As one group finishes their set, the emcee steps up on stage and introduces the next group. There is a fifteen minute break between bands, enough time for people to stretch, take a walk, find the porta potties, get a burger, stroll the town, pull a hat over their eyes and take a little snooze.
Some of the spectators today are wearing T shirts from past festivals, here and elsewhere, and spend their breaks visiting with their favorite musicians outside the tent before and after each of their performances.
Waiting in the wings to go on stage, this mandolin player practices a few choruses to keep his fingers nimble and his mind alert, rehearsing a song his group will soon be performing. All the groups are good here but we pick our favorites, either by the songs they play, the way they play them, the way they handle the spotlight, the way they make us feel comfortable, or happy, or sad.
When these performers aren’t talking music they talk money, relationships, schedules, aches and pains,all threads in their musician’s coats..
Luckily, we, in the audience, don’t have to know their business, their politics, their issues, or their motivations to have ourselves a good time. Music gives us all a chance to back away from trials and tribulations and kick up our heels.
If we wanted to be propagandized, or depressed ,we would turn on our TV, listen to talk radio, or open tomorrow’s news already written today.
No one comes to a bluegrass festival to have a bad time and we sure don’t pay for bad music.
In the American Civil War, drummer boys led troops into battle and were one of the first to be shot by opposing forces. Paintings in the White House show George Washington surrounded by a drummer and fife player when he was surviving Valley Forge and winning our disagreement with Britain. GI’s in World War 2 were entertained by singing show biz legends at the front when they had a rare break from spilling blood in someone else’s fight. Music and fighting men/women have always had things in common.
Tonight, the 44th Army New Mexico National Guard Band is doing a free concert at the Albuquerque Museum of Art. Food and drink is available, crowds are good for a Thursday night, and the band performs jazz standards, big band charts with solos and lots of rhythm. During the show, a female soldier joins the band on stage and belts out songs for an appreciative crowd.
Everyone has to play their part well tonight to make the whole group sound good. Like the military unit, that they are, the soldiers must play in time, play in tune, play their written and improvised parts in the style and spirit required. Their marching orders are to follow the conductor when he moves his hands in front of them, left and right, up and down.
After the big band plays, a smaller ensemble of brass players march onto the stage, literally, and play rousing New Orleans brass band music.
After the concert, the audience and some of the soldiers, hang out on a nice summer evening, not in a hurry to leave.
Music brings people together,in spite of wars ,and keeps them together, whether they are military, or not.
There is controversy whether this is a lighthouse and whether Columbus’s bones are really inside the not so small ornate iron box in the center of this ornate display.
Columbus found the Dominican Republic on the first of his four voyages to the New World. Interestingly enough, he never set foot on America’s soil but set up his family comfortably in Santo Domingo to give them a good life and claim to lands he discovered for the King of Spain.
He was a visionary, as well as a businessman, and having audience with Kings and Queens is no easy task because, being important people, their time is worth more than ours. Mounting an expedition that was going to the ends of the world was a dangerous enterprise.
The big things I learn today are that, when walking, things you see are much further to get to than they look. Whenever you get lost, call a taxi and pay a few bucks to get where you want to go so you don’t spend your entire trip walking in circles.
It seems odd to celebrate a man who discovered America,but didn’t, and odd I’m standing here taking a photo of what we are told is the explorer’s mortal remains?
He and his beloved Santa Maria , right now, are most likely somewhere north, northeast of Mars navigating under celestial lights on dark dark seas with only a compass, telescope and good instincts to guide him and his crew..
He, I’m sure, is doing in the next world what he did in this one.
His bones might be here, but he doesn’t need them for his new discoveries.
At the entry to the Fountain Hills Park are a number of statues, some seated on benches, some standing, all with commemorative plaques and praising comments. The figures cast shadows, some longer than others. Most of the statues are of men and most have been Presidents of the United States.
