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

Saturday, February 27, 2010

El Chato - Salon d'la Fama

"Atendido su amigo "El Chato" is what it says over the door to the Salon d'la Fama, The Hall of Fame, a cantina on Calle Porfirio Diaz, where we stopped by for a late morning visit. We were greeted by El Chato and as we sipped our mezcal and beer, ate some wonderful botanas, we were treated to great conversations with the other patrons. One was an author, who had written about mezcal. Another was a renown architect who had been involved in many of the major restorations of some of Oaxaca's finest sites, including the church at Ocatlan. The ambiance was perfect, a wonderful way to sit back and drink in and engage with people. Of course, the real treasure is El Chato. Here is the photo from over the bar of him in his earlier days at La Fama. I love the look of this place and some of the old photos. Those of you have known me for years will recall I had a photo of this cantina on one of my earlier CD's, "World in My Pocket." The outside was a gorgeous blue at that point. Now it is this light nondescript tan, but the inside is unchanged. As I say, perfect.

If you want to read a great piece on cantina culture in Mexico, read David Lida's chapter in"First Stop in the New World." It is not what you think it is. So don't fear for my innocence. Damn, where did I put that halo?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

El Maiz

Nothing get folks more up in arms than messing with corn. Transgenic or corporate produced seeds are thought to be the devil here. Remember, Oaxaca is the birthplace of corn or so many believe. There used to be many hundreds of varieties here, some say thousands, so it is a battle to retain and keep the original native strains alive and prospering. Monsanto is not popular here.
Some street art from the old neighborhood Jalatlaco on the house of a corn activist.


WYSIWYG.... no retouching, no enhancements, just reality.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Whaddya kno?

Remember when I said that the piano would change things? Well, I gave my first formal lesson today upstairs in my new studio. The kid probably didn't know what hit him, getting the normal first lesson, which gets them through first year of college theory in about an hour. My former students are probably laughing remembering it. We'll have to see where it goes from here. What's next, a gig?
No, it wasn't this guy in the zocalo. I just liked his guitar and asked if I could snap him. You know, he coulda used a lesson or two, he couldn't play a lick. but don't tell him.

Friday, February 19, 2010

More and more

After driving around the city yesterday or trying to, more and more I am convinced that the city planners are insane. That, however, would be too kind. I really think it is the lame duck government giving the city the finger one last time, only it will last months. Let's face it, the governor is... well, I am a guest here. His record speaks for itself.

I know there are hundreds or maybe thousands of people working hard to fix the streets and water/sewer lines. I am glad they have jobs. But you cannot get around the city. It was hard enough before, but so many streets are closed off, I don't know how businesses are surviving. I have the patience of a saint after so many years of commuting in Boston. I have a great stereo so I am always happy, but it almost, almost, got to me yesterday.

I did think it was interesting that there were cops directing traffic everywhere, but I think it was because of other action in the city. There was a big event in the stadium above the city and tons of police there. Not that any of the traffic management helped much. I mean, whaddya gonna do if all the streets are closed?

The good news? I get to do it again today. Maybe a different route? Like everyone else is not thinking that, too. As I said, whaddya gonna do if all the streets are closed?

Suspect in reporter's death freed

The big news of the day concerns the Brad Will case of 2006. There are many local stories about it. Here's one.

From The Canadian Press

OAXACA, Mexico — The lone suspect in the killing of an independent U.S. journalist during protests against the Oaxaca state government three years ago was let out of prison Thursday for lack of evidence.

Juan Manuel Martinez, who had been one of the protesters seeking the ouster of the governor, called himself a political prisoner and said the 16 months he spent in jail were the worst "torture of my life."

His lawyer, Alba Cruz, had said Wednesday that a Mexican federal court cleared Martinez and ordered his release.

Many human rights groups contend Martinez was wrongly charged with the slaying of Bradley Will, 36, of New York.

Will was shot in October 2006 as he videotaped a clash between protesters and government supporters in the southern state. He was covering the conflict for

Martinez was charged with homicide. Two others were charged with covering up the crime, but were later released. All three are supporters of the radical movement known as the People's Assembly of Oaxaca, or APPO, which seized control of Oaxaca city for almost five months pushing for the removal of Gov. Ulises Ruiz.

The fight started as a teachers strike and ballooned into a broader movement to demand Ruiz's resignation over allegations he rigged his election victory.

Critics said prosecutors ignored evidence that implicated Ruiz's supporters. Prosecutors have failed to give specifics about the ballistics evidence or explain why Martinez would have shot Will, who supported the protest movement.

