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

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

That was crazy

As I went on my morning walk along the Charles today, I heard a woman calling her dog. As this is a dog walking park, I didn't think anything of it. I had my new little camera and was hoping I could get a shot of the swans if they were there. And they were. They were there, swimming right in front of me and they were being chased by a swimming dog. By that time, the woman, quite a ways away, was hysterical. "Lucia, Lucia, come here!" But the dog was having none of it and stayed in hot pursuit. Now, this is the Charles River. Its March. Its cold. And the swans headed right out into the middle of the river with the dog right behind them along with a gaggle of duck who just happened to be catching the action. I mean, we were all just open-mouthed.

As a dog person, I said to myself, "There is nothing I can do about this and I don't want to watch this dog drown," so I walked well past and continued out onto a point that extends into the river. The swans and dog kept right on swimming further and further out into the Charles, which is quite wide at that point. They started swimming towards me. I called the dog. "Lucia, come here. That's a good dog." and she actually perked up at her name and started towards me. But by then, the insanity had fully taken hold of her and she headed back into the middle of the river now chasing the ducks. The woman appeared at my side after running a long way, but now Lucia was a quarter mile away. It had been ten or fifteen minutes. I kept expecting the dog to go under.

But she swam back to shore and eventually made her way back to the woman, who, it turns out, was not her owner and really had no control whatsoever. Plus, she had four other dogs. Lucia had lost her leash and collar so I called her over and took off my belt and slipped it around her neck. She seemed like a very nice dog. Wasn't fazed in the least. Not winded, just wet. As, I say, seemed like a very nice dog.

I walked her back across the park to a car. And that was that!

Update: I checked my camera. Here's what I got. The dog was a long way away. Digital zoom with way too much happening to ever get a clear shot. This was before she swam towards me.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Skyline & Crumb

The changes! The Big Dig is fading into history and the above ground work is well along. The skyline is so different now without all the roads and subways. Every time I go down there, I am almost lost, even though I have been going there for years. It's that different. Makes one looks at things differently.Speaking of seeing things differently, in the movie Crumb, R. talks about taking photos of everyday streets and sights because you could never get it right, all those wires, poles and stuff. Riding on the train lets you catch a view you can't get from the road. Imagine drawing these. If you look at R.'s drawings, you see these all the time.Viva Zap!
This one is almost Escher-like.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

It keeps going

Cycles. We all have them. This is my current mantra, "It keeps going so you keep going." It works.

I keep experimenting and trying to get more fluent with the programs I am using. I guess this is the way I work, just doing exercises in preparation for the next big project. Currently, I am practicing/working on the smallest setup I have ever used so I will be up and ready for my assault on Oaxaca. Size does not matter when it comes to technology these days. What used to fill up a large room now fits in a shoulder bag. We love it.

The Noble One sent me a link to a speech by Elizabeth Gilbert about the nature of creativity. An excellent 18 min. talk. I highly recommend it.

And to that "It keeps going" is an interesting piece. The music was just a brief sketch from months ago. The video is more or less a mindless doodle that evolved. The thing is that I did them on two different machines with no thought that they would ever be connected. The ending of the video, when the moon and the music blink out together? That happened without me doing it. I just transferred the music on to a card and carried it downstairs and dumped in directly into the video. Coincidence?

Saturday, March 28, 2009


Artesanos or artists or craftspeople, whichever you prefer, are a balm for the soul. Just to observe people's creativity and to see the results of genius or just plain old years old doing it or some combination of the two. Yesterday, CraftsBoston opened at the Seaport World trade Center and I went to see the work of an old friend and highly accomplished ceramicist, Irina Okula. Her work is magical and the colors she produces are some of the richest earth tones I've seen. The texture of her bowls is one of silkiness.

It is fun to go to these shows and I guess I approach them like I do museums. Some people breeze through exhibits and others take ten minutes at each piece. And of course, they always are partnered together. I tend to do the former, only stopping at the things that grab me and that's what I did yesterday. This show was chock full of remarkable pieces, mind-blowing in terms of diversity and above all, quality. I was caught by the furniture makers.

Here is Charles Faucher, a master wood turner, who was a real engaging guy. He talked about his process, its evolution and how he got to the point where he is clearly working on the cutting edge of modern woodwork. After hanging so many years with the carvers in Oaxaca, it was a blast to hear this man talk about wood. This ring, which is filled with steel beads for sound, is made from holly, a light wood, and ebony, a heavy, oily wood. I told him he ought to get a Brazilian percussionist to play the thing and make a video of it. A shaker of the highest order, but clearly, he was a woodworker, not a musician. It was great.

These glass pieces really caught my eye. They were radiant, glowing with some inner light and depth. Much more about them at her site, here's Jen Violette.

It is a wonderful show, very inspirational and humbling. Also to observe people's rare and unique talents along bit of their souls. It ain't art without a little investment of one's soul.

And that brings me to the fact that were displays that I completely left me flat. People had put in exactly the same level of effort and expertise and yet , for me, nada.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Cuando crezco viejo

When I grow up......I am not sure if the translation is correct.I am not sure that that really is me... either one of them. How strange.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

El otro lado - The other side

This gate/grate is on the eastern side of the street that runs along the aqueduct right near Aripo (the state artesano store) and the little but excellent Pochote Market. I think it is Rufino Tamayo, but the streets get jumbled in there. Most of the time I look at the houses under the arches of the aqueduct, but the other side has some visions as well. I always liked this courtyard. It always looks so peaceful and inviting.
Different time, for all I know different year, but still grate.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Equinoccio Vernal

Its the vernal equinox. Chichen Itza is crowded, awaiting the glowing serpents. Actually, the equinox is totally dependent on exactly where you are. True equality between day and night could have been yesterday. It all depends on you.

