All Rights Reserved. Nothing on this website or any links may be copied without the express written permission of Jeffrey Keesee. Some wedding photos and linked materials were engaged on a work-for-hire basis and are protected by copyright of the individual client and copyright holder. The photos are used here by permission and copyright to those works is expressly reserved by the owner. - United States Copyright Law

Mexico Stories - My Apartment

(Ongoing rants from a gringo working in Silao, Mexico, til March '06)

GAS - We have a gas stove and an on-demand gas water heater (no hot water tank, just a gas burner for the hot-water line as it snakes out to the kitchen and bathrooms.) There is no public utility gas line to the house; somewhere on the roof over my head is our gas tank, with a line/spigot leading out/down to the parking garage. When we need more gas, a little man in a tanker truck drives up, connects to the spigot, and fills our tank. The system has no pressure gauge - the only way we know when to call him is when we are out of gas - like right after this morning´s cold shower...

BED - My bed is very hard. I'm used to it now, but I move a lot in my sleep and at first, I woke up every time I turned over and broke off a piece of my hip.

FLOORS - The floors are all tiled; offering a nice cooling effect, but absolutely no noise dampening at all (I would very much like to dampen my neighbor's baby).

CLEANING - On Tuesdays and Fridays we have a nice cleaning lady who comes and cleans the bathrooms, mops the floors, does the dishes, launders our clothes, and watches our T.V. (*I* don't know how to watch our T.V.)

LAUNDRY - The first time the cleaning lady came, there were 4 of us in the apartment. I wondered how she would separate each of our clothes from the others'. She didn't. We had to pick our belongings out of a community pile of clean laundry. It´s like Michael J. Fox and his underwear in "Back to the Future"; it's a good thing I'm the only one named "Calvin Klein".

SECURITY - The only way INTO our building is via the "6 perso" elevator in the parking garage (we haven't been able to fit more than 4 gringos in it at a time). You need a key to activate/call the elevator. The door at the bottom of the stairwell next to the elevator in the garage is padlocked shut, making the elevator the only way OUT of the building, too.

COSTS - Today, the landlord left 2 bills at the apartment - one for 1,000 DOLLARS for the rent, the other for 850 PESOS for "maintenance", including the elevator, the hall light, and the little man who stands in the parking garage at night.

...the rest of the story...

U.N. = Good or "How the U.S. and Iran can get along"

What do Iran, Cuba, Sudan, and Zimbabwe have in common?

They are all nations that the U.S. "State Department has cited in annual reports for their harsh treatment of homosexuals."*

So, it´s no big surprise that these countries voted in the U.N. last Thursday to back a measure introduced by Iran denying two gay rights groups a voice at the United Nations. What other country voted right along side these oppressive nations? The good ole U. S. of A. **

I wonder - Will America now cite itself for "harsh treatment"?

At least W. can call himself a world diplomat; he has found a way to keep communication channels open with an "Axis of Evil" nation.*** "Well, Condi tells me that we can´t let you have nuke-yoo-ler power, so how 'bout we let you keep oppressing those nasty homo-sex-yuls, instead?!" His talking points summary card from Cheney must look something like this:

Iran producing nuclear power = BAD
Iran oppressing opinion/human rights in a world forum = GOOD

Specifically, the U. S. voted to deny the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force the opportunity to introduce opinion papers into the U.N. because of that group´s "controversial history". Not because of current policies or opinions, but because of "history".

Like Iran doesn´t have a "controversial history"?!?

"My country tis of thee,
Sweet Land of Liberty,


* Travel tips from the U.S. State Department website include the warning that "Homosexual activity is considered to be a criminal offense and those convicted may be sentenced to lashing and/or a prison sentence, or death."[link] Oh, wait, my bad, that´s a warning for travel to Saudi Arabia...

** The story [link].

*** State of the Union Address quoting "Axis of Evil"[link].

...the rest of the story...

Mexico Stories - Runner´s High

(Ongoing rants from a gringo working in Silao, Mexico, til March '06)

It´s like a question on the SAT:

"If Jeff is at 1.25 miles in elevation and runs 3.0 miles at 6:30 in the morning while it is 40 degrees Fahrenheit, what is the hypoteneuse of his run?"

