Sunday, April 29, 2018

THE RAYBRAZEN.COM STORY, PART 4D: THE ARMANDO NAVA DIARIES, APRIL 30, 1998


I'd hit the sack at around 9-ish the evening before, planning to sleep till the 3:30 AM alarm I'd set for myself, but instead I caught just enough sleep to be able to stay awake through my final duties tending to Armando and came to around 2:30. Upon realizing that I was just a couple of hours away from my final meeting with Armando, I instantly decided the matter of even attempting to get that final hour of sleep in before 3:30 was a pointless one, cancelled my alarm and just laid awake in bed for that last hour. Quiet as a mouse, careful not to awake anyone in the house, I got ready to take that one last ride. By about 4:30 AM I was on the highway to NYC, gearing up for my final hour with Armando.

With no traffic to speak of the whole way through, I made it back to Brooklyn just in time for Armando's 5:30 AM pickup. After saying adios to his friend who had put him up the last ten days, we packed the luggage into the trunk, Armando hopped in the passenger's seat, and we were off to Newark Airport in record time. It was our last hour together, and Armando made sure to make the most of it: no sooner were we smoothly on our way out of Brooklyn than he grabbed a tape out of his backpack and asked me, "Want to hear some more unreleased stuff?" My answer was definitely affirmative! Popping the tape into the car stereo, we were soon listening to a short compilation of new live tracks taped off recent appearances by Los Dug Dug's on Mexican TV, with a couple of rehearsal extracts interspersed.  The new songs all had the classic Dug Dug's power trio sound a lot of us know and love, and with their passionate lyrics (which Armando summarized for me as we listened) and Armando's passionate vocals, they remind me a bit of some of El Tri's better material, though they remain distinctively Dug Dug's. By the end of the tape I was encouraging Armando to get himself into a studio to record these songs as soon as he possibly could!

Listening to the new tracks sure did make the ride go fast, perhaps too fast in fact, as we made it back to Newark Airport from Brooklyn in just over half an hour's time, though it didn't seem that long. Armando told me it was a smooth trip taking his girlfriend back to Kennedy Airport the night before, and as they parted he made sure to throw her his car keys, so that she could fetch his car the next day and drive it to the airport in Mexico City to pick him up once he arrived. He also managed to voice one little complaint about her visit: "Man, all she wanted to do was go shopping! We walked around all day until my feet were killing me!" At Newark, there was another small spell of confusion over where the proper place to drop Armando off was, and there was a lot of traffic going to the upper level of Terminal C, forcing me to drive him to the lower level instead to let him off. There was still the matter of the piece of luggage Continental was still holding onto for him, and we both kept our fingers crossed. Hopefully he was able to get it back without too much of a hassle (though I won't know for sure until I call him back in Mexico later).

We shared a big, big hug and a few backslaps as we parted ways. Armando was off to catch his flight (and hopefully get his piece of luggage back) and I was off to slowly but surely start getting my life back to normal after these past ten crazy but wonderful days. As I drove off, away from Terminal C, out into the misty New Jersey dawn, I realized that this was it, the end of my final meeting with Armando. I won't lie, it brought tears to my eyes. Armando Nava had come to New York, taken me completely by surprise, and put me in another world for awhile, and in the process I gained a very wonderful and unique new friend.


I may have felt like crying at that moment, but through my small tears I realized: Armando Nava was now a trusted friend of mine, we had each other's phone numbers, and we had both promised to keep in touch. The pain of saying goodbye soon lifted and gave way to the realization that this wasn't a goodbye, but rather a "till we meet again." I dried my tears, thanked the stars above for the good fortune that I'd been blessed with, and headed back home, already starting to think about what other wonderful things the gentle hand of fate might bring my way in the future.


(Dear Brazenblog Readers: I hope you've enjoyed The Armando Nava Diaries, and had as much fun reading it as I did reliving it. As a special bonus, here's an in-depth interview I did with Sr. Nava four months prior to his 1998 visit to my home, in which he tells the wondrous history of Los Dug Dug's. It is the only English language interview with Armando currently available online, not to mention another highly treasured moment in my crazy musical life. Enjoy, and thanks as always for reading! Much love, BRAZEN.)


Thursday, April 26, 2018

THE RAYBRAZEN.COM STORY, PART 4C: THE ARMANDO NAVA DIARIES, APRIL 26-28, 1998


SUNDAY, APRIL 26, 1998:
It's a grossly overcast Sunday, with rain pouring from the heavens all over New York and New Jersey, and low visibility on the roads making for dangerous travel. A perfect day to have Armando and his girlfriend over for dinner, eh? Guess they'll have to provide the sunshine on this dreary day (or should that be brillo de sol?). And believe me, they did. As Mom cooked up chicken cordon bleu with all the trimmings, I set out to the Port Authority where I was to pick up Armando and Alejandra. The appointed meeting time was 3 PM, but I knew I'd be waiting a little longer than that. And of course, it's impossible to try to pick them out in the crowds outside the place when there seems to be nothing I can do but keep driving around the block again and again until the two of them appear, another task made impossible by the curse of gridlock.

