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, January 31, 2013

Getting ready for candelaria

Calendaria is this Saturday.  If you got the little Jesus figure in the Rosca de Reyes on Three Kings Day, it is time to get those tamales ready.  On Saturday the churches will be filled with families who will dress their niño Dios in fine clothes and receive blessings.  I did not get the the figurine this year, but I still got some tamales and these niños were right behind Doña Melisa, the lady from whom I buy my tamales.  This can't be a Christ child, so who does she represent.  There are not that many choices, but I don't know.  Anyone?  Anyone?  Bueller?

Tuesday, January 29, 2013


Whew!  I'm glad that's over.  Yesterday, with the help of a friend, I finally managed to pay the tenencias, taxes, on my Lamborgini, uh,  2004 Jetta.  I have been trying to do so for a couple of months, but hadn't managed to crack the system.  When I first got the car, I went along with a fixer through the bureaucratic maze that is the Oaxacan equivalent of the DMV.  It took hours and I had no idea what he was doing as we went from desk to desk getting things stamped and he greased a few palms, but after a while, I had plates and all the paperwork done.

Time passed.... without me knowing that I needed to go and pay them every year... more time passed, so that, as of yesterday, I owed for the last four years.  I tried to get another fixer, but he did not work out.  So yesterday, I went with a friend to colonia Reforma, where we found no lines and were through the process in less than thirty minutes.  It cost an arm and a leg, but I am all paid up.  Yes, I had some extra charges for being late.  I asked if there was a discount for stupidity, but they said no.

A bit more on tenencais.  Oaxaca, Mexico's poorest state, has the highest tenencias in the country.  My friend's four year old RAV4 was over $300 US just for 2013.  Many oaxaqueños avoid the high costs by registering their cars in a nearby state, like Puebla or the DF.  Ah so, it now becomes clear.  That's why there are so many out of state plates here.  My fixer offered me this option, it was about a quarter of what I would pay here, but as I say, it did not work out and I decided to pay the corrupt officials here rather than the corrupt officials in some other state.

Maybe this is why there were no lines at the DMV.  People have just stopped paying the absurdly high fees.  Either they can't afford it or they just think it is too much.  The government gives tax breaks when you buy a new car to make it easy, but then the government raises the taxes on that car each year and fewer people pay them.  In order to sell your car, all the tenencias must be paid up or they will be subtracted from the selling price. 

All in all, not a bad experience or education.  I think I can walk the walk myself next time.  However, it did make me appreciate even more the fact that I re-registered my car and paid my MA excise tax with a couple of clicks online.

Sunday, January 27, 2013


VW bugs.  I came across a caravan of them today. 
Don't be fooled.  This car was tricked out and leading the procession.
Maybe it was something special or maybe it was just "Get out in you bug day." 
Or maybe it was in celebration of this.
from the LAHD:
German automaker Volkswagen said it will begin manufacturing its redesigned Golf model in Mexico in the first quarter of 2014.

“With its existing infrastructure, competitive cost structures and free trade agreements, Mexico is the ideal location to produce the Golf” for markets in North and South America, Hubert Waltl, a member of the board of management of the Volkswagen passenger cars brand, was quoted as saying in a statement Friday.

“The decision to produce the Golf in Mexico builds on Volkswagen’s strategy for the North American market,” where it plans to invest more than $5 billion over the next three years, the statement said.
“Localization has become increasingly important in automotive manufacturing” as a safeguard against currency fluctuations and a means of being closer to the market where the vehicles will ultimately be sold, it added.

Volkswagen said it plans to invest around $700 million to adapt the production lines at its plant in the central Mexican city of Puebla to manufacture the all-new VW Golf hatchback.

Earlier this month, the Wolfsburg, Germany-based automaker inaugurated a $550 million engine plant in the central Mexico state of Guanajuato.

Last September, it also announced plans to invest $1.3 billion to build a new Audi plant in Puebla; construction is scheduled to begin this year.

Volkswagen produced a record 600,000 vehicles in Mexico last year, 88 percent of which were destined for export around the world.