I did it! Running at 6600 feet up is no picnic, but I did it and I now have the lung to prove the apartment...on ice...waiting until I return to the states to be reinstalled.

(Seen from the street - As dry and rainless as it is here, the attic is literally the top of the house - the roof makes for excellent storage - of scrap lumber, cardboard boxes, car bumpers, flower pots, as well as chickens and drying laundry. Seen on the road - 1 motorcycle, 3 passengers, 0 helmets. See in the grocery - Kool-aid-like drink packets in the store that make 1.5 L of drink - they are next to the 1.5L bottles of water and flavors include pineapple "Tang", tamarindo, and "horchata." "Horchata" is rice milk - perfect for cooling down your mouth after eating spicy foods. Also for sale - burgers made of "pulpo" - octopus.)

...the rest of the story...

Mexico Stories - Weather Report

(Ongoing rants from a gringo working in Silao, Mexico, til March '06)

I don' know enough spanish to understand the weather report on the radio, but it's always sunny and beautiful down here in central Mexico. Sometimes a might chilly, but always clear.

On my morning run, I watched the sun come up into that clear sky behind a beautiful, cone-shaped mountain off to the east, the light turning from black to midnight blue...then red...then orange and yellow on either side of its smooth, symmetrical slopes.

Back at the apartment, I asked my native co-worker what mountain that was. "I don't know the name, my friend, it's just one of the volcanos..."



Sigh. Yet another little thing they forgot to mention about this place, like unpainted speed bumps, feral dogs, burro crossings, and corn fungus.

I guess it's just as well I can't understand the weather report - "Today we have a 0% chance of precipitation, with a 20% chance of death raining down from the sky. Buenos dias."

...the rest of the story...

Georgia Aquarium some ways a teensy bit mall-like...but in every way completely full of wonders.

...the rest of the story...

Canoeing on the Chattahoochee

During a happy, lucky break from Mexico, S and I spent the morning on the Chattahoochee River, above Morgan Falls Dam, at Azalea Drive and Roswell Road. 15 minutes of paddling and city life completely falls away.

It was challenging to photograph, until I spent just a little more time looking at the winter colors - silvers, greys, blacks.

We canoed up to the cliffs, to which we will return soon for rockclimbing.

...the rest of the story...

Me and Mr. Tritt

During a weekend break from Mexico, I got to photograph a Travis Tritt concert/lobbying event for select Georgia officials at the Fabulous Fox Theatre. There was some controversy over the event...but why should I explain it when the Atlanta Journal/Constitution did such a nice job in the morning's paper...

"A society photographer, Jeff Keesee, said he was "a bridge" between the luminaries inside and the activists on the street. "They're all my friends from Trees Atlanta and the Sierra Club," he said. There were a lot of MARTA union members, too."

I got a raise?!? "Society Photographer"? - now I'm just like Liz Umbrie in "Philadelphia Story"...but also in trouble. My entire quote continued with ..."but this is not a Trees Atlanta protest; Trees Atlanta is a non-political philanthropic organization." That wasn't in the article, so my TA friends are rightfully a little concerned. RATS!

P.S. Mr. Tritt was really nice...

...the rest of the story...

Mexico Pics - Corn Fields

On the drive, Highway 45, from Irapuato to Silao. The mountain in the background is Cubilete, with "Cristo Rey" on the top, the 60 ft. Jesus - horizontally at the geographical center of Mexico and vertically 7800 feet above it. I hope to get up there, soon (but I'm not running...)

...the rest of the story...

Mexico Stories - What Not to Wear

(Ongoing rants from a gringo working in Silao, Mexico, til March '06)

Before I left the states, someone asked me if I was worried about being kidnapped in Mexico.

"That's silly; there is absolutely no reason to worry about being kidnapped."

Then, when we arrived down here and asked why the rental contract on our second apartment was so slow in coming, we were told that, after paying $50,000, our realtor was just now coming back to work...from her kidnapping.


One more thing to worry about - Is what I'm wearing right this second something I want to be kidnapped in?

(Don't worry Mom, it's a moot point...I've been told I don't dress like someone worth kidnapping...ouch!)

...the rest of the story...

