Tag Archives: music

Austin Lightning

Have you ever been struck by lightning?  You know those huge lightning strikes that stretch across the sky, branching in every direction and electrifying the entire cloudbank.  Well, there was such an event that occurred around, say 1983 through 1988, and the cloud was Austin, Texas.  Everyone in the the community was electrified, and some of us were hit with the full force of the bolt, blasted across the sky in a chaos of excitement and power.  Your name was on a hundred lips, and your mouth spoke a litany of names that you belonged to and belonged to you.  These faces were everywhere you looked, everywhere you went, each having a fascinating history and connected to the whole, your friend at your ear always whispering the significance of the personage that has appeared before you.  And we danced, dancing aggressively, in a frenzy, around the maypole or in a waltz, but always dancing, dancing to the music that was our common heartbeat, that kept the blood pulsing through our veins.  Sleep came when necessary, usually in the morning, when the chaos was least, and you could relax for a while knowing you weren’t missing too much.  But something was always happening.  You danced at work, in the park, in the club, coming on the dancefloor, holding the waist of the beauty in front of you while someone from behind you held your waist and the conga line increased its tempo until everyone was a human snake running ’round the Coliseum.  On and on it went, with the magicians on stage being the audience and the crowd being the spectacle, the lyrics of the song telling your story.  The intimacy was incredibly intense, making the body shiver with all the desire and possibilities, wanted and unwanted.

The force of the bolt climaxes, catapulting you into pure consciousness, beyond the concept of planet, you float in empty space. In darkness you hear the far off applause for your accomplishment.  Eventually you awaken, thousands of miles away, on a sidewalk by a foreign road, a burnt cinder.  Now, decades later, of all the millions of events, places, people and experiences that were there, only one mythic name does the World remember:  Stevie Ray Vaughan.

 

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The Chick

The Chick

This is the first painting I made in what I coined the Matrix Pointelist style. It is from a newsprint photo of a local singer named Anneke Speller, but the guys around the house always referred to it as “the chick.”


Remake of Johnny Nash Classic


Journey Through Latin America (Part 16)

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It was hot and sweaty in Tecun Uman, Guatemala, where I had to take one of these tricycle taxis from the bus station to the Mexican border.  It was much cheaper to walk across the bridge then to pay $4 to be tricycled across.  Guatemalan and Mexican immigration was smooth enough, although a slow and sweaty process.  From there I took a shuttle to Tapachula, where I had to wait a couple of hours for the bus to Arriaga.  It gave me time to relax and have some good Mexican tacos.  It seems to me that Mexican tortillas are the best.

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I enjoyed a night and a day in Arriaga, Mexico where I had stayed before, at the Hotel Chiapas, although they had raised their rates somewhat since I was here in October.  I had more great Mexican street tacos, then in the morning an incredible breakfast buffet for $4 that set me up through lunch.  I had to wait all day and into the night for my bus to leave for Oaxaca at 9PM.  It was nice to be in a real bus station rather than just a spot on the sidewalk.

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I slept on the bus all night and arrived in Oaxaca around 5AM, so the Hostel Paulina, where I had stayed in October, only charged me for the following night.  Breakfast was included, and the staff recognized me and requested a musical performance.  I gave them a Promo CD of Luis Sabor and the next morning they were playing it for the breakfast service.

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I really like Oaxaca, Mexico.  It is one of the few large state capital cities that still retain a relaxed atmosphere, despite being very busy and offering a great deal of opportunities for shopping and entertainment.  It is similar to Leon, Nicaragua in this regard.  I enjoyed visiting a large mercado, where I tried on a sombrero, since I had accidentally left my leather hat on a bus in Escuintla.

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I also tried a few of these “chapulines”: chili-fried crickets, at the insistence of my friend Porfirio, whom I had met back in October when I was busking in the Plaza.  Porfirio and I talked a great deal and he had an interesting story to tell.  Having grown up on the streets, he had just spent his first entire year dependence-free, after being addicted to heroin for six years.  It was inspiring to hear how he had pulled himself out of the gutter, literally, with the help of God, to escape the living hell he had endured.  He was incredibly optimistic, and I have felt compelled to pray for him, as his trials certainly cannot be over.

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After just two days in Oaxaca, I was ready to board another bus for a long trip to Puebla.  The bus stations were starting to resemble airports now, and the buses were more comfortable, including bathrooms and movies, although much more expensive than in other countries.

