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

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Seccion XXII brings the chaos

I don't get it, but it is sure getting to me.... and many others.  Seccion XXII is making life difficult.  They have shut down roads, streets, shopping centers, and today, the airport.  As you can imagine, it is beginning to get serious.  There are lots of federales here, but still all this stuff takes place.  It is downright ugly.  And it ain't just here.  Lots of other places, too. 
Here, they are protesting in front of a school on Juarez and subsequently, the surrounding streets are either closed or a mess..
If you know Oaxaca, you can recognize the gazebo in the background.  Yes, this is the NW entrance to the zocalo.  Where is that meteor when you really need it?
Here's the thing... I'm a former teacher, a pacifist and a Buddhist, so I wrestle with my feelings of wanting to smack someone up side the head with a 2x4.  I don't like feeling this way.  And I don't even have a dog in this fight.... except I need to take a flight on Saturday.  This is just a small street with a tiny school on it and it is being shut down by teachers from Tlacolula.  This makes sense???
 
And I don't understand the strategy of making life hell for everyone, pissing them off, and thinking that this is progress and will make others sympathetic to the teacher's demands.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

More than just a haircut

I have been getting my haircut at this peluqueria on Constitution since I arrived in Oaxaca.  That's quite a few years now.  It is always such a serene and sweet experience.  Every now and then there is a little action as people come in and there are normal back and forths, but mostly it is just me in the chair and him doing his thing.  And always there is music playing, the most beautiful traditional trios, very old school, but impeccable.  I am always transported and savor the moment.
Today, I arrived early.  He was closed, but no problem.  A short wait and he was opening the gates.  I was his first of the day.  We said a few words and he ushered me to the chair.  He turned on the music and went to work on me.  He knows me and my hair and he is the consummate pro so he just goes ahead and cleans me up without a word.  It was particularly nice today, a strange and wonderful meditation.  Such a privilege to be able to enjoy such a simple thing in life.  He is one of Oaxaca's many treasures

Saturday, May 21, 2016

They baaack - Negotiation skilz

This is where things stand as of today. (from LAHT)
Mexico’s Public Education Secretary Aurelio Nuño announced the dismissal of least 3,119 teachers who accumulated their fourth offense by taking part in the strike called last Monday by the CNTE teachers union.
In the case of Oaxaca, he said, there are now far more schools that have abandoned the strike, having gone from 88 percent that were open last Monday to 98.5 percent on Friday.

“Nonetheless, as in the case of Guerrero, we have 1,379 teachers there who have totaled four offenses and will be dismissed,” he said.

The CNTE went Monday on an unlimited strike and members have massed in front of the Mexico City government demanding talks with high-level officials.

Teachers’ demands include a salary increase, the repeal of the educational reform enacted in 2013, the bringing back alive of the 43 students from Ayotzinapa teachers’ school who disappeared in 2014, the reinstatement of teachers who have been fired, and the suspension of the evaluation process for the hiring, tenure and promotion of teaching personnel as required by the reform of 2013.
As I said yesterday, the teachers may have legitimate gripes, but really, this list of demands can never ever be met... ever.  Rehiring all the fired teachers? And.... The 43 students are dead.  There is no bringing them back alive.  It's like me demanding unless you bring Elvis, or any dead person, back to life, there will be no deal. What a mess.

Friday, May 20, 2016

They're baaack!

San Juan Capistrano may have its swallows and Hinckley, Ohio may have its buzzards, but Oaxaca has Seccion XXII, the teacher's union and they have, once again taken over the zocalo. 
 "Miscericordia" means mercy.... irony lives.
 It is in the 90's and there have been torrential rains.  Looks like fun.
And with them come the street vendors turning the beautiful zocalo into something less that desirable.
They have been marching and blockading roads throughout the area.... and making lots of friends.  They are protesting the new educational reforms and they may have legitimate gripes, but their tactics and history of being one of the most powerful and corrupt unions in the country, all work against them.  The general population is so tired of them, the anger is palpable.  This is the NW entrance to the zocalo.
It really is quite sad.  This has been going on for forty years and consequently the educational system has completely failed the population.  And obviously, this damn near kills all the normal business in the city center.  It's depressing.
Now, the government has said:
The General Director of the State Institute of public education in Oaxaca (IEEPA), Moises Robles Cruz, announced that on the fourth day of mobilizations magisterial, the State educational agency in coordination with the Secretariat of public education (SEP), will begin procedures for the termination of a thousand 379 education workers who have been unjustifiably to their places of work.

Robles Cruz pointed out that all workers at the service of education which have been absent from their workplaces during four consecutive days - without just cause - will instruct a process of termination of the contract without liability for the State, as set out in the article 76 of the law General of the service professional teaching force throughout the country.

For this reason, the educational authority of Oaxaca makes a call to the leadership to return to classes, as well as put an end to acts of pressure affecting the free movement of the population, the taking of public facilities and the economic dynamics of the entity, said the official.
 And there are thousands of federal police here and more arriving.  It should be.... who knows?

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Let's have class outside...

I can remember students asking me the same question, but it was never anything like this.  With all the annual gastronomic events that have grown in size and popularity, Oaxaca's cuisine is getting even more famous and consequently, more and more young people are interested in learning the finer aspects of cooking.
Under the large palms just to the south of Santo Domingo, various cooks are presenting a series of cooking demonstrations. 
I don't know what he was making, but there was chocolate involved
How nice to be able to attend a class and record it for future reference.
When I walked by an hour later, a different chef was offering a lesson.

 Gotta love it.  Oaxaca doing what it does best!  Being Oaxacan and proud of it!

