The Homeless Gardener

Perry, 57, had been living on the streets of Portland, Oregon, for 26 or 27 years, he told me when my cousin Antonia introduced me in October 2015. A few years ago, he appropriated a big empty lot owned by a small apartment complex in the Sellwood-Moreland neighborhood. There he tends plants, builds sculptures out of found objects, and takes care of a cat. Click on a photo to enlarge it and to scroll through the photos and read more about Perry.

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People Every Time–Women at Work in Mexico

On cold winter days in New York, I’ve been looking at thousands of photos I took in Mexico last year. While the lovely warm colors of the landscapes and sky and flowers and buildings infuse me with warmth, the photos of women working in small businesses are most compelling. Their faces, their aprons, their hands tell their stories.

I took these pictures for Pro Mujer, a non-governmental organization that provides small loans and health care to women in Latin America. I published a few of the pictures here last year, but I want to share more images of these hard-working, lovely women. They live on on the outskirts of Mexico City and around the states of Hidalgo, Pachuca, Puebla, and Oaxaca.

Click on an image to enlarge it and see the caption and to scroll through all the images.

 

For the photos of Pro Mujer women I published here last year, here’s the link:

Mujeres at Work, more photos

 

A Short Comic About a Long Friendship

Brian and I became friends in Chicago right after he graduated from high school, and I had a crummy job downtown. We had big adventures, then fell out of touch for a long time. For 18 years, he has been very sick. This is the comic I drew after visiting him recently in Seattle, where he had moved:

Beautiful Brian: The former magnet magnate on collecting magazines, Xanax, and survival. A comic by Pat Arnow 1Brian(Arnow) 2Brian(Arnow) 3Brian(Arnow) 4Brian(Arnow) 5Brian(Arnow) 6Brian(Arnow) 7Brian(Arnow) 8Brian(Arnow) 9Brian(Arnow)

These photos I took of Brian in 1971 and during a visit in 2015 to Seattle where he moved.

Brian Chicago 1971 (Photo by Pat Arnow)Brian in Seattle 2015 (photo by Pat Arnow)

BackCover

Update: Brian did move to Chicago last year. He persists.

 

Nice little old lady isn’t

A great moment in a great chilly brilliant day in New York:

I stopped in front of the Punjab Deli on Houston St. on the Lower East Side to lean on an iron rail basking for a few minutes in the sunshine. A tiny ancient person, bent over a bubbe cart, passed and said, “It’s nice in the sun.” I said it sure was. She stopped, turned her head up toward me, and out of the side of her mouth, like she was telling me a secret, she said, “I’m going to the corner for cookies.” 

About five minutes later, I headed the same way, and she had just made it to the corner, that’s how slowly she was going. I was surprised that she went into the fancy Union Market. I went in behind her, but the narrow lanes were crowded, so I hesitated as the old woman trundled on. Then came the highlight of the day: She shouted at the good-looking tall people in the way, “Get the fuck outta the aisle.”

I went on to Tompkins Square Park in the East Village where the most magnificent elm is shedding its leaves.

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Lush Desert

Lush Desert

Last week, after three months in Mexico, we were ready to go home, but home wasn’t ready for us, still icy and blustery. So we came to Tucson, Arizona, where we are loving the desert. Every big saguaro cactus has a big personality. Cholla needles glow. Tiny wildflowers are beginning to bloom. Streams run through the dry landscapes. Here are some pictures, primarily from the marvelous Saguaro National Park, Catalina State Park, and Sabino Canyon, part of a national forest. Thank big government for preserving these beautiful places. Click on a picture to enlarge it and you can scroll through the photos using the arrows.

Cholula, not the hot sauce, and Puebla

In Last Vegas, pathetic retirees Morgan Freeman, Michael Douglas, Kevin Kline and Robert DeNiro run off to gamble and flirt. Why are terrible movies so good on the ADO buses in Mexico? It’s not the dubbing into Spanish–terrible Mexican movies are great on the ADO, too. We took the four-plus hours and two-plus movies bus from Oaxaca to Puebla before the New Year to meet our East Tennessee friends Ann and Bill. A few days later we moved to Cholula nearby, site of a giant, mostly unexcavated pyramid with a church on top.

