Sunday, March 8, 2015

Tecojate Beach, Guatemala

For a family visit five of us in Santiago, Atitlan, made an excursion to Tecojate and to the beach there.  A hundred kilometers from Santiago to Tecojate by van to visit a relatively desolate beach and a dying pueble (or so it seems).  The comodores were open for business.  We enjoyed seafood, beer, and sunshine.  The place was practically deserted it being March. No tourists (not a foreigner in sight) and only a few Guatemaltecos. 

A  boat ride from the public beach in Tecojate to the beach -- across a hundred yard bay -- costs Q5 for a round trip.

Comodores are basic and colorful.  Most have beach sand floors.

Our van driver preparing for the return trip to Santiago.

 At least half of the businesses have closed.  The resulting ruins add something to the ambience, though maybe not readily apparent.

This comodor was open, or so it seemed.  But the dog was a deterent, as was his companion, not shown, a rooster.

Our lunch being prepared.  A seafood dinner -- fish, shrimp, fries and a salad: Q50.

Children of the comodor staff.  Innocence can seem very compelling, poverty not withstanding.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

What I Saw In Winnipeg

Photographs from a recent trip to Winnipeg, Canada with Vicki.  We visited with Vicki's family and friends for 15 days during which she and I did walkabouts in the vicinity of Arlington Street.  Photos are from those excursions.  Winnipeg was a surprise.  It is a cosmopolitan city with some incredibly beautiful residential areas and, of course, some to-be-expected poor areas.  The photographs here represent  a thin slice of single area in which walking was a daily experience for Vicki and me.

Viewers might want to enlarge some, or all, of these images.  If you are a photographer you will know that sometimes the smaller details are the most interesting elements.  The photograph immediately above is just such an example.

Above: walkway from Arlington Street to the river.

 Sitting area at the edge of the river.

It was a marvelous vacation.  Thank you, Mary, David, Luke, Levi, and Nick for best company and a great place to stay, and for wonderful meals.  Thanks, too, to Eric, Doris, Herman, Carol, Monty and to the tallest 14 year old I've ever seen, Olive.  And, to John for a special ride in the Smart Car.  Vicki and I are still talking about the meals shared, the geese staging, the perfection of David's reading from his new novel, Leaving Tomorrow, and Mariam's reading from her novel, All My Puny Sorrows. AND, the best: the wedding dinner with all in attendance.  A new (official) family member could not ask for more.

Monday, June 3, 2013

The Big Trip

Almost three years ago Christopher Scheirer and I began taking motorcycle trips together in Guatemala.  Christopher got his first motorcycle and his brother-in-law taught him to ride, and gave Chris detailed safety tips.  Christopher took to riding with a near mania.  He was fearless, and fast.  On the trips we took he was always in the lead.  He would get miles ahead of me, turn around and ride back to check on me, getting some extra distance.

We rode north, south, east and west.  Into the mountains, over volcanoes.  To  beautiful colonial cities and to modest, and poor, pueblos.  Trips were usually for a day, but there were over- nighters, lasting two, three, or four days.  From the outset we talked and imagined longer excursions.  After awhile the idea was to take THE BIG TRIP, at least a week possibly more.

There was always a complication.  Rainy season set in twice before we could get underway.  Christopher had medical emergencies with children, and the birth of his third.  There were delays while he took care of his coffee business and I labored in the darkroom.  We made plans.  We got awfully close to leaving, then the unexpected would happen, an important coffee business trip to New York for Christopher.  We delayed, re-scheduled.

THE BIG TRIP became a matter of much discussion and we hashed-out venues, travel times, routes; and, importantly, how much time could we do photography and still make our daily destinations.  We temporized, and delayed.

