Mexico City in 3 Days by Chel Wolverton

My primary reason for hitting Mexico City, to meet Fausto Alzati and be a part of his project to tattoo his book of poetry on people so it travels the world in a unique way. I first heard of his project and immediately got in touch with Fausto to start scheduling a visit. 

This trip was a total spur of the moment, let's do it and not look back kind of trip for me.  It took me a few days to sort out details, but once it was booked I started looking at the other things I would do while in the area. 

Why You Should Visit Mexico (Mexico City and Puerto Vallarta top the list for me)

Mexico is an insanely inexpensive place to visit. After spending a full week in Puerto Vallarta (I'll write more about this soon) in January, I was prepared for the reverse sticker shock this time around. I recommend tipping above and beyond for great service because you can support individuals earning a living without breaking the bank. And you should.

Mexico City looks like any American city from the air. High rises and buildings blanket the city from a sky eye view. The flight in, however, showed that the city is surrounded by mountains. I was lucky enough to see this beautiful view before landing.

The vibe is relaxed, but busy. The primary area that I stayed in and explored is Roma Norte. It offers a wide variety of authentic Mexican food - not to mention trendy and upscale offerings from different cuisines including Sushi, American food, marvelous coffee, gelato, juicery, and more.

One note: if you plan to come here and want to take a tour, give yourself more than 3 days. I wish I'd stayed another day so I could make my way outside of the city to see Popocatépetl (which you can see in the distance in the above photo). Popocatépetl is an active volcano and a beautiful sight. I'm already scheming a return visit for this alone plus lucha libre matches in the city. These are two things you shouldn't miss.

Day 1 - 

Staying in Roma Norte made it easily walkable to most places. There are taxis everywhere. And I do mean *everywhere*. This area wasn't full of tourist and I'm not sure if I saw another person visiting, to be honest. The neighborhood is very lively and friendly.

I used AirBNB for this trip and couldn't have been happier with the place I chose. Tip: Always read the reviews, always talk to the host prior to booking, and keep a list of common questions you ask to send in advance.

My first stop after dropping off my luggage was finding coffee (natch!) and if you visit Mexico City, I'd highly recommend you find the closest Almanegra Café and take the time sit for a while. They take great pride in every cup of coffee they create. (Always buy fresh roasted coffee in Mexico to bring home. Especially if you go to Puerto Vallarta. Ask me about the markets there sometime.)

I had both this lovely cold brew and a latte while visiting.

After coffee refresher, I took a walk around the neighborhood and down to meet Fausto for the first time. He was working on a tattoo piece on this lovely lady. His walls are covered with art that he has tattooed over the years, including pieces of his book. He regularly posts his drawings and art on Instagram.

Here are some of my favorite images from around the city the first day. 

Mexico City Sunset

Mexico City Sunset

"Maybe I played my cards wrong..."

"Maybe I played my cards wrong..."

Day 2 - 

The next day I had a tentative plan. Breakfast, seeing local attractions, and dinner/drinks at a local speakeasy I found on Eater. Lunch was unplanned but was such a great find. <3

One great thing about Mexico City is there is a huge park that houses Chapultepec Castle, Zoológico de Chapultepec and the Museo Nacional de Antropología. Sadly, the Castle was closed the day I visited, but I was able to visit Zoológico. Zoológico is free admission. I saw my first panda bear in person on this trip. I'm not normally a fan of zoos but I was happy to see my favorite animal in person.

I had these phenomenal rib eye tacos for lunch and for the life of me I cannot remember the name of the place or find it online. :P I shall hunt these down and report back because they were out of this world good.

Here are some of my favorite photos from the day.

In the photos above you'll notice a menu from Hanky Panky. This is a Mexico City speakeasy whose location is private. The only way to get a reservation is through their Facebook page. Once you've made your reservation you'll get rather vague instructions that will, if followed closely, lead you to the right place to gain entrance.

My lovely bartender and I talked a lot about Raicilla which is produced near Puerto Vallarta and isn't widely available yet. 

The bar was a great experience, full of people learning to make drinks, having a good time. Beautiful settings, elegant bar and fantastic cocktails. You'll learn a thing or two and can request a unique drink to be made. Definitely a top of the list to visit if you go.

Tattoo experience & Fausto

On Wednesday, the day had arrived. I took it easy that morning as getting tattoos usually drain me pretty significantly and I wanted to have a bit of energy after for exploring a bit more before my flight home.

Fausto has a process with his book. Before arriving on Wednesday, I hadn't read any poetry that he had composed except online. I had no idea what my tattoo would be nor what it would say or where it would go.

Reading through each poem I found one that I'm still madly in love with titled "Math". I seriously wanted the entire poem tattooed on my body. It was difficult to pick one line, but it wasn't as difficult as I feared it was going to be. 

Here's a shot of one of three tattoos I ended up with. Yes, three.

