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, August 30, 2012

Empty nester?

Remember this shot from a week or so ago?  I commented on how nice it was that they let the bird nest there.  Well, so much for niceness. 
 Let there be light..... and no birds.
How about this light fixture?  Decorative iron work is such an art here and one sees it everywhere and always, it is both form and function.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Finalmente - A torta worth waiting for

For a few weeks we have been asking folks, "Where can you get a really good torta (grilled sandwich)?"
I saw someone on Facebook who said the best were in Mitla, in the artisan's market.  Worth checking out for sure, but that is maybe an hour's drive on a good day.  There has to be something closer.  Folks said Bar del Jardin in the zocalo or the cafe that is part of Bamby Bakery and a few other places, but upon sampling them... not really what I was hoping for.  There are so many places that offer tortas, it looked like it was going to be a long tough slough.  I know, I know... but somebody's gotta do it. 

Of course, everyone mentioned, La Hormiga (The Ant), the little trailer parked next to Jardín Conzatti, which I pass all the time and it is always hoppin', but for some reason I never stopped. 
Well, today was the day and duh, what a fool I've been.  How many years have I been here?  How many times have I walked by this place?  These are the real deal, amig@s!  Check out the menu.  Every single one a sweet deal!
We had cubana and one with quesillo con cecina enchilda. 
"Please, señorita, I'll have another."

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Street Art cont.... part 87

I found these beautiful pieces on a tiny street, almost an alley, Callejon Boca del Monte.
There was a SUV blocking the shot, but you get the idea.
 I will have to go back to get the full shot, but I like it this way, too.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Let them eat cake

Another food post?  Sure, why not?
Someone told me about a bakery chain, Tartamiel, that had good pan de chocolat.  It turns out there is one in Etla.  Who woulda thunk it?  So we stopped there on the way back from the market.  Alas, no pan de chocolat, but my partner in crime, Henry Wangeman of Amate Books, bought a gelatin surprise for his wife, Rosa.  It has lots of cubes of jello suspended in a ring of gelatin mixed with milk to give it the white color.  It was jigglin' like jello on a plate while this girl wrote a "get well message" to Rosa, who has a cold.
The girl said the chocolat came in at 2:30, so I went back to check and see.  Alas, still no pan de chocolat, but I fell for this little chocolate cake
 and these two little tarts, one chocolat and the other, nuts.
I like jello just fine, but c'mon... chocolat is chocolat.  No contest.

What a life

Sorry to hit you with all of these food pics, but here's the daily bounty.  I didn't grow it, but I am sure gonna eat it.  How good is the produce here?  Just look at these I just picked up in the market in Etla.  We saw old pickup trucks filled with bananas and plantains all along the road on the way there.  It must be the season.  So here you go: bananas, cantaloupe, pineapple, peaches, tomatoes, avocados and an onion.  Not too nice, huh?

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Somebody's watchin' you

He misses nothing.
And of course, Benito always watches over us.  ¡Viva Oaxaca!

Eat your greens! The real deal

Last night's salad was so good, I am having another one very similar tonight.  It has the fresh lettuce, tomato, onion, carrot, mango and avocado, all with white balsamic vinegar and olive oil.  The lettuce made it into the bowl in under a minute from being picked.  Mmmmmm....

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Water, water.... cont.

This is a new sign in San Sebastian Etla, very prominently placed.  The whole water issue is only going to intensify in the coming months.  "Not one drop more." "The big lie."  "Will it be selfishness?"  "Business for the few?"  "A defense of our natural resources?"

Eat your greens!

Let us have lettuce.
We have had rain everyday, it seems like, for weeks.  Certain things like it and others don't.  Obviously, the lettuce is lovin' it.  I always have a couple of crops going in large pots.  These leaves are huge and really tasty.  Everyone is always uptight about greens/lettuce here, so no better way to insure that it is clean and healthy than to grow it yourself.  I have some in the ground that look good, but when it is in pots I can move them so the plants don't bolt in the hot sun.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

A Broom in the System

No, not one of my favorite authors, David Foster Wallace's "The Broom in the System."  No, this is a broom in the system, the street sweeping system. And if you have ever seen the army of sweepers in the city and the incredible work they do with these simple handmade brooms, you know what an amazing system it is.  The owner of this one was down at the other end of the park he was working on, so I took advantage of the chance to see one up close and personal. 
I see people in the markets selling the individual twigs, but never a whole broom.  The sweepers take great pride in making their own, an art in itself, but it is how they use them that is the real art.  They can generate concentrated swirls of air that move the debris better than if they had a gasoline powered blower.  As I say, it is an art.  Look at how nice the work is.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Any tree is hard to replace

So sad to see that two of the beautiful flamboyant trees in front of Santo Domingo had become so diseased that they had to be cut down.  Three or four still remain, but the absence of those two leaves a hole that will take years to fill.  So no more shots like this from a couple of years ago.  I think you can see a few early dead branches.  They were already on their way out.
Now here's what remains.
Not sure how they are going to prevent the others from succumbing to the same pests and diseases.  However, I trust that something good will eventually be planted there.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Water, water

Here is a sign that is on the road very near my house.
Translation? "Drop by drop, the water drips."

