A Weekend Walkabout

Well, it took selling some stuff, and saving some more, but I got my new toy and it’s a beauty.  A Fuji S2980 that might help me to take some better photos.  But,  I also learned something and that is that I have a lot to learn.  More bells and whistles means more reading and if there is one thing I do not like, it’s instructional manuals.  But, I live on the island of Cozumel and, even if I ignored much of the manual, I will have lots of time to practice.  There are so many photographic moments to be had here so off I went for a night and a day.

Cozumel has been celebrating the Mexican day of independence for about a week now.  With cannons going off sometime around 5 a.m. (I don’t get it either and it just plain made my dogs pissy) the days began.  Parades, carnival rides, dancing in el centro, and lots of flags showed us just how serious the locals take this holiday.  It was a good time to get some practice in so I headed downtown Friday evening to see the fun.

The plaza in the center of town was filled to the brim with rides, games, food, and auctions.  But, spaces to walk safely were not as plentiful so it was important to keep an eye out.  It seemed that everywhere I looked kids were running, adults were laughing, and the rides were spinning.  Whether it was a train ride for the little ones, or a huge ride that depended on centrifugal force, there was something for everyone.

And the colors were something to behold.  Mexicans love colored lights, which is, I am assuming, one of the reasons that I often see Christmas lights up year round.  All one had to do was turn another direction and a whole new color scheme was announced.  It made for a lot of practice with my new toy.  But, and let me mention how grateful I am, backing up to get the perfect shot could be hazardous.  I was doing exactly that and a gentleman suddenly pushed me forwards since it seemed that I was backing right into a spinning ride that would have hurt, a lot.  Let’s just say there were a lot more rides than there were safety fences.  After that moment it seemed a good idea to go and relax at Woody’s Bar and Grill, just off the main plaza,  where Fernando Gonzalez was singing to others who were also taking a break.  It was a great idea since he is quite talented and his ballads were wondrous.   Pairing his songs with a cold one was a great end to the evening.

Still, I had to see what my Fuji and I could do in the daylight, so I headed back out early the next morning to see what was up.  The first thing I saw was a woman getting ready to get on her moped.  Now, down here that is a very common occurrence.  However, since she seemed a bit closer to my age than the usual moped driver I asked her if I could get a shot.  She immediately struck a pose and the day began.

Now, I realized that I was skipping an important step with photography, and that is to scout out the subjects ahead of time.  But, that is about as interesting to me as instructional manuals so I decided to just wing it.  There will be a time that I will do both, but for now I decided that I like the day-to-day stuff that occurs on the island anyway.  So I just walked along grabbing pics here and there of the mundane.  A store over here, a fence with flowers over there, a cross that stuck up from the wall of the cemetery.  There was a lot to see, especially in the early morning light.

One thing I did notice, however,  was that, even in the end of September, it was getting quite warm once the sun was peeking over the rooftops. I was surprised there was still that much heat, but the cooler months are ahead and I am looking forward to running around in a t-shirt and jeans without feeling as if I need a portable shower.  Still, after only about an hour, it was time to start heading back home.

Coming around the corner by the emergency room on calle 13 I was already hugging the walls for the remaining shade.  But, there was a pleasant surprise just before I got to my home on Xel Ha in Corpus Christi.  On calle 15 bis C there is a new cocina.  They serve empanadas and burritos among other things, but the owner was nice enough to tell me they will also be serving my favorite on Mondays, flautas.  She told me they will be open from 8 in the morning until 1 in the afternoon every day.  I was able to take a pic of her while a young man made my order fresh.  I also leafed through the Tupperware catalogue she nudged my way while she patiently listened to my attempts at conversation.  Finally, I grabbed my bag of super fresh empanadas and walked the final steps home.  Sitting on my deck I finished them off, and I can assure you they were excellent (I tried the cheese and the one stuffed with potatoes).  Yes, I’ve found my new luncheon spot on the island of Cozumel, and now it’s time to see what my pics look like.

After a quick look, I’ve decided that I’m not disappointed, but it seems I will be looking at the manual after all.  I’m still not quite where I want to be, but sometimes admitting I need the help is the first step, or so I hear.  Meanwhile, hope you enjoyed my neighborhood, and thanks for coming along…………….Salud!