Two weeks ago we finally acknowledged the obvious.  We had to set a date and stick to it.  Just leave, no matter the circumstances.  We were to be on the road this week.  Then, a Facebook message from Christopher; he was in hospital, ruptured appendix.  But he was feeling better, even with four tubes in his belly.  I dashed off a quick note to him and scolded ironically (he understood better than anybody else my quirky writing ) that he was going to great lengths to get out of the ride this time. (How, now, I wish I could take back that bit of so-called humor.)  He wrote me again that he was up sitting outside on a patio, that he was feeling better; in fact, he said, he was expecting to be released during the weekend.  He inquired about my health.  We said nothing about THE BIG TRIP.

Christopher, as a rider, was a near-perfect companion.  He liked to chat up complete strangers, especially in the pueblos; this made my work much easier.  We were complimentary.  He stopped willingly when there was, to my mind, a good photo opportunity, or when my butt was getting sore.  We enjoyed good meals at each of our destinations, we searched bookstores, and stayed in inexpensive hotels.  Christopher preferred spending his cash on good food and wine.  I have to point out there was one aspect of travel with Christopher that could become tiresome: his endless telephone calls home.  We stopped for gasoline, he called Zaida.  We went to restaurants, he called Zaida.  We stopped on the roadside, he searched for a signal -- call Zaida.  He and I could travel for a single day, he would call home a dozen times.  (But, truly, who could fault him?  -- if you know Zaida and the boys you will  understand.)

If you have read this far you will know the outcome.  There was no THE BIG TRIP.  As I write this Christopher is on his way to Colorado, a last earthly trip.  Then, for him, the really big one.  I will miss him; the real trips and even the BIG one that I can continue to dream about. 

 Below are some images that might give you an idea of Christopher and his travels.  All images can be enlarged for easier viewing.  These, for me, are bitter-sweet.

Christopher near Chichi looking for an old mask maker.

Near Godinez.

Always a leader.

We often had tire problems.  Chris looking for a repair shop.

Talking coffee.

Christopher during negotiations to get a cow moved.

With an ice cream sandwich.

Chatting with an old finca worker.

Exploring an old ,nearly abandoned coffee finca.

At the end of Lake Atitlan, a few miles from Christopher's home.

On an old dirt road from Los Encuentros to Totonicopan

We stop in route to Totonicopan

Friday, March 25, 2011


1990 was a particularly good time to drill for gas. Federal tax incentives for exploratory drilling were about to expire and major companies rushed to get wells underway.

That year I lived in rural Tuscaloosa County, Alabama, about 12 miles from the cities of Tuscaloosa and Northport. My house was a rented one. It was a aging house built in the early 1900s on approximately 700 acres most of which was heavily wooded, with ample pasture land. The pasture land was rented to nearby farmers who generally grew hay or pastured cattle or horses.

I awoke one morning to the growling sounds of flatbed trucks and heavy machinery. Preparation-crews, the smell of diesel, and the sound of tracked earth-moving machines and chainsaws were present every day for many weeks. When the rigs began to drill it was a 24 hour operation. For a while I was surrounded by work crews on eight rigs and endless clanking of drilling shafts, and a surrealistic lighted landscape at night.

Roads had to be built and drilling pads constructed. Ponds for spillage and overflow were excavated and lined.

I decided early on that I wanted to photograph this assault on the land. I was angry. This was to be a purely documentary effort; to what end I had no idea. So, most afternoons I went to confront the enemy. I did nothing with the negatives: they were never printed, merely filed and left to gather a bit of dust. Recently I found the notebook with the negatives, not yet proofed but in good condition. Scanning the negatives was a revisit to 1990.

Oddly, the images are not quite as shocking as I had initially thought they would be. In fact there is even a perverse beauty in some of the damaged landscape. The viewer will have to be the judge for him- or her-self whether this is true.

I was expecting that I might feel animosity toward the workers. The contrary was true. They were friendly. They seemed fully aware of what they were being paid to do, but took no evident pride in it. At least not in the destruction. They were family men. They needed the work. They took time to rescue new-born squirrels from a fallen tree. Like myself they deplored the wanton destruction and waste of thousands of feet of timber which was buried in deep trenches beside the newly constructed roads.

Before the onslaught (above).

Site cleared for drilling rig (below).