Saturday, December 31, 2005

Its good to have friends

San Telmo, New Years Eve, Day

Dave and Mei Mei finally arrived safely after getting stuck in Chicago for two days and damn, it sure is great to have some true friends finally here in South America! I mean, I've actually made a few new friends since coming down almost two months ago (Tommy conifided in me the other night that I was not like other Gringos and that he considers me a close friend - take it easy Tommy. And there of course are my flatmates), but true friends, that make the time to call, to hang out... to actually be a friend, they are harder and harder to come by these days, where the almighty dollar reins supreme, and everybody is just too damn busy, even here in South America.

And they came close enough to the Chirstmas holiday to come bearing GIFTS (read-retail consumer therapy)! Thanks Sarah Wheeler, Steele Douglas and Ethan Salwen also for contriubting to the major care packages that arrived with them... my portable lights, power bars, a new headlamp, and a NEW watch with a barrometer, to know which way the wind will blow... Ironically the one thing I really needed was a technical book on photoshop, one I used to own but lent to someone and got destroyed, two days before I left... impossible to find here in South America. I've got several good books to read now but this one is technical, something for my work. So without the book, I've set out on my own to basically reinvent the wheel. I remember about 75% of the book though from my first three readings... but enough, you get the point... probably not.

It's warm and cliche-beautiful today... and all is well after quit some time, here in SA (and Club 69 is still THE spot to be on a Thursday night if you're looking for a one-of-a-kind nightclub like no other in the world - like two nights ago, with VIP passes and access to shoot at will, yes... 69 still is the place to be, especially if you don't have to pay OR wait in line). And thanks Dave and Mei for making the effort, for keeping in touch, for coming down here this New Years - 2006.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Political Update from South America

Boca fans celebrate in La Cumbre, Cordoba

OK - Latin America is on the move and the U.S. is sleeping, preoccupied by a costly war in Iraq, busy shopping for Christmas, enjoying the lovely holiday season. Granted, its also the holidays down here, stores are opening selling their wares, kids crave toys just like anywhere. Papa Noel comes soon...

But Bolivia has just elected a Coca farmer as its next president - a street protesting, coca growing, INDIAN (for the first time in its history). I met him the day I arrived in Argentina, the same day Bush arrived, posing with Maradona... to violence and chaos in the streets. Evo Morales is good for Bolivia and good for Latin America, soft spoken but honest-looking, a man of his words.

Aregentina president Nestor Kirchner meanwhile decides to surprise his citizens and the rest of the world by announcing that he will pay off Argentina's $9.8 billion debt to the IMF... almost one-third of its national reserve ($27 billion). It's funny... I thought Argentina was broke?! I guess the real question is how much lip service is the government paying (and to whom) and how much will the debt really go down? Brazil has also taken a similar path also announcing that it will pay off its remaining debt to the IMF. And look over to the West, Chile has elected (almost) another socialist! And with Venezuela off to the east with Chavez at the helm, who the hell knows what could happen next.

Meanwhile, back here in Buenos Aires another important milestone has passed - Boca Juniors futbol club, home team of Diego 'Manos a Dios' Maradona (who incidentally was arrested last night in Rio) has come from behind to win the South American Futbol Cup! Go Boca Go!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Cartonero Kids in the streets of Cordoba, Argentina.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

hot, Hot, HOT!

Córdoba, Argentina

Instead of running around the city like a crazy gringo tourist with a camera, trying to see all this beautiful colonial city has to offer, I decide to do some cultural anthropological research and take a seat at ElQuixotee Resturant-Bar right in the center of town (complete breakfast including orange juice, two media lunas with butter and jam, a great cup of coffee, and water = $1.20 USD). They say that there is one man for every ten women here in Argentina and that one out of every ten men in Argentina is gay. You do the math but in my uneducated opinion that means that for single guys like me... there are a TON of women to look at on any given day. And Córdoba wins hands down for the most beautiful in all of Argentina, maybe on the planet. Tall Europeanan-looking with green eyes, blondes, brunettes... and when the weather is hot on a day like today, the women are even hotter. After about five minutes of counting how many men versus woman walk by the cafe I decide that on weekends its mostly couples and this skews my theory.

But I've been learning a lot about Argentine women, women in general. Ask ANY Argentine man about women and they will ALL tell you some version of they exact same thing, that they are dificult, crazy, illogical, impossible. For how many years now have I been trying to understand women with little to no success? This new latin point of view is helpful. Argentina men (Latin men in general) also refer to women when trying to explain more complex topics or something as simple as riding a horse. "It's like a woman," one guide told me. "You have to finesse it." And then when the horse still doesn't want to move, a good crack with the whip always helps. I remember when Dave and I were in Mexico City sitting in a cafe and this guy walked up selling hand-made leather horse whipping sticks. "But we don't have any horses," I joked with the guy. "NO!" hindignantlyly replied. "Para las mujeres!!" Dave bought two.

I just bought a book of short stories by Horacio Quiroga (talk about a LOCO!) in Spanish called Stories of Love, Craziness and Death. I actually visited his house up in Missiones next to the Rio Paraná on the border Paraguay a few months back with Danny and Aimee. Maybe this book will shed some light on all this.

Friday, December 16, 2005

El Condor Pasa

The light pitter-patter of rain outside the open window wakes me at the wee hour of 6AM. DAMN! Looks like the flying is off for another day. Lazily I drift back to sleep and eventually get out of bed around 10AM. The clouds have lightened somewhat and the rain has stopped. I eat a quick breakfast at El Condor (best place by far to stay in La Cumbre - LP recommends) with Nellie, the owner and then walk a few short blocks into town for a few supplies and to pick up my laundry. Amazingly there are no more clouds in the sky and the sun starts beating down on the town. I'm sweating profusely by the time I get back to El Condor and I wait for Pablo (Argentina Champion in 1999 for the Paragliding World Cup) to drive up to Cuchi Coral, the launch. The cumulus clouds have begun to build and its super hot outside... looks like it might be a good day for flying after all.

Arriving on launch, all looks good and because the thermals look pretty strong we decide to go tandem to test the conditions and to take photos. We abort our first attempt getting a small collapse just before take off and wait for another, stronger cycle. With $5,000 USD worth of camera gear around my neck we take a few small steps and successfully launch into the blue sky. The first thermal we catch takes us well above launch and we head north to the next small peaks where the thermals are stronger. In the distance I see a large bird flying towards us at the same altitude. "Look, there's a young condor heading towards us," says Pablo at almost the same time.

The next ten minutes we thermal with one and then two young condors, cranking some good turns and catching some good thermals and climb about 1,800' above launch. The views are amazing and flying with the condors in the same thermals is totally unbelievable - a dream come true! After forty five minutes we land a few miles east of the launch. "Ahh... that was a good flight today, no?" asks Pablo with a big smile on his face. Walking back to the launch, pausing every so often to rest in the shade Pablo tells me how he got his nickname - Condor. He was one of the first pilots to fly this area, back in 1992 when nobody in this small town knew anything about paragliding. "On something like my eight flight, with hardly any experience ... I saw for the first time a condor and decided to follow him. He took me from launch all the way back to town... what a day that was!" he smiles again. He also tells me stories of getting stopped in the California desert on a motorcycle doing 100mph by an overhead airplane, shouting at him from the air above.

And then he tells me the story of how he raised two young puma cubs. Many years ago he was travelling with his dad and they came across a dead female adult puma by the side of the road. Stopping to check it out they found two young puma cubs in the bushes near by and his dad agreed to let him bring them home. Raising the pumas until they were a year and a half was great, but when one of them finally killed the family pet bird that was it. While the mom was on vacation his dad told him that they had to get rid of the pumas, now large and dangerous. They took them to a reserve that same day. Later that week the circus came to town. Palbo's dad leases out a small plot of land to the circus when they come to town. "Let's play a practical joke on your mom," he suggests. They asked the ring master if they could 'borrow' the elephant for a day - "sure, no problem," says the ring master. They walked the huge full-grown elephant back to their house and tied it up under a tree outside the house. When Pablo's mom got back the next day from vacation, Pablo's dad told her that they had finally gotten rid of the pumas and now had a new pet, a very little one. When they got back to the house the elephant had gotten loose and completely trampled their entire yard, garden, everything - destroyed. Pablo's dad packed his bags that very same day and left.

Back on launch the winds are now crossed and it doesn't look good for flying for the rest of the day. Condor takes off for his house and I drive down to Rio Pinto with another pilot and his girlfriend, Ramiro and La Rafa and we spend an idyllicc afternoon swimming in a warm oasis of a place next to the Landing Zone... a fantasy life that just doesn't exist in the US. Later that night we score 24 empanadas and 3 liters of beer($8.00 USD) and head for another mountain range to the East of town to watch the full moon rise over La Sierras Chicas... and I'm in heaven. The best day I've had so far in Argentina, one of the best days of my life.

