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

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Fall cleaning

A beautiful day today, but while it was raining the last few days, I satisfied my neuroses and gave the house a thorough cleaning including taking all the rugs outside and really shaking them out.  They, the rugs, seem much happier. 
Today, it was the air, the aura, the vibe of the place, which got a nice cleansing treatment with three kinds of copal straight from a good source in Tlacolula.
The wind and sun cooperated and the smoke moved through the entire house and out the windows.  Cleansing completed.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Ain't no sunshine...

The rainy season continues so instead of this...
we have this....
However, the plants are happy.  My first hand of bananas.
I have taken advantage of end end of all those annuals to redesign the whole thing.
Pretty cool, seeing as though there was nothing there just a few months ago.
Lots of fragrant plants, lemon verbena, scented geraniums, rosemary and of course, agave, cacti and succulents.
With all this rain, things are popping up.  You can see I am using the old zinnia plants as thatch like covering for the paths.  I figure they will slowly disintegrate and in the mean time provide a little shade for the soil.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Nice day for a drive

What a difference a day makes. Today I took the drive I attempted to take yesterday. I scooted through the city like poop through a goose.... well, very quickly anyway. After yesterday's blockades, I had a cunning plan.... to go south and try to bypass everything. The underpass at Cinco Senores worked like a charm. What a huge difference. I also wanted to check out the State Police strike, but it was quiet when I passed by it.  I went through San Bartolo Coyotepec all the way to Ocotlan, then took a left and headed north through Santa Catarina Minas on my way to Mitla.  It is a gorgeous drive, one of my favorites. 
The road is not heavily used and cuts through dramatic country. 
It is a perfect day drive, about two or three hours.  The countryside is verdant, lush in areas from all the rains.  Other parts look like they had received very little.
 Nice day for it, wouldn't you say?
I did learn something and that was that going in the other direction, my normal choice, has much better vistas, things unfold before you.  On this drive, I was always craning my neck around to look behind me.  I did see lots of potential protests, large assemblies of dump trucks and semis on the outskirts of the city, but I made it back just fine.  However, they were not out there for their health, not like me.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Grrrr.... (updated)

Count to ten... breath deeply.

Defeated!  I planned on taking a nice drive through mezcal land today and catching a fiesta in Tlacochahuaya, but....  normal life in Oaxaca got in the way.

I really know my way through the city and there is always a way to get by protests and blockades. So the first one on the north side of the city, by the moto-taxis and the huge CTE dump trucks, barely fazed me. Then, after fifteen minutes, I  made it into the city, only to come to a total stop as gridlock set in due to a march... by whom, who knows. The cops were directing traffic onto side streets, which are narrow and full of potholes and lots of topes, speed bumps. Imagine buses, dump trucks, pipas, water trucks and lots of cars...... good times ensued.

A one point I realized I was trapped, nothing moving in sight and I spotted the only one way out, did a u-turn, pulled every trick in the book, including going in between poles set in the road, backing down streets and going the wrong way down one way streets.

Trust me. I was not alone. This kind of stuff is almost a daily hassle. It is just considered normal and people do incredibly well under the circumstances. I eventually made it back to my initial spot, where by now, the marchers had passed, only to be stopped by a few buses blocking the road completely as I approached or tried to approach the new shopping center.

Again the cops directed traffic on to narrow streets.  By then I had given up getting over to the Mitla area, just bagged the idea, and using those same tricks made it back through the city, which was actually pretty quiet. I guess everyone was trapped elsewhere. Oh, well, such is life.  I will try tomorrow for the same drive, but will leave earlier to beat the protesters at their game. Yeah, right.  Like that could happen. They are winning. We are into the third month of these protests and it is someone or something different every day.

Update:  So you want pictures?
Protest #1
Mobile vet at your service.
I was slightly concerned when I saw this guy.  Where am I???

Monday, September 22, 2014

Morning constitutional in Atzompa

Clouds have dominated the last few days with some good rains.  I guess "good" depends where you are, there has been serious flooding and an amazing new crop of "baches" or potholes has appeared.  However, this morning I awoke to this sight out my window.
I am very lucky to be just a few minutes away from the archaeological site in Atzompa, so I decided to do a quick visit in search of some elusive and dramatic shots with sun and clouds.  The clouds were scudding across the skies.... there! I got to use "scudding" in a sentence, not a regular occurrence.... and the clouds scudded el sol right out of the picture. 
The sun appeared in distant patches, but the shot I waited for, the sun hitting Monte Alban, never happened, close, but not really.
Still, once again, I was completely alone. It is crazy, but no one ever seems to go there even though it is a major site and a huge restoration project.  No one there?  Fine with me.  I saw only five workers the entire time I was there.

Progress is being made.  A new sign.
The largest ball park in the area. 
Imagine playing the ball game here.  I've played a version of it and the ball would bounce like crazy off those angles.... at least they do in my imagination.
That's Monte Alban across the valley. 
The two sites  were vibrant centers of activity and remember, Monte Alban was founded in 500 BC!  Think about that!  2000 years later, the cities in Europe had raw sewage running through the streets. These places are so sophisticated and advanced with lots of mathematical and astronomical elements involved in their design and placement. Me, I'm just watching the birds riding the thermals.
I guess I wasn't alone. The gods were there.
The whole walk was just over an hour, only half of it was uphill.... a wonderful constitutional.

