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October 22, 2012
Mineral de Pozos: Life among the ruins in a Mexican mining town

by John Scherber, reprinted with permission from MexConnect,

I just returned from a trip to Real de Catorce, which I imagine has a lot in common today with the way San Miguel de Allende was 40 years ago. Mineral de Pozos is another mining town that is reminiscent of SMA's ruinous past. I first visited it to attend Kate McKenna's closing at Nick Hamblen's Gallery 6. (Nick is quoted in this article. Kate's show is here in SMA at Aldama 3 until the end of this month.)

When you visit Mineral de Pozos (a 75 minute drive from SMA) see the town first, saving the ruins for later. After the ruins continue out along the well-maintained dirt road through the mountains. The rock formations and the views are spectacular. When you get to the highway go south.

- Dr David (Fialkoff)

3 towers
stone construction

Driving up the long rise into Mineral de Pozos, framed by the gray-brown humpbacked mountains once laced with veins of silver and gold, the visitor first sees the stone walls of the cemetery, the panteón, before he enters the town.

It seems like a fitting introduction to a city that nearly died itself, sinking from a population of about 75,000 in 1900 to only 200 residents fifty years later. It was not the plague that caused this decline, although it must have felt like it as house after house fell silent, as real estate became nearly worthless, as schools closed and civic life dried up. For a variety of reasons - the revolution of 1910, the flooding of the mines, the exhaustion of productive ore - the glory days were over.

In keeping with the Mexican view that death is only a part of life (the longer part), the above-ground tombs of the cemetery enclosure are as bright and as individual as the characters who occupy their narrow plots. Several have domed tops. Many are covered with decorative ceramic tile, like a kitchen counter or an upscale parlor floor. Others display elaborate cornices and stone balusters surrounding them.

The housing designs of the dead bow to no codes here. One feature many have are the tubes opening in the top to let in offerings of food, beer, or tequila on the Day of the Dead, where families gather next to the tombs and celebrate through the night. The fiestas of eternity can be just as raucous as any during the earlier parts of life, with music blaring and fireworks erupting. One advantage is that the partiers don't have to get up and go to work the morning after.

One sadder feature of the panteón, because death is not recognized among the sadder features of existence, is that - like Pozos - it's a ghost town in itself. It is less than half filled, and has gradually run low on customers. Standing behind the last row of tombs, I covered my eyes to study the weedy terrain leading all the way to the back wall. The plot had been laid out soon after 1900, when the future had a different look.

Driving into town, the first building that came into view looked fresh and recent in construction, although traditional in design, with a façade of irregular stone like that of the cemetery. Surrounding it were the ruins and broken walls of many others. Like an x-ray, these walls offer lessons in traditional construction techniques. Beneath the stucco, long fallen away, layers of mud brick, dissolving year-by-year back into the soil, alternate with narrow courses of stone.

festive graveyard
ancient house


The old roof beams are long gone, salvaged for firewood as the town shrank. Some months, Pozos can take on a notable chill at night, standing as it does at 7500 feet. In the complete absence of any new construction, at mid-century no further structural need could be found for the beams that remained on abandoned properties, but the fireplace beckoned in a compelling way.

This visit began to feel like an assignment to investigate the wreckage of a war-torn city in Germany in 1946, where the rubble in many quarters hadn't yet been cleared. The same condition set the tone the farther I went, but then small stores (tiendas) began to appear, then a tiny restaurant. These were buildings covered to the weather.


In another block I stopped at a small plaza, the Jardin Principal. It had living trees, and at its edges women poked at improvised grills with roasting ears of corn still in their husks. Flat griddles held sizzling gorditas. Children chased each other, laughing...

To read the rest of the article please click here

or visit-

arches against sky
October 15, 2012
Patty Arrieta- dance, passion and pain

Danza Arrieta Dance

Patty is in motion. Even at rest her body suggests movement, what has been, what is coming, a promise or a reminder. Dancer, choreographer, teacher, she expects and expresses a lot from herself. Our interview, conducted in the courtyard behind Starbucks, brought me to the verge of tears as Patty chronicled the commitment, discipline and struggle with which she has pursued her art. "'Passion,'" she reminded me, "means 'suffering.'" There are, she told me, one hundred different ways of moving your arm away from your body, and I reflected that there are also one hundred different ways of measuring success.

Patty has the great advantage of knowing who she is, a dancer. There was, no doubt, a cellular memory of dance passed to her in the womb from her mother who was herself a professional dancer. Dance is what she does. She practices, but how to make that practice practical in the world, how to make her art financially sustainable is for her an ongoing exploration. She has been successful at that, but she continues to adventure, continues to age, continues to grow, refining her art and her person.

Patty is a good friend of my daughter and some months ago was helping her pack for a trip. The process involved her taking articles of clothing one by one from the bed a short way across the room to where the suitcase rested on the floor. She performed this repetitive task, lift, transfer, forward bend with a joyful body, feeling each nuance of position and transition, transforming the ordinary into art. It is a part of her and she of it; "I've been told," she confessed, "that I point my toes in my sleep."

Stay in touch with Patty:
Danza Arrieta Dance Facebook

- Dr Dave (Fialkoff)

suspended woman
photo by Duncan Tonatiuh
pose in archway
photo by Duncan Tonatiuh
I was born in Guadalajara. At five we moved to San Francisco Bay Area, which is where I grew up. I started off doing competitive gymnastics as a kid. That taught me a lot of discipline. A year before high school, I started dance; my mother had been a professional dancer with the Ballet Folklorico de Mexico de Amalia Hernandez. I danced through high school and went off after to New York City, where I received a scholarship to study at Alvin Ailey. My whole world opened; I really was exposed to the kind of dance that passionately inspires me- modern and contemporary. I spent 13 years there.

I started coming to San Miguel de Allende in 2006 to work with Carly Cross in her summer arts program, MexArt. Every summer since, I'd stay a little longer. Two years ago now I decided to leave New York and more fully pursue my vision as a choreographer and an artistic director of my own work. Doing that in New York is very expensive.

I had already been involved working with Gravityworks and Nisha Ferguson. She contacted me to teach her son dance. I had wanted to try aerial work for a long time, so we made a trade. After a few months she invited me to be a part of the company. Gravity Works is an aerial troupe. We perform in San Miguel, all over Mexico and internationally, specializing in new circus arts, silks, hoop trapeze, straps, etc. It's really helped my dance and to face my fear of heights. I'm constantly challenged by the work. It's something new to explore. It's good to start at the beginning of something and see yourself growing, getting stronger and better, little improvements every week. That's an exciting process.

At this point I'm extending out to the dance community in Mexico and really all over the world, taking the next steps in my career as a professional, both as a dancer and a dance maker. It's a lot different when you're a young artist in your 20s, versus an artist in your 30s. It will continue to be different in my 40s and my 50s. I'm finding ways to continue as a professional and growing in that as I develop in age and in my artistry.

There are auditions in New York where you don't even dance a step. The first thing they do is put you in a line. They walk down the line and they say yes, no, no, no, no, yes, no, no… That is their first cut, just based on the look of the dancer, the body type that the choreographer needs. There's a lot of rejection, getting knocked down, picking yourself back up, getting out there and doing it again, letting go of your ego.

Having danced professionally in New York for so many years, being in that demanding world, you're dancing with the best of the best, being able to hold your own in that situation, for me I know I've already proven to myself, what I'm capable of. So I made the decision to leave New York. Why keep in the rat race, not just in the dancers' world but in what New York demands of you. It is such an expensive city and you do have to be constantly producing in order to keep up. I stepped out of it and moved in an unknown direction which has possibilities for me to grow as an artist, to take the next steps that will help me become the person that I am meant to be. I didn't come to SMA to retire. I am looking to make connections within Mexico and reach out to the professional dance communities where there are more people doing what I do. San Miguel is this wonderful place where I can come and give and teach and create but not necessarily have to be concerned with making a living here.

leaning back
photo by Holly Wilmeth
long shell
photo by Luc Bedard
In these last few months I've been looking to renegotiate and reprioritizing what's important in my personal and professional life. It's very important to be ok with where we're at in this moment. Sometimes I think to myself, oh you're not pushing yourself far enough. While I think it's good to challenge ourselves and keep ourselves accountable, at the same time we need to accept ourselves, to accept that this moment is important, to not have expectations but to really accept who we are and what we have to offer, and be clear on that so that we can move forward and offer that in a clear and productive way.

After leaving and finding myself in this totally new situation I had to question myself; did I make the right choices? am I falling behind? do I need to get back there so I can keep up with the best of the best? I'm somewhat still going through the transition of leaving. So it's a gift to sit with you today and reaffirm that this is all a process and this is who we are as people and this is how we share who we are and to keep that as the truth and integrity of our work and not worry about the outside message or circumstance. Nowadays on the internet everyone can be a star. Really it's about the quality of your work. Hopefully when people interact with me and come to my classes and see my work, that stands out for itself.


Now here in San Miguel I'm teaching one master class every month, a different movement style every month. It's a 3 hour class, very focused and complete. Last month it was jazz with a modern twist. This month (Sunday Oct 21) we'll be doing hip-hop. so that’s fun. Next month it will be contemporary.

It's wonderful to get positive feedback from people. Hopefully, I bring integrity and knowledge and experience to my classes and my work as a dancer and choreographer. I'm seeing what other opportunities there are. I'd love to travel around Mexico teaching.

In your 20s you're more accepting of being broke. You're fighting harder. You have to scratch your way and make a name for yourself. As I get older my needs have changed. The woman that I am at 33 is different than the woman I was at 23. It is definite that this is what I do in my life; I'm a dancer. This is who I am. This is the course that I've taken. The question is, how do I sustain myself doing it professionally from here forward. There's a change in my body. I am getting older. Things don't come as easily to me. I have to take care of my body in a different way as far as warming up, cooling down, paying more attention, managing pain. As a woman, if and when does a family fit in? If I do have kids, how do I become a mother and still be a dancer? It's about figuring it out as the years go by; how do you keep moving forward and pursuing not only your passion and your first love but also this thing that you make money doing?

I've had the great fortune to work with amazing teachers.. They're not on the frontlines; they're not always seen or known, but their importance is huge. I really enjoy teaching, the giving, the exchange. It's been such a blessing for me and hopefully for my students

It's really hard to make money as a working artist. It's really hard to separate this thing that you love and is so personal to you and then put it out there as a way of making money. Sometimes those two things come into conflict. Financial stability is unpredictable as a working artist, so teaching has been a blessing. It allows me income and challenges me in ways that promote growth.

The definition of "passion" is "suffering" and that's certainly true, not just in an emotional or an esoteric sense or in the sacrifices one makes, but physically, mentally, in every way.

The amount of time that I have dedicated to being in class and learning my skills and my trade. so that now it comes naturally… I have been told I point my toes in my sleep.

portait with wilflowers
photo by Nisha Ferguson
framed in arch
photo by Duncan Tonatiuh

My foundation is in technique, ballet and modern. I use technique as a tool when creating my choreography along with improvisation. There is a freedom of movement, but it draws from the technical principles of dance, like a classically trained musician who is then able to play different genres of music

All dancers should train in classical ballet. It's the foundation of dance, the basis of everything. It teaches you the body awareness needed to move your body in intricate, subtle, dynamic, different ways that are interesting when creating a piece of work, choreographing or performing and connecting with an audience, or just experimenting at home or in a dance studio with a group of people where you're all improvising together, to be able to listen to the cues. Classical ballet gives you all that. I love it, but when I first started doing it I hated it. I found it boring, doing the same exercises over and over again.

But practice makes perfect. You have to teach your body how to do these 25 different steps and be able to put them together in different sequences. It's not the most exhilarating thing in the world to go in and do your plies. But then once it starts clicking, and you start feeling your turnout, and you start implementing the approach into your dancing, and noticing how it's changing and how it's developing, it gets really exciting. Then it becomes a game; how can you best accomplish the task at hand? There are so many things you have to think about in the simple plie; thinking about all those things and implementing them, but then also making it look effortless; thinking about your technique and dancing through it; expressing yourself as a dancer and not just as a technician; taking the technique and expressing it in an artistic way.