Today I decide to go again with Pablo and if the conditions are good, we'll try to go bigger, higher... farther! PURA VIDA en Argentina!!! But as soon as I leave the cyber, the sky has once again clouded and it's obvious that we won't fly today. But I am content, finally... for today.

Thursday, December 15, 2005


So, today is Thursday, December 14 (I think) and I´ve finally gotten over the whole Samantha thing... thanks to all of you who have kept up. I´ve got tons written to post (ojo) but want to give a real quick-like summary of the past week or so.

I left BA for Mendoza (wine country) and went straight to Barreal, up in the Andes with two of my flatmates. There we went horseback riding, windcarting (speeds in excess of 50 miles an hour) stargazing and ate like kings. We even tore up the only disco in town two nights in a row.

From there I dropped into San Juan for a day and then cruised over to Cordoba in the Central Sierras and then up to La Cumbre, probably the best spot for paragliding in Argentina. This morning it was raining and the conditions looked bad but now its sunny and beautiful and were off to the mountain shortly.

It´s been good to get out of the big city where the air is purer, the people more relaxed and to clear my head. Thanks again for reading... GR

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Just Like a Woman (Part 2)

We talk, discuss and disagree on what we even agree on... I’m not really sure what’s happening between us. I tell her that I’m conflicted about her... this sort of on again-off again attitude. She tells me she doesn’t play games so it must be something else. The waiter brings our dinner and I begin to eat. Samy tells me that now now she's not hungry, that she's tired of all this... of me. I continue eating, not sure of any of this either, trying to explain myself over and over, saying nothing. "You finally show me the soft sensual side of yourself after making me wait for more than three months and..." now it's her turn to cut me short. "I wasn't 'showing' you anything!" she says, clearly irritated and upset. "OK... maybe 'showing' is the wrong word but..." I begin but the waiter is standing there with our check.

Samantha digs into her purse, whips out a fifty peso note and flipantly tries to pay for the dinner she hasn't even touched. "No, no, no" I tell him, asking him to take my money as I dig in my wallet. She keeps on insisting that the waiter take her money confusing him as well, telling me that she wants to buy me dinner for my birthday. "No way, especially after you didn't even eat your dinner am I going to let you pay." She tries to hand the waiter the fifty peso note once more and I grab it out of her hand. Now I'm upset. "If you want to get rid of fifty pesos, you can just give it to me since you owe me eighty from the other night." I had lent her eight pesos after they took her purse and honestly hadn't even thought of it till now.

Now SHE gets really upset. " You're just like Valdi (her other ex-boyfriend, the one that had me over for the killer BBQ a few weeks ago, the same one that I had started taking Tango lessons from but stopped after Samantha started telling me of their fights and how mean he was to her, always cutting her short on ll of their business deals - tango gigs mostly.) TBC

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Just Like a Woman

The next day, Sunday (well the same day, just a few hours later) I get up from a restless three hours of sleep, make my coffee and ring Samy's house to make sure she got home OK and to see how she's feeling. No one answers so I leave a message on the machine. The next day, Monday, I had not heard from her but since she has neither of her tcell phonesnes so I jump on the 152 and jam down to Caminto because I know she's working today, my 38th birthday. I just need to see her... the make sure she's OK, to be with her. Nelida, the woman that runs things down there tells me that she doesn't work until 3PM today, three hours from now. I decide to eat lunch at La Barrica, listening to the same two old guys that are always there, playing tango. I treat myself to two dark micro-brews and eat my lunch in silence, aside from the bitter-sweet tango ballads that Samy loves to sing to me.

After I finish I head back to see Nelida and now Samanth's ex-boyfriend (the most recent one, the young one, the one she placed ninth with in the World Tango Championships) was also waiting for her. So instead of hanging I make my way across the little plaza and peacefully lie in the shade, waiting. She finally arrives after another hour and a half and I barely catch her before she ducks into one of the local eateries to change into her usual tango garb.

"I was just going in to change and then had planned on calling you. I just
got her right this minute from Alejandro's...
(her other ex-boyfriend, who
is actually cool and someone I can relate to) but anyways, happy
she finally spits out, obviously pressed for time. "Look... do you have plans tonight?" I ask, the first time I've spoken to her since she was robbed at knife point less than forty eight hours ago. "No, its your birthday... maybe you have plans with your friends or... whatever you want." Hmmm... she obviously doesn´t really mean that. "I just want to be with you. What time can you come to my place after work?"

"Well," she starts, "I get done at 5:30 and then I have to go home and change and all that and then..." I cut her short, its the same story she always gives me and she never gets back into town until like midnight. "No, no... that´ll take for ever and my birthday will be over. How about you just come over after work? It´s like five minutes from here?"

She shows up at 7PM. All of my flatemates and Vicki have asked me what I want to do for my birthday and I´ve told them sorry, but I want to be with Samantha... but for some reason even I wasn´t convinced this time. But my thought was that we could get some dinner somewhere and then stop by Lelé de Troyja in Palermo, perhaps my favorite place for a drink in BA - a place for lovers. Despite being hip and chic and trendy like every other fucking place in Palermo, its actually beautiful inside, the owners are very, very friendly and I always have a good time.

Leaving the house, Samy wants to get some empanadas, now. We grab a couple from across the street and then head over to the park. It is still early. Sitting on the bench something is now very different. This strange distance cloud of distance decends upon us. Its me, its her... its us here in South America, trying to make something together. Two total opposites. She asks me again what I want to do for my birthday as she chows down on her empanadas.

"Well, I was thinking about getting a bite to eat but it really doesn’t matter. I just want to be with you," I tell her, exasterbated, sounding like a broken record. We sit in silence for what seems like hours. “I don’t know, maybe we can go bowling," I joke. She starts explaining how bowling is really not her thing but if I really want to go, no problem. It was a joke and I really have no interest in bowling whatsoever but I was stuck without a legitimate plan and I couldn’t get her to suggest anything. Argentine woman always let the man make all the decissions... then they can ‘blame’ him later if they don’t like the decission or something goes wrong.

After more awkward silence she complains that she is now getting cold. “HUG ME!” she lazily demands. I hold her close, sheltering her from the wind, feeling so close but oh so far at the same time. “Let’s just go back to the place in front of Retiro, below the English clocktower,” I joke again, confused... conflicted. This is what I wanted for my birthday, but its all wrong now between her and I – and we both know it. We eventually make our way down past the park and jump on the 152 heading across town. I’ve decided to stick with the original plan and we jump off the bus at Plaza Italia in Palermo right in front of Kentucky Pizzeria across from La Rural where Samy placed competed in the World Tango Championships. “How about I grab a quick bite to eat and we go from there?” I offer. "But I thought you weren't hungry," she starts in. "Well..." I sigh, "now I am." We end up actually sitting down and the awkwardness continues to grow. I order two slices of pizza for myself and a draft beer. Samantha orders two slices of pizza also, strange since she just ate but good because I don't have to eat alone.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Change is like the wind?

I’ve changed my plans and decide not to go up North due to bad weather… a chance of rain, which would put a damper on the flying. I’ve got a ton of work to do here anyways and need to get started with burning my photos to DVD for backup. If the computer or hard drives go, I’m hosed.

Of course I can’t stay away from Samantha and we end up hanging out again on Saturday night. She comes over and then we head across town to the Museo de Artes Hispanoamericano to see this Edward Curtis Photography Exhibit of turn-of-the-century portraits of native North American Indians. I’d already been once but really wanted to go again, with Samantha, herself mostly of ‘native’ blood, from the Tucuman Indians in the north of Argentina. Curtis made his prints with large format camera on glass plate negatives that he mixed chemicals for by hand from the back of a covered wagon. Samantha loved the pictures and even more so the historic location, something like four hundred years old.

We ate at a café called Che Buenos Aires that I had kept passing by in either a taxi or the bus, right there on Libertador on the corner. Dinner was good and we kept each other in good company, laughing and talking right the way through. She had to get back home (on a Saturday night, yeah right) and I was going to continue working. Our first night as friends… we walk to the bus and head towards Retiro to go our perspective ways. God she is so beautiful… difficult, but beautiful. Pausing out front of the main entrance to the Retiro train station, beautiful in of itself, I begin to play with her hair, covering her eyes with it, her eyes hidden behind the veil of a pirate, telling her that, unlike the tango songs she likes to sing to me, there ISN’T any love or affection, there ARE NO KISSES! “Well… you sure just missed a good opportunity just now, didn’t you?” she rhetorically flirts. The next four hours are complete bliss and not since high school can I remember making out for so long… for hours, below the English clock tower across from Retiro.