So when an actual parking space miraculously manifested itself before me as I was gearing up for my second attempt to cruise around the block, I knew this would be another day where magic things were going to happen. Safely parked, I then spent the next 15 minutes crawling the Port Authority trying to find them, but I never did. No, Armando and his girl found me instead, walking around with a confused look on my face, and Armando acted just as surprised to hear that I had found a parking space as I was when I found it. His girlfriend Alejandra looked younger than her supposed 40-plus years (until her age was revealed I assumed she was in her early thirties!), and although her command of the English language was virtually nonexistent, she never once displayed any lack of enthusiasm in the entire afternoon and evening following.

We went to the car and headed out of NYC as fast as we could. I'd brought along a tape of the Beatles' Anthology 2 and immediately popped it into the car stereo as we took off. This led to a long conversation about the Fab Four, whom Armando absolutely admires. We both quickly discovered that we had the same favorite Beatles songs in common, and it was a joy to hear Armando sing along to some of the songs, providing some live vocals for my entertainment! (I was particularly impressed by the fact that he knew every word to every song, and delighted in showing off this knowledge!) Armando eventually revealed to me that in the early eighties he organized and led an orchestral concert tribute to the Beatles that played a string of gigs in Mexico!

We arrived back at Mom & Pop Brazen's, and it was there that the party kicked into high gear right from the get-go. No sooner were we settled than Armando brought out all the unreleased recordings that Frank Mangano had given him a few days earlier, over an hour's worth of material on reel-to-reel tapes and unissued acetates, and of course I had the cassette deck rolling to tape my own personal copies of everything as we listened. We took a brief break after listening to reel #1 of two reels' worth of Dug Dug's live recordings from 1968 to sit down to dinner, and let me tell you, not only was Mom's cooking completely spot-on this afternoon, but none of us can recall having two people as guests in our house who were as enthusiastic about the food as Armando and Alejandra! Armando, in particular, smothered almost everything on his plate with gravy, saying he absolutely loves the stuff and that back in Mexico, hardly any food you order there comes with it!

We sat around from there comparing various observations on Mexico for awhile, then resumed our listening party, after which Armando took out his camcorder, which I didn't even know he had actually brought with him until that point! After taking the time to capture some footage of our little gathering, we hooked the thing up to the TV and Armando showed us the footage he had just shot of all of us, as well as some already existing footage on the tape of a Nava family gathering at a Chinese restaurant in Mexico City, pointing out everyone from his 12-year-old daughter to his nephew (on whose computer Armando first got to see my website!) to his 70-plus-year-old mother, still his manager to this day! Fascinating footage, I wish I'd thought to pop a tape into the VCR! Both my parents were absolutely enthusiastic about the company I'd brought over for dinner the whole time. Even my dad, who's not particularly social and stayed in the background for much of Armando's visit to the house on the day he arrived, mingled freely with the guests, traded a few jokes with them, and afterward told me how much he enjoyed them!


The hour was growing fairly late and I had a long haul ahead of me, so at around 8 PM we loaded up the car again and I set into the grueling task of driving Armando and Alejandra all the way back to Brooklyn, with the rain still pouring down from the skies and low visibility making for a truly neck-risking experience, but with Armando aboard, somehow I knew fate would once again be kind and everyone would make it home safely in the end. On the way back to Brooklyn, Armando pulled a cassette out of his pocket and popped it in the car stereo, treating me to one unreleased track we didn't get to at our listening party earlier, a nice version of Brenton Wood's "Gomme Little Sign" recorded at the sessions which produced the four new tracks on the new compilation CD Los Dug Dug's are on. I followed that with one of my own homemade comp tapes, playing some of my favorite music for him (not surprisingly, Armando was very quick to notice the thundering double-bass drum sound on Motorhead's "Overkill"). And my luck continued onward from there as the rain gradually stopped as we headed for Brooklyn, allowing for a much safer commute home for me once I'd dropped the two of them off. Again, my body was exhausted when I got home, but my mind was still on overdrive, so instead of forcing the issue, I stayed up and ate some leftover chicken cordon bleu from the afternoon and replayed a few of the unreleased Dug Dug's tracks I now had in my grasp, until I finally felt like sleeping at last.