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Journey Through Latin America (Part 14)

Okay, I’m now well on my way back home to Arizona.  I flew from Lima, Peru to San Jose, Costa Rica which cost a bit more than I had planned.  When I arrived at the ticket counter in Lima the young lady informed me that Costa Rica would not allow me to enter the country after being in Peru without a yellow fever vaccination, ten days prior to entering Costa Rica.  How could I do that? I was not allowed to switch my flight to another country, and staying in Lima for another 10 days would cost hundreds of dollars.  As it turned out, the airline is accustomed to the situation and set me up with a valid vaccination document pre-dated by 15 days from a nearby hospital, and I just had to pay $210 (to tip everyone involved)  Well it sucked, but everything went smoothly after that , and I was so happy to land in Costa Rica.  I immediately felt my spirits rise as I stepped out into the relatively fresh air of Alajuela, and I enjoyed a good night at the nearby Hostel Maleku, where I had stayed before.

The next morning I took out just a little bit more colones from the ATM than I had caluculated to get me to San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua.  The bus ride was a bit long, but not uncomfortable, and we stopped halfway to Liberia for a break, which has been rare on my trip.  In Liberia I met two Swedish girls who were also on the way to San Juan del Sur, so we went through customs together, lucky for them, for they had no dollars, and Nicaragua doesn’t accept anything else to enter the country.  I lent them the $24 they needed, then we shared a taxi to San Juan, and they paid me back when we arrived at the Surfing Donkey.  It was great to see friendly faces, and I was amazed at how many of the guys had stayed on to become employees there.

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I rested at San Juan del Sur just a couple of days, and it was great to hit the beach and swim in the pool and eat Nicaraguan food.  The second and last night I was there, the Surfing Donkey folks decided to try out a new drinking game concept:  1 shot of rum every 5 minutes until you pass out or vomit.  Sounds fun huh? right, well I was one of a number of observers and eventually caregivers to the four participants.  It was pretty funny the first hour, then it got a little scary.  Three folks were sick or passed out within 1 1/2 hours, and the winner, Dan the Bear that Grills, was still steady.

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I woke up early the next morning, did a short Qi Gong workout, then heaved my backpack on, picked up my guitar, and walked a few blocks to catch the direct bus to Managua.  When I reached Managua I had to take a taxi across town to the station for buses to Leon, but it all went smoothly and a couple of hours later I was paying another taxista in Leon just $1 to take me to Lazybones Hostel, where I had spent a week back in November.  This time in Leon I decided to make an effort to photograph people, which I am rather uncomfortable doing.  Most of the time people don’ t like to be photographed by strangers, so some of the photos I just shot from the hip so to speak ( more like from the chest.)

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Besides the swimming pool at Lazybones, I had been looking forward to two things in Leon: Asado Pelibuey (bbq lamb) and some excellent French pastries.  Saturday night they ran out of pelibuey, so I had to eat chicken, but it was awesome with the gallo pinto, tortilla, slaw and fried plantain.  Then Sunday morning the French bakery was closed, but I bought some delicious bbq pork  at the market served on mashed yuca (manioc) and slaw, wrapped in a banana leaf.  Monday I had my pastry and my pelibuey.

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Yes that is iguana for sale in the Leon market downtown, although I never saw it offered on any menu.  I just stayed in Leon a couple of days but as luck would have it, or as a gift from above, I stopped to listen to a band begin their set on an open-air stage downtown and when I heard the Santana style I hurried back to the hostal for my guiro.  I started playing along and the band members called me up onstage and we jammed out for a couple of hours to a very appreciative crowd.

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I woke up before dawn and did some Qi Gong under the stars by the pool, then I grabbed my belongings and took a taxi to the bus station.  The direct bus to the El Salvadoran border had left at 4:30 AM, so I took a chicken bus to Chinandega, then a shuttle to the border, watching the Volcan Chinandega as I left Nicaragua.

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Journey Through Latin America (Part 12)

 

 

 

 

After resting up in Liberia, Costa Rica for a few days, I was ready for the journey to Monteverde.   Offered every taxi driver on the plaza 500 colones, or one dollar, to take me to the bus terminal, but they all turned me down and I just heaved my backpack and guitar the six blocks and got on a bus to Cañas.

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From Cañas I took a short ride to Tilaran, where we waited an hour for the bus to Monteverde.  Seeing Tilaran I wished I had spent a couple of days there instead of Liberia, but it was too late to stop there as I was rapidly approaching my flight date of Dec 12 out of San Jose.  At the bus stop I ran into a nice Dutch lady named Lisel, whom I had met in Liberia, and who has been riding a bicycle all over Costa Rica.  What fun!  She was taking the bus to Monteverde, however, because the road is steep and rough.  The road is indeed rough, and my bladder seemed so full by the time we finally arrived in Santa Elena, the actual town near the Monteverde Reserve.  The road was so dusty that my backpack and guitar , which had been stored below, were covered with a thick layer of it.