Completely lost in the moment and totally oblivious to the world on this foggy grey morning, four younger-looking kids approach us asking for money. Before I knew what happened and as Samantha is reaching in her purse for some change, I reach for my camera bag at the same moment one of the kids does and I realize they are trying to rob us. The next thing I see is the gleam of light from the blade of a knife pressed tightly up against Samantha’s neck. I’m now standing on top of the park bench waving the umbrella at them and I somehow strangely feel like Peter Sellers in ‘Being There’, but have no idea what I’m going do. The guy with the knife motions at my camera bag and tells me that he’s going to kill her, stabbing twice in the air at her too close to her heart. Suddenly Samantha is free from him… some type of ninja-tango move, a complete escape. The guy with the knife bolts along with the other three with all of Samantha’s bags. There’s no way I can chase them with the camera bag around my shoulder.

Samantha is unharmed and we end up recovering most of her things, minus two cell phones, a disc man and her plata – money. We crash out at my pad for a couple of hours and then she whisks away back home where her dad will no doubt be waiting. Chao.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Photo Ninja

Back home on the 152

My head hurts, not so much from smacking it into the edge of a low-hanging 2x4 earlier today, but more because of Samantha and her brujeria – witchcraft. I call Dave and he tells me all about smashing up his new RC glider back on the ranch in Piru, next to Fillmore…Ventura County, California… across the river from the house where I spent my youth – on the poor farm as we used to call it, fifteen acres of oranges. He says the glider is all taped and glued up but at least it’s flying and he’s getting the hang of the controls.

After an entire afternoon, evening and then night with Samantha, I learn a whole slew of new things… like you can say ‘Yo te quiero’, not only to your lover, or the love of your life, or your husband or boyfriend, but to close friends, you’re family, even your dog basically whoever (later, yesterday... her ex-boyfriend would confide in me that its all lies, not Samantha... but women in general. He also tells me that with him and Samantha there was before and then after and that I should call him to hang out next week when I get back into town. He´s a painter, someone I can relate to and it would probably shed some light on this whole craziness). I pour a little Fernet with Coke on the whole situation and vow not to speak to her for at least a week. I’m gonna go check out some paragliding this week up in Cordoba with my flatmates… get away from the city and from her. The LP Argentina guide (DP’s) says that famed WPC pilot Andy Heidiger is now living and teaching paragliding north of Cordoba in La Cumbre. I hope to rent a wing for someone that weighs 100 kilos and take some lessons in thermaling, how to catch the columns of hot rising air for the uninitiated. There are supposed to be Condors in the area also. Dave tells me he’s coming on the 26th or 27th of December till the first of the year… that can’t be right. No matter what, we’ll have a good time, even if Mei Mei is coming at the same time.

My head is now throbbing as that 2x4 really did a number on me. The day before I walked into a low-hanging concrete stem wall and still have a knot on my noggin’ from that one. I actually had to sit down before we boarded the bus as my vision blurred from the throbbing pain, which buys me a few more minutes to talk with Samantha. She tells me she’s not ready for anything right now and indeed does want to be single. I try my hardest to convince her that we could have something good but we have to try, no... we have to start. But I can´t continue on like this... lost and confused. “I’ll be in my house waiting for you next Monday… after Cordoba,” I told her.

We catch the bus back to Ritiro, the main transit hub in BA. From there we can both catch our respective buses back to our own lives… I lean into the window of her bus and she pulls close. “I’ll call you…” she whispers, “I’ll call you.” Me and that same empty feeling hop back on the 152 and head home. Once again I’m totally drained… but somehow feel relieved that I’ve made a decision not to see her or to speak with her for an entire week. Paragliding for my 38th birthday, away from the city and her, starts to sound better and better and I pass out, exhausted beyond belief.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Don´t Do It!

A cartonero pushes his recycling cart up the street past Parque Lezama towards our house. (the photo looks dark on this computer screen, but if you click on it and view it larger, read the back of his t-shirt! Cosmic could have made a fortune on this one.)


We head off for the bus stop after eating empanadas in the park… lying in the grass, stargazing and laughing. This is what I came back for, to spend time with her. The bus is jammed packed and I have to put the camera bag on the ledge next to the driver in front of the windshield so that he can shut the front door. When we stop to pick up another three passengers its amazing that he can still get the door shut. We jump off fifteen minutes later after hopping on and off the freeway, crossing the river to get outside of the capital and get in line at La Joya Disco. Tonight is cumbia night and I’ve been wanting to go to a cumbia club for some time now, just to check it out. There is not one foreigner in site.

I pay for two tickets and after a thorough pat down they tell me they won’t allow me to enter with the camera bag. I try to explain that I won’t take pictures but always have the bag with me. If you want to leave the bag in the office that’s fine, but we will hold no responsibility for it. That’s obviously not going to happen. Finally Samy comes back outside and suggests we jump into a cab and zip back to the city, drop the camera at the house and come back… she has half an hour before the contest starts. It’s 1:30AM. “The thing is… the ‘boliches’ or clubs are the most mafia of anything here,” she tells me. Hmmm… I’ll leave the mafia topic for another post, but basically they use that term synonymously for corruption, at whatever level. But people die regularly at the hands of the mafia here in Argentina, all over South America.

Like the other day, this homeless guy approaches me while I’m sitting with Julia, one of my flat mates, in the plaza down the street from our house here in San Telmo. First he asks me to take his picture, but doesn’t want to look at the camera, rather look upwards towards the heavens. Then he trys to hustle a stack of post cards on us, you know those postcards you get for free at bars – the publicity ones? I agree to give him one peso, half of his asking price, not so much for the post card but for the story that he tells us about the way things are here in Argentina. About the death of ex-presidents Menem’s son (he’s the one that sold off all of Argentina’s national industry, including their international airline which is now bankrupt, to private interests, basically robbing the country of its wealth and spearheading the economic crash in 2001 which the country is still recovering from) and how it wasn’t really a ‘helicopter crashing into some power lines´, but rather a perfectly executed mafia hit, the helicopter which was transporting the presidents son receiving gun fire from all sides and crashing it into the ground killing all passengers aboard… but more on this later.

We finally make it back to the club just before 2AM, just in time for the first cumbia band, Los Avilas, which is really a cross between cumbia and tropical. After another two hours the band does its final encore and the MC comes back on and says let’s get this dance contest underway, to the screams and whistles of the fans. There has to be at least a thousand people in this huge two-story club and here comes the Credence – Bad Moon Rising. The first eight dance pairs, one at a time each perform for about a minute, all to the same Credence song. Then, the MC asks the crowd, which three couples out of eight should advance to the semi-finals. I can’t imagine that this is much competition for Samy and her dance partner for tonight, Luis. He reintroduces each couple one at a time and the crowd clearly selects the best three out of these first eight. Samy and Luis are number twelve and won’t compete until after the next band.

Finally at 5:30AM the band wraps up and its time for the dance contest to continue. And here comes the Credence once again – Bad Moon Rising. Pairs nine and ten go and so far, no one has really busted anything out of the normal fifties rock and roll style of dancing… not until pair number eleven, friends of Luis’ which were sitting at our table upstairs. They blow everyone out of the water and finish to a fervently screaming crowd. I don’t think Samantha and Luis can compete with that… but its finally time for them to perform. And it’s a solid performance and Luis even does a couple of flips during their one-minute routine, finishing with a one-handed handstand. The crowd actually is strongly behind them and they easily pass to the final round along with five other couples. Pair number eleven winds hands down and are amazing to watch. He spins her around his back, over his head, under his legs and I don’t know what else. Samy and Luis take an easy second place, winning a small trophy and three hundred pesos… not bad for a nights work. Later Samy confides in me that her and Luis have never even practiced and dance once every three months or so together, just for fun. That´s my girl.

Monday, November 28, 2005


Racing back to the house to shower and shave, I tear back down the marble staircase, slipping and almost breaking my neck, but successfully grab the first cab to Constitución train station. It’s now dusk and I leave the camera and sunglasses back at home. Tonight is obligation, not work. I’m excited that I actually came through with the photo for Samy’s mom and the smaller framed photo of Samy’s younger sister on the bus on the way home from the cemetery. The train is ridiculously packed with commuters returning from the Capital back out to the provinces, hereafter referred to as the barrios, or back home – the ghetto.

It’s actually quite challenging being at least a foot taller than everyone else, especially when it comes to public transportation. Not a day passes without me severely banging my head on something. And on the local buses, its more like being inside a pinball machine than anything, banging my head back and forth between the metal handrails trying not to fall while not stepping on or banging into my fellow passengers. The other day on the way to the Manu Chau concert in a bus that was at least fifty years old, tiny and packed, an elderly woman looked up at me from her single-aisle seat and asked me to stop molesting her. Immediately irritated, I simply told her that I wasn’t doing anything and couldn’t she see how jam packed the bus was?

