Sunday, May 25, 2014


Baby Jesus, wrapped in plastic

A year ago, I visited a remote coastal area in Oaxaca state in Mexico.  While there, I met a tall Spaniard who told me, among other things, about the first in what ended up being dozens of journeys around the globe – his pilgrimage at age 16 to Santiago de Compostela.   I remembered learning about this tradition from the summer I’d spent on the NW coast of Spain, where I lived with the family of yet another Spaniard -- much shorter -- whose family politely looked the other way from his exuberant gayness and welcomed me as his girlfriend without asking too many questions about the nature of what was our totally platonic friendship. 

This year, I had occasion to mingle with an equally worldly audience at The Financial Times’ Summit on the Business of Luxury in Mexico City – people with Hungarian fathers, Argentine mothers, childhoods spent in Mexico City while attending German school – and then college in Paris. . . this type of ‘global citizen’ gathered to discuss emerging markets, the growing middle class in Mexico and their taste for luxury goods, art, fashion and empire building.  Although I spent a full day wishing for an early death in a fancy hotel room, the parts of the conference I experienced were all quite fascinating – and stood in stark contrast to my much more modest (though still delightful) bus ride to Guanajuato at the summit’s end. Like any pilgrim, I had to travel long distances and endure bodily misery to better understand the turns my journey needed to take.

Mexico City
Mexico City

Mexico City
Mexico City

A group of wealthy youngsters from Mexico City descended upon my friend Hugo’s stone-hewn bed and breakfast in the hills above the historic center of Guanajuato shortly after my arrival to witness their friends’ marriage in the neighboring hacienda. . . while resolutely insubordinate to the house’s minimal rules (showing up for reservations, paying the bill, etc).  Among the guests was a fellow bedecked in indigenous beadwork and crystals, his wild mane leashed by a headband.  Standing apart from the other guests, he confessed that he wished he could hang out with Hugo and me in the printmaking studio.  We learned from those more pop-culturally literate than ourselves that this man was a Mexican soap opera star and model. To me, he just seemed like a man with a resonant voice and a firm handshake, so I asked what he did.  He explained he was a former opera singer – now pursuing acting and producing, and maintaining homes in a handful of locations.  He left out the part about modeling, which I thought was in good taste. 

Lágrimas de Visión

print making studio

Toward the end of the wedding weekend, a wind swept through Guanajuato as I sat on a balcony of a restaurant in town, eating a salad as buglers paraded in the street below.  While there are various theories about the exact meaning of these processions, the entire month of May is dedicated to the blessing of workers.  Today was the day of the blessing of the bus drivers.  Another day is dedicated to miners who work in the local silver mines.  I guess there's no shortage of groups within the world population to be blessed and looked after by guardians or patron saints, real or imagined.

La Casa de Espiritus Alegres, Guanajuato
La Casa de Espiritus Alegres, Guanajuato
La Casa de Espiritus Alegres, Guanajuato

Alma del Sol, Guanajuato

We spent the last few days in Patzcuaro, in the beautiful and ­­­­­­­­troubled state of Michoacán.  Hugo and his friend Janet and I escaped a rainstorm by ducking into the town Basilica.  We marveled at the electronic prayer candles, the offerings to the Virgin (which included a full human hair braid pinned to the Virgin's dress), and at how successful the Catholics were in inspiring devotion from the very people they colonized and sought to dominate – not unlike the way Republicans manage to win support from parts of the population most disenfranchised by their policies.  The Stockholm Syndrome came to mind in my amateur psychological analysis.  A similar conversation came up yesterday when driving past a very unsubtle HQ of one of the cartels, while enroute to visit friends in a neighboring village.  Like all organized criminals throughout history, the cartels use money, the illusion of protection, and religion to gain loyalty -- or at least obedience.

Janet and Hugo

Our drive through this questionable territory led us to the home of yet another Spaniard – a 92 year-old gay man, Picasso doppelganger and bon vivant.  We spent the afternoon sipping wine, talking, and hearing stories about his days as a ballet dancer in Paris in the ‘40s (he later became a two-language translator at the UN for the first 20 years of its existence).  In Paris, he’d fallen in love with a German soldier – ultimately collecting information to help the resistance effort.  As if his life wasn't already colorful enough, he had also starred in both Broadway and film versions of "West Side Story."  Born in Franco's Spain, escaped to the U.S., returned to Spain, studied in Paris, spent more years in the U.S., and eventually landed in Mexico -- where he seemed content to spend his final years in a quiet mountain town, where the shadow of the ruling cartel sent people heading toward their homes at sunset.



Plaza Grande, Michoacán

Thursday, January 9, 2014


the power of song

I’ve been engaging in many end-of-year and beginning-of-year transitional activities: list-making, auditing, seasonal gym re-joining, Perler Bead creations, visits to various professionals and caretakers, cleansing, imbibing, envisioning, visiting, making contact, and closet-cleaning of literal and metaphorical order.  
heart, pre-melting
Mt. Hood from Portland
Upon returning to New York a few nights ago, I used my Uber account for the first time.  Improperly clothed for the arctic vortex -- having been in Portland and Miami for the last couple of weeks, -- I figured a timed pick-up from the airport was a good idea.  At the urging of my app-tastic friend Doug, I had signed up for an account while lounging on the sunny 75-degree sands of Miami Beach. . . and sure enough, Jimmy and his white hybrid Toyota appeared outside the American Airlines baggage claim, as if a white horse and its shining knight to shepherd me to Brooklyn.  As we rounded the Williamsburg corner of the BQE heading toward my own ice-coated trashy snow-laden little barrio, flames and burning particles lept across the highway like holiday parcel-senders for their place in line at the USPS.  There was desperation in the air.

midnight on the BQE
I, however, had nothing to complain about – I was fresh from two continents, three coasts, four cities and most of the last weeks for me had been spent barefoot.  The highway-side property owner whose wares were up in flames was undoubtedly but one sad story of the ever-apocalyptic conditions of the The Big Apple.  There always seems to be a sea of trash left behind whenever the snow melts here, and I'm reminded of the brief time I spent in Tunisia – where basic infrastructure and things like trash collection were among the casualties of power trading hands among various fundamentalist regimes – both elected and imposed.

New Year's Eve in Miami

So now it’s time to write the next chapter of history – starting with my own narrative, of course.  Having been back here less than a week, I have already witnessed the marriage of the only remaining bachelor of The Snow, met a punk jump rope class innovator, visited my Brazilian curl therapist, learned about the dark nature of chemtrails from Joseph the Healer, had both my refrigerator and my bikini top repaired, joined the gym and visited three times, made up the words to “Tennessee Waltz” in an impromptu performance with Sycamore Hollow, and started planning my next journey. 

They say the Year of the Horse – which apparently doesn’t start officially until the end of January – will have the characteristics of the animal for which it’s named.  We’re meant to rise from the ground after a year with the snake and will move with power, speed and assurance into the future.  I tend to believe in signs and signifiers – not the least of which was the French comedian (!) who appeared with his sleepy girlfriend as my friends and I cast our wishes to the flames at a New Year’s Eve bonfire.  My first new acquaintance of 2014, a French comedian. . . This seemed no less auspicious than a rainbow sighting, or a white heron landing beside me on the beach, a surprise visit, or the company of a child who speaks Spanish at about the same (though more sophisticated) level I do. . . sometimes life is sweet.