Author Archives: Alysha Kaye Mendez

About Alysha Kaye Mendez

Author of THE WAITING ROOM, available now on Amazon! 9th grade English teacher, tirelessly trying to save the future from their/they're/there catastrophes (it could be ugly). Teaching writing and being a writer at the same time is harder than it sounds. New goal=be both, better.

Mama K & The Shades

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Originally written for and published by Texas Lifestyle Magazine 🙂

 

Mama K & The Shades are definitely a local must-see with their jazz-soul-R&B-funk combo of high-energy sound of a 10-piece band you have to see to believe. If you’re a night owl, catch them on the SXSW schedule: Maggie Mae’s Rooftop Bar on March 15 and Half Step on March 18, both at 1 AM.

White Light Exposure - mama k and the shades-1Mama K & The Shades have been together for almost three years and range from ages 22 to 62. Lead singer Kelsey Garcia says that they are much more than “just bandmates.”

“It seems like we’ve known each other forever—we’re family,” she said. “We’ve been playing together for long enough now that we’ve really developed our own true sound. We’ll always be influenced by 70’s and 80’s funk, but we’re not a replica; we’re our own thing entirely.”

Who exactly is this dime? Well, the vocalists are the leading —and only— lady Kelsey Garcia and Willie Barnes. The instrumentalists consist of: Johnny Storbeck (guitar), David Thacker (keyboard), Lee Braverman (bass), Chris Barnes (drums), Wesley Gonzales (percussion), Joseph Morrow (trumpet and flugelhorn), Dustin Hunter (tenor and baritone sax), and Donald McDaniel (trombone). Whew. Yeah—it’s a lot. Which means—big sound! Big sound does not always mean great sound, but in this case, it truly does. Somehow, they make ten people on a stage look and sound like every band should follow suit.

mama k -4Their first album, “Honey Made,” is dedicated to David McKnight, their original sax player who passed away two years ago. Their second album is in the works and will be out next year.

“He was the creator of the band, my best friend, and roommate,” Garcia said. “Whenever something was going really well, he used to always say, ‘Ooooh that’s honey made!’ [hence the album title]. Those were big shoes to fill, and we went without a sax player for a long time, but Dustin is incredible.”

If you’ll be at home avoiding the SXSW craziness this year, they’re also really excited to open for Big Freedia and The Soul Rebels at Mohawk on April 1. Or hey, need a vacation? Mama K & The Shades will be heading to Denver for their first out-of-state gig and the start of their first tour April 20! You get it—you have a ton of opportunities to check out these awesome local artists on their race to the top of the charts.

“Everyone’s passion is the music,” said Garcia, “and we just love sharing that with whoever we can.”

Weekends Lately

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I was walking barefoot down the grungy sidewalk, carrying my t14752526wo black wedges and sipping from a giant can of Arizona Green Tea. Maybe it would’ve been better if it was a canna beer or a bottla wine, but nope. It was the same 99 cent turquoise garbage that I’ve been buying from convenient stores since high school.

The pop top gleamed under the street lamp and I spat loudly into the night, trying to swat a moth away with the only free “hand” I had. I wondered what anyone would think if they saw me walking toward my apartment building looking like this. Mascara and short, white hairs caked on my sticky cheeks from sobbing into a puppy’s neck, dress torn if you looked close enough, heels in hand, taking huge gulps of tea every few steps as if they were shots of tequila. I looked like a dime-store whore, and I laughed up at the branches at that thought.

There’s something about hurting that makes you not give a shit about what you look like–about anything really. I climbed the gritty steps, feeling bits of dirt (and who knows what else) fall off my feet and new bits of dirt (and who knows what else) collect on my feet.

I wished, in that moment, that I could’ve held my head high and sashayed out of that house, into my car, and out of my car like a movie star, like a rock star, like any star. I wished my whole look and demeanor and attitude and confidence and poise and ferocity had been untouched, an unwavering smile, unfaltering mirth-filled eyes, always.

But that’s just impossible, right? You’re the loser of the story in your own life…a lot. Often times, you’re the minor character–the one that looks like a hot mess, probably cracked-out, drunk, and pregnant with a one-way ticket to jail, a comedic relief. The ridiculous best friend, not the one who gets the whole plot line.

Other times, you’re the funny girl at the beginning of a rom-com who’s chugging Arizona Green Tea like it’s unicorn blood–and then something crazy happens and then something hilarious happens and then something cute happens and then something romantic happens and everything is rainbows and butterflies and all is well in the world for that silly little dime-store whore in the end. Right?

