Memories of Vex


by Marisela Norte

There was just something about making your way up that metal staircase; maybe it was the sound of pointed heels going up up up toward the band or maybe it was just knowing that you were a part of something that was so apart from everything else.

In a large, open space many times rented out for the sacrifice of yet another young virgin in the spectacle we have come to call La Quinceanera or the baile that follows the nuptials and mass at Our Lady of Talpa, I stood among the fortunate ones who made their way up the metal staircase at Self-Help Graphics on Thursday nights and fell into the Vex for the music.

The scent of the ever present Aqua Net aerosol arsenal in the air, Chicanas with lips painted the colour of plums and the ever present thin young Duke made from rock n' roll. We saw friends, ignored enemies, nursed bottles of warm beer someone had tucked in their purse and listened eagerly and with minimal attitude to bands like The Brat, The Undertakers, 45 Grave and Los Illegals.

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It was the perfect time for me to be in my mid 20's with black, kohl lined eyes taking note of everything and everyone inside Vex as well as the corner of Brooklyn and Gage just outside an open window.

"Once it was like seeing the night for the very first time only someone dangled black ice cubes in front of my eyes

Each street
Each story
Melted on a page..."

A few lines lifted from an old notebook after catching a 45 Grave show one Thursday night in Boyle Heights at a place called Vex.

Marisela Norte began her writing career in the early 1980s, opening for many of the bands in the East L.A. punk scene with her spoken word in places like Vex, Club Lingerie, and makeshift joints all over the east side and downtown. Marisela Norte is the author of East LA Days/Fellini Nights and is currently writing the novel, Lady In the Lake, about the Westlake district of Los Angeles. She is a long time volunteer at the East Los Angeles Women's Center, a member of the Bus Riders Union, PEN and the Progressive Jewish Alliance. Norte works at the Museum of Contemporary Art in downtown Los Angeles.

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