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The scenery was quite beautiful and cool as we climbed up into the clouds.  In Santa Elena I stayed at a recommended hostel, Pension Santa Elena, which is quite reasonable and just a block from the bus stop, and is run by a brother/sister team from Austin, Texas with the surname of Smith.

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After talking to the beautiful receptionist about my journey, I set off for the bar Tres Monos that she recommended as a place I might perform my show as Luis Sabor.  After talking to the owner, we arranged for me to play that Saturday night at the Dikary Restaurant, which turned out to be alot of fun.

The day before the show was when I made the mandatory journey to the cloudforest.  Most of the other travellers I met were also taking zip line tours, night tours, bungee jumping and many other fun things, but my budget allowed me only the walk in the jungle.  I loved it.

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I first saw an agouti sniffing around the banana trees at the entrance, then I glimpsed a light-colored coyote and a raptor of some sort, and I heard what may have been a toucan.  Later on I heard and saw a troop of coatimundis, one of which was quite large, but I couldn´t get a good shot for a photo, and it was rather dark.  I started shooting with abandon and took a video as well, and suddenly my battery was dead.  A while later I saw some white-faced capuchin monkeys and miraculously my camera had just enough juice left for a photo.

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A friend of mine from Tucson, Susu,  whom I had not seen for 13 years lives in Monteverde with her Tico husband Marcos who is an excellent guide, and they graciously invited me to stay with them a couple of nights in their lovely new house with their lovely new daughter Eva, who is absolutely adorable.

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Susu´s parents have a large property and gorgeous home, complete with orchard and greenhouse, and there is a large section of the land that is easily as pleasant to walk through as the reserve.  The following photos should make it obvious why so many retirees move to Costa Rica.

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The last night in Monteverde we went to a choir performance directed by Susu´s father Hugh Gray and featured the Smith family, of Pension Santa Elena.  It really is a small, close-nit community, and I think within a few weeks I could have met most of the members.    I really enjoyed my visit there and hope to come back, but I have a plane to catch in San Jose, bound for Lima, Peru.

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Journey Through Latin America (Part 8)

It took slightly less than 12 hours to travel from Alegria, El Salvador to Leon, Nicaragua.  I woke up at five AM so I could do some rudimentary Chi Gong exercises before catching the 6 AM chicken bus to Santiago de Maria, then another bus to San Miguel, then another still to El Amatillo at the border with Honduras.  Two enthusiastic young men immediately helped me into  tricyclo taxi and pushed me through both immigration posts and left me at the shuttle for Nicaragua.  This was a ¨”combi” that had to fill all 12 seats before we left.  The highway in Honduras was full of potholes, but the worst part was arriving at the Nicaraguan border where more enthusiastic men wanted to help me, though this time I was not being pushed around as easily.  The immigration post in Nicaragua was the worst I´ve yet seen: unorganized, took 30 minutes, half of which for the official to get change for my $20, the fee was $12.

I had a leisurely lunch at the bus stop and took another shuttle to Chinandega, then yet another to Leon, where I finally got a cheap taxi, just $1 to my hostel.  I was so glad Lazybones had a swimming pool.  I was exhausted.

 

Leon is an interesting place.  I like it, so its difficult to describe accurately without seeming derogatory.  Its dirty, yes, but by now I´ve come to the conclusion that garbage exists whether it is hidden or not, so I´m not offended.  Its old and lots of buildings are falling apart.  It is lively and offers a lot for the wanderer to see.  I feel like it is Antigua´s opposite in some ways, dark and seedy, and not entirely tourist minded.  It took me a while to get some shots of the ubiquitous horse and cart.

 

I can´t say that Nicaragua is significantly cheaper than El Salvador, but I have found a couple of places where I can eat well for under $2.  One is Pelibuey (Nicaraguan for Lamb) where it is hot and sweaty, like most of Leon, and the racket next door is from a gym.  Well, the racket is mostly from the street, its very noisy in Leon.  The other good spot is a French bakery called Pan y Paz where I took this photo (the juice is guayaba and the croissant chocolate) first class quality.

I´ve been here a few days, mostly just to recover from that horrendous day of travelling.  I lucked out and caught a Cuban Trova act at La Olla Quemada,  Fulancito y Tal, really world-class performance.  I finally felt like I was in the Leon of my imagination.  Alas, I did not have my camera.


