboten, as it’s “that part of town” that nobody from the North Side ever goes to.  I’m glad they don’t – that saves it as the treasure it is.  Although some development and services on the whole are badly needed for the residents of South Dallas, many of whom are among the poorest in the entire city.  Anyway, I’m working on a photography book about my neighborhood.  I’ve gotten what I think are some pretty great shots, and while there’s a lot of information online and in books about South Dallas as a whole, including Oak Cliff, I am fairly certain there’s yet to be a book (and certainly a photography book) about The Cedars (my neighborhood). 

Here’s a shot I thought I’d share:

South Dallas Story – Pt. 2

Pretty good Saturday, I’d say.  So far anyway.  It was 73 degrees and sunny in Dallas, but unfortunately I didn’t get out to enjoy it as much as I’d have liked.  I was going to set off on foot around the neighborhood to get some shots for a photography book I’m working on, but decided the light was too direct at 2:00pm.  I settled on 4:30-ish.  As I went out, though, I caught my photographer neighbor (see a prior post), and we got to talking, as we’re prone to do.  Interesting dude.  We ended up talking for like an hour, until we were interrupted by the wifey peeking out of the blinds (she’d just gotten up from a day of slumber, and we were standing in front of our door) and a woman from our building’s property management company.

But, I did manage to work on some new paintings (almost done), and edit some of the shots I got last weekend.  What the hell – I’ll share one of them below.

I’m really excited about this project.  It’s a coffee table style photography book about Cedars (aka The Cedars), my neighborhood in South Dallas.  I have no ETA on it at all, but hopefully sometime sooner than later.  This year for sure.  Of course, this is in addition to two poetry book projects currently underway.  Ugh, I really need to stop procrastinating on those and get with it.

In total contrast to today’s weather, here’s a time-lapse video of snow (a relative rarity in the Sun Belt-Buckle that is DFW) falling on Cedars Station, our local DART train station.

I do want to get in some rainy shots, maybe some snowy/icy shots if we get anything good this winter, and some sunny shots.  Watch this blog for more as the project moves forward.

My neighbor is a world-class photographer, and does it for a living, so I must admit it’s sort of intimidating.  He’s also in his early 20s (8 years younger than me) so that makes it somewhat even more intimidating.  It’s also inspiring though.  I’ve never claimed to be the best artist, writer, or photographer, but I’m just doing what I love.  I don’t have all the training and latest tips, but I do have the passion, and I think I do a pretty good job.

Okay,  enough blogging (for now) – time to work on more art, and then watch ‘True Grit’ with the wifey.

Snow In Dallas…

…but no accumulation in my neighborhood 😦

Winter has finally fallen upon Dallas, with a winter storm moving in last night.  Rained all day, then heavy snowfall, but here in the inner city, it didn’t stick.  Friends in the ‘burbs are posting pics online of a solid white dusting of snow.  Ah well, I’d still rather live here. 😉

’30 Days of Truth’ post to follow…