27.7445N: 95.3860W

One of the great things about Houston is that despite the miserable climate we have sizable groups of people from everywhere living here, and sometimes they throw parties. For everyone.

Yesterday, it was the Brazilian Women Foundation. (Their spelling, not mine.) They took over Avant Garden, a local bar and music venue, for the afternoon/evening and held a festival.

Fortunately for me, I know a few Brazilians on social media and one of them clued me in, early enough that I was able to get down there for a little bit.

Food, music, clothing, more food, pretty rocks, pretty jewelry, ladies’ lingerie… a little bit of everything.

Not sure what she was serving, but look at that dress…

Doris, Sergio and the Unknown Drummer.

Mobile Clothing Store, aka Fashion Truck…

Pao de mel is a Brazilian Honey bread made with some sort of dark flour, dark honey, a bunch of spices, and chocolate.

That silver platter in the middle of their table is a sample tray. It is, you will note, empty. There’s a reason. YUM. I got the next to last piece and I had to block someone else out to do that. (Sorry, friend, but I’m a reporter; this is for journalism.) If it’s not the best sweet bread I’ve ever had, it’s that close. These folks, Honey Honey, are out of Austin. They don’t seem to have a website but they are on FaceBook and email. (Just ask. They’re in my contact book for DAMN sure.)

“It’s a geode. This batch is mostly turning out white quartz, not purple amethyst, but they’ve all got crystals and they’re all turning out beautiful.”

Handmade Jewelry byGumi…

Gulmira Heyl is yet another Facebook website only artisan, but either way that’s beautiful work.

It looked to be a pretty good turnout, all in.

29.74609 N, 95.39412 W

Couple years ago, for reasons I don’t remember but that made sense then, I signed up for a Yelp! account. Last night I was skimming one of their “latest and greatest” email summaries when my writing partner sent me a message that we needed to get together today. Okay, I thought, this place looks interesting… Let Us Go Explore, because we’re writers and that’s what writers do, right?

The barista is Heather. She rocks.

So we did, and… Long story short, I now have a new favorite coffee shop. The Campesino Coffee House is in an old brick house (maybe 1940s?) on Waugh Drive just off the Westheimer Curve, and they have some parking (never enough) and a patio and lots of nice understated color. It’s basically a hip little joint with a Latin flavor – coffee, drinks, etc. from Points South – and it’s not a hard guess that I’d go for that, right?

The café de olla (If you don’t do Spanish you could get away with Café de Oh YEAH!!!) was just right, dark, smooth, and spicy, with just the right bite at the back edge from the cinnamon and spices. Partner was all over the cappuccino, which she said was a good match for the version she drank when she was working out of Rome…

Several other things on the menu look very interesting; there’s a “Maya Mocha” which is reportedly a combination of coffee, chocolate, and cayenne with a hint of cinnamon. I’m the only gringo I know who actually LIKES the combination of chocolate and cayenne, but I’ve been called weird enough times that it doesn’t bother me any more. They have at least a partial kitchen, offering sandwiches and empanadas and the like, but I’d had a late breakfast/early lunch so I took a pass this time. It won’t matter as I’ll be there fairly often.

Decor is sort of funky mishmash with art and color and bits and pieces of Central American (Salvadoran) folk art fitted in. The front room features a vintage (possibly prewar) Philco radio Just Like Grandpa Used To Have, though from the sound it’s not the original innards. Their website (here) says they’re going for the old Montrose Boho Vibe, and I’d say they’ve got it… It wasn’t crowded at midday midweek, so I can’t say I’d want to be there on Weekend Mornings, but it did seem like a good place to sit with a laptop and work when it’s not busy, and I didn’t notice anyone having problems connecting or staying online (and you can usually tell when it’s not working), so I’m guessing the Free WiFi is solid.

If it weren’t almost ten miles away, it’d be the new Home Away From…

And it may get there anyway.

29.72202 N, 95.38975 W,

I’ve never been to Peru, but it’s only one line on the map away from Ecuador, where I may end up, so when the folks at the Houston Museum of Natural Science announced that Peru would be the focus of the February “World Trekkers” gathering, I decided “Eh, close enough!” and sprung for a ticket. So last Friday evening I hopped a bus to a train and then started walking…

A bit of background…

Every few months HMNS hosts “World Trekkers,” a sort of Cultural Night for Members (and Their Kids). It’s mostly for young families to bring their younger persons to the museum, where they get to “experience” a little of another part of the world, in the form of children’s crafts, edible goodies, and usually a folkdance or music group. And, with luck, they learn that there’s more to the museum than a big room with a bunch of old dusty bones and rocks and such.

Mind, a big room with a bunch of old dusty bones and rocks and such was always enough for me as a kid, but back in those days we didn’t have iPads or virtual reality – we only had fire after big storms, and nobody really trusted those “wheel” things anyway… But the world’s changed, mostly for the better, and getting kids to think of learning and having fun in the same sentence is always a good idea.

I digress. Frequently. (Old folks do that. Deal with it.)

