Sep 30

Rainy Season in Guatemala. Lake Rising….Mountain Falling

The (provisional) main dock in San Marcos….it gets redone about once a week now.

If you’re a hard core Christian, maybe you believe that the earth is only 5,000 years old, but if you’re more prone to the scientific view, you probably think that it’s had a lot more birthdays than that.  You know how they compare a dog’s age to a person’s… seven to one, with some adjustments in the early years for the more sophisticated reckonings.   Well, however, you think, believe, or reckon, this part of the planet seems squarely planted in its teenage years.

We’ve got volcanoes that no amount of a good industrial Clearasil application could neutralize.  And besides having all that emotional hot lava just underneath the surface, the tectonic structure here is always ready for a little dance and shakedown.  Stability is just not one of the virtues of our mother earth here.  After growing up in a neighborhood in Pennsylvania where nothing shook, flooded, erupted, or slid, this is a big environmental change.  The only thing that reportedly had quaked in our town was a bunch of people that looked like that guy with the wide brim black hat on the oatmeal package.  Guatemala’s just in the rebellious teenage planetary belt.

There’s only one thing worse than too much rain, and that’s no rain at all.  and here lies the rest of the post

Sep 22

In Search of Balance

Balance, metaphysically speaking, denotes a desirable point between one or more opposing forces.   And with respect to food consumption and nutrition, I’d certainly like to know where this point is, and maybe go have a look to see what we’re shooting for, if we’re even shooting for it.  It seems like, wherever I am in the world, today….. there is the absence of balance.

It was shocking to me to read in the Guatemala’s Prensa Libre today about Unicef’s urgent plea to take immediate action to remedy the situation that exists with Guatemalan children.  According to their claims, one out of every two children in Guatemalan suffers from chronic malnutrition and this year, through the end of June, there are over 11,083 documented cases of moderate and severe malnutrition.  These are cases that have been brought to public health centers and have required some kind of treatment.  Of these, 3909 have been designated severe.  A severe case is when a child is losing weight rapidly and in danger of dying within one week!  Yeah, I’d say that that’s severe all right.

Ok, before we go on, let’s have a quick look at a couple of sentences from James Howard Kunstler’s blog this week, describing the scene at a late summer country fair, probably in upstate New York.  “Our county fair put me in mind of that American classic, Moby Dick, this year. So many white whales among the try-pots bubbling with rendered blubber, where crews of savages from all corners of the world toiled to bring forth batter-dipped Mars bars, Pop Tarts, corn dogs, funnel cakes, and other rarities of the deep fryer… and then the whales ventured a little further down the midway where they mounted the engines of swirling cosmic death, and were flung about in the centrifugal pods of fate on the ingenious mechanical arms of innovation, until their sickened souls gave forth with a mighty spewage of corn byproducts that rained down upon the moiling innocents below….”

One thing that I know well after living in Guatemala for 15 years is that the Guatemalan people love their children.  I can’t imagine them wanting to knowingly starve their children, but their children are starving in probably more than half the cases.  read the rest here

Sep 15

Mark Twain covered more ground than kids running around the Mississippi.

That may be obvious to a lot of you, but it wasn’t to me.  I think that the general public has an idea that this guy just wrote nice stories set around the Mississippi River in the late 1800’s.  And I am sure that the Texas State Board of Education would love to keep it that way.  Show ‘em Tom and Huck and leave it at that.  It was all about painting fences, or rather,  getting other people to paint your fence for you.  They’re great stories, but, having recently read some other authors that quoted some of Samuel Clemmons’ works, I began to realize that our own great American writer had a  unique and extremely radical  point of view.

I mentioned this in an email a while back to some folks and my friend, Dave, showed up with, and lent me “Letters From the Earth”, a compilation of some of Mark Twain’s posthumously published uncensored writings, named after the  story of Satan’s assignment by the Big Boss to the planet earth, and his letters back to fellow archangels, Gabriel and Michael, describing the situation there.  It’s that classic combination of perception and humor, that made Clemmons famous.  But his essay entitled “The Lowest Animal” struck me as a good tool for anyone who would like to put into perspective Man’s position in these latter moments of life’s unfolding on this planet.  I guess this is something we all know, but it’s nice to be reminded.  What do they say, a stupid man needs hear things 10,000 times before he understands, and a wise man only 6000?

So without too much further ado, I present the above mentioned piece for those whose curiosity has been peaked or for those who wish to addendum their classic readings.  I scanned the book, and then used a free OCR program to suck the text out of the pdf.  Quite a bit of work, but well worth it if you enjoy it!  I hope I don’t get sued or something for posting this.  Read it quick before I have to take it down!

