Blood and Sand

Streets of Pamplona Before the Run

I went to Pamplona to run with the bulls and catch a couple of bullfights. I had never been to a bullfight before and didn’t know what to expect. I had rather a detached and academic approach towards the whole affair but I must admit I was fascinated by what I saw and emotionally moved.

To prepare for my journey I brought with me to read, Death in the Afternoon by Ernest Hemingway. I have prepared some quotes from the book to accompany the pictures I took. No on can quite explain the experience of bullfighting like Ernest Hemingway. He it the master.

Here I am getting ready to run
Here come the bulls!
Here I am after the Run celebrating with a Hot Milk and Brandy

There are three acts to every bullfight. They are always the same. The first act is where the bull charges the picadors and the matador distracts the bull with his cape. The picador drives the steel of the pic into the neck muscles of the bull to weaken it.

Act two is the banderillas. They are a pair of sticks about three feet long tipped with a harpoon-like shaped steel point at on the end four centimeters long. They are placed two at a time in the humped muscles at the top of the bulls neck as the bull is charging the matador. They are designed to complete the work of slowing the bull down. Four pair are usually put in.

The Bull charges the horse and Picador
The Picador weakens the bull by stabbing it in the neck muscles.
The matador protects the picador by distracting the bull with his cape

“So, I went to Spain to see bullfights and to try to write about them for myself. I thought they would be simple and barbarous and cruel and that I would not like them, but that I would see certain and definite action which would give me the feeling of life and death that I was working for. I found the definite action, but the bullfight was far from simple and I liked it so much that it was too complicated for my then equipment for writing to deal with, and aside from four very small sketches, I was not able to write anything about it for five years and I wish I would have waited ten.”

-Ernest Hemingway, Death in the Afternoon

The moment of truth

The last act is the sword and the muleta. The muleta is a red cloth folded over a stick. With the muleta the matador masters the bull before going in for the kill. Finally the matador kills the bull by thrusting the sword high between the shoulder blades of the bull.

The coup de grace

“The bullfight is not a sport, that is it is not an equal contest or an attempt at an equal contest between a man and a bull. Rather it is a tragedy, the death of the bull, which is played more or less well by the bull and the man involved, and in which there is danger for the man, but certain death for the bull.”

-Ernest Hemingway, Death in the Afternoon

Death in the Afternoon

“So far, about morals, I only know what is moral is what makes you feel good after, and what is immoral is what you feel bad after and judged by those moral standards, which I do not defend, the bullfight is very moral to me because I feel very fine while it is going on and have a feeling of life and death and mortality and immortality, and after it is over I feel very sad but very fine.”

-Ernest Hemingway, Death in the Afternoon

Blood and Sand
The bull is dragged off by a team of horses
Hemingway’s presence was felt everywhere

All photos by the author except the photos of himself which were taken by his wife, Maureen

Dancing in the Birmingham Jail

Going to Alabama with a banjo on my knee

Entrance to the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute

On a recent trip to Birmingham I visited the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. Across the street from the Institute on the side is the 16ths Street Baptist Church. Directly across the street on the front side is Kelly Ingram Park. This complex is steep in the history of Birmingham and the Civil Rights movement in this country.

16th Street Baptist Church

The 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, was bombed by white supremacist terrorists on September 15, 1963. Four members of the Ku Klux Klan planted 19 sticks of dynamite attached to a timing device beneath the steps on the east side of the church.

There were four girls were killed in the attack: Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson, and Carol Denise McNair, and between 14 and 22 other people were injured.

Martin Luther King Jr. described the bombing as “one of the most vicious and tragic crimes perpetrated against humanity.”

The 16th Street Baptist Church bombing marked a turning point in the United States during the civil rights movement and contributed to support for the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by Congress.

In the years leading up to the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing, Birmingham had earned a national reputation as a tense, violent, and racially segregated city, in which racial integration was met with violent resistance. Martin Luther King Jr. described Birmingham as “probably the most thoroughly segregated city in the United States.”

Four Spirits

The Four Spirits sculpture was unveiled at Kelly Ingram Park on September 2013 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 16th Street Church bombing. The sculpture was crafted by Birmingham-born sculptor Elizabeth MacQueen and designed as a memorial to the four girls killed in the bombing. It depicts the four girls in preparation for the church sermon at the 16th Street Baptist Church in the moments immediately before the explosion. The youngest girl killed in the explosion (Carol Denise McNair) is depicted releasing six doves into the air as she stands tiptoed and barefooted upon a bench another barefooted girl (Addie Mae Collins) is depicted kneeling upon the bench, affixing a dress sash to McNair; a third girl (Cynthia Wesley) is depicted sitting upon the bench alongside McNair and Collins with a book in her lap. The book depicts a refrain from William Butler Yeats’ poem, The Stolen Child. The fourth girl (Carole Robertson) is depicted standing and smiling as she motions the other three girls to attend their church sermon. At the base of the sculpture is an inscription of the name of the sermon the four girls were to attend prior to the bombing—”A Love that Forgives.”

