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

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Street food - Fruit

I am so spoiled.  Everyday, I stop at one of these fruit stands to pick up a fresh and healthy snack and my after-dinner dessert.
Mango, papaya, cukes, jicama, watermelon, melon, pineapple, oranges and more....  I can honestly say that these stands have changed my life and how I eat.  And almost all the time, the fruit is of the best quality, fresh and incredibly tasty.

Oh, I forgot to mention... each cost $10 MP or $.78. US.  You can see why I say that I'm spoiled.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Huitlacoche - Mexican Truffles

Now that the rains have arrived and the corn is really taking off, seasonal taste treats appear in the markets.  Yesterday, one of the ladies I get produce from in Etla had fresh immature huitlacoche and because she can always talk me into buying anything, I ended up with a sizable amount for $15 pesos, 1.10 US.  I am used to seeing it a bit later in the season when is is black and was curious how these would taste. 
 So into the pan with a little butter, olive oil, onions and fresh herbs from the garden and voila.
The perfect filling for an omelet made with fresh local eggs and Etla's best quesillo.
The taste was very subtle, but sublime.  It was kinda of like mushrooms, but not quite. 
I guess I am not doing a very good job of describing the taste, but fortunately I have enough left over, so I can give it another try.  At any rate, what a rare treat, a real Oaxacan delicacy.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

If a tree falls....

 
Another one bites the dust, always a sad sight.  Oaxaca is known for its huge beautiful trees (El Tule).  They can be found all around the city, but are most noticeable in and around the zocalo and in the nearby parks.  However, they do not live forever and after, sometimes fifty to a hundred years, they give up the ghost.  It could be old age or some sort of insect or blight, but they need to come down before they fall down, not always an easy thing to predict..  
This beauty was on the SW corner of Llano Park and what a loss it is.  All the life that passed under its branches.
Think of the time it took to grow this tree.
The city is quick to replant, but no matter, there is still a big hole in the city's fabric that will take years to fill.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Happy

We live in dynamic hyper-polarized times.  It can get  person down.  Sure, there is lots of bad stuff happening, but at the same time, there are the most positive and uplifting things happening.  This is just amazing....
We are Happy....

Addendum:  World keeps on changin'.  Geomixs -A very interesting read from The Atlantic - YouTube Parody as Politics: How The World Made Pharrell Cry

Monday, May 26, 2014

Street food, Coixtlahuaca style.

Now that I have gotten the historic stuff out of the way, I can share the real deal... street food, Coixtlahuaca style.  The streets were lined with people selling all sorts of incredibly tempting things from fruits to nuts to ices to barbacoa.  The aromas were tantalizing and we ended up having some delicious beef and nopal tacos at a place in the shade.  But there was no denying this place.  Those are stacks of tasajo and chorizo ready for the grill.
The first time we walked by it was quiet, but after that, more and more folks showed up and after the young guy gave me a taste of the tasajo, the thin sliced dry salted beef, it was on, baby.  This abuela knew what was what.
"I'll have one of those, por favor."
OMG!!!!  So good!
video

First visit to San Juan Bautista Coixtlahuaca

Yesterday, we drove 100 k. north to the village of San Juan Bautista Coixtlahuaca in the Mixteca Alta region of Oaxaca.  It was la fiesta religiosa de San Isidro Labrador week and the village was packed.  The festivities go on for six days so it is impossible to take it all in in just a few hours, but wow, what a great scene.  The primary reason for making the short trek was to see the church and adjoining convent, another 16th century marvel.  Like the other Dominican churches in nearby Yanhuitlan and Teposcolula, this one is undergoing a dramatic restoration that will continue for the next thirty years.

Normally, the village has just a few thousand inhabitants and I want to go back soon to see what it is like without all the craziness.  The thing that strikes one immediately is the ruggedness of the countryside and how the village occupies a wonderful large flat plain with the mountains all around.
One also senses the antiquity of the place.  Coixtlahuaca was founded in 37 A.D. and the name in Nahuatl means "plain of snakes.".... Let me just interject here for all the nut-wagons who keep saying they want to "take the country back".... uh, never mind.
So the place is a couple of thousand years old and you can feel it.  And it felt like it had a very solid economy.  The houses were large, the streets wide and well-kept.
The church was completed in 1576 after forty years of construction and has seen a lot of wear and tear over the centuries.
The new stonework which was behind scaffolding looked fantastic.  One could tell that at one point all the walls and ceiling had been painted, but it looked like the interior restoration was going to repeat the mistakes of Yanhuitlan and make everything an austere white.   Arrggg!
This was just the first visit and the place was so intriguing, I have to go back very soon.  It is an easy drive from Oaxaca, just over an hour and change to get there.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Shirt shots


It is a beautiful day in Oaxaca.  On my side of the city, to the north, the Etlas, we have had three, count em. three days with rain in the afternoon.  The countryside is greening up quickly and all my plants are going, "Ahhhhhh, finally."  And seeing as though this house has a rain collecting system, my cistern has a little more water in it and I am going, "Ahhhh, finally."  Maybe I will make it through the dry season only buying one pipa or water tank truck.