The Lowest Animal*

*This was to have been prefaced by newspaper clippings, apparently, dealt with religious persecutions in Crete.  The clippings have been lost.  They probably referred to the Cretan revolt of 1897 (B. DV.)

In August, 1572, similar things were occurring in Paris and elsewhere in France. In this case it was Christian against Christian. The Roman Catholics, by previous concert, sprang a surprise upon the unprepared and unsuspecting Protestants, and butchered them by thousands—both sexes and all ages. This was the memorable St. Bartholomew’s Day. At Rome the Pope and the Church gave public thanks to God when the happy news came.

During several centuries hundreds of heretics were burned at the stake every year because their religious opinions were not satisfactory to the Roman Church.

In all ages the savages of all lands have made the slaughtering of their neighboring brothers and the enslaving of their women and children the common business of their lives.

Hypocrisy, envy, malice, cruelty, vengefulness, seduction, rape, robbery, swindling, arson, bigamy, adultery, and the oppression and humiliation of the poor and the helpless in all ways have been and still are more or less common among both the civilized and uncivilized peoples of the earth.

For many centuries “the common brotherhood of man” has been urged—on Sundays——and “patriotism” on Sundays and weekdays both. Yet patriotism contemplates the opposite of common brotherhood.

Woman’s equality with man has never been conceded by any people, ancient or modern, civilized or savage.

I have been studying the traits and dispositions of the “lower animals” (so-called), and contrasting them with the traits and dispositions of man. I find the result humiliating to me. For it obliges me to renounce my allegiance to the Darwinian theory of the Ascent of Man from the Lower Animals; since it now seems plain to me that that theory ought to be vacated in favor of a new and truer one, this new and truer one to be named the Descent of Man from the Higher Animals. …and here’s the rest

Sep 09

Atitlan Acoustic Guitar Workshop 2012 with Steve James at Blind Lemon’s in Guatemala

Come to beautiful Lake Atitlan in Guatemala for a 5 day intensive Workshop/Study of the roots and blues styles of the American masters with world renown guitarist/teacher Steve James.

Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

Next year’s workshop will be held on March 5th through the 9th, 2012, at Blind Lemon’s Restaurante & Cafe, in San Marcos L.L., Solola, Guatemala.  Blind Lemons’s has been recognized in the Lonely Planet and on Trip Advisor for it’s unique atmosphere and fine food and entertainment.  Besides Steve, of course, other blues greats such as Mike Dowling and Willie Murphy have played here.  Blind Lemon’s also has wireless internet service and screens movies.

Hanging out at Blind Lemon's

Steve on Stage at Blind Lemon's

STEVE JAMES, based in Austin, Texas, has an international reputation as a performer, recording artist, writer and teacher with decades of experience presenting original and classic acoustic roots music.  To maintain the focus and personal attention, this year’s workshop will be limited to 8 participants.  To be able to take full advantage of this opportunity, the student should be of intermediate guitar skills and have some proficiency with finger picking and alternating bass thumb techniques.

Steve giving a private lesson at Lemon's

Each of the first four days will include a morning group session with opportunities for private lessons and consultations with Steve and myself in the afternoons.  The evenings are for jamming, open mikes, and group discussions.  Steve has a wealth of blues knowledge and experience with players such as Furry Lewis and Bo Diddley that make for incredibly entertaining and unique stories.

The Patio at Blind Lemon's

Day 5, Friday, will see us crossing Lake Atitlan to the village of Santiago where we’ll spend the night at the wonderful Posada Santiago doing a student and teacher concert for the guests there.  There’s a sauna, hot tub, and swimming pool, as well as direct access to the lake.  The restaurant there is noted for being one of the best on the lake, and the owner, David Glanville, is a big blues fan, as well as a slide player, himself.

Steve and Carlos playing at Posada Santiago

Included in the workshop fee of $699 is all instruction, private and group and lodging in San Marcos at a private home or local hotel Sunday night through Thursday night.  Two meals a day at Blind Lemon’s for the first four days, and a brunch before leaving to Santiago on Friday. The boat trip to Santiago and lodging only in Santiago is included. Also included is pickup at the airport on Sunday March 4th and an early shuttle to the airport from Santiago on Saturday March 10th.  We can make arrangements for people whose flights do not fit this schedule for minimum extra cost.  For those who would like to have some extra time in Guatemala to spend in Antigua, or explore other parts of the country we can make some recommendations and provide some assistance.

