The here and now... and what and why

Complacency is a trap. At least that’s what I was thinking when I up and left the comfort of a Yankee prep school gig, where I taught music, amongst other things, for 28 years. There was also that life long career as a composer, musician and artist.

First, it was a year in St. Thomas, USVI, working as a reporter and shooting photography and then, a year in San Agustin Etla, Oaxaca, Mexico.
Time passed.
More time passed and a year back in the Athens of America followed by a hasty return to Oaxaca where it is all happening.
A couple of years in San Sebastian Etla and now, just down the road in San Pablo Etla. Life is good.

Click on an image to see it larger.
For additional photography please visit my flickr page.
You can find my music on Jango (World & latin - Worldbeat) and at iTunes and most online stores.
¡Soy consciente de todas las tradiciones del Internet!
If you are coming to Oaxaca, please contact me for tours or advice.

Santo Domingo

Santo Domingo
The view from Corazon del Pueblo

The hereafter re me

My photo
Oaxaca, Oaxaca, Mexico
Musician, photographer, videographer, reporter, ex-officio teacher, now attempting to be a world traveler

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Good to be back... cont...

There are people, places and things I miss in El Norte, like friends, food and my piano, but while I am there, I miss the people and the food here... and I have a digital piano here.  While I'm there, I take advantage of all that New England has to offer, but I never see anything like this...
So good to see my friends at the Etla market... my juice lady who gave a gift of those greens...  I had no idea what they were.
Rosa, from who I have been buying from for many years.
They take such good care of me.
However, the traffic snags are surely different than in the Ted Williams Tunnel.
And a different sort of bull than in El Norte.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Good to be back... tamales!

There ain't nuttin' like the real thing....
Sure, there are good tamales everywhere, but for me, nobody's are better than Doña Melisa's at the market in Etla on Wednesdays.
Three big fat rajas for $36 pesos ($2 US)

Good to be back... cont....

Everything is so green!  When I left, it was just starting to change from dry brown.  It feels like the whole countryside has awakened.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Good to be back...

And such a nice welcoming committee...

Saturday, June 17, 2017

More Oaxacan magic...

I'm headed back mañana after a month of house maintenance in El Norte.  I also got a chance to touch base with some old friends, pieces from my collection of carvings.  I feel very blessed to have experienced what was probably the golden age of alebrijes or carvings, the 90's up until 2006.  Yes, there is wonderful art being produced now, but several of the old masters, the originators, have passed.  Oaxacan woodcarving was hot in the international art world and people were enjoying and taking advantage of the acclaim and creating many masterpieces.  Like this mask of Medusa by Margarito Melchor of San Martin Tilcajete.
The mask is two feet tall and even the back is remarkable.
Margarito and his son, Margarito, are still carving wonderful masks and a must see if one visits the village.
For many years I commissioned music stands from anyone who would make one.  Here is a beauty by one of the grand masters, Isidoro Cruz, also from San Martin Tilcajete.
That's actually me and my two dogs.
Sadly, Isidoro has passed, but he lives on in his art and in our hearts.  Viva Maestro y amigo!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

A song for the times

From John Legend, thought provoking....

Monday, June 12, 2017


Just getting ready to head back and going through shots from the past and came upon these two from almost twenty years ago.  It never gets old.
There have been hundreds of thousands of photos of each of them as it seems that every visitor snaps both of them.  I certainly have.... numerous times.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

What a difference - Cement edition

Almost all the houses and buildings in Oaxaca are made of cement.  10,000 earthquakes a year might be part of the reason.  Yes, there are a few wooden structures, but they tend to be where there are trees for lumber... surprise.  So needless to say, the people who work with cement can do almost anything with it.  They are masters.  And, as a typical guy and as one who still has an 1895 house in El Norte which needs constant maintenance, I am always watching and learning about all things house construction related in both countries.

I just love watching guys working with cement and in Oaxaca and it is all grunt work, hard and physical, like these guys unloading a truckload of 110 lbs bags of cement... on their heads.
Or these guys pouring a roof.

Well, things are a little different here.  This is happening just down the street from me as they continue to tear down single family houses to put up newer and bigger ones.  Here's how they pour the foundation.  No grunt work at all.
I just watched in awe thinking of my Oaxacan friends.
They can direct the flow of cement anywhere.
Hard at work....
All done with a wireless remote.
Vive la differance?

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Low maintenance gardening...

I know the rains have come to Oaxaca and I look forward to seeing how the gardens and the countryside responds.  Here, in New England, it has been a long wet and cool spring.  It is wild to see so much green and lushness after spending the long dry season in Oaxaca with nary a drop of rain for months.  The gardens here are pretty much on their own and are designed that way.  Ground covers instead of lawns, myrtle, pachysandra and one of my favorites Lilies of the Valley.
They are invasive and really hardy and their fragrance is sublime.... think perfumes.  It is also satisfying to see things like this dogwood and Japanese maple that I planted as little saplings, now nice sized trees.
Hostas just keep on coming back and filling out.
Here's a plant from colonial times, Solomon's Seal, that spreads nicely.  They're the tall ones in back.  I started out with just a couple and I have lots now even after giving tons away.  It's roots look like Jerusalem artichokes.
And it has nice little blossoms hiding underneath the leaves.
And there are poppies that keep coming back year after year.
So that's the garden in El Norte.  It lives on independently, asking only that I weed occasionally.  In Oaxaca, I have agaves and cacti, here I have hostas and Lilies of the Valley.  They would love the lilies there.  The story behind them is perfect for the faithful.  From Wikipedia.  "The flower is also known as Our Lady's tears or Mary's tears from Christian legends that it sprang from the weeping of the Virgin Mary during the crucifixion of Jesus. Other etiologies have its coming into being from Eve's tears after she was driven with Adam from the Garden of Eden."