The sign is on the road that goes to San Agustin Etla, which is just up the road from me.  San Agustin is always green.  Hey, a poem.  It is green because it has lots of water.  In fact, San Agustin supplies about 20 percent of the the water for the city of Oaxaca, which is 15 k. to the south.  They have been installing a huge long underground pipeline along the main road to the city for the last few months.  It is getting closer and it appears like certain folks are not happy about it.  Every now and then San Agustin gets upset about something and shuts off the flow.  In fact, there was a shootout the last time it happened and folks were killed. 

Obviously, water is a very important issue and always has been.  It is only going to get worse as the needs of the city increase.  The old line has lots of leaks and, at the same time, lots of people tapping into it and selling the water in the huge pipas, the water tanker trucks, which are everywhere.  There is not enough water in the system for the city, so one calls a pipa to supply the household/business needs for a week or so.  It's a good racket.  Maybe the new line will solve the problems, but getting there is going to be mighty interesting.  If they continue up the main drag with the new line, I figure it will have to go in somewhere very near me, but that will be months down the road.  As far as where I live, it is pretty green as well.  It is mighty good to live just down the hill from such an important and vital water supply. 

Update:  A better and more accurate translation is "Drop by drop, the water is running or giving out."  (h/t to anon and H.W.)

Sunday, August 19, 2012

I think they are related

I am tuned into twins.  I just finished a fun read, really a listen, of a book entitled "The Thirteenth Tale" by Diane Setterfield in which twins are featured prominently.  I love how these two have the same outfits, the same bags, everything the same, right down to the sandals.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Home tweet home

Pretty nice nest, looks very comfy.  I like how they leave the door open.
 I wonder if the light is ever on.  I can't imagine it is although it sure looks like it has enough juice.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Made by hand

Speaking of things made by hand, they build most houses entirely by hand here.  It is an amazing process, one that I always love watching and surveying, because, after all, I retain my status as an OSS (official sidewalk supervisor.)  Yesterday was the day when they poured the roof on the house being built right next to me.  When I say poured, I mean ten guys carrying five gallon buckets of cement up a ladder and pouring it out all day until the roof is done. 
It all has to happen in one fell swoop to prevent cracks from developing later.  The roof pouring is a ritual here and always fun to watch.  However, I think I would fade after the first ten buckets.  This one was slightly different, in that they had a small cement mixer instead of doing it all by hand and the whole thing was done in maybe six or seven hours.

When I got up this morning, I discovered the house is going to have a second story and by midday they had made serious progress on the walls. 
Meanwhile, weather has been rolling in.  That's rain moving in, hiding the mountains. 
Good for working with cement... and transplanting seedlings.  I must have put in a couple of hundred today.  Two more days like this and I will be done and then can relax and watch things grow.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Your table is waiting...

One of the absolute best things about living in Oaxaca, a place so famous for it art, crafts and folk art, is that one can go out and find cool things that are functional, beautiful and.... made by hand.  I know, crazy, made by hand, but there you have it.  I had mentioned earlier that I had seen a little table at the market in Etla last week.  I had been looking for tables for a few weeks in my normal neurotic way, looking in a lot of places.  If I saw someone selling furniture by the side of the road, I would stop, same for little shops.  I saw a lot, but nothing seemed right.  Plus, gotta check out all the prices.  The deals are always out there.  I even scoured all the sellers in the Abastos market and if you know the place, you know there are lots of them, all in search of some imagined perfect coffee table.  Well, guess what, they don't really do coffee tables here, but this little jewel from Etla will work just fine.
Nice design, very solid, hand made, nice finish, all for $300 MP ($22 US).  Whaddya think?
As I walked by to the car after buying it, I ran into a group taking Susana Trilling's cooking class, going the market is always a part of the class, and they all said, "What a great table."  Obviously, they have good taste.  They are taking a class with one of Oaxaca's most famous cooks and authors.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

We want culture!!

Not trash.  This could apply in so many areas, couldn't it?
It's everywhere.  Elections and class struggle.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Olympics update... Road to Rio

I am sad that the Games are over.  Great job, London.  It was wonderful to watch.  I understand that NBC did its normal terrible job of broadcasting the closing ceremony and that not only did they cut lots of stuff, they managed to cut in and show and hour of some upcoming sitcom.  Ah, the art of corporate public relations.  They sure know how to piss people off.  I guess that is what you get when there is only one channel showing something.  American exceptionalism?

