Gum Tree

|November 10, 2011 | Mexico, Photos By J.Yuenger, Travels

Coyocán, Mexico City.

The Mummies Of Guanajuato

|November 6, 2011 | Mexico, Photos By J.Yuenger, Travels

” Guanajuato, Mexico : A number of bodies interred during a cholera outbreak in 1833 became naturally mummified due to unique conditions in the Santa Paula Municipal Cemetery. All of the mummies were disinterred between 1865 and 1958, when the law required relatives to pay a tax in order to keep the bodies buried. If the deceased’s family could not pay the tax, they lost the right to the burial place, and the body was removed. The mummified corpses were stored in a building, and in the early 1900s, cemetery workers began charging people a few pesos to view them. This place eventually became a museum called El Museo De Las Momias, the museum of the mummies. A law prohibiting the disinterring of more mummies was passed in 1958, but the museum still exhibits the original mummies. “

” The first mummy, the body of a French doctor, was put on display in 1865. The museum, containing at least 108 corpses, is located above the spot where the mummies were first discovered. Numerous mummies can be seen throughout the exhibition, of varying sizes. The museum is known to contain the smallest mummy in the world, a fetus from a pregnant woman who fell victim to cholera. Some of the mummies can be seen wearing parts of their clothing in which they were buried. The mummies of Guanajuato have been a notable part of Mexican popular culture, fitting nicely with the famous Mexican holiday Dia de los Muertos, the day of the dead. A well known 1970 B movie called Santo vs. The Mummies of Guanajuato pitted the well-known Mexican professional wrestler and several others in a battle to a predictable finish.”

GHOST RIDERS

|November 2, 2011 | Mexico, Photos By J.Yuenger, Travels

Xochimilco / La Isla De Las Muñecas

|November 2, 2011 | Mexico, Photos By J.Yuenger, Travels

” Xochimilco is one of sixteen delegaciones ( boroughs ) within the Mexican Federal District. The borough is centered on the formerly independent city of Xochimilco, which was established on what was the southern shore of Lake Xochimilco in the pre-Hispanic period. Today, the borough consists of eighteen barrios ( neighborhoods ) along with fourteen surrounding pueblos ( villages ), covering an area of 125 km2 ( 48 sq mi ). While the borough is somewhat in the geographic center of the Federal District, it is considered to be ‘south’ and has an identity separate from the historic center of Mexico City, due to its separation from the city for most of its history. Xochimilco is best known for its canals, which are remnants of what was an extensive lake-and-canal system that connected most of the settlements of the Valley of Mexico. The area attracts tourists and Chilangos ( Mexico City residents ) alike to ride on colorful gondola-like boats called trajineras around the 170 km ( 110 mi ) of canals. ”

” In 2005, the borough had a population of 404,458, 4.6% of the total population of the Federal District. The growth rate is 1.8% for the past decade, lower than the decade previous. However, a large percentage of the borough’s population lives in poverty and many live illegally on ecological reserves, lacking basic services such as running water and drainage. In the past, houses in the area were constructed from adobe and wood from juniper trees, but today, most are boxy cinderblock constructions, many of which are not painted. By the 2010 census its population had grown to 415,007 inhabitants, or 4.69% of Mexico City’s total. “

” Canals in the waters of Lake Xochimilco were initially created by the use of man-made agricultural plots called chinampas. Chinampas were invented by the pre-Hispanic peoples of the region around 1,000 year ago as a way to increase agricultural production. On the shallow waters of the lakes, rafts were constructed of juniper branches. Onto these rafts floating on the water, lakebed mud and soil were heaped and crops planted. These rafts, tied to juniper trees, would eventually sink and new ones were built to replace them. Over time, these sunken rafts would form square or rectangular islands, held in place in part by the juniper trees. As these chinampa islands propagated, areas of the lake were reduced to canals. These floating gardens were an important part of the economy of the Aztec Empire by the time the Spanish arrived. ”

La Isla De Las Muñecas ( the island of the dolls ), the best-known chinampa in Xochimilco, once belonged to a man named Julián Santana Barrera. Barrera was a loner and was rarely seen in most of Xochimilco. He became famous for collecting the old broken bodies of dolls from canals and garbage dumps and hanging them from branches or tying them to tree trunks to keep away evil spirits and to appease the spirit of a dead girl he’d found in the canal a few years before. He stated that he believed that the dolls were somehow still alive but forgotten by their owners. In the early 1990s, Barrera was discovered living in a hut on the chinampa, formerly thought to be deserted, and he started to attract the attention of the press. He began to receive more visitors, eventually includeding local political figures. Barrera died in 2001, and there are many opinions on the cause of his death : some say he drowned himself in the river because he was driven insane, and others believe the dolls came alive and killed him. The dolls are still on the island, accessible by boat. ”