The train arrives in La Nues, four stations out from Constitución pretty quickly. Walking towards the exit I’m nearly killed by another train that snuck up on me from behind, not even hesitating to slow down, barreling through the station at more than 60 mph. A group of drunken teenagers all-at-the-same time grab me as I tried to skirt past the throngs of people and dangerously walk the line on the edge of the platform hanging dangerously over the tracks, and pull me to safety. It’s the same with the buses in the capital… for short people there’s no problem walking down the sidewalks as the side mirrors of the bus fly by overhead. But for tall gringos, OJO – CAUTION! I can’t even count how many times I’ve felt the mirror swoosh by just inches from my head… and I’m extra careful foreigner. It’s like the hole I stepped in the other day walking back from the Recoleta cemetery with Tommy, a friend of mine who is from BA, went to NYC for a stint and now lives and works here as a fashion photographer . We had just done some test shots for a new model he was working with in the cemetery and I was viewing images on the back of the camera while walking down the street in my filp flops – not advised. As I suddenly felt myself falling, Tommy grabbed the back of my shirt and surely prevented the breaking of my leg.

Outside the station in La Nues I look for a payphone that works. Samy begged me to call her from the station before I take the bus to the party to make sure I understood the directions clearly and to let her what time I board the bus. The first two public phones both eat my coins and then, across the open entrance to the station I see the 283, the bus that’ll take me to the birthday party and drop the phone, sprinting across the traffic, barely making it to the bus before he takes off. Now I’m short one coin… and the next bus won’t come for like another twenty minutes. “Don’t worry about it,” he shrugs allowing me to board and telling me that he’ll advise me when we get there, in about ten minutes. It’s like the other day in the restaurant down the street from our house, across the park sitting in the no smoking section. I knew it was the no smoking section, an extreme rarity here in BA, but ask the waiter if I can smoke none-the-less. “No, smoking is prohibited here… but go ahead, “ he says and quickly comes back with an ashtray - special Gringo treatment.

The party was fun, for ten year olds. I chatted with Samy’s father… among other things about her heritage. Pointing to his forearm while shouting in my face, “she has the blood of the Indians.” Whao… Afterwards Samy politely asks me if I’d like to go back to her house to drink some mate. That’s the very last thing I want, to spend more time with a woman that I’m in love with but that doesn’t want to be with me. But I agree once again, cursing my stupidity under my breath. Late into the morning after drinking mate at her friend Bete’s house we return back to Samy’s place… it’s like 4:30AM. Finally we are alone and I somehow feel content… like the connection is still there getting stronger all the while. I ask if I can see some of her drawings and this is when everything changes. She begins to tell me that tango is just a small part of her life – for right now. But her real love is drawing. She tells me I can take the two best drawings, ten years old at least. “These don’t represent the way I draw now… these we’re student drawings, from a long time ago.”

It’s now 6:30AM its light outside. Once again I’m completely exhausted, physically, mentally and emotionally. We walk across the dirt street to the bus stop and I try once again and for the very last time to explain to her that I came back to BA for her and can’t continue forward like this… like a love-sick puppy dog. Three buses passes us by and I refuse to board, trying to illustrate that I want to know where we stand. “Gregorio, por favor… get on the bus. I’ll call you!” she pleads. The ride back into the city is blurry and surreal… the train is once again packed and its 7AM on a Saturday morning and the sun is burning my eyes. I over sleep and its now too late to get back to Constitucion where I was supposed to meet up with Danny and clan to go to a BBQ out in Quilmes, where the national Argentine beer comes from. I’m still completely exhausted from all of this, having slept for only about three hours and think its probably for the best given my current mental state that I don’t go out to the BBQ. Suddenly the telephone rings… “Hola mi amor,” says a soft and sexy voice, slowly and succinctly. At first I think it must be a wrong number, but realize its her! Yes? She’s finished a morning shift with the tourists and tells me that she very much wants to come over to see me but thinks its better if she goes back home and gets some rest. But she proposes that we meet up around 8PM tonight, do the tango lesson that she blew off last week, get a bite to eat and then meet up with Luis because she has a rock and roll dance contest tonight. “How does that sound,” she softly asks? OK. “And there’s one more thing I want to say to you… si, yo te quiero.” Literally – yes, I want you but figuratively, “yes, I love you.” TBC….

Sunday, November 27, 2005

BK in BA

Oh shit… now I’m gonna be late for Samy’s sister Yamila’s 10th birthday party. I can’t believe I’m even going after all thats not happened, but only because Samy asked me to. I had dropped off some photos at the lab earlier in the day because Samy’s mom Gregoria specifically asked me for a black and white copy of a photo of Samy from the day we went to the cemetery to view her mothers gave site the last time I was here. The fact that Samy doesn’t want to be with me doesn’t deter me from my previous obligations and promises to her and her family, like this birthday party.

I run down two blocks past the park to the bus stop and wait less than two minutes for the 152, which barrels down Paseo Colón to Corrientes, one of the main drags in town. When I arrive at the lab, really a smallish one-hour type place, they bring out the 11x14 black and white and it actually looks pretty good, especially for $1.00USD. I’m actually amazed at how good it looks. I also had them print a small photo of Yamila as a birthday present but it’s not in the envelope. Finally after much discussion, the most adult-looking of all the employees behind the counter picks up the telephone and calls someone and then informs me that it’ll be ready in thirty minutes. DAMN! Now I’m gonna be super late after I swore I’d be on time after the mishap the other day at Constitucion, when I waited for her.

Across the street there’s a monster-sized Burger King that looks like it takes up half the block and is at least three stories high. I haven’t had fast food once in Argentina and am actually starving. In the name of journalistic research I enter and its crazy full of kids, business people and families, all eating over-priced crap. I join right in and go with the basic Whopper combination number one with medium fries and a medium drink - $9 pesos ($3USD, which is actually kind of steep for Argentines when the average empanada costs about $1.25 pesos = $0.40USD). This is the strangest BK I’ve ever been to… and I’ve been to a few (as Super Dave can attest to). I jam up this giant marble staircase with my tray into what looks like an old mansion fit for a king and arrive on the third and final floor. This building obviously belonged to some ricos long ago and is big enough to house an army of soldiers on horseback. All the doorways are encased in giant Victorian-looking crown molding and you could easily ride a horse though any of them. In my dining room, one of dozens, there are the same basic blue plastic BK tables that you would see at any BK worldwide… but the similarities stop there.

Green Day is CRANKING over the speakers (then Maná and then some crazy salsa) as I sit and wolf down my meal, marveling all the while at the ornately decorated ceiling which is at least twenty five feet high, reminding me of Versailles on the outskirts of Paris. But then I actually look at the huge velvet-Elvis type portraits done in that realistically Tiajuana-cartoon style, hanging in gaudy frames around the dinning room, one of many throughout this palatial BK. The first is a giant portrait of Luis XIV [ironically I’m listening to Toots and the Maytals version of Louie Louie via our newly established wireless MP3 network in the house] and below in a gold-plated placard it simply reads “King” Sun – Luis XIV of France. Next is another huge portrait of Henry the XIII, which reads “King” of England – Henry VIII. This is where they get start to get kind of weird. There’s a huge portrait of Buffalo Bill Cody that reads “King” of the Western Frontier and then finally on the fourth wall is another giant classic shot of Freddy Mercury, which simply reads, “QUEEN”. Hurriedly I run to the bathroom before leaving for the lab to get back home to shower and then take a taxi to the train station to get out to the barrio where I’ll have take a bus to the birthday party. On my way out I see more portraits… Albert Einstein, “King” of science, Michael Jackson, “King” of pop, the Lion King which reads “King” of the Jungle. Only on the train on the way to the barrio to I make the connection – Burger “KING!”

Piso Compartido Balcony

A view from the balcony which overlooks this street in one direction and then Parque Lezama in the other.

Thursday, November 24, 2005


November 25, 2005 - Thanksgiving Day (which makes even less sense to me down here than back at home).

The sweltering heat has finally subsided somewhat and now, after a brief sub-tropical storm passes through, spewing out just enough rain to wash the dog and pigeon shit off the balconies and sidewalks, cleaning the decrepit cobbled streets, the city once again breaths freely.

Yesterday was a big day for me. I actually (and finally) put in a ten-hour workday, catching up on my backlogged photo archive while continuing to establish a strong digital workflow. Naming conventions, metadata, keywords, color corrections, storage, and then correct titles, captions and descriptions… transforming a basic digital photo, which really has no value without these key pieces of information into a digital asset, which has value and will live in a searchable archive long past the point when I’m gone.

Excitedly, I clean the entire house in anticipation of Samantha’s arrival. The first time she came over she commented on how dirty our kitchen was. Strange, since I don’t really use the kitchen and didn’t think it was actually that dirty, but first impressions are the hardest to erase, like the day I met her in Caminito. This would be our second private tango lesson and I’m finally starting to make sense of this crazy and painfully difficult dance to learn. I showered, dressed, thought about shaving, lost the flip-flops for my dancing shoes and made some coffee. Victoria from Mendoza, the queen of the house, comes home from a long day of working in an office doing marketing for a local media company … can’t say I’m jealous of that at all.

“Tonight’s the night,” we both agree, like the Neil Young song playing on my i-Tunes. All this waiting and anticipation has come to a head… I can wait hasta la muerte for Samantha… but I must know if she wants to be more than just friends.

