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, June 29, 2013

A tale of two gardens

I wasn't joking in the last post about doing the same thing in different places.  I am always working with plants, no matter where I am.  I can't imagine not working outside.  After a couple of days of grunt work, this place is looking pretty good.  Considering the state of the land in both places before I started, the progress is amazing.  In Newton, I have thirty years of work and more importantly, thirty years of composting all those autumn leaves.  The soil is as rich as rich can be.  And the garden takes care of itself pretty much.  The ground covers and hostas just keep getting better.
I have a few Korean dogwoods that I started from cuttings.   They are all quite large now.  One is probably twenty feet tall and just as wide.
And here in Oaxaca, although only after four years, the soil is finally getting there.  I started with total scrub land and then, tons of abono, manure, compost, sand, soil, mulch and joyous back-breaking work (I do love it) and voila!
The area to the right in the shot above is really miracle.  It was the site of a huge patch of pure ash from the burning of a few years of brush and trees.  It was ugly.  I can't believe how stuff is growing in it.  What's more, most all the flowers, the zinnias, sunflowers, marigolds, cosmos, all reseed themselves.  Plus, there is some good lemongrass and ornamentals in there.   And hojas santas for cooking as well.
These galliardias are almost perfect and they just keep coming.
I need a siesta....

Friday, June 28, 2013

Where am I?

My life is funny sometimes, in that I go between Oaxaca and Boston and basically do the same things, weed the garden and perform house maintenance.  There are a few diversions thrown in, but as I spent all day digging and weeding here, I realized that I still had scrapes and scratches from doing exactly the same thing in El Norte.  And the weather....

Thursday, June 27, 2013

8th Festival of Danzon

Keep on dancin'....
I was lucky today to catch a little of the annual Danzon celebration under the trees at the zocalo.
This is always quite a big deal here in Oaxaca and it was quite fun to watch folks come out of the audience to strut their stuff on stage.
Here is the home webpage.   A sweet and romantic dance.
This abuelo could really cut a rug.  Really!
Wikipedia: Danzón is the official genre and dance of Cuba. It is also an active musical form in Mexico and is still beloved in Puerto Rico. The danzón evolved from the Cuban contradanza (known inside and outside of Cuba as the habanera.)

Wednesday, June 26, 2013


There is always culture shock when returning, just as there is when I go the other way, to El Norte.  So it was in some sort of surreal daze that I went to the market in Etla.  I was greeted by the ladies from whom I always buy, with warm hellos and smiles.  And look at all that fine food: 5 tomatoes, little potatoes, 3 avocados, 2 onions,  quesillo, queso with herbs, tortillas, melon, a piña, bananas from Tabasco, 3 chile rellenos, 4 tamales (2 rajas, 1 flor de calabasa, one mole negro and some chipotle salsa.... all for less than $25.  Compared to Boston????  Culture shock of the best kind here.
I also picked up this 12" Tupperware container to hold the oversize tortillas that are the norm here.  You can't get anything like it in Oaxaca as far as I can tell, probably because people buy fresh and eat what they have each day.  Really, it is a cupcake container, but it is perfect.  It was filled with cheddar and Parmesan on the way down.  East wisely and well, mis amig@s.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013


Sitting at the table eating a bagel from Boston and some good Oaxacan butter.  I left a hot and humid New England to return to a cool and overcast Oaxaca.  It looks like the rains have worked their magic, but I haven't really checked yet.  I'm still dazed an confused.... still, Chris?  OK, OK, it is a constant state, but let's just say I am recovering from travel.  More in a bit.

Monday, June 24, 2013

If a tree falls....

If (another) tree falls.... tens of thousands have and will notice.  Yes, another laurel, this one opposite the cathedral, has succumbed to long-standing problems.  It is quite sad to see these trees go, because they are such a part of the atmosphere of the zocalo, but Mother Nature can be tough.  When it time to go.... Note: the photo is from an earlier tree.  I have the one in the story, but I can't find it.
Here's a rough translation from  Noticiasmex
One of the laurel of india which was returned to planting last May 19, 2011, in the Alameda de Leon then of being knocked down by heavy rains and winds that whipped the Oaxacan capital that year; It has died.
In complete abandonment, dry and with mushrooms in your trunk luce laurel 100 years, in which the direction of ecology of the municipality of Oaxaca de Juarez invested more than 200 thousand pesos for their rescue.

