Holi Festival in the Hill Country

Big K and I rolling through the twists and curves of the Texas Hill Country. The sky was grey, cloud shapes and depth marked by the dark bulges of precipitation. A soft pitter-patter that made me put on my wipers on the lowest setting. Turned off the road to the Radha Madhav Dham Hindu.

Walking up to the main area, a rumble in our bellies, we went straight for the food lines. We got our tickets and and went straight towards food. We circled the aromatic comestibles like hungry wolves circling a flock of sheep. Drooling, long tongues hanging out, eyes wide. We got kebab, Dhosas, Pakoras, and Chai or Mango Lassi to drink.

Walking around, there was multi-colored powder on the tiled floor near parking lot. We thought we missed part the Holi festival. A vendor said we didn’t miss anything, and to wait for the people praying inside of the temple to file out. We hung back and a family appeared to our right and smeared some powder our faces and atop our heads.

We make our way to the outdoor stage area and the procession began. A band started playing. Tambourines shaking, drums rolling, brass horns of various sizes buzzing and honking. A crowd formed to the left. A few people handed out or threw what must have been hundreds of bags of multicolor powder. Once everyone had several bags, everyone waited for the cue. The cue came, and everyone seemed to burst into powder. Clouds of red, orange, yellow, blue, green and purple exploding, the powder suspended in air. Colorful lack of visibility. I imagined that the air on Jupiter must look like that. The powder got everywhere. In my ears, eyes, hair, and in my mouth because I was laughing. It was bitter and tasted horrid. The band played feverishly, holding a high tempo for long periods of time. At intervals the whole crowd would shout something that sounded like “Holi hands!!!” We danced and threw powder and shouted for what seemed like hours. I took a few photos with an Olympus film camera I bought for $5 at Goodwill. Some Indian gentlemen started a congo line. I felt elated and was reminded of being back in India, a country I came to love. There were circles of people dancing Bollywood-style. Then the bags of powder started running out.

Exhausted, both of us a mess. Creatures baked under a multicolored crust. I lined my car with old clothes I had in my trunk so we wouldn’t color the upholstery. And we drove off, exhausted into the drizzling day.

I had never attended Holi. I know the University of Austin holds one. But I especially liked this one, out in the beautiful Hill Country, and at a very beautiful temple. There were many people of all ages and it was very welcoming, the food was bomb, and it was a great time. I highly recommend it if you are around Austin in the late winter.

Honk! TX

Honk! TX

How refreshing to have a second line in Austin. I don’t visit my former home New Orleans as often as I’d like. We walked, they made music. We would cross the street en masse. The large crowd only getting halfway through the crosswalk before the light would turn green. Yuppies in fancy cars fuming that we were blocking their green light. Fuckin’ yuppies. I realized then people don’t use that word anymore. Minor Mishap Marching band would play, then the Brazilian percussionists. A wave of music sloshing back and forth between the styles. Tidal tunes. We would stop at certain spots, form an amoebic semi-circle and dance. My favorite was when they played Do What You Wanna, a very NOLA song by Kermit Ruffins if my memory serves me. We made our way around to venue 3TEN where the second line started. Dozens of musicians packed on the waist-high stage. We danced some more, everything bathed in multi-colored light. Blues and purples. Can’t beat brass. So much fun. Cute girl holding the Minor Mishap flag too.

