Art Shay has had as about as impressive photography career as anyone. Watch this short documentary put together by Hanson Dodge to walk through a lifetime with Art Shay in only an afternoon.
Sumbawa, Indonesia. There have been a few days of torrential rain and the brakes on my motorcycle are fucked. A new local friend offers to take my bike to his mechanic buddy to get a brake job. "Sounds good," I say as I toss him the key. He returns the following day with the cracked and corroded discs of the old, and plastic wrap and receipt of the new. The cost? Four dollars. Plus, an invite to attend the local cockfights that evening with the mechanic and his pals. They pick me up at 6 p.m.
We convoy on our bikes for a while and end up in someone's backyard on the outskirts of the village. There are at least 50 people there, all yelling and crowding each other around a little ring. Yes, like a boxing ring, only smaller. Little men swarm me. They're all holding roosters in front of my face and yelling at me. I want to be polite and put some money down. I came to play. But I don't understand the process and get the impression that we need to buy our own rooster in order to participate. All of a sudden my friend is holding a haggard looking white rooster in his hands and telling me we need to pool our money together, buy the bird and throw him in the ring. We try to make the purchase, but figure out we only need to choose a rooster to bet on. We don't actually need to own our own fighter.
There are at least a dozen birds of choice. Their respective owners are each holding them, fluffing feathers and craning necks in effort to show us their value. I remember the only advice I've ever heard about a cockfight: Bet on the smaller one.
Odds are against us. We bet large because we don't really know what we're doing. Everyone else bets on the big bird. There must be fifty guys betting against us. The roosters go three rounds in aggressive attack. The crowd roars, they argue, they increase their bets, they turn away, and they turn back. We're all into it. Late in round three, the big bird tires. One leg drops, and then the other. Next, his head starts to droop to his chest. Our little man circles and takes a final jab and the big body sulks to the ground. The little hero turns his back on his defeated opponent in honour, triumph, pride and respect. Fifty pairs of eyes burn into us from around the ring as we hug each other and praise our little rooster. Aside from us, it's silent. We cash in and as the daylight recedes, the crowd disperses.
We take our dirty money and head back to town for a drink. Indonesian cockfights… It's violent. It's savage. It's a testosterone fest with no women allowed. I don't even eat chicken. But the cockfight is a cultural thing. It's about the working man coming together and celebrating sport through their faith in a rooster. Sure, it's a little weird and even primitive, but it's pretty cool. You may even win some cash.
The elusive Valladolid. A trip here had been put off for various reasons. Guests, work, this, that. Dammit, we'll make it if we have to bring every excuse with us. Finally, the snap decision came and we took a four day trip over last weekend to Valladolid. The room at Hotel Aurora was booked and the bus left at 6:30pm.
6:10pm — Still at my desk. Work is holding me up. Something had to get done and I couldn't and wouldn't have wanted to be off the radar during the 2hr40min bus ride from Playa del Carmen to Valladolid. "Sorry, we're going to have to postpone, even if just another day."
6:12pm — Flying V! Miracles do happen. I could abandon station at my desk. Katy's a girl scout and was at the ready with everything, organized and sitting at the door, waiting. Waiting. I shouted, "We're making moves!" slammed the laptop shut, tossed it in the bag, jumped into my shoes and headed to the front door, "Wait! Beer."
We threw five Tecates into a cooler bag, hastily over supplied it with ice and ran.
6:16pm — Waiting near our place for a cab, tapping our feet. There are always cabs, always. There were cabs, but they were all full. Call it dinner rush, high season or just shit luck. Every cab that went by had heads in seats. Four minutes is an eternity when you're this determined to make ground and get out of Dodge on a timer.
6:20pm — A cab! He argues about the rate. We don't care. Take the money you son of a bitch, just drive!
6:26pm — We pull into the ADO bus station and Katy hauls ahead to get the tickets while I pull behind with bags in tow. Run you fool! Despite what ADO's listing said online, the bus to Valladolid is leaving from the other station some 10+ zig-zag blocks away. Mother F—
6:27pm — "Taxi, taxi. Vámonos! Rapido!"
6:31pm — Pulling in, she asks, "Have we missed it?"
"There's a good chance of that," I said, "But go, run, I'll deal with this guy and the bags. Get the tickets."
I can see Katy's at the ticket counter behind a family making sense of some map. I run past the ticket guy, using my pale skin to throw him off with the scent of touristic confusion. Now past security (a loose term), I'm able to stop the driver from getting on the bus and closing the door.