Kite flying atop the Cholula Pyramid.
On New Year’s Day, dozens of people flew kites on the side of the Cholula pyramid. On top is the Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de los Remedios.
Princess balloon on church ceing.
Looking up at the ornate ceiling in one of the beautiful churches in Puebla, I noticed a pink princess balloon had floated up and nestled against a princess of the church. 
Ann, Steve and Bill, in Puebla doing what they do a lot. Ann taking pictures, Steve waiting, Bill exploring.  They're at a museum/restaurant/jazz club near the zócalo. Is it the only jazz club with a tomb and skeleton? Well, outside of New Orleans?
Ann, Steve and Bill, in Puebla doing what they do a lot–Ann taking pictures, Steve waiting, Bill exploring.
They’re at a museum/restaurant/jazz club near the zócalo. Is it the only jazz club with a tomb and skeleton? Well, outside of New Orleans?
In a Puebla church, a statue with a distinguished face, a lace veil, beautiful light.
In a Puebla church, a statue with a distinguished face, a lace veil, beautiful light, mournful, matched what happened next–Ann had the flu, Steve caught it, then I caught it. So did 4.4 % of the population of Puebla. Steve called it PueblEbola.We are better now, thanks. 
Ann Bill
Bill never got sick. 
Popocatopetl at sunset
Sunset over Popocatopetl, the active volcano near Cholula. There’s a little puff of sunset plume emerging from it in this picture. 

Noche de Rábanos, the Night of the Radishes

It’s a big night in Oaxaca. The zócalo is full of people carving radishes into elaborate scenes. Thousands of people file by to admire the very perishable art. Click on any image to enlarge it.

noche de rabanos
Night of the Radishes sign made from radish parts.
Radish woman
Radish woman
Radish oven
Radish oven
Radish cart
Radish cart
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Radish Dragon
Tiny radish dancer
Tiny radish dancer
Radishes pulling a radish donkey
Radishes pulling a radish donkey
Radish roses and their maker
Radish roses and their maker
Solidarity radishes and their makers. The radish sign in front says, "Fuera EPN" or "Out Enrique Peña Nieto," (President of Mexico).
Solidarity radishes and their makers. The radish sign in front says, “Fuera EPN” or “Out Enrique Peña Nieto,” (President of Mexico).
Rock slinging radical radish.
Detail of demonstrating radishes–a rock-slinging radical radish.
Guy Fawkes made of radishes in radical radish demonstration
Guy Fawkes made of radishes in radical radish demonstration
Radish fist
Radish fist

We held a small radish-carving party as a tribute to Oaxaca’s Radish Night.

Steve, radishes
Steve and the radishes.
Steve, Peggy and Christin work on carving
Steve, Peggy and Christin work on carving
Steve's radish bee
Steve’s radish bee
radish sculptures and mezcal
Radish sculptures by Peggy (she did the elf), Christine, Steve and Pat with the help of good local mezcal.
I made a radish clown nose. Steve models.
I made a radish clown nose. Steve models.
Pat's radish nose selfie.
Pat’s radish nose selfie.
Radish sign (not ours--we just aren't that good).
Radish sign (not ours–we just aren’t that good).
Virgin Days in Oaxaca

Virgin Days in Oaxaca

Dancers with images of the Virgin of Guadalupe
In a procession from a church in Oaxaca, women balancing portraits of the Virgin of Guadalupe spin and dance down the street.
Girl dressed up in Oaxaca.
Families flock to Llano Park in Oaxaca with their children dressed up to pose in Biblical scenes set up by photographers around the front of the church. Children sit on donkeys–either large plush ones or real ones. This self-possessed girl with perfect makeup and charming braids was ready for her close-up.
Little girl as Virgin of Guadalupe
A little girl dressed as the Virgin of Guadalupe on a float in a procession.
Man dancing with turkey.
Steve especially loved this guy dancing with a turkey under his arm in the procession for the Virgin of Guadalupe.
The full moon rises over Santo Domingo Church in Oaxaca. The domes are plaid.
The full moon rises over Santo Domingo Church in Oaxaca. The domes are plaid.

I am woman and a mighty big key in Zaachila

The bathroom incident

Women line one street, cradling live chickens or hefting turkeys under their arms, waiting for buyers. On another street, women sell dried squash seeds and beans and corn and roasted peanuts. All around the square and inside the market building, vendors hawk bread and pastry, chocolate, meat, piles of peppers and tomatoes and onions. It’s Thursday, market day in Zaachila, a town about 12 miles from where we are staying in Oaxaca. It’s colorful, exotic, exciting. I don’t take pictures

I stand in line at the WC (2 pesos and you get a good amount of toilet paper to take into your stall). The ladies in line are mostly vendors wearing their aprons, braids down their backs. There’s no blending in for me in jeans and sneakers and straw hat and even at just 5′ 4″ more than a head taller than most of the women in line.

