Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The Place of Waiting

Chavez Morado mural in the Alhondiga Museum in Guanajuato

from Chavez Morado mural
There is a place in Mexico called Erongaricuaro, or ‘The Place of Waiting,’ in the Purepecha language.  I’ve never been to Erongaricuaro, but I have visited – I daresay I’ve even taken up residence in The Place of Waiting.  It’s an interesting if sometimes uncomfortable place – and as it turns out, there’s actually a lot happening there if you look around and pay attention.  I suppose this is how you could describe living, dying, and the passage of time in general.  The idea of such a place reminds me a little of the tarot card of the hanged man; he’s hanging upside down, fully awake – so he might as well relax and watch what’s going on as the story around him unfolds.


As much as I enjoy telling stories, I’ve never been good at telling jokes.  Invariably, I forget to include some critical piece of information until it’s too late for its inclusion to have any dramatic effect.  I have also been known – believe it or not -- to be a little slow in understanding jokes.  E.B. White said that explaining a joke is a lot like dissecting a frog – edifying, but generally fatal for the frog.  By that rationale, I suppose it’s best to let jokes – and stories – exist simply for what they are, without connecting all the dots, dissecting or explaining.
portrait of a married couple by brilliant and self-taught Heremenegildo Bustos
from Chavez Morado mural
I heard a story the other day about a wealthy Spaniard in Mexico whose first wife, an English woman of noble birth, was an art collector.  The wife was ill for a long time, and the Spaniard started to have an affair with another woman.  Of course the wife knew something was going on, and said to her husband, ‘Please, just be with her – be happy.  I’m dying, anyway.  Life and love are precious.’  So the wife died, and the Spaniard married his mistress, who was a Mexican woman.  While he loved his new wife, the Spaniard insisted that she keep the house exactly as his wife had it -- the art continued to catch the sunlight at the same times of day, the furniture occupied the same places in the same rooms, and not a drop of paint was applied to the walls.  The new wife respected the sanctity of the late wife’s home, not wanting to offend the dead or to cause trouble with her husband.

Over time, the friends of the couple noticed that the mistress gradually started to take on the dress, hairstyle and general appearance of the deceased wife.  She cut and dyed her long black hair and traded her colorful dresses for conservative, neutral clothing.  Finally, one of the Spaniard’s friends approached him and said, ‘Why don’t you turn your house into a museum in honor of the memory of your late wife – and build a home for your new wife so you can start a new life together?’  The Spaniard saw the logic in this suggestion, and he did just that.  The Mexican woman and the Spaniard moved into their house and began their life together.  Slowly but surely, though, the house began to take on the characteristics of the museum they had left behind – the furniture, the colors, the way they had the rooms arranged. . . and the Mexican woman and her Spanish husband found themselves living in the shadow of the past, ever-reaching for but never being able to rest in the light of the present.

printing invitations

Despite E.B. White’s wisdom about jokes and frogs, my impulse is to analyze and to find meaning in the story.  Maybe the past is bound to become the present.  Maybe the shadows and the light are all part of the same day.  Maybe sometimes we choose to wait rather than to act – or maybe waiting is an act in itself.  We could talk to Hamlet about that.  Maybe all we can do is recreate and repeat the past because it’s what we know, it’s who we are, it’s in our bones.  I guess the job of the storyteller is to draw the dots, not necessarily to connect them.  Connecting the dots is the job of the hanged man in his state of waiting; it is the job of living and of the dying.  We are all of those things at different times of day. 

Chavez Morado
Cosmic retablo by Bustos. . . the sun!

Monday, January 18, 2016

Save the Date

40?  So what?
376 Ninth Street between 6th/7th Aves.
Brooklyn, NY
Saturday, March 12th

Hilary and friends making music for you in celebration of living, growing and loving
Please come!

Sunday, January 17, 2016


I met a lovely Cuban architect on the coast in Oaxaca who told me many interesting stories -- including a parable about a fisherman and an investment banker.  Feel free to exchange the characters for say, yourself and any bossypants know-it-all who wants to give you advice about how to live a good life. 

A banker is on vacation, sitting on a pier in a peaceful coastal village in Mexico when a boat approaches.  The banker admires the quality of the fish, but notices there are only three in the basket; he asks how long it took the fisherman to catch them. The fisherman said it only took a little while.  “Why not stay out longer and catch a few more?” the banker asked. 
            “Well, I have one to eat now, one to give to my wife to prepare later, and one to sell in the market.”
            “But what do you do with the rest of your time?” The banker asks. 
            “Well, I sleep in, do some fishing, play with my children, take a nap with my wife. . . and then we usually take a walk in the village, have a glass of wine and play a little guitar with my friends.  My life is busy and full.”  The banker digests this.
            “. . . but if only you spent more time fishing, you could sell more and buy a bigger boat – then eventually a whole fleet of boats.  Instead of selling your catch to the middle man, you could sell directly to a processing plant. . . you could even open your own cannery.  With the success of your business, you could move to Mexico City, then to LA. . . maybe even to New York City.”  The fisherman contemplates this possibility.
            “How long do you think that would take?”
            “Probably 15-20 years.”
            “. . . and then what?” The fisherman asked.
            “Well, this is the best part: at that point, your company will be worth millions, and you can sell stock in the business and become very rich!” 
            “Hmm. . .” The fisherman considers this.  “What would I do with all those millions?”
            “Well, then of course you would be able to retire to some small fishing village where you could sleep late, fish a little, spend time with your friends and family and play guitar.”

I greeted 2016 with some wonderful friends in Cuernavaca, about an hour south of Mexico City.  We had a feast and fireworks, and Lya and I climbed a mountain on New Years Day.  At the top of this mountain in Tepoztlan – a town which is categorized as a ‘pueblo magico,’ along with another of the towns I happened to visit – is a pyramid.  On the journey to the top, we were accompanied by people of all ages and states of health -- adorning footwear of varying degrees of practicality.  

Teddy and Noura

Lya, David and Teddy
Lya, Teddy and Noura

Peacocking inspiration.  I don't look this good when I do it.

We took our party south to a favorite spot on the coast of Oaxaca.  There we visited with new and old friends, watched sunsets and moonrises, sang boleros with Mario at the dinner table, roamed remote beaches and let the waves wash away 2015 and carry in the possibilities of the weeks and months ahead.  In a neighboring town, I met an old friend who I call The Tall Spaniard -- we bathed in the salty sea, I taught him how to open a coconut with a machete, and I allowed him to defeat me in various racquet sports before I returned to the cliffs above the ocean for a few more days of rest and yoga and music.  A group of birdwatchers arrived, quietly watching and waiting.

early morning surfing (I watched)

Pierre found this in New York and was reminded of a song by The Snow

All roads seem to lead back to Guanajuato, my home away from home.  Here, I am floating through the days, taking my time, not worrying too much about anything, doing a little tan maintenance, and slowly plotting my next steps with my friend and soothsayer, Hugo.

watching over the winding alleyways leading up to El Pipila, the hero of Guanajuato

age, layers, beauty
Hugo and afternoon coffee in a Parisian cafe, just steps from home