Presidents, as we know from watching those we have voted for, have lots of good speechwriters, lots of philosophy and confidence.They enter office with one mindset and leave with another. Leading the United States, on a day to day basis, is like trying to keep water in a glass that keeps springing holes. You enter office believing you can benefit the country knowing that half the voters believe you are aren’t worth the time of day. Presidents leave office hoping they didn’t have to deal with war, a disastrous Depression, or any number of calamities that come upon a nation. You are glad, when your term is up, to let someone else drive the stagecoach.
This morning Lincoln and Reagan look like old friends and it would be revealing to sit on a bench on a moonlit night listening to their stories about unruly cabinet members, hostile Congressmen and women, an unrelenting negative press, and military misadventures.
There are those who would like to cart these two men and their memories away, store them in a warehouse providing props to the movie industry,
We expect far too much from our Presidents, and our Government.
This country will rise and fall on the efforts of us who will never have a statue of ourselves in a park..
Golf, as invented in the Scottish countryside, started with sticks and a ball.
Those old guys hit the little hand made wood ball for a distant hole dug in the ground, added traps and water later to make the game harder. They created a rule book and came up with tournaments and prizes to keep competition interesting and playing the game seem more noble than it is. Hitting a small ball with a stick with a club head, and getting it to go where you want it to, is a devilishly difficult skill.
Frisbee golf has recently become popular with the younger crowd. There is a frisbee golf course around this Fountain Hills Lake and it features eighteen designated holes. There are no traps but the goal is the same – get the frisbee around the course in the fewest amount of strokes, or throws.
These guys are practicing this morning for their Sunday tournament today, and, by empty picnic benches, competitors are stretching, taking their frisbees out of Wal Mart tote bags and wiping them down with a clean rag.These two contestants tell me there are different sized frisbees for the different shots they have to make in a round. They let me try my hand and toss one of their plastic plates at a close by practice hole they are using to warm up before their tournament begins. I give a toss and manage to land the frisbee inside the little upright basket where it is supposed to go.
There is room in this world, I believe, for ” frisbee golf. ”
After a round of ” frisbee golf ” I expect all these ” golfers” will easily be found at their ” nineteenth hole ” just as we go there after our rounds on our local courses.
Drinking predates golf by thousands of years, and explaining why your score was so high is always easier with a cold beer, chips and dip.
Whether it is real golf, or frisbee golf, GOLF is still, since it was made up, a four letter word.
Even if golf tests your temper and ego, it easily beats work, still another four letter word we all LOVE to HATE.
Tobacco farms and factories are actually located closer to the city of Santiago but you can get a whiff of the industry in Santo Domingo.
The Arturo Fuentes Cigar Club, in Santo Domingo, is a retail smoke shop, but it is also a gathering place for those who love to smoke their cigars and talk about the experience. It is a home, later in the evening, for anyone who wants to shop for fine cigars and accessories, have a drink, book one of the private smoking rooms for a personal party, or just sit in the bar and share cigar stories with people who love to hear them.
Alan, my cigar loving brother, tells me he met Carlito Fuentes at a cigar exposition in Las Vegas, Nevada a few years back and has a photo of Carlito and himself with Carlito’s sister. Alan likes the “858” Maduro’s and appreciates the civic works of the Fuentes family.
This morning the store has just opened. The cleaning staff is at work dusting and vacuuming and the receptionist is kind enough to show me the club’s premier cigar vault, answer my questions, wait for me to call my brother to see what cigars he wants and show me some of the Club’s perks.
One of the coolest areas in this shop is a little room, off the main lobby, that has individual lockers stocked with their owners own personal stash of cigars. One of the lockers is owned by Angel Jimeniz, a professional golfer. His name is written on a nice little card in a slot on the door of one of the lockers.
The sales girl finds me a nice box for the half dozen cigars I buy, rings up my sale, and packs Alan’s cigars nicely. She, calls me a cab, and advises me that the cab ride is ” not more than two hundred pesos ” which turns out to be 100% correct.
Next time back here, I’ll dress nicer,spend more money. and leave her a bigger tip.
People on this island are exceedingly gracious.