MONDAY, APRIL 27, 1998:
Precious little sleep the night before, so many things to catch up on today, and by the end of the day I was even more exhausted than before. It's good that this day wound up being another day off from the Armando adventure for me, because I needed a rest! I knew Armando wanted to have some time alone with his girl, so I left the two of them alone this evening and concentrated instead on listening more closely to the unreleased tapes and acetates I now have on cassette:


The two live tapes from 1968, both half-hour reel-to-reels compiled from at least a few different performances (although I have no info on exact dates, venues etc.) are just the sort of unreleased, tapes-that-sat-unknown-in- someone's-basement-for-thirty-years wonders that make garage-rock addicts salivate. They feature the band tearing through a truckload of covers of popular hits of the day in a very punky style indeed, with Armando playing very prominent, very garagey-sounding keyboards throughout, Gustavo Garayzar taking some very raw and exciting turns on lead guitar, and lead singer Jorge de la Torre offering very good diction of the English lyrics. It's mildly disappointing that we don't get to hear any originals done live, but Los Dug Dug's play with so much energy and enthusiasm throughout that after a short while the energy level makes it inconsequential that they're doing cover tunes. There's 60s punk standards like "Pushin' Too Hard," the Strangeloves' "Nighttime" (here with some astounding siren effects done with feedback!) and the Music Explosion's "Little Bit O'Soul" in the set list, but even when they're doing songs not associated with the garage genre, they still sound like a garage band: "Gimme Some Lovin'" completely wipes the floor with Steve Winwood and there's an insane cover of "Summer in the City" that kicks off with a minute-long freakout sequence that must be heard to be believed! I also like the double-shot of Yardbirds tunes on reel #2, "I'm A Man" followed abruptly by "The Nazz Are Blue" off the Roger the Engineer album, an inspired choice indeed. Great, great stuff!

After the live tapes, the second best item in Armando's pile of unreleased Dug Dug's goodies is the "World of Love/Eclipse" acetate, two noticeably different early versions of tracks that would later be redone for the first LP. "World" has a similar feel to the album version, but throws in an extra verse, while "Eclipse" is faster and punkier than the album version and is noticeably missing the instrumental portion that begins and ends the version we all know. The remaining stuff is a bunch of solo recordings Armando made with a bunch of studio hacks shortly before his return to Mexico after the Frank Mangano deal soured. Armando himself acted a bit sheepish when I threw them on the turntable during our listening party the day before, saying the recordings "really aren't all that good," and I would have to agree with him. Of the four songs, Armando only wrote one of them, "God is Crying (Teardrops in the Sky)," which, not surprisingly, is the best of the songs, a fairly pleasant ballad of sorts inspired by his living in Brooklyn Heights and viewing the East River on a rainy day. But that and the other songs (written by the session's producers) are awash in syrupy strings and a turn-of-the-decade orchestral pop sound, and much though Armando's voice sounds as fine as ever, songs like "With the Wind at My Back" and "Beautiful Green" go in one ear and out the other in the end. Oh well, two out of three ain't bad.


After listening to the unreleased Armando/Dug Dug's tracks, I finally got caught up on my sleep once again, putting my body clock back into synchronization from the craziness of the past eight days...

TUESDAY, APRIL 28, 1998:
...only to learn by the end of this day that I would have to work to throw my body clock out of whack again for the culmination of my duties accommodating Armando: when I called him this evening, he informed me of his departure plans, which involve taking his girlfriend back to Kennedy Airport on Wednesday afternoon to see her off, then rushing back by train to Brooklyn, catching as much sleep as possible, then waking up super-early for his own flight back to Mexico City, which requires his arriving at Newark Airport no later than 6:30 AM Thursday morning. So of course, I have to get my own self out of bed by 4 AM to arrive in Brooklyn to pick him up by 5:30. One last insane morning and the whole Armando visit is over for the both of us. But let this much be said: though I've pretty much bent over backwards to make sure all has gone well for my special, special guest, you won't hear me complaining about it, now or ever.


CLICK HERE FOR PART 4!



Sunday, April 22, 2018

THE RAYBRAZEN.COM STORY, PART 4B: THE ARMANDO NAVA DIARIES, APRIL 22-25, 1998


WEDNESDAY, APRIL 22, 1998:
After yet another night where I should have gotten a fairly decent night's sleep and didn't, I again woke up just wanting to go back to sleep, but then I remembered that it was day 3 of Armando's visit and that got me started once more. I took my time getting ready to go to New York, by bus this time, and as this sort of thing often goes, I was half an hour late to meet Armando by the time I got there, armed with a tour itinerary stored in my head which I had put together literally at the last minute on the subway train to Brooklyn. I returned to the place I had dropped Armando off at two nights earlier, at first to find no sign of him. Pulling out the phone number he had given me, I went to a pay phone and called him, but the phone rang off the hook with no answer. Panic started to set in again, but just as I walked back to the door of the place he was staying, there he was. I apologized to him for being late, and told him, "The first thing you learn in New York City is that people here are never on time," to which he replied, "Hey, it's the same way in Mexico City!" Two days before, when he came in from Mexico City, Armando had his hair tied in a ponytail, but today, without the ponytail, he revealed a head of hair that made him look almost exactly like he did on the cover of EL LOCO, and really not a hell of a lot older either.