My morning at the Casa de la Cultura

With all the decisions I have made in my time, one of the best was to move to the island of Cozumel.  I’ve had the opportunity to explore ancient ruins, walk on beautiful beaches, wander through open air markets, and check out the lively nightlife.  But, this time I had a yearning for a bit of culture and, as luck would have it, I have made a new friend who knew exactly where I could go.  The Casa de la Cultura, located on Benito Juarez and 50 ave., is a haven for the artist in all of us.  It is where to go for plays, workshops, concerts, and art exhibitions for those days when just a bit of culture is what we are craving.

Yesterday I explored their newest art show, “Mar Nuestro,” which was full of creative examples from local artists.  I won’t be able to list  all their names, but here’s just a sampling of those whose works I was able to enjoy:  Alberran, Bulas, Canto, Carcamo, Mari, and Petit de Murat.    All the contributing artists are from here, and all of the pieces displayed were their interpretations of “Mar Nuestro,” or, in translation,  “Our Sea.”   As I walked around  I saw paintings, miniature sculptures, and one eclectic combination that just made me smile.  It was going to be a good morning.

After a short time I realized that not only were the art pieces for sale, but they were incredibly affordable.  At first, when I looked at prices such as $850, or $8,500, I assumed that they were in U.S. dollars.  Most art exhibits are typically so far out of my range that I resign myself to that “you can look, but you certainly can’t touch” attitude.  But, when I realized the prices were in pesos I began to look a lot more closely.  I’m almost at that point where I can start searching for the artwork that will help my apartment to feel more like a home.  And these were prices I could afford, mostly, and still be able to pay my rent.   So, needless to say, I got a bit more excited.

It didn’t hurt that my friend is also an artist since it made for interesting discussions, comparisons, and opinions.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not one who will stand in front of a Jackson Pollock and quote Nietzsche’s “one must still have chaos………to give birth to a dancing star.” That last part is a true story, by the way.  You see, it’s not that I can’t enjoy a Pollock, but having once lived in New York, where I visited many galleries,  I’ve had the displeasure to hear the black clad  pontificate (sorry, the only word that comes to mind).  Usually, when that would begin, I’d start to smile, than giggle and would have to just walk away.  But, thankfully, yesterday’s conversation didn’t go that route.  We just talked about the colors, reality vs. surrealism, the choice of frames, or whether or not we just plain liked something.  I was relieved.

One thing that I was nervous about, though, was borrowing someone’s camera.  I have my eye on a beauty with all the bells and whistles I could ask for, but I need to budget and had already sold mine to help get me started.  Now I don’t usually use any type of Photoshop tricks, but I was glad to discover that my computer has a built in photo program.  Let’s just say that some of my photos yesterday were not meant for public viewing.  But, I was able to compensate, I think.  I guess I’m just hoping that I did them justice.

We spent quite a bit of time on the first floor, but, eventually, wandered upstairs to see the rest.  Now, I’m not sure of the particular order of the pieces, but there were great examples of interpretation in both places.  However, just in case there was a reason for the order, let me point out that I’ve just displayed them here in a way that I liked, not necessarily in accordance to the exhibit itself. And, due to my experimenting with a new camera, I have often left out the frames that they all possessed.  It seems that I now have the occasional difficulty with getting the straightest, clearest shots, especially when using a digital that I have to hold out in front of me.   But, my friend was patient, which was a good thing since I needed to take most of the shots more than once.

After wandering the hall upstairs we came back down and I started to look a bit more at the pieces that seemed to be  tucked away.   There were a few almost hidden under the stairs and I really liked the theme of one of them.  A painting of an angelic woman reaching upwards caught my eye.  It took me a while to get the pic I wanted because the skin tones were lovely.  I made a few comments about it and then my friend smiled.  It turned out to be one of his, which made me glad that I’d noticed it.  That could have been awkward.

After that I looked around and realized how much I’d missed.  Although the exhibit wasn’t particularly large, I can tend to get so focused on one thing that I miss a lot of what else is around me.  I took the camera back out and saw that there was a woman’s face over there, a cross made of metal over that way, and a piece that actually did remind me, just a bit, of Pollock after all.  I had to smile since that is one artist that I can, as mentioned before, appreciate, but don’t understand.  Still, it was a great piece and had a flow to it that reminded me of waves in the sunset.  Maybe I could quote Nietzsche after all?  No, a few fun sculptures caught my eye before I could start and I began to work with angles to see how I could photograph them since they  were under glass.  Thankful for the glass doors that allowed natural light I didn’t have to worry about using a flash and got a few snapshots of them as well.  They were just fun to look at, as an adult anyway.  Not sure they should sit on a child’s nightstand, but that’s just me.

