I don’t like sports bars, not because I dislike sports, though I will admit I have little interest. I dislike sports bars because there is nowhere to sit without the distraction of a television in one’s line of sight. My eyes are always drawn to the screen, no matter what is on it. I will sporadically glance towards it regardless of the importance of the conversation I may be involved in.
Cell phones have a similar attraction. When your phone rings or chimes indicating a message, it is difficult to ignore it. It might be something important. What if you miss out?
You are missing out. You are missing out on the opportunity for deeper contact with the person across the table from you in the sports bar. You are missing out on the pleasure of the concert you are making crappy videos of. You are missing out on the world around you every minute you spend on that phone.
Remember when the internet and cellphones were going to be the great equalizer, spreading information, truth, and power to all people regardless of status? Me too. The powers that be took notice, and now the internet is flooded with manipulative misinformation and time sucking mindless games. Now, we walk oblivious down the street on our phones as the soldiers of fascism plot their revival in plain sight.
Oaxaca is a very political place. I will either fit in, get in trouble, or more likely, both. I’m looking forward to it.
Some reading this may know that I am planning to move to Cd. Oaxaca sometime in 2021 to live off my meager Social Security while writing. photographing, and learning the local indigenous languages. I won’t be the “rich” ex-pat, but I will be able to be comfortable. I am daily finding more things to make me want to be here. Last night I saw a classical performance of the 5th Brandenburg and John Rutter’s Suite Antigua by all local musicians. It was fabulous. Right now I am typing this in a maker space called Convivio that offers high speed internet, free coffee and mescal, and a comfortable workspace for a very reasonable fee. It may not be in my ex-pat budget, but it says a lot about the community to make it more inviting. I visited one of the many print shops that Oaxaca is famous for, and was blown away by the high quality of the work they produce. I’ve only been here two days…
Whenever I travel, I find myself drawn to things which are falling apart. People will look askance at me as I stand with my back to a beautiful building or view, shooting a closeup of peeling paint or crumbling adobe. At times, I have been accused of disrespecting a place by showing it in a bad light. That is surely never my intention. I simply love what nature does as it slowly converts our best efforts back to their basic elements. I am not alone in this. In the Tucson Barrio and other parts of the Desert Southwest, you will see adobe deliberately left exposed where stucco has fallen. Decay becomes a design element. Often, an attempt is made to clean up the edges, which inevitably makes it look contrived and not nearly as beautiful.
As we get older, nature works her destructive magic on us as well. I love photographing really old people as much as I do really old buildings. There is a book of stories behind every crumbling wall or sagging face, wanting to be told. One of the saddest things about our species is that we breeze past, never even contemplating what these stories might be.
I just finished a remarkable book: A Conspiracy Of Truths, by Alexandra Rowland. The protagonist is a Chant, someone who spends their life collecting and sharing stories. Every important turn of events in the book is illustrated by a story external but relevant to the one at hand.
It is difficult to get people to tell their stories, and for me it is difficult to listen to them without judgement as well.
Listening is an invaluable skill. One must forgo the desire to share one’s opinions or to respond in any way, giving oneself over completely to absorbing and understanding. I am really bad at this. I usually spend a good portion of my listening time formulating a response. It’s a very hard habit to break, especially at my ripe old age. The sad fact is, I will have less stories to tell because of it. Or maybe I will allow my walls to crumble with age, becoming more beautiful and full of stories as they do.
Both photos taken this morning in Cd. Oaxaca
I believe that we all walk around in a fog most of the time. I know I do. It’s not a drug induced fog, it’s an overload filter fog. Our brains are constantly filtering input from the world around us, throwing up a fog to obscure the extraneous and distracting. At its best, the fog enables us to focus on what’s important. At its worst, it keeps us blindly following the wrong path.
Or does it? That statement implies that there is a wrong path. The thing about fog is that you never know what’s going to float into your field of vision. It creeps in at night, coats everything with droplets of moisture, and then lifts. I was in the fog on top of Mount Lemmon once, before I knew the lay of the land up there. A friend and I wandered off the trail and found a big boulder to sit on and smoke a bowl. (This was back when weed wasn’t so freaking strong that you go into a coma just looking at it) As we finished smoking, the fog slowly lifted and we saw that we were sitting on the edge of a cliff, overlooking the mountaintop valley known as Wilderness Of Rocks. The view, gradually revealed by the receding clouds, was stunning.
Had we taken a few more steps, we might very well have fallen over the edge of that cliff, becoming short-lived statistics on the mountain. Instead, we had a transcendent experience of beauty. The fog could have been called responsible for either outcome. In the end, it was the choice we made which mattered. A choice made without knowing either possible outcome.
Sometimes the fog itself is a choice. I have recently been spending a lot of time in a self induced fog made up of rented DVDs of TV shows which I binge. This fog helps me avoid dealing with several things I am not ready to deal with yet. When I go to Oaxaca Tuesday for a month, that fog will lift. I will be immediately distracted by a myriad of sights, experiences, and people, many of whom you will doubtless read about here. I usually find clarity at such times, for some reason, so you may get a glimpse of that as well.
The above photo was taken in Maine in 2017 with my Olympus OMD E5, which I will be taking on this trip, leaving my big, fancy, Sony A7 R III at home.
I titled this post as I did because this driveway stain reminded me of Ralph Steadman, who illustrated Hunter S. Thompson’s books. I wonder what HST would think of today’s political circus.
This elegant lady visited me at work the other day. Did you know that mantises have five eyes? The two large compound ones that are obvious, and three simple eyes between them. The females of the species are infamous for eating their mates, head first, during sex. This actually happens less than 25% of the time. Evidently male mantises like the odds, as mantises have been around for at least 135 million years. Their closest relations are cockroaches and termites.
I’ve been remiss in keeping up with the obligations I set for myself here. I’ve been working a lot, and also I’m still rewriting the novel. On the 15th, I’ll be going to Ciudad Oaxaca for a month, so I’ll probably post almost daily. In the meantime, here’s a photo from the last time I was there.