As I expected, the event was mostly “kid stuff” – paper mask making, a “Help paint a blanket on the llama” booth, a “Make your own quipu” table, (which drew as many adults as younglings) and so on.

For adults, there was music to listen to, and kids to watch, and a display of incised gourds, hand carved and colored. This is an old Inka art form, now mostly sold to tourists. I stopped to admire.

These are about three inches across, which makes the carvings about as intricate and precise as you think they are. The tops of these are geometric patterns, but if you look down the sides you’ll see traditional scenes of rural life. Others had illustrations of animals, landscapes, and jungle scenes. Sure glad I don’t have to carve those, but I suppose patience is a cultivated skill.

And then, over the speakers – “dancers start in five minutes, right here in the main hall…” and I started looking for a spot.

The performance troupe, Raices del Peru, is local. They’ve been around for years.

This is Roberto Cubias and Beatriz Rozo performing La Marinera, the “National Dance of Peru.” It’s from the northern Highlands.

Most of the dancers in the Raices troupe are young, and the little Panasonics I had with me aren’t really good for fast action in low light, so that part didn’t work so well. The shots that weren’t blurred were out of focus, the shots that were in focus were blurred. I wasn’t getting anything, but couldn’t get to a spot where I could work within the cameras’ limitations without disturbing most of the audience, and I hate it when people do that… so in the end I put the cameras down and just enjoyed the dancing.

I did grab the “shoot the dancers in front of the backdrop” moment, though, because these clothes are so beautiful that I wanted to show them to you.
Textiles and tapestries are one of the major art forms in the Andes, and these are nice examples of the better work.

On the way out I stopped to meet the petting zoo… a squirrel monkey, a guinea pig (cuy), and a chinchilla, and over to the side a young vicuña. I gave some thought to photographing them but I would have had to use flash, and they were skittish already after two hours of being petted, poked, and pestered by a small horde of younglings, so I decided to leave them alone.

Next time for that, too.

Anyway. Reality calls. Time to get back to it.

31.92594N, 97.10344W

If you’ve spent much time in Texas, especially in the plains, you’ve seen these – the iconic old Aermotor windmill pump. They’re getting rarer now; fewer farms, fewer farmers and, one suspects, more electrical pumps. But they’ve been around, more or less unchanged, since 1888 and that slow squeaking and creaking has been a West Texas soundtrack almost forever, it seems. Change the geartrain oil about once a year and your basic Aermotor will keep on going until the world stops. It’s that simple and that solid.

You gotta be off to see the wizard….

On the way to Goliad as soon as I log off here, to see Los Pastorales – a reproduction of an old play/performance the monks at Mission Espiritu Santo and the other early Spanish Missions used to teach the Christmas Story to the Mission Indians. Supposedly it goes from the viewpoint of the Shepherds. Should be interesting, though it’s done in Spanish and that might make it interesting. Words and a gallery to follow.

And there are several hundred pix from MECA’s Las Posadas last week, just waiting to be edited down and have words attached. That’ll have to wait until I get back, though.

That’s all gonna be happening over at The Other Texas, though.

Just for checking, in, though… here’s the first clean photo from MECA:



(Joseph and Mary, having wandered the streets of Bethlehem (with the Old Sixth Ward standing in for the little town) looking for a place to stay, eventually wind up back at MECA, where it’s about to be Party Time.)

29.78374N, 95.39728w

So yesterday afternoon the editor-beings dispatched me to the Heights to see a Citzen about a Constable. As happens I was up in the Heights one afternoon earlier this week and the traffic then had been similar to the mall parking lot on Black Friday, so I left base camp with a LOT of time in hand, Just In Case.

And, as always, when you’re ready for Just In Case, nothing happens.

So I wind up hanging out in the front of Donovan Park, watching kids on all the toys and climbing/clambering stuff and chatting with a nice lady I’d met just last week on another shoot in another part of town… and along comes this tall gangly dude, friendly-looking, burdened with an armload of miscellaneous stuff. I watch, wondering what’s going on – he might be my Citizen but that doesn’t feel right – and he starts opening things up and putting things together, and okay, that’s a paint box and that’s a folding table, and no, that’s an easel, not a tripod – we’ve got ourselves an artist here. I wander over for a look – I’ve got little to no talent in that particular medium myself, so it always fascinates me.

Turns out it’s Roger Seward and he’s got a beautiful day to work with, so he’s going to get some actual painting done…

And THEN.. THEN… Just in Case happens. A crew of small persons approach from the unguarded Northern Reaches, and they glom onto the artist right off. There are a couple of minutes of just watching him do his thing, and then, kid-like, “we’re doing that in class too.”

Hmmm… This could turn into something. We Have a Situation, and chemistry is developing here. Fortunately the Citizen Victim has arrived. He’s over by the gate trying to raise the Constable by phone. Meantime, I’m watching out of one eye for the constable to show up, and keeping the other eye on the artists.