This is good news on many fronts. 
Somehow, I think we will continue to see the classics for years to come.  Like these vans, which never had any power, but they just keep running.
Drive wisely, mis amig@s.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Still life

What can I say?  I have a strange fascination for the brooms of Oaxaca and the people who wield them.  I think it is because they do such a good job, both the brooms, the escobas, and the folks using them.  You realize what an art it is when you watch them clean the streets.  They can direct the trash and debris in carefully controlled swirling gusts of air.  I always look closely at the escobas whenever I get the chance and this time it seemed like some sort of classic still life.
I spoke to one sweeper last week and he said he could make a broom in about twenty minutes.  The plant they use is otate, a kind of giant grass.  As I say, it's an art.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Itza Famiy Affair

I am always going off on how good the food is at our favorite restaurant, Comidor Colon in nearby Etla.  Today, it was mole negro and carne in salsa roja with beans and rice.  Out of this world.  And normally, I always take pictures of the food, but today it's the people or some of them, it's a big family.  Hermanas, sisters, Gregoria and Guadelupe, guaranteed to put a smile on your face and good food on the table.
In the side shack, with the comals and the carbon, a cousin.
Another cousin arranging paper flowers. 
Look at that bench, bricks on top of tree trunk pieces.  I do not think it gets moved regularly.
And the food?  Simply the best!!!! You have to go.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Uh, what's up, doc?

Yesterday was the last of the carrots harvest day.  They keep very well in the ground, but I am prepping the soil for the next planting, so out they came.  I planted some various colored carrots in addition to the normal orange ones and, as you can see, they did quite well.
This one had to have been a foot long and at three inches across, a big fat healthy plant.  I was pleasantly surprised as tasty it was.  There is really nothing like the taste of a carrot when it just comes out of the ground.  The orange ones were normal sized.
I expected the big ones to be woody, but they were perfect, hard and crisp with a wonderful sweet flavor.
I think just that one will be enough for at least six good sized salads.  Here was the first with the carrots, avocado, onion, tomato, oliv oil, white balsamic vinegar and blue cheese.  Not too tasty.  I think I will have another tonight.... and tomorrow and tomorrow.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Laughing at myself

You know how your world view can be colored by the book you are reading at the time?  Well, I just finished a collection of short stories by Stephen King and one of them was about a guy who collected graffiti and wrote them down in a little book.  Lots of them were really funny or disgusting, take your choice.  Seeing as though I am on a constant search for street art and graffiti, it is one of the constants of this blog, when I saw this one, newly painted, I snapped a shot of it from the car.
And I will be the first to admit it.  I am an idiot.  Because of the short story, my mind went to the bathroom humor vault and I thought this was one of those "for a good time, call..." jokes.  I saw Ester and Liza, two names, but then I put them together and ...duh.
The little animal with the drainage pipe for a mouth might have been a clue.

What was it that Bob Barker always ended "The Price is Right" with? "Ah yes, his signature sign-off: "Help control the pet population. Have your pet spayed or neutered."

Friday, January 18, 2013

Magic carpets

For several months I have been working with Arulfo Mendoza of Mano Magica, taking photos of some of Oaxaca's visual artists.  I have posted many of them on this blog.  He is producing a book to celebrate his many years of working with a wide swath of Oaxacan artists.  There were two other photographers involved, who I never met working on different aspects of the art scene.  Very early on I realized what a rare and special opportunity this was and I made the most of it.  It was wonderful to meet so many artists, many times in their own spaces, and marvel at the depth and diversity of human beings' brilliance and creativity.  I also learned an incredible amount about taking photos of art and my already fluent Photoshop skills dramatically grew in new areas.  There may be a little more work to do, but yesterday I gave all the final shots to maestro Arnulfo and he seemed quite pleased.  In return he gave me a couple of his beautiful rugs.
 It doesn't get any better than this does it?  Gracias, all the maestros, for the whole experience.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

From straw into gold...

Well, not exactly straw, more like abono, you know, manure, you know, bullshit..... into gold, that's for sure.  In some circles, I am known as Mr. Compost or Mr. Mulch.... in other circles, I am know as Sr. Abono, that's Mister Bullshit to you.

I just had a huge truckload of aged abono delivered and if you just put it directly on the gardens, it will stay in dry chunks until the rains come, which is not for another five months.  So what better thing to break it up with than my trusty wood chipper.  For this operation, it could be called the Poop Chute.
 As far as I know, I have one of only two  in Oaxaca.  It makes a huge difference. 
I also have some large piles of pure compost and some of grassclippings.  As I started shoveling the abono in the chipper, I could see that it was going to come out a bit heavier than I wanted, so I began mixing in the other ingredients and can now control the output from heavy to light and fluffy. 
This stuff is absolutely perfect and I have been putting 4 to 8 inches of the the stuff on all the beds.
The soil in the gardens is already getting good, but this should make a huge difference.  I will also be mixing potting soils in the chipper adding dirt, sand and compost depending on the needs of the plants.  Pretty cool, eh?