Two dancers express the same step in different ways. That is artistic nuance and sensitivity. You can take an arm movement and do it fast, in staccato or do it slow and soft or do it with energy extending out through your fingertips or bringing the energy into your body. There are hundreds of different ways of putting your arm out to the side. Why do you move your body in that way? What are you expressing? What in the music are you trying to express? What inspires emotion from an audience member?

One of my favorite things is walking into the studio on the first day, as a dancer or as a choreographer, walking in with nothing but a clean canvas, a blank slate. It's a great opportunity. There's no limit and no boundary. You can just create, just have fun. I go into the studio and record and dance and dance and maybe out of that there's a 30 sec segment that I'll put in a piece of choreography. It's the freedom to walk in like a painter with a blank canvas and go at it, let go, not thinking about it, just moving and feeling what feels right to your body in that moment, developing that work. It's such a wonderful process and like we were saying I feel very blessed to have that outlet.

I've seen dancers go on stage, professionals, and fall out of their turns, miss a step, but their intention, what they were giving in their spirit and expressing as artists was so much richer and greater than the couple of missed steps. A professional has to let go of the expectation of going on stage and being perfect. I had to let go of that because I started out in competitive gymnastics where you have to be perfect, to hit your routines. But as a performing art, dance is not about how perfect your steps are, it's about you giving your spirit and expressing a point of view as a dancer. It's not about being the perfect technical dancer. It's about reaching the people in the last row of the balcony with your energy, spirit and really who you are as an artist.

swirled blue dress
photo by Luc Bedard
sunset roof
photo by Luc Bedard
Dance Notes- by Beverly Spiro

SMA is known as an artist’s colony. What are most visible are the galleries of art, the many musical events, the Writer’s Conference, and the wonderful crafted items in shops and at fairs. What is less commented upon is the extraordinary array of dance that exists here. From the indigenous dancing we see at festival time, to the range of styles and techniques taught and performed, dance is one of the best kept secrets of the SMA art experience.

I hope to correct this by introducing a regular page exploring the breadth and depth of dance in San Miguel. Interviews with teachers, performers, and students, reviews of performances, announcements of dance events, all will be covered to bring to all a sense of the richness of the dance as it exists here.

I am a former professional dancer, and forever a dancer at heart. Starting ballet at a young age and continuing with jazz and improve during high school, I devoted myself to dance in my twenties and received a Master’s in Dance from Mills College as well as studied and performed with various companies in the Bay Area. The ‘Turning Point” came in my late twenties when I chose to leave dance for a world of more security, becoming a Nurse Practitioner, and ultimately raising a family. But my love of dance never faltered and coming to San Miguel has enabled me to return to one of the loves of my life, by taking classes, starting a new dance company for those who “love to dance”, and taking to the pen(or computer) to support and promote dance . One of the joys and privileges of being in San Miguel is to witness the creative energy and indomitable spirits of people of all ages living their passions with enthusiasm. I want to be one of those people as I reenter the dance world.

Please join me in bringing dance to the foreground in San Miguel. I encourage others to contribute to “Dance Notes” by sending me items that would be of interest to the SMA dance community. Please e-mail me at

October 8, 2012
Michael Lambert- Pushing Rivers, Saving Water

Amigos de la Presa: Solve the Water Crisis and Have Fun While You're at It

Whoever said, "You can't push a river" never met Michael Lambert. Michael has been advocating for water, very successfully, for decades; first for 18 years in Pittsburgh as founder and head of Three Rivers Rowing Association (1,000 daily rowers, $5 million+ assets) and president of Friends of the Riverfront, where he was at the heart of Pittsburgh's renaissance ("Best US Retirement City" AARP 2012) and since 2006 here in San Miguel de Allende as chief of Amigos de la Presa. His rowing program has been the model for many other cities.

Michael, even while he was meeting with the elites of major corporations to plan revitalization from the top down, has always advocated a community approach. He builds constituencies in the most natural way possible, by putting communities in touch with the resources that need saving. You might call it "grassroots", but since it's on the water, with paddle and oar, I think "stroke by stroke" is better terminology. He makes "stakeholders", or makes people aware that we are all already stakeholders.

I interviewed Michael during San Miguel Days, occupying Cafe Contento's back room to do so. His beard is graying, but other than that he seems ageless. Our talk, punctuated by the rhythms of drums, was suspended in favor of the parade passing the front door. His enthusiasm for the dancers and their costumes was childlike and infectious. His easy going persona is the perfect complement to the seriousness of his mission, to save water and us along with it. He is as natural as the resources for which he advocates.

Following the interview is a short explanation of the water crisis. Please read it. Then, do yourself a favor, do us all a favor, go meet Michael and many other wonderful people, volunteer to help through Amigos de la Presa or one of its sister organizations.

- Dr Dave (Fialkoff)

Please note: much of this very informal conversation has been condensed and paraphrased. Space and time considerations do not allow us to display Michael's full eloquence. There were so many interesting points brought up that some were necessarily abbreviated. Any awkwardness is the editor's.

I left New Hampshire to go to graduate school in Pittsburgh. I stayed, practicing psychotherapy and also employed as the Program Director for Catholic Charities and a bunch of other advocacy positions. I was running with the director of the YMCA and told him that I had been rowing up in New Hampshire at Dartmouth and he suggested we should have rowing here at Pittsburgh and that’s how it all started.

Coming from the pristine waters of New England I was astonished that the water in Pittsburgh could be so abused by people; it was not even appealing to put a boat into the water. However, when the steel mills began closing in the early 80s there was some beginnings of the natural process of reclamation the rivers; flowing bodies of water, if you just stop polluting them being to make improvement on their own, unassisted. In 1984 while there was still all kinds of junk in the water we bought a couple used 4-person shells. In the early days we stored them in a warehouse still being used for tanning sheep hides; it smelled; over in the corner was a big pile of sheep tails, pretty disgusting.

Two miles upstream from where the Allegheny and Monongahela join to form the Ohio, really in downtown Pittsburg, is Herr's Island. It was slated for redevelopment, but because of its history as a slaughterhouse and stockyard, no one wanted it. We suggested that if they gave us some land we'd bring rowing to the island and perhaps stimulate further development. They agreed and there we rented the back of a trailer truck and stored the boats in there. Then Carnegie Melon University brought another trailer in and a couple of high schools also, and before we knew it we had 6 or 7 trailers lined up side by side; it looked like a trucking depot. We did turn things around; that island has since won many national and international accolades for its green development.


On Google Earth, you can see our beautiful boathouses, including the Lambert Boathouse. Attached to it we built another boathouse and then we built a third across the channel; 3 boathouses, over 15000 square feet- $1 million for the first, 1.5 million for the second, 2.8 for the third, not counting any of the inside stuff, boats, etc.- used by three universities, around 20 high schools, corporate rowing programs, competitive men and women, programs for kids, inner-city kids, physically challenged, visually impaired, on and on. We have over 1000 people using the facility on a daily basis. It's truly a community place.

shells on river
long shell Rowing 6 inches above the water you can't help but have a keen awareness of it. Those using the boathouse experience an environmental consciousness raising. People seeing these elegant shells slipping by also draws attention to the rivers. That happens here on the Presa. People say, "You're on that water? Is it safe?"

We became involved in a whole array of environmental efforts related to the river, from picking garbage up and out onto homemade barges to committees of the highest level corporate executives who recognized the rivers as central to the redeveloped, the reinvention of Pittsburgh. I was president of Friends of the Riverfront which developed 60 miles of trails in the urban environmental, one of which goes all the way to Washington, DC. Pittsburgh is now, according to AARP Magazine one of the top places to retire in the US. The lead story was of a woman who rows every morning within walking distance of her home. It's very gratifying.


Our experience has been repeated in cities around the country. Ours was the first that involved all segments of the community, breaking the stereotype of rowing being an elitist sport.

We want to use the same basic idea of using recreation here to bring people to the water. We have kayaking, sailing, rowing, maybe even windsurfing someday, hiking, biking and bird-watching, all in the vicinity of the Rio Laja and Presa. In addition to these wonderful activities we invite people to lend a few hours a month to environmental initiatives that we do through Amigos de la Presa. On one hand we receive enjoyment and on the other hand we give back making it a nicer place for everyone.

boat carried to water
trail along cornTrail along Rio Laja


All the studies point to a water crisis here in San Miguel de Allende and in the region. The aquifer is emptying. Wells often aren't regulated. Water is showing levels of minerals that are toxic to people and agriculture, levels that are increasing.

My group, Amigos de la Presa has joined with Audubon and Salvemos al Rio Laja, creating Agua Vida SMA. We've have 3 initiatives: to build a hiking/biking/equestrian trail all around the Presa and up the Rio Laja to Dolores Hidalgo; a citizens water quality testing project all alongof wells and of the Rio Laja and in the Presa Allende; and a year-long residential water conservation campaign here in SMA.

Around here the ground is so hard-packed that whenever it rains water doesn't have a chance to absorb into the earth to help to replenish the aquifer for the future. It just runs very fast and tears off the top soil. Much of the most fertile land gets washed away filling the Presa with silt to the point where its losing must of its volume.

Salvemos al Rio Laja, headed by Agustin Madrigal, has projects to slow the water. They go into communities all around San Miguel de Allende along hillsides and such to create stone damns, like steps, to slow water as it comes down. On the downstream side they plant trees to help hold the earth. They do many projects involving entire communities, encouraging the land to regenerate. They pay the community for every meter of work they do. They're getting paid, but they're also getting educated. Before the Spanish invasion all these hillsides were covered with forest.


The goal of the water conservation campaign is not only to save water in the urban area, but to build stakeholders in the process, to build awareness, to build involvement. Our theory is that if you actually start doing small things to save water in your own household, then you will take an interest in the water situation here. You become a stakeholder. You would at that point be a person that says "you know I believe it's important." You would probably even tell someone else a couple of the things you do to save water in your household because you think it's kind of cool, and maybe they start to do it, too. If we build some of that stakeholder investment then we can effectively confront the huge water abusers that exists in some of the agricultural practices in the region. We know approximately 85% of the water that is used in this region is used by agriculture. It is well documented that over 50% of water waste is in agriculture. That's our water, water for the common good.

lake boatsBoats on the Presa
sunset roof Those who attempt to have environmental laws and regulations enforced, usually have to approach these things from an adversarial point of view. I have seen that there are also other ways, that you can approach these things through recreation; it's a softer, but nevertheless successful approach. You start building a constituency that will support various measures.

A book by Charles Fishman called The Big Thirst traces how in the 19th century and even into the 20th, there were still a lot of people who didn't have water from taps. Maybe they had water from pumps and public fountains, but not at home. During the 20th century most people became very accustomed to the idea that water is endless. You can wash your car and do all these sophisticated industrial commercial things and it just goes on and on. Fishman's point is that has come to an end. Now we must realize that water is not infinite. We realize that there is a defined amount of water on earth. We've got to change attitudes. We've got to change the culture around water.

Mexico is at the same latitude as the world's major deserts. 70% of the territory (central and northern) has an arid or semi-arid climate, while 30% has a humid climate - where surface water is abundant.

Paradoxically, urban and industrial centers are concentrated in the center and the north of the country where water is most scarce. This is possible thanks to the presence of groundwater. 75 million Mexicans and more than 40% of agriculture depend on groundwater.

Water has been poorly managed based on erroneous assumptions. There is not a unified comprehensive water management plan. Lack of understanding and poor management has critical consequences in terms of various social, economic, political, and environmental aspects.

Groundwater moves through and is stored in enormous geological formations called aquifers. This water is found starting a few meters below the surface under natural conditions, and up to hundreds of meters in depth when extracted excessively.