Birmingham, the world is watching
Klan Robe
Give us the Vote!
White People Only – Rosa Parks
Birmingham Jail
Letter from the Birmingham Jail written by Martin Luther King Jr.
Telling the Tale
Joy to the World

My visit was quite a history lesson. It is one I believe everyone should be aware of and, in my opinion should be taught in schools all across America and not covered up. Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.

References: Wikipedia

All photographs by the author

Lake Chapala Society

Lady Gaga Show

Entrance to the Lake Chapala Society Compound
The Lake Chapala Society, Ajijic, Mexico

On the 16th we went to the Lady Gaga Show sponsored by the Lake Chapala Society. This is a club for ex-pats. They put on shows and have a beautiful compound with many attractions for members and guests. The show was quite entertaining and the performers were excellent.

The Lady Gaga Show
The Lady Gaga Revue
As Freddie Mercury and Lady Gaga
As Freddie Mercury
Maureen and Al

A conversation with Al Mitchell. While waiting for the Show to start Al and Maureen were conversing. I was just half-listening and sipping my red wine and enjoying the beautiful day.

Maureen: When I broke my foot, I had to wear the black boot of death.

Al: I know people who when they had to wear a boot on one foot would wear one on the other foot just to keep their balance.

Me: Whoa! Wait a minute there, Al! Who do you know that wore two boots?

Al (laughing): Well, I can’t remember their names.

Maureen: It sounds feasible.

Me: Give me a name. Name me one person who wore two boots.

Al (laughing): Well, I might have made that up.

Me: You damned right you did! That is preposterous! Your whole story is preposterous!  Caught you, didn’t I?

Me and Al both laughing. We “clink” out plastic cups of wine together and let it drop. So it goes.

On the grounds

Frida Kahlo’s image was everywhere
Dinner at the Peacock Garden Restaurant

Later that evening had dinner at the Peacock Garden Restaurant. Al Mitchel, Maureen, and a few others who were at the Lady Gag Show. Later Cindy Joined us.

What I like about Ajijic is the number of fine restaurants it has to offer and the chance to socialize with friends and meet new people.

All photographs by the author.

To be continued…

The Three Poisons

Buddhism by the Numbers

Photo by the author

Three Poisons (The cause of all suffering)

  1. Greed
  2. Anger
  3. Ignorance

The antidotes are love and compassion.

The Noble Eight-fold Path is the path that leads us away from suffering.

Another Day in Paradise

Day 2 in Ajijic, Mexico

Ajijic is a great place to wander around to get to know the area and its inhabitants. It is a charming little village of about 11,000 people. Many expats live there and others from around the globe travel to Ajijic frequently. We had friends that were there so we were able to socialize with them while on our visit.

Below is a working farm just around the corner from where we were staying at La Casa Campbell. We walked by it everyday.

The other pictures depict some of the streets near where we were staying . We were walking distance of Lake Chapala so we usually walked there everyday.

Working Farm
Revolution Road
Grocery Store at the corner of Revolution and Zapata
Corona
Revolution Road
Calles Cardenas
Calle Cardenas
In the Dog House

On the Malecon
Al Mitchell, one of our friends from Kentucky who was already in Ajijic when we got there. Al is one happy guy!

Lake Chapala

All photos by the author

On the Road to Ajijic

Casa Campbell

Lake Chapala

Earlier this year, my partner Maureen and I made another pilgrimage to the land down under (the border) to visit the charming village of Ajijic, Mexico. This was my second visit and her first. In order to get to Ajijic one flies into Guadalajara then taxis the rest of the way from there to Ajijic. It’s 54 kilometers and the trip takes about an hour costing 500 pesos with tip.

Waiting for us at our destination was the owner of the Airbn we were staying at, Lupita Campbell. We were very happy with the accommodations which, to say the least, exceeded our expectations. We had an entire guest house, La Casita, at our disposal which was beautifully furnished and full of art. We also had a fenced in yard with a fountain and a cabaña in the back. From the roof we had a magnificent view of lake Chapala.

Back porch at La Casa Campbell

Ajijic is wedged between the mountains on one side and the lake on the other. Lake Chapala is the biggest lake in Mexico and is quite beautiful to look at and to visit. It has a wonderful malecon where you can take an evening stroll and watch the sun go down.