My oddness becomes even more clear when the tiny lady behind me taps me and in Spanish says, more or less, “This is for women.”

I turn and said, “Soy una mujer.” I am a woman.

The expression for utter embarrassment is universal. She cringes and looks horrified, and then giggles. All the women in line including me start laughing. I let her go ahead of me so she can get out of there, but I bet she’s going to be teased for awhile.

A quiet tomb

Above the market in Zaachila and behind the church is a small archaeological site–two Zapotec/Mixtec tombs. The only visitors while we are there were some policemen who come up to sit on benches under a tree to eat their lunch, and some girls in school uniforms who look like they were dodging grownups. If you click on any image, it will enlarge.

Miguel Fabián is the ticket taker and guide.
Miguel Fabián is the ticket taker and guide. He opens the steel doors protecting the tombs and tells me about them.
The mound covers the ruins of a palace, but only two tombs have been excavated at all--look at the lower left.
The mound might cover the ruins of a palace, but only two tombs have been excavated at all and are not much visible–look at the lower left.
The bones were on the floor and decorated with exquisite jewelry that got taken away to the museum in Mexico City. So did the pottery and other artifacts in the tombs, and Zaachichilo got le
The bones were on the floor and decorated with exquisite jewelry that got taken away to the museum in Mexico City. So did the pottery and other artifacts in the tombs, and Zaachilo only got to keep the bas-reliefs.
Tomb figure with penis
I ask Señor Fabián what the man carried–a big key? No, a penis, he says. Oh, a very big key, I say, almost as embarrassed as the woman who told me I was in the wrong bathroom.
Zaachila buses had the picture of Christ sitting on the cross, head hidden, and this message: "Nadie! Te Amo como yo." Nobody loves you as I do. Clearly, he got that line from his Jewish mother.
Zaachila buses have a picture of Christ sitting on the cross, head hidden, and this message: “Nadie te amo como yo.” Nobody loves you as I do. Clearly, he got that line from his Jewish mother.

Mujeres at work

You know what you tell people to say in Mexico if you want them to smile for the camera? WHISKEY.

That’s one of the discoveries I made last week driving around for three days with the intrepid Yesenia Diaz Delgado, communications coordinator for Pro Mujer Mexico. Working as a volunteer, I took pictures of women who get loans and health care through the nonprofit. Here are some of the dynamic women working hard near Mexico City.

Click on any photo to enlarge it. All photos © Pat Arnow 2014.

Josefa Gomez Sanchez at her pollería in Tecámac, Mexico.
Josefa Gomez Sanchez is tough on chickens but good-humored to everyone else  at her pollería in Tecámac, a big town just north of Mexico City. She is one of the micro-finance clients of Pro Mujer.
Josefa Gomez Sanchez
Josefa Gomez Sanchez at her pollería.
Arely Pavón-Torres and a plant.
Arely Pavón-Torres has a green thumb that she has turned into a plant business from a workshop in her home in Xochimilco in the southern part of Mexico City.
Paola Torres
Paola Torres, Arely’s mother has an indoor and outdoor kitchen. I want what was in the stewpot.
Paola Torres and molcajetes
Paola  showed me her impressive collection of molcajetes, the stone vessels used for grinding food since forever in Mexico. These were just a couple of them.
Molcajete planter
A planting by Arely in a molcajete. I didn’t ask if it was one of her mother’s collection.
Pat Arnow and Arely Pavón-Torres.
Me and Arely in her plant-filled courtyard in Xochimilco. Yesenia from Pro Mujer took the photo.
Sky-high poinsettias
The landscape around the state of Hidalgo north of Mexico City where we traveled after Xochimilco was dramatic with cactus and canyons, mountains, fast-moving streams, and big poinsettias plants like these growing over rooftops.
Gabriela Gonzalez Lopez and Yesenia Diaz Delgado
Tomato grower Gabriela Gonzalez Lopez in Ixmiquilpan in the state of Hidalgo. She also runs a produce and chicken store at a crossroads nearby.
With her is Yesenia from Pro Mujer, who did all the driving through some profoundly bad traffic. She maintained her patience with both the jammed roads and my slow, tense-mangled Spanish.

 

Pig
We visited a farm that currently has just one two-year-old pig. She was happy to see us, grunting and looking for an ear scratch. Who can resist a cute pig portrait?

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