Five characters (and their guests) in search of something.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Slow day. Some sort of bone crunching fever today, coming on yesterday. Spent most of day in bed, but watched two fun Mexican films: La Oveja Negra (the black sheep) and La Ilusion viaja en travia (Illusion (or dreams) travels in streetcars). The latter is a film by Luis Bunuel about two guys who bumblingly steal a streetcar and give away free rides throughout Mexico City while trying to get the car back without being noticed.

Am ready to meet with Guillermo Monteforte of Ojo de Agua, a film collective here that makes anthropological films and works with indigenous folks to train them to make films for themselves. He and I spoke of sharing our work and perhaps a show for STRAY in Oaxaca!

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Once upon a time, in a vast, sunswept desert, a beautiful, perfect cactus stood. The sun that shone every day upon the arms and prickles of this beautiful, perfect cactus knew what anyone else would if they could see the cactus - that this was a beautiful and perfect cactus. It had perfect form, beautiful shape, wonderous coloring. It's prickers were displayed in constellation-like arrangements. And it stood in the landscape with proud grace and cast ever-changing, ever interesting shadows over the ever-shifting sands below it.

But this cactus was not a joyful cactus. No. It was a sorrowful cactus. Why? Why is anything truly sorrowful? Because they feel alone. The beautiful, perfect cactus knew is was beautiful. It knew it was regal. Yet it disregarded these attributes because it longed for something else - companionship, togetherness, connection, love. It's whole, long life the beautiful, perfect cactus had seen other creatures and things together - clouds in the sky gathering into storms, tumbleweeds rolling off over the ground side-by-side, prairie dogs two or more per hole, horses galloping in herds. But this perfect, beautiful cactus was aware that it stood alone - desolate and silent - and it lamented this relentless state of being.

Not that the beautiful, perfect cactus hadn't tried. Over it's long, hardy life, it HAD attempted to make contact. It had provided shade for passing armadillos only to have them pick up and skitter away when the sun changed it's place in the sky. It had leaned towards resting coyotes to touch them only to prick their fur with it's needles sending them yelping on their way. It had even tried to make friends with snakes but everyone knows you can't make friends with snakes.

So, now, as the long white days stretched on into more long white days, the beautiful cactus resigned itself to a sorrowful life alone. A life of watching it's shadow grow and shrink and move around it's base. A life of witnessing the sky change colors from blue to purple to pink to orange to grey to black. A life of bitter loneliness. This was too much for even a beautiful, perfect cactus to bear. And, so, like all things, weak or strong, when they are confronted with seemingly unbearable pain and dissatisfaction, the beautiful, perfect cactus began to weep. It weeped slowly at first - a trickle here, a trickle there, moisture seeping from one needle, then another. But, soon, convulsions overtook the cactus and it wept uncontrollably - moisture falling like sweat form every needle, every pore. From a distance, the sad and crying cactus looked shiny and reflective since it was covered with so many tears. The tears started to pool around the roots of the cactus causing rivulets to disperse through the sand. Now even the ants and spiders couldn't come near because of the sorrowful floods.

But something happened during this crying spell, something that would prove to be miraculous. The tears also penetrated to the roots of the cactus. They drenched the underground cactus' feet and caused it to tremble. The tears nurtured while they also shocked. The beautiful, perfect cactus started to shake and shiver. It stopped crying and began to feel sick. The shaking and sickness began to rise up through the cactus, through it's foundation, through it's middle, until it concentrated in it's highest, barrel-like arm.

"Oh, what have I done?" worried the cactus. "What now have I brought on to myself? Not only am I lonely but I am sick. Surely, I am going to die."

And then the pain inside the beautiful, perfect cactus' highest arm got more intense. It was the worst ache the cactus had ever felt. Even worse than being alone. And, as it got worse, the cactus felt something even more awful - a splitting in it's skin - a tear. And if it could've cried out, it would have cried out but it was a cactus and, though cactii can shed tears, they cannot scream. But if it could scream, scream it would, for it felt like it's insides were becoming it's outsides.