Groundwater has an age, based on when it first entered the aquifer. The "young" water of recent years has been depleted and the "fossil" water that is now being extracted entered the aquifer around 5,000-35,000 years ago. The groundwater of this region is no longer a renewable resource on a human scale. That is, these aquifers do not recharge or renew year after year

Groundwater can be contaminated by the improper disposal of urban, agricultural or industrial waste and also, as in the deeper levels of the aquifer, which are now being tapped, when it moves for a very long time through deep channels in rock formations that contain minerals that in high concentration are toxic to humans, such as arsenic, a carcinogen, and fluoride. (In Guanajuato state there are 8,000 cases of dental fluorosis, which destroys the hardest bone in the human body, the gums of young children.) Such mineral are also toxic to plants. Excess sodium affects the fertility of the soil, photosynthesis and the movement of nutrients in the plant. In severe cases the soil becomes totally unproductive; approximately 15% of agricultural soils have already been affected. Recent studies show that levels of fluoride, arsenic and sodium in this region and its surroundings, including the state of Queretaro, is increasing in a continuous and significant manner.

The groundwater situation in the Lerma-Chapala Basin (Mexico, Queretaro, Guanajuato, Michoacan, Jalisco) and in particular in the state of Guanajuato is critical. The excessive extraction of groundwater has produced an environmental disaster which threatens the sustainability of development and progress of all sectors in the state. This "mining" of groundwater results in the decline of the aquifers by 2 - 10 meters per year. Shallow areas of the aquifer are being left without water and, for many other parts it is only matter of time; all this has a negative impact in food production and employment. Pseudo-science has resulted in an irrational extraction of groundwater; authorizing those who extract the most water to extract even more, at the expense of neighboring zones

We are in a critical state with regard to the aquifers due to the fact that decisions are made prioritizing large water infrastructure projects (particularly those financed by the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank) - expensive projects that incur public debt without necessarily meeting current and actual needs. On the other hand, these policies promote the uncontrolled growth of cities and urban needs, which, sooner or later, will have to be reduced.

"In the 2nd World Water Forum, held in The Hague in March 2000, it was stated that water is merchandise... more to the point, certain governments have paved the way for private companies to sell water, for profit, to the thirsty citizens of the world. And so a handful of multinational enterprises, backed by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund are now trying to control the management of water-related public services, dramatically increasing the price that local residents pay for water, especially taking advantage of desperate Third World efforts to find a solution to the water crisis."(p15)

" Some of these companies have no qualms confessing their motives; they boast that the reduction of freshwater reserves and changes in guidelines for its use have created an extraordinary business opportunity for water companies and their investors. Their philosophy is clear: water should be treated as any other tradable product and its use and distribution determined by principles of economic benefit." (p15)

"At the same time, some governments relinquish control over national water reserves in order to sign trade agreements such as the North American Free Trade (NAFTA); its successor project, the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas (FTAA); and the World Trade Organization (WTO). Indeed, these global trade institutions provide, in a way until now unimaginable, access for multinational companies to the fresh water reserves of signatory countries... As yet, most such initiatives have been carried out without public consultation or support. The powerful governmental forces and the business sector both start from the assumption that this debate is already a done deal: [the entire world] accepts the commercialization of water." (p15-16)

"... the nations of the world declare that the earth's fresh water reserves are a common global good, to be protected and cared for by all peoples, communities and governments at all levels, and also it is proclaimed that fresh water should not be privatized, marketed, sold or exported for commercial purposes, but from this point forward must be excluded from all current and future international and bilateral trade agreements, as well as investment agreements." (p20)

Maude Barlow y Tony Clarke, (2004). Oro Azul, Las multinacionales y el robo organizado en el mundo, Editorial Piados, Mexico, 416p.

Excerpted and paraphrase from: Groundwater in Mexico: A Scientific and Legislative Perspective, published in the Punto de Acuerdo Magazine, Fundación Humanismo Político A.C., February 2011 by Dr. Marcos Adrian Ortega Guerrero, Fulltime Researcher at the Center for Geosciences, Juriquilla Campus, Queretaro, National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM).

October 1, 2012
Kate McKenna- Painting with a Camera

Opening: VARIATIONS NOW-  Fri Oct 5, 5-8pm  The Gallery, Aldama 3 (show through October)

Kate McKenna is a master of structure and form in her art and her personal life.

Her photographs not so much capture reality as set free the eye to see. Her images of cacti, both alone and in juxtaposition with human forms, are philosophical statements, wherein even shadows take on substance.

Personally, Kate was introduced to the harshness of existence- labor, punishment, and the specter of "mortal sin," at far too tender an age. One senses that the fundamentalist upbringing she rejected as an early teen, yet provided her with a practical ethos that served her well in the many walks of her life.

And then, Kate McKenna has transcended structure and form in her art and personal life.

In her latest show, Variations Now she turns her lens onto the naturally abstract surfaces of tree bark, creating textured, surprisingly colorful surfaces. These powerful, dream-like compositions are free of dimensionality, having shape but not representational form. They are beautiful and significant, but ultimately no more tangible or static than patterns in clouds or swirls of milk just poured into coffee.

Personally, Kate has reinvented herself many times, successfully. Here in San Miguel, around so many wonderful eccentrics, she has adventured beyond technique into synchronicity. Patiently, yet actively waiting for life to reveal itself, she has quieted herself sufficiently to receive the revelation. Having reconciled the cactus thorns with its flowers and fruit, she has moved beyond mastery to vulnerability.

You are invited to experience her sensual communion with the world here, and at her show, Variations Now, opening Friday, Oct 5, 5-8pm at The Gallery, Aldama 3, and on her website

- Dr Dave (Fialkoff)

breast and cactus
nude on cactus I felt very alienated growing up in my family, in that little town in Nova Scotia. Settled by Scot Presbyterians, it was a conservative, parochial culture. I grew up in a house with Readers Digest Condensed Books. My mother was a convert to Catholicism, a fundamentalist, who told me if you kissed before you got married, it was a mortal sin and you'd go to hell. I went to religion class and the nun's told me my mother was right. I stopped going to confession at 13.

I loved theater. My parents thought actors and actresses were like prostitutes, engaging in a world that was sinful. I was good at math and sciences. My father wanted me to be an engineer, thinking that such are the things that provide economic security. I’ve always had this need for honesty and desire for real connection. I often got into trouble with my family because I wanted to speak things that they found uncomfortable.

As the oldest child and a girl, I'd come home after school and do the ironing, clean the house, take care of the other children; there were 6 of us by the time I was 10. It was a lot of labor. Physical punishment, sometimes fueled by repressed rage, was part of what was considered discipline. When I graduated 11th grade and had gained entry into university I left home. I was 17.

When I was 15 I fell in love with a boy who came to town for a summer, who is now a university professor of literature. I wrote him every day for 2 years. He introduced me to literature and music and sent me books, Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, J.D. Salinger, D.H. Lawrence... He introduced me to another larger cultural world. There was also a woman playwright who moved to town. She saw me in a high school drama production and was so moved she wrote to and befriended me. Throughout my life people, having a place in that larger cultural world, have come along and opened worlds for me; they have been my angels. Coming to SM has been an experience of entering a community I longed for all my life, a town full of eccentric, present, creative and open-hearted people.

nude on cactus

At this point, I am bringing everything I've been through in my life into my creative work. I needed to go through it all. I couldn't have done this in my thirties. I experienced deep loneliness for a long time. I now understand that the yearning was deeply connected to spirit. For many years I looked for it outside, felt intimidated, insecure, inferior in lots of ways. Through all the journeying and all the healing I don't live that anymore; I finally feel at home in myself.

I’ve had various lives, stints as a waitress, work as an actress with a children’s traveling theater for 3 years. I was a production potter for 3 and a half years, up all night firing kilns, going to craft festivals, a juried member of the fine arts council. It's really not an easy way to make a living. What had drawn me to it didn't sustain me, when it turned into making orders for 12 dozens mugs, and the repetition and isolation of it. Alone in my studio listening to CBC radio, I became politicized. I wound up with a group of women who were doing street theater, non-violent direct action training. We were on the streets when George Bush senior came to town, and we were there doing die-ins on the streets when the US nuclear submarines where in the harbor. It was vibrant and alive and creative time.

Sometime after that, my husband of the time got a job teaching in a First Nation Ojibwa reservation. We lived there for 2 years. That was a profound and really challenging time. It was a community that had been self-sufficient until the waters were poisoned with mercury from a paper mill. People from Japan came in solidarity because Minimata disease was evident in some of the children. The community went from being self-sufficient to mostly unemployed. They shouldn’t have eaten the fish in the river. Those that did got sick. It created a lot of alcoholism. I went there as a pretty zealous feminist with a sense of the ways empowerment could happen.

bark abstract
nude on cactus
bark abstract The experience showed me very clearly the cultural biases that I was coming from in my ideas about how change could happen. It also challenged my feminist ideology. It was just too simplistic. I saw that I didn’t have answers. We did a lot of reading trying to educate ourselves both before and after we got there. At that time there was very little literature, writing or fiction, being published by indigenous people in Canada. That thankfully has changed significantly since that time. There were people in the community who were trying to make a difference with sweat lodges, and a return to traditional ways. But these were also people who had been through the cultural violence of residential schools. It became clear to me that what I thought might be useful and helpful wasn't necessarily so. I needed to just watch and learn and have my mind scrambled.

After I returned to Nova Scotia, I ended up going back to school studying sociology. Women's studies departments were being developed at the time, I was trying to find a way to think about and conceptualize some of the questions I was struggling with. I was awarded scholarships that kept paying me to go to school. I finished with a PhD. My doctoral thesis was called Inter-Subjective Dreams and Nightmares: Exploring the Sub-Text of Classroom Interactions. In it, I was arguing that transference (usually conceptualized in psychological terms) was always also a social/relational process. My experience in classrooms, both as a student and as a university teacher, suggested that commonly held notions of the academic world being a sphere of rationality were inadequate and misleading. There was always much more going on, involving histories, identities, emotional triggers, conscious and unconscious investments. etc. I was trying to understand what response-ability would require of us if we began to take into account the various layers of communications; the contributions of histories and emotionally formed identities, as well as the specifics of the present moment. At the time I was engaged in theoretical work for my doctoral studies, I was also enrolled as a student at the Toronto Institute of Relational Psychotherapy. In the end I opted to work as a therapist rather than continue in the academic world.

Mine was one of those San Miguel stories. Doug and I came to Mexico for the first time 5 years ago. I'd be working as a psychotherapist for 15 years in Canada. At the time I was in the last year of a 3 year program with Jason Shulman, a Zen Jewish mystic. Through that program I became friends with a Mexican man and we came to visit him in Manzanillo on the coast. I had been hearing San Miguel since the 70s from artist friends. I said, let's add a week and go check it out.

We took the bus from Mexico City and were coming from Queretaro through the range around the Sierra Gorda. All of a sudden I felt this shift. I knew, "I could live here; I could make a life here!" We hadn't even gotten to town. It was energetic. Later that evening when we were having dinner, we met a woman artist from Boston and her friends. We ended up sharing a table and having dessert with them. As we were talking I mentioned that I'd been studying in a Jewish Zen program and one of the women immediately said "Jason Shulman," who really wasn't that well known. The synchronicity had begun. We were here 6 days and in that time had met more interesting, eccentric, varied, present people, than we had in the 10 years we had been back in Nova Scotia. Coming here and finding so many people being present in one place and time is an incredible thing. We also could see from the events we went to during that week that San Miguel was a community that gives back to people. That was important to us. The ex-pat community wasn't parasitical, coming in with big money and living disconnected. We went back to Nova Scotia. I ended my practice and started packing and saying goodbyes. We moved here in August, six months later, and haven't looked back since.

Other things contributed to the move as well. Both my parents and my sister's son died within a period of 7 years. Two close women friends died within six months of my mother’s death. I had been very involved in my mother’s palliative care, helping to make it possible for her die at home.


bosom and cactus

My work also involved helping others. It came to a point in the last 3 or 4 years of my psychotherapy work where I was feeling a stronger and stronger yearning to be engaged in the world in a more expressive and creative way. Part of my job as a psychotherapist was to be of assistance by getting out of the way, to facilitate and hold the process. It was gratifying and rewarding when I could be of service in this way. There's a certain amount of creativity in that, in one on one or couples work--but within very clear limits. It was also quite isolating. These relationships can be very intimate and alive but they exist within, and are possible because of, clear commitments to professional boundaries and confidentiality. And the focus is on the needs of the client.