After determining that the chances of Armando's girlfriend flying in to join him were pretty much close to zero, Armando and I hit the subway, whereupon I instantly slipped into tour guide mode, a role I would remain in for the entire afternoon. I kicked off his sightseeing trip by taking him over the Manhattan Bridge and showing him the East River and Statue of Liberty, Armando making sure to focus briefly on locating the Brooklyn Heights section Los Dug Dug's arrived at in 1968, a mere four days prior to the infamous massacre in Mexico that year. After some more subway riding, I brought Armando to Times Square for his first visit in 30 years. It was while we were making our way towards Times Square that a celebrity of a more mainstream kind pulled briefly into view, pushing his way past the two of us, politely but sternly excusing himself as he passed us. It was none other than Al Franken, the old SNL star turned senator, and I was taken aback by his presence just enough to start to say to Armando, "Hey, did you see that? That was Al Franken who just passed us!" before realizing that nobody in Mexico has probably ever heard of Al, least of all Armando! (And besides, who's the real celebrity in this story, anyway?) Still, it was kind of cool to think that Armando could at least say he saw a celebrity while he was here.

To 48th Street between 6th & Broadway we went, and Armando took the time to browse through every music store on the block, along the way starting up a most interesting discussion between us of the fine art of guitar collecting, an avid interest of his. In the back of my mind I was hoping he would be tempted to try out a guitar or two, and if so, to perhaps take a request for a solo live version of "Lost in My World," but Armando was clearly more interested in seeing than touching the merchandise, perhaps due to his aversion to doing such a thing in such a casual, informal situation. Nevertheless, Armando impressed me with his extensive knowledge about guitars. Once he'd had his fill of 48th Street, we decided to just zoom downtown to Greenwich Village. It was on the way downtown that Armando suddenly asked me, "Say, would you happen to know where I can find any videotapes of that old TV show from the 60s, Shindig?"

Several minutes after he asked me that question, we were at Tower Records, looking first through the CD's (a great moment occurred here where I fetched a Spice Girls CD out of the rack, showed it to him and asked for his comments, whereupon he brushed the CD aside and said simply, "Ugh!") and then through the video section. It was in the music vid section that Armando went into a feeding frenzy for over half an hour! Someone as jaded as myself would probably take a casual browse every so often through their music vid section, but to Armando, it was a treasure trove of great music clips I've no doubt he'd have as tough a time finding back in Mexico as we have trying to find Dug Dug's albums here in the States! He got his Shindig videos, plus a few other choice selections, and had to deal with some confusion at checkout as the clerk initially wouldn't take his credit card, but that matter smoothed out in time and he soon had his souvenirs safely in his grasp. Incidentally, while he had his wallet out, he took out another souvenir for me -- his business card, reproduced below!


St. Mark's Place was next on our agenda. On the walk over there, Armando took some time to give me some of the inside dirt on Los Dug Dug's final days as a quintet, at the time of their first album (which they recorded on a mere four tracks). Shortly after the album's release, Gustavo Garayzar (who was their original lead guitarist, and in fact sings lead vocals on "Eclipse" and "It's Over") was busted for marijuana possession and landed in jail, forcing the band to reduce its lineup to a quartet for its performance at the Avandaro Festival, after which Jorge de la Torre, the co-founder of the original group, abruptly terminated his partnership with Armando, and the band seemed doomed, until Armando started from scratch again and recast the band as a power trio (and what a power trio!) for the incredible second album. He also informed me that Sr. Garayzar is now a born-again Christian!

The day before, I'd made a quick stop at Mondo Kim's record shop on St. Mark's Place, and when I saw that they had just added fresh copies of the CD reissue of the first album and that new best-of-that's-hardly-a-best-of CD I wrote about earlier, I knew Armando was in for a potential treat when I brought him by there the next day. I had also remembered to bring along a stack of copies of ABRE TU MENTE with me when I left the house today, figuring on placing a few of them at Mondo Kim's and Rockit Scientist Records. We went inside, I took him over by the psych CD section, and asked him if he noticed anything, and he sure did, although by the time I'd gotten him over there, someone had bought the copy of the first album that had been there the day before.