I can't remember where I was for the last Olympics, but I can say that watching here in Mexico was a fantastic experience.  Sure, they focused on mexicano athletes, but not in an obnoxious way.  And as I wrote earlier, there were several channels showing things and lots of live action and remember, I only have an antenna.  I kept switching channels so as to follow several events simultaneously.  It was a blast.... well, a pretty entertaining couple of weeks.  And Mexico winning the gold in futbol?  It doesn't get any better than that.  Futbol is a religion here and in most of the world, just not in El Norte.

Above all, there was a minimum of fluff and extraneous stuff.  They basically just showed the games.  A perfect example was how they broadcast the closing ceremony, live with no commercials and very little commentary.  It was fantastic.  And very moving at times.  I mean, Eric Idle singing, "Always Look at the Bright Side of Life" somehow became transcendent and meaningful... and everything was so fricking British.  They obviously take great pride in their humor, music and eccentricities.  I bet you did not see or hear the incredible extended ovation for the 60,000 volunteers.  I telling you, it was an amazing three hours.

It was a wonderful celebration of the athletes, the games, Great Britain, a real feel good experience for the world.  And all the music!  I ain't got no hang ups.  I liked it all.  One forgets that Brits loves them some singalongs.  And I loved hearing the Ugandan and Brazilian national anthems in global prime time.

So all I can say is when NBC broadcasts the Rio Olympics, escape and go to a different country to watch them.  Without reservation, I would recommend Mexico.

Saturday, August 11, 2012


 How do you like that?  They won the gold in futbol! That first goal was insane, in 28 seconds! 
 Needless to say, there is dancing in the streets throughout Mexico.  We are mighty happy and proud.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Siesta time

No, this is not today.  Here, today, we are still under gray, drizzling skies.  The good side of things, the area got a lot of steady, but not too strong, soaking rain.  I think this one really helped the aquifers, every drop a blessing.

And I have been dodging raindrops, taking advantage of the perfect transplanting weather to get lots of seedlings in the ground.  There is a whole new batch of things, marigolds, zinnias, cosmos, celosia, broccoli, lettuce, corn, cilantro, etc.  I am talkin' bout a lot of seedlings.  If it all works out, October should be something.  I am trying to time things for Muertos.

It seems quite strange to be under such gray low clouds.  Normally, one has the mountains and valleys to drink in.  Today, we drink rain and can only dream of those vistas.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Gee, how's the weather?

Man, is it raining!  We are socked in as Ernesto makes his way across Oaxaca.  No wind of any note, but it is mighty gray and wet.
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Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Good music and even better food

I made my weekly trip to market day in nearby Etla.  I may be wrong, but it seems like it is getting bigger each week.  And it seemed slightly crazier this week.  I mean, I saw a couple, well, actually the taxi driver putting a goat in the trunk of a collectivo, a small taxi.  A goat?  I shoulda gotta a pic, but I was too amazed... plus I was driving past them.  Instead I got these shots.
Hungry yet?  Oh, I did get some fresh corn, elote, right off the back of some guy's pickup.  It is not the same as the sweet corn one gets in the States, but still tastes mighty fine.  I did not have it with the tradional mayonnaise and/or chili powder, just some butter, salt and pepper.  You will remember that butter here tastes very different, kinda like real butter, so good.
Yes, the energy of the place was hardly serene and I did my normal run and got out quickly although I was checking out furniture, which took me to an area I don't normally see.  I did find a nice coffee table with inlay and a nice finish.  I held off buying it because it was so expensive, $30 US... just kiddin'... next week.

As I say, the place was packed and on my way out I heard some decent music, actually quite good, at the temporary restaurant that gets set up on the stone steps each week.  It is always crowded and well, next week for these , too.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Olympics update

As I wrote earlier, I don't have cable, just an antenna, six channels, and the Olympics is on four of them.  Might have something to do with a certain futbol game, still, four channels, all showing different things.
UPDATE: I remember walking the empty streets of the city during the a World Cup game and every now and then, I would hear this huge collective cheer coming from all the cantinas and restaurants, really from everywhere, whenever Mexico scored. 

Well, even though I was alone watching the game, you could have walked by mi casa and known by my shouts that Mexico had scored and won!  Sabado!  Brazil!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Lunch in Etla

I needed sustenance after working so hard watching the Olympics.  Gotta have my strength for Mexico has a huge futbol game tomorrow morning.  So I knew what to do and I found myself back at Comedor Colon for another tasty meal.  This is pollo enchilado or chicken in red chile sauce with a very nice nopal salad and perfect rice.
OK, I'm ready.