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 29, 2010


After this nap, I am headed over the mountains to the beach.....

SOTC - State of the city

HEADLINE:City planner continues to have brain cramp. There is construction on so many streets it is very hard to get there from here. I am being unusually restrained in commenting on how crazy it is.However, you can see that the zapotec diamond came out very nicely.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

They have to know

Another from my ongoing series of people and their t-shirts.
This one is so funny. I am sure it offends, but it is a wonderful bit of grunge humor.

Cambio - Change

Here is a shot from a week or two ago of the nieves (ices) stand in front of the new interior shopping area on Macedonia Alcala directly across from Amate Books. I took it because I loved the flavors. "I would like a crema de mezcal, por favor."Here is the same shot yesterday. Cinnabon has arrived. Change.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Cactus forests of Puebla - San Juan Raya y Zapotitlan

Nothing better than a road trip with Henry Wangeman of Amate Books as he forgotten more about Mexico than most people ever learn. Actually, he remembers everything, so it is like having a walking, talking guidebook.

The plan was to head north to find Los Reyes in Puebla, a village known for its chocolate colored pottery. It is deep in the heart of onyx country, but we had giant cacti in mind and we were not disappointed.

What spectacular country! People really need to make the drive, although all the people we spoke with said that lots of visitors from all over the world were doing just that.

We jumped off the toll road in Nochixtlan and continued almost due north. At one point, with the snow covered volcano, Popocatépetl and its cousin, Iztaccíhuatl in the background, we watched eagles and vultures feed.We made a quick stop in Santiago Chazumba to see the church, which had a curious Roman looking facade and a bright golden interior.It was a very different church at the next stop, San Juan Raya, which is deep in the heart of a regional ecological park. San Juan Raya sits on the continental divide and is famous for its fossils. So there we were with our guide, Felix Reyes, who joked that the place really should be called San Juan Reyes because everyone was in the Reyes family. He was an excellent guide and he led us from the tiny museum out into the countryside. Even though we were at 1300 meters, we found ourselves on what was obviously a beach a one time, approximately 100 million years ago. The whole area sits on active tectonic plates. The place was now a sea of fossils, everywhere you looked. Even some dinosaur footprints.

After a quick lunch of soup and tortillas - the soup was almost without taste, so the woman serving us said, "Oh, you have to add salt" - a new Mexican delicacy, salt soup, we headed into the park.

At one point, we stopped to watch a little baseball on the only piece of flat land for miles. These guys were good and everyone was having a blast. It was infectious. Look at all the cacti in the background.The country is so rugged, dry as a bone, but one can feel the life all around. Hundreds of thousands of huge cacti, some hundreds of years old. The visnaga cactus grow one centimeter a year and we saw huge specimens. The organos or pipe organ cacti towered over us and stretched for miles.

We watched a large herd of goats wander through the spiny plants finding plenty to eat.Horses as well, but they didn't look as happy.The area is patrolled by locals making sure no one is disturbing the park or stealing plants. These plants are worth a fortune and there is a black market for them. They stopped and talked to us for a while. Like everyone on this trip, they were very friendly and informative.As the sun was getting lower, we continued on to the Botanical Garden in Zapotitlan, which is just spectacular, not only for the size and quality of the plants, but the diversity. All around us, for miles and miles, we were surrounded by cacti. Our guide, Silvano, really knew his stuff. We learned about the many varieties of bats that pollinated the different species. We learned that many of the plants store energy during the day, with photosynthesis taking place at night under the light of the moon. We learned that the emperor of Japan had come to pay homage to this amazing 1500 year old "elephant foot" tree. The belief is that by hugging it, it will take all negative energy out of you and fill you with an abundance of positive. There must be something to it, because Henry hugged it for a few minutes and said, "I feel much better, but I think you should drive." He looked a little different.We bought some beautiful plants from the vendors and headed out as the sun set and the moon rose. By the time we got to Los Reyes, it was dark, so no photos, but Henry did pick up some wonderful pottery, all burnished and the color of a Hershey bar.

We cut over to Tehuacan and were home by eleven.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Tinsmiths - Hojalateros

Yesterday, I picked up the marcos or frames I ordered a month ago from master tinsmith, Tomas Ricardo Santiago Pacheco and were they ever worth the wait. You can see for yourself. His Taller de Holajalateria Artesanal "Saley" is located in colonia La Cascada, which is on the north side of the city. I plan on returning and shooting the artisans working. Theirs is a a pretty remarkable story, like so many others here in Oaxaca. The folk art and crafts just keep amazing and inspiring me.The one over my bed.... no, there is not one on the ceiling. These are large mirrors, over one meter and just gorgeous.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A perfect day to be in Oaxaca

Ah... we love Oaxaca! The sun is shining bright, not a cloud in the sky. The weekly concert under the trees in the zocalo sounds wonderful. If you have ever heard these concerts, you will recognize this man, as he emcees and tells the most wonderful stories about the music and Oaxaca.Look at these marimbas! Mallets in motion playing "La Pinotepa," my favorite.A bicentennial celebration? We will have to see what tomorrow brings.
Don't you want to be here? Well, come already.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Those blocks

Even though I lost the shots of the guys unloading these blocks, I figured it was worth it to go back and just get a pic or two of the blocks themselves. I think they speak for themselves and to the strength of the two men who unloaded a truckload of them.