6:32pm — Thank whichever Saint it is that makes this place consistently behind schedule, even if sometimes only slightly. The bus was loaded and the driver was eager to get going, but accommodating. The two of us take our seats, look at each other and without having to say it, she knows I mean, "Beer!"
That's the best a can of cold Tecate will ever taste, if such a thing could be said about Tecate. Five empty and a bus ride down, Valladolid, arrived.
What is this place?
Founded in 1543, this little gem of a colonial city is relatively small with a population of roughly 46,000. However, the area included in the population count is 945km², which is far larger than the fifteen square blocks in size that the town feels like.
When you walk around Valladolid you feel like you're in a small town. Some intersections are busy with traffic directors signalling lines of cars left and right, but, others are quiet cobblestone streets. Streets that let you stumble around in the middle without risking the strike of a car, give or take.
The Municipal Market. An authentic Mexican meat market run by men in butcher aprons, cowboy hats and moustaches. A vegetable market with elderly Mayan women as the main proprietors. Possibly husband and wife on either side of the meat/produce division, tending to their respective talents.
The women organize their vegetables, fruits and spices. Watching as you pass by, pointing out their colourful displays. The men work with cleavers and their hands. Behind them, signs identifying their specialty and name. "Ask for Tony, ask for Luis."
Ruben and Manuel looked to not only be the most applied in their work, but had the best cuts and variety. Luis seems to be your man if you're interested in poultry and abandonment.
Each sign is hand painted and appears to hold sponsorship by Zapaterias Ivan, a shoe store in town. Ivan the entrepreneur, or: Ivan the conglomerate.
Outside of the market is a strip of other small shops, shoemakers and a couple of dated, mini arcades. The market is not a polished star on a map, it's where locals come to get their fixings. This isn't a tourist attraction, although we're clearly tourists and attracted to the sight of butchers and organized chaos. That's the thing about Valladolid at this point in its history. It isn't a tourist attraction. The entire town functions on an economy outside of tourism unlike that of nearby Tulum, Playa del Carmen or Cancun, none of which would likely exist without.
It's a real piece of Mexico, only a short distance inland from the Caribbean coast. A collection of businesses and families otherwise unspoiled by price hikes, taking tourists for what they're worth, hawking wares at passersby and all of the other trappings.
How long can a magical little world like this exist without the tourbus of a visitor's economy finding it? It may not be long. Looks like local tour group and makeshift Disneyland, Xcaret, has already got its sights set. Included in their tours around to local ruins, cenotes and other archeological sites is a lunch stop in Valladolid. The tourbus stops midday out front of a restaurant that, aside from it being a little too polished, you'd otherwise expect to be local. It's an Xcaret manufactured colonial courtyard, and it's the only place like it in a town of authenticity and beauty. Out come the fanny packs and Birkenstocks.
Not that we can say much, we're not locals. We're tourists, just the same as the Tommy Bahamas walking around. Although, something about group travel, timed stops and planted attractions takes the heart out of a place, you know?
Aside from that, at the moment, the rest of the town is yours to wander and feel lost in a different world, even a different time in a way.
More to come...
To shorten the length of each post, I'll end this one here. We have at least one or two more worth of content about dining, drinking, antiquing and general wandering.
Old friend, former maker of snowboard careers and all around good human being recently put together this short film. Titled, Captive, this was entirely shot from his beautiful condo in downtown Vancouver. About the process of shooting a short entirely from a box in the sky, Dano said,
Take a look-see and enjoy his newly found filmmaking prowess and well seasoned photographic eye.
While this short is filled with an incredible amount of beauty from a single location, one comedic highlight to watch for at the end is the gentleman on the balcony in his bright red grape smugglers. I went over to Dano's to sit with him and his lovely lady, Kim, over a morning coffe. There he was! Combing his hair with an afro pick in front of a mirror on the balcony. For an hour. The man stood there for a complete hour combing his hair. Apparently this is routine, and I for one feel Dano's property value should increase on account of this. If not, this world is not one I want to be a part of.
Press play above, and feel free to ignore the rest of this writing:
Old friend, Robjn Taylor, who I've also known for a long time, just finished this edit of from up in the park on Blackcomb this January. It's titled Shakespeare in the Park and features some vintage Manboys from the Crapneto days shredding in non-vintage form. There are whirly birds with several go-arounds, rail bonks, back (and probably front!) side boardslides, Shakespeare, a spoon and more!
Also Looking Good
Better Looking Than The Above