Well,  after about an hour it was time to head home.  I did my usual last walk around and grabbed a couple more pics before we left.  I also made a point of writing down the names of the artists whose work I enjoyed the most.  When interpretive beauty is affordable, I just know I’ll want a few pieces from those artists in the future.  Still, since I am on a budget, I’ll get that camera I need first.  Then, maybe, I can really show works such as these in the best possible manner.  Meanwhile, it was a great morning and I want to thank you for coming along.  Salud!

p.s. I am never compensated for these blogs, but I do like to share good experiences.

Oh, and I’d like to mention that the times for this exhibit are 9-1 and 4-7,  for about six more weeks,  check it out!

What it means to be “picked up”

As a  retiree who moved to the island of Cozumel I had simple goals.  Start a new life, basically from scratch, and finish my novel, which was barely begun.  Okay, so maybe those goals weren’t so simple, but they were doable.  On a teacher’s pension I’ve furnished a home, mostly, bought the clothing necessary for the climate, almost, and adopted and now care for two dogs, completely.  One simply can’t scrimp on the animals, as we all know.

So, when I finished my novel I celebrated.  After about a week of that I started the task of shopping around for an editor and a publisher.  For those of you who are writers, you know what that experience is like.  For those who aren’t let me put it this way.  Writing the book was easier.  It became a little harder since I discovered the word count is way more than a short story, but just under what is required for a novel.  I’m only under by a couple of thousand words, but,  yes, that’s important.  As a result,  it’s now called a chapbook, or at least that’s what I’ve been told, repeatedly.  Still, there was a nibble.  An editor out of Los Angeles felt that my work was worth taking a second look.  A little while later she told me that my work has been “picked up.”

Now, I’ve heard that expression before, but it never applied to literary works, as far as I knew.  The other little bit of knowledge that was news to me was that when one is “picked up” that means that changes are expected.  Now it seemed as if my former idea of what that expression meant was now much closer to the reality.  I can be grateful that I was noticed so quickly, but I still have to make some changes to be seriously considered.  That is, of course, if one wants to be picked up in the first place.  But, before I digress let me share the suggestions I’ve been given so far.

They aren’t crazy about the title.  Apparently it is too short and gives the reader absolutely no idea of what to expect.  Now, please do not feel that I am comparing myself to the following literary folk, I just want to use a few titles for examples.  Oh, and for those of you who’ve not read these works, let me give you a spoiler alert.   Okay, here goes…..

How many of you knew that a book titled “Anna Karenina” would lead to such a sweet woman’s suicide?  Or that “Romeo and Juliet” would lead to a double suicide, and of teens, no less?  Did the “Thin Man” cause you to think of Nick and Nora and their dog Asta solving crimes?  Now, again I want to reiterate that I am not comparing my work to Tolstoy,  Shakespeare, or Hammett, but if ambiguity was good enough for the pros, why not the rest of us?  Or, is that the problem?  Maybe one has to be multiply published, and sufficiently recognized,  before being obscure?

They are also not fond of the length of the chapters.  Again, if it was good enough for Andrew Vachss, whose chapters sometimes only contain a couple of paragraphs, why not me?  And, since my work is nonfiction, the only way that I can think of lengthening the chapters is to become ridiculously wordy, or alter the facts and I’m not willing to do either.

Finally, they would like to see more.  More of what? I asked.  “More details” they answered.  Okay, I can give them that and will do so, soon.  But, and here is the ongoing debate for all writers, artists, photographers etc., do we do what is good for us, or do we do what is wanted by the public?  These are often at opposite ends of the spectrum, but the reasoning is understandable.   Sometimes it’s all about the art, but, sometimes, it’s all about the money.

Now, as I’ve mentioned, I’ve just about finished purchasing all the things one needs to survive, and live fairly well, on a tight budget.  Did I run out of money a couple of times before the next pension check arrived?  Yes, but that was to be expected.  I was blindsided by my medical needs,  but, I know to budget for them now and will be purchasing the insurance necessary at the end of this very month.   I also wasn’t quite prepared for my last electric bill, but I’m ready for the next one.  These are the little things we learn when we move here.  It may be gorgeous, lush, and filled with friendly folk, including tourists, but life goes on no matter where we live.   It just took me a while to realize that I’m not on vacation, I live here, and I needed to adjust my spending accordingly.