Happy Dia De Los Muertos!

|November 2, 2011 | Mexico, Photos By J.Yuenger, Travels

Ciudad Valles, San Luis Potosi, Mexico. On the left, Halloween masks, pretty much identical to the Ben Cooper ones of my childhood, and on the right, a woman dressed as La Calavera Catrina. ” The Day Of The Dead ” is actually two days, November first ( All Saints’ Day ) and November second ( All Souls’ Day ), but the celebrations have been going on all week. Mexicans really love Halloween, and so they’ve incorporated it into the Muerte holiday, which means that, where I am, Halloween is a week-long thing and won’t be over ’til tomorrow. Pretty sweet, right? It’s not all candy apples and razor blades, though. Yesterday, we went to the cemetery and observed family members washing graves and covering them with flowers, particularly marigolds. Last night, we went to the village square, where high school rock bands were playing. Little boys, dressed as skeletons, and little girls, dressed as red devils or Catrina, were busy painting a giant papier mache skull. I don’t think a lot of tourists come to this town, but we’re particularly out of place here : we are clearly rockeros, music-counterculture types, but we’re not kids. Nobody can figure out what to make of us, and several times last night teenagers asked us to pose for photographs with them.

Just Hanging Around

|November 1, 2011 | Mexico, Photos By J.Yuenger, Travels

Ciudad Valles, San Luis Potosi, Mexico.

SUGAR SKULLS

|October 29, 2011 | Mexico, Photos By J.Yuenger, Travels

Pasteleria Ideal, avenida 16 De Septiembre, Mexico City. Last night, things were hopping at the famous old bakery, where crowds bought sugar skulls, bone-shaped cookies, and pan de muerte ( which means, literally, ” bread of death ” ) in preparation for Mexico’s Dia De Los Muertos celebration. Halloween is becoming fashionable here as well, so there are now sugar pumpkins and black-and-orange streamers.

Jell-O Skull Cake.

Selecting pan de muerte.

Chocolate mummies.

Brujita = ” little witch “.

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|October 24, 2011 | Photos By J.Yuenger, Travels

I was in the Okefenokee swamp in south Georgia yesterday, and this is a detail from a diorama depicting a scene in 1832 in which a survivor of an Indian attack stumbles out of the swamp to find a group of soldiers. I love old-style dioramas, museums used to be full of ’em.

CUBA : Your Questions #1

|October 11, 2011 | Cuba, Photos By J.Yuenger, Travels

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Regarding my trip to Cuba of a couple of months ago, I’m asked the same four questions again and again, one of which is :

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Maduro 5

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Are Cuban cigars really that much better? One afternoon, in Havana, we find ourselves on a balcony overlooking the Calle Monserrate. I look at my cigar ( the band from this particular one is shown above ) and I think to myself, ” God DAMN, this is the best cigar I’ve ever smoked! ” – but, hold up, let me set the scene up for you. After a day of furious sightseeing which involves plenty of walking under a white-hot, angry sun, careening around in battered American cars from the 1940s, and breathing dust and diesel fumes, Cousin Ramón brings us to an imposing stone edifice that looks like a museum. He explains ( or, rather, he mimes – Ramón knows no English at all, literally not one word, and the smattering of textbook Spanish Kevin and I can speak is good for practically nothing, so there evolves between us a sort of elaborate spanglish grunt-and-dance that almost works, but not quite ) that we will be eating here. We look at each other and shrug as Ramón leads us upstairs, through marble halls, to a tiny L-shaped room decorated with soccer banners and pictures of sun-dappled islands. It’s a bar, where a few good-natured people are quietly drinking beer ( Cristal for the ladies, and the slightly heavier Bucanero for men ) and eating food that’s coming from a kitchen somewhere else in the building.

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This is a little odd ( imagine being at, say, the Field Museum in Chicago or the Museum of Natural History in NYC, opening what looks like the door to a broom closet and finding a groovy little drinking spot ), but it’s a cool scene, and just as I’m thinking to myself that I’d come here all the time if it was in my town, Kevin ( who doesn’t drink, even ) says, ” Man, if I lived in Havana I’d come here every day! ” We get to talking with the bartender, who explains that this building is not a museum but the headquarters of the society of descendants of Canary Islanders, and that we are in the society’s private bar. Ramón’s hook-up here must have something to do with his job at the society of Galician descendants, which we have visited the preceding day.

