Saturday, November 1, 2014
I was up at 5:30 so I pre-packed for the trip home. Although I bought a lot of stuff, it appears all is going to fit in my suitcase which makes me very happy. 7:00 a.m. I was downstairs for breakfast.
Today I decided I wanted to walk to the San Miguel pantheon, the city cemetery in Oaxaca where we had been last night. The route began with a walk to the Pan American Highway. I walked the opposite way that I had on Tuesday. After walking for quite awhile I found a baseball stadium that looked pretty cool. As I walked around the backside of the stadium I discovered a street with great wall art.
When I turned down the street to begin shooting I was a little startled to find two police officers just standing around. As I looked down the street there were policeman about every one hundred yards. I guess a person could just back up and get out of there but I walked forward past them to begin taking photographs. After awhile, I needed to cross the street so I asked one of the officers for permission to jaywalk. I mean, better to ask then to get taken down in a headlock for a traffic violation. He was fine with me, the photography and my death wish to run across a major Mexican street.
While I shot the art I discovered that this road had a school on it. And more police officers. After awhile, it occurred to me (and I have no proof of this) that this might be a high end school with students from the wealthier families. My speculation is that the police officers were around to make sure everyone ended up inside the walls of the school and not a kidnapping victim.
By now I was convinced I had overshot the pantheon. So either I had to keep walking past the school or backtrack. This street sort of dead ended against a wall although the traffic was heading off to the right in a direction I could not see. So, I made an executive decision and returned to the Pan American highway.
I retraced my steps one major highway and then headed towards the town in hopes of running into the cemetery. After my forced march and being very hot, I decided to hail a taxi. Jumping in, I commanded "San Miguel Pantheon" whereupon the driver drove the four blocks it took to get there. We had a laugh over that one even if we did not speak each other's language. He did take pity on the idiot tourist and rolled through all the food carts and carnival rides to deliver me to the main gate.
The San Miguel pantheon was cool at night but during the day it really rocked. I could photograph anything I wanted and there was plenty to see. The families were in the cemetery cleaning the tombs for tonight's celebration. Some of the families were either singing themselves or hiring professional singers to perform over the graves of their relatives. I cannot tell you how eerie yet beautiful it was to be there.
After exhausting myself with photography, I walked to the zocalo from the cemetery. This was made easy by the fact that this part of the city has wayfaring signs. I loved them.
The work pictured above was on a wall in a district that was just waking up for the day. As I was photographing the wall, a truck pulled up and the artist popped out to continue his work. We chatted in broken Spanish and broken English and he was nice enough to let me shoot his photograph.
I walked across the acala to Perfido Diaz street because there is a print shop there called Taller Siqueiros I visited two years ago and bought some stunning prints. Off course, the students and printers who work there are still in bed so I just kept on walking back to the hotel.
At noon today, we are scheduled to have Michael's critique of our works done on the patio of the Holiday Inn out by the pool. We are joined by a Mexican assemblage artist named Humberto Batista. Some of the group had been to his house early in the week before I got there and really liked his work.
Michael is going to package the project we made with a travelogue about the Oaxacan experience so he asked me to film the critiques.
Everyone seemed pretty relaxed in this workshop and I think it showed it their work.
Uncredited photographer but thanks
After lunch, we went down the acala to do some shopping on the staircase where the junk dealers were. I decided to take the plunge and by the cherub I had been looking at every time we walked past.
Then it was off to Taller Siqueiros to buy another print. The one I select is from the master of the class in this print shop: Yesckai. The print is unnumbered and untitled but I could care less because it is so cool.
We got back to the hotel in time to clean up for the farewell dinner. The story is that the farewell dinner got pushed up one day because of me because I am leaving on Sunday. While that was unnecessary, I really appreciated being with the gang one more time. The dinner was held at La Biznagga where we had eaten on Tuesday.
After dinner we walked up the way to the art studio where Humberto Baptista was having an art opening featuring some 2D work. He had worked six months on oils that I would classify in the style of Cubism. Cubism is mostly associated with Pablo Picasso and emphasizes the geometrical depiction of natural forms. Tonight is the opening of the show and one piece had already sold. Everyone asked everyone else what their favorite piece was.