And then I glance away to check out what might be a cruiser coming up the road, but no, it’s just HPD… and I look back and Roger’s got the painting off the easel and down at work level for younglings, and this wonderful moment is happening, right here…

and this….

and it just keeps getting better…

and …

and EVERYONE gets in on the act…

And then, as all good things must come to an end, Mom comes back, the Constable arrives, and reality reasserts itself.

But there were those few minutes…

There are times when I hate this job, but on days like this, I wouldn’t do anything else.

32.76092N; 97.23616W

Running a little late here on the posting….

Back in early October I ran back up to Fort Worth to do Mom Stuff again. While I was there I got the chance to duck out and see a couple of things, including a convoy of Vintage Military Vehicles driving through Fort Worth, retracing the first coast-to-coast military convoy along the Bankhead Highway*.

I was hoping the convoy pix would become part of my larger Bankhead story-in-progress, but unfortunately, for whatever reason, the relevant authorities opted to bring the convoy in along the old DFW turnpike and avoid the Bankhead route entirely.

Buggeration.

But still… I like history, and I like old machines, and this was both, so I went out and found a good spot on the side of the road, where I could shoot as the convoy passed.

(Yup. That’s the front of the convoy. By now you should know that the rest of the convoy is behind it, right?)

After they’d gone by and some of the traffic had cleared, I jumped in the truck and followed the convoy over to Farrington Field for their rest-and-maintenance day. Learned some interesting stuff there… This trip was 3000+ miles at 30 mph, and on a haul like that the old machines require a fair bit of wrenching. Also, it turns out there are several thousand people involved in this particular flavor of historical preservation. The umbrella group is the Military Vehicle Preservation Association. They do long-haul convoys for public education and such about every year or so, they LOVE it when you ask questions, and yes, they DO take new members. If I needed a new hobby and had the money…. It’s probably lucky I’m ALREADY broke, since otherwise I’d go broke chasing all the interesting things I run into.

Later in the week I caught the train over to the State Fair. That post is coming soon.

In the meantime, enjoy the pictures, and charge up the batteries because the weather’s cooling off and there are more things to shoot.


*You will probably hear more about the Bankhead, and other old Texas highways, if you sign up for the mailing list at The Other Texas. (Yes. That is a Hint. It’s also a link. You should click and sign up. Please. It’s safe; I’m probably the one person you know who hates spam and spammers more than you do.)

29.71529 N, 95.47829 W — Burnett-Bayland Park

GULFTON — There are days when making a living as a photojournalist doesn’t seem like the best idea I ever had.

Last Saturday wasn’t one of them.

Newspaper work , at its best, can be interesting and far from routine. But, as a guy I was working with on a story once commented, “You don’t work for a newspaper. You’re with the Comical.”

True enough – but that “with” is the difference. I’m not staff, so when there’s nothing coming in (which is the usual case these days, for most newspaper freelances) I get to go walkabout.

And I found a bunch of other people going walkabout, too….

Or rideabout as the case may be…

As well as a couple of politicos, basically waving the flag – they’re already well known in the area.

Houston City Council District J representative Mike Laster (center) with staff….

Sylvester Turner, a local with a long resume in city and state government, now running for mayor.

and an assortment of dancers, martial artists, skateboarders, teachers and students from Baker-Ripley Neighborhood Center just up the road.

29.697 N, 95.529 W

One of the most interesting things about Houston is the huge variety of cultures and peoples who’ve come together to create this melange we have…

When I go collect my daily bread, every few days, I walk past the True Buddha Temple in Sharpstown, for no good reason except that it’s between Base Camp and one of my favorite panaderias, the Arandas over on Beechnut. Usually it’s a morning walk for me, and the gates are always locked. Yesterday, I got a late start and they weren’t, and the light inside was quirky but workable. (Late in the evening it’s almost totally backlit, since the front of the Temple and the statues face due east…)


25blackspacer

I actually shot the dedication ceremony when the Temple opened (it’s a converted church, I forget which denomination) and found the people there to be very nice and quite helpful. Unfortunately this was back in the film days and the slides, somewhere between then and now, have gone awry.

Somewhere about four years ago I grabbed the slightly wider view, en route from A to B..

Someday I’ll have to go back and talk with these folks… I’m idly curious which flavor of Buddhism is practiced here.

Get Lost!!! (N29.76223, W95.56478)

Found myself wrestling with a bad case of cabin fever yesterday afternoon. Lots to do, as always, but the only thing I really felt like doing was throwing on a pack, grabbing a camera bag and my staff, and hitting the trail.

So I did. (It’s pretty hard to get lost here in the Big City with major streets everywhere, but you can lose the sightlines in the park and it FEELS much more “out there” than it actually is.)

It was a very grey day, which kind of limited the possibilities, but I found a few others…

They’re over HERE. Go look. If you’ve got money burning a hole, you can even acquire copies of your very own, suitable for hanging over the sofa, or the desk, or… (And if you don’t have money, or have better things to spend it on (food, housing, whatever) you can still look. Looking remains free.)