A procession passing in front of Blind Lemon's in San Marcos

The idea here is that you can come to beautiful Lake Atitlan and focus on learning without having to know any Spanish.  You get yourself to the airport in Guatemala City and we take care of the rest.  For more information and an application, please contact Carlos at

Sep 06

Ecuadorian ExPats remember the day….

This from my friend Rudra/Gary via his View From the Roof post. Remembering back in the day, here in San Marcos.  He writes…….

This View from the Roof is a little out of the ordinary. I’m not a great music aficionado, but I do like the blues of a certain flavor. And my favorite flavor comes from a very good friend of mine, Carlos Funk, originally of Black Mountain, N. C., now living in San Marcos, Guatemala.

Cotacachi is the musical capital of Ecuador and we’ve heard some pretty great music here. I’m even getting into the musical vibe here by taking up the harmonica.

The other night I got a You Tube video from an old blues-playin’ amigo of mine. Memories of great music came flooding back to me. Nights of wailing blues and harmonica riffs, good companionship and life at its best.

Catarina y Carlos

I’m talkin’ about laid-back livin’ that flows without effort. In the same way that music flows from Carlos in finger-to-fret communion . All reasons why I love to travel and why I’ll never stop exploring the world.

Linda and I first met Carlos back in 2001. We had been teaching a meditation teacher training course on Zipolite Beach in Oaxaca, Mexico with about 15 Mexicans and half a dozen Americans and European students.

Read the rest….and all the juicy comments from some of the most intelligent folks on the planet HERE

Sep 06

First Funk Video

This is my first youtube video, it’s gonna probably make over 1400 views in it’s first month.  Not bad for beginners.  I guess that I will eventually post them all here, but you can always go to my youtube channel as well.

I need some more subscribers; that would help get somethings moving in google search world, and would also let you know when I post a new video.  Thanks…!

Sep 06

Antonio’s Blues

Well, here we go!  I guess we’re gonna talk about the blues, playing the blues, singing the blues, the why, what for and the where for of the blues.  This is a subject that’s pretty wide and pretty long.  And hopefully it all ends up in a song, but it never starts out very musical.

For example, just this week, here in Guatemala the blues descended on one part of my little Guatemalan family here.  The second oldest brother, Antonio, of 9 children, has got three….at least….women, and word has it that there are a total of 11 kids.  Well, I sat with the whole family gathering as they lectured this guy, fairly politely, using Cachiquel, the local tongue, with his first woman. and her 6 kids in various stages of nodding out, observing.  The Spanish word that kept jumping out of the dialog was responsibilidad…..responsibility.

You see, the family, brothers and sisters and parents, accept his kids with his first woman…..there’s six of them, but they really don’t know, or probably have never even met or seen the other 5, although the distance between any of them and these mystery nieces or nephews (or grandchildren) can be measured in meters, not miles.  No importa, they were here because word got out that the known and accepted six had had nothing to eat for three days last week, except huiskiel.  Ok, what’s that?  Well it’s a sort of potato crossed with a squash that grows abundantly on a big leaf vine.  No beans, no tortillas, nada.

So they’re pretty much getting on this guy’s case for not being responsible for his kids, and maybe that is somewhat true, but my basic feeling is the bigger picture is that he over reproduced himself out of the ability to be responsible, even if he wanted to.  He, for his income potential, does not fall within the realm of getting that done.

So the kids have got the blues and the rest of the family, which is by no means well off, and under other stresses, have the inherited duty to help keep these kids up and running.  And Antonio, gets to watch his lack of self control and localized power fantasies down spiral into embarrassment and loss of self esteem.

I can definitely see the effect that the international bankers (ie wall street etc) are having on the “economy” of the locals here.  I put economy in quotes because you have to fire up a different definition than you would normally see in the NYTimes or the economic commentary throughout the web.  We’re talking about chewable food in mouth here….in sufficient amounts to maintain healthy life function.  That’s the basic economic indicator here.

What’s happening here is reverse acidic trickle down.  Reminds me of a scene in Breaking Bad where they’re trying to dissolve some dead guy’s body in the upstairs bathroom bathtub using some kind of acid.  Well it not only dissolves the body, but also the bathtub, the floor boards, and the joists as well, and the whole bloody mess crashes down onto the first floor.  Well, these guys here are the first floor.  They’re the one’s who are picking and carrying the Starbucks coffee down the sides of the mountains, macheting the sugar cane for the Ben and Jerry’s etc.  I really don’t know how “we the people” ever bought that trickle down nonsense in the first place.  Did the guy that sold us that one have a sharkskin suit?

I wonder if those high up corner office types know what effect they’re having on the little cane and adobe kitchen shacks of Guatemala?

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