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Smiles from Tlacolula

Here is a wonderful shot taken by Henry Wangeman of Amate Books.  If you know Henry, you know he brings laughter and smiles wherever he goes.  He just has a magic touch with people.  So he was bantering with these ladies at the market in Tlacolula last Sunday, joking with them about taking photos of them to which they responded,"Not unless you buy something."  To which Henry said, "Well, you better all hide your faces."  They were all laughing as they complied.
And here is our favorite waitress, Esperanza, from the barbacoa place we always go to when in the area.  If that isn't a wonderful smile.....  And she is always like this.
Henry always signs his letters with this quote from Kurt Vonnegut-"I urge you to please notice when you are happy and exclaim or murmur ...'if this isn't nice, I don't know what is.'"

Guns and more guns

Watching the US gun debate from the outside is surreal.  It is akin to the GM food issue.  Clearly corporations have far more sway than anyone else.

As I have a wont to say, "The whole world is watching"  and goin'  "That's crazy and sad."  And because the US is who it is, these action affect others, like its neighbors.  I certainly acknowledge that Mexico is not without sin and complicity in the current state of affairs, but if you take all the guns out of the equation, things would be much better.  Of course, I realize that this is never going to happen which is crazy and sad.
from the LAHD
Mexican activists Javier Sicilia and Sergio Aguayo on Monday delivered to the U.S. Embassy in this capital a letter signed by more than 50,000 people in which they ask Washington for concrete measures to halt the “illegal and immoral” flow of weapons to Mexico.

In the letter, addressed to President Barack Obama, they expressed their condolences for “the frequent murders of innocents in your country” and said they are “deeply” moved by the recent massacre of children at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut.

However, they also expressed their bewilderment and indignation at “the indifference of the U.S. government toward the massacres that plunge Mexico into mourning,” where more than 70,000 people died in conflicts involving rival criminal outfits and the security forces during the six-year term of President Felipe Calderon, which ended on Nov. 30.

Just in December, the first month of President Enrique Peña Nieto’s term, “755 people were executed,” most of them with firearms obtained in the United States, from where 70 percent of the arms seized in Mexico in the last three years come, according to U.S. government figures.

The concrete measures the activists and their supporters are asking Washington undertake include banning the importation of assault rifles manufactured abroad, among them the AK-47, the weapon of choice for Mexican gangsters.
As an example.  US Man convicted of smuggling ammo into Mexico.
Edward Sandoval, 31, from San Antonio, pleaded guilty on Sept. 6 to aiding and abetting the smuggling of goods from the United States.

According to the factual basis filed in this case, in January and February 2011, Sandoval admittedly purchased about 40,000 rounds of multiple caliber ammunition, including 7.62mm and .223-caliber, from a San Antonio gun shop for a friend who informed Sandoval that the ammunition was destined for Mexico via Eagle Pass, Texas.

Sandoval further admitted that he was paid $1,500 each time he bought ammunition for others. In February 2011, authorities in Eagle Pass seized about 15,000 rounds of ammunition purchased by Sandoval before it was smuggled into Mexico.

Sunday, January 13, 2013


Some of the best shots appear as I am driving and well, they remain some of the best shots I didn't take.  However, every now and then they look you right in the eye and say, "Do you feel lucky?  Well, do ya, punk?"
 OK, I'll back off.
 Somehow this doesn't seem like it rolls off the tongue as easily as "Betcha can't eat just one."

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Walk this way

I have a place I park when I go into the city and walk pretty much everywhere from there.  The spot is perfect for an easy get-out-of-town route and if you knew the traffic here, well, it can be very heavy and from this spot it is one light and on the road.  So I get to walk all over the city and yesterday it was a return to the car insurance company.  I've done this walk far too many times in the last week, but that's another story.  All I will say is that I finally managed to renew my car insurance.  It is a very nice walk and Friday is even better because the stalls and vendors are set up in Llano Park.  It was early so I managed to not succumb to the temptations of all the food and aromas that seemed to line my path.  Walk the walk...
Parents waiting for their little ones to get out of school.
There are always vendors there and this guy had on a great hat.
This one selling churros has a fine shirt on sayin' enough of the violence against animals.
Parents always end up carrying everything.
Bench decorations.  It looked like there were heads at some point, but none now.
At first glance, this guy fooled me,
but upon closer inspection, it's a painting of a guy painting a paint store.
I hate when this happens. (Thank God I have insurance)
A pub in Oaxaca?  Who knew.
Nice light detail.
Mr. Egg makes more sense than Señor Huevo if you know your vernacular.
Photo shoot in Llano.
"Sure you don't want something sweet?"
 No, your smile is enough.