Honk! TX

 

Honk! TX

Honk! TX

Honk! TX

Honk! TX

Winter Solstice Parade

Minor Mishap Marching Band

“Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today, to get through this thing called life..” started the event. Over 100 souls gathered. We sang Prince, Starman – Bowie, Hallelujah – Leonard Cohen, artists we lost in 2016. Costumes abounded, Christmasy devils, fairies, turtles and whatchamacallits. Lanterns of all makes, un-shapes and non-sizes. Minor Mishap Marching Band led the parade. After the singing came the brass.  The throaty tubas, the bellowing trombones, the trill of trumpets all in attendance. The gentle melodic wheezing of an elusive accordion. Some walked, some danced, some pranced and skipped. We made our way around the band, with them, sometimes in front of them. There were so many they spread out amongst the mobile crowd. Here and there one would stop to let their brass speak to us. We stopped, we walked, we stopped some more. The whole conglomerate of musicians a huge badass amoeba of talent.  Extending here, ebbing there. Advancing. A group reminiscient of the brass bands of New Orleans. Though these dames and gents put a singular Austiny flavor in their craft no doubt. Some sounds at some turns even seem to nod to the Romani. An orchestra of dance. A procession of wind and arm powered sound. This is how many of us Austinites chose to welcome in the winter.

Winter Solstice Parade

Minor Mishap Marching Band

Stick-and-Poke Tattoo

I once met a woman at a café. There more we talked, the more I enjoyed our conversation. She seemed to me to be a pleasant, open-minded individual. We talked about our origins, our travels, things that we were into. She showed me a tattoo on her shoulder done by hand, a stick-and-poke tattoo. as it’s called in common parlance. It was a beautiful geometric piece done with dots conglomerating into a whole. It had a certain softness. She explained how the artist was a woman named Maia from Spain, a medium through which certain energies channeled. She said that Maia choses a design for you that instills certain energies, depending on your energy. I found the artist via Instagram and followed her for many months.

One day, she posted saying that she was in Austin and booking people for tattoos. I jumped on this opportunity, emailing her tout de suite. She replied a couple days later and a meeting was set.

When we met, I didn’t have a design in mind. But given the beauty of her works I had seen on her page I wasn’t worried. We talked about family and my relationships with them that make up part of it. We talked about places in the world and dreams  I had recently and other things. She said she would have a design ready in about 3 weeks…

The allocated time later, I went to see the design. It was better than I could have hoped. She showed me a geometric piece with a vertical eye in the center of it. She said that the design would help me look within to find the answers. She said it would provide a safe place to explore the ways in which I can mend parts of myself that might need mending or to give strength. We set up a time for the next morning to do the ceremony.

I arrived on a drizzly, brisk Central Texan autumn morning. She had relocated to a little silver-bullet trailer with a new wooden patio attached to it. There was a massage table and a native rug strewn over the floor. A light cloth covered over what would be openings in the wood. She had me stand facing her, with my eyes closed. She whispered prayers so soft that I found them unintelligible. In any case I was following her instruction to follow my breathing and didn’t try too hard to make it out. I had electric chills running up and down my body. She rubbed agua florida in her hands and brought them near my nose to inhale. The fragrance gave me chills in my face muscles as well. She placed the print of the photo on my forearm, taking great care to make sure it was aligned properly. She had me lie down on the table as she set up the utensils of her art. They were comprised of a small jar of ink, and her needle. The needle resembled a section of quality dark-wood pencil with a needle fastened to it with soft off-white medical tape. I laid down on the comfortable hip-height table and she went about her work, dotting downwards into my skin at an easy, even pace. I passed the time enjoying the music, a band with female lead vocals from South America somewhere. Perhaps it was Argentina. I stared through the thin veil of the cloth separating me and the chilly morn beyond it. I felt at ease, equanimous, happy. For much of the duration I was so relaxed that I would’ve fallen asleep if not for the annoying reminder from the nerves in my arm not to. We spoke a little about my next travel plans, about places she had lived such as Palenque, and about her plans in Austin. For the most part we were silent though, each immersed in thoughts or non-thoughts.

Before I knew it she had finished. She gave the area one last look over and dotted a few times until she judged there to be nothing more to be done. I looked at the finished product and smiled. I was glad I had left much of the design process in her hands, it is a pleasing tattoo to behold, to me at least. We walked into the grassy yard adjacent her living quarters to get a few photos. Here is the result.

stick and poke tattoo