After Armando marveled at the sight of his CD sticking out an American record store rack, he lost himself for awhile in the world of the used CD section. I suggested to him that we should give the store a few copies of ABRE TU MENTE and I proceeded to the front counter to inquire, whereupon he and I were introduced to the store's buyer, a cool gent named Simon, who seemed as equally dazed as I was at the realization that he was talking to the main Dug Dug himself! After buying up a few copies and asking if there might be more, he then decided to take one for himself and asked Armando to autograph it, and made sure to tell us of a local distributor who would likely be interested in buying up some more of our precious stock. Along the way he made sure we knew of the small write-up the two Dug Dug's CDs got in the latest issue of UGLY THINGS, and had me give him the URL for EL MUNDO LOCO DE LOS DUG DUG'S, promising to keep in touch. Armando then wanted ME to keep the money we'd received in exchange, but I insisted he take it, so he picked out a couple of used CD's instead and added to his growing souvenir collection. On the way out of Mondo Kim's, Armando was beaming from the attention he'd received inside the store. "That made me very happy," he said softly.


We kept on walking down St. Mark's Place towards Tompkins Square Park, when Armando announced he was hungry and asked me to suggest a place where we could eat and relax. By coincidence, there was a Mexican food joint right across the street, and I started to suggest that we go there. Well, I guess I made too obvious a selection, for Armando no sooner heard my suggestion than burst out laughing, saying, "Ray, man, I eat plenty of that stuff back home! I'm thinking more of eating some American food, you know?" So I took him to a more American food-oriented place where we had a ball feasting on fried chicken wings and open-faced sandwiches while comparing all sorts of very similar opinions on music.

He then spilled the beans on his plans for the next day, which came about partially with my involvement: I had successfully sought out his old American manager, Frank Mangano, found to my severe shock that he lived not very far away from me, secured his permission to give Armando his phone number, and now the two of them had plans to hang out the next day for the first time in many years! Immediately I acted opportunistic, asking if there might be some way I could get in on their little summit, and Armando said he would keep me posted. On the way out of the restaurant, I started to count out the money needed to pay our tab, whereupon Armando absolutely refused to let me pay for it, insisting on picking it up himself! What a guy!

The hour was growing towards evening, the temperature was getting colder, and I had to get around to catching up on things back at my place, though I offered to first accompany Armando on the fairly simple subway trek back to where he was staying. But Armando insisted that I didn't have to go out of my way to show him back there. I insisted that nothing was too much for me to accommodate him, but he said, "It's okay, I'll be fine." Since all he had to remember was that the N or R trains took him to 59th Street in Brooklyn, and since I knew it would be safe for him to take the subway there alone in the late stages of rush hour, I showed him to the nearest stop, and told him I'd call Frank Mangano myself as soon as I got home, since I definitely wanted to speak with him a second time anyway. We shook hands and went our ways.

Back home, I should have been tired, and on the bus I had started to feel a bit sleepy. But then I got back to my room and saw all the Dug Dug's memorabilia strewn all over the place, and caught a whiff of the faint odor of Mexican mildew that was now lingering in the room like a spectre, and I was wide awake once again. I sensed once again that my day was still not over yet. There was still that box of copies of ABRE TU MENTE, and I felt tempted to have a little fun with some of them, and perhaps test how much attention my beloved website was receiving. On the spur of the moment I decided to post a message to the two psychedelic & garage rock music lists I was on, announcing that I would be giving away five copies of the record to the first five people to reach me at my e-mail address. I wrote up the message, sent the posts, and forgot about it for the next hour.


After finishing up other tasks, I checked my e-mail to see if any "contest entries" had arrived. No less than twelve were waiting for me, all in an hour's time! I couldn't respond to the first five of them quickly enough! And through the night, I ended up receiving a grand total of 33 entries, over 20 of them in a single night! It was truly amazing, and I knew Armando would be pleased to hear about it all. I also took the time to call Frank Mangano, who thanked me profusely for hooking him up with Armando and after taking my phone number, hinted that I may indeed get to spend time with him and Armando on Thursday night. I'm still awaiting word on this as I write, but I've no doubt I've already got my ticket there. And indeed, man, if he calls, I'm there, dude.

THURSDAY, APRIL 23, 1998:
I woke up, wrote about yesterday's tour of the city with Armando, and relaxed for awhile, hoping that the night would bring an evening with Armando and Frank Mangano. Traffic was a bitch that afternoon, they got started a bit later than originally planned as a result, and I got really sleepy as I waited half the evening for any word from them. The more I waited, the sleepier I became. This burning of the candle at both ends had to start sinking in sooner or later. I finally gave up and went to sleep. They must've been pretty busy because they never called, and I did feel mildly disappointed. But that was okay because I knew there were more good times with Armando not too far down the road.

