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, March 27, 2008

Comida para llevar - Take out food

As the time goes by, I keep discovering things, keep expanding my comfort zone and there have been very few disappointments.

Wednesdays are market days in Etla, the cheese capital of Oaxaca. The produce is always so fresh, plentiful and inexpensive. Like all markets, you can get anything you need from used tools to clothing to special medicines.

Along with the fresh produce, there are many women selling blandas, (tortillas) tlayudas, (crisp baked tortillas) and lots of prepared foods.

All the food looks so tasty, but how to choose?

Well, after a few less then satisfying experiences, I developed what I call the “abuela theory” or “the grandmother theory.” I figured, just like my grandmothers, a woman who had cooked for her family for a lot of years must be a pretty good cook.

And the theory has worked out very well. The woman from whom I get chiles rellenos (poblano chiles stuffed with diced chicken) has been selling her food in the market for over forty years. She started there with her mother.

Her chiles are just perfect and I know my rellenos well. Hers are light and the stuffing is rich and plentiful. The best! I have not sampled everything she sells. The pig’s feet in the photo are not my thing. Maybe with a beer or mescal…

Here is the lady I buy my tamales from each week.
She has been making and selling her wares for twenty years. Making tamales is hard work and time consuming. Hers are always light and exceptionally flavorful. Moles can vary greatly in quality and her mole negro tamales are always right on. My favorites are the ones she makes from pork, squash flowers and hierba santa. I am making my mouth water.

And here is the cheese vendor I see each week. Only two kinds of cheese, but she also has fresh butter and honey.
So that’s my take out food. Time to eat.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

There must be a message in there.

The ground is covered in purple. It looks like a hallucination.

After months of virtually no rain, I repeat, no rain, the jacaranda trees are covering the landscape with huge explosions of purple flowers. The highways are lined with the trees and what looked desolate a few weeks ago, now looks like someone definitely knew what they were doing. This month is clearly the time to see them in all their glory.

There is a carpet of purple underneath the trees and the wind blows the petals everywhere so at times, you feel like you are in some purple cartoon universe.
So that’s the thought for the day. After suffering through so much adversity, they flower with exuberance and in abundance, it is almost over the top.
So what’s the message? There are plenty to choose from.
I choose to look at it as a good-natured challenge.


Try harder!

Medias Rojas!

How funny to wake up at 5:30 AM and realize that the Red Sox were playing Oakland in Tokyo in the season opener. If you recall my celebration with the dog when they won the Series, you have to know that I did the same when they won this morning in the 10th inning.

It makes me realize just how quickly the time has passed.

And it also makes me realize that I need to think about what I should/could do in the coming year. Any thoughts?

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Semana Santa y Pascula

I left the house in search of Easter. This is what I found in just a few hours.

I was immediately caught up in the processions in San Agustin Etla.
All were going to a service in the zocalo.
One of the many statues that people carried up the streets
After the traffic cleared, I made it to the city.Santo Domingo
Midday service
Votives at the cathederal.
Easter mass Plenty of room for comida
Band concert in the zocalo
With the cathederal in the background Easter Wedding
Great faces
Another service
With the Danza de las Plumas in the courtyard
Grafatti artists waiting by the car.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Celebrate the Day


Half the world is celebrating today. It is Good Friday, Purim, Narouz, the Persian New Year, Eid Milad an Nabi, the Birth of the Prophet, Small Holi, the Indian festival of bonfires, Magha Puja, a Buddhist holiday and a bunch more.
Chac the Rain God masks at Uxmal

And there may between 20-50 thousand people at Chichen Itza to watch the serpents glow on the edges of the pyramids.
Chichen Itza
All of the Mayan archaeological sites we visited were spectacular and each had different qualities. Uxmal, Kabah, Chichen Itza, Ek Balam and Sayil are all very important sites, but just a few of the many that stretch from the Yucatan to Guatemala.
Chichen Itza
Obviously, there is way too much to even start so the photos are offered as indicements to come yourself.
The Observatory at Chichen ItzaEk Balam
The insights and knowledge gained in the last twenty years about the Mayans has been staggering, but still so much is unknown,
Chichen Itza w/overlay of original design

I think we all have obligations to learn and study these amazing cultures that preceded us on the continents. These were advanced cultures as indicated by the exactness of aligning tons of stone to “glow” or line up on specific days of the year.
Reconstruction detail at Ek Balam
Please never fall into the trap that these were not advanced cultures. Dig deeper than Mel Gibson’s “Apocalypto.”
Large temple covered with Chac masks at KabahEach mask is about 1 meter wide.