 

 

P.S. These are all real things…??? Need.

Galen James

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Originally written for and published by Texas Lifestyle Magazine 🙂

Remember when music was recorded on tape—a few takes, in the moment, no digital sound effects with a million computerized edits along the way?

Galen James, who recently moved to Austin to be a part of the Live Music Capital of the World, remembers, and wants to recapture that purity.

“That’s how The Beatles and Jimi Hendrix did it—they were great musicians and I don’t want people to lose sight of that,” he said. “It takes a lot of work, and you have to be really solid, but it sounds a lot warmer—a band, exactly as they truly are.”

Galen is the real deal—he even worked with Doug Messinger, the guitarist for Van Morrison, to create his Pop-Jazz fusion analog tape masterpiece.

“We actually used the same tape recorder used by Pink Floyd for ‘The Wall,’” he said. “It took an entire year—and I also recorded the whole thing and put it up on YouTube. It’s easier to use a computer and a mouse and move things around—you can do a thousand takes just singing one line. That sort of thing doesn’t happen on tape. You have to rewind, manually turn up the knobs, and restart the whole thing over again.”

When he’s not trying to bring back the transparency of music, the Jazz Studies major is teaching piano, jazz theory, and voice lessons at Eastside Music on 5th Street.

He’s played on Rainey Street, at Lucky’s Lounge, Speakeasy, and more eclectic spots all over Austin—and is lining up more shows currently.

If you haven’t looked this guy up yet—do it! His style is truly hard to place, which is awesome—you’re not sure what genre you’re listening to, but the jazzy undertones are amazing. The only close comparison that I can make is Jason Mraz.

“All my music is about my life, which is one of the difficult things about it—there are a lot of emotions artists can tap into, which makes playing very difficult sometimes,” he explained. “But I like challenging myself, that’s why I recorded on tape.”

Galen has two albums out right now and is releasing a new EP this summer. You can find all of his work on Amazon, BandCamp, or purchase them at his next live show. Visit his http://www.GalenJames.com for more info!

 

The Pink Notebook

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I remember wanting a fancy poetry notebook and either a) being too lazy to go buy one b) being too poor to go buy one or c) just saying, “F it!” and cracking open the thick, hot pink Five Star which was an extra from my last semester of college.

My first entry says 10/09/10. My last entry says 2/1/17. I never really liked poetry titles–I thought they kind of took away from the poem’s magic. Or maybe I just suck at titles. Either way, every page has a date at the top, nothing more. Well, this is a lie–there are a few random M*A*S*H games scattered throughout, a couple planning pages from my Teach For America days, some grocery lists,  Pros/Cons lists, to-do lists, and a food diary. Sometimes I wouldn’t have anything else to write on, OK? So I can’t say every page is poem, but almost.

I’ve taken this thing everywhere–so many flights, random countries, beaches, poolsides, and bus rides. It’s been through a bizarre six and a half years. I don’t ever share my poetry–only a few people have read from this thing (hand-picked poems, never free-reign flipping), but I figured I’d share a few to celebrate the momentous occasion of finally filling it up. I thought I’d fill it up in a year, tops. I mean, it IS thick, like I said–divided into sections with fancy pocketed page dividers. But I definitely didn’t stick to my poem-a-day plan. Shit, I didn’t even stick to a-poem-a-month plan.

Edit: I was going to share one poem from every year…but that quickly became a Ha! Some years are overflowing with loss/grief/I miss yous/fuck yous and nothing else. You can just go listen to any good break-up album instead. Other pages are only filled with cheesy I love you poems that I just…can’t.

You know what? I’m just going to share one. It’s not the best, it’s not the worst, but it made me laugh out loud on this ugly, rainy Saturday. To all of you with awful tattoos that you got when you were 18, but still can’t admit that you were young and dumb, so you make up ridiculous explanations and “meanings”:

9/12/12
your tattoos lick over your chest
washing over both arms
the black contrasting against the bare white
the meanings are too obscure, forced
for me to believe they should be on your body forever
I think you just liked the idea, the look, the art
the way the girl’s hair curled around your collar bone
the way the microphone cord curved into song lyrics
the way the octopus met the elephant on your bicep
Don’t give me that deep, really reaching concept
that you made up
for moments like these
when a girl who needs meaning
asks you about your ink

Traveling and Pharmacies

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Originally written for and published by Wanderful 🙂

“NOT a sunburn. No sunburn. Sunburn — no! Rash from sun. Sun rash!” I frantically motioned to the “sun” (aka pharmacy ceiling) and then to my blotchy, red legs.

