Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Pages from my Art Journal

Here are some pages from the Art Journal 
I have been keeping here in Mexico.

Cactus Garden

Ay, Chihuaua!

The Ballon Guy

Rooftop Laundry

Gringos in the Jardin

-Posted by Susan

Friday, February 17, 2012

Sounds Of San Miguel

It's probably four am. as I lay wide awake in bed listening to the dog next door growl and bark at something in the dark. It aggressively barks in rapid succession for several minutes before quieting down long enough for me to believe he's finished, and sleep slowly creeps back in to fill the void. Suddenly, the barking starts up again for several minutes followed by a stillness and I begin again to drift. This pattern is repeated until I finally give in and reach for my greasy ear plugs that wait patiently on the night stand. I twist them deeply into place as I curse my false belief that it would have eventually come to an end.

While I listen to the dull, far off sound of the dog through the compressed foam, I think about how loud Mexico is. Generally speaking, it's a noisy place and being in a busy city like San Miguel seems to only amplify this truth. During the day, it's the sound of diesel busses and taxis that compete with the cars and trucks on the narrow cobbled streets that run between the dimpled concrete surfaces of ancient buildings. Throttled motorcycles, engine noise and backfires echo back and forth like giants in a tennis match lobbing hubcap filled garbage cans at each other.

A man walks through the neighborhood clanging two heavy pieces of iron together, a warning that the garbage truck is coming, so bring out your trash. High pitched flutes indicate the knife sharpener is nearby. He rounds the corner with a hand powered grinding stone slung over his back. Sometimes it's another man on a bicycle and the grinder is wired onto the handlebars and powered by another set of pedals, still he uses the same flute so you know what he does. There's a symphony of multiple sounds and they often overlap in a cacophony of brutal noise. As I sink deeper towards sleep I picture a pie chart that represents the world of sound. A huge section reserved for the country of Mexico and a much smaller slice that represented all of the sounds of the rest of the world combined.

The propane gas truck plays a catchy tune and drives by slowly, followed shortly by a pickup truck piled high with scrap metal. A loud speaker is attached to the roof and a commanding voice broadcasts forth with the harsh demand that you bring you metal out for them to recycle. And later, on the corner, busy pedestrian traffic pass a street vendor who calls out his products in rapid succession and with a voice that is unmistakable because of its unique resonance, cigaros! chocolates! puros!...

Garbage collection bell ringer

Ranchero music drops down from the open window of a second story apartment, as a man below calls out 'elooooteee' (corn) for those that may want corn on the cob or a scoop of garbanzo beans from a plastic bucket. Children scream and laugh as they chase each other through the park while the different neighborhood churches ring out calls to prayer from bell towers that rise above the fray, trying to override all others. These sounds, this 'voice of Mexico' is constant. A normal part of the culture, a condition as automatic and innocuous as breathing in and out. It's beyond tolerance for the average Mexican, it doesn't register for them and they pay it no heed and in fact, seem to be oblivious unless it serves an immediate need like the sound of the water truck.

For me, finding sanctuary within the cool thick walls of home is an anticipated if undeliverable relief from the barrage. Even late in the evening there's no finding complete silence, though sometimes simply lowering the volume is enough, at least that's what I tell myself as I lay awake in the still of the night with nothing but the barking dog next door.

But wait, now I don't hear even the muffled sound through the ear plugs. I remove them and it relieves the itch and discomfort. Finally, the peaceful quite takes me down towards deep sleep.  I float in the thick atmosphere of another planet, far away. Then, from nowhere, a firecracker jolts me back. A sound so loud it's as if someone lobbed a glob of nitroglycerin against the wall to the bedroom. I'm back in Mexico.

Listen to the sounds here
Plus Mariachi bonus track

By Mark

Friday, February 10, 2012

Tripping with the Groove Guru

I am wandering down a sparkling path inlaid with brightly colored tile and glass, my hand sliding along a rail that becomes a snake in my hands. I stroke its colorful jeweled scales as it leads me down a staircase towards an enthusiastic crowd oohing and aahing in amazement. They mill about, munching tamales and eyeing an enormous ice chest filled with champagne, then pointing up towards the trees where a woman balances precariously among the branches, held aloft by silvery balloons.

Through the looking glass...

No, this is not a dream I am having, though it could be. In fact I am wide awake, my senses keened to every nuance, realizing how fortunate I am to be here. For this is the party of parties, the one we will be talking about for years to come- to brag that we were there, along with several hundred, possibly thousands of gringos and Mexicans alike who have donned their finest headwear and shawls, boots and glitter, and enough jewelry to fill the Taj Majal, just for this extraordinary event. The Grand Opening of the Chapel of Jimmy Ray, alter ego of Anado McLauchlin, bearded wonder and artist extraordinaire.

The Casa de Caca.
Most beautiful outhouse in the world?
Behind me a man in a rabbit mask darts among the organos cactuses, disappearing behind a tower built of multi colored wine bottles, inside of which two brightly mosaic toilets sit side by side. Proudly calling itself the Casa de Caca, it seems that even pooping is an art form here.