And these cultures failed for various reasons.
Chichen Itza
As one observing the (North) American culture and its current state from the outside, there are some lessons we could learn from the Maya.
The boyz at Sayil

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The First Day

The first day of Spring.
The first day of Year 6.
The words of Benito Juarez
Peace is respect for people's rights.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Run, Forrest, Run!

I am back in Oaxaca after ten days on the road. What took three days in the going, we did in a nice 18-hour drive back. What a chance to see the diverse lay of the land. What a country! We drove from the humid flats, through the tropical plains into the jungle and then back into the dry mountains, which surround the city of Oaxaca.

We left at 4 AM and stopped for breakfast on the beach about 30k from Cuidad del Carmen, coconuts off the tree and the freshest of fish, not a bad way to go.
We also picked up a couple of crates of fresh mangos and some hands of bananas. I think there may be 50 mangos in each crate all for 50 pesos. These are not the yellow mangos, but the big green ones turning rosy yellow. Henry was in Heaven. “Look at these colors, Chris. It is like an edible sunset.”

After dropping everyone off in the city, I returned to Henry and Rosa’s house to be greeted by a happy dog and almost 100 gardenias.

I will get caught up on the Mayan sites and post what photos I have in a day or two.

On the way down, about 270k out of Oaxaca, on the only road we could take to get to where we were going, we were stopped cold in a long line of traffic in the middle of nowhere. We learned that “los maestros,” the Oaxacan teachers, has set up a blockade as a protest for their continuing problems with the government. Certainly, it was a highly effective blockade. It appeared that we were going to have to drive all the way back to Oaxaca as they said it was not going to end soon. There were dirt roads that led off the main road, but the protesters had blocked them with buses or brush. This is rugged country and it was their turf. We turned around and headed back. We saw clouds of dust off to the North and then spotted an unblocked path. I hit the brakes, backed up and started up the path only to be greeted by a beer truck coming from the other side of the blockade. “Can we get through?” we asked. “Si, but you better hurry.”

Off in the distance we could see people running across the wide dusty fields to block the road. We began to slowly drive across and in a cloud of dust we headed up the road hoping we would be able to find a turnoff that would lead us to where we needed to get.

We were all laughing and praying for the best, but we could see that several of the connectors were already blocked.

The runners could see us and they kicked it into gear. The race was on.

Doing my best bat-out-of-hell scream, I yelled out to them,“Run, Forrest, run,” and floored it.
The actual road at sunset at 100kph

After the dust settled and some tight turns and detours, we made it. It was a crazy happy moment. We were going to continue our trip after all. I said we should all get out and do the "Dance of Joy," but we were content just to laugh and drive on.

On our return, we reached exactly the same spot, the middle of nowhere. No teachers now. Memo said it was because it was vacation week and that everyone was at the beach. But Henry got out and did the "Dance of Joy" much to the enjoyment of an old tow truck operator that just happened to be there.

I explained to him, “It’s OK, my grandfather is a little crazy.” The guy’s smile was priceless.

Incidentally, I always taught my students the lessons I learned in the 60’s. “The straighter you look, the weirder you can be.” Meaning, if you have long green hair and a spike through you nose, you stand a better chance of getting hassled. However, with nice short hair and a blue blazer, you can get away with almost anything.

It may be time for a haircut. We normally drive through all the military checkpoints, which are very serious and intimidating, without ever being stopped. Not so yesterday, as at each one we hit, we were asked to get out of the car while they searched it.

The guys all blamed it on me. It was my “Che” hair. I think the soldiers probably had heard that I was traveling with my completely insane grandfather.