"I'm happy to have gained my freedom and that government's injustice against me and my family has ended," Martinez said after he and other APPO members marched from the prison to the main square in Oaxaca city. "What happened to me is what happens to all political prisoners."

Will's family also has criticized the investigation into the journalist's slaying and say they believe pro-government forces were responsible.

Amnesty International urged Mexican authorities to continue looking for Will's killer.

Martinez's release was long overdue, said Kerrie Howard, director of the London-based Amnesty's Americans program. "Mexican authorities used Juan Manuel as a scapegoat to demonstrate progress in the death of Brad Will."

or AP's coverage - full story

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Good to be back

After a day or two of recovery and some fantastic mole negro at our favorite local restaurant in Etla, I am back. So life returns to some semblance of normal as I run around and take care of errands. I had a ceiling light fixure crumble in my hands as soon as I turned on the light upon my return. Fortunately, I have walked the street enough (no, not that kind of street walking) so I knew exactly where to get a replacement. It is stuff like that, knowing where things are or how to get things done, that tells me I am starting to get a grip on life here. It was nice to see Oaxaca's most photographed street musician walking by Santo Domingo as I headed into town. "Welcome back, Chris."

New graffiti appeared in several different sections of the city.
What's it mean? I will look into it. Still, deep and beautiful, nice on the different backgrounds

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Walk like an Egyptian...

More like shop like a Mexican. I am just back from a short visit to El Norte, mostly to check on my house, get a taste of winter in New England and of course, pick up stuff I can't get here. I remember years ago looking at how laden returning passengers were and wondering, "What's with that?" Now I know. I was a sight.

I took one empty suitcase up with me and ordered a large duffel bag that awaited me. So what did I fill them with?

A partial list: Tibetan singing bowl and Tibetan incense, cheddar cheese, Chinese kitchen knife, good soy sauce, GPS unit (oops, no satellite coverage here) electric toothbrush, jeweler's screwdrivers, an Airport Extreme wireless, deodorant, contact lens cleaner, maple syrup, (for friends), small electronics, clothes, sneaks, seeds, two backup cameras (Canon Powershots)..... OK you get the point, right. I got a lotta stuff.

Most importantly, I got a decent digital piano and a road case for it. Weight was an important factor. I have a great instrument in Newton, but with its case, it weighs a ton. So as i picked one out this time, the first thing I did was pick it up, which looked pretty funny. Then I went for touch and sound.

So you can see I was pretty laden, but wheeee.... I got stuff!

Just rediscovering the joys of playing is indescribable. I played everyday for most of my life and it has been a few years since i could do that. The rust is there, but minimal. The exhilaration brushes it off. Who knows, but there could be gigs in the near future. Already got interest in prospective students and lessons.

One of the best things I did up there came in the smallest package. Uploaded tons of movies and music to the computer and backed it up to a portable hard drive.

I am already starting on a list for my next trip in the spring.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

When - Cuando?

The men in the US have done enough damage. It's time, doncha think? No, not that one.
One like this.from the Latin American Herald Tribune:
Laura Chinchilla Elected Costa Rica’s First Woman President

Laura Chinchilla becomes Costa Rica’s first woman president after getting almost 47% of the vote, while vowing to open a dialogue with all sectors of society and improve the quality of health care, education and security.

Full story

Who is Al Fresco?

Not my cousin Al Fresco, but alfresco meaning in the open air.I love the marimba players at this popular stand and then following the cat(erpillar).Reading outside the museum.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Lluvia - Rain

We have had some very nice rain the last few days. Last night I heard something and couldn't figure out what it was - the sound of rain. It is a rarity at this time of year and everyone is talkin' about it. Every drop is a blessing. One goes for months without feeling a drop, so it is a little bit of religion falling from the skies.
The smell of gardenias and jasmine fills the backyard. The plants are lovin' it.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Hiding away in Escondido

To quote the great Max Bialyistock, (Zero Mostel, please) "That's it, baby, when you've got it, flaunt it, flaunt it!"

So after braving massive street marches, a long sinuous seven hour moonlit drive through the mountains, we found ourselves in Puerto Escondido. Ahhhhhhhhhhhh.

The sun, the sand, the warmth, the waves, the seafood, the mango empanadas.... I dare not go on for fear of being too cruel. Iconic Puerto EscondidoOther than to say, on the way back we picked up guanabanas and several kinds of bananas fresh off the tree and some wonderful honey. The honey changes every two months depending on what is flowering everything from mango to coffee.