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, July 8, 2021

Emilia's Tamales

These are very special tamales made only at this time of year by good friend and great (the greatest) cook Doña Emilia Gonzalez Martinez. Mole amarillo, chicken and masa from homegrown red corn. The taste, the incredibly smooth texture of the masa, truly unique. Doña Emilia made over 200 for this year's celebration in Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca.

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Jumping for joy...

So wonderful to be back in Teotitlan del Valle after so long due the pandemic.  It's been eighteen months since I have been with those I consider family. 
Finally, we're back with the danzantes and were greeted with smiles from La Malinche, Yaretzi Bazan Ruiz.  She's grown!  The dancers looked as tight as ever with great energy and crisp choreography. 
Back today for more.... and Emilia's tamales!!!

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Protests, marches, blockades...oh, my!

One thing about Oaxaca, people get out and let their voices be heard.  Protests, marches, blockades, are all a part of everyday life here. And even though they may cause problems and tie up traffic, it's better to be here, where people take action, rather in a place where folks stay silent and in their houses. 
So today it was the mezcaleros de Tlacolula and Mitla.  This was a protest in front of the Tax Administration, but damn, it sounds like they are stealing holograms!  Uh, I'm not sure what that means... but cars and computers, I understand. And, not sure about the electronic signature, either.
Mescal is a very hot product these days and hundreds of hectares have been planted with agaves which will take years to mature.  And lots of new producers everywhere.  How long will this mezcal boom last?  Of course, this piece of street art was on a building just steps down from the protest.
As for the politics, I'm staying well away... "It's Chinatown, Jake... only with mescal."

Monday, June 28, 2021

Hats, spoons and bowls, oh my...

A perfect display from a street vendor.  The light, the colors and the textures of the wood, all work.  And I can imagine Bruno Mars in every one of those chapeaus.

Sunday, June 27, 2021

How's the weather out there?


I know it is sweltering in many parts of El Norte right now, but here in Oaxaca, as you can see, the rainy season is here.  Many people imagine that Mexico is always hot, but guess what?  It's not.  There's even snow in parts of the country.   The hot months here are, generally, April and May, the end of the dry season.  Normally, there is sun in the morning well into the afternoon.  Then, as the heat goes up, the clouds build and then, a late day rain.  However, this is not a normal rainy season.  It has been gray, off and on for days, with flooding and road damage in many areas.  Water is so precious here, no matter what, every drop is still appreciated.

Sunday, June 20, 2021

Who knew it would be this long....

I know, I know, it's been awhile, but I'm still kickin'.  I returned a couple of weeks ago and well, life's just been too exciting.  I told myself I would post on the next sunny day and, of course, we began the longest, grayest and rainiest period I ever remember experiencing here... and I have a solar hot water heater!  Anyway, yesterday, the sun appeared.  It felt wonderful.  Of course, right now, Sunday afternoon, the wind is howling and is as gray as ever.  At least, it's been good indoor activity time, like music, but that sun was so nice. 
But I know some of you are out there wondering and watching, so I'll try to reemerge in the the blogosphere.

Saturday, May 8, 2021

Not in Kansas anymore....

After a long and arduous flight from Oaxaca, theses lilies of the valley greeted me and their fragrance, such a sweet and powerful perfume, let me know I was home.  If you've never smelled them, well, they really are the stuff of the most expensive perfumes... and I have an ocean of them in my New England garden. 
The garden has to fend for itself most of the time and the ground covers and hostas do quite well.  That's Solomon Seal, a plant from colonial times. 
As for the flight, which was delayed a week because of the airport closing, it went reasonably well.  However, all the paperwork and online filings I had to print out..... nobody asked for anything except for my covid test in Oaxaca.  On the US side of things.... nada.  No one checked a thing. 
Ah, well... New England in Spring with everything so green and lush after leaving the long Oaxacan dry season, sublime... and a little cool, which feels great.

Monday, May 3, 2021

They work hard for the money....