15 years of working as a psychotherapist required that I become a clearer and clearer container, that I hold the space, that I do not become reactive, that I become conscious of and work to clear some of my own neurotic patterns, to open my heart more and more, to be more and more inclusive. This led me to meditation, sitting on the cushion. It was an amazing journey. All of that is in what I bring, who I am, deeply informing the process and content of my creative work. All of that, the bigger than personal space, opening to the unknown, to mystery, confusion, not knowing, longing… to whatever "comes in the room," holding empty space to see what will arise, welcoming everything.

My desire, as an artist, is to communicate what I experience, what I see, in a particular moment. I sit there and I wait and I wait--slowing down, entering THIS MOMENT--this is the decision. This, is the composition. This, is what presented itself, moved my heart, moved my gut, touched me. I do this in the intimacy of the moment with the camera. It so rarely works when you go home and try to create it through editing in the digital darkroom. If you’re trying to create this moment afterward, it's often bullshit in my experience. You need to be present--receive it--in the moment, with the camera.

For me, this way of working is perfect, because of the whole aesthetic of having empty space around to actually see the piece. I was a potter years ago. . At the time I was really attracted to Japanese Oribi work, the Japanese tea ceremony, and the profound aesthetic of the specialness in the ordinary.

For me photography is a place of deep intimacy. Those times when I'm not present, if I go out and start walking with my camera, just being, not shooting, not taking, but opening to receiving, coming to a place where I can actually see, wait, just quiet down, get closer, get more here.

My art has been an evolution. There is an intimacy of engagement that keeps leading me to new areas in my work.

womans back cactus
succulent leaves
abstract bark

Before I arrived in Mexico from Nova Scotia, Canada, the only cacti I had seen were on people's windowsills, so ugly and tiny, I couldn't understand why anyone would want them? And then, arriving here, I had this profound experience of them. I was and am incredibly magnetized by cacti plants. There was an initial falling in love with cactus. I experience them as having such iconic presence. The work in my first show SUCULENCIA was an exploration of composition, color, light and form with the focus being the sculptural elements of these cacti. They are so huge and so wonderful. They have both incredibly nurturing aspects, they provide water and food, but they can also hurt and wound. I became intrigued with exploring their yin-yang aspects, nurturing and wounding, seducing and repulsing.

In the work for the show ENCARNCION, I explored the relationship between human bodies and cacti bodies, the sacredness of being flesh--a celebration of the preciousness of being embodied and coming into form. One part of that work focused on what I see as the beauty of aging flesh. There is sensuality to it. When I began the human/cacti bodies exploration, I purposefully didn't choose young bodies. I chose real aging bodies. I was drawn to the older cactus, which sometimes have both dead-grey, rotting limbs and--at the same time--have new shoots of life or blossoms. The work evoked a variety of responses. There were Mexicans who visited the show who were moved to tears. And then there was a woman who told me, when she saw one of these photos of an older woman's body, that she wouldn't be able to have it in her house. The aging body was too triggering, too much of a reminder of her own aging.

This work is continuing in a further exploration tentatively titled "Strange Beauty, Explorations of Decay." I have had a number of friends die since I've been here. Thoughts of death and aging are companions during this time in my life; and paradoxically make life all the more precious.

bark abstractions
With my camera, first of all I get to be with curiosity and beauty, and kiss the world with my eyes after 15 years of regularly hearing people share stories of pain and trauma. With my camera I can also get really close to these prickly things, be really intimate with the world. Jason Shulman, my Zen Jewish Kabbalistic teacher, created healings based on the Tree of Life. In his teaching he uses the metaphor of a tree to suggest that we stop trying to become "a perfect tree." I loved when he described the real place of sacredness—of being with God—happening not by being good but by being honest. That BEING necessarily includes everything, and all that has formed us. In the tree example, there may have been a storm or some cut off limbs, or there's been a sickness or disease that happened during the life of the tree and this can never be undone. We too may have been blown this way or that, been wounded or deformed. Like the tree, it isn't that this will ever change for us, ever. We don't have to strive to fix or cure or redo that. It's about being compassionate and including it all, not to try to get rid of anything. He suggests that the path is NOT about exerting more effort. Rather, it is about relaxing into being, into what is. It is relaxing into this incredible gift of humanness. When we do this, just being here is so miraculous.

There's the great Jewish creation story about how the very first emanation, of making form out of nothingness, was imperfect and the vessel shattered. The metaphor is a lesson: imperfection is part of creation. That it is exactly the shattering that allows us to recreate and transform. Places of imperfection are also places potentially of transformation or growth.

kate in doorway
photo by Mike Goot
abstract bark All mystical traditions explore the not knowing, the mystery, the place of awe. The Buddhist part is about not grasping, and not pushing away either, the middle place.

One of the practices that my teacher Jason had us do was to first hold in your mind a food that you totally love; put it in a bowl or on a plate. Then imagine a food that you find repulsive, really get in touch with that. The next part of the meditation is to hold them both, at the same time. In my experience, holding both places causes something else, a 3rd thing happens.

To hold that--really, really connect with that--it starts to move somewhere else and space opens… Somehow I feel that my creative work is connected to all that.

September 24, 2012
Joseph Dispenza- Mogul and Monk

live on the earth so lightly that nothing is left of you except some footprints

Joseph Dispenza is at once great and simple.

His accomplishments are large. He founded the film department at the Santa Fe University for the Arts in New Mexico and cofounded LifePath Center for Learning, Healing and Retreat here in SMA. However, his personal philosophy is "that you live on the earth so lightly that nothing is left of you except some footprints."

Joseph is both rich and poor. He has counted many Hollywood luminaries as friends and "employees", yet has lived his entire adult as if still under a vow of poverty taken 50 years ago.

Joseph is soft spoken. He knows how to keep his mouth shut, having kept silent for a full year. Still, he is a wordsmith, publishing 15 books on a variety of topics ( and countless articles.

Joseph is a traditionalist gone beyond traditions; once a Trappist monk, his recent book, God on Your Own is subtitled Finding a Spiritual Path Outside Religion.

In his twenties he practiced celibacy for over 8 years and now at 70 is married to a man 30 years his junior.

He is both earthy and spiritual.

I first learned of Joseph Dispenza when I joined LifePath's mailing list and began receiving profound weekly inspirational thoughts excerpted from his work. (LifePath's Article page has an interesting selection of his writings.)

Meeting him recently for the first time for this interview, his presence, mature and youthful, weighty and light-hearted, was in concert with the deep richness of his written work and, no doubt, the retreats he leads.

We met on the afternoon of his birthday.
This interview is my present to him, to you and to myself.
- Dr Dave (Fialkoff)

joseph portrait

joseph portrait

It will be 12 years in January that we started LifePath, Beverly Nelson and I and Mike Herbert, my partner, who is naturopathic doctor now. I was supposed to come down here and retire. I had already had several lives. I thought, well this will be nice; I'll kind of lie back and we'll run some retreats. But I've never worked so hard in my life.


I was a monk for 8 years, a professional religious man. During the last year of high school all the kids in our little town in Ohio imagined what they would do; this one wants to go to college, that one wants to take over his father's barber shop. I thought, what I really want to do is get out of here, get out of a town that's 25,000 people and see what's out there. It was a Catholic high school. One or two of the nuns encouraged me to consider what it would be like to lead a religious life. One of the recruiters from an order of teaching brothers appeared at career night. I felt like I was cut out to be a teacher. The first year was a year of silence, the canonical year. We lived like the Trappist monks of Thomas Merton, poverty, chastity. But the first year was the year of finding out who really wants to do this, because it was the pure and therefore the extreme.

I've always thought you don't need to have religion to have monasticism. If you look around today what we have and what we've had for centuries is a monasticism attached to religion, Buddhist monks Catholic monks. It seems to me that there's no reason that someone shouldn't come up with some sort of secular monasticism. I was reading a book by Morris Burman a few years ago; he writes about the decline of America; he's a wonderful writer who lives in Guanajuato. What Morrie does in this one particular book is that he talks about the monastic option. Culture is falling apart all around us; we see the deterioration of money systems, of food supply systems; we're eating junk because that's what they're feeding us.

We just got back from the States. People there are as big as refrigerators. It's sad, and in a way it's not their fault. I mean everyone has personal responsibility. The thing is that even when you pick and choose among bad food you're still eating bad food. It's just awful. It's processed. Even food that is, like spinach; well the thing is that those fields that the spinach grew on have been dead for years, the land has been dead. The chemical companies come in and put all this stuff down, it's growing on chemicals and that's what we're eating, which is why I've always been in favor of the organic movement. Actually growing your own food is probably the best way of doing it; keeping a field fallow, every 4 years; you don't grow something so it can start breathing again. Otherwise it chokes and dies, gets bugs... horrible.

All the systems break down, social economic agricultural, etc., all of the established cultural things that we built. You see what's happening in Mexico here with the drugs. It's chaos. There are whole states that are in absolute crisis, totally failed, people dying left and right and being killed. The idea would be then that people would opt to create and then go to these secular monasteries where they might do the same things that the monks in the middle ages did, collect the information somehow that shouldn't be lost, preserve the wisdom and good writings, get rid of the bad writings. As a writer have seen the evolution of publishing to where it is. It's dazzling. Anybody can publish a book. A monkey can. And if a monkey hired the right publicist, he'd wind up on the NY Times best seller list. So someone's got to weed it out. The monks weeded out. They created or preserved the medicines that we have now. They were the ones who kept that tradition, brought it in, developed it to a high art. We had an apothecary in my monastery. They preserved Western culture; the music and all of the other arts were preserved. That may become an option for us.

shaven headed monk

seated arms behind head


I guess the reason that I'm talking about it so much is that, that probably is somewhere around the core of who I am, that being the secular monastic idea. I've always, even after I left the monastery after 8 years I've always considered myself a monk in the world. And I still today, people kid me but I am really trying to do it, I do practice poverty. That is to say, I'll keep a pair of socks until they've been darned 12 times and they can't be used any more. That is what poverty is. Devout poverty is about no personal ownership of any kind, and secondly about using something until it can't be used anymore. No waste. And the Zen part of that is that you live on the earth so lightly that nothing is left of you except some foot prints.

I created a film school in Santa Fe immediately I was in the middle of a Hollywood mindset, because so many of the older Hollywood directors, producers, actors who weren't working as much anymore, who had made it and relocated to Santa Fe, at that time in the 1980s, '90s. I suddenly has this enormous pool of talent, of people who had nothing to do, who were absolutely at the top of their field, whether they were TV directors, film directors, musicians for film scores, screen writers and screen musicians. They all came knocking on my door and said "can I teach for you?" I said "well yes, I work on the principle of inclusion, come on in."

The school was a huge complex. We turned the basketball courts into sound stages. Before the paint dried, Billy Crystal was there shooting "City Slickers." I had second-semester freshmen getting screen credit on Hollywood films. It was absolutely mindboggling and it's still going on. Greer Garson gave me the money to do it, $3.3 million. She had a home in Santa Fe. It's called now the Santa Fe University for the Arts. There already was a great performing arts and an acclaimed art department; I created the Moving Image Arts department.