So it is T-shirt weather, like it isn't always T-shirt weather here, so here are a few new shots from the collection.  "Watch out, I'm dangerous."
 
Twenty years since the Zapatistas rose up.  Maybe it is time for a new emergence.
I love these "What the heck is that?"  shirts.
Should I know who this is?  I like the Pats logo on what was, no doubt, a Brady jersey.
The great thing is that with all the T-shirts to see, there are always outfits like this on the streets to drink in.
¡Viva Oaxaca!

Friday, May 23, 2014

Paradoxical

Los maestros de Seccion XXII did their thing yesterday across the state by shutting down roads, shopping malls and access to parts of the city.  This story from Noticias pretty much covers it and really, it ain't no new thing.  These actions have been going on for years... uh, dare I say it?  A classic Mexican standoff?
Listen, I know the teachers have legitimate issues, but it seems that there are directly opposing concepts at work here.  They say they are fighting for "the people" and then do everything they can to inconvenience and piss off those "people."  Because there are so few major roads and because so many people live in outlying areas, the blockades have a dire impact on many businesses.  Not only is there no free flow of traffic, but thousands of workers cannot get to or do their daily jobs, which I imagine ends hitting them in the pocketbook.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the teachers are not teaching, the kids are not in school, the politicians issue platitudes and do very little, the obvious corruption continues, the state's economy takes yet another hit, which it can ill afford as Oaxaca is Mexico's poorest state.

What I don't get is the concept of "If we make things worse, things will get better."  Yeah, that always works out well.

And it ain't only here.  This from Boston of all places.  Srsly, WTF???
It was announced today that the Boston Public School department is "reorganizing" by eliminating all Departments of History & Social Sciences in all schools and folding the departments into the Department of English Language Arts as a "Humanities Department" with the currciculum determined by the ELA Common Core Standards.  Certified history department heads/chairs are being laid off and, apaprently, no certified history specialist will be hired to replace any of these teachers. This essentially eliminates history and the social sciences as one of the core academic departments in the Boston Public Schools and subordinates HSS to ELA.  This appears to be the first major metropolitan school district to reduce history and the social sciences to merely a supporting role in the education of students.
As it might appear to be a political issue, I will leave it to H-High-S network members to research this issue and the various petitions, political issues, etc. that are circulating about this matter, but as this addresses a core element of our network's raison d'etre, history education, I hope this will generate both interest and discussion.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

A real rarity

No, not the family of four on a motorcycle, but the fact that they are all wearing helmets.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Whole lotta shakin' goin' on

Time to send in the paratroopers?
We did have a 5.6 earthquake at about 5:10 AM this morning.  I happened to be awake and it shook the place pretty good.  Another few seconds longer or steps up the Richter scale and it would have been really scary.

And there are more rumblings that things could heat up politically.  Frustration abounds with the politicians here..... sounds familiar, doesn't it?  In certain areas of the state there are long unresolved serious problems.
107 days and counting for this particular planton or sit-in, but the teachers are a whole other entity.
To some, los maestros are combative heroes, fighting against reform and protection of their rights.  To others, not so much.
 What's it all about?
 And everyone loves the phone company... "Shut off the phone, set the street on fire"
Today, there was supposed to be a very large march and protests by Section XXII, the teachers, but it was so well publicized that I just stayed away, content to to enjoy a quiet day in the country.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Karma - A star isn't born

Yesterday, I was lucky to be part of a promotional video for this year's guelaguetza that the state government is producing.  Somehow, I think I was typecast, kind of a James Bond character.... uh wait, no, I was to pose as a tourist taking pictures.  Umm... yes, I think I can do that... did you clear this with my agent?....
And so it began... there were lots of beautiful dancers, a fine band made of of little kids, the setting was perfect in front of La Soledad, the cathedral, the light was perfect.
The director explained what he wanted.  I was to take pictures of the dancers, the cathedral and then a shot of the two other two "tourists" both of whom had lived in Oaxaca for many years.  Piece-o-cake!
"Action!"  Hmmmm... why is the camera almost directly behind me?  OMG!  Is this my fate?  To finally make the big time and then have it be a high def video of my butt??  It kinda seemed like it.  Oh well, many would say that I showed my best side or that I lived up to my name.  No matter.  It was a blast and I look forward to seeing the final product and if my fine ass I actually makes the cut.  Hmmm... that didn't come out right...
I did fully take advantage of the wonderful opportunity and hey, if I was to act like I was a photographer, I might as well take some pictures.  Little drummer girl.  Love it!!
They had very nice equipment.
Including this very cool drone.
Unfortunately, its GPS signal was immediately blocked by the cathedral's high walls and it crashed into the building.  Oh well, back to the other camera.
Thanks to Shannon for getting me the gig.  I had a total blast and even got paid for making an ass of myself.  I can handle that.  And who knows... once the world takes a gander at my bum.... well, the sky's the limit.
Update:  Here's a shot from spixl of me in the midst of all the action.  Gracias!