Mexico Stories - Jeff Almighty

(Ongoing rants from a gringo working in Silao, Mexico, til March '06)

Last night on our way home from the plant, the Jesus Enthusiast was at the wheel and deep in conversation with the front seat passenger about "church-mandated celibacy" and the Book of Paul when we were cut off by another driver veering into our lane.

"Boy, that's about all the bad driving I can take. I'm gonna stomp someone's ass a new mudhole."

Wanting to show that I was keeping up with all the bible talk, I piped in from the backseat. "Wow! Which Book is that from?"

I fully expected a bit of a fight ("The Book of 'Shut your Rathole', faggot"), but instead got, "you're right, brother, I was out of line. Thank you."

Again with the wow. I back-pedalled - "Look, I didn't mean to tell you what to do. I was just trying to be funny."

"No, that's all right; I needed someone to put me in my place and you did it. You may not have known it, but God spoke through you and I heard what I needed to hear."


So, that's it? *That* was the big G-Man speaking through me? When the time came, I always thought it would be a bigger deal, like "Man must stop killing Man", or "Commandments 11-15 are...", or "Tonight's winning Lotto numbers will be..."

I had no idea God could be so sarcastic.

So, there I sat, slightly creeped out ("...hey...that's *my* voice...*I* was using that..."), but mostly intrigued; what else have I done that wasn't really me, but was God working through me?

"Jeffrey Dayne! Was that you that broke that vase?"

"No, mom, it was God."

"Well, tell him to be more careful...please."

...the rest of the story...

Mexico Stories - Driving

(Ongoing rants from a gringo working in Silao, Mexico, til March '06)

Not all speedbumps are painted yellow and most are indistinguishable from the rest of the roadbed; this make a perverse kind of sense - they are intended to slow you down on the entire length of the road, so why would you warn people exactly where they are (like the U.S. D.O.T. does)? The net effect is that the locals do know exactly where they are, so only we gringos drive slowly in-between them...unless we try to outsmart the bumps and match our speed to the locals'...unless the locals don't care about their undercarriages and don't slow down for the bumps.

There is a spot on the ceiling of our jeep the shape of my head.

(At the grocery - jicama-flavored soda, fresh camomille for sale with the herbs, mysterious cheeses, boxed guava/guyaba paste cakes, baked goods whose sweetness or saltiness I can never guess before biting into taking a sip of milk at breakfast, thinking it was going to be oj. Hand-lettered signs for Viagra at the Farmacia. "KFC" is spelled "KFC" in Spanish. On the first windy day this month, everything turned to dust. A roll of toilet paper is about 2/3's the width of the stuff back home. There's a guy with a 2x4 who hangs out in the parking lot of my apartment building; how do I know whether he is there to keep bandits away from my stuff or to take my stuff away from me - do I tip him for not mugging me? When the maitre'd seats you at the neigborhood, fine dining restaurant, he brings your very own, personal, 4-foot high coat tree to the table. It's not unusual to randomly smell burning plastic in the air.)

...the rest of the story...

Mexico Stories - 3 Kings Day

(Ongoing rants from a gringo working in Silao, Mexico, til March '06)

Last night, the traffic into Irapuato was unexpectedly terrible. Cars were backed-up and parked willy-nilly everywhere - traffic islands, sidewalks, parks. Hoards of people with their kids were streaming into the center of the city. All the kids had balloons.

After fighting through the chaos, we stopped by the "Mega" grocery store and the bakery section; it is usually filled with a dazzling array of baked breads and sweets, but was instead stacked high with "Rosca de Reyes", donut-shaped cakes topped with sugared fruit. Both "Chica" and "Grande"-sized.

As it turns out, it was all because today is "King's Day", making last night "King's Day Eve". Irapuato is renowned for its big celebration, with food and musicians and a parade with decorated cars, one of which has the "3 Kings" riding in it.

All the kids line the street for a glimpse of the "3 Kings" when the parade passes. When they see them, they whip into a frenzy, crying out "3 Kings! Don't forget my wish! Don't forget my balloon! Catch my balloon!" Then they release their balloons, to which is tied a piece of paper with their Christmas wish written on it.

They know that the 3 Kings will be up in the sky, plucking their balloons from the air and fulfilling their written wishes for toys and bikes and dolls.