When I arrive at Constitución just as the first raindrops begin to fall its 8:37PM, eight minutes before our schedule meeting time. Perfect... but I always get nervous waiting for her here, not because it’s as dangerous as everyone says, but because of the anticipation that always builds before I see her smiling face. I expect her to be a few minutes late because she has to take a bus to her train station and the schedules in the barrio can be less than exact. I decide to eat one tic tac every five minutes on the dot... call me OCD, whatever. After twenty-five minutes pass I begin to think of all the scenarios that could have gone wrong, like when your backpacking cross country and someone unexpectedly takes a wrong turn unbeknownst to the rest of the group. You start to realize that you have no idea what could have happened and even less of an idea about what to do now.

After forty-five minutes I start to get anxious… and finally find a public payphone that works and call her house. Her sister Valeria answers and tells me Samantha didn’t come home as usual after work and how strange it is that she isn’t at the train station because usually she is very punctual. I try calling her cell phone, which isn’t receiving calls at this time… and then after more than an hour of eating tic tacs and waiting, I am forced to hurriedly take a cab back home. Victoria tells me that Samantha called earlier, at 7PM and left a message on the answering machine saying that she wasn’t going to be able to make our scheduled class. “I’m gonna kill her,” I say. “No, no, no…” Victoria says, covering the mouthpiece on the phone as she talks with her boyfriend. “She just called again and feels horrible that you didn’t get the message but very much wants to meet up with you tonight. She’s in her house and you need to call her right now.” After she finishes her call she continues, “but I think you need to tell her that you want to sit down with her and talk.” Dios Mio is correct. Samantha knows I’m pretty steamed at this point but agrees to meet me once again (or vice versa) back at Constitución, this time at 11:45PM. We had planned on seeing a live Tango-electronica band called Narco Tango tonight in Palermo and we stick with the plan, with the amendment that we are going to actually sit down and talk beforehand.

This time she arrives on time, hiding her face behind her jacket as she approaches me in the train station, the very same station where I first danced tango with her more than two months ago. We leave the station to grab one of the many buses out front and head across town, laughing and joking despite our talk that is yet to come. In the restaurant we finally are served at 12:30AM, Thanksgiving morning. “Here’s to me,” she jokes raising her glass. I try to explain to her how funny it is to hear her say this, because that’s exactly what my ex-girlfriend Jill’s family used to say during their Thanksgiving dinners, everyone raising their glasses at the same time, “here’s to me!” After thirty minutes of trying to explaining this apparent coincidence, today being Thanksgiving and that I don’t know anyone else who says this, she finally understands that it’s not about me lamenting about my ex-girlfriend, but rather its about her saying the exact same thing as Jill, who I also used to call mariposa – butterfly. I’m a real sucker for mariposas.

Finally Samantha comes clean with the truth… “Ahora, quiero estar sola,” which has a couple of different meanings. The obvious one is ‘right now, I want to be single,’ but sola also means alone. “But I know that’s not true… I know that you want a family, that you want to be with a man that loves you, that you have the capacity to give your heart to someone. I´ll always have a place in my heart for you, but now I’m going to leave you in peace,” I tell her. We head to the club around the corner and ironically her friend Jose the guitar player, who is actually extremely talented for only being twenty two years old, is waiting for us outside. We go in without paying and catch the last song. The crowd loves the band but the three of us collectively decide that this version of tango-electronica is nothing special and we split before the crowd walking ten blocks to their bus station. Jose leaves us for a moment sensing the tension and Samantha says, “Well, what are we going to do?” Well… I’m going to leave you in peace and won’t pressure you anymore. “I’m working tomorrow from 3:00 – 5:30PM in Caminito. Do you want to come?” she asks with a gleam of hope in her eyes. I can’t believe her and almost burst out laughing. “You have my number… call me anytime,” I say as she boards the bus. She doesn’t see me standing there, watching her and the bus pull away into the night, practically in shock and numb from all this.

I aimlessly wander down the deserted tree-lined street searching for another bus to take me home. Rounding the corner there’s a guy waiting at a bus stop. I read the sign and there’s one of three buses that stops here that can take me back to Constitucion and from there and I can walk the seven blocks back to the house. “I’ve been waiting for ten minutes but this early in the morning, who knows how long it’ll be before the bus arrives,” he tells me after I ask when the bus will arrive. Now I’m muy cansado (‘tired’, which I find ironically close to casado, which means ‘married’) All I have is time and since I’m broke and can’t afford any of the dozens of empty taxis that are streaming by I sit down and wait. Two more people arrive and have a similar conversation with the guy already waiting for the bus about when the next bus will come. Now he’s been waiting for half an hour. After another ten minutes, they leave and after another twenty minutes he leaves, reassuring me that the bus will come and that it’s only a matter of when. But now I’m solo – alone. And with $6,000 of camera gear in my bag I start to wonder what I should do.

Just then I hear this terribly loud noise coming towards me from down the street. It’s the 151, the bus that’ll take me across town back home. I jump up and flag it down, always necessary or they simply won’t stop, almost missing him as he grinds to a halt. The driver opens the door and informs me that he can’t take me because his bus is broken and won’t make it to Constitución. But I’ve been waiting more than an hour, how do you suggest I get home? You can walk down there a few blocks and catch another bus. Sorry, but I’m not sure which bus to take or from where. Hop on and I’ll give you a lift. We sit at the green light and then a red and then another green light before lurching forward, as if he was demonstrating that the bus was really ‘broken’. At the next bus stop he informs all of the three passengers on the bus that this is the last stop and due to technical difficulties we can go no further but if we want to wait in the back of the bus for maybe another forty-five minutes for the next bus we can. I ponder this for a moment and then exit the bus back out onto the street and into the early morning. Crossing Corrientes I see my bus pass by and run after it missing it by a hair. DAMN! I break down, just like the 151 and flag a ‘tuerto’ taxi, literally ‘one-eyed’ but in this case, one headlamped. The cab whisks me down towards the Obolisco, BA’s central landmark and we pass by the Banco Frances, which is really a bank from Spain and then past some cartoneros, digging through the early morning trash.

Sitting on the toilet back home, trying not to forget all that has transpired (not to be confused with the Spanish word transpiración, which means to sweat), exhausted beyond belief, I’m thankful this Thanksgiving to finally know the truth… for better or for worse, her truth. Ya fue – that’s it... for now. Happy Thanksgiving to all and I leave you with words from Abraham Lincoln (from Wikipidia).

"In the middle of the Civil War, prompted by a series of editorials written by Sarah Josepha Hale, the last of which appeared in the September 1863 issue of Godey's Lady's Book, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national Thanksgiving Day, to be celebrated on the final Thursday in November 1863:
"The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle, or the ship; the axe had enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years, with large increase of freedom.
No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.
It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and voice by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.
In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand, and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.<
Done at the city of Washington, this third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the independence of the United States the eighty-eighth."
Proclamation of President Abraham Lincoln, 3 October 1863. Since 1863, Thanksgiving has been observed annually in the United States.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Random Rants from Down South

November 22, 2005
San Telmo, Buenos Aires

Ojo = Caution
Literally ojo means ‘eye’, but when you put your forefinger to your face below one eye and draw downward, it means CAUTION! Pretty much everyday someone, somewhere in this huge city tells me “OJO, here its VERY dangerous!” If I’m in a taxi I usually try to explain that West Oakland is way more dangerous than any part of Buenos Aires that I’ve been to so far. One time, two men slowed down and paced along side of me in their car. “OJO… aca es muy peligroso!” the passenger shouted. Thanks… I know, I’ll be careful. “NO…” he continued in exalted, rapid Spanish. “You can’t walk here with the camera… PUT IT IN YOUR BAG!” I actually got quite irritated. “I’m a photographer… its part of my job. Thanks for the warning¨." He continued on for a bit trying to tell me to at least not walk past the bridge. “Look… there’s my bus stop, the 152. I’ll be fine… I’m working… I’M A PHOTOGRAPHER!”

Sub-Tropical Heat and Plastic Lawn Chairs
The first time I witnessed this Latin American phenomenon was in Pinotepa Nacional, Mexico, a couple of years back sitting in a small taco bar next to the main plaza in town with Burro, Steele, PTK, and Super Dave. The chico serving us advised me before we sat down, not to sit in the white plastic lawn chairs, very common in cafes throughout Latin America. I switched to a metal chair but Steele did not head the warning. Half way through our meal his chair suddenly buckled and he headed for the floor, barely catching himself on the way down with one arm. We laughed about that one for quite some time. Eating late night burgers just the other night after the Manu Chao concert, the same thing happened. Although this time there was next to no warning and after the slight sense of uh oh… the chair splintered into a million pieces and I hit the floor, hard. I looked at the kid behind the counter as he simply shrugged his shoulders and watching me slowing pick myself up from the ground. Then, a couple nights later I was invited to my first asado (barbeque) in Baldi’s house (Samy’s ex-boyfriend). The succulent meats were SO out of site that I almost didn’t catch myself as the same thing started happening all over again. But this time, I felt the initial buckle of the rear chair leg… and immediately stood up in front of more than twenty-five people… close one.