On the other hand, they are poisonous. 

Saturday, May 27, 2017

How it started... my obsession with Oaxaca

I am in El Norte and one of my tasks is to assess the Oaxacan art I've amassed over the years.  It is fun work, but much of it is boxed up, so it is turning out to be a big job.  It makes me recall why I got so hooked on the place to begin with.  I remember reading that if I ever went to Oaxaca I could meet the "Picasso of woodcarvers, Manuel Jimenez."  I thought that sounded like a cool thing and so... I did.  He was an wonderful character and I ended up buying a few pieces from him and his sons over the years.  This buzzard perches in my kitchen.
Maestro Jimenez passed in 2005, but his sons, Angélico and Isaías, continue to carve in Arrazola.
After a few years of collecting carvings, I starting commissioning pieces and, as a musician, it made sense to have the carvers make music stands.  It was a ten year project and I have over sixty of them and not only are they unique, they are also some of the best examples of their creativity and genius.  Here are a couple by Agustín Cruz Tinoco.

There is a funny story behind these.  They took a while to make and part of the  deal was that I would trade some musical instruments for his sons.  I was a music teacher so I knew what brands to get, the best, and eventually headed down with a valve trombone and a clarinet for the boys.  So when I showed up, Dad was not there and the boys were not sure what to do.  However, when the saw and played the instruments, it was all over.  "He'll kill us, but let's do it."  It was a blast watching them play. The clarinetist was really good and their smiles were so big they could barely play!


30% de las ventas del papel higiénico Trump se destinará a organizaciones que apoyan a migrantes. En la imagen, un prototipo del producto.From Expansion CNN
From anger spurns creativity.
Antonio Battaglia, a Guanajuato lawyer, will sell the toilet paper 'Trump' by the end of the year, while leaving a portion of the proceeds to support migrants and their deported compatriots.
The offensive tone used by Donald Trump when referring to Mexicans during his campaign days, heading for the United States presidency, motivated Battaglia, who sought to generate a message to make it clear that Mexicans are not "Bad Men."
"It caused me a nuisance and I started looking for a way to do something that had an impact, not in a tone of mockery or bad revenge, but in a positive way," he said in an interview with Expansión.
"I tried to register a brand of clothing or footwear, because my family is dedicated to the production of shoes, and there I thought it was a possibility, but the 'Trump' brand was already registered. Then came the idea of ​​producing a toilet paper, a product that was ironic and that remained in the market for a good time, "he explained.
The idea of ​​the project is to generate a product at an affordable price, and that a percentage of the profit goes to the support of the migrants, a sector affected by Trump's statements and policies.

 Mexicans are just reacting to what's been said about them.  They are bright and creative, and like all cultures and subcultures, they have their own unique sense of humor.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Look through any window....

One of the first things that captured me about Oaxaca was the color palette and the architecture with its doors and windows.  I was gonna do a book... but I didn't.
I don't think we are in Kansas anymore.
How about the old shot of the Salon del Fama, "The Hall of Fame."   I used it as a cover photo on one of my CD's.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Time flies..... sigh

"Would you like to see a church entirely made from wood?"  Those were the first words I heard from Yolanda from La Union Tejalapam, the carving village north of the city.  Her husband, Maximino Santiago García, is one of the most famous carvers in the village.  The above shot is from 1999 and this one from the following year during the dry season.
In fact, the extended Santiago family comprises most of the the artesanos in the village.  It is a large and very talented family.  There was a time when I was obsessed with Oaxacan carving and ended up having several thousand pieces, many from La Union.  I have a couple of these churches "made entirely from wood."
I love the colors and the details.
They are still making wonderful pieces and it well worth the trip to the village which is about 30-45 minutes from the city.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Gotta little work to do....

Sometimes, I feel like I am a maintenance man bouncing between two houses.  However, I do enjoy it.  Last week it was a water leak in Oaxaca and now, in El Norte, it's gutters and painting.  At least, it's not frozen pipes like last time.  It will give me time to catch up on all the Oaxacan photos and take advantage of fast upload speeds.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Six fireflies beeping randomly in a jar......

From the "illustrious" David Brooks no less.....
"We’ve got this perverse situation in which the vast analytic powers of the entire world are being spent trying to understand a guy whose thoughts are often just six fireflies beeping randomly in a jar."

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Tabla rasa....

A clean slate.... this from the little park, the home of the statue of Alvaro Carillo, at the top of the pedestrian walkway, the Alcala, which has recently been completely restored.  This wall is normally the site of street art and graffiti tags.  It was so nice to see the newly cleaned fountain in front of a freshly painted wall.  How long will it last?  Probably not that long.
In a different part of town, at the base of El Cerrro, the ubiquitous hand-painted concert announcements which come and go every week. Now that's a band name.... The Night of the Witches.
Party on, Garth.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Lime time....

There has been a little rain, so things are starting to wake up from the long dry season.  Trees and shrubs that had no leaves just a few weeks ago are now filling out.  And this little lime tree is covered with flowers which, in turn, draw the bees, who do their thing.
And as a result....
Nothing better than fresh limes right off the tree, their taste and fragrance, sublime.  It won't be long