The next morning, on King's Day, they wake up to their presents in front of the fireplace and a "Rosca de Reyes" from the bakery. As they slice and eat the cake, whoever gets the plastic baby baked inside has an obligation to the rest of the partakers. They did this all day at work, too.

Sound familiar? I'm dying to know how this same, symbolic cake came to be shared by two culturally different occasions in two different countries: In the U.S.A. (well, in the Gulf states, anyway), we celebrate Mardi Gras 40 days before Easter with a King Cake and a plastic baby, the finder buying next year's King Cake. In Mexico, they celebrate "King's Day" 12 days after Christmas with the very same cake, with the plastic baby representing "Niño de Dios" and the winner making tamales for everyone on February 2nd.

February 2nd - Not because it's Groundhog Day or Shawn's Birthday, but because that is the Catholic holiday celebrating the day that Baby Jesus was first presented in church.

It was cool how it all snapped into place - letters to "Santa" and notes to the "3 Kings", "King Cake" and "Rosca de Reyes", plastic baby and baby Jesus - but there is much I still want to know: Why is the cake called "King" for Mardi Gras? How did the tradition come to the U.S. Gulf region - from France or Mexico? How did it get to Mexico? Why tamales on February 2nd?

And what happens if the Baby Jesus sees his shadow?

Discovering Mexico can be pretty neat-o.

(In the USA, at Walmart, if something has spilled or someone is mopping, there is a wet floor warning sign in both English and Spanish; here at the plant, the sign is only in English. It is now winter, and from the road, you see many fires; fires to burn scrap left from crops, fires to burn trash, fires to keep people warm. If the temperature drops below 50 degrees, everyone puts on a scarf. There is a 50-ft high roadside sign for a local restaurant cut out in the shape of a bull; in case the horns didn't clue you in, there is a 6-ft pair of danglies hanging between his legs. The haystacks glow beautifully honey-gold in the sunrise; they are notably gorgeous - mostly because it never rains here in the winter and they are the first I've seen that aren't tinted grey with mold. The drive-through beer stand is a half cerveza can on lying on its side. There is a soccer field next to the road wedged in-between stores on 2 sides and a strawberry field in the back; a 30-ft high net completely surrounds it on the sideline to keep the ball on the field. Stacked, used car tires make excellent retaining walls. Buildings seen from the road are often not finished; abandoned by builders who get to the halfway point before demanding additional money from the owner - money that is above and beyond the quoted price and the owner often doesn't have.)

...the rest of the story...

Mexico Stories - Happy 2006

No pics this week (sorry to my fan!); I spent the past week collecting my "best of 2005" pics for a coffee table book. I had so much fun getting those together, that I didn't give a thought to taking any new pics.

So, dispatches from Mexico, instead.

I arrived in Guanajuato/Leon/Irapuato to continue work on a project with some work folks who are just...well...not like me. How so? It's like this...

When I arrived at the airport, my super-religious, gun-toting, bible-whacking, (yet basically good-hearted, if slightly misguided) compatriot asked did I have a good Christmas and stated that his was "awesome. I took a single sheet of stainless steel and made this awesome 12" Bowie knife for my 1840's survivalist trips."

For Christmas. A Bowie knife.

In my best dry, David Sedaris voice, I replied, "I made gingerbread houses for cancer patients at the children's hospital."

Cost of the gingerbread houses? About $5. Cost of the conflicted, confused look on the Jesus "enthusiast's" face? Priceless.

(Each morning, businesses have someone sweeping the street in front of the store, then watering it to keep down the dust. Karen Carpenter is alive and well and playing as background music at "Hacienda de Torres"- she did a cover of Shawn Cassidy's "De-doo-run-run". It costs 420 pesos to fill the gas tank on a jeep; all gas stations are government-owned. Dogs often hang out on the flat roofs of houses,looking at passers-by in the street below. Christmas continues into January, to match the 12 days it took - after the birth of Jesus - for the 3 Wise Men to 'show up'...that is often when "Santa" arrives for the kids. Pop Tarts come in foil packs of 1, not 2. Chimichurra sauce is good on everything. Sunrises are beautiful everywhere.There are 25-foot, manned watch towers in the parking lot of the mall- if a business is big enough to have a parking lot, but not watchtowers, then there is a little man "guarding" the lot that you tip when you leave.)

...the rest of the story...