The weather is perfect. We were there in January and it was a little cool in the morning but by noon it was quite warm. No need for heat or central air. The hot water heater was warmed by solar power so we had to wait a bit to get a hot shower.

There is a large expat community living in Ajijic supported by the Lake Chapala Society. They are mainly American and Canadians. The locals sometime refer to Ajijic as “Gringo Land.” We have friends who live there and some who travel there quite frequently and we were planning on catching up with them on this visit.

There are many fine restaurants and shops in the village and is a fun place to visit and socialize.

Dan “Buddha” Hildebrandt, Al Mitchell, and Maureen Bacon at Scallion’s Restaurant.

All photographs by the author.

More to come….

Psycho Blue Boots in the 3rd

Travels with Aunt Renie

Photo by the Author

Aunt Renie came to Louisville, Kentucky for a visit. It was in the spring of the year and nearing Derby Day, so I decided to take her out to Churchill Downs to watch the horses run.

We drove to south Louisville where the track is located and parked the car a few blocks away and walked the remaining distance to the track entrance. Aunt Renie is pretty spry for an old lady.

We were both able to get in for the admission price of only $1.00 as we were both senior citizens. Louisville likes to encourage its seniors to go to the track. We made our way through the throng of horseracing fans to a booth where they sell racing forms. I bought one and stuck it in my pocket. Then we walked out to the track and sat in the sun on hard benches and studied the form to make our picks.

We studied the racing form and saw that there was a field of eight horses for the next race. Aunt Renie had never been to a racetrack before so I had to teach her how to handicap the race. I am not an expert myself but here’s how I do it. The first thing I do is to study the form for the information listed about the horses for that particular race. First of all, I look for names I like. Something that clicks. Then, I look at the stats on that horse. Who is the trainer, who is the jockey, how much weight does the horse carry, how many races did the horse win this year, and last, what are the odds?

I take all these things into consideration and make a selection. I picked what looked like a winner: Psycho Blue Boots, the number 5 horse in the 3rd race. I suggested to Aunt Renie that we bet $10.00 to win on the 5 horse. If it won, we would split the winnings. She agreed.

I pushed my way through the crowd to the parimutuel window and placed my bet.

“$10.00 to win on the 5 horse in the 3rd race,” I said. The teller smiled, took my money, and punched my ticket.

The race was about to begin as was indicated by the trumpet call to the gate.  I hurried back to where Aunt Renie was sitting and showed her our ticket. Just then the announcer announced, “They’re off!” And the race began.

“On the lead was Solient Green, on the outside Golden Band. On the rail was Shiftless Joe followed by Psycho Blue Boots. Royal Pain was moving up to fourth place, Psycho Blue Boots makes a sudden move…They are in the turn, Royal Pain is in third. Psycho Blue Boots moving up on the outside…now moving in…in the stretch Psycho Blue Boots takes the lead…at the wire…Psycho Blue Boots wins by nose!”

The crowd goes wild. I go wild Aunt Renie goes wild. We are winners!

We won enough on the race we were able to celebrate at one of Louisville’s most prestigious steak houses, Jack Fry’s. We had quite a day at the races and a nice meal to boot.

The next morning, I took Aunt Renie to the airport where she resumed her travels.

Next stop, Amsterdam!

The History of the World, Part 1

According to Al

Al Mitchell, man of a thousand faces

Al: Cynthia is on her way.

Me: Cynthia is going to be late.

Al: Well, she had to…

Me: See a film at the Jewish Film Festival…Yeah, I know, I heard you say that three times already.

Al: (Laughing) Well. you know that’s what happens when you get old.

Me: Al, I’m five years older than you.

Al: (again, laughing) Well, sometimes it catches up to some of us faster than it does for everyone else!

Al Mitchell, man of impeccable taste

Another conversation with Al, including Maureen

Maureen: When I broke my foot, I had to wear a boot. I called it, the Black Boot of Death. God, I hated that thing!

Al: I know people who when they had to wear a boot on their foot, would get another one to wear on the other foot, just to balance it out.

Me: (Only half listening): Wait a minute! Who do you know that wore a second boot?

Al: (stammering) Well, I don’t remember their names….

Me: (Listening closer now): Come on Al, give me a name. Name one person you know that wore a second boot.

Al (Stammering and laughing) Hamada, hamada, hamada….Well, I might have just made that up.

Al Mitchell, never a dull moment

Me: You are damned right you made it up! Caught you, didn’t I? Because your story was preposterous!

Al and Me: (Laughing and clinking together our plastic glasses of red wine.)