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

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Hay siempre Esperanza

There is always Hope!.... Esperanza, the queen of Tlacolula, dancer extraordinaire and the one with some of the best barbacoa anywhere.   And that smile....  I love that she always is decked out in very traditional clothing and yes, the plaid is hardcore traditional.
A meal fit for princess.
Looks pretty good, doesn't it? 
It was... and so was the second one.  We were so happy to see her in San Juan Guelavia for the Feria del Carrizo. 
Carizzo is a bamboo-like plant that is (almost) a weed in places, but this village, San Juan Gelavia,  makes the most wonderful pieces out of the plant.  It is very labor intensive work to prep the plant for weaving and these people re real masters.  Here is one of the baskets that demanded to come home with me.
$400 MP..  a ridiculous $22 US.  OMG!  What an amazing scene.  We were there last year and it was a quiet humble affair.  This year, however, it was Huuuuge!  Today was the opening day and it was absolutely packed with visitors and the vibe was one of pure joy.... really.  This is a relatively poor village and they must be very happy to see so many people show up to visit and to eat and spend pesos.  What a difference from last year.  The organizing committee really hit this one out of the park and put the master basket makers on the map.  There was lots of action including a guelaguetza featuring lots of the traditional dances.  And there were so many little kids involved!  No wonder the traditions continue.  They start so young.
It just becomes a part of the fabric of their lives.
More tomorrow on the feria.  More tomorrow.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Alone together

Each one of these recent pieces of street art is a bit creepy.... well, more than a bit.
But the two together? 
 Even creepier..... but maybe, that's just me.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

It's an art

This bugambilia is one of my favorite projects.  When I moved in just a couple of years ago, it had just suffered the worst pruning I have ever seen in my life. It was like a blind, drunk spastic guy with anger issues was let loose on it.  There was no growth on this side of the wall if you can believe it, just ugly stumps of limbs.  I thought that maybe it should just be removed.  However, oaxaquenos know how to prune their bugambilias and trees.  There are examples everywhere with lots of topiary.  So I watched and learned how they shaped and tended them and voila.... 
A bright globe of color.  I'm working on a couple more than have recovered almost equally. 

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

The ladies who lunch

When I stopped into Comedor Colon in nearby Etla, one of my favorite places, for a quick bite, I was greeted by these three peahens scurrying around the courtyard.
 They were looking fine.
And so was their companion.
Not much for conversation, but a good visual show.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

First look - Los Danzantes de Teotitlan del Valle

This is the first look we have gotten of the new group of danzantes for the next three years of performances of la danza de la pluma in Teotitlan del Valle.  It may be our first, but they have been practicing three days a week for quite some time now and they look fantastic.
It is so interesting to see how differently these dancers are from the previous group.  Monctezuma, in particular, is exceptional.  His father was leading the practice and we heard than the son had been dancing for years.  It showed. 
It was also so exciting to see our good friend, Daniel Ruiz, looking so fine as he danced.  He is the son of Mario Ruiz, the village photographer.  I have known them for years. 
I loved seeing Daniel out there.  I am proud of him.  It is going to be a fun three years.
Here are the new incarnations of Malinche and Doña Marina.
Look at how tiny Doña Marina is.  She will grow before our eyes.
Psyched?  You bet!  Viva Teotitlan del Valle and these danzantes carrying on the tradition.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Gracias, Mr. Moto

Sometimes this place just cracks me up at to how things can work here.  Short story long...

It's the dry season.  I have a huuuge compost pile.  Time for the wood chipper.  I have one of the few here in Oaxaca.  I used to use it all the time when I had much bigger gardens.  Now, it's a once or twice a year thing.  The thing weighs quite a bit and when I got it out, it would not start.

I may live in Mexico, but I have not quite absorbed the Mexican gift of being able to fix any motor, anywhere, any time.  So I took off a few of the heavier parts of the machine and somehow got it into my 2004 Jetta.  I knew there was a place very close that repairs thing like this.  However, like many things, it was there yesterday, but nowhere to be found today.  Now what?

There are lots of moto-taxis in this area, so I figured I would stop at one of the hole-in-the-wall places that said they repair motos, which are actually motorcycles.  They looked at it and said "Sure."

While I waited, they took it apart, cleaned it, put it back together, started it...done!  In about an hour, it was over.  All for $150 MP... that's $8.21 US!!!  I could only imagine what the whole adventure would have been like in the States.

And this is pretty typical of things like this down here. Time and time again, I have been lucky to have great work done at incredibly good prices.  Maybe I am just lucky, but I surely count my blessings.

After getting the chipper back and out of the car, it was six hours of wonderful chipping with more to come in about five minutes.  The compost pile reduces in size to about one tenth of its original size and it is such great compost material, so nicely chopped up.

Update: Well, I dunno.... As soon as I started work, the chipper sprung an oil leak.  Sigh... This time I took off the motor.  It is nice and light.  Threw it in the car to go find my guys.... closed.   Stopped at a very funky moto taxi repair place.  They said I needed a new gasket.   The only place to get one of those is in the city.  I ain't going there today.  However, I am more Mexican than I used to be.  I managed to put in a temporary fix using a heavy duty garden hose washer.  No duct tape.... yet.

