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

Friday, February 12, 2016


And that's at the airport.  Out here in the foothills......

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Carnaval in San Martin Tilcajete

This village, already famous for its many woodcarvers, is now one of the places to be for carnaval on Mardi Gras.  And lots of people showed up this year, which is very good for the village.  San Martin Tilcajete is one of Oaxaca's treasures, and one of my favorites, really a remarkable places filled with so many talented families of artisans.  It is a must visit for alebrijes seekers.  And yesterday, I loved seeing the carvers strutting their stuff.
 What a beautiful mask.
A classic.
He's got the look.
There were so many different looks and styles.
And some very different masks this year.  People here are so artistically inventive.  It is an essential element in the social fabric here.... and the economy as well.
These harlequin outfits were beautiful.
So many striking images and moments. 
¡Viva San Martin Tilcajete! y muchas gracias!

Thousand words...

From yesterday's carnaval celebration in San Martin Tilcajete.

Sunday, February 7, 2016


One of the things I love about this place is how distinctly people dress.  You can tell where someone is from just by what they are wearing.  And if you want to see that in its most glorious, the market in Tlacolula on Sunday is the place to be, where traditional dress from various areas is wonderfully on display.  We always comment on how beautiful each style is and the work that goes into creating the look.
 These shots are from the mini-guelaguetza dance performance by kids from the village.
Kids learn the dances almost as soon as they can walk.  
And it is just normal life on display.  A perfect example was last week's feria in San Juan Guelavia, a village just a few kilometers before Tlacolula.  Imagine how great it must feel to bask in this much appreciation and pride at that early an age.  I'd be hooked for life.
Traditions that make each village unique and traditions that will continue because the young are raised in a world where it is all normal. 
I'm envious. Oh, to be a child again. Well...... maybe not.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Día de la Candelaria,

Today is candlemas or, as it is known here and many other places, el Día de la Candelaria.
From Wikipedia
It is traditional to celebrate the presentation of the Christ child in the temple on February 2. The dressing and adoration of the Jesus and family meals around tamales is a very important tradition.  This festival is closely linked to that of the Epiphany, during which, the tasting of the rosca de reyes (kings cake) will determine who will be responsible for organizing Candlemas. Indeed, the one who finds the muñeco (bean-shaped Christ child) in the cake is named as godfather of the child. It is he who will dress the little God (image of the Christ child in the form of dolls of varying size) on Candlemas with richly decorated clothes. It is then brought to the church to be blessed. The memories of these events are often passed from generation to generation in families.
I went to three different villages to try and find some of the most wonderful action of the year, but all in vain.  I was either too early or too late.  I did notice there was a lot of activity at the corner Niños store.  I'm sure you have one in your area.  I am pretty sure these were last minute orders as many of the niños looked old, but were just in for new outfits,
Here one gets new booties.  I love the little girl giving me the eye.
So I did not find el Dia de la Candelaria, but I did find. el Dia Mundial del Lavado de Manos.
Who knew?  So light a candle and wash your hands.  For me, as a gardener, today is halfway between the winter solstice and the vernal equinox.  We are getting there.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Hay siempre Esperanza

There is always Hope!.... Esperanza, the queen of Tlacolula, dancer extraordinaire and the one with some of the best barbacoa anywhere.   And that smile....  I love that she always is decked out in very traditional clothing and yes, the plaid is hardcore traditional.
A meal fit for princess.
Looks pretty good, doesn't it? 
It was... and so was the second one.  We were so happy to see her in San Juan Guelavia for the Feria del Carrizo. 
Carizzo is a bamboo-like plant that is (almost) a weed in places, but this village, San Juan Gelavia,  makes the most wonderful pieces out of the plant.  It is very labor intensive work to prep the plant for weaving and these people re real masters.  Here is one of the baskets that demanded to come home with me.
$400 MP..  a ridiculous $22 US.  OMG!  What an amazing scene.  We were there last year and it was a quiet humble affair.  This year, however, it was Huuuuge!  Today was the opening day and it was absolutely packed with visitors and the vibe was one of pure joy.... really.  This is a relatively poor village and they must be very happy to see so many people show up to visit and to eat and spend pesos.  What a difference from last year.  The organizing committee really hit this one out of the park and put the master basket makers on the map.  There was lots of action including a guelaguetza featuring lots of the traditional dances.  And there were so many little kids involved!  No wonder the traditions continue.  They start so young.
It just becomes a part of the fabric of their lives.
More tomorrow on the feria.  More tomorrow.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Alone together

Each one of these recent pieces of street art is a bit creepy.... well, more than a bit.
But the two together? 
 Even creepier..... but maybe, that's just me.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

It's an art

This bugambilia is one of my favorite projects.  When I moved in just a couple of years ago, it had just suffered the worst pruning I have ever seen in my life. It was like a blind, drunk spastic guy with anger issues was let loose on it.  There was no growth on this side of the wall if you can believe it, just ugly stumps of limbs.  I thought that maybe it should just be removed.  However, oaxaquenos know how to prune their bugambilias and trees.  There are examples everywhere with lots of topiary.  So I watched and learned how they shaped and tended them and voila.... 
A bright globe of color.  I'm working on a couple more than have recovered almost equally. 