"math" by Fausto Alzati

"math" by Fausto Alzati

I chose another line from another poem because I couldn't let it go. Fausto was kind enough to indulge me. No photos of that at the moment. ;) Finally, I had some cranes added to my forearm. While they weren't in the style I was hoping for, they are beautiful and lighthearted.

Additional photos from the trip can be found in my SmugMug Mexico City gallery here. I'm interested in going back to the city sometime soon as I mentioned and if you have any recommendations, please let me know. If you know of any hosts or touring companies who would love to work with me, I'm interested in talking to them.

Something You Don't Know Photography Show at Coffee and Cotton by Chel Wolverton

A few short months ago I saw a call for artists at my favorite coffee shop in town - a handful of emails later and I felt lucky to get a slot for February to display my photography.

If you asked me as a teenager about my dream job, I had a list of ideas. One that beckoned to me throughout my life was photography - specifically photojournalism. 

My love was rediscovered, as you may know, through a project called #nocolorvember. My friend, Justin Kownacki brought the project to my attention and I dove in with my iPhone and a commitment to shooting a single photo in black and white for the month of November in 2015. That led to the purchase of my long-dead Samsung NX500 (I miss her) and then evolving over to the Fujifilm XT-2, though I've used a variety of cameras in the interim including the iPhone 7 Plus which is AMAZING. 

At its core, the challenge called me back to my childhood dreams and over a year later, I've learned a lot about myself, about shooting, and where I am happiest in the world - behind the lens. I owe Justin lifetimes of gratitude for this.

The following photos are the ones on display at Coffee and Cotton for the month. To see the full gallery with titles and more, click here.

In brief, Something You Don't Know is a title borrowed from a Black Lab song of the same name (thank you, Paul). In each photograph, you can tease out a story using your imagination. There's something you don't know about each story behind each photograph, but it doesn't matter - that is part of the beauty of urban and street photography. I have my own version of the stories, but I bet you look and can make up your own. 

Enjoy where your imagination takes you, share those stories with me if you please, expand your mind beyond your current reality, and know that in places around the world beauty is waiting for you.

Each photo is available for purchase in a variety of sizes, framed, canvas, etc. - email me if you can't find what you're looking for.

how description: Chel Wolverton uses her ever-present camera to capture moments that might otherwise go unseen -- but which morph into rich, resonant stories when framed by her lens. Whether her subject is a bird on a wire or faded graffiti or the flash of running legs in headlights, Chel stops time long enough for us to recognize beauty in the ordinary, or feel peace in the midst of chaos. This series of work, "Something You Don't Know" (also a Black Lab song), hints at the stories untold in each piece of work. Now based in Lowell, she loves to travel -- across the world or down the street --  to hone her craft and find inspiration. 

The Problem is... by Chel Wolverton

...when a child is ripped from their parent's arms in a horrible accident, we don’t choose empathy.

...when 49 victims are killed in a deadly attack for being exactly who they are, we don’t choose love.

...when 20 children and 6 adults die in a deadly school shooting by someone mentally unstable, we don’t choose to act. 

We choose to go through a vicious cycle of narcissism online long enough to remain “trendy” before moving on to the next thing that allows us to feel — in this we choose our collective egos.

The horror, anger, sympathy, memes of support, hashtags, prayers, thoughts, political statements, blame, excuses, celebration of the perpetrators, ignorance of the victims, blaming the victims, blaming the parents, demands for action, demands for punishment, and memes in emotional-fueled response to political statements. Finally, approbation from our friends who agree, vitriol from those who disagree, and on.

None of which do anything EXCEPT draw attention to ourselves. We choose love — of ourselves — far too often where we claim to choose compassion and empathy.

To truly relieve suffering, we must choose to truly suffer with others, to ultimately bring to life compassion when it is needed most. As a nation, we’ve become complacent in regards to our responsibility to each other. We can disagree, but that does not abdicate our responsibility to act.

It’s time to choose love. It’s time to agree that we don’t want more people to die in senseless ways and work together to find a way to prevent the senseless being possible. Talk about how to solve for love without fear - of being attacked, of losing control, or of being shut down.

Put the internet down. Instead of posting on Facebook or Twitter, reach out to someone affected face to face. Volunteer with an organization with real people in real time. Respond with compassion to someone else’s suffering, listen to what they have to say. Most importantly, begin to see the world through someone else’s eyes — because that’s how we repair our society.

“Love yourself. Then forget it. Then, love the world.” ~ Mary Oliver

#LoveisLove

a girl has a name (and a place) by Chel Wolverton

I'm writing this sitting on my couch after a tough commute home. This past weekend I moved from the Newton area to Downtown Lowell (20 miles away from Newton) in a bid to give myself some space and explore a new place. I've been here since Saturday and instantly felt at home. Why did I choose a place with such a tough commute?

That tough commute will only happen until tomorrow.