Saturday, September 20, 2014


Even though we have had some nice rains, the dry season is coming, so I am prepping for it.  This means whacking the hundreds or thousands of zinnia and cosmos that filled the space.  There are things planted among them and now's the time to expose them and get them acclimated to the intense sun that is coming.  The zinnias are still flowering, but better to get them on the compost pile while they are a little green.  As I cleared the space, I could see some design flaws so...I redesigned the whole garden just by putting in some paths.  I also could see that the rains were depositing silt, the rocks lining the paths will now catch it.  The soil has lots of clay in it so I am taking advantage of the timing, before it turns into cement, to dig down and turn it.  It actually will get so hard you need a bareta to dig a hole in February or March.  I keep adding organic material and getting air into it so maybe this year is will be better.  In fact I am thinking of using the zinnia plants as a mulch or else grinding them up and using that for mulch.  What the soil needs is tons of organic material and a few years, but for now after only one year, it looks pretty damn good, if I say so myself... which I never would.

I'm leaving plenty of flowers to finish the cycle and attract the butterflies, bees and birds.  The garden is always full of them... and grasshoppers, ants, caterpillars, etc...  I've had some huge mariposas in the last few days and this one was all..."I'm ready for my closeup, Mr. DeMille."
And the cacti are drinking the moisture and flowering.  This is a nice biznaga of some sort.
They'll last a week or so and when the rains stop, the plant will just see in the sun and wait.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Can you hear me now???

One thing I have noticed about amplified music in Mexico... and it would be hard to not notice... is that they like it beyond loud.  If Spinal Tap goes to Eleven, these guys go to Thirteen.  And there are always people, mostly abuelas, sitting directly in front of the massive speakers.  OK, maybe it is not mostly abulas, but they are there along with lots of others, right in front of the speakers.  Gut thumping, teeth grinding, bone rattling, you know, nice and loud.
This band, Estrellas de Santa Cecilia, was set up to the side of the cathedral and was trying hard to exceed that "13" level.  Quite loud.

Of course, they had to be loud because directly across the zocalo, they were testing the sound setup for El Grito and they were pumping an equally loud CD, I forget what, but it did have a good beat. To say that John Cage would have been pleased, would be an understatement, as the two musics mixed together in a pretty amazing version of "Cacophony."

Of course, I was drawn to the tuba player, as his bass line was moving the ground beneath my feet.
Then I spotted this trumpeter, very Dizzy Gillespie like.
From the front.
And to be fair, straight ahead, guapo.
That reminds me.  I am going to do a post on the haircuts of Oaxaca. I think there is a Pulitzer in there.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Independence Day!

No, Cinco de Mayo is not Mexico's Independence Day, today is.
And the place is decked out in the national colors.  I almost think they go crazier here than folks do in the States for the Fourth of July.  I know, I know, hard to believe, but truth be known, Mexicans know how to party extremely hearty, better than in the US.
El Grito was delivered by the governor last night at 11 PM from this balcony.... oh, sorry it is being blocked by large protest banners.  Hmmm... another shot..... No lower, please.
Ah yes, here's the balcony.
Notice the guy making sure the bell is ready.  Notice the mic.  I am sure it will be nice and loud. 
And video
Once again I missed the call.  However, this morning I am being serenaded by a couple of bands off in the mountains and cohetes, nice loud fireworks.
I'll head into the city to check out the parade.  I hear that the State Police are on strike so with all the other protests, maybe it will be more exciting than normal.

Monday, September 15, 2014

After the rains

Well, really, it's just a brief interlude if the weather reports prove accurate.
Looks glorious, doesn't it?  That's the view from my back yard.... if I'm up on the roof.

My shirt say what???

That's the look on this guapo's face as I explained what his shirt said.
It did have back that sorta explained it.... still, I dunno.

Sunday, September 14, 2014


Hey Chris, why no posts? I've been busy building an ark.  Yes, the rainy season has returned with a vengeance.  I don't know how much we have received and every drop is a blessing but ¡Ya basta - enough already!  My cistern is filled and every water collection container I have is full as well.  The ground is so saturated I don't dare step on it.  The plants, however, are in heaven.  They are putting on a growth spurt and I am taking advantage of the weather and transplanting like crazy.
So here is dinner, a huge broccoli crown, that got sauteed with Oaxacan garlic, small and strong, some olive oil, then the best Korean sesame oil and some very fine Chinese soy sauce, both of which I brought down from Boston.  Plenty of leftovers for salads maƱana with some of this dill.
If you can believe it, these broccoli plants will keep producing florets for the next year or so.  I had plants a couple of years ago that lasted two years and were still going strong, but were sooo ugly, they had to go. 

Friday, September 12, 2014

More plumas moments

There is such a sense of community in all that surrounds the danza de pluma in Teotitlan del Valle.  There are many formal presentations, offerings and blessings that occur while the dancers are dancing.  It is after all, a very long dance or series of dances.  Huge baskets of fruit, tlayudas, cases of beer and lots of other things are brought in by one group and offered to another group, probably different sections of the village. Maybe it is the section that has official domain over this particular dance, but really, I don't know and I will have to find out.

But it is the lovely interactions between people that is always present and so refreshing that is so noticeable.  Ahh.... Life is full of such moments. One of the subalternos sharing the moment with his son.
There are two subalternos and each is responsible for the care of either, the dancers or Monteczuma, Malinche and Marina.
"Someday, my son, all of this will be yours."
They bring them water, repair sandals or whatever is needed and are constantly moving, interacting with the crowd, making jokes, but in reality they are very important, as they are subtly exercising control over the entire scene.  Meanwhile,  just drink in the sights.
Armando Vincente Mendoza, one of the Four Kings.
The great thing is that this is just normal village life in all its glory, just people living their lives.