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, January 30, 2009

The Abastos with Alejandro Ruiz Olmedo

Over the years, I have videotaped many of the cooks in Oaxaca and now I am trying to figure out what to do with the footage. I have some real masters making their specialities. It is a fun gig, because not only do I get to make market runs with them and meet their favorite vendors, but I get to watch them cook all day. Of course, there is always the problem of what to do after everything is prepared and ready to eat. Problem? Right! The icing on the cake, so to speak - of course, we eat it!

I have known Alejandro Ruiz Olmedo for a few years. In fact, the video is from about five years ago. He is an amazing cook, so inventive and knowledgeable. He may be the most famous chef in Oaxaca. Now, he is gerente (manager) of Casa Oaxaca, the hotel, and his two restaurants which also go by the same name. His food is sublime, a marriage of traditional Oaxacan flavors and tastes and techniques from around the world. One of his keys - he uses only the best, the freshest, the most in season ingredients in his recipes.

The Abastos Market is on the western edge of the city. I have written about it before. It is huge and gritty and can be intimidating to some as it is known for its no-nonsense approach to business. There are pickpockets and scam artists and it is not the place to take tourist photos. The vendors will yell and curse you if you shove a camera in their face. They think that every shot takes a bit of their soul. Besides, they think it is rude. "I am not here for your entertainment..."

I go there regularly, because you can get, literally, anything there and once you figure out the layout and how to deal, it is an efficient and inexpensive place to shop. There is also delicious food everywhere and the tastes and smells are tantalizing. Makes my mouth water just to think of it.

At any rate, to have a guide/friend like Alejandro taking me around was great and folks had no problem with me shooting. Well, no one threw anything at me. Actually, people were very warm and friendly, as they usually are. I have shot there many times and never really had a problem. I do always ask before shooting.

Watch the video in High Res if you can. Youtube has increased the size they allow and the quality is really quite good.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


Still waiting for Godot of the Kitchen and of course, another foot of snow tonight. I know it is warm and green somewhere, just not here. This is a hacienda garden in Guanajuato.

Somebody's Watchin' You

This is very cool. The resolution at high magnification is amazing. Makes you wonder if you are on camera right now... smile.
Check out the other photos on the site. What amazing (and scary) technology.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Art changing daily

I miss are the daily offerings of the graffiti artists. I know there is a constant battle between property owners and the artist. I just like the quality of work and the expression of ideas. Asaro, the artist, is incredibly prolific.
Maybe there are places in the US there are equally politically in tune and visually demonstrative, but it sure ain't Newton, MA.I can only imagine what we would have seen over the last few years is it were.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Further Up

There is a dirt road that leads up from the center of Benito Juarez, past the eco-tourism cabins, and beyond the fields and farms, that ends up at El Mirador, a lookout tower. There is a steel ladder that one can climb to get to the platform at the top. From this vantage, one can see for miles and take in the dramatic and diverse landscape.
Imagine the sounds of the wind, of sheep and cow bells and their calls, you get the picture.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Benito Juarez

If you follow your nose up the road from the Tlaminalli restaurante, past the reservoir for Teotitlan, after countless switchbacks on a narrow dirt road, you will come to the mountain village of Benito Juarez. It is about 20 k. and there is a better and paved road if you want to take a left at Tlacolula and head north. Benito Juarez is idyllic with fantastic views of converging mountain ranges and the valleys they open into. There is also a great place to eat in the zocalo where I had one (or two) of the best chile rellenos. For the intrepid traveler, there are eco-tourist cabins nestled among the tall pines. Those pines sit on a carpet of alpine flowers and cacti. Oaxaqueños from the city never go there. It is too cold for them.
Henry, Rosa and Zach in front of a nice specimen. Henry was probably imagining what nice mezcal the plant could provide. The portrait is a bit dated, as Zack is now 16 and over six feet tall, but the plant is still one big agave.... but not the biggest by any means.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Now, here's a kitchen! - Tlamanalli

When I think of some of my favorite kitchens, the wonderful ceramic work in the Restaurante Tllamanalli in Teotitlan de Vaille comes to mind.
Tllamanalli means offering and, on a daily basis, the Mendoza sisters, all five of them, graciously serve wonderful traditional Oaxacan food. Their menu is limited and a bit pricey, but the ambiance is more than worth it.
Depending on the season, there is always a mole of some sort and a soup made with the freshest ingredients.