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Who'll stop the rain?.... I mean start the rain

May is normally the hottest month of the year.  This year, everyone is complaining about heat and lack of rain... and air quality.  I am surrounded by mountains and you would never know it.  You can't see them, hidden by haze.  I have a rain collection system on this house, but no rain means no water.  I just had to buy my third pipa (water tanker truck) of the year, which is a first.  Normally, there would have been one or two deluges by now, but nothing in sight.  It is like waiting for Godot, better known as Chaac, the Rain God.

Street art - sweet art

I posted this beautiful piece a few weeks ago as it was being painted. 
Now, it's finished and graces one of the roughest, toughest, funkiest intersections in the city.

¿Quién es?

Freddie and me in La Habana.
You do recognize who he is, don't you?  Gotta love any place that immortalize composers.
Caption: A composer and a decomposer?

Monday, May 9, 2016

" hear music and there's no one there..."

It's that time of year.  This is almost a constant sound.  I can hear them calling each other all around me.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Cuba - It's the people!

It's not about the first Carnival Cruise ship arriving last week or the Chanel fashion show on the Paseo or the thousands of tourists and all the glitz.  No, it's about the people. 
Just think about it, the places you knew, where you live, where you visit.  Sure, you can meet nice folks at the tourist magnets, but it only starts to get real when you go where people really live.
The gross disparity between the tourist areas and the glimpses I got into Habana Centro and some of the outlying areas continue to nag at me.  I mean we spent more on a single cab ride, about $10 US, than many folks make in a month.  People have never even had the opportunity, the luxury, of eating some of the meals we had.  An impossible dream for them.  They are living the dream... it's just a different sort of dream.
All of these were shot from the hip, trying to get candid shots.
Lots of folks just sitting and watching the world go by.  
 Voodoo?
 Santeria is visible everywhere.  It is the most popular religion in Cuba.
 And students in uniforms.  Cuba has such a commitment to education... uh, hello USA, Mexico, etc.
Tourists pay this woman for a cigar and a photo and she does quite well.
  And lots of classic looks. 
 Classic.
This is a pretty common sight, people with cells.  How they are logged in is a mystery seeing as though one has to purchase access which was expensive and sketchy.  Maybe they know something I don't... no doubt.
People watching.... it's the best way to see the world.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Cinco de Mayo

I post something about this every year.  Cinco de Mayo is basically just another day of the week here.  Yes, it celebrated in Hidalgo, but it's really a non-event most everywhere else... except in El Norte, where they go crazy..... speaking of crazy.
Words fail.... almost.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

El Dia de Santa Cruz

Normally, I would and should be climbing El Picacho in Teotitlan del Valle on May 3, el Dí­a de la Santa Cruz, the Day of the Holy Cross, but...... Oaxaca has been so hot and dry these past few weeks that I can't muster the energy.  I know, I know, pathetic.....
I know I am not alone.  The heat is all people are talking about, not even Drumpf's name comes up, just, it's hot, hot, hot.  The new normal?
They are saying it's a drought and the temps have been well up in the 90's and it does not cool down much in the nights.  People are concerned.  Anyway, this is the day for construction worers to put crosses and garlands up on the projects on which they are working.... and for practical jokes and of course, cohetes, firecrackers.  You would not believe how many I have heard today and it's early.
 
 Party on, Garth.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Cuba - Things to ponder...

First, there is this.  Remember?  It's in a museum.
Then, the decades long US embargo.
Then this
And finally, the restoration of the Capital Building, which is an exact copy of the one in Washington, but one foot taller.
Such a complex relationship.... and then there are those scenes from the Godfather films.  Hey, we stayed in the Riviera Hotel, his home away from home.  It is hard to take it all in.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

International Jazz Day!

I come from the John Cage School of Jazz..... you know, just open your ears and it's all music, it's all jazz, I don't need no more... but if you do, check out this killer performance by Snarky Puppy.  The keyboard player is..... I cried with joy and awe.  Give it up for these players.


I am really just passing this on from one of my former students, film director and all around genius Randy Moore.  Gracias!

Cuba - La Gran Teatro de La Habana Alicia Alonso

Go back to the blind men and the elephant story and keep that in mind....
How a place values the arts is one of the keys to how I see that place.  Cuba was quite impressive in that respect.  Music, art, theater and dance are a part of the social fabric and one can feel their pulse everywhere.  Obviously, there are many levels from street art to high art, so.... why not start at the top with this incredible theater, right next to the capital building, La Gran Teatro de La Habana Alicia Alonso.
The building is a work of art unto itself.  Really, many works of art combined and woven into a spectacular setting in which to present music, theater and dance.
Alicia Alonso, now 94, is a Cuban prima ballerina assoluta and choreographer. Her company became the Ballet Nacional de Cuba in 1955.  She remains one of the most important figures in the dance world.

Just as an aside, think of all the exemplary figures this island has produced in the world of arts, sports, medicine, literature, etc.... OK, back to the building.
The theater is over 100 years old, but the renovations were just completed and the building reopened in January of 2016.  Our timing proved to be impeccable.
It seats 1500 and the restoration is spectacular.  Looking directly up into the domed ceiling.
 Every detail, exquisitely rendered.
Up the stairs.....
To the Grand, and I do mean grand, ballroom.... actually, this is just half of it, as it is ell shaped.
This building is about as fine a theater as one could find anywhere in the world.  I was blown away.
There were additional halls and performances spaces bustling with activity.  High art..
And the view out the front windows, art of a different sort.  It never ends.
¡Viva Alicia Alonso and her legacy!  Be sure to see all the cars over at Casa Colibri.