FRIDAY, APRIL 24, 1998:
Got really busy today and didn't get around to calling Armando till after 9 PM. He told me he had a great time with Frank the night before, and that Frank gave him a bunch of reel-to-reel tapes and acetates of Los Dug Dug's New York recordings! He then told me he had spent another day wandering around NYC on his own, getting lost as usual. He lamented that there are very few good used guitar stores in the city, and asked if I knew where he could pick up a certain type of camcorder battery. With my mind thinking towards scheduling time over the weekend for another afternoon together, I asked him which day was better for him, and when he told me Sunday was best, it set up instant Sunday dinner plans, as I invited him to once again come and visit my folks. He graciously accepted the invite, and we wrapped things up with Armando once again wondering about his girlfriend and whether or not she would ever make it to New York.  We said our goodbyes for the evening and I stayed up late listening to lots of Dug Dug's and a few other bands.

Just when I thought things were over for the night and was headed off to sleep at 2:00 in the morning, however, the phone rang out of nowhere. I answered on the first ring and a woman on the other end of the line started saying something in Spanish which I couldn't understand, but when she said "Armando" I had a clue as to who it was: his girlfriend. I tried to tell her as best I could that Armando was in Brooklyn, and she seemed to understand. I then began to think of the right way to tell her the number in Spanish, but she just said "Gracias" and hung up before I could begin. Following this call, I finally hit the hay, but I couldn't help but think that something was brewing...

SATURDAY, APRIL 25, 1998:
After a whole day of failing to get through to Armando, I finally got him on the line at last around 10 PM and was about to tell him about the 2 AM phone call but he was way ahead of me with news of his own: the seemingly impossible had happened, his girlfriend had flown in that morning, he had picked her up by train from Kennedy Airport, and the two went all over the city and had just stepped in seconds before I tried to call them for the zillionth time. Yes, he said, that was her who called at 2 AM, and he was profusely apologetic about it, but I told him it was okay and that I was still awake when she called (at which he acted surprised!). So of course, this now made for two guests coming to dinner on Sunday. It was fine by me, and I told him she could most certainly come even before I asked my parents about it (I knew they would approve anyway, and Mom was quick to say, "This will be interesting!"). He promised he would bring the tapes and acetates of the early Dug Dug's over for us to listen to, and told me I was more than welcome to make my own cassette copy of them if I wanted to.

As soon as I got off the phone, the very first thing I did was immediately check to see if I had any blank cassettes!


CLICK HERE FOR PART 3!



Friday, April 20, 2018

THE RAYBRAZEN.COM STORY, PART 4A: THE ARMANDO NAVA DIARIES, APRIL 20-21, 1998


Back in the early days of this Brazenblog, I began to write the story of my years as manager of my now-defunct website, RAYBRAZEN.COM, with the intention of telling the story in full. For many reasons which I won't bore my dear readers with here, I only got as far as the third chapter, which ended on a high note, with the news that Armando Nava of Mexican psychedelic rock legends, Los Dug Dugs, was actually about to fly all the way from Mexico City to New Jersey to spend time with me and thank me personally for starting a website devoted to his band's music.

This month marks the 20th anniversary of the truly historic and surrealistic 11-day period where Armando stayed in the NYC/NJ area and connected several times with me during those 11 days. Having found the full diary I kept of that adventure on an old CDR I was smart enough to back up my original website's files onto, several computers ago, I have opted to reissue this diary (which has been offline for quite a long time now) as the long awaited fourth part of "The RAYBRAZEN.COM Story." As such, the diary will be run here on the Brazenblog in four installments over the next ten days, the 20th anniversary of Armando's visit, as it appeared on my original EL MUNDO LOCO DE LOS DUG DUG'S website way back in 1998. Before reading this truly incredible diary, you may want to go back to the first three chapters of my story (which I still hope to finish someday) to read about how this whole crazy tale got to this point. For your convenience, here's part one, part two, and part three.

OK, here we go now... enjoy!

MONDAY, APRIL 20, 1998:
Of all the times for panic, of all the times for things to suddenly seem in danger of going completely wrong in the altogether, I woke up this morning to find my mother in a panic. It turns out she had decided to check out the flight information with Continental Airlines to confirm that everything was on schedule for flight #744, the flight Armando is supposedly coming in on, only to discover that flight #744 was a flight out of Puerto Rico instead. I was ready to tear my hair out right then and there. I woke up nervous as hell as it was... now this happens. But my mom, who took the original call from Armando last Thursday afternoon, suddenly remembered that he seemed a bit confused at the time over which flight he'd be in on. We checked out Continental's website and eventually stumbled across the schedule for flight #204, out of Houston. When Mom remembers that Armando had given her a few numbers of possible flights and that 204 seemed like one of the numbers he had given her (if memory serves), we used deductive reasoning to assume that it was a connecting flight Armando would wind up taking in after he got there from Mexico City.

