Teatro Diabolico with Michael deMeng
Monday, October 23rd
Today I got up at 8ish a.m. to prepare for my trip to Mexico with Michael deMeng. This is my fifth trip to Mexico with Michael and my third stopover in Oaxaca for an art workshop and celebration of Dia de los Muertos.
After a day of packing clothes and art supplies, I was ready for Denice when she arrived home from work. We headed down to the Milwaukee airport in order to eat at Perkins. Then she got me over to the CoachUSA terminal for a bus ride to O’Hare.
I got to O’Hare around 9:30 p.m., three hours before my flight which was good as it took one hour to get through the check in line at the Aeromexico counter. TSA was relatively easy and then it was time to sit around a wait for takeoff.
Tuesday, October 24th
My flight to Mexico City departed Chicago at 12:20 a.m. My seat was in the emergency aisle so I had plenty of leg room. My two seat mates were young Hispanic-Americans who made the flight pleasant. I read part of Wingshooters by Nina Revoyr overnight.
We arrived in Mexico City at 4:30 a.m. Getting through customs there took about one hour by I had a two hour layover so it was not a problem. My Oaxaca flight left at 6:40 a.m. and arrived there at 8:00 a.m. After picking up my luggage and paying for a collectivo, the short ride to the city found me at the Holiday Inn Express Historico Centro by 9:30.
My room with a view
Because it was so early I checked by luggage and headed to the breakfast buffet that our hotel offers. I walked in and immediately saw Bonnie and Sue and joined them. After our hellos and some polite catching up, I asked if they had seen anyone else from our workshop.
Bonnie said, “Maybe you should turn around.” I was so tired and hungry I sat down with Bonnie and Sue, my back to a table of all the usual suspects. Of course, that led to much rejoicing before Michael, Theresa, Joann and Sue went to the Frida Kahlo art store. This is an interesting place as pretty much everything is locked up so buying anything involves negotiations in a language that I don’t speak. I was able to get the gesso I wanted. We then spent the rest of the morning hitting various stores buying a weird assortment of things all to be used in creating our projects.
Michael, Joann, Sue and I ate lunch on the zocalo which unfortunately is still occupied by the teachers. Teachers in Oaxaca have been on strike here ever since the federal government instituted competency tests. These tests are necessary because the teachers’ union allows them to sell their licenses or allows them to be inherited. Quite a few folks here feel this means the children do not get the education they deserve.
We spent the afternoon shopping some more before stopping to have a mezcal marguritas. Dinner this evening was at the Italian place a short walk from our hotel on the same square as the park with me, Michael, Colleen, Janet, Marilyn, Leslie, and Tara.
Wednesday, October 25th
After breakfast in the hotel, we gathered at 9:00 a.m. for our tour. One of my favorite things to do is what I call Out the Window shots from tour buses while I am traveling. This kind of photography is always a crap shot but you never know when you might get a gem or two.
Today we are on a mezcal tour led by Oaxacan mezcal expert Alvin Starkman. Alvin is a Canadian from Toronto who visited Oaxaca for 13 years before “it called him” and he moved here, now living here for an additional 13 years.
Mezcal is very important in the state of Oaxaca and there are little artisan production centers throughout the region amongst the fields of agave—the plant from which all mezcal comes.
The tour showcased different approaches to the making of the drink and the first place we stopped made it in copper pots.
Mezcal is heated in covered pits and extra flavor occurs if you add you bicycle to the process
Marilyn crunches the agave pina
The copper pot process
Surprised no found object artists tried to take these objects that I found
I am not a regular alcohol drinker so I skipped the mezcal tasting--this being stop number 1. See Tara's face on the far left of this photo--yea, that would be me trying to drink this stuff too.
The process of the tasting is full on family participation. The owner of the farm pours each of the various mezcals he makes into one little pot, and just like communion, all share in the wealth.
Always an altar is present no matter where we go in Mexico
We then went to a place where they process the plant with a horse pulled stone.
This is what the agave pina looks like pre-crushing--some weigh in at 300 lbs.
The horse may crush the pina to get it ready for the pit but it is the owner of this mezcal production farm that is in the pit clearing it for the next batch.
This is the house at the processing site but our next stop was the actual home of these farmers for our second tasting.
Our third altar of the day
Still amazed that no one copped this for the workshop
Next up was a trip to a town to a fancy mezcal restaurant where the gang had their third tasting. Me—I took off down the road to capture these pictures of a mural at bed and breakfast mescal operation.
Midafternoon it was time for lunch at a comidor. As we left we stopped at one last place for mezcal tasting number four. I thought this might be the most beautiful kitchen I have been in.
Then it was back in the bus for more Out the Window shots. I am continually amazed at how much public art there is in the country of Mexico.
After the drive back to the hotel, some of us were able to set up in the workshop.
My spot between Marilyn and Kristen
I then went out to eat at one of our favorite Oaxaca spots (ironically), the Argentinian restaurant, El Fogoncito with Marilyn, Tara, Leslie and Theresa.
After we walked back to hotel, I called Denice outside our hotel because the weather was so warm. When I went back in all had gone to bed so I did too and watched the end of game 2 of the World Series.