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The Sociedad Gallego is located in the Gran Teatro De La Habana, which we got to explore after visiting to the group’s beautiful offices and regretfully refusing the boxes of cigars Ramón’s boss was trying to sell us ( it seems to surprise people here when we explain that we can’t buy souvenirs – while it’s not technically illegal for American citizens to visit Cuba, it is illegal for them to spend money there, so anything they’re caught trying to bring back is liable to be confiscated, with fines levied on top of that ). The halls of the grand theater were filled with ballerinas, and the who the fuck are these guys? look we were getting from these girls indicated that we were indeed being permitted to do something special. After some haggling with a guard, we were allowed to go upstairs to see the grand ballroom :

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Teatro

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I digress. We eat spicy, hand-tossed pizza in the tiny Canary Island bar, and it is very good. Crazy-good. Maybe the best food we’ve eaten all week ( ha ha, more on that later ), and then we head out to the club’s outdoor terrace to smoke cigars. Kevin is quite laid-back about his straight-edge lifestyle, certainly much more so than I was when I was an insufferable 15-year-old Minor Threat fan. He’s not preachy, nor is he in recovery – he simply doesn’t drink, and given that he grew up in New Orleans, where the party never ends and the resultant wreckage, human and otherwise, is everywhere, it’s no wonder, really. I am respectful of this, as I am generally respectful of anybody’s abstentions, indulgences, religions, whatever-gets-you-through-the-nights, but at this moment I put to him, rather forcefully, that he has gone to a great deal of trouble to visit the land of his ancestors, and if he doesn’t at least drink a toast to them, I will be greatly disappointed. He agrees that this is reasonable. The sky is bright blue, flags flutter, palm trees sway gently in the breeze. We lean over the balcony and take in the Edificio Bacardi, the art deco former headquarters of the rum-making family that’s across the street. Vintage green, red, blue cars stream by on the avenue below, and I experience a moment of perfect calm. It’s not as if you could squint and sort of imagine that you’ve gone back in time : this IS the past. We proceed to put away a great deal of dark rum.

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I once heard someone, I think it was a chef or a restaurant critic, put forth an idea that I call the po-boy theory, which states that if an absolutely authentic po-boy sandwich were assembled in a place other than New Orleans ( this assumes that you’d be flying in bread from the Leidenheimer bakery, the one essential and absolutely indisputable ingredient – one could argue that Gulf seafood would also be necessary, but as New Orleans residents know, the best po-boys come from shabby corner groceries, which often use frozen seafood imported from somewhere else — that this tastes better than one made with fresh ingredients in a nice restaurant is something we’ll just have to put down to voodoo. ), it still wouldn’t be as good, because you wouldn’t be eating it in New Orleans. Certainly this idea applies to New York pizza and bagels : it’s the water, they say, and that may be true, but I bet it has a lot to do with the fact that you’ve just come up out of the subway and you’re at Famous Original Authentic Ray’s ( you might want to hop to it : St.Marks Pizza shut down a couple of years ago, which is still strange to me, and now the Ray’s on 11th St. & 6th Ave. is closed. What’s next? ) gobbling a slice that was shoved at you across the counter by a guy whose name is, for real, Vito, and you’re about to run around and do New York-y stuff all day. Is the gelato in Rome really better? Maybe, but you’re in fucking ROME, the astounding, beautiful, movie-set city. There are girls on Vespas and everybody’s like ” ayyyyy – ciao! “, and, say, this is some good gelato!

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Actually, I did learn that the Cuban Cohiba ( the brand I smoked, mainly ) was first made at the behest of Castro himself, and that the like-named brand that’s available in the U.S. is totally unrelated. Let’s just say that Cuban cigars are really good when you’re smoking them in Cuba.

Family Plot

|September 20, 2011 | Cuba, Photos By J.Yuenger, Travels

Vedado, Havana, Cuba : Cousin Ramón takes us to the Cementerio De Cristóbal Colón, Havana’s massive, sprawling graveyard. Someone at the gate tries to charge us to enter ( my Spanish is not good enough to be able to tell whether this is an official entrance fee or a suggested tip ), but Ramón convinces them that we have relatives here and have come from the U.S.A. to pay our respects. The place ( Necropolis, it’s sometimes called, which is appropriate : a city of the dead ) is full of ornate, often gaudy crypts, some of which are larger than any I have seen before. We look at a big open-air platform which is used for burning corpses, and we search for bones. There are quite a few. Ramón works for a society of descendants of settlers from Spain and we are allowed to explore this group’s private art deco crypt, which extends three stories beneath the ground and holds hundreds of bodies.

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Kevin meets his Grandparents for the first time.