Despite the warning from environmentalists about the poor state of the tree and the few possibilities that existed for their rescue, the stage manager and the direction of city ecology decided to continue with the work of replanting.

Two years of the fact, in the eyes of thousands of visitors and Oaxacan, majestic tree has dried and so far no federal, State or municipal authority has pointed out what will be done with the copy which is still subject to several steel cables.

It should be noted that at that time, the Coordinator of the Group of environmental organizations of Oaxaca (COAO), Nazario García Ramírez warned that 86 trees planted in the socket and the Alameda de Leon may be infected with fungi, due to the constant change of flowers in the planters, which are pests.

So it rejected the replanting and pointed out that that resource could have used in the purchase of another tree and in the implementation of preventive actions towards other individuals that are at risk of falling.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Plantas malas

Plants are some of my best friends, but there are a few who must be recognized and treated with a healthy respect, meaning.... "Stay the heck away from me."

Here in the northeast, there is a spectacular bumper crop of this baby.  It is thriving and is everywhere in the park near my house.
That's right, poison ivy.

Whenever I see it, it reminds me of seeing this plant in the cactus reserve near Zapotitlan in Puebla.  It was the only plant in sight that was flowering.  I was by myself, just wandering around, taking photos and the closer I got to this plant, the more it said, "Whatever you do, don't touch me."  Normally, I might rub a leaf or flower and check for fragrance or feel for texture, but I paid attention to the plant's warning and stayed away.
When I got back, I showed the shot to our cactus expert and he said that it was called :
"mujere mala" and caused a nasty rash when touched.  However, in his village the people had a use for every cactus and the women harvested it and used it to make a balm that was used in treating arthritis.

Plants.  Gottas love 'em..... and respect them.  Where would we be without them?

Friday, June 21, 2013

"Love that dirty water"

I am just finishing up my visit to El Norte and it hasn't been too bad at all.  This is such a beautiful time of year in New England.  The land is so lush and verdant and the last couple of days have been classic in terms of weather with blue skies, perfect temperatures.  I have had my fix of dim sum, BBQ and Maine lobster.  Soon I will get back to tortillas, quesillo and real avocados.  I like this balancing act of going between Oaxaca and Boston.
A little context.
Really, it was this that caught my eye first.  They have the same outfits in Oaxaca.... and the same mannequins, which always strikes me as funny.
And these are for my good friend, Henry Wangeman, of Amate Books in Oaxaca.  This is the state of the book business in Boston.  The Brattle Book store downtown.
I have no idea what happens when it rains.
More in a bit....

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Monday, June 17, 2013

Micky D's in Oaxaca??

I dunno.  I don't know if this is an advertisement, an endorsement, a condemnation or some sort of performance art, but here is someone dressed up as a homemade Happy Meal in front of Santo Domingo.  I know, I know, magic surrealism, no doubt.
Come to think of it, Oaxaca has only two McDonald's, one near the ballpark and the other near Plaza del Valle.
It's not like there isn't some history. (from the ISLR in 2006)
Officials of Oaxaca, Mexico, have turned down an application by McDonald’s to open an outlet in a 500-year-old plaza at the center of town. "There are values that we have to preserve, such as our traditions and culture," city leader Gabino Cue Monteagudo said. A local ordinance allows local officials to reject development projects that endanger the city’s cultural heritage.
As we reported in the last issue of this newsletter, residents organized a spirited campaign against the global fast-food chain that including gathering more than 10,000 signatures and handing out free tamales in the plaza.
And this from the Washington Post in 2006
Four youths wearing masks tossed gasoline bombs at a McDonald's restaurant in the conflict-torn city of Oaxaca on Sunday, damaging the windows, seats and play area, police said.
 Eat wisely, mis amig@s.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Micky D's meets its match - Bolivia

Now, here is some interesting news from GlobalResearch:
Bolivia became the first McDonald’s-free Latin American nation, after struggling for more than a decade to keep their numbers out of ‘the red.’  And that fact is still making news.
After 14 years in the nation and despite many campaigns and promos McDonald’s was forced to close in 2002, its 8 Bolivian restaurants in the major cities of La Paz, Cochabamba and Santa Cruz de la Sierra.
 McDonald’s served its last hamburgers in Bolivia on a Saturday at midnight [2002], after announcing a global restructuring plan in which it would close its doors in seven other countries with poor profit margins. (snip)
The story has also attracted world wide attention toward fast foods in Latin America.  El Polvorin blog noted:  “Fast-food represents the complete opposite of what Bolivians consider a meal should be. To be a good meal, food has to have be prepared with love, dedication, certain hygiene standards and proper cook time.”