It sounds like a war zone there, with cojetes (firecracker/rockets) going off like crazy.  Ah yes... It's el día de la Santa Cruz, the day the celebrates workers (and practical jokes).   And here's one of our hard working locals and one of my favorite characters.  His tire repair service is just down the road and whenever I have a flat, he repairs it in minutes, always with a smile... all for $2.50 US.  ¡Feliz día de la Santa Cruz!

Sunday, May 2, 2021

End of the line...

Someone recently asked me if there was any vaccine hesitancy here... well, a picture is worth a thousand words.  Friday was the day and folks lined up for hours to get their second shots.  And I was right there with them. 
¡Viva San Pablo Etla!  Ahhh... So this is the feeling that everyone has been talking about.

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

What a difference a country makes....

The airport here in Oaxaca has been closed down since Sunday, blocked by protesters.  So my flight for tomorrow has been cancelled.  And my covid test ($75 US) and travel documents are all worthless now.  There has been no action or progress on the situation.  I'm imagining how the friendly folks in El Norte would handle a similar scene.

Friday, April 23, 2021

Can't wait no more...

Getting a haircut can only mean one thing.  I needed to clean up my act so I can head north.  Patience is a virtue... that I'm workin' on.  However, I decided I've waited long enough in the hopes of getting my second vaccine dose in San Pablo Etla, so I'm heading north.  I went online and, within minutes, had an appointment at my local CVS for the morning after I arrive. 
Kinda makes one wonder how they could and should have handled things better here.  I can't say I'll miss the eight hours I waited in line for my first shot.

Sunday, April 18, 2021

A question from the streets....

I was in the city and saw this poignant question.  "Do you miss the life you had?  I do too."

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Tales of the wood....

Life in el campo, the country, is different, but always interesting.  I get to see sights like this.  Every few years, someone bulldozes the field behind me and piles up all the brush.  Then the neighbors come and, slowly, but surely, chop it up for leñas, firewood. "I love the smell of leñas in the morning.  It smells like... tortillas."
This family has come several times, always at sunset.
They have put a pretty big bite into the huge pile that was there at the start.  They load it all onto a diablito, hand cart, and wheel it away home. 
It's a family affair and while the adults work, the kids play. 
Such a nice opportunity to drink in how folks live here. 
So how much wood would...  I had a tree fall in the front courtyard yesterday. 
The roots were shot.  I chopped it up and put it out on the street and the local tortilla lady took all of it.  It was gone in minutes.

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

True colors...

In Oaxaca, when it comes to painting walls and houses, color rules.  So in sticking to the rules, I decided to brighten up the front with a new paint job.  Not quite a New England beige, white or gray.  Here, anything goes, so I just had fun. As a pro musician, I've painted a lot of houses, rooms and apartments in my life and I've always really liked the work.  I'll admit to being neurotic, but I love trying to get stuff close to perfect, like those handles and the mail slot.
I've watched lots of people painting here in Oaxaca and I have a whole new level of respect for them.  Painting on cement and metal is so different from wood.   It's harder, but "Vale la pena".... worth all the pain.

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Hit me with your best shot..

There has to be a better plan, but as they say "vale la pena," it's worth the pain.  Such was the outcome from an eight hour wait, often in intense sun, to finally get the first dose of vaccine in San Pablo Etla yesterday.  I got there early, but there were already hundreds, maybe a thousand, already lined up. 
I got in line in the most prominent line, only to learn there was a separate line for San Pablo and it would not start until the other line, different barrios, was done. 
So hours later, my line inched forward.  First, paperwork, then a new line to get into the vaccination tent.  Then another line after getting in.  The end was in sight!  However, it was late lunch time for many of the shot givers and there were only two people giving shots. 
Others came back just after I got my shot, a good thing as there were still hundreds waiting.  All-in-all, a grueling day, but worth it, although I am not looking forward to repeating the experience in three weeks for the second dose.  It was a very Mexican experience as I waited in line with lots of calm and friendly old people.  "Eight hours?  That's nothing."

Friday, March 19, 2021

Waiting for Godot who's got my shot.....