Tyranny Tours & Transnochar
Literally meaning, ‘to cross the night’, the verb transnochar is foreign to most foreigners. It’s like Tom Waits said, ‘never saw the morning till I stayed up all night.’ Last night, my flat mates and I trekked across the city to Palermo Viejo, the chi-chi part of town where most foreigners choose to live. Danny and Aimee live there. First to Mundo Bizaro and then to my favorite bar in town, Lele de La Troyja, named after Helen of Troy’ Afterwards, we hopped in a taxi and I asked the driver about the ‘best tour in BA,’ according to El Travel Burro – the nighttime tyranny tour. Oh yeah… its just up here, the Red Zone. Danny had been talking about this ever since he first arrived in BA the first time, many months ago. Living up to its legend, there were more than 50 hot transvestites, some nearly naked, all for sale. It’s like a zoo… they hide in the bushes, walk along the lonely street and congregate in groups of three or four along the main park drag. We raced back across the deserted town in the taxi watching random motorists fly past us as we wait at a red light in the middle of the widest street in the world. We all agreed that the city is most alive and most comfortable and most beautiful just before dawn.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Mentira es Verdad

Who you calling crazy?

November 16, 2005
Piso Compartido – San Telmo, Buenos Aires

The Burro and I both agree that next to Tijuana, Buenos Aires has to be the place to see Manu Chao in concert. It’s been a dream of mine ever since I first came across Manu (who was it that introduced me...?) to see him live in concert. Finally Radio Bemba came to Argentina and beneath the full moon rising, we jumped up and down, sweated our asses off and sang and danced and lived the night away.

What really made the show espectacular was the collaboration with Radio Colifata. I hand you over to Time Out for their description of this Crazy Radio.

“From Rush Limbaugh through Howard Stern to Dave Lee ‘Hairy Conrflake’ Travis, radio has always attracted its fair quota of misfits and eccentrics. But BA’s Radio La Colifata (literally, ‘crazy radio’) goes several steps beyond. It claims to be the first radio station in the world run entirely by residents and outpatients at a hospital for the clinically insane….

… Much of the appeal of La Colifata stems from its unpredictability; it has an anarchistic style that owes nothing to the calculated goonery of commercial ‘zoo’ radio. The only regular slot in the Saturday broadcast is that in which listeners’ letters and emails are read out on air. After that anything can happen – a snatch of Willie Dixon courtesy of patient and bluesman Hugo Blues; a rant about the gruesome condition of the hospital’s bathrooms; or perhaps a Chomskyan diatribe on US foreign policy….

… Comments on local and international politicians are almost always defamatory – who’s going to sue? – and usually astute. Which shouldn’t surprise anyone; “I am a neurotic schizophrenic psychopath but I’m not stupid’ is the catchphrase of legendary presenter Garces, also known as the Emperoro of Paranoia. Proof that the musings of the patients are usually no more eccentric than, say, your average cab driver, [which of course I find amusing as I have no idea who an average cab driver is] comes in the form of the La Colifata ‘mock elections’. These ballots are organized in the hospital the week before each Argentinean presidential election, with the patients debating on and then voting for the candidates of their choice. The result usually makes the front pages of the mainstream press. The ‘crazy election’ has accurately prefigured the ‘sane’ vote in the last four presidential contests, a fact from which any number of conclusions can and have been drawn.”

Check them out online at

Friday, November 11, 2005

¨Hi, I´m Frankie

Goyo and I used to live together but now he´s gone to Argentina. One day I´ll make a run for the border too!¨

Blood, Sweat and Tears

November 10, 2005
San Telmo, Buenos Aires

Going out into the street without my camera is always a mistake, especially in Argentina. I walk not even one block from the house and see a group of people standing around looking sort of bewildered, as if something has just happened. As I pass, there’s an old man lying on the ground in a pool of deep red blood coming from his face, which is obviously a mess. I continue on down the street behind two schoolgirls in short green uniformed skirts that both make ugly faces at the same time. After another half a block I turn back to see if there’s anything I can do to help. No… the ambulance is on the way and he’ll be OK.

After looking at another smallish, expensive and out-of-the-way apartment I return to Caminito where Samantha is working. I wait and wait, finally catching her in-between dancing and laughing with her friends.

“What are you doing after work tonight?” I sheepishly ask. “Tonight… nothing,” she shrugs. Wait a minute… maybe she has a free evening, finally? “You can dine with me then, night?” I reply with a hint of hope in my voice. She simply nods. “What time is good for you,” I ask. “Whenever you tell me…”

“OK, how about 6:30PM?”

“I won’t be there, that’s too early.”

“How about 7PM?”

“Nope, won’t be there at 7… I have to go back to my house and change and shower and all that. How about 11PM?”

“But that’s so late.”

“OK, how about 10:30?” OK. At 10:30 I’ll be at the Constitucion train station.

“I’ll meet you at the ticket counter?” Yes, at the ticket counter, at Constitucion... at 10:30PM. Chao...

Walking back from La Boca I pass that same building that I shot the first day I arrived exactly one week ago today, the same day the President Bush arrived, and the anti-Bush graffiti still sprawls across the wall. But this time by foot, I can see inside of the building. It’s totally empty except for a HUGE stenciled picture of Che on the wall in the back. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a picture of Che that big. A man standing on top of the steps in front of the entrance asks me for a cigarette. “What’s this building,” I ask in exchange for the cigarette. It’s an old bank but now we live here. I want to live here too… not in this bank, but in La Boca, close to the soccer stadium. La Boca es vida.

On the next corner is a brightly painted green and blue hamburger shop. Suddenly I realize how hungry I am. I order a Maxi- burger with fries, one up from super. Not sure what the difference is since they both come with fried egg on top. Four blonde Germans swiftly ride past on matching black bicycles…. damn those German tourists! The kid behind the counter cranks up the music so loud, over modulating the speakers so that I can’t understand any of the words but I know its Bersuit, one of Argentina’s biggest rock bands that Danny turned me onto back in the States. When I glance at him he senses that I might be annoyed with the music and turns it back down to a normal level, normal for Argentina.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Typical BA Park Scene

Lovers are everywhere in this city that rivals Paris for the title of The City of Love.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Media Lunas from Heaven

San Telmo, BA

Back at Bar Britanico across the street from my shared flat... there´s that same guy that Danny and I saw across town on Monday in Palermo that looks like the lead singer from Simply Red, chain smoking and drinking his cappucino. Then, the same old guy that served us before slowly shuffles over to attend to my hunger pains. Double cappucino and a menu. I already know I will have 2 half-moons with ham and cheese - toasted.

The long-haired bearded guy from the kiosk outside the bar is talking up a storm with some other locals. Bar Britanico is on the corner of Parque Lezama in the heart of San Telmo, one of BA´s oldest neighborhoods and the heart of BA tango. Its an interesting mix of tired, sleep-deprived locals and foreigners, but its classic BA at its best.

The old man comes back over with my cappucino which ialwayssy served with at least three packets of sugar. I´ve gone from half a pack to a whole one because it just seems right. That same grey and white cat sits on top of the bar, lazily sleeping away his day. "You only want one media luna?" the old man asks. "Are they big or small," I reply. Before I have a chance tonever mindrmind and order two, he walks away waving his finger in the air, the international symbol for hold on just a minute and goes all the way back to the bar, much slower than a snail would move and returns with the crossiant (sp?) in his hand, saying nothing. They´re actually bigger than I had remembered and I tell him one is fine. After all, I am on a budget and I´m also trying to curb my over-zealous American appetite. A little weak on the toasting part but I wolf it down none the less.

Simply Red keeps glancing back at me like he wants to start up a conversation. He doesn´t realize that I´m looking past him at the television and not at him. The old man sits down and begins to play cards with three other buddies. Now Simply Red is complaining about one of the condiments that came with his food... totall American, never satisfied. The old man has to get back up from his card game to attend to him. Must be tough in a country where the service oriented economy hasn´t evolved to our post-capitalist standards. I hope it stays this way.

A woman enters with a belly t-shirt, tight jeans and a nice ass... and Simply Red simply gawks at her with his mouth wide open inbetween puffs of smoke from his hand-rolled cigarettes. $7 pesos for lunch ($8 with tip = $2.70)... a little expensive but totally worth it. I don´t believe it... Simply Red walks into the Cyber and sits down across from me. I´m outta here...

Monday, November 07, 2005

Samantha in La Boca... the catalyst for my return

Protestors against George W. Bush in Constitución Train Station

Will the Revolution be Televised?

