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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.

The calendar said I was going to the Tomball German Christmas Market this weekend. Unfortunately, as for many of us, the calendar failed to take account of the reality of life with aging parents, so instead I wound up at the Christkindl Market, which is the ARLINGTON German Christmas Market.

It’s a small festival, only a few years old, and so far it’s still a fairly standard small local arts & artisans festival. It may become more thematic as it grows, but for now the merchandise is nice and a great deal more varied than most small festivals I’ve been to. In no particular order, I found displays of Andean Textiles; Nepalese masks and statuary; Turkish lamps and Senegalese baskets; Alpaca textiles; wooden drinking mugs, bowls, and other stuff; works from a local artists’ alliance; nice prints from a couple of landscape and travel photographers; a selection of German lace, woodcarvings, and miniature cuckoo clocks; and Bavarian ornaments, decor, and kitsch. Also presenting displays and, in a couple of cases, demonstrations, were a lapidary shop (with a geode cracker and a selection of 11-30 million year old surprise packages!); a lady trading in African clothing, art, and beadwork; a couple who turn out very colorful dichroic glass jewelry; a filigree maker from North Carolina; and a Persian artist who turns out some truly magnificent wooden inlay work. Oh… and a wonderful little chocolatier whose shop was giving out free samples. Yes. Free Gourmet Chocolate. My job is an unutterable horror.

Take a look. (There’s a bigger version of the collage behind the thumbnail copy, but the aforementioned aging parent still has the world’s slowest remaining dialup connection and gets timed out whenever I post big stuff, so I try to keep the front page here fairly tight. Those of you whose parents still live in the neolithic will understand; those of you whose parents haven’t gotten that far back will understand someday, probably sooner than you’d like. Be patient…)

Go. Enjoy. Lots of fun stuff you won’t find at the mall or the Big Box.

GETTING THERE: The market is on a closed stretch of Road To Six Flags on the north side of Globe Life Park (the Rangers’ Stadium, for the old-school contingent) between Ballpark Way and Nolan Ryan Expressway, just East of Collins in Arlington. It runs from now until 23 December… Website with directions, hours, and lots of other stuff, some useful and some not, is HERE.

Says right here in Blogging for Dummies that I need to post regularly, certainly more often than every couple of months. Of course it also says that when you’ve been blogging for several years and your regular audience is in the mid single-digits you should probably admit defeat and go live in a cave somewhere a long way from everyone, too, so there’s that.

(Don’t think it doesn’t cross my mind just about every few seconds these days, but with this election thing going on, the rent on caves… well, it’s through the roof. Soon enough, though.)

Anyway. So much for that.

I haven’t actually been totally goofing off.

The guy on the left there, looking like maybe he’s had saner days, is Robert Revilla, Jr. Today he’s being Pancho Villa. Some other day he may be Santa Anna or a pretty fair jackleg carpenter. (I’ve yet to see Santa Anna but can attest to the carpentry…)

Next to him is Larry Callies, who’s your basic all-around Western dude. Zydeco musician, champion rodeo cowboy, saddlemaker, leatherworker… and he’s now trying to ramrod a black cowboy museum in Rosenberg (It’s why I was there; this is a fundraiser event with a bunch of miscellaneous strange folk – how could I miss?)

If I can make it happen I’d like to wander down to his shop when he’s working; I’ve gotten to watch all sorts of handwork and frontier-type skills, but I’ve never seen a saddle being built and it sounds like it would be worth seeing and maybe shooting. Details as they develop….

Leaning on the car at right, there – that’s Ol’ Doc Parker, who’s been known to hide out as Cowboy Shootist Keith Bollom.

Behind him is the lovelier-than-lovely Yellow Rose Of Texas, who shall remain otherwise unknown on the theory that dreams should be allowed to remain undisturbed by reality.

*****

The Other Texas has another story in the works, of course… You should click on over there and take a look…

And even though it’s pushing a hundred out there, I think I’m gonna go look for something interesting to photograph. Just because.

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.

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.)

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.

It seems sometimes that close to half the countries south of Texas celebrate their independence from one colonial power or another within a very few days. Some of this is history, some is coincidence, but what it means is there’s a really big party. In Texas and most of the United States it’s generally referred to as “Fiestas Patrias.” We throw parades.

And I generally try to shoot them… because, well, they’re parades. There are bands. There are dancers. There are floats. There are veterans and celebrities ON the floats. There are old cars, with politicians and celebrities in them or on them. There’s music. Lots of music. This year there were high school ROTC units practicing for Veteran’s Day and Thanksgiving. There are flag-wavers and vaqueros and vaqueras and… it’s just a big noisy crazy spectacle and a heck of a lot of fun.

Also, for photographers, it’s what we might call a “target-rich” environment.

As always, the gallery is behind the picture.

One of the risks of doing “hyper-local*” media work is that if you don’t make a constant effort to look out past the horizon, your universe gets very small. A few weeks ago I noticed in passing that a delegation of Lamas from Drepung Loseling were scheduled to visit the Asia Society Texas Center to create another sand mandala. This is always a special event, but in Houston it’s not really THAT uncommon – one group of Tibetan Lamas or another comes through about every year or so. The thing is, though, after the first few minutes it’s not THAT much of a spectator sport, and I’ve seen it several times, so I marked it on the calendar out of habit and went on looking for stories.

The people involved with this are pretty slick about getting the word out, though, and the blip on the radar kept growing, and growing. And I kept thinking “nah, everyone knows about this, and every photographer within fifty miles will be there…”

See, my philosophy on covering minor news events without an assignment leans strongly in the direction of “hit `em where they ain’t”; if an event is going to draw a couple dozen other photogs, it’s unlikely I’ll find anything they aren’t getting, which means I’m mostly blocking the view of the paying customers, and selling anything after the fact is a matter of out-marketing those other guys… a thing for which I have no gift, little skill and even less inclination.

But as it turns out.. “everyone knows about this” was only most of the population of Houston proper. I mentioned the event, again in passing, to a Foreign Facebook Friend on Friday night, and he lit up like a neon sign. He’s at least 3/4ths of a Buddhist, you see, and had never seen the mandala work….and in and around the flood of words he typed at me over the next fifteen minutes I caught on that the message was “man, you just GOTTA go photograph this for me. You gotta, you gotta, you just HAVE TO…”

So…

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*a current buzzword – translates to “full coverage of the neighborhood, less coverage of the next street over, fading to virtually no information at all about anything more than twenty miles out…”

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.