Still in limbo, waiting to hear where/when/if ever I'm going to be able to get vaccinated.  The nearest distribution spot was in Viguera and they ran out after the first day a week or so ago.  They suggested I go to San Pablo Etla, which I did, and got a new registration paper.  I was told that I would receive a Whatssup message in a couple of weeks as to where and when it all might happen.  In the meantime, there is very little info as to what is going on.  Needless to say, Godot has kinda a reputation for taking his sweet time.  I know I am just one of many, but I would sure like to get on with my life, which can only happen after getting my shot.  Patience is a virtue..... I'm developing.

Monday, March 8, 2021

Impressive start....

Vaccinations have begun or they will tomorrow.  The "olds" are up first and I looked in the mirror and I look pretty old for 28, so I thought I'd get ready.  There is online registration and a couple of forms to fill out, but no heavy lifting.  And there are various locations all around the city and one is supposed to go to the nearest.    I realize how lucky I am to be outside the city, just due to the numbers.  Five people in line rather than hundreds.  My nearest location is in Trinidad de Viguera and they started registering today, a day before the shots begin.  Thanks to some very helpful people doing the registering, I was in and out in very little time.  Quite an efficient operation.  I now have a date with the vaccine tomorrow morning. 
I live on the other side of Viguera and I go right at the fork in the road instead of left, so I was blown away by how beautiful the municipal center was.  Yes, my first time there.  It had all the essentials.. two beautiful canchas, basketball courts in addition to all the local offices. 
More pics mañana.

Sunday, March 7, 2021

On the road again....

Out and about for a very brief trip to run errands.  So good to see the sights, except limited by never leaving the car.  And what to I see? Under jacaranda purple blooms? "No Soy Un Cualquiera!"  "I'm not just anybody!"  So true.  And then there's this guy. 
I guess if ya got it, flaunt it!

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Salad daze...

Proof of life... sorta.  It is starting to get hot, in the 90's today.  The perfect time for a fresh salad.  And here is my salad bowl.  It has been a challenge to get them this far as it has been so dry for so long.  They need daily attention.  I have laundry baskets that I shield them with to keep them partially shaded... and to keep out those pesky white moths that will hone in on the arugula, lay eggs, which turn into little caterpillars and there goes your crop.  However, for now, from the garden to the plate in a matters of minutes.  I feel so healthy.  My exciting life.

Friday, February 12, 2021

Life goes on...

A year into the pandemic, I've adapted to staying close to home most all the time.  A trip in the city is out of the question... until I need coffee.  I've noticed how many people close by, have set up fruit and vegetable stands.  New places to eat have popped up.  Fresh meats, taco stands, even car mechanics, all really close by, all started by folks adapting and trying to get by. 
So it is easy to shop local.  It's outside, in the open air with everyone masked.
And I can get pretty much anything I need, all within just a couple of kms. 

Oh, that's how it works....

I had an agave that flowered after six or seven years.  I think it may have been a coyote agave, but really, I can't remember.  Most all of my many agaves have been attacked and killed by "el toro," a beetle that attacks the roots and is one tough insect.  However, this agave survived long enough to flower and when it was done, I pulled the plant and cut the flower stalk to let it dry.  
Weeks later, these little plants appeared on the fertilized flowers.  I've never had a stalk around long enough to see this happen before and I guess I have babies to cultivate.

Thursday, February 4, 2021

Where are these from?

I got these beautiful pieces years ago from Henry Wangeman of Amate Books.  They always had the very best stuff and I have two houses filled with wonderful things I got from Henry and Rosa. 
Of course, I never wrote down where thing were from, so does anyone recognize these pieces? 
The designs do not look Oaxacan, but there are so many different styles, they well may be.  And these deep chocolate colored glazed are big and heavy. 
They may look simple, but they are masterpieces to me and Henry said they were special.  Any ideas? One of my favorite early moments in Oaxaca came on my first visit.  I bought a nice black pottery piece from San Bartolo Coyotepec and while standing in line at customs with friends, I blurted out, "Wow, I hope my pot made it through."  Needless to say, everyone around me gasped and then smacked me... in the nicest ways.  "Chris, you are an idiot."  Just to be clear, the pottery arrived undamaged.