Finally, the pain eased and the cactus realized that a large beautiful flower had sprouted on it's highest arm. A sweet, readiant expression of the longing it had felt. And no sooner had the flower bloomed than a desert parrot flew by. The desert parrot cawed and admired the cactus' new flower. The cactus smiled and displayed it's new flower proudly. And, surprisingly enough, the parrot landed on the cactus. It found a perch on the cactus, unaffected by prickles, next to the beautiful flower. The parrot perched there and began to sing a love song. The beautiful, perfect cactus was so happy to finally have a friend - the attention of something - and the parrot was ecstatic to have something beautiful in this arid landscape to sing about.

Well, as it happens, a lovely woman from Berkeley, California was travelling with some friends through the desert at this exact time. And this woman loved cactii - especially beautiful, perfect ones. And she loved birds - especially parrots. When this woman from Berkeley, California saw the beautiful, perfect cactus with the beautiful, perfect flower being perched upon by the beautiful, singing parrot, she knew just what she wanted to do. She got all her friends to carefully dig up the cactus and load it into the back of her red, Maserati pick-up truck. She also invited the parrot to sit on her shoulder which it did. They all drove back to the woman's garden in Oaxaca - for that was where she was staying at the time. The beautiful, perfect cactus was planted in the ground in a courtyard busy with friends and family of the woman. And the parrot was placed back on the cactus near the beautiful flower. So, from then on, the beautiful, perfect cactus was never lonely, it was admired and loved and comforted in a garden and had the singing of a parrot to last it's days.

Saturday, October 23, 2004


Okay--here's my first entry!

There is so much that we've seen in our first (almost) 6 weeks, that there is no way to recount it all. I'll make a short list for now, and add memories as they surface:

Regular trips to the various mercados--seeing and buying all manner of items--woven grass mats; woven plastic bags; hicama, mangos, bananas; tortillas, tlayudas, memelas, blandas; plastic market bags; flowers; rebosos----and on. Our very favorite place is Mercado Abastos which is really one of the wonders of the world. I truely think I could go there every day until we return in June, and still not see everything. It is a confluence of the widest manner of humanity and of every object or food that one could imagine.

Taking the bus to school with the kids. Nearly every bus has some sort of religious alter or reference in the front. I'm thinking of a photo series...

The various vehicles that go down the street with a loud speaker blasting jingles and commands to buy a product, (or elect an official...they had a local election here in early Oct)

Walking, walking, walking. It is heaven not having a car. We see so much and feel so unencumbered. It is amazing the glimpses seen through open doorways--varying from palatial courtyards to shantytowns--and they could be right next to one another....

The light--pervasive, saturating--simultaneously blinding and life affirming.

Colors everywhere. Buildings, clothing, and beyond.

Muriel and Leland are currently around the corner attending a dia de los muertos art class with an artist named Spider. They went last Saturday and will go again next Saturday too. They make tremendous stuff there--t-shirts and pillows that they paint with day of the dead images, paper maiche skulls...and they learn the spanish language of art. Their spanish is coming along--it is incredible to observe. Our room is connected to theirs, and often when they are playing in there on their own, I'll hear them talking (partially) in spanish.

We think the rainy season is truely over--there had been rain storms every afternoon, but we haven't had rain for 4 days going now. Oh well. There is nothing so delicious as an afternoon rainstorm on hot sundrenched days.

The kids need to be retrieved from their art class. More to come!

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Day of the dead for the critters. Extermination in the walls, floors, kitchen, cracks, etc. We went to live in the hotel Victoria for another day and let the fumes wear off. It's not perfect, but much better. It was pretty bleak there for a bit.