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Family Plot

.. Is Busy Making Records.

|September 4, 2011 | Photos By J.Yuenger

BUSY

ROCK

|July 29, 2011 | Photos By J.Yuenger

Adelit@s, New Orleans, last night.

Adelit@s-Nowe Miasto-7.29.2011

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Dark Castle, New Orleans, Last Night.

Dark Castle-One Eyed Jacks-7.29.2011

GPOYW

|July 19, 2011 | Cuba, Photos By J.Yuenger, Photos Of J.Yuenger, Travels

Havana, Cuba : messing around on a rooftop.

GPOYW Havana Rooftop 72

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Here’s what I was looking at :

Rooftop 4.2.3

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Cisterns Last

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The Laundry Of Havana

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Rooftop 2 New

ROCK

|July 18, 2011 | Photos By J.Yuenger

We’re Only In It For The Honey, New Orleans, last night.

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Isolation Drills

|July 16, 2011 | Photos By J.Yuenger

Isloation Drills

ROCK

|July 16, 2011 | Photos By J.Yuenger

She’s Still Dead, New Orleans, last night.

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Where’d You Get Those? / La Casa De Ramón

|July 12, 2011 | Cuba, Photos By J.Yuenger, Travels

Havana, Cuba : Everyone scrutinizes us intently, from head to toe. I have experienced this before, on tour in Europe, but this Cuban inspection feels different, more like hunger than curiosity or mental note-taking. Kevin mentions that everyone is staring at my shoes.

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I have recently unboxed a pair of made-in-the-U.S.A. 1990s Vans, the very last of my White Zombie-era stash. This is kind of cool if you’re a sneaker nerd, but they’re just black-on-black canvas Authentics, which, regardless of their Californian hand-stitched provenance, look pretty much the same as modern Vans, or Keds, or even those cheap Chinese shoes they sell at Wal-Mart.

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The extensive observation of my footwear seems funny to me, until I consider the life of Cousin Ramón, who meets us at the airport and shows us around for a couple of days. He has a job, and he lives in a beautiful but crazily dilapidated  fin de siècle apartment that he must share with only two other people, but he owns almost nothing : some battered 1930s furniture, a few chipped religious figurines, assorted tchotchkes, a plastic bag full of family photos. He wears the same clothes every day, and we wonder if this is best outfit or his only one. I see imported athletic shoes in store windows, but I do not see any being worn by passing Cubans. There are no Vans here, and nobody could afford them if there were.

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Below, a corner of Cousin Ramon’s apartment. We end up here a few hours after we land in Cuba, and it is perhaps the most surreal thing about the whole day.  The antique fan does nothing to alleviate the intense heat and I imagine that Ramón must be used to it, but he is sweating as much as I am. The apartment is unbelievable, as is Aguila Street below. I curse myself for not bringing my wide-angle lens.

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We sit in the feeble blue-white light ( There are no incandescent bulbs in Havana – at night, the entire city glows, dimly, under harsh flourescents ) and look at old photographs of Kevin’s Mother, Aunts, Grandparents, and of Kevin himself. It is bizarre, in this very foreign place, to see the photo-processing logo of New Orleans’ K&B drugs on the backs of these prints.

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ZAP!

|July 2, 2011 | Cuba, Photos By J.Yuenger, Travels

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Havana, Cuba : Have you ever in your life seen something as dangerous-looking as this? The water comes through the galvanized pipe and is instantly heated in a powered shower head ( Super Ducha! brand ) which is tied directly to the casa‘s electrical system. Lots of water + lots of electricity + you (wet) standing under it. Surprise ending to story : I shocked the shit out of myself with this thing. It wasn’t enough to knock me down, but it hurt. The plastic vine is a nice touch, though, don’t you think?

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Super Ducha

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Main entrance, typical Havana apartment building :

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Havana Entrance

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Corner Of The Cretins

|June 30, 2011 | Cuba, Photos By J.Yuenger, Travels

Museo De La Revolución, Havana, Cuba :

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Fulgencio Batista : “Thank you, cretin, for helping us make the revolution.”

Ronald Reagan : “Thank you, cretin, for helping us strengthen the revolution.”

Geroge H.W. Bush : “Thank you, cretin, for helping us consolidate the revolution.”

George W. Bush : “Thank you, cretin, for helping to make socialism irrevocable.”

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Corner Of The Cretins

Relics

|June 29, 2011 | Cuba, Photos By J.Yuenger, Travels

Havana, Cuba : L→R : Soviet T-34 tank, Bay Of Pigs invasion boat, tail section of U-2 spyplane.

Relics

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