Already worried that things would go wrong, I waited until around 12:30 and then hit the road, stopping for an all-too-fast quickie lunch on the way (that I didn't have much of an appetite for anyway). By 1:30 I was at Newark Airport, and inside Continental Airlines Terminal C. The flight from Houston finally landed an hour later. I proceeded to the gate with nervous excitement on overdrive, keeping my fingers crossed and hoping for a trace of Armando. No sign of him there. I next made tracks for the baggage-claim terminal and loitered around there for 20 minutes. People came and grabbed their luggage until the carousel was completely emptied. Still no Armando. Now I was really worried. I had no idea which flight he'd be on, and there was no way of getting in touch with him. There seemed literally nothing I could do.

So I decided to play it on a hunch. I checked the arriving flight schedule again and found that not one, but two, flights out of Mexico City were landing at around 3:00. So I made tracks next for Terminal B, avoiding the monorail and sweating out the walk there in every way possible. I got there just as the first passengers off the two Mexican flights were making their way out of customs. All of a sudden, I saw what appeared to be a very familiar face. Dressed in a white sports jacket, acid wash jeans and a fresh pair of Adidas sneakers, carrying a big blue backpack, a box marked "RCA Discos Fonograficos," and a separate bag full of several papers. Just one look and I knew it was Armando Nava! Up until that point, I was nervous about a million things, including the moment when I would finally meet him face-to-face. Well, here that moment was. And Armando's curious face broke into a wide smile when he saw me standing there in my homemade Dug Dug's T-shirt. He knew. Just like I knew when I saw him, before a single word was spoken. And in that moment, every trace of nervousness in my system was instantly forgotten.

We shook hands, I helped him carry his bags, and he apologized profusely for the confusion he had caused me. We made our way to my car, I threw his stuff in the trunk, and we climbed in. As he entered the car on the passengers side, he happened to notice my copy of the NY Daily News on the seat. He picked it up and looked at it, with its huge headlines trumpeting the news of Linda McCartney's death this past weekend. I noticed him brush a small tear away from his eye as he saw the news. "I thought I heard something about her on the news back home before I left," he said solemnly.


The temperature in the car was a bit on the hot side so Armando removed his sports jacket, under which he was wearing a New York Mets tank top shirt. Now, usually I look upon people who wear Mets insignia with a fair amount of disdain, as I am a lifelong Yankees fan. But Armando's reasons for sporting the dreaded Met logo were completely innocent. "I just thought it would be appropriate to wear a New York shirt of some sort, since I was coming here, after all," he said. I decided to let the matter slide!

After I found my way out of the parking lot and paid the parking fee on the way out, I asked Armando his plans. "I've got plenty of time to hang out!" he beamed. Since it was already approaching the evening rush hour by the time we made it out of the airport, I suggested we go to my place and hang out for a few hours. This sounded lovely to him. "We should go somewhere where we can talk," he said. "I want to show you what I brought you. I've brought a LOT of stuff!" Already my mouth was watering at the sight of the ever-omnipresent bag full of papers he was still clutching at his side, which I now noticed also contained a record album. Armando noticed that I was curious, and said, "Oh, you want to see what record is in here?" When my answer was affirmative, he pulled the record out of the bag. It was an original, sealed, vinyl copy of SMOG! I almost died... and remember, I was driving at the time, it's a wonder I didn't crack up my car right then and there!


We finally arrived at good ol' Mom & Dad's house. It was there that Armando played Santa Claus in the midst of April. It took him over 20 minutes to show me everything he had brought me. A ton of pictures, from every era of Los Dug Dug's existence. The aforementioned original vinyl copy of SMOG, to me the Holy Grail! A copy of a recently released Dug Dug's compilation CD. A copy of another recently released compilation CD called ROCKIN' TONIGHT, featuring (among other cuts) four new Dug Dug's recordings, all covers of popular American rock hits. The aforementioned RCA box, which Armando opened, extracted three sealed copies of ABRE TU MENTE from, then gave me the rest of, saying, "You do what you feel like with the rest of these!" Two original Dug Dug's t-shirts. Two Dug Dug's baseball caps. A few original Dug Dug's concert posters. I was a kid in a toy store. Armando just kept on giving and giving and giving. And yet, even after all these things, he suddenly paused in the midst of ruffling through his blue backpack, and started to recoil in horror when he quickly realized that "Oh, man, I'm so sorry -- there are a few more things I forgot to bring for you!" I accepted his apology!

Following this, we proceeded to my computer, where Armando got his first look at the website since last November, and told me that he had recently purchased a computer of his own, and that the Internet is still in its infancy in Mexico compared to other countries. I went into AOL and brought up Manuel's e-mail address, and with me helping out a bit with the typing, I had Armando write a special message to send out to him.


