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, December 31, 2009

Susana Harp

Last night the zocalo, which is already festive, filled with lights and poinsettias, was even more festive, filled with people and music. Famed singer, Susana Harp, presented a free concert for the thousands that gathered to take in the evening. She sang many traditional standards backed by a good band with full string section and three backup singers. It was a beautiful setting with the moon coming over the cathedral and gentle, warm breezes blowing. People had a good time.
I spent too many years as a musician on stage and garnered too many reviews, both pans and raves, to ever review concerts. It is all in the music. I will leave it at "You had to be there."

I did get some very nice video. Editing is high on the list for the next few days as I have a large backlog of video to work on.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Not a bad place to be....

And I mean that in several ways, one of them beingYes, that is me at #6 at our favorite bookstore.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Plata - Silver

Decoration in a back courtyard. Even the papyrus plants are painted silver.This street performer had it down. He would pose and people would deposit coins in the can at his feet. At that point he would open the skull he was holding and offer them a piece of candy. Lots of folks wanted their photo taken with him. He was raking it in.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Noche Buena y Navidad

"Simply the best Christmas experience we have ever had. It was so joyous, like nothing we have ever experienced before."

That was the reaction of the folks I had brunch with yesterday after their time in the zocalo watching Noche Buena unfold.

Yes, that is the moon high above, clear skies, perfect temperatures.

Again, I got there early, about 7 PM, just to enjoy the action and all the people in the zocalo. All the gardens are overflowing with poinsettias or Noche Buena plants and everyone had sparklers or balloons or glow-in-the dark flying saucers, you know the little ones, pull a string and they fly up on random paths. They filled the air in front of the cathedral and people chasing after them made for a weird ballet. So it was already pretty festive before the real action had started.

At somewhere between 8 and 9 (who keeps track of time?) the first band and traditional over sized dancers arrived, followed by a float with a nativity scene on the back of a large flatbed truck. The truck was followed by a large group of people carrying candles or whistles or just singing, dancing, generally have a good time.This group is followed by another and another as the various neighborhood parishes joined in the celebration. Each had a band, a float, an entourage and of course, fireworks galore as skyrockets dodge the huge trees and surrounding buildings and pinwheels are run up and down the walkways.
At some point it turned into the euphoric cacophony that everyone had been waiting for with music all around you, people dancing, fireworks, everyone with sparklers, the zocalo covered with lights, it kicks into a whole new gear and one feels the joy that you want to feel at the holidays.

There are lots of cute kids who mug for the crowds and throw candy. Lots of variations of Mary Joseph and Jesus.After a couple of hours, one by one the groups head back to their churches to get ready for midnight mass. These photos don't really capture the ambiance, but the video does and in truth, I concentrated on working on that rather than the stills. Shooting at night with a flash unit is something I need to really practice, but it ain't like I don't have time and opportunity to do so.

So that was Noche Buena. Navidad was very quiet, just a small brunch. No family, no gifts, no big meal, just warm breezes and solitude of sorts - and an obligatory shot of mezcal. Once again, no pony under the tree. Oops, no tree.

So that was Christmas '09. The end of the year is always a contemplative time, a time to look back on the previous days and months. Looking back, looking ahead, looking good. Peace out.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

La Noche del Rabanos

From this to this
The Night of the Radishes - I have been anticipating this day for months. Really, I start getting psyched for next year's as soon as this one ends. I always get there early, about 10 in the morning, to watch the assembling and setup.Every year, for the last 112 years, on the 23rd of December, there is a radish carving competition in the zocalo with the winners receiving large cash prizes. This tradition goes back to when there was a Christmas vigil in the city and vendors decorated their stall with radishes and lettuce. Here is a part of a large representation of a typical vegetable vendor's setup.This year 12 tons of radishes, mostly of the Champion and Bartender varieties, were used. Bartenders can get pretty large, almost a yard long, while the Champions are used for detail work.

In addition, there is a competition using dried corn husks or "totomoxtle," and everlasting flowers, sometime known as straw flowers, which hold their color and shape after drying.The work is often amazingly intricate and detailed. And above all, one has to marvel at people's creativity and ingenuity.
A burial.A rug merchant.
A warrior. A huge band of miniature musicians made from corn husks.Dancers from corn husks and the piña dance from the GuelaguetzaTacos?Detail of the cathedralThe virginAnd of course, chico rabano,I have many more photos and some video, which is yet unseen, but first it is back to the zocalo for the Noche Buena festivities. What a time to be in Oaxaca!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Winter Solstice

It has been unusually cold and gray here the last few days. Everyone is talkin' about the weather, "Era tan frio anoche. It was so cold last night" I lit a fire in the fireplace to take the bite off.

However, on the solstice, the skies cleared and the light was amazing at the end of the day. Clear in that rare way that defines some of the best days of the year. I recall so many cold and snowy solstices and being thankful that the days would start getting longer. I feel the same way here. Ahhhh.

I ran over to Etla to get some fresh avocados and chiles and bought a couple of delicious empañadas from a lady sitting, selling them on the street corner. I was all set.

Then, because the light was so nice, I drove over to nearby Tres Reyes and shared the moment with this gentleman selling balls in the plaza. I like this shot because it has so much information. Etla's church right over that dead tree, the fluttering clothes, the clouds on the mountains. Life in Etla.Then I drove home by the huge police training academy and noticed that you could see my house from a long way away, mainly because, unlike most of the other houses, it has a second floor. It's that orange/tan house dead center. Most of it is hidden by cane or bamboo. This area has water. I am so blessed. That is why there is some green. Most areas are brown and very dry now. No rain until April or May.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Brooms - escobas

Many brooms here are handmade. The ones that the street sweepers use to clean the plazas and streets are large and incredibly efficient. The workers not only sweep up debris, but use the brooms to create bursts of directed air that leave the surface almost dust free. I always watch and am amazed. I look good standing there with my mouth open watching street sweeping. Hey, I liked watching watching the machines in Boston, too. Must be my cleaning neurosis. These brooms do as good a job, if not better, than all the gas powered blowers one sees in the States and with no noise. As in all things, I am sure there is an art in making them. This man sitting in front of Santo Domingo had it down.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Salida de sol - Puesta de sol

I thought this would be easy and I would increase my vocabulary with a couple of words, sunrise and sunset. Not quite so easy. Here's what I found.

SUNRISE: salida de sol
DAWN: alba, crepusculo (diurno)
DAWN LIGHT:alba,luz del alba,luz crepuscular (diurno)
SUNSET: puesta de sol, ocaso
TWILIGHT: crepusculo (nocturno),luz crepuscular (nocturna)
DUSK: anochecer

CREPUSCULO: twilight and dawn light (and those periods of time)
ALBA: dawn, dawn light, (before sunrise)

Crepusculo refers to the little light after sunset and before sunrise(the first and last lights of the day). Alba only refers to the one before sunrise.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Shots of the day

Angles not angels. This building got painted a deep red brown the day after this shot.
Lots of orchids and tillandsias, air plants for sale. These and lots of beautiful moss from the mountains are used to decorate creches in people's homes.
Fresh mandarins or tangerines just off the truck in the the Abastos market.
A moment's solitude
Angles? It is all about context, no?