This was me trying to communicate to a pharmacist in Greece — and failing miserably like some idiot American on a sitcom.

Surprisingly, I wound up getting what I needed.

Most of us know that traveling does not come with a guarantee of 100% safety and well-being.

 

No matter how much of a planner you are, there’s just no possible way to pack every single thing you might possibly need for every fathomable emergency situation. I always carry a mini first aid kit when I travel, but nothing in it was helpful in the slightest during the times I needed medical attention.

So, what do you do when you’re in a country whose language you don’t speak, you need medicine of some sort, and you need it ASAP?

This is what you do.

The good ol’ point and show method.

It’s more effective than you think.

 

My aforementioned rash flabbergasted me — I had no idea what kind of cream to ask for, but I knew I needed more than fancy aloe vera or 100 SPF sunscreen.

In Greece, I developed the aggressive breakout that began crawling up from my ankles all the way to my mid-thigh. It was terrifying. Red, blotchy, itchy, and then painful. I later came to the conclusion that I’d developed “Hiker’s Rash” — which was strange because I really wasn’t doing any intense hiking (some people are just more sensitive to walking in hot, humid weather for too long).

And it happened again in Beijing recently. I was bewildered — it wasn’t too hot and all we were doing was walking around a couple of different temples in the city. I was completely unprepared.

Luckily, this is a very visible symptom. Multiple pharmacists looked my legs up and down before displaying two different cream choices before me, which brings me to my second tip.

 

Bite the bullet and buy more than you need.

I knew I didn’t need more than one tube of cream, but I also knew that one would most likely work better than the other because they both had different ingredients, different pictures, etc.

Not knowing which one that was, I bought both and figured it out over the next few days.

Extra medicine is never a bad thing, and your safety and comfort is worth the money you fork over, I promise.

 

Use a translator before you go to the store.

If you don’t have a data plan or phone that you can whip out at the store, see if your hotel, hostel, or accommodations have computers available that you can use. Then, write down a translation of everything you can think would be helpful — things you think your condition might be, products you think could help, products you know will not help, things you’re allergic to (that’s important), active ingredients to look for or avoid, and so on.

Nowadays, however, there are all sorts of apps that allow you to translate even while you’re offline. Google Translate, for instance, has an offline component, or you can check out Lonely Planet’s Offline Translator app.

Alternatively, if you have a friend or tour guide who speaks the language, take them with you.

When I studied abroad in Costa Rica, I got a terrible fever blister. That one was on me — I should’ve known to pack something for cold sores because I get them anytime I lose too much sleep, get overly stressed, or get too much sun.

In Costa Rica — even though my Spanish was pretty decent — a member of my host family went to the drugstore to buy me cold sore cream. She told me that if I went alone, they’d know right away that I wasn’t from there and would try to sell it to me for five times the true price. (That’s a whole other article.)

Closely inspect the box or bottle.

You might be surprised at how many have English somewhere on the labeling. It could be just the active ingredients that are listed in English, but that’s better than nothing! Then, if you have a data plan or wifi available, you do a quick Google to see what they’re commonly used to treat.

 

Most medicines also typically have some sort of visual aid, even if it’s just in the brand’s marketing. Every little thing is helpful. That’s how I knew which creams were for sunburns (which was NOT what I was suffering from); they had pictures of the sun with an aloe vera leaf.

Trust the pharmacist.

It may seem like they’re trying to sell you some quack cream or suspicious pill, but more often than not they’re just doing their job and trying to get you what they honestly believe will help you.

On the same Greece trip, I was casually strolling down from Meteora (the coolest “floating” monasteries, it’s a magical place) when I tripped over a huge nail that was strangely hammered into the ground.

I face-planted. Hard. I mean I really, really ate it. There was a lot of blood. My cute little Band-Aids and tiny packets of Neosporin weren’t going to cut it.

I just wanted to buy the cheapest, most Western-looking cream and bandages, but the pharmacist kept trying to sell me a more expensive cream. I bought it, even though I felt a little robbed. It turned out to be some sort of magical potion that cleared up my scrapes in record time.

I hope you’re not as accident-prone as I am and that you never get injured in any way on your adventures.

But if you do, please keep these suggestions in mind.