If they had this store, in the Zona Colonia, I would be there every evening, cradling a cigar, still in its wrapper, in my right hand, listening to patrons rambling about their cigars, their love life, politics and their latest business victories.
I can think of better addictions to acquire and cultivate than smoking, but I would never talk bad about someone pursuing vices that only hurt themselves.
The little cigar making room, entered through a small corner tobacco shop in the Zona Colonia, has four men inside. One is reading the paper, another is watching the cigars being made, two men are working – making cigars, by hand, one at a time.
” He is muy rapidio, ” I remark.
” He can do 300 in a day if we don’t talk to him, ” one of the non-workers says.
By the look on both men’s faces, who are working, they must be paid by the cigar. They are intent on what they are doing, responsible for making cigars so people that smoke them won’t smoke any flaws.
This workplace smells like tobacco.Tobacco leaves, dry and thin, are clumped around a press on the floor. There are pieces of leaves on the desk of the man in the gold colored shirt, and more on the work table of the man in the blue shirt.. It appears the two workers make a team. One man makes the rough cigars, stores them in a wood sleeve that the other man pulls to his table and finishes. The tools both men use are simple and not any different from what either might have used a hundred years ago to do the same job.
I watch the finish man pick several cigars up from his finished stack to check the smoking end to make sure, once lit, the cigar will draw air and keep its combustion.
These men take pride in their work.
If I was a cigar smoker, I would like to smoke the ones they are making this day I am watching them.
Men will turn themselves into machines if it profits them, but men, bottom line, were never made to be machines.
Just off Colon Plaza, straight east past the Pizzerella pizza parlor, Juan Voight shows up to work every day.
He says he has been an artist since he was a little boy, teaches at the college just behind his little outdoor work space, and makes his living as a full time artist. He works deliberate. Watercolors demand precision, a good sense not to let the brush stay too long in one place, be too wet or have too much color in the bristles. Watercolors can be quirky, like water itself.
Juan’s items for sale include originals, but, also popular, are postcards he runs off in series of 100 and sells three for $10.00 U.S. His prints are of scenes one sees in the Zona Colonia – the Cathedral, the Plaza Espana, the Parque Colon, the Alcazar de Don Colon.
Juan remembers me from an earlier conversation and takes the time to make me a special carrying pocket for my postcards, carefully recording his name and instagram gallery url on the outside.
I remember the studios of Carlos Paez Vilaro, the Uruguay artist ,and Roberto Ibarra, in Montevideo, and Ann’s studio in Granada, Nicaragua, and my mother’s studio in the downstairs of our home in Albuquerque, paintings in all stages of completion hanging on walls till they were shipped to competitions or hung in galleries.
I remember the Cerulean Gallery in Amarillo, Texas.
I remember street art everywhere.
Juan’s works are a combination of creative spirit tempered by the hands of a craftsman..
The medium you work in makes demands and determines your process and product.
Scotttreks postcards average two hundred words each.
You can’t say too much in two hundred words,but you never want to say too little.
Every time I pass, I see customers at this little empanada stand – ordering, sitting in these plastic lawn chairs,visiting, stopping a moment in life, standing, moving away, replaced in moments by someone else.
It is all very random. The process is like those parts of the atom scrawled on our high school Biology board – the protons, electrons, neutrons and all the things not up there that we still don’t know about, and may never know about.
The empanada menu here is extensive and all are less than one U.S. dollar apiece. This morning, for breakfast, my order is a ham and cheese empanada, a pollo empanada and two orders of pineapple juice naturale, served with ice in a dixie cup.
I should have tried these empanadas earlier in the trip but stuff always crowds you on trips, distractions and diversions, side trips and just plain not getting around to it. The point is, there are always places to get a quick bite within walking distance of where you are staying, if you look.
I appreciate fine dining with exquisite tastes and beautifully designed plates served on white tablecloths with a candle and the best silverware, but I always regret having to pay for a meal and then having to go buy more food to feel full.
If I lived here, I would be a regular and D would give me the local price, like anyone else.