Leland was sick last week. He had a little fever and a sore throat. Of course Tracy and I freaked out. HE'S GOT AN AMOEBA OR SOMETHING! He's been taking his very strange antibiotic and it did the trick very quickly. Scary when little people have shivering fever so far from home. And the Dr. situation is so different here. For a while Tracy was calling Drs and they just wouldn't pick up. Where the hell are they? We are so used to 8am-6pm Drs. But some make house calls still here and the stay open much later. When you feel like you need to go to a doctor, the first thing you do is have your feces analyzed to see just what you have. And then you take that to the appointment. Either that, or the doctors take a shot in the dark and give you what they think you need without the benefit of searching through your caca.

All of us are in school now. Tracy and I have had a week of classes, tag-teaming with Leland's care-taking. It's coming along pretty well for me. I may never speak French again, that's for sure. The two languages are so similar except for the way you pronounce the endings of words--I stumbled through some French in a printer instruction booklet this evening and it was very difficult. I have a nice young teacher and the school is helping to cater to my interests in filmmaking. They are finding books on Mexican scriptwriting, movies, etc. Very nice and I feel like the instruction is moving ahead at my speed (fast).

I bought a mexican electric guitar so that I could continue playing. I have so much fun with it and it is relaxing. Nice since everyone has their fans on at night I can play pretty loud.

Have met a nice family with two young kids and similar interests here. They have lived in Oaxaca for more than a year (2?) and are pretty comfortable. Their kids are bilingual already. They tuned us into a great local guy named Boris Spider who teaches kids (in spanish) to make art. Muriel did a transfer onto a tshirt and painted it this weekend and Leland made a pillow. All in the spirit of the Day of the Dead (a sort of ultra halloween with lots of skulls and skeletons). Mark (the dad) and I have quite a bit in common. We have been hanging out a bit and it feels good to have a friend here--though the people on the streets are so nice already. So different from Ithaca!

I think of my mom every time I go to the markets here. It makes me remember the introduction she gave me to the Indianapolis City Market sometime before I went for a field-trip. She seemed to appreciate it for the fun and variety. Well the markets here are perhaps more like what the market in Indianapolis used to be when it was necessary to peoples' daily lives. You can get so many things right there. Fresh squeezed juices, hot chocolate (the breakfast drink of choice in Mexico!), breakfast and lunch, fruits and vegetables, dried goods, milk, meats, fish, chicken (as noted), cooked grasshoppers, bags, baskets, anything plastic you can imagine, toys, beds, bikes, tools, clothing, and on and on and on. In the US I often thought of us having a consumer society. In Mexico it's like sharks having to move forward to breathe--people swim in this mass of goods for sale. Tracy was a little cold one evening, she popped into the nearby market, found a woman selling rebozos (shawls) and popped back out in about 3 minutes. It's really shocking. Imagine what you would have to do to find a shawl (or something else you might want) after 7pm. You'd drive for more than 3 minutes, that's for sure. And it was nice!

The food can wear a bit thin for you here. I think any tourist vacationing here would have no problem having a great time for 2 weeks, but after the month mark, it is a bit monotonous. We are searching out the nouveau mexican foods. And today we had pizza. Not bad.

I am looking forward to seeing the ruins of this area shortly. Monte Alban, Mitla are two places we plan to go in the next few weeks. Big, big cities of their eras (500BC and afterward). I especially enjoy wandering through their ball courts and trying to feel the competitive spirits still hanging around. I hope to be able to see some people actually playing the game (as they think it was played--no one is certain how you scored!).

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

We now have things set up to allow both Tracy and Alta to interact directly. Shortly we'll forward the address to everyone on our mailing lists.

Over the past week the rainy season seemed to be threatening to subside, but today the rain asserted itself for about an hour. Nearly 20 minutes of driving rain with 25 cent sized drops. I was meeting with a friend (Mark Beam) near Santo Domingo--starting my search for members of Oaxaca's art life. Mark told me of a man named Guillermo, a filmmaker, painter, conceptual artist, whom I'll meet soon.

Good fish sandwich at healthy food place behind Cafe Los Cuiles. Smoothy served in a clear glass wine bottle.

Spent about an hour looking for electric guitars and amps. Is Oaxaca ready for punk rock?