Monday, November 07, 2005
La Boca, Buenos Aires

The question I was asked more than any other the night before I left was, “are you ready to go?” Well… the only two things I have to do in the morning (besides dealing with that outstanding seatbelt ticket) is to buy a bigger roller bag and a pair of Levis, pronounced Levees in most foreign countries. The immediate and easy answer coming from all sides was, go to the Mission.

“DUDE!” yells MT from the other table, “Mervyns is having a big sale TOMORROW on Swiss Army roller bags and 501 Levis!” The next morning Steele was very skeptical about their hours of operation and whether or not they would be open before we had to leave for SFO. When we arrived at Masonic and Geary in SF, not only were we both surprised that they normally open at 8am, but the woman behind the counter says, “Today for the big sale we opened at 7AM!” Got the Levis but the roller bags, even on sale were just too expensive for this budget-minded traveler. But what a goodbye it was, with a great dinner at Capp’s Corner and then drinks at the Crow Bar in North Beach. Its good to know that all of your friends are so supportive… either that or just really glad to see me finally leave, Samantha would later suggest.

We did end up in the Mission eating Chilaquiles and laughing about the night before. I also bought a new roller bag, which busted as soon as I tried to drag it to the ticket counter at the airport. But I made the plane and had an uneventful flight to Dallas and then again to Buenos Aires, albeit without much sleep. Upon arrival, the scene at the airport was incredible. Hundreds of people were running around everywhere. I had forgotten that today, George W. Bush was also arriving at this same airport before heading to the big Congress in Mar del Plata 5 hours outside of BA. Hmmm… wonder what that’s going to be like?

When I finally arrived in La Boca, Samantha seemed genuinely surprised but pleased to see me standing there with a smallish bouquet of white flowers in Caminito at the exact same spot where we first had met more than two months ago. After she finished work we ate some ricotta cake and played foosball with another friend called Christian. So many different people welcome me, most of whom I had met before and I am now known as Samy’s friend the Gringo photographer. After she left to go home, Christian and I played pool in La Boca down the stree from the huge Boca Juniors soccer stadium where Diego Maradona made his name as Argentina’s most famous citizen. When we got to the Constitucion train station a bit later, there were cameramen and news vans everywhere. Maradona was joining the Labor Party leader, many other famous singers and actors, the nephew of Che Gueverra himself and Evo Morales, perhaps the future president of Bolivia to take a ‘Stop Bush’ train to Mar del Plata for the other Congress, where Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez was to address more than 40,000 radicals protesting Bush’s visit to South America. The next day, just before the rioting started in Mar del Plata, Chavez would conclude his passionate discourse against Bush with “Que viva Che, CARAJO!” Wow, maybe the revolution will be televised?

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Everything is different now

Sitting on my back deck in the ghetto, West Oakland to be exact, chugging a quart of warm salt water - its an annual cleanse called the Master cleanse, or the 'Lemonade Diet'. 10oz. of purified water with 2 TBLS. of fresh squeezed lemon juice and 2 TBLS. of grade B maple syrup. It's good for the colon but not according to several western doctors. Today is Day 6.

My house and my mind are in slight disarray as I prepare to say goodbye to my meager possessions and my friends and family. The plane leaves for Buenos Aires leaves a week from Wednesday on the 2nd of November arriving just 2 days before Samantha's 30th birthday.

The thing is... I'm going back for a five month trial - a run through, checking it out to see if I can really make this happen - to live in another country far far away from everyone and my friends, even though they are encouraging, jealous, excited and sad. All these details - the IRS, the parking tickets, new camera gear that I must have but can't afford, change of address to where I'm not sure yet, a 'newer' computer to run the new Photoshop CS2 to see the new images from my new camera that I can't afford and can't even view without this new software. I'm gonna have to make some money while I'm down there if I ever want to come home again. Once again, its all about money and what it can or can not buy. But that's why I'm leaving in the first place - leaving this consumerism, all of the obnoxious options in those stores... to try something new and different and to be with a woman I just met that I hardly know but want to know more. She's the real reason. She represents a purer life, a simpler life. Pura Vida - out dancing the night away. What the future holds we do not no but love is stronger than all.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Argentina Post-Blog

Saturday, September 17, 2005
Ezeiza International Airport, Buenos Aires, Argentina

On the way to the airport the cab driver stops at an all-night grocery store with a covered parking lot located right off of the side of the freeway. I forgot to buy mate. We talk as we leave the city and head for the airport. "You could drive a cab here...?" he suggests. Hmmm...

I left Samantha standing beneath the full moon rising just around the corner from Caminito by the old train tracks in La Boca, in the shadows of the same futbol stadium where soccer darling Diego Maradona grew up playing the worlds most popular sport. It was both a hurried and a prolonged goodbye, leaving us both happy and sad at the same time. Funny how that happens. I promised her that I would return, not in 6 months or a year, but before her 30th birthday on November 5, only six weeks away.

At the airport I realize that all is slowly coming to an end. My infatuation with Argentina, the traveling, the food, the dancing, the people, the dogs, the buildings, the energy - aye, que energia. Giant backlit billboard-size ads for Marlboro cigarettes and an alternative cream to liposuction complete with nude women, adorn the walls of the customs waiting room. Sprawling across this giant room are the velvety walkway ropes. Back and forth we zigzag up and down and back up again to the inspectors, inking up and stamping passports with that official South American THWACK!

I find a place to get a beer. "For here or to go?" she asks. Yeah, I'll take that to go. Strolling through the airport with my liter of beer I come across the Lucky Strike smoking lounge playing some sort of Muzak techno-lounge boogie. Suddenly, another WHACK, but different and louder than before. Oh... Its the golf simulator next to the smoking lounge, which at first I thought read 'Golf Stimulator'. I'm so tired... exhausted from more than four weeks of running around in this beautiful country that now feels like home. I pull out the photo of Samantha and I... OH MAN, OH MAN... no way! I finish my second beer and head for the plane. Now its moving slowly out to the runway and I pop a Somminex. Next time I'll have to take that with water. The safety announcement blares too loudly on the speaker right over my head and I can't understand a word she says. Slowly I drift off into a deep sleep as we head up into the moonlit South American night.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Argentine Price List in $USD

- Pack of Marlboro cigarettes = $1.15
- Draft beer in a decent place = $1.33
- 1 litre of the National beer - Quilmes = $1.00
- 21 laps of go karting = $12.00
- 3 hours of Tango lessons @ Ideál = $5.00
- 3 hours of Tango lessons @ Mi Club = $2.65
- Used Vespa scooter = $700.00
- Local bus ticket = $0.25
- Local train ticket = $0.25
- 1 hour of indoor paddle tennis during the day = $5.00
- 1 hour of indoor paddle tennis at night = $7.00
- 1 hour deluxe massage = $20
- 2 tickets to Teatro Colón = $20.00
- 1 night in a famous Tango hotel in San Telmo = $20.00
- 2 pictures with the Tango dancers in El Caminito, La Boca = $1.66
- 1 delicious empanada almost anywhere = $0.17
- 1 ticket to the travelling circus = $3.50
- 1 night on a ranch on the Esteros del Iberá - all inclusive = $50.00
- 13 hour deluxe bus ride - Super Cama Suite = $32.00
- 1 1/2 hour flight from San Juan to Buenos Aires = $103.00
- 30 minute phone call to anywhere in the US = $3.33
- 1 bedroom apartment in Palermo - a touristy/hip part of town - with a balcony view of the entire city = $290.00
- GREAT bottle of Mendoza wine = $5.00
- Taxi by the hour = $5.00
- Mototaxi from Paraguay to Argentina = $5.00
- Large boquet of Gerbera dasies = $2.50
- Trip to the emergency room = FREE
- Healthcare = FREE
- Presspass to the top fashion show in BA = FREE
- Watching all the cute girls on the streets and in the cafes = FREE
- Watching Danny Palmerlee aka Travel Burro step in dog shit = PRICELESS!

Freezing but warm in Buenos Aires

La Moderna - Cafe y Pizzeria

I order a double cappucino and a crossiant with ham and cheese, just like Bukowski would have, except without the wine. When the barkeep brings it over I´m stoked, until I realize that its not toasted, which is always better, especially for breakfast. I ask him if he can heat it up - No, we don´t have that capacity... hmmm. The owner - Raúl, who I took pictures of yesterday, sitting two tables directly behind me gets up and walks over the the barkeep, whispering something in his ear. The barkeep then comes back over to my table and grabs the cold crossiant and takes it back to the kitchen.
he says, litterally ´with compromise´but figuratively a combination between excuse me and with permission.

The chinese corner store owner from across the street comes in, brandishing a fancy and newish black North Face pull over fleece, kissing Raúl on the cheeck. He is from Shanghai, a lot further from home than I. The warm crossiant now melts in my mouth as I contemplate my last three days here in Buenos Aires. I don´t even know what time my flight leaves but I think its on Saturday. Everyone´s Talking (
I don´t hear a word they say... shadows of my mind
?) plays on this strange english-only radio station that you hear throughout the cafes adn cybers in Buenos Aires. It´s kind of like Musak with very little commercials, a bit of news and a super suave DJ, playing a crazy mix of english pop songs spanning thirty years. Now its the Cranberries, then U2... and then the news, something about Katrina and the state of disaster that is New Orleans.