Longer days for us means shorter days for someone else, which brings to mind a concept I enjoy working on, thinking about. It comes from a small book given to me by the parents of one of my Korean students. The book, called The Open Eye, is by a Chogye Zen master, Ven. SongChoi, who sounds like he was one tough teacher. I like to think of him like Pi Mei in "Kill Bill" without all the martial arts, but just that mean and irascible with a really wry sense of humor.
His writings are short and to the point.
The world today is based on the principle of relative dualities: good and evil, right and wrong, existence and non-existence, joy and anguish. That's just the nature of conventional reality. And as a result, this gives rise to contradictions and conflicts, which in turn result in misery. If you wish to go beyond all of this and avoid conflicts, you have to rid yourself of all contradictions by transcending relative dualities.
Or there is this one.
Let's not spend our lives fighting over trivia. To do so reduces us to a state of being even more worthless than spray on a vast ocean. Let's concentrate on the ocean rather than fixating on foam.

Thursday, March 19, 2009


What a weird culture, led, of course, by the media. After all the bellicose cheer-leading, ignoring the obvious and generally doing a terrible job, now what to we get? Silence.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

New camera

Here are some shots from a new camera, a Canon SD790. I snagged one, mainly for its size, but the quality is pretty good. I wanted something small and light. There are times when the Nikon gets heavy, too big and intimidating for the situation.Also, I may be slow, but I am learning. Each time I travel, I make note of what I use and what never makes it out of the bag. I have cut back to 40 percent of what I used to carry. I want small, sturdy and reliable equipment that can provide me with the quality of material that I want for my work. This camera is the size of a pack of cards and beautifully designed.

Copley Square with the Boston Public library and Old South ChurchGraffiti?
Spring break for students at Berklee, but they left this behind.Of course, there is a reason why the Nikon costs almost 20 times as much. You do get what you pay for.

Sunday, March 15, 2009


Its the Ides of March. What that means we're not entirely sure, but it is a beautiful day here, almost 60 and sun filled. My ducks (or geese, as you choose) are all in a row. These guys were out on the Charles along with the scullers.

My work here is done for now and I will be heading south in the next few weeks. I am debating driving to Oaxaca, but most of the time that seems like an insane idea, maybe the product of a long winter.

The plan is to work on two new directorios, film, photograph and write about what I experience. I have a better idea of how to approach things and exactly where to be at certain times. I am ready for the guelaguetza.I also want to make a new video of the dancers in San Agustin on El Dia del Muertos. I know, its a tough job, but..... Really, I am open and up for anything.

But first, anyone for saffron?

Friday, March 13, 2009

Capilla del Rosario - Chapel of the Rosary

This remarkable chapel is on the south side of Santo Domingo and was completed in 1731. There is a serenity there that is a balm for the soul.

The ones that get away

I always liked this shot from the zocalo even though I missed it. I love the child matching her father's step and cadence. It almost looks like a dance.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

A touch of Spring

It has been a long tough winter. Look at the pictures I posted last week. Today it was 60 in the sun and the crocuses popped up. Even though we are in for snow tonight, it is a clear sign of things to come.Just to go outside and bask in the sun felt so good. I laughed out loud. It reminded me of standing outside for the first rain of the season last year in San Agustin. I'm sure it is one of the universal human feelings, the joy of the end of a tough season. Plants and animals feel it as well. I believe they call it euphoria.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

How could I have missed it

March 3, 2009 was a rare day, a square root day (3x3=9). Next one is April 4, 2016, then May 5, 2025, last one of the century, Sept. 9, 2081.

Monday, March 2, 2009


Enjoying a classic Nor'easter, wind howling, snow blowing like crazy. Out there shoveling snow with my Amate Books hat on and remembering that last year, at this time, I was shoveling tons of abono, manure. I look forward to doing it again, soon. After working on this house for so many months, I have the bug and want to find someplace new to attack - preferably without the snow, muchas gracias.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Finalmente, mi cocina

At long last and right on schedule (like I had one) the work on the kitchen is finished. The last item was a ceiling fan. It was labeled the Five Minute Fan, 'cause that's how long it takes to install. It is to laugh, but no matter. the deed is done. When I look back on the work I started last summer, I had a long detailed list, I can see it was time, effort and money well spent. As in all things, the experience was fraught with challenges, mood swings and a sense that it would never end, but it has and I am happy with the results.
The stone work on the floor and counters is beautiful. The polished rock is so shiney. What a wonderful substantial and solid feel the room has now.
I was my normal neurotic self and paid attention to preparation (it's 90 percent) and then detail.
Luckily, I had the luxury of time to do most of the work myself. Although I was stiff and sore much of the time, with battered hands and paint flecks on my face when I went to the market, I feel a great sense of accomplishment. It just reinforces my belief in incrementalism, little by little, we can make progress. To not be discouraged by the illusion of non-progress - the "I keep working and never seem to make any headway" mindset. Party on, Garth.