Journey Through Latin America (Part 5)

Antigua Guatemala was really great.  The hostal I stayed at for a week happened to be Salsa Central, where four different dance instructors gave group and private lessons.  As a result I made dozens of friends, listened to great music, and really felt at home.  Friday night I took my Guiro to Las Palmas and talked the owner and band into letting me play with them, and it was great fun.  There were a few extended songs of over 15 minutes that really pushed me to the limit, then after the band stopped I got to dance a few songs with some beautiful ladies I had met.  There were actually more friends there than if I had gone out to a club in my home town of Tucson Arizona.

Sunday I took a shuttle to Guatemala City where I got a “first class” bus to San Salvador.  I met a Canadian couple, Eric and Heather, at the bus station and it turned out we were headed to the same hostal( #1 on hostelworld.com) .  The ride to El Salvador was very short and smooth, and when we got to the border there was no immigration post per se, just some military guys who checked our luggage and passports and asked alot of questions.  The ride to San Salvador was pleasant and when we arrived a local lady overheard me ask about taxis and made a call to a Christian Taxi service for us.  Eric and Heather and I shared a taxi to the hostal and then shared dorm room as well.  The Hostal Cumbres del Volcan is one of the cleanest and most civilized I’d seen, and only $8 a night.  The downside was that it was in a residential area and there wasn’t any place even to buy a soda within five blocks.  I didn’t bother taking any photos because it was just an urban center that could have been anywhere on the planet.  I spent Monday promoting my music show at a number of five-star hotels and restaurants,  I have a solo act as Luis Sabor, singing and playing guitar.   I didn’t expect any response right away, so I left for Santa Ana, which is actually back North a couple of hours.  This is a town more to my liking and I found a great Hostal Casa Verde just blocks from the center of town.

This is really an awesome hostel, just look at the view from the rooftop terrace here.  It has free internet I’m using at the moment, clean everything, and one of the best kitchens you could imagine. The owner Carlos is very friendly and helpful, has designed this place in a very intelligent manner.  When he found out what I was doing he immediately called up a nearby cafe and I played there Wednesday night, and I’m going to play there again Friday.   The interesting contrast I am seeing between Guatemala and El Salvador is that in Guatemala, Xela and Antigua at least, the rooms were really cheap but it was a challenge finding a cheap meal.  Here its in reverse: rooms are twice as much ($9!) but cheap food is everywhere.  It will be easy to keep below my daily budget of $20 here, so maybe I can make up for my expenses in Mexico.

The weather is really my style, WARM, but with a constant breeze.  As long as you stay in the shade its very comfortable.  No need to use a towel after a shower, and of course there are no blankets, just thick sheets.  The hostal here is just blocks from the market, but the whole center of town is just one big bustling entrepreneurial zone.  Just about anything is offered in any of  dozens of shops of various sizes, including folks with just a basket or cart.  Tomorrow I plan to make a video of a walk through the market which should be very entertaining.  One thing different about El Salvador markets from other places I’ve seen is the abundance of pharmacy outlets everywhere, sometimes right next to a food stall in the market.  Perhaps there are no licenses required to sell pharmaceuticals because  I’ve even seen guys selling packaged medicine on the sidewalk.

In all, Santa Ana seems to be a very pleasant place just to kick back for a few days, which is just what I plan to do.


Journey Through Latin America (Part 4)

 

I left Xela around 8AM, taking a taxi to the Alamo bus terminal and ,putting my guitar and backpack below, I had a nice trip to Chimaltenango, where I had to step off, as the bus was going on to Guatemala City and I was going to Antigua.  I was hungry and tired so I found a comedor quite near the turnoff, and had a thin piece of steak and tortillas, beans etc.  A couple of young men, already drunk, sat down nearby and started talking to me about where I´m from etc.  After my meal they convinced me to play a couple of songs, and I have to say I´ve never had  a more enthusiastic response, singing along offkey and everything. “You´re Fantastic! Uno mas por favor!”  I didn´t think they would be happy with one more, so I slid out as quickly as I could and heaved my luggage a block to where a “chicken bus” was waiting. They heaved my backpack on the roof, hopefully secured it in place, and I climbed in the back door with my guitar in front of my seat.  It was a not unpleasant bumpy, half hour or so to Antigua, where I descended into one of the most busiest chicken bus centrals I´ve seen.