After awhile we got hungry, so I had Mom cook us spaghetti, which Armando helped himself to two heaping plates of and pronounced delicious. Mom and I conducted a little interview-type thing as we all ate, and Armando spilled a few anecdotes. He told us of the tragic death from a drug overdose of bassist Jorge Torres Aguayo, to whom he dedicated ABRE TU MENTE. He said that the original versions of "Stupid People" and "Joy to People" which appear on 15 EXITOS were originally released on a freebie 45 included with early copies of the first LP. He spoke of his work producing other bands for RCA (a 1974 album by Pajaro Alberto y Conjunto Sacrosario and a 1978 LP by Five Fingers), and showed us photocopies of a few album covers. I showed him a few of my Mexican rock reissue albums and CDs, which he looked over with interest. And of course, I got him to sign all my Dug Dug's albums!

By this time it was past 7 PM, Armando had successfully established contact with the folks he would be staying with in Brooklyn, and it was time to drive him there. After I jokingly instructed my mother not to wash any of the dinner utensils Armando had eaten with, Armando and I were off to New York, a good, hour-long, and very smooth cruise with minimal traffic. We talked the whole time, comparing New York to Mexico City, sharing what turned out to be remarkably similar opinions about music and the music business, and just generally discovering that we had so much in common, we could very well be kindred spirits brought together by a simple twist of fate! At last we found the place where he was going to stay, I was introduced briefly to Armando's gracious host (who did not speak English, so we didn't get to talk much!), Armando and I shared a big hug, and we made plans to hook up again on Wednesday for a full afternoon's worth of activity, Armando sounding more interested in seeing all the great music stores he's heard so much about than in the usual tourist fare. And then I was off, flying down the highways and byways of NYC back to my home in Jersey, which I made it to in record time, doing a solid 65-70 MPH throughout without a single police radar in sight, feeling one with the road, feeling the gentle hand of fate guiding the steering wheel for me.

But the day was still not quite over yet. Armando had said that he would be bringing his girlfriend along with him, but upon showing up all by himself, he explained that the usual mix-ups and what-not would likely prevent her from getting to come over with him. So it was quite a shock to pick up the phone 45 minutes after I got home and find a mysterious woman, who spoke no English at all, at the other end of the line asking for Armando! It was Armando's girlfriend, Alejandra, trying to find him, and we tried our best to deal with her to little avail. So I called Armando back in Brooklyn and told him to call her and deal with that one himself! It turned out he already had a dilemma on his hands as it was: in his rush to hook up with me at the airport, he had forgotten one of his items of luggage, an empty keyboard carrying case. A few minutes later, the phone rang once more. This time it was Alejandra's daughter, who spoke much better English and politely explained that Alejandra would eventually be flying into New York to join Armando sometime within the next couple of days!

By this time I was so far gone on the whole experience that it wasn't until half an hour after I got home that I remembered my favorite psychedelic-music radio program I always listen to without fail every Monday night was on, and it wasn't until I woke up the next morning that I remembered that there was a Yankees game that evening, which they had won in extra innings. Furthermore, though I arrived back home exhausted after devoting a full-on ten hours straight to this whole mission, insomnia soon set in, just as I was hitting the sack. My body wanted to sleep, but my brain refused to shut itself off. There were just too many thoughts running through my mind all at once. Sleep came late, and was very sporadic, on-and-off, all night. By the time I had to get up the next morning, that's when I finally felt like seriously sleeping. But by then it was too late.

TUESDAY, APRIL 21, 1998:
I took the time to have at least one normal day this week while Armando spent a day wandering around with the friends he was staying with, getting lost for a good long spell in the process. I returned home from a day's worth of tasks expecting anything to happen, expecting the phone to ring at any given time. I was home only half an hour when the phone rang the first time. I had the radio on as background, and it was playing the Troggs' "Wild Thing," by sheer coincidence the best of the four new Dug Dug's tracks on the recently released comp CD they're on. Of course, it was Armando, and he had two pieces of news to report to me: firstly, he had located his missing piece of luggage and they were holding it for him at the airport (though I was later to learn that he had to go to great pains with some very rude Continental employees to get his assurance). Secondly, it looked like it might be a possibility that his girlfriend would be flying in by the next day. I asked him if everything was still on as far as sightseeing on Wednesday and he said yes, so we immediately set it for noon the next day. I told him to call if he needed anything, and to call as late as he wished.

A few hours later, after writing the account of Monday's activities and firing off a few e-mails, I finally settled down to the real fun of this second day of Dug Dug's week, listening to the records and CDs Armando had given me. My listening session was immediately preceded by another phone call from him. This time he sounded worried about whether his girlfriend would make it to New York, fearing that her plans were falling through. I told him to call again later if he had to, gave him the best reassurance I could, and calmed him down to the point where he finally just said, "Well, if you don't hear from me, I'm alright and everything is still on for tomorrow." That's the last I heard from him all night.


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