Lots of people go to Teotitlan for the rugs and certainly the Mendoza name is quite famous for its weavings, but the sisters and the restaurant are alone well worth the trip. The food and the smiles that always greet you make for good memories.
The tile work in the kitchen is amazing. All the shelves, work areas, sinks, counters, stairs use the same ceramic pattern throughout and cover a huge space.
The place is quite famous. It was written up in Saveur a while back and pretty much has a monopoly on the hungry rug buyers although, I heard that one or two restaurants recently opened.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

You want pictures?

I thought I would go with nice sturdy counter tops.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


From my limited perspective...

One of the vibes I pick up, as I visit the sites of ancient civilizations and talk to the remaining descendants, is a deep sense of humility. Paradoxically, it is fed by an intense sense of pride.

You can see it in people's eyes.

Here were these cultures, the pinnacles of their times, strong, fat and sassy, now distant memories and vestiges of their former selves.

They all had their butts kicked in one way or another, the Olmec, Aztecs, Zapotecs, Mixtecs, its a long list.

And losing it all, does a number on one's ego and standing in the world. It is not a bad thing to be knocked down, to not always win, to be forced to eat one's words and suffer for ones deeds, one's arrogance.

This country has such a short history, it has yet to really experience it or figure it out.

Its a hard lesson to learn, how to be humble and proud at the same time.

We have the pride and arrogance down, not so much the humility.


I bet there are more postings today than, perhaps, ever, as Bush exits stage right and Obama takes center stage. I have tried not to be too political on this blog, mainly because it does no good. However, living outside the country for a time while George was running the show certainly sent off alarm bells as to the state of the nation.

"Trouble. We surely got trouble. Right here in River City," but you already knew that.

Well, all politics is local and personal, so here's my take on things.

With all my neurotic planning, the kitchen project has followed its natural course with problems arising with every turn of the screw. Lots of delays topped off by yesterday's fiasco of discovering that the new refrigerator is an inch too tall because of the new floor and the fact that they jacked up the joists when they re-enforced everything. OK, it can be exchanged. Just one more problem to deal with or one more straw so to speak.

So this project and its slow progress are driving me even crazier than normal. Of course, no kitchen, illness, frigid temps and tons of snow just add to the mix.

Last year I was shoveling ten tons of abono, cow manure, this year its snow. Y basta! Enough already with the shoveling.

So how does this relate to Bush? Well, think about this. About twenty years ago, when this house went through a complete rehab, I used a guy to coordinate all the work being done by a crew of eight Mexicans. This guy was an obvious charlatan, but hey, he was there, so we used him.

Now, no matter where I turn, I come across something he did wrong or screwed up and I have to choose between ripping it out and redoing it or living with it. Structural, plumbing, electrical, if he touched it, it was done wrong. Obviously, there are certain things that simply require too much work to fix, given the nature of old houses. But the amount of work that that one guy added to the current project??

Ay! my thoughts about what I'd like to do to the guy are right out of the cartoons... or "Reservoir Dogs."

So there you have it. Bush is like that contractor. He screwed up everything he touched. It will be many years before we discover all the things he did to the house, the Nation.

Its OK. We need it. The country, just like my kitchen will end up better.

Still, what a wanker... both of them.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

G'day Godot

An interesting time. Hard to believe this is my first posting of 2009. What can I say? It was -11 outside yesterday. I need a meal in the zocalo.

I returned from Oaxaca to prepare for my return to Oaxaca. The house in Newton needed lots of work inside and out, not to mention packing up the art from years of collecting. Those of you who know me, know I am methodical, neurotic about details and preparation, which definitely pays off in the end, but makes for a long process. I had a list and the last big thing on it was a new kitchen. It should be beautiful but...

No matter how one plans it, you always end up without a kitchen for an extended period of time. I am still in it. I am using businesses in the neighborhood trying to keep the local economy going. So I discovered an interesting counter and flooring place just a block away from the house.

They do beautiful work and the quality and variety of material is impressive. The owners are young Brazilians in their late 20's.

Thus I was introduced to the extensive Brazilian network in the trades. It is wild to see just how dominant they are in certain services. In fact, I heard more Spanish and Portuguese than English in my travels around. There is a hierarchy in the contractor world just as there is in all worlds from academia to carving villages. The Brazilians are right up there. They sure are doing great work for me


Times goes by and still I am waiting...

The best version evah