Palm Sunday in San Antonino del Flores

It has been a few months since I posted about how special Palm Sunday is in San Antonino, the village near Ocotlan.  Even better is this post from 2012.  However, I am finally getting the video up taking advantage of fast upload speeds.

Needless to say, it is always a remarkable day.  The sheer volume of the offerings brought by the villagers is amazing.  All of it gets sold for the church fund.  Then there is the weight of the laden statue, the men straining to carry it.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Flor de Piña danza - Etla - 2012

With the guelaguetza approaching, coming on the last two Mondays in July, I thought maybe I should post something from last year's guelaguetza in nearby Etla.  I know, I know, it took long enough, but really it is just the upload time here in Beantown versus that in San Sebastian - five minute here and hours and hours there.

At any rate, here is the Flor de Piña danza, which is always one of the absolute hightlights anytime it is performed.  The crowd always goes crazy and I am right there with them.  We love, love, love, these dancers.

More videos coming in the next few days.  Gotta make hay while the sun shines....

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Fashion statements - Santa Maria Tlahuitoltepec style

These kids are from Santa Maria Tlahuitoltepec and I love how the traditional mixes with the current.
Like this wonderful outfit worn by a little girl, a fashion plate in purple.
And a few feet away, this girl wearing her Tinkerbell tee and playing with her blue-haired doll, who no doubt is some franchised character.  Anyone know who she is?
And these two sisters playing together.  One wearing her gorgeous traditional outfit, while her sister goes with a slightly Scandinavian style.
Sweet, no matter how you look at them.  I wish I knew what the "S" and "P" were a part of.  Standard and Poors?  I doubt it.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Recuerdos - Memories

Even though I am in the lushness of New England after getting brushed by Andrea, the first hurricane of the season, I keep flashing back to the time in Santa Maria Tlahuitoltepec.  It is such a remarkable village.... and 90 percent of the people there play a musical instrument.  No wonder I love the place.  Plus, look at these faces.
I do believe it is against the law to be this cool.
The Pied Piper calling me back..... muy pronto.
A masked dancer.
How can one resist?

Friday, June 7, 2013

The girl with the white balloons

I took this shot a couple of weeks ago at a wedding in Santo Domingo.  There was something about this girl and her balloons that reminded me of Degas.  I suppose it is her pose, so dancer-like.
Even the close crop works.  I obscured all the action around her and just accentuated her wonderful length and position.
Ahhh.... youth.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Street Music - Della Mae on the Common

I always feature the musicians in Oaxaca, so why not here as well?  After all, there is so much music in this city and soooo many top notch musicians.  I love it.  It's everywhere you turn.  But no tuba players to compare with those in Oaxaca.

This band, Della Mae, was giving an impromptu performance on the Common as a promotion for their appearance at The Middle East, a club in Cambridge.  They have a really great sound, tight and on the money.  They are touring now.

Walkable cities

One of my regular pleasures is going into the city of Oaxaca and simply walking.  I have covered lots of real estate just following my nose and seeing whatever pops up in front of mis ojos.  Oaxaca is a very walkable city.  So is Boston.  I took the train in and jumped off at Back Bay, which is right next to Copley Square and walked down to Chinatown, a glorious walk on a glorious day.  And  of course, I had my trusty little camera.  I love how photography trains one's eye to look at things from many perspectives simultaneously.  Great architectural diversity in this shot.  The Hancock building is almost invisible.
Made it to the finish line.
This was my first time back since the marathon bombing, so I paid my respects and was very touched by the memorials.
What would Boston be without the swan boats?
Looks pretty good, doesn't it?
More it a bit....

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Again with the dim sum??

No, still no dim sum in Oaxaca, so in order to get a fix, it is back to Beantown for a quick visit for this boy.  Here's the start.
Spare ribs with black beans. Too tasty!
Shrimp paste and celery wrapped in wontons.
Sticky rice wrapped in lotus leaves.
And the goodies inside.
There is only one problem, I get full too quickly.  That was so good! Worth the 3000 mile trip.
I am sure I will get in one more dim sum feast before I head back.  Next time, all different things.