Work nears completion as this worker grouts a zapotec diamond design.There is some controversy (when isn't there) as to whether or not much for the street repaving and all these reconstruction projects really needed to be done. Some say it is just the governor giving his cronies the money before he leaves office in six months. The timing is suspect and, as I wrote before, tearing up all the streets during the key economic holiday season had to be the result of a city planner's brain cramp. But there you go.... shovel-ready projects.

Saturday, January 16, 2010


The street art, posters and graffiti are always interesting. I love the two faces, one upside down, on this one. It is how I feel.

A few days ago, someone said to me, "People (expats) who live outside the States are always more worked up about things happening in the country then those of us living inside it." Well, maybe that is true, but lemme tell you...

Just observing the election in Massachusetts, my (former) state, is pretty scary. The banksters testimony? Wow. Just wow. The wars. Watching history be revised about 9/11? And hearing some of the comments made about the earthquake in Haiti. I can't say it makes the US look that appealing to the rest of the world... or maybe that is just me. Yes, I know there has been an outpouring of support. Still, the heartless comments and blatant us/the others attitude that get projected is not good. Oh, and the political scene is a tragicomedy. If only it didn't matter.

Well, I feel so much better after that vent.

Here, I am working on music for a new CD and just doing the best I can to enjoy life and do whatever positive I can.

I am watching and helping (a little) as two locals cut the yard with machetes. It is a large area, maybe two or three acres, that is very overgrown with plants up to six feet tall. They have been at it for three days, hacking away with machetes for ten hours a day. The place looks amazing., like someone came in with a very powerful machine that cut and then vacuumed. All with machetes! They will finish today.

The power of sheer grunt work. That is one of the things I love about this place. I had some shots of two guys unloading a truckload of heavy granite blocks by hand on the camera that went missing. I watched them for over an hour while I was waiting for Godot, I mean, my insurance. They were laughing and having a good time as they unloaded the blocks, which are being used in a reconstruction of the plaza in front of Amate Books. I went over and tried to move one of the blocks later. I am strong like bull, but I could barely move it. Two guys. By hand. Wow. Just wow.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Food for thought

An interesting few days. There is a cold snap here and some people are bundled up like it is Minnesota. Of course, others are in shorts and tees.

So what's the food for thought? What isn't.

In this case it is, while waiting for Godot to show up with my auto insurance papers, I was just sitting warming myself in the sun while people watching. I was also practicing my shoot-from-the-hip clandestine camera technique (yes, that is like the drunken master technique) and suddenly a young kid on a moto (motorcycle) showed up. He parked in front of me and went into Amate Books. They called out to me that he had the papers. I jumped up and went in. I had a coat, it had been cold, a knapsack and a shopping bag and I grabbed everything ... except the camera. History.

I hate losing the shots. Fortunately, it was the small backup camera and I am bidding on a replacement on ebay as I write this.

Note to self: download those pics every day and try to not lose or damage your equipment. You would think I would have figured that out by now.In the mean time, here's some real food for thought. You have no idea how good real tortillas are until you have them.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Iluvia! - Rain!

The weather is weird everywhere. That is the nature of weather. So there were 25 foot waves in St. Thomas. It is very cold in Europe and the States, even Florida. Hey, it is winter. And maybe, just maybe, it might be some of this global warming stuff. When it is hot now, it is hot and then it swings the opposite way to the cold side - just like a sine wave with increasing amplitude, spoken like a true electronic musician.
At any rate. it is raining here!
It never rains here at this time of year. And it is cold.
Mother Nature is surely saying something.

Maybe, it is simply, "Shut up and enjoy the rain, dummy." The plants sure are.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

El Dia de Tres Reyes

Three Kings Day and where better to spend it than in nearby Tres Reyes. I drove over just to see what was happening and was greeted with a nice glass of tepache, a drink similar to slightly hard cider, but made from fermenting pineapple rinds and adding a little piloncillo, Mexican brown sugar.There was a band of kids playing at the church entrance.This kid took me back to my days of leading bands. He has style, baby.Remember my shot from a few weeks ago of the old man selling balls in the zocalo? Well, he had a least one customer.The altar was bedecked in lights.El Dia de Tres Reyes is day 13 of the Twelve days of Christmas, a day to receive gifts for many kids and to partake in the Rosca de Reyes:

The Rosca de Reyes is a ring-shaped bread with a small doll baked inside which represents the baby Jesus. The figure symbolizes the hiding of the infant from King Herod's troops. According to tradition whoever finds the figure in their slice of sweet bread must give a party on February 2nd, Candlemas Day or Dia de la Candelaria, offering tamales and atole (a hot, sweet drink thickened with corn flour)or Mexican hot chocolate to their guests. Candlemas is the day that Mary presented the infant Jesus to the temple and is traditionally the day that candles are blessed in the Catholic Church.
Yes, I even ran into one of Los Reyes.