At the entrance to the 'Chapel' a masked mosaic figure with what appears to be a flaming torch at his crotch rises up above a tiled gurgling fountain, welcoming us to come inside. We meander past hundreds of colored bottles imbedded into the concrete the walls of the building, bright blue and pink walls decorated in mirrored mosaic- where fragments of our own faces stare back at us. Once inside, Anado's artwork prepares to push and pull our minds into places we did not even know were possible. Altars of dolls at the feet of Mayan deities. Mirrored snakes wind past bright pink and blue Buddhas. Voodoo Jesuses. Bull's horns crowning the Virgin of Guadalupe. Bright plastic hearts oozing turquoise blood.

Chapel entrance

Who needs drugs? We are inside the mind and boundless imagination of Anado himself, inside the chapel, the temple, the arteries of the man to whom the word excess does not exist. The man who, along with his delightful partner Richard, enliven the streets of San Miguel in stripes and paisleys and enough beard between them to earn the right to call themselves the twin Santas.

Member of the
Cartaphilus Teatro

In another room of the chapel, photos of nudes by Spencer Tunick, (yes, THE Spencer Tunick- the one who photographs naked people  en masse all over the planet) adorn the walls, framed in tin Nichos. There is a buzz in the air promising the possible arrival of real live naked people. In fact, they do arrive, and no one seems to be surprised at all.

So who the heck is Jimmy Ray? It turns out that Jimmy Ray, alias James Rayburn McLauchlin, is none other than Anado's very own dad. A humble unadorned photograph of him is tacked to the wall by the inside entrance of the chapel, leaving one to wonder what kind of man he was to spawn such an enigma as the one who built this psychedelic wonderland.

So here's to Anado, an inspiration to all who meet him. 
The man who says yes to life, where others say whoa!... 
YES with a capital Y, capital E, capital S. 
And a big fat, pink and blue polka dotted exclamation point.

Much more about Anado on his website HERE 

Sunday, February 5, 2012


The Candelaria festival is going on again this year and we wandered down to take another look. I wasn't expecting it to be any different than last year but I guess you gotta go anyway.

For those that don't know, Día de la Candelaria, or Candlemas, happens 40 days after Christmas and is when figures of the baby Jesus, or 'nino Dios', are brought to the Catholic church to be blessed. Days before this you'll see families protectively carrying Jesus dolls around town wrapped in colorful little blankets and cradled in the crooks of their arms as if it was a live child. Before this, on Christmas eve, the baby Jesus is placed in the nativity scene. Then, on Jan. 6th. "Kings Day", the baby Jesus is brought presents and finally on Feb. 2nd. the baby Jesus is presented to the church for blessings. The ritual is a fusion of pre-Hispanic traditions and Catholic beliefs. Celebrated by Catholics as the "Feast of Purification" or as the "Presentation of Christ at the Temple." This date also happens to be the half-way point between the winter solstice and spring equinox. Evidently, in Pagan tradition, Feb. 2 is believed to be a time to predict the weather to come, and coincidentally, it's also celebrated as Groundhog Day in the United States. All very interesting but as I like to say "in the absence of rational comes ritual".

The pope loves a virgin

So, getting back to this weeks festival. As if all of the above wasn't enough, as part of a tradition for 56 years in San Miguel de Allende, the City Government through the Department of Environment and Ecology holds a Candlemas fair event in the Parque Benito Juarez. Traditionally this includes the Mexican folk custom of blessing the seeds for planting grain, flowers and vegetables, it is believed that the blessing will achieve bountiful results for future harvests. Addtionally, it's a good excuse to sell a ton of plants.

Seed blessings

For this event, the huge plant sale occurs in the park for two weeks. Over night, the typically tranquil setting is transformed into an open air, mega plant market. I wandered patiently down the narrow isles between the vendors pop-up canopies filled with plants of every variety. Some limited to every cactus imaginable, others to the herbs. Palm trees and giant bamboo tower overhead while streams of young men pushing worn out wheel barrows constantly ask if you need a porter to taxi your purchases to your home or car. I find myself glazing over, waking from my stupor every now and then at the sight of some strangely colorful or oddly exotic new species.

Susan stops frequently to get a closer look and call out the names of the ones she knows. When we pass by another vendor selling herbs she pronounces the Spanish term for each while I repeat as if I won't soon forget. albahaca, perejil, romero and tomillo (basil, parsley, rosemary, thyme). She reaches down and twists the blue/green leaves of mint and then puts her fingers to her nose to inhale the aromas, then to my nose to share the gift like it was a secret between the two of us. I nod, silently agreeing that the smell is wonderful and were it not for our journey here, we would never have had such an exquisite experience. She continues to be amazed at the sights and smells that surround us and I find myself noticing the electrical wires strung between the trees. Strands of cords that provide power for the clear 40 watt bulbs that randomly dangle down every few feet like incandescent fruit, illuminating the orchids and hibiscus. At one point, an industrious plant seller has adapted an outlet between the line and the bulb that allows for watching telenovella's on a portable TV balanced on a plastic stool and charging the battery on his cell phone.

Living with plants

I'm hungry now and remember the Torta stand from two years ago when we were here. It was a vivid memory despite the time gone by. I recall I had a 'Cubana' which turned out to be the 'mother' of all sandwiches. Layered high with avocado, ham, fried egg, cheese, sliced hot dogs, tomato and half a dozen other ingredients. "Quiero torta!"  I said to Susan in my childish Spanish as she was pointing out the ceramic pots shaped like lizards and frogs. She looked at me sadly and we headed in the direction I remembered seeing the stand years ago. I thought I'd have a Coke with it.