In waxing poetical about Saunders, Lovell quoted Saunders friend, author Tobias Wolff in an unforgettable way.
After first relating how Wolff believes Saunders has “been one of the luminous spots of our literature for the past 20 years,” Lovell then shared the extent of Wolff’s admiration for Saunders — not just as a writer but as a human being describing “what may be the most elegant compliment I’ve heard paid to another person: ‘He’s such a generous spirit, you’d be embarrassed to behave in a small way around him.'”
And to make more of a storyteller’s grace, also yesterday on the death of author and Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Richard Ben Cramer, Esquire’s Mike Sager wrote, “Cramer’s work transcended because of who he was. It is one thing to be great; it is much harder to be kind.”
So speaking of talented storytellers, in March 2011, I marveled again at Bard of the Barrio Hector Becerra and his defining stories of who we are. In that instance, Becerra who is a reporter for the Los Angeles Times, related the “one of a kind” tale of 76-year old Eddie Goldstein.
I was attracted to Eddie’s story not only because it was poignant and well-written but because it was another tale of the East Los Angeles Barrio where I grew up — and because I am drawn to stories from the neighborhood — especially good ones like the ones Becerra tells about its people and its memories.
So comes now Becerra’s latest Barrio chronicle, this time about Henry Gonzalez and Rampart Records, the “Eastside record label still spinning out the music.”
Gonzalez doesn’t cut the image of music impresario or music producer, something he works at while he scrambles to keep his head above water doing other things, including occasional acting.
Gonzalez inherited Rampart Records from its founder, the late small-time music mogul, Eddie Davis. Davis moved to Boyle Heights as a child and began producing Chicano rock acts in the 1960’s. They met in 1975.
But you have to admire Gonzalez’s doggedness even if he only ends up like that guy who keeps hitting his head because it feels so good when he stops.
Becerra’s essay about Gonzalez and Rampart is also about a bygone time. It’s nostalgia. It brings back memories of barrio kids and garage-bands “from Boyle Heights, East L.A.and the San Gabriel Valley with names like THE BLENDELLS, the Romancers, The Premiers, and CANNIBAL AND THE HEADHUNTERS.”
It’s also an evocative reflection as I recall “The Emeralds,” a mostly-forgotten garage-band without the garage that practiced in the family dining room of the house next door, that is, when the drummer wasn’t working at the family bakery.
They were loud and probably good enough for a neighborhood party. And I was a little kid when I heard them playing. We lived in a house my folks rented within spitting distance of Estrada Courts.
Far as I know, unlike other Eastside barrio bands like Thee Midniters, “The Emeralds” never made it beyond the old neighborhood.
As for Henry Gonzalez, while he may ultimately not find the way, he energetically continues trying to make one. And in his own way — himself a storyteller through music.
Photo Credits: “George Saunders,” by David Shankbone at Wikipedia Commons under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts, and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled GNU Free Documentation License; “East LA Parade – 25,” by Edwin Recinos, Los Ojos De Muerte at Flickr via Creative Commons-license requiring attribution;”Car in Boyle Heights,” by meltwater at Flickr via Creative Commons-license requiring attribution;”East Los Angeles Skeleton Guitar,” byvalli_mark at Flickr via Creative Commons-license requiring attribution; “Estrada Courts,” via Wikipedia Commons, source http://media.photobucket.com/image/vne/781redrum09/ectslowlowsg4va4.jpg?o=12