Leaving SHIFT

Almost three years ago (just shy a month), I did something I thought I'd never do. I voluntarily went to work for an agency. Not just any agency, SHIFT Communications is different. The people I knew at SHIFT before I started weren't typical, they were ballsy in their approach to PR and Marketing. Add in the the opportunity to work with my closest friend, Christopher Penn, on a day to day basis building one of the first Marketing Technology teams. Ultimately, for me, the choice to work at SHIFT was also a choice to find some space and stability.

The greatest thing I gained from my time at SHIFT is the ability to recognize my own value and smarts. Sometimes I have a tough time articulating those things, but I understand my abilities and skills better than ever. My accomplishments at SHIFT include working with CP to grow the team from 2 to 6, growing revenue from $100,000 to $1+ Million, and taking the lead on the creation of a Marketing Technology training program for all staff.

I want to extend a few last kudos for my SHIFT team: I'm thankful to Chris for believing me the best person for the job (and Todd Defren's belief in Chris and our abilities together), to Amy Lyons for her steady encouragement and advice, and to Derek Lyons for his willingness to see where our Integrated journey took us. To Amanda Grinavich for coming along for the ride in the early days and making it easy to have a right hand. To Matt Trocchio for being a steady ship in choppy seas and geeking out with me on all things GoT. To Katie McGraw-Paul for being such a wonderful sounding board, a great friend I'm lucky to have, and bringing a brilliant light/girl into my world to shower with love.

Why the change?

Almost a year ago, I was in a car accident. It was serious, but it could have been worse. This resulted in a mental kick in the pants plus personality shift for me. I embraced who I am to a greater degree than ever before. Some of that change has been outwardly obvious. Some not so much. 

Finding The Next Space

Once I realized how much had changed and that there were other things I wanted to accomplish in this lifetime I began to realize it would require letting go of the safety nets I built around my life. I began working with Jennifer Iannolo (go work with her already!) to figure out what it was exactly that I wanted. At the same time, I jumped back into the world of and embraced my love of photography. With a lot of planning and a tad bit touch and go, I made some decisions. A 3 month long take on everything I wanted to change. With tons of thinking about how much of it I really wanted at once.

(I have to throw out a huge thank you to C.C. Chapman and Justin Levy who have been constantly in my back pocket with support and smart thinking on how to get to where I want to go next.)

Then I met a woman - Laura Gassner Otting. This woman is the embodiment of sassy and brilliant. She mentioned needing someone on a new venture. I couldn't stop thinking about the opportunity to work for someone I knew I would learn from, who fiercely stands behind what she believes in, and helps others get to where they need to go. After some thought, I knew I had to jump at the chance.

Starting Monday, officially, I'll be working under the umbrella of a company Laura co-founded with Katie Pakenham - Limitless Possibility as Chief of Staff. The title is a bit of a mish-mash. I'm the marketing savvy, smartie pants doer of the team - focused on creating order from chaos. I'm going from a ballsy agency to working for one of the most ballsy people I know - I'm so very excited to get started.

(Psst, I have some additional time that I can contribute toward projects as a consultant, so call me if you need anything on the services page. ;) )

That's just the surface of what has changed for me in the last month.  From moving to moving on plus a major surgery to boot. When I'm ready for a change, I dive in and make it happen. No holds barred. I wouldn't have it any other way. 

While there are other things in the works that I'm not quite ready to share yet, I'm happy about moving forward. For now, this is more than enough to make even my head spin on its axis. I'll share more in the coming weeks, but for now, let's roll. 

xo

Chel

Must Listen Music - February 2016 by Chel Wolverton

Sit back, get your headphones on and take a few minutes to chill to these amazing artists. Like? Have music to share? Hit me up via Twitter, Facebook or IG.

First up, we've got Lukas Graham. This one comes from the fabulous DJ Joe Bermudez and is KILLER. Let's talk about the vibes - bittersweet, upbeat, and nostalgic, Lukas writes about his version of growing up in a way everyone notwithstanding their age can relate. This is on repeat in my ears as I write this post. ALL THE FEELS.

The Wind and The Wave continues our journey of bittersweet feels with their cover of Snow Patrols' Chasing Cars. I love Snow Patrol, but here their voices are gold and makes this cover evoke the daydream of laying in bed with someone you love on a warm spring day windows open in the middle of nowhere with the world rushing by.

I'm not normally an Idol viewer, but during my trip to Cali I watched with friends and was introduced to the amazing talent that pours from Thomas Stringfellow. The only viable clip I have of him is his American Idol audition but mannnnn, his voice and style made him my instant favorite. Skip to 1:00 or so into this video to get to the good part. I hope that win or lose he finds a way to keep making music for our enjoyment.  

Enjoy? Or know someone who should be be featured here? Let me know in the comments. More music makes my world go round as hopefully these songs do for yours.

xo - Chel