Shirley McLane, who has a home outside Santa Fe, offered to speak to students about film acting. I had Fred Steiner, who wrote music for Star Trek, teaching a course in the history of film music. Chuck Jones, the legendary cartoonist, taught them how to draw Bugs Bunny. Tab Hunter spoke to the students about making films under the studio system; Carol Burnett held master classes on comedy; Julia Cameron, who would go on to write "The Artist's Way," taught creativity to my in-coming students; Brooke Shields dropped by, as did Molly Ringwald. The students got lessons from Ralph Levy, who had directed the "I Love Lucy" TV show, and from Jordan Cronenweth, the cinematographer who shot "Blade Runner." Charlton Heston, who did not live in Santa Fe but was a frequent visitor, came one day. Under his arm he had a couple of video cassettes. He said, "I want to show your students the chariot race from Ben Hur, I'm very proud of it." Immediately all the kids started buzzing around like bees.

joseph portrait

in front of school

That kind of excitement was going on all the time, but I would still go home and live like a monk; there was nothing in the refrigerator. I had like a bottle of milk. I lived pretty much like a monk all during that time. I remember once I was at Albertson's, the supermarket. I was in line and in front of me was Joyce DeWitt, the gal who was in Three's Company. Behind me was Marsha Mason the famous movie star, who had just gotten divorced from Neil Simon. We kind of tapped each other on the shoulder and just started giggling; Oh what are you buying Joseph? Oh I'm buying celery, oh ha-ha. I was just in those kinds of circles. It was really quite wonderful. As the head of this film school I was sort of a celebrity in my own. We all just laughed because here we are these fabulous celebrities, supposed to be these big deals on the cover of Us Magazine and we're buying celery and we're buying TV dinners and such.

When Monica Lewinski went on SNL, a friend of mine, Tom Shales, who holds the record for the longest tenure of any TV critic, wrote the next morning in the Washington Post, "She doesn't seem to know what she's famous for." I thought, ha-ha, of course she doesn't, she's clueless, as are most of these celebrities.

I had been in practice for a long time as a spiritual counselor. People would come to me and say, I'm desperately unhappy and I knew they were millionaires, maybe 10 times over. You would think it's almost a cliche, that money doesn't buy happiness, and yet people are still trying to do it. It's curious to me, isn't it to you? I was able to walk away from it pretty quickly and easily and not miss it at all. I never missed it. I must have had money in a previous lifetime because it doesn't impress me. I still don't know how to make it. I have no idea how it works. I can't even balance my checkbook; Mike does all that kind of stuff for me, thank Goodness.
After, I was looking for a writing project to do. Friends told me about this woman who lived in mountains of northern New Mexico, Hazel Parcells. She had practically invented the science of nutrition in the 1930s. She called it the chemistry of foods. She almost died from TB. She made herself well through diet. Once she got well she didn't know how she did it, so she traced back what she was eating. She had been eating spinach like a cow eating grass. She found out that it was the folic acid in spinach. It was a miracle for her body's chemistry. Once she found that out then she began doing more and more research about that. She became this very wonderful, wise teacher.

When I met her she was 102 and still very much on the go. After breakfast she would get on the phone for 6, sometimes 8 hours, with people giving them advice. That's how she made her money. It was not easy work. She had tremendous stamina. We'd break for lunch, take a little nap and she'd go right back to work until sundown. She was a great role model, great teacher, amazing teacher.

arms akimbo
During that time I said "Doctor," (she was a naturopathic doctor) "I'd really like to get all this in a book. You have all this material." It was spread out, written down mostly on onion skin and carbon paper. I also did a lot of interviews with her, one a day, a different topic every day. The book came out after she passed away at the age of 106 and a half. Originally I had sent it in in her voice. Harper Collins got back to me about a week after she died and said to me rather indelicately "we don't publish books by dead authors." I said, well what do we do now? The editor there said you need to transpose everything there into your voice and report it. I did and that's what came out, under the title "Live Better Longer."

I'd listen to her on the telephone; it'd be very common to overhear something like, "honey, you are never going to get over this liver cancer until you forgive your sister." Here was this wise old doctor and somebody had given her money to tell them what to do with their lives, not just their medicine, but what to do with their lives. I stayed with her. I lived with her. Her home was this log structure way in the mountains.


smiling old lady with tea mug
Dr. Parcells at 105 years old

Dr. Parcells was an absolutely remarkable person. At the age of 75 she started a business providing vitamins and herbs to what she called her students; she never called them her patients, because she was always one step away from the FDA and all those people. She had been in jail many times because she used to go out in the 40s and talk to women about contraception. She would tell these poor exhausted farm women how to use condoms, avoid having children. They were like, oh my god, you mean I can avoid having children?! It was at that point that the sheriff would arrive and arrest her and she'd spend the day in jail and someone would go get her out.

She was just an amazing woman. There were a number of women and they all emerged around the same time. They all had natural remedies for big problems, like cancer. No one in authority would listen to them but they would still go at it. I consider them the advance guard of the angels, of the feminine principle. Astrologers believe that we're swinging back to the feminine principle. 20, 30 years ago people rolled their eyes. But now we have women head of state, women are running corporations. The feminine energy is coming out. There's more estrogen now on the planet than. Men are becoming softer, gays are being accepted more.

I had cancer last year, lymphatic cancer, all over the system. When I saw the results of the baseline PET scan I almost fainted. I had kind of fallen up against the doctor and he had to pull me back up again. The scan was all black. As a Virgo I just freaked, how could I be dirty? and it's going after my liver. It was very quick coming on and it was very quick going. One day I noticed a lump, thought, hmm. The doctor wisely insisted I start treatment immediately it was days away from going into internal organs. I had chemo for 6 months, 5 treatments, devastating. We wrote this new book, The Chemotherapy Diet. Mike researched but I essentially wrote it. It's a program to supplement the diets of people who are on chemo.. It's not a cancer prevention thing.. There's very really little out there, people on chemo who want to know, what should I be eating and what should I be taking in terms of supplements. I was the guinea pig and Mike worked out that whole thing during the 9 months. Oncologist will always tell you, no supplements. It's one of the rules and we just ignored that. Bless their hearts they are very good at the chemo and radiation thing and it works. I believe that by the second chemo blast I didn't have any cancer in me. Chemo can do this, but you've got to build your immune system back because chemo will take away not just the cancer cell but everything else. The chemo itself made me so sick and so tired. It just took everything out of me.

I was drinking over a gallon of green tea every day. I was doing all kinds of Chinese herbs, all kinds of vitamin supplements; the diet was 75% vegetables, no meat just nuts. Mike totally changed the environment, of the chemistry of my body, which had created lymphoma. We had been reading a lot about, Dr. Gonzalez in New York. He will take cancer patients and if they're vegans, he'll have them eat red meat and they'll get well, by changing the environment, chemistry. It's absolutely wonderful, pure work. He's been funded now to do some really tremendous studies.

joseph and mikeMike
Dr. Parcells was very big on changing the environment. She would always say, look at the environment that this has. If you change the environment then you change everything. She basically was doing the same thing by telling people, well are you eating carrots? No. Well start eating carrots, changing the chemistry of the body. And they would suddenly have these tremendous positive changes. Go stretch yourself, get out of the envelope.


By the way today is my 4th wedding anniversary with Mike. Well yes my book Older Man Younger Man: A Love Story is about age, the aging process, trying to latch on to some ageless things. In the book I go into imaginary past lives, I imagine past lives with him. For me that was the most fun part of writing the book. It's all italicized in the book. With Mike and me there's an additional element, a very bittersweet element, I'm 30 years older than he is. Therefore the older I get, the closer I get to not being with him anymore. My fervent wish and desire is that we will just continue having this relationship forever, until we just get sucked up by the white light. What I'm not looking forward to in another lifetime is second grade. I had a teacher I was afraid of. I had a terrible time.


I think sex is terribly over-rated and as I get older even more so because the fires die down. Something happens, something switched. Jung says that we spend the first half of our lives building our ego and the second half giving it away. I think there's a sexual counterpart to that, and we do build this biological steam engine as we're going through, my god, who else can I be with. Then very quietly it begins to subside and I think that's really quite an accomplishment.


I do interact with a lot of people; some are extremely wealthy and go off and spend 3 months in Paris and think nothing of it, at 350 euros a night. It's hard for me not to judge that, but I really try not to. All I can do is, all we can do, is live my life the way I feel that is my calling to live my life. The upside is the simplicity that it brings, the lack of worry, what Mexicans call "preocupado," minds going all the time, "am I making enough interest, etc." I don't have that because I don't have huge wealth sitting somewhere that has to be invested. I think there's a great sense of value in my life. I feel very good about it.

September 17, 2012
David Garza; Blues for a Shaman- I am a channeler of God.

David Garza has a lot of people who love him. As a musician and as a person he is as real as it gets, commanding the respect of colleagues, the admiration of fans and the affection of friends. He is a powerful force on and off the stage. Ask him about it (I did) and he'll tell you that it's because he gets out of the way, that removing himself, somehow paradoxically, allows him to be fully present in the moment.

I first heard David play at a private party where the many musicians present took turns performing. His highly original rendition of Mother Nature's Son (he is a big Beatles fan) charmed the room. Or maybe I first heard David play, at Shelter Theater's open mic, tenderly strumming and crooning an original composition about a woman swimming in the moonlight. Then again, it might have been fronting for Vudu Chile, just howling the blues. Between songs he continues to entertain, telling stories, educating, doing comedy improv, drawing laughter from the crowd mostly at his own expense.

David Garza has his own religion and magic and he encourages you to have yours too. His music transports you beyond yourself, fully into the present. He tells us that that is the role of the shaman, and backs up his assertion with his broad study and experience, recounting over and again the extraordinary synchronicities that have led him on his way. Like the Blues Brothers, he is on a mission from God. Like Jake and Elwood, he may be a little nun-shy, but he just can't fail.

A third of our interview is typed out below. The rest may be heard by following the links (Parts 2 and 3) at the article's end. If you'd rather, you can listen to the whole thing by skipping down and starting with Part 1. Be sure to check out the YouTube video there of David performing.

- Dr Dave (Fialkoff)

garza singing

garza talking
photo by Richard Quick


In 2002 I came to San Miguel for 6 days, I got hired at the hostel I was staying at because I made friends with the two girls making pancakes and they hired me. I ended up staying for 10 months and managing the hostel. My future friend Julian, the guitar player in Vudu Chile, had a club with his wife called Charar on the corner of Sollano and Correo. I went and inquired for work there. He asked me to play a couple song on my guitar during a break. I played 3 or 4 songs and he said, I don’t know what it is, but you’ve got it, and hired me. I played once a week, opening for the Mexican rock bands. Then I started an open mic and a song writer showcase. I'd get two mexicanos that wrote original songs and two gringos. I’d be the host. We had a good turnout. I'd write articles in the Atencion about it, back when Atencion needed help from people in town. We did a couple ensembles just for fun. They turned out really good.

Then I went back to Texas for 6 months and I came back 6 months later and we formed Vudu Chile. That was 2004. We played every Thursday night. Within 6 weeks we were the most popular band in town, us and Pila Seca. We played and played and played and people danced like crazy. I felt like I was a shaman because I was helping people get back to their original childlike joy. I wanted us to groove good enough so people would forget about us. It’s a lot of pressure when people are watching you, but when they are participating with you then they’re joining in with you. Our greatest moments were when people forgot about us and just started dancing. That was the only prerequisite I laid out for the band; we had to groove so well that people would have to dance; they couldn’t fight it. So we’d have fun too. And we accomplished that.

The drummer has been sponsored by Yamaha to teach in the country of Mexico. He’s one of the best I’ve ever seen if not the best. His name is Carlos de Aguinaga or Charlie. Julian Arcos is one of the best guitar players. Aaron Romo was the originally bassist, so then Julian’s brother Javier played bass. It was pure vocals in that band. We started out doing blues and soul. Then we evolved and we started doing funk and reggae and rock and disco and now we do jazz as well. We do a lot of songs our own way. And we have a lot of fun. The Mexicans and gringos like our turn on these kinds of songs.




Vudu Chile

It's what I learned though a book called the Artist's Way and was later confirmed in a book called Secrets of the Talking Jaguar by a shaman named Martin Prechtel, who did a study in Guatemala with a shaman who to me was the Picasso of shamanism, he was a genius.