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

The ladies who lunch

When I stopped into Comedor Colon in nearby Etla, one of my favorite places, for a quick bite, I was greeted by these three peahens scurrying around the courtyard.
 They were looking fine.
And so was their companion.
Not much for conversation, but a good visual show.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

First look - Los Danzantes de Teotitlan del Valle

This is the first look we have gotten of the new group of danzantes for the next three years of performances of la danza de la pluma in Teotitlan del Valle.  It may be our first, but they have been practicing three days a week for quite some time now and they look fantastic.
It is so interesting to see how differently these dancers are from the previous group.  Monctezuma, in particular, is exceptional.  His father was leading the practice and we heard than the son had been dancing for years.  It showed. 
It was also so exciting to see our good friend, Daniel Ruiz, looking so fine as he danced.  He is the son of Mario Ruiz, the village photographer.  I have known them for years. 
I loved seeing Daniel out there.  I am proud of him.  It is going to be a fun three years.
Here are the new incarnations of Malinche and Doña Marina.
Look at how tiny Doña Marina is.  She will grow before our eyes.
Psyched?  You bet!  Viva Teotitlan del Valle and these danzantes carrying on the tradition.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Gracias, Mr. Moto

Sometimes this place just cracks me up at to how things can work here.  Short story long...

It's the dry season.  I have a huuuge compost pile.  Time for the wood chipper.  I have one of the few here in Oaxaca.  I used to use it all the time when I had much bigger gardens.  Now, it's a once or twice a year thing.  The thing weighs quite a bit and when I got it out, it would not start.

I may live in Mexico, but I have not quite absorbed the Mexican gift of being able to fix any motor, anywhere, any time.  So I took off a few of the heavier parts of the machine and somehow got it into my 2004 Jetta.  I knew there was a place very close that repairs thing like this.  However, like many things, it was there yesterday, but nowhere to be found today.  Now what?

There are lots of moto-taxis in this area, so I figured I would stop at one of the hole-in-the-wall places that said they repair motos, which are actually motorcycles.  They looked at it and said "Sure."

While I waited, they took it apart, cleaned it, put it back together, started it...done!  In about an hour, it was over.  All for $150 MP... that's $8.21 US!!!  I could only imagine what the whole adventure would have been like in the States.

And this is pretty typical of things like this down here. Time and time again, I have been lucky to have great work done at incredibly good prices.  Maybe I am just lucky, but I surely count my blessings.

After getting the chipper back and out of the car, it was six hours of wonderful chipping with more to come in about five minutes.  The compost pile reduces in size to about one tenth of its original size and it is such great compost material, so nicely chopped up.

Update: Well, I dunno.... As soon as I started work, the chipper sprung an oil leak.  Sigh... This time I took off the motor.  It is nice and light.  Threw it in the car to go find my guys.... closed.   Stopped at a very funky moto taxi repair place.  They said I needed a new gasket.   The only place to get one of those is in the city.  I ain't going there today.  However, I am more Mexican than I used to be.  I managed to put in a temporary fix using a heavy duty garden hose washer.  No duct tape.... yet.

Thursday, January 14, 2016


I'm living a pretty simple life these days.  Oaxaca really is a wonderful place to live.  It's as full of problems as any place.  However, it is also blessed with so many positive aspects, that one can find a balance here.  I work in the garden and watch the world go by.... and count my blessings that whatever bullshit I spout is only heard by the plants and an occasional goat or two.... and of course, there is this blog.
I add my little bit to the billions of bytes out there.  Still, it is crazy to watch people say or do the most outrageous things and then act surprised that other people notice.... and then it goes viral.  So, knock on wood, I have not achieved that notoriety... yet.
Back before there was the internet, I regularly laid eggs and pissed people off..... I once got a review in the Boston Globe that said I was "too stupid to realize I should have been embarrassed."  But I knew it was bullshit because the same critic said, at a different time, that my music was "better than sex."  Hah.. how would he know?  I mean, he was a music critic.  (Rim shot, please.) 
It was all bull then and it still is, but I like this type of bull much better.  These guys are my neighbors.  The white bird is a constant companion to them.  They have some sort of symbiotic relationship... well, actually, I think the birds get more out of the deal than the bulls, but what do I know?

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Alejandro Santiago lives!

"El arte cambia mi comunidad."
"Art changes my community."  This is so true.  One of the things I love most about Oaxaca is that art, in all its many faces, is so public and prevalent, a vital part of the social fabric.  And it does change the city and surrounding villages.  So, on one level, this billboard on the way into the city really resonates.   Art is one of the best parts of life, ever changing and ever stimulating.  However, there is more to this billboard.  The painting is by Alejando Santiago and art really did change his village.
One of his most famous and important works, 2501 Migrantes, told the sad story of his village.  I wrote a few posts about it.  The first, when it was at CASA in San Agustin Etla and another when it came into the city.  It is such a powerful work on so many levels.  It created change.  It certainly changed me and gave me insights.  Sadly, the maestro died at an early age.
It is wonderful to see his art displayed so prominently and with such a powerful message attached to it.