Medicine is kind of a universal language, when you think about it. It’s one of many things tying us all together; the fact that everyone — every single person across the globe — bleeds and burns and breaks out into rashes and peels and scabs and suffers from you-name-it.

Happy traveling, wanderful women!

Friendships Age Too

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Everyone always talks about romantic relationships and how difficult they are–the compromising, the settling, how hard it is to be single, how hard it is to be married, blah blah blah.

No one ever really spends too much time gabbing about how difficult friendships can be. Friendships are supposed to be easy, right? Comfortable, lasting longer than any romantic relationship you’ve ever had. I guess that used to be true.

Somewhere around Real Adult Life (not Fake Adult Life), you realize how tough friendships can actually be. Hangouts no longer consist of last minute happy hours that turn into long, carb-filled dinners that turn into late-night pillow talk and accidental sleepovers. Hangouts now have to be planned weeks in advance. Alcohol and carbs are out because someone is on an insane diet. Late nights and accidental sleepovers are out because someone has to wake up early for work or get home ASAP to a baby or a husband or a boyfriend. Suddenly, you’re not a priority in their life anymore–you’re third or fourth fiddle, at best.

At some point, jobs and men, raises and promotions and…men became more important than keeping up with what you’ve been cooking for dinner or watching on Netflix…GASP?! It’s normal, I know. But that doesn’t make it suck any less.

The worst part is, you want to be happy for them, you TRY your damnedest to be happy for them…but mostly, you just feel deflated. There was a time in my life when I talked to my friends every day (usually multiple times a day). Questions like, “Hey, did you wind up buying that necklace?” have turned into “Hey, how’ve you been?”

I’ve never been one of those 27 Dresses types–I’ve always had a close-knit pack of two or three women who were more like sisters to me. I’m currently down to…one. Insert the *eek!* emoji. Yeah. One bestie who keeps up with my woes pretty well–not like she used to, but still pretty well.

Is it because she and I are the only single ladies of the once-wolf-pack? Perhaps. But more likely, it’s because we’ve been best friends since we met in middle school, when she saw me bleeding from my knees and lip and asked if I was OK (ridiculous Spanish Dancing Club incident). Hopefully, she’ll be my person forevs, but let’s be real…she could turn into a Husband-Hungry villain at any moment… That, folks, will be the day I adopt a handful of pets and babies or move to an island and live out the rest of my days befriending only coconuts.

Anyway, I’m getting off track here, I apologize. I have a few acquaintance-types who are fun, but they’re seeking the same thing I am–people to fill in the gaps leftover by once upon a time best friends, sisters. It’s great to have people who you can share a meal with, but it’s crazy to feel like you don’t have anyone to tell the deep, dark stuff to.

It can be pretty lonely, here in adulthood. No wonder people kept getting married even after property promises and dowries weren’t a thing anymore–it’s the only way of ensuring that you won’t slip and die in the shower, your remains left rotting under an enormous water bill for weeks. I kid, I kid.

How do we keep friendships, even after X, Y, or Z? How do we balance other life obligations with these people who know way too much about us? How do we remain understanding, even after being shoved aside to make room for “more” or “different” or “better”?

Questions

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Oh hey, WordPress. I broke my “post once a month” rule. Crap.

And here to make up for it is a list of asinine questions, none of which I really need an answer to, but they’re funny so whatever.

  1. Now that my ex-boyfriend is engaged to my ex-roommate, will he change his HBOGo password? Because my life will be ruined without full Jon Snow access.
  2. Is there any real possibility of convincing my parents to NOT vote for Trump? I’ve tried almost everything. Welcome to new ideas.
  3. Why are crime podcasts the best thing on the planet and am I a psychopath for loving listening to murder stories so much? My Favorite Murder and In the Dark are my latest obsessions–check them out if you’re a weirdo like me. Also, (not to answer my own question) I think I like them partly because they play into my extreme anxiety and constant paranoia. Now I can quote 1980s court cases if someone makes fun of me for locking my doors meticulously (and checking to make sure they’re locked).
  4. Why do rapists often times serve little to NO jail time? Everyone should watch Audrie & Daisy on Netflix…it’s sickening but important, for teenagers especially. I wish it were appropriate to show in my classroom–I’d love for my students to watch and learn about a) the true meaning of consent b) the horror social media can cause and c) the repercussions of your actions and how some mistakes can haunt you (and others) forever.

On that bright and shiny note, I leave you. Off to try a “salt cave session”…I don’t even know. The Groupon obsession continues.