The closest things to shamans in the modern world are artists because they follow their own path and they bring joy and introspection and clarity to other people. In the Artist's Way it says, your job is to learn how to get out of the way. What I found was that I was a channel. I resented at first when the author said that, because I didn’t want to get out of the way. I was trying to figure out who I was and what I was. But I'd reached a point where just focusing on myself wasn’t helping me learn any more about myself.

garza guitaring

I knew that when I sang and played guitar I got into a zone, like a channel. I felt connected to myself, god and people. So at that point I didn’t really have a choice; I had already tried it my way and I didn’t work, so I just got out of the way. I felt a lot of joy. I was channeling. I am a channeler of god. I can feel what I think most shamans feel. "Shaman" is a loose word, but I think it's much more accurate. In modern organized religion it's about control. There is a lot of fear of the mystical and there is a lot of fear of letting go. In the shaman world a lot of it is about getting out of the way and letting go of control so that the shaman world can actually do something through you.

Maybe it's ego that’s in the way, so then you surrender your ego so you can be more full. In the Artist's Way it says we're putting on the brakes for our creative flow and we’ve been told a lot of myths about our creativity. There's a list of those myths in the beginning of the book and she asks you to read them and see if any of them apply to you, common myths about artists. They say things like: if I become and artist I'll be poor, if I become an artist I'll be an alcoholic if I become and artist I'll do drugs, if I'm straight I'll be gay, if I'm gay I'll become straight, I'll lose my friends, my family will disown me. Getting out of the way sounds harsh, but it's really just going with the flow, jumping in the river. The author says, she thinks that most psychological problems, insanity, come from people trying to stem the flow and not believing they can handle the flow. Really it's easier to go with the flow. It's like letting the river flow. It's going to rise up on the banks sometimes and it's going to ease down, but it's much more alive than a river that’s all damned up.

It's self editing, letting things be playful before you judge them too harshly. That's for me; I can't describe it for other artists. I had a night job where I had tons of time for myself and I could get into the zone, very sacred, very holy for me. I can get into that space and get rid of the ego whenever I perform. Performing sounds like you're pandering to the audience, but I'm just saying what I have to say, putting it out there. People that resonate with I, resonate with it, and those that don’t, don’t. In the Artist's Way she said you don’t really have a choice of who your audience is; your job is to get out of the way and put what's channeling through you out there. I found it to be true.

One time after my divorce I was playing a lot of melancholy songs. When I got done with a set there were these big biker dudes with bandanas and big muscles, who were playing pool in the back of the place. I passed by on my way to the bathroom and one of them yelled at me and I thought they’d criticize me. One says, man I really dig your shit, and the other guy says, yah man keep it up man that’s some really good stuff. So I realized then that the people I had in mind who I thought would like it often didn't, and those who I didn’t think would like it really did. We live in a unique society where we’re the first generation that’s purely a product of advertising. We’re confined to ideals of beauty that are really narrow and that has become ugly in itself. What we need as opposed to what we want, what we consider luxury items as opposed to things that are feeding our souls, we get confused on those things. For me, being in that zone and singing I feel connected and I can't get enough of it. It's really helped me to see what's essential and what's not. I've noticed this about a lot of musicians, if music is really important to them, being in that sacred space, that actually feeds them enough, then they can let go of anything that gets in the way of their calling, their vocation.

garza smilingphoto by Sylvia Brenner
I think there are other worlds. I can tell you that when I play music I feel like I'm being guided. It’s the only thing that makes me feel safe and secure in this world. I love this world. I love nature. I love the physical realm. And I know there's something else out. Some other people can access that more than I can, still I know that when I channel I feel connected to everything out there at the same time. Whatever other worlds are out there, whatever I'm singing, whatever people are in the audience, whatever higher power there is out there, I feel part of that. I don’t have to understand why, I just feel good. That’s the place I want to stay. There's a great quote by Sigmond Freud in the Artist's Way, that blew me away. He said, every stone that I’ve overturned in the quest for knowledge I found that a poet has been there first. That’s the difference between a poet and a scientist. A scientist feels like he needs to understand everything about something before accepting it as reality. But that’s an illusion as well, to think that you can know everything about anything. Or get to a state where you know enough to believe. Life changes and poets they get into the feeling of a place, a moment, and they see it with eyes that a Buddhist would say is Zen, where there's no separation between them and what they’re looking at. They see its beauty and it becomes part of them. They absorb it and it gives them joy. They experience it without having to understand. They don’t dissect it. In dissecting we destroy a lot of things.


garza singing

It's like sex. When you’re having sex are you into the passion or are you talking about having sex while you're having sex? That would ruin it for me. Sometimes words just don’t convey. That’s why poets aren’t afraid to take a risk to express something, because they trust the longing that they have inside themselves to find that place. That’s my problem with organized religion. Organized religion makes a big thing about separating people from god in the name of connecting them to god. I think they’ve done more damage than anything else in the world.

There's a scripture where Jesus is talking to the Pharisees and the Sadducees. He says, you pour over the scriptures with a fine tooth comb and every time god or the universe sends you someone to tell you about the way you kill them, you stone them or crucify them. There's a common thread; David, Moses the Prophets, they all went out to nature and got reconnected with the synchronicity. They saw magic actually manifesting itself in real life. They said, wow this is real; this is better than these rules; and these people aren’t living connected to this anymore so let me go talk to them and tell them what they need to do and stop doing. And they’re always rejected.

There's a scripture attributed to Jesus where he lays that out really clearly. He says, you can blasphemy god and you will be forgiven; you can blasphemy me and you'll be forgiven; but if you’re blaspheming the Holy Spirit you won't be forgiven now or in the days to come. The Holy Spirit to me is the same thing that the Taoists call The Way and Buddhists call Zen and Jung called synchronicity and America's founding fathers called providence. It's magic. It's real. To be connected to it is a job unlike any other job I've ever known. It doesn’t happen all the time, but when it does I’m very aware of it. Jesus knew the concepts about who he was and who god is were going to change over time, because they’re concepts, but the Holy Spirit is benevolent. It’s a holy force. If you chose to ignore, it you’re cutting off your nose to spite your face. You’re damning yourself in that moment and in the future. You are creating an insensitivity to what you are doing.

Amazing Grace is one of the favorite songs of Christians and non-Christians alike. If you read the author's story, he ran a slave ship and he was having sex with all the slave women. Then he fell in love with this very virtuous woman. She said, if you want to be with me you have to change your ways. What helped him? He had a deep awareness of life, and he noticed that things kept happening to keep him from dying. He’d be standing somewhere and something would fall and kill the guy right next to him. He’d be in these situations where he knew he should have died. He started recognizing that there was a benevolent force that was looking out for him. "Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me." It's not that he was a sinful guy. It was that he was pitiful because he wasn’t living connected. He felt that disconnect. He said, through many dangers toils and snares I have already come. It's been grace that’s led me safe this far and grace will lead me home. Grace is just another word for the universe's benevolent magic that is trying to help us. It's trying to show us a better connected way to live. But we’ve been homogenized and we’ve been sold a really horrible set of goods.

garza playing

garza cliff-side One day we were playing at a club that had big screen TVs and the band was really hot that day. There weren’t many people, but we were dead on. On the big screen TVs there was no sound but here were 5 movie trailers, really short, like 10/15 seconds long, and they just kept repeating over and over and over as we played. We were playing music and we were being mesmerized by it. We were getting hypnotized, even without sound. There were images designed to catch your attention. I thought, this is really subliminal. This is subtly evil. People have been watching TV for so long. The industry knows what will capture our attention. It's all designed to make your pupils dilate and get excited.

During the break I told the guys in the band that I had had an epiphany. I said, there's this book called Outliers and the author says that to get really good at anything people have to put about 10,000 hours into it. That’s why the Beatles were so good, because they got theirs in Hamburg, Germany when they played for 8 hours every night, 6 nights a week, for a year or two. They got in their hours. What in modern society have people done more than anything else? They’ve watched TV. They've become master TV-watchers. They've reach the highest level of TV watching. They’re actually better at that than any other skill they have, whether it's riding horses, writing, sometimes more than sleeping. There's a world filled with expert TV-watchers. They’re virtuosos. Every tiny little bit they process in one second. So I said, how can we beat that, when they train themselves 30 hours a week for 20 years to pay attention to what's coming out of that box? Even if we were having the best set of our lives we couldn’t compete, because they weren't trained to listen to music for 30 hours a week, they were trained to watch an image come out of the box. It's sad. That’s why some people don’t watch TV, because they know deep down they’re addicts. The content of the show doesn’t matter. It takes away the will to live, the will to thrive, and the will to see real beauty in the world.

Audio Interview/Continuation

The first part of the audio is transcribed above, so if you have read down to here,
to continue click on Part 2

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

garza between numbers
garza guitaring
photo by Richard Quick
garza eyes closed
photo by Richard Quick
September 10, 2012
Chef Gabriela Green; Hierbabuena- Cocina Mobile Gourmet

If you are a good robber, no one will think you are a thief; you are a new creator.

Gaby's food is delicious and so is her personality. You could just eat her up. The more you chew, the more flavors there are. Her dishes and her person have great depths; spicy, sweet, substantial, delightful, nutritious; good for you on levels you didn't even know were there.

Gaby is an eclectic connoisseur, not just of cuisine, but of life. She is a world traveler, who has returned home to her grandmother's Mexican kitchen with the smells and tastes of Spain, Italy and beyond. Her prominent career in Mexico cinema brought her in touch with a broad range of cultures throughout Europe and the USA.

Gaby is a philosopher, a wise-woman, who has fashioned out of the notoriously harsh world of restauranting a sustainable, healthy niche for herself. As she blends cuisines into her own unique offerings, so she has taken, from various walks of life, principles that work for her, arranging her schedule to allow time to pursue her varied interests. In keeping with the notion that the chef's mood is transmitted into the food, I've always said, "You need to keep the cook happy." Gaby keeps herself that way.

Gaby, who started her professional life as a kindergarten teacher, is once again educating children; this time their palates. Her food-truck, Hierbabuena- Cocina Mobile Gourmet is parked Monday, Wednesday and Friday 10-4 on Stirling Dickinson right across from the new Academia Internacional. The kids (and teachers and parents) come over after school adding to her already diverse clientele. The festive gathering of diners nourishing themselves under her awnings would warm any restaurateur's heart.

I first met Gaby because I was substitute dog-sitting for her, taking my daughter's usual position. The three 15 year old dogs were all from the same litter. They were young for their years, sustained by Gaby's special cuisine and love. Something of a restaurateur myself, I fell in love with Gaby's well-stocked kitchen. I thoroughly enjoyed concocting dishes from her larder of herbs and delicacies. But she is the one who really brings it all home, from her heart to your plate.
- Dr Dave (Fialkoff)

gaby in service window of truck
photo by Kate McKenna

food truck exterior
photo by George Bowers

This is a barely edited transcription of a loose conversation. I reassured Gaby that it's all very tasty. Provecho!

I was interested in food always. My main memory of my Mexican grandmother is that I used to go after school to her house. She had 13 kids and my mom is the eldest. My uncles and aunts were like my brothers and sisters, because of our similarity in ages. I remember the feeling and flavor, the memory of the red rice cooking, the Mexican rice, coming into the house while she was making the rice.

And I had my own banquito (little stool) and I would get back from school, take my bag off, wash my hands. I called her "Mama," "What are you cooking Mama? It smells great. It's rice!"

My grandmother was a beautiful, imaginative, creative person, so while she was cooking she'd play the piano and sing so it was a great scene between cooking in the kitchen and playing the piano. They were golden years of Mexican culture. I have that memory.

My first profession was a kindergarten teacher. Then I went to art school; I like art and painting. Then I started to travel.

In these travels I found my interest in ingredients and smells. I was very good friends with the mother of a friend from Spain and so I spent a lot of time cooking and learning Spanish cuisine with her. Never thinking about the future, just in that moment it was my interest. And then I had a partner that was from Italy and I learned to make pasta and all the sauces. I learned these two cuisines, Spanish and Italian in a close relationship with these two people and the countries.

