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.
I'm still in Boston for a few more days and well, it's been an interesting trip. Obviously, everyone is talking about the separating of children. I'm not sure how US citizens realize just how this looks to the rest of the world. We're in a bubble here, but, in general, people are angry, sickened and depressed about this fiasco.... but hey, I live in Newton, which is a hotbed of compassionate people so obviously, it does not represent the rest of the country.
I hope you have seen Childish Gambino's video, "This is America" and not the sanitized version they show on Mexican TV, which eliminates all the violence and pretty much renders the video mush. Watch it a few times and do a search for all the images that people miss if they just watch it once. I'll post it at the end of this post, but, as in all things, there are many sides to America, so I thought I'd post a few images of Boston... gotta "love that dirty water."
I am struck by just how different this place is from Oaxaca. Like, I don't recall seeing Segway tours in front of Santo Domingo.
And they are in front of..
Which is just down the stairs from your Apple store... all glass and kinda weird to walk on.
Get your motor runnin'...
Or perhaps a more gentle mode of transport...
And Chinatown always calls me..
It all looks pretty good... however...
This is America, too
Which has 284,422,830 views..... The whole world is watching.
No better example of how isolated the US is from the rest of the world.... The World Cup is not on any English speaking channels, only Telemundo... fortunately, mis Español es suficiente... mas o menos, but really......sheesh.
I am sure we all remember individual sentences that changed our lives. I can easily think of a few, from teachers, students, friends and even strangers. However, I'm not sure we ever think about how something we may have said had that same powerful effect on someone else's life.
I taught music in a Yankee prep school for many years. I got the job because, by some fluke, the school owned a Moog synthesizer and I had spent my college days alone with one for four years. So I started out teaching electronic music, certainly a novelty in the curriculum and for the kids, but I taught them the basics of the instrument and, let's face it, it was fun to mess around with all those crazy sounds.
After a couple of years, the word got out. One year I ended up with a bunch of guys, mostly jocks, who were all friends and there for a good time, which was fine with me. We had lots of those good times, became friends... and they did their work, discovering their artistic sides or lack thereof. They finished the year, were graduated and they were gone.
Maybe five or six years later, I walked into my classroom, the one with the Moog, and there was this ragged, disheveled man standing with his back to me facing the machine. I was a little freaked. I said, "Can I help you?"
He turned, long trench coat, ski cap, scruffy beard, he looked bad. He said, "Don't you recognize me?" Well, it didn't sound like that because his speech was almost unintelligible. His tongue was mangled. He had scars.
He said, "I'm Caleb Hamm." He had been one of the bright lights in that class of boys, a gregarious, charismatic boy. He proceeded to tell me that shortly after graduation, he had been in a car accident and that he had been in a coma and then months of rehab. I listened, in shock.
Then he told me that something I had said in class had been the one thing that got him through. He had spent months, it was his mantra. It was about making connections on the Moog, "What goes out, must go back in somewhere." He hugged me and we parted ways. I got in my car and drove back to my home in Boston and cried the whole way.
Well, I was just back at the school for reunion and there was Caleb Hamm. He had an art exhibition at the school. He had gone back to school, earned a masters. He looked great, but now with a gray beard. We hugged. He said he was so happy to see me. And, oh my, the feeling was mutual.
His family was there and I recalled all of this and what a miracle it all has been.
So you never know. Be careful what you say. They may just be listening.
I'm in the belly of the beast for another week and I'll have more on that in a bit, but for now.... I miss hanging out in the pool hall with my Oaxacan friends, like Domingo, an excellent pool player and a real mensch... let's see how they translate that one ;-) I think of him often, as he was struggling to do business, surrounded by the teacher's tents.
I look forward to seeing Domingo and everyone again, but I warn them, I've been practicing! Rake 'em up!
I approach the current situation in Oaxaca pretty much as I approach everything here in Oaxaca. It's happening and it's interesting and, as in all things Oaxacan, it is multi-leveled, nuanced, complex... and visually interesting. So I do what I always do, take photos.
So this isn't about the teachers, it's about the place where we live and love.
Obviously, it has a major impact on life here. This is one of the main streets abutting the zocalo.
A bit hard to navigate, especially if one is tall.
Because this is a part of life here, as are the blockades, sit-ins and marches, life goes on....
So many issues, so many problems and solutions slow in coming.
It's May, and like the swallows return to Capistrano, the teachers of the powerful teachers union, Seccion XXII, have returned to the zocalo.... along with every possible vendor and food stall.
It looks they are in it for the long haul, as the vendors hastily construct semi-permanent stalls.
It kinda changes the whole ambiance.
These annual protests have been going on for over forty years. What they accomplish, I have no idea and I will stay out of the fray for, just like in El Norte, the sides are well-defined and polarized.
Tents and tarps have been set up on all the surrounding streets. We will have to wait to see how it all works out.
Pearls are the tiny bubbles created when mezcal is poured. Traditionally, as in this nice piece of street art, the mezcal is drawn into a piece of carrizo (bamboo-like grass) and then released as a thin stream into a cup made from a gourd.
The more and smaller the bubbles, the better. Mezcal is becoming more and more popular world-wide, so get out there and try it if you haven't already! Here, making it is an ancient pre-conquest art and we're lucky to get it directly from a family who has been making it for generations.
Don't let the smile and the school uniform fool you, "La Asesina Sonriente" (The Smiling Assassin), leader of a local biker gang known as "Los Animales.". Probably one of the ones Trump was talking about....
Obviously, not really, but way too good a shot to pass up. What a cutie!
I taught kids music almost my whole life. And because of that, part of me always remained a kid. I guess it was partly because I always listened to what they listened to. I still do. So here's my response to the Texas shooting. Listen to a voice of the young and coming. From Norway's Sigrid.... "Don't Kill My Vibe"
I weep for them, for all that's happening, but know that change will come with the next generations.
I drive a 2004 Jetta, which serves me very well. It has plenty of dings and scrapes, but is very reliable and has a good sound system. It should be noted that road conditions here are less than ideal. Between the rough roads, the ubiquitous topes (speed bumps), the baches (potholes), driving is really hard on cars. However, for every car problem, there is a car guy.
And they are everywhere, tire guys, brake guys, muffler guys, mechanicos. They may be in a shack by the side of the road, but they can do what has to be done.... and right now, no appointment necessary.
I went to a place just down the road in Pueblo Nuevo. It had tire racks out front and I needed tires. That all it took.
The place had lots of people working and it was like controlled, efficient chaos. Taxis, cars, trucks moving in and out, people waiting, ladies carrying food for the workers, music blaring, all in one happy and warm atmosphere. Lots of fun interactions. It turned out I knew one of the workers from the last time I had work done. However, it was at a different place almost directly across the road. We were laughing, happy, and greeted each other warmly, really a typical Oaxacan moment.
So the tires went on and then one of the young guys pointed out that my shocks were shot... gee, I wonder why. "How much? $800 MP... Okay.... How about the brakes? Adjust the calipers for another $600. How long? Two hours. Done!
I walked back to the house, making note of all the little tiny businesses and food places that I miss when I'm driving. Walked back. Car was done. Everyone shook hands and vrooom... I was outta there. I love this place!
As a Boston boy I can only think of this as Spring. Everything is turning green, the countryside has rejuvenated. And of course, my greens/lettuce are quite spectacular. This a an overflowing large container. Time to start more.
And the night blooming Cereus made itself known with lots of fragrant flowers.
Actually, it was a two night bloom, a few one night and lots the next..... done by morning.
It's crazy, but I just ignore the plant most of the time and miss the flowers at least half the time. Ahhh... but the fragrance.... sublime.