 

I struggled with my luggage to the address of Jungle Party Hostel, recommended my Lonely Planet, and it was everything they said it would be.  It would have been a perfect place for me twenty years ago, but I felt too old to hang with the crowd, who enjoyed a great happy hour listening to reggae music and cool rap until late in the evening, long after I was asleep.  I shared a dorm room with some Australian surfers who were heading to El Salvador for what is reputed to be the best waves in Central America.  I wasn´t thrilled with my lodgings, even though it was only around $6 a nite including a decent breakfast, so I was happy to meet Lhena through Couchsurfing, who offered me a place to stay at her home.

 

 

 

 

 

Unfortunately Lhena lives a long uphill twenty-minute walk from the center of town, so it wasn´t the best arrangement.  Her house is located near a beautiful park where I enjoyed my morning Qi Gong exercises under the pines, just a few yards away from these beautiful Spanish ruins:

 

 

I hit all the restaurants I had a line on that I could find, and I got a gig Saturday night at Rainbow Cafe, which coincidentally happened to be the same restaurant I had visited 15 years ago, and which I had been thinking about playing at for several years now.  Sometimes things are very interesting in that way.  Had a good show, got paid, and got a very good plate of food to boot.  Might be playing there again when I return in February next year.  Late at night I had to take a taxi back to Lhena´s, so that cost a bit.  Next day I moved to a new hostel just a block from the Plaza, and though it is a dorm, so far I don´t have to share it.  Got a great weekly rate, around $4 a nite, so I´ll be in Antigua until next Sunday.

 

 


Journey through Latin America (Part 2)

I stayed in Morelia for five days and got very rested up from my long trip there and what was sure to be a long trip to Oaxaca.  The trip to Oaxaca was indeed difficult.  I had to wait in the terminal at Morelia until 2PM for the bus to Puebla, as there wasn’t a direct route to Oaxaca.  Eight hours later I struggled with my heavy backpack and guitar through the huge terminal at Puebla where I discovered I had just missed the latest bus by 15 minutes and had to wait until Midnight for the next one.  I had a nice sandwich (Torta) and waited.  The trip to Oaxaca was only  four hours, and I slept the whole way.  I had made reservations the previous day for the Hostel Paulina, so I felt confident arriving there at 4:30AM, and they didn’t even charge me for that night.  It turned out to be a great deal, including a satisfying breakfast included, for around $15 and night.

garden at Hostel Paulina, Oaxaca, Mexico

 

The hostel was populated by a large group of students studying Acts (from the Bible) of the Covenant Church.  They were great folks, mostly Swedish with some Central American kids as well, and we got along quite well especially after I started playing guitar and singing.  I stayed in a dorm room, but shared it only with one Japanese guy who was very agreeable.

I spent my days taking my promo packets to hotels and restaurants, and I had interviews with a couple of interested parties, but mostly I played my music in the Central Plaza with my guitar case open for tips.  I gained a few dollars a day, enough for lunch, and I met a number of friendly locals that were big music fans.  One interesting fellow named Porfirio Diaz (!) had a helluva story to tell:  he had been a heroin addict for the last 20 years and finally pulled himself out of the gutter and was working in a sports shop in Morelia, just visiting family in Oaxaca, and passing the days shining shoes for extra cash.  He’s a really good guy and I sure hope he can keep on keeping on.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oaxaca was actually quite comfortable, but even with the cheap hotel and free breakfast, lunch and dinner were pushing me over my $20 a day budget, so I was ready to head south.  My goal was Tehuantepec, a little town half way to the border of Guatemala that I had visited fifteen years before.  The trip was a long four hours and when I arrived I made the mistake of hoisting on my backpack and walking from the bus terminal to the hotel I had stayed at long ago.  The town had grown enormously and I was in great pain from walking more than ten blocks when I arrived at the Hotel Donaji, which had since become a grand hotel charging $30 a night for a single with only a fan.  I felt I had no choice, so I forked it over and planned to get up early to catch the early morning bus to Arriaga. 

 

 

The ride to Arriaga was quite pleasant, even though the bus was second class and spent alot of time picking up students and locals along the way.  Arriaga was much more my kind of town, and I could have spent more time there if I wasn’t so eager to reach Guatemala.  The taxi driver took me to a brand new hotel that charged $15 a night for single with fan.  The market was just a couple of blocks away.

I bought a few tacos at around .5o cents each, then bought some avocado, cheese and tortillas for my dinner.  When I got back to my room I realized I had forgotten my avocado, so I hustled back to the same vendor and told them what happened, and they went ahead and gave me my avocado without argument.

 


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