And then on my other side I have my roots in the European Jewish community. I wasn't that familiar with that community and tradition, because I never really spent time with my Jewish grandmother in the kitchen, but I was always curious, "how is that kitchen? how is that cuisine?" So I tried to find recipes and things and much later I started to put together Jewish cooking with Mexican cooking. Then, trying to make my own thing, that becomes interesting because Pre-Hispanic cooking is vegetarian, without meat, which is almost kosher in a way. And so sometimes I make an old Jewish recipe with a Pre-Hispanic recipe and it works perfectly and people like it. They don't know where it comes from, but they love it.

It's an evolution. Food is changing in the world. The concept of food, the concept of freshness. For example, right now we have the organic and the not organic, or seeds that we use now we haven't used in the past 200 years. Then you find out it is some old seed from Mesoamerica, from 500 years ago that was cultivated by the Spaniards. They stopped the cultivation and today people think things like quinoa are new but they are not, they are a revival.

Now that I'm partners with Jennifer in this business [Hierbabuena Cocina Mobile Gourmet] I am cooking for a community. I really try to bring the community together; I try to make dishes that both the American community and the Mexican community will like. My international dishes are an approach that fit both peoples.

2 smiling women

plate of macaroni and cheese

I helped my friend to open her restaurant, La Lola, in 1997 in San Miguel on Ancha San Antonio where the Sri Lankan restaurant used to be. The chef, I wasn't cooking at that time, was the former chef of Sierra Nevada so when he came to work with us many people were not very happy, "You stole him." He wanted more freedom. We had a lot in common. He wanted to cook with us. As a chef, it's crazy art, but finally it is art. It comes completely from your creativity, your mood, the things you are looking for yourself. In art if it's complicated, no one is going to buy it. If it's simple, no one is going to buy it. It's the same thing with cooking, sometimes you can make something simple or sometimes complicated, and sometimes the understanding is difficult.

That experience was great, but it was more for tourists. But it was just for certain people, a small public, because of the prices and the kind of food, everything was salmon and filet, a bit more sophisticated. Next year, after that experience, in 1998, I opened a small restaurant called La Fonda, Mexican food, simple, with the roots of my grandmother. I was cooking maybe 20% of the things. I ran the restaurant. And that was really my first restaurant.

Then I opened in a new location and I stayed there 3 years. Then we moved to a second location in front of Parque Juarez and there I cooked more. Now that I think about it, I wasn't afraid, but still I wanted to present my recipes to someone who really cooked. Then again I needed to move out. I moved to a third location and when I opened that one I said, "Oh I'm going to start cooking. All the recipes I have I'm going to start interpreting them myself." That restaurant was on San Antonio and Canal. I was there for 3 years. People know me first from La Fonda, but I started cooking in that location.

Then I traveled for one year, working and cooking, also, but I was more confident so I was cooking by myself. I went to Spain for 3 months and I worked with a friend in his little project. It was a food car actually, that's when the idea of a food car became romantic too me, I thought "Oh, it's fun." They call it "el mobile," very Spanish. And I started doing cooking classes and I went to San Francisco and did classes there. And then I was in Santa Cruz and Los Angeles, traveling with friends, doing cooking classes. People invited me to their house to do cooking classes. And that's what I did that year. Then I came back and started doing cooking classes here. My first profession is as a teacher, so I am a good teacher. I like to show things to people. I like to share culture. I like to share things that are related to that. I'm so used to that. I come from a large Mexican family where everyone gets together to cook and then to eat and then to drink and then to dance. I like that. So that classes were great. Cooking is very attached to the ground, to the earth, because that's where it comes from. But it's also spiritual. intricate art
People ask me the menu, "What's going to be your menu this week?" I say, I don't know. I can tell you tomorrow but I can't tell you Friday. It's almost about the mood that I'm in and what I like to do that day and what things I have in the refrigerator. I don't like to waste, I recycle things. You just create a dish from what you have. It's part of my culture. It's great for people to have their own herbs and plants that they can just cook. It doesn't need to be a specific recipe, because that's difficult. If you have a restaurant or a special night cooking for your friends then you may stick to a recipe, but daily it's very simple. You try to understand what goes together with what. You just follow the rhythm.

Dining out can be difficult for a person who cooks, who maybe wants to find something different. If you ask me where do I go to eat, I would not respond to that, because it's difficult. If I'm in a certain mood, then maybe that's easier to find, but if I want something special, I'll do it myself. San Miguel has been has focused on tourism and many restaurants, say in downtown, they cook only for tourists, whether its Mexican or America, or international. There are a couple country-specific cuisine places, and I guess it's the mentality, they want to be the same, consistent, so that when people come back to town they'll find the same thing again and again.

What does a local want? What do we want to experience? Not many think that way.

gaby in the truck cracking eggs
photo by Kate McKenna
I have always been a revolutionary. I brought the first "official" film festival here [San Miguel Cinema Fest, in 1997]. I opened the first gay bar, La Lola. The cooking was great, it was a high-class restaurant, but open to everyone. At that time the foreign community was fine with it but the locals were not as much. That's normal. Everyone in the world there are gay people. So it's not a big thing. I've always tried to bring new things to San Miguel and the food truck is the new thing.

1996 is when I came permanently to San Miguel. I used to work for Televisa and Videovisa. I started there when I was really young, when I was 19-26. That's when I went to Spain for the first time, as a representative of the company in Europe. My job was to watch movies and buy the rights for Mexico. It was in the golden times of Mexico investment in culture and art. There were high budgets in the government and private companies to promote art. Of course I went to all the film festivals, Berlin Cannes Milan, in the US. I experienced a lot of festivals. My mother works in the film industry so I got to travel with her a lot and then we worked together. I used to watch all the films and chose them and she'd go back and negotiate them monetarily. We were a good team.

My parents moved to San Miguel three years ago. I'm happy that I've been able to reconnect because when you are young and you live with your parents in their house it's different. It's only when everything turns to a different moment, when you're an adult, that you really have a chance to enjoy your parents. When you develop your life, your interests, your craziness, when you went to search the world and when you have the information of the world is when you have a chance to maybe understand your parents in a different way. They came to town to live here when they retired and that's also the end of a cycle, the professional process. I was here in my process after seeing the world and that's when we could reconnect. We are not only parents and kids we are men and women.

I met Jennifer 3 years ago. I was doing cooking classes at that time and she helped me market the cooking classes so we got to know each other better. One day I told her I had the idea of a food car from Europe and she said, "no, that's a food truck." So we went to the States and we stopped in Austin and she showed me the culture of the food truck in the States. That's when I said, oh, that would be great. And I didn't want to make a food truck with tacos. Mexico City has 2 or 3 food trucks, alternative different kind of things and the others are taco trucks.

Hierbabuena food truck is something I've wanted to do always. When I had the last restaurant location I wanted to expand my territory and offerings and my information and learning about different ingredients and everything. I was ready for the next step, to develop some other things that I had been interested in. Actually right now I have been appealing to that with the truck. And I have another interesting project that I will tell you about later. I guess things happen when you need them to happen, Not before not after, when you're ready.

plate of chile nogada
Trompa outside La Fonda

Our truck is a girl and her name is Rosita. We call her Rosita Hierbabuena Green-Posner. I picked up the idea in 2006 when I closed my third location. I don't own a building. It's so complicated to be renting and moving all the time. I thought, well, the food truck is great because people just follow you. You tell them where you will be and they just follow and understand that your business is like that. Because I have so many other interests and I want to have time free to do them, and because the choice of food in San Miguel is wide, I offer my 3 days a week. It's good because people can come to me and then go to other places, too. And I have time to do the other things I'm interested in. The truck is more according to my personality. It's not like, "Ok, here is the menu." It's like, "Oh, the food truck is coming. Let's see what's on the menu today."

I go to the organic farms and see what is fresh. From there I build my menu. So it's really very local and it's very in season and it's what I want. Of course, I need to do balance, because there are people that want something on a permanent basis knowing that they will always find what they want when they come again and again. Then other people want something new each time. So the regular we have now, because of the crowd, is pizzas. It's more for the American people, but kids love it, and now since the school across form us is in session, that is important. Which is kind of a blessing of the universe, because when we started working there [Stirling Dickinson and Portrero] we didn't know that there would be a school [Academia Internacional] opening right there. We are there Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 10-4 doing breakfast and lunch. We get to our clients. We provide to the teachers at the school and the kids and mostly for the kids that stay after school they come for the chicken quesadillas, the girls like the chicken quesadillas, the boys like the pizzas.

eating area yard The beauty of the difference between the Fonda (which was a Mexican restaurant, so I had to do Mexican cuisine) and the food truck is the flexibility of your profile. What kind of food? We call it Cocina Mobile Gourmet. It's not going to be just tacos, fried tacos. It's going to be something with more ingredients, something gourmet. So yesterday I had a Mediterranean plate which was hummus, tabouli, quinoa, salad, and lamb brochettes. Then I had another dish that was couscous with lamb, because I had a lot of lamb and then I had the quesadillas and the pizzas and corn soup and everyone likes that. Then I had a Mexican dish, arrachera with guacamole and all that.

It's more casual too, people come to eat at the food truck without expectations, you go there to see what you're going to find. People ask for beer and I say, no, we don't have beer but there's a little store over there and you can get a beer there and drink it here; there's no problem. They are more open to get what they can. For all the people who would come from the restaurant, its not so stressful, it's casual, its plastic or recyclable materials and paper and so it's something that's easy for everyone.

I have had clients that bring wine, maybe a really expensive wine, and they don't mind drinking it in paper glasses. They aren't expecting fancy glasses, even if it's a nice wine. I've been doing chile nogada on Fridays. That's a great thing about having Jennifer as a partner. Jenifer does the marketing. She's very good at it. That's her profession. She markets and markets and markets and we have 30 orders for this weekend!
Yesterday someone came up to us to make a reservation for four people and asked, do you have wine and I said no but you can bring your own. Ok. I said, I can give you cups here, but bring your own wine. And he's like, oh yah! I'm going to bring this dry white wine Gavi di Gavi, an Italian wine, because your name is Gaby and it's a great grape for this kind of dish. So that's what I'm saying, people don't mind having a fancy wine in a paper cup in a food truck. And they're going to have the chiles nogada and they're amazing. They're coming and they order and they say what hour they're coming so I have a count. And now we have 30 orders plus another 20 for walk in people. That's all between 12-4 for the lunch. That's another secret that I found out after all my years with restaurants. Why be open 6 or 7 days when your customers just come three days and in 4 or 5 hours, why do you have to be open 8 or 9 hours?

It's the mentality in Europe right now, big companies who make cars like Mercedes say, ok, we have shifts of 8 hours and in those 8 hours we produce 2000 cars but we can't sell that many cars, we can only sell 1000. So we keep paying people for the 8 hours, but they're just going to come and work 5, because we can't sell everything otherwise. There is only place here that has people Monday to Sunday all hours of the day.

It's the same that happens to me; it's my vision, why have all this big offering when you can have a small offering with more consistency. Otherwise it's too much stress, and people start drinking.

That new proposal that we have with the food truck its more humane but it's still a lot of hours because we start at 730am preparing food and when we're closing afterwards I need to be around and organize it all, checking out everything, then make sure that the truck is off, whatever. By the time I leave it's often 730pm. That's twelve hours, instead of sixteen; it's twelve or maybe ten, and it's only three days a week instead of seven. Living in a community like here San Miguel with not so many people and a lot of restaurants, why have a place 24/7? I think I'm learning.

plate of chile nogada
Friday, Sept. 14 is the last day for Chile Nogada at the truck.

Contact, Catering, Menus (updated 2-3 times/week) and Reservations:

Chiles en Nogada: Learn more about Mexico's tri-colored national independence dish at Wikipedia.