Still, it would be nice to be published.  And the money would be great too.  But, at what price?  Do I stick to my guns, and eat a lot of beans and rice?   Okay, that might have been a bit extreme, but you can see where I’m going with this, yes?    A lot of questions for so early in the morning, I agree.  So, I think I will just mull it all over for a while longer since I’m now budgeted for life as it really is, not as I thought it was……….  Salud!

Just had to take a second look……..

Living on the island of Cozumel makes for a variety of choices.  Whether you are a diver, a runner,  a foodie, a drinker, or just like to wander about, there is something for everyone.  So why would someone who writes a blog about this island risk repeating herself when there are so many options?  Because the location was just that good the first time around. Yes, I’m talking about Buccanos, again, but I have an excuse.  It was a blue moon night, I was invited,  and it was the last weekend they would be open for dinners until November.

I was accompanied by the friend who’d recommended Buccanos in the first place.  I’d mention her name, but she once joked that she was in a witness protection program, so, just in case,  I’ll leave it be (she says with a wink).  Although we started about 6ish, I’d, as usual, forgotten something so we had to return to my apartment.  Once I had everything I needed, we set off about 6:30, or so, and arrived just in time to watch the pirate ship that slowly sails past at sunset.  It was fun to see just how many of us lined up with our cameras to get that perfect shot. And, just in case we missed it,  I think many of us were happy that it turned around and went past us again.

The tables had been arranged next to the pool so guests could, literally, eat under the stars.  And, the fact that there was a blue moon rising just made the evening that much better.  Anne, the hostess, immediately stopped by our table and made us feel welcome.  It became quite obvious that she and my friend had met before and, while they chatted, I just stared at Anne’s earrings with a bit of envy.  They were quite unusual;  long silver strands with turquoise feathers that stood out against her white dress.  She was kind enough to let me take a picture of her, and them, which made for a good start to the evening.

Soon after, Ines  (she and her husband, Juan, are the owners) also stopped by to say hello.  I found out it was her birthday and wondered how she felt working on her special day.  But, she was obviously enjoying herself and was kind enough to spend some time at our table.  Since my dinner companion doesn’t eat much, or so I was told, Ines was making sure  that she would order something that she’d enjoy.  They decided on the duck with a special, and spicy, sauce.  Me?  I ordered the mahi mahi with fresh broccoli that  lay on a bed of pasta with black olives and a variety of spices.  It was absolutely delicious.  Maybe there is something to being a foodie after all?  A question to answer another day, I suppose.  However, I do know that I would need to learn how to describe food much better than what you just read.  So, since I don’t know the right words let me say, once again, that it was wonderful.

While we were eating people frequently stopped by to say hello, which made for a fun time.   My friend seems to know just about everyone and I could only hope that I’ll remember their names if I see them again.  Then a couple, unknown to both of us, were taking each others’ picture fairly close to our table and my companion offered to take a photo of them together.  A little later we sat with them and they told us what they’d done on their vacation.  As is often the case, this was a repeat visit to the island.  If I remember correctly, I believe they’ve been coming for close to a decade now. As we talked a bit more the gentleman was nice enough to mention that he’d read my blog in the past.  I always enjoy it when someone mentions they like something that I’ve written, but I’m never quite sure how to respond.   Still, it was nice to hear.

But, it was time for me to walk around and snap a few more pics before we left,  so  I grabbed my camera and off I went.  I noticed that there were some lights that left little geometric shapes on the walls and I focused on those at first.  Then there were those  little touches that can be found everywhere.  A floral arrangement here, a grotto over there, it was just as magical at night, if not more so.   Once again I noticed that it was easy to just wander and explore.

After sitting and listening to the waterfall from the grotto for a few minutes I decided that one of my closing shots should be taken from the next floor up.  I climbed the stairs and headed over to where I could get a bird’s eye view of the dining area and the pool.  It turned out to be a good idea, in my opinion anyway.  I took the shot and then just stood there for a moment listening to the folks talking and laughing.  Everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves and I just stood still for a moment to take it all in.

But, I’d been gone for a while and it was time to head back to the table.  I did my usual last minute look around and took just a couple more shots.  Then we said our goodbyes to Anne and Ines, grabbed our things and headed to the car.  But, still, the moon was high, the breeze was strong and steady, but nothing could change the fact that the night was over.  Yes, it was another good time at Buccanos and I know that I will be looking forward to when they start serving dinners again.   Salud!

p.s. thank you Anne, Ines, and Juan for making it such a special night!