I had my eye on a piece even before Michael introduced me to the artist for a brief talk about assemblage. I asked Humberto to describe the story behind the piece I wanted and he used words like relationship, communication, etc.
Now the problem is normally you do not collect your art until the run of the show is over. Also, I do not have enough money to pay for it. Then the gallery owner announced that any American in the crowd with a PayPal account could charge it to that. I still felt bad but a sale is a sale--so I asked if I could take the piece with me NOW as I was leaving on a plane tomorrow morn.
The answer was yes, the deal was done and I had mine under my arm in no time. Here is a picture of Humberto and me in front of the painting I now have hanging on the wall behind me as I type this at home.
I took my painting back to the hotel, worked it into the suitcase and hit the hay early to be up in time for departure tomorrow.
Sunday, November 2, 2014
At 6:30 a.m. I hit the lobby of the Holiday Inn to take a cab to the airport. The hotel desk clerk provided me with a breakfast kit which I stuffed into my carry on and off I went to get my flight out. On the way to the airport it occurred to me that I might not have enough pesos to pay for the trip. After surreptitiously checking my wallet, I discovered I had $190 pesos but a ton of American cash. I had not given away any American money in Mexico but I was about to discover if that worked when the driver told me the ride was $180 pesos. So I just gave him the whole wallet full of Mexican money and was relieved to be at the airport and not in debtor's prison doing dishes.
My first flight is scheduled to leave at 8:55 a.m so I have plenty of time to check in at the counter. Or, so it would appear to the uninitiated but by now I have come to realized there is a different clock running in Ol' Mexico. It took longer than I thought to get through check in and say goodbye to my checked bag.
Then it was down to the Immigration area to get into the airport. Mexico, for whatever reason, is not impressed with my being TSA pre-approved so shoes, belts, etc. all come off. Being an experience traveler I know exactly what to do. In my carry on I have a metal mail slot off a door that I bought and their TSA men did not like this hunk of metal. I fit in their hands like a ninja's weapon and they keep making gestures like I would clunk the stew with this to the point where I thought it was a goner.
Nope, it went back into my carry on. But--my bag had to go back through the X-ray. Why? Well, it turns out that in the little breakfast bag from the Holiday Inn is a big old can of juice. After we got that disposed of and my embarrassment went away, I put all my stuff back on and went to catch my plane. I got there in time to board and away we went to Mexico City.
My seat mate turned out to be a professional photographer from Seattle who came to Oaxaca to take photographs for Dia de los Muertos. As you can image, we talked all the way to Mexico City.
We arrived 40 minutes early which must mean our pilot is a former Oaxacan taxi driver. Then, I make a little mistake. Some people went right to departures and some people went left to baggage. What was I thinking? Well, I was thinking that I had to get my bag until it occurred to me this was not Atlanta--it was still Mexico.
Because I had gone to the baggage area and in order to catch my flight, I had to go through Mexican TSA once again. Darn if the metal mail slot did not come out of my bag again and get waved around. It survived one more demonstration of how it could be used to take over the plane in case any of the people in line behind me were homicidal terrorists but it made the trip with me so perhaps I should not complain.
11:40 a.m. we are airborn for Atlanta, Georgia, USA. This time my seat mate was the wife of a Mexican official traveling back to Washington, D.C. She was nice to be with as well.
Arrival time in Atlanta was 3:45 p.m. and take off for Milwaukee was not until 7:30 p.m. So I finally have time to eat something other than peanuts and energy bars. I selected the fast food deep south cooking place seeing as how I was hungry and in the deep south.
7:30 p.m. we are airborn to Milwaukee and arrive at 8:40 p.m. Central time. Denice picked my up at the airport and we went out for sushi. Once home, I unpacked in fear but everything survived the trip except the Fernando Garcia Aguilar clay sculpture. I am going to glue back on the clown because the main part is still fine but it is ruined as a collectible piece. Too bad.
So now the time has come to thank Colleen, Molly and Michael for organizing and shepherding another fine Oaxacan adventure. I just got home and I want to go back in two years when this adventure returns for another Dia de los Muertos.
If you would like to take an on-line version of the workshop we took in Oaxaca, follow this link to register: http://www.michaeldemeng.com/plumed-serpent.
View all the photos from this trip at