Thursday, January 14, 2016


I'm living a pretty simple life these days.  Oaxaca really is a wonderful place to live.  It's as full of problems as any place.  However, it is also blessed with so many positive aspects, that one can find a balance here.  I work in the garden and watch the world go by.... and count my blessings that whatever bullshit I spout is only heard by the plants and an occasional goat or two.... and of course, there is this blog.
I add my little bit to the billions of bytes out there.  Still, it is crazy to watch people say or do the most outrageous things and then act surprised that other people notice.... and then it goes viral.  So, knock on wood, I have not achieved that notoriety... yet.
Back before there was the internet, I regularly laid eggs and pissed people off..... I once got a review in the Boston Globe that said I was "too stupid to realize I should have been embarrassed."  But I knew it was bullshit because the same critic said, at a different time, that my music was "better than sex."  Hah.. how would he know?  I mean, he was a music critic.  (Rim shot, please.) 
It was all bull then and it still is, but I like this type of bull much better.  These guys are my neighbors.  The white bird is a constant companion to them.  They have some sort of symbiotic relationship... well, actually, I think the birds get more out of the deal than the bulls, but what do I know?

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Alejandro Santiago lives!

"El arte cambia mi comunidad."
"Art changes my community."  This is so true.  One of the things I love most about Oaxaca is that art, in all its many faces, is so public and prevalent, a vital part of the social fabric.  And it does change the city and surrounding villages.  So, on one level, this billboard on the way into the city really resonates.   Art is one of the best parts of life, ever changing and ever stimulating.  However, there is more to this billboard.  The painting is by Alejando Santiago and art really did change his village.
One of his most famous and important works, 2501 Migrantes, told the sad story of his village.  I wrote a few posts about it.  The first, when it was at CASA in San Agustin Etla and another when it came into the city.  It is such a powerful work on so many levels.  It created change.  It certainly changed me and gave me insights.  Sadly, the maestro died at an early age.
It is wonderful to see his art displayed so prominently and with such a powerful message attached to it.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Little bit of heaven

The ceramics mercado in nearby Atzompa appears to be under major renovation and I had a craving for something to hang on the walls outside so....  It was off to the east, to San Sebastian Tutla just on the other side of the city.  This place is the mother lode of all things ceramic, #23 on the Carreta Int.
The place goes on and on, with thousands of things from which to choose.  I was tempted by lots of pieces and I made my choices quickly.  I am moving most everything out of pots and into the ground so I did not fall for any of these beauties.  Still... I do have some nice palms that would looks amazing in them.
The place is a dream come true.... and really good prices, too.  The gerente, Eleazar Carreño, is always welcoming and very friendly.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

It's hip to be.....

I used to be a renegade, I used to fool around
But I couldn't take the punishment, and had to settle down
Now I'm playing it real straight, and yes I cut my hair
You might think I'm crazy, but I don't even care
Because I can tell what's going on
It's hip to be square

Friday, January 8, 2016

Godot? Is that you?

While waiting for Godot in front of Santo Domingo... he did not show... I snapped some shots. 
There is always lots of action and it is wonderful people watching.  Another classic quinceanera portrait.
This shot really made me think.  I am pretty sure that the boy is one of the kids who spends most of his time on the streets.  His mother could be a vendor.  So I don't think this woman is his mother and is just sharing a movie or video with the child.  I keep weaving stories in my mind.....

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Searching for Los Reyes

Well, I tried, but to no avail.  The Tree Kings remained elusive.  I think I was once again too early besides being completely clueless what I was exactly looking for.  I did see signs for a fiesta so maybe all the action will continue this weekend.  This was as close I got to anything Tres Reyes, these nice roscas de Reyes at the market in Etla.  This is the first year in a while I have not gotten the little baby Jesus baked in the rosca.  I guess I don't need to supply tamales on Candelaria.
I took a side trip to Reys Etla, but it was completely empty.  Still, I got to do a little dance on this amazing dance floor.
And no matter where you are, it is always interesting. 
I am kicking myself that I did not ask her to pull down her mask. 
What is that mask from?  It looks so familiar.  "Anyone?  Anyone?... Bueller?"

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Getting ready for..... Toys!

Tomorrow is El Dia de Tres Reyes, Three Kings Day, the day that most children get presents.  Christmas Day was so last year and really, unlike in El Norte, not the traditional day for gift giving.  There a bins set up in lots of businesses collecting toys, but the mother of them all is this great outpouring set up in front of the cathedral on the Almeda.
 So close and yet so far.....
I am not sure exactly how it all works, but I am sure there are lots of happy kids with new toys and somehow I think many of them are street kids.  A good thing for sure.
Tomorrow?  Off to Tres Reyes Etla, of course.

They're everywhere.

Oaxaca's street art never quits and it is not only in the city, but in many villages and parts of town you would not expect it.  This piece adorns a wall at one of the funkiest intersections around, the one where the Pan-american highway meets the periferico and the Abastos market, always a good time.
And this one.... well, you can tell where its from.
But so last year...

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Faces from La Noche del Rabanos

Because I get there so early, I miss the finished works, but get to see the pieces being assembled, the the people behind each.  It's a trade off I happily make because I love seeing artists in the alpha state.  As one, I know there is nothing like being in that moment, the energy, the excitement, the unknown, the realization of a dream, a vision.  And it is some of the best people watching.  Like this beauty with her radish calla lily.
Medusa takes shape.
Wow!  Simply wow.  Mitla as it was.
 I keep mentioning all the young people involved doing amazing things.
 It all bodes well for the future.
Entire families taking such pride in their work.  This is one of the magis.
Yes, you can feel the happiness and pride.
All ages, the young
And the forever young.
Always, one of the best days of the year.... Hmmm... I seem to say that about a lot of days here.