September 3, 2012
Anado McLauchlin; We are all outlaws in the eyes of Amerika- Jefferson Airplane

Anado, a.k.a., James Rayburn McLauchlin, III, looks like Santa Claus after several highly revelatory LSD experiences during the Summer of Love, like a real world Saint Nick come to inhabit the (for him) ongoing glory days of San Miguel. Now in his 60s this child of the Sixties has long since turned his sack of presents inside out, his art works displaying the hallucinogenic core of existence which the survival-oriented mind, like Ronald Reagan, tries to convince us never really happened.

However jolly his now grandfatherly person, however childlike his playful creations, there is a lot of hard work behind the scenes. (Polar elves?) His technique (building chapels with mortar and empty blue green bottles, adorning punctilistically meticulous canvases, ornately tiling mandalas of color and myth worthy of an Indian temple's facade) is labor intensive, a discipline inspired in him one supposes from the Oklahoma soil where his ancestors are buried.

We first connected over a few bowls of my famous miso soup, followed up by its macrobiotic antithesis, Natura's exquisite ice creams (try the Salt.) Buoyed up by high blood sugar, full bellies and a recently emptied bottle of wine, we ended by singing "We Can Be Together" from Jefferson Airplane's album Volunteers (from which the title of this piece is taken) after he confessed that it was his personal anthem. I knew every word: listen on YouTube

We must begin here and now,
A new continent of earth and fire,
Up against the wall
Up against the wall, mf
Tear down the wall…
Won't you try?

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This interview was conducted in the shadow of the Parroquia, Anado's melodious voice punctuated every quarter hour by its bells. On his parting, trailed by several playfully mocking children whose minds he had just blown, it began to sun-shower. Coming out from under the trees I mounted my bicycle and rode towards home. The effortless downhill glide, the drops clinging to my dark glasses glistening in the rays fragmenting the view into a trippy whole, patterns of near symmetry always almost gelling, the glorious incongruity of sun and rain, om mane padme hum anado…     - Dr Dave (Fialkoff)

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note: This is a literal transcription of a very casual conversation... Anado asks that you excuse his grammar... he blames it on his Oklahoma roots...

I wish I was a child. I am a child I guess. Yah, I've done a lot of things and had an enjoyable life and I think like anyone else we have to do what we have to do and I feel very fortunate that I get to do what I do.

I spent my early years in Oklahoma, I probably had some sort of learning disability and I got bored really easily. Whenever I was bored my mother used to say,” well, why don't you make something?” She encouraged me as a boy to create things, and even write poetry. I tried going to University but it was the 60s and it was crazy and I never went to class. I dropped out and went back to art school for a year at the University of Oklahoma. My teachers said I was too decorative, so I took that as a sign that they weren't going to teach me anything and so I moved to New York in '71.

Having been raised in Oklahoma in the so called safety of suburbia, I had no political consciousness except that I knew I didn't want to die and I didn't want to kill anybody. But I didn't ever think I'd have to go to the war. However, I did get drafted. By the grace of existence, I got drafted into the navy. I was one of two people to be drafted into the Navy during the Vietnam era and as they had made that mistake but they had to keep me because I had taken an oath.. Luckily I was stationed at Moffet Field, now where the Shoreline Amphitheater is, in Mountain View [near San Francisco] and it was the Summer of Love and things were happening and I rode up there on a motorcycle and arrived on Haight Street and it was this really amazing, incredibly perfect summer. I was ripe for it. I started reading and listening to esoteric music, and my whole life was transformed.

I was in Oregon with Bhagwan. He was an eastern teacher, now known by the name Osho, who I met in India. I went to Oregon as part of his commune in 1982 and I was there for a little under four years and then I came down to San Francisco again. Bhagwan was someone who had some knowledge and a shakti power that was really strong. Kind of like he opened the door for me, for my path, even though I was already on the path. He made it more explicit for me. I think these Teachers can only take you so far and then you have to go without the training wheels. And so I left the community 11 years later. I considered him at that time in my life as the real thing. But as I've grown older and been on my own more with more experience, I now feel that he had his limitations. He was a man like anybody else and I loved him with all my heart. But I feel that if I had stayed there, I would have not grown emotionally or spiritually.

I had other teachers, but in different situations. I had a teacher down in Peru who I only spent a short period of time with in the Andes. He was part of the Andean Path, revealing knowledge that's been handed down from the Time of the Inca by word of mouth, never written down. And these are people that don't use any psychotropic drugs and it's basically about ritual and I had some really amazing experiences in the Andes with this fellow. His name was Don Juan del Prado. I was going to go back and see him but somehow it never happened. I kind of miss being with Osho, but he was alive when I needed to listen and I don't want to be with a dead teacher.

My art right now is where I put all my energy in terms of growth, exploration and journeying. It's tied in with my experience with Osho. I'm gay and the gay community was very invited and welcomed in his community and there were a lot of gay people there. A number of them I knew at that time contacted AIDS and have since died. Because of the HIV situation, there was a sort of change in policy in the community. You had to have an HIV test to even get in to the commune. If you were HIV+ you couldn't be part of the community.

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I felt in many ways that that was absurd. I talked about it in the community, expressing my dissatisfaction. At that time I was volunteering for the Zen Hospice in San Francisco so I was right in the middle of the AIDS epidemic, in the early 90s. I figured, well, I'm just going to cut off ties with the community. (Osho had died the previous year.)

[At that time] I thought of going back to my original name: James Rayburn McLauchlin III, which was a huge mouthful…I thought, well I'll be Jimmy Ray. I went by the name of Jimmy Ray for about 3 weeks but everyone knew me as Anado professionally… so I became Anado again.

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Over this period of time in my art work I had developed these pieces that have a somewhat artifactual quality about them. I came up with a body of work for a museum show here in Mexico, 6 or 7 years ago, called Artifacts from the Chapel of Jimmy Ray. I started constructing these pieces, keeping in mind that they came from a mythical origin. I was imagining this mythical situation while I was making the pieces… where they had been and what their purpose was in the Chapel. I had the show in February of I believe 2006 or 2007. I realized I needed to build my vision of the Chapel. In 2007 on April 1 we had a ground breaking for the Chapel of Jimmy Ray that was going to happen. It took us 5 years to build it. We had our Grand Opening on February 4 of this year, 2012. James Rayburn is the name of my father and my Grandfather. The Chapel Compound is dedicated to my father.

People donated some of the materials]. We search for materials and find them in the weirdest places, kind of abandoned. One deserted field was full of old Coca Cola bottles. I go to southwestern Guanajuato, to Correlejo, which is located almost in Jalisco. I buy the blue Tequila bottles which we use. I work with all different varieties of objects, found and bought, for the mosaics. It's very eclectic.

I've often said that I'm celebrating the ordinary. Giving a sort of reverence and at the same time irreverence to the ordinary… by combining a lot of different religious imagery and really distilling them visually. Instead of only one path to the Proverbial Truth, I feel that there are many paths. As human beings… as a species… we all have many different belief systems to explain the Mystery. There's only one Mystery I feel and there's all these different sects that come up with explanations because they were all raised in different situations. There are the Bedouins in the desert, the people in the jungle, the Aztecs here with the sun, rain and corn. Who is to say that the Aztecs were wrong in their human sacrifice? There are really so many different things; one Mystery, different truths or approaches or interpretations. Not right or wrong just different avenues, different doors.

I call my work Sacred Placement. Placing things and bringing it all together, having fun. At the same time it can oftentimes be drudgery, it's hard work, it's physical. I’m working all the time…, like today was a very difficult day for me. I did work. It's very meditative, repetitive, and ordinary but at the same time in the ordinary something grand happens.

It's about opening yourself up to what flows through you, and my own particular vehicle is playful. I've always celebrated having a good time. I don't think we grow out of that. People come by and they try to make something out of it that's not there…I don’t discourage them

Today we were driving to Celaya, and I have a tendency to drive with a lot of aggression, because I was a taxi driver, and I simply made a point today being and breathing in my belly and relaxing and knowing that I'm to get there…but slower and more relaxed. I think that if we could somehow do that in our lives I mean every situation to be sitting there breathing…slowly…watchful… It's not taking one’s self seriously. Being a joke unto thyself! I think that's what enlightenment is in many ways is… lightening up…not taking this life so seriously... Getting rid of your burden, letting it go, it's a lifelong process, it's not just something that you do….it happens.


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dome art [The term "celebrity culture" I use to refer to] one of many things that I see happening in San Miguel. There are so ex- pats here, party people arriving, wealthy people buying homes. It's good for the economy and at the same time it's that whole thing you see in LA or NY…a Celebrity Culture. I have to take a step back because my commitment is to building our project out in the Campo and I can't be a part of the party culture here. I can't keep up with them. I don't want to keep up with this .They can have their dance…I join in from time to time I have a certain kind of notoriety only because I've been doing this for a while.. You have to, not be careful, but not everyone is looking out for you. It's true. It's very true. It's weird. It's strange that people know who you are. It's just odd…they point you out…I never had that until I came here. It's not like we are in hiding…I mean, look at us!. But Richard and I have a very secure life with each other and that's where our focus lies….out in the Campo with our critters…..

I once heard Osho say, "The masses are foolish." And I don't think he was dissing the human race. I think he was dissing mass thought where people cling together in thought. He was encouraging a more individual experience. Whereas a lot of times we do things because everyone else does it, instead of coming from our own truth.

It's something where there is an atmosphere of solitude and quietude where true communication can happen instead of in glitz; even thought my art is totally glitzy Within that Glitz is a quiet place... Gurdjieff used to write these endless stories; he'd write page after page after page of blah-blah-blah, but within those blah-blah-blah-blah-blahs there was a kernel of Truth, and that was the meditation… to find that kernel of Truth. I feel that in my art that's what I attempting on a different level. I'm trying to give you a broad perspective, but within that broad perspective there is a quiet, solid, tiny place of yes, it's about yes.

Somebody says, why don't you go to Burning Man... Well, I say, I do go to Burning Man every day. I don’t want to go to a desert to be in Burning Man I'll just burn here. This is where I burn. This is my Burning Man. I'm not at all dissing this cultural event, it's a very important event. But at the same time not everybody has to go there, especially a lot of artists don't really need to go there, if they are busy in their studios… It doesn't necessarily need to be their venue for expression. I'm doing that here and it takes a lot of energy. I don't particularly like the idea of sitting in the desert or being in a dust-storm. I grew up in Oklahoma which is a big-ass dust-bowl; why go back to the dust-bowl? I lived in the High Desert of Oregon. Some people need that real intense hit of nature in a creative process… which is fine. I had my Haight Ashbury, I don't wish to do it again… I don't wish to do drugs anymore… I don't wish to have sex with a lot of different people and I don't wishto stay up until 6 in the morning. I did all that. I had a good time. I also suffered because of it… and I moved on.

People say, if you remember the 60s you weren't there, but I remember the 60s and I was there and that's because I had some intention. No matter how immature I was, I had some degree of intention. I was a disciple with Bhagwan (Osho), we were called the sex cult, I kind of did the “sex thing”. At the same time I know that Burning Man is a different situation and it's important that these people do it. It's a rite of passage, in a sense, and these people choose that rite of passage and then you hopefully…move on. I tend to avoid those big crowds. I sold a piece recently entitled, “Return to the Source”…for me I choose to return to my own particular Source which lies in the campo... 5km from San Miguel.

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balcony art

Yah, I do [have some stuff in museums], in a couple, one here in Mexico and one in the States. But I'm kind of on the outside of the scene. People say, oh you should do this, that, be here be there, in this magazine. Sometimes it comes through and sometimes it doesn't. Someone came the other day and said, "Oh, we want to put you in a gallery in LA." And I said, "I hear this all the time, if it happens it happens. I was an artist in New York in the 70s and I didn't have any sort of financial success in it. However I was in a peripheral part of the group of people who were doing some really important things. And then it was time to move on from there. And that's part of the reason why there is a Chapel of Jimmy Ray…it is my home…it's where I can center my energy. It's got soul. It really does. I saw a photo of it online the other day, a photo of when we were building it, and I could not believe we did it. I looked at it and I thought, oh my god, how'd we do that? It's a magical space. Yes, it really is.





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copyright 2012