Yesterday, I tangoed for six hours. The first three hours in one of the oldest, classic and most well-known establishments in all of Buenos Aires - Confeteria Ideál, a candy store with a giant ballroom upstairs. As I wait for the class to start, I begin to get nervous. I order an espresso and a ham and cheese croissant - they are hard to get away from. After two quick cigarettes, I take off my sweater (a very nice Tommy Hilfiger which I actually ´borrowed´from Fletcher who actually ´borrowed´it from someone at the office - Reza, I think, but its suited me quite well in freezing BA) and realize that not only did I forget to put on deodorant this morning but that I´m wearing the same shirt that I wore on the fourteen hour bus ride home from Missiones. OH SHIT! I smell pretty ripe indeed. I run to the bathroom to try and freshen up - to be so fresh and so clean, clean. As I enter, there is this guy with long hair changing clothes and spraying his underarms with a huge can of perfumed deodorant.
Um... I forgot to put some on this morning and...
I start off in nervous and broken Spanish. No worries... he hands it over and I blast myself under both arms.

Everyone in the class is at least sixty years old. I immediately get pulled aside when this short fat lady complains to our instructor Eduardo, a total fruit cake but great dancer, that I don´t even know the eight basic steps. I had made it very clear before the class that I had no idea what I was doing here and coudn´t dance for shit. I end up dancing with Eduardo for a few minutes while he teaches me the eight basic steps.
Now you practice by yourself,
he orders me. I continue on, determined to get something out of this strange experience, holding my left hand out to the side, dangling in the air while my right hand is placed directly over my heart like when I used to say the Pledge of Alliegence back in elementary school, as if I was holding a woman very close. Do kids still say the Pledge of Alligence?

After my three hour lesson ($5.00 USD) which was pretty nerve racking, especially when Eduardo´s main `assistant´ Cecelia, [footnote - I think the word assistant in the tango world is also sometimes used as `lover´, except not in the case of Eduardo] a pretty, tall & thin blonde, not even 23 years old, with perfect posture and a totally hot body (sorry to all the feminist out there, but its true) comes over for a little one on one. She grabs my hand and wraps her arm around my back, slamming our chests together. Raising her head, stareing deeply into my eyes, her face only 3 inches away from mine. She starts barking commands into my face and counting loudly, intensely in Spanish as we begin to move around the dance floor. I´ll never forget that moment.

I catch a cab to Teatro Colón to get tickets for tomorrow nights Hungarian Opera Show. Its supposed to be one of the ´must do´things in Buenos Aires, to go to the Teatro Colón. It boasts the best accoustics in the world and the tickets are only $10 USD each. Samantha doesn´t know that we are going - its a surprise.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

La Bruja de Tango

Buenos Aires, Argentina

I had a dream, last night... about tango. I never dream but this one was distinct. I was at a conference, something work related. During the noon hour break I sneak out to get a quick tango lesson. In this dream, the old woman at the local eatery around the corner also doubled as a tango professora, or instructor - highly unlikely, but it was a dream. In addition to a review of the eight basic steps, I learn how to kick my leg, first out and then up - holding it suspended, high above my head. Then, with poignant force, to wiggle it around like a dancing snake head - almost like some capoiera fighting move.

Last night over a four-cheese pasta in the center of downtown, Samantha tells me several of her more memorable dreams... all bad. She says that when she was younger, she suffered from sleep walking and nightmares. Listening intently, I ask her to put her hand out on the table. Her hand is so small, like Elton John´s `Tiny Dancer´. I take a stab in the dark, starring deeply into her dark brown, almost black and beautiful eyes...
Maybe you´re a bruja, a witch?
I´m not a witch!
she slowly responds, a bit surprised but amused at the same time. Then she starts to blush, telling me that actually... there is a bit of truth to what I have just said. Her parents used to tell her when she was younger that she was like a witch, always running around the house causing trouble. I take ahold of her one hand, smothering it between both of mine. She blushes even more saying only,
Aye... que energia!

The first time I actually danced with her was at the train station - Constitución, earlier that evening. The same train station that the taxi drivers in Buenos Aires have repeatedly warned me not to go into, especially at night. Waiting for her to come into the city from the barrio, I finally see all of the cartoneros, or recyclers, lined up with their make-shift carts piled high with scraps of cardboard, wood, plastic and I don´t know what else. I arrive twenty five minutes early and just wait... and watch. Street kids, tattered in rags play a rudimentary game of soccer with a shiny, empty litre bottle of Pepsi. You don´t see a lot of Pepsi down here as almost everything in Latin America is sponsored by Coca Cola. They race around the dirty but placially old station built by the Brits more than a hundered years ago, kicking and screaming at the bottle, nearly missing the passengers that are scurrying between the ticket counter and the arriving trains.

I ask about their train, El Trén Blanco, of which I´ve heard many stories.
The first one leaves at 10:55 PM and the next one at 2:30 AM,
says the clean cut young man behind the bullet proof glass. The white train has been gutted of all its seats to make room for all of the carts and bikes that carry their hard-found wares of the day. All of the windows have also been removed.
They would just smash them if they left them in,
one taxi driver tells me. I have to return to ride the white train, to take pictures of this modern day third world spectacle of poverty and industrious labor.

Then I see her, walking briskly towards me, wrapped up in another stylish coat, nestling her chin beneath her hand made black woven scarf. We talk and laugh and I feel just as I did before I left her, standing out on the street in El Caminito, shouting out to the tourists,
Take a picture with me...

I grab her hand and ask her to dance. I get the last three steps wrong but it doesn´t matter. It feels so good, to be dancing with the world´s ninth best tanguera, here in this decrepit station in the heart of poor Buenos Aires.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Posadas by Night... A Que WOW!

El Tauro - Finally a fairly tranquil bar/night club/pool hall. The music changes between Rock Nacionál, Cumbia, and then some form of Spanish electronica-ska... something like that. Its got some reagee beats tossed in and its actually not bad, for this type of border town bar. And the chicas here - aye que WOW! There is also some kinda of long-horn theme going on. All the palstic beer buckets that they serve the national beer - Quilmes, which actually tastes like horse piss - have the fading long-horn logo as well as the orange polo shirts donned by the bar staff. But there are these two other girls behind the bar with low cut pink tops - sans logos - with shiney belts and short, short black mini-skirts. Not really sure what is going on. Danny bails early (as usual), telling me once again that I´m on my own. We both talk incrediously of the day we had today. It really was a great day to be alive.

This has been a smoking holiday to say the least, but I´ll be glad to quit (again) upon my return. The girls in pink on my side of the bar looks bored... like the Robert Frank shot of the girl in the elevator in New York City in the 1950´s. Bored... Now the bartender saddles up along side her and, saying something that lifts here spirits, she returns to her work, this time with a faint smile on her face. Now the band playing Rock Nacionál is singing, ´Que pasa, no hay mas que Fernet con Coca Cola´, which is actually the national drink of Argentina. (TBC...)

Friday, September 09, 2005

La Vida Loca - Hard Core Travel

Sitting here eating empanadas while it pours down rain outside. We talk about what we really want to do today.
Lets go to Paraguay... it´ll be different, its close, and despite the rain, I bet the ruins are cool,
I suggest. Done. Houston, we have a plan.

The next nine hours are to be like no other travelling I´ve ever done in my entire life. The first thing we do is cross El Rio Paraná, which is the border between Argentina and Paraguay, in the International Collectivo, or local bus. Its pretty crowded on the bus already and we push our way to the back. A quick trip through town brings us to the border and there´s a huge line of traffic. Danny suggests walking across but we are advised that its too far. As I shoot out the window, particularily a traffic sign that says no horse-drawn carts allowed on the bridge (WHAT?!), the bus lurches forward and we take a special bus lane all the way up to the actual border crossing. The Argentine officials punch at their computers and finally say we are free to go. We run back to the collectivo, which for some reason is now more crowded than before and leave Argentina, crossing this massive bridge that spans El Rio Paraná. I´m in the very front, excited and shooting like crazy. When we finally arrive on the other side its the same thing. Everyone off the bus to clear customs.

This is where it starts to get interesting. (For more on this crossing, check out Travel Burro´s version here.) The Paraguayan border official - typical Latina American cop type - tells us that we can not cross into Paraguay without visas from the Paraguayan consulate back in Posadas, Argentina. The guide book (never trust them) didn´t say anything as such and we tell the official as much.
On the 9th of August last year, the US goverenment change the requirements,
, he declares.
It´s 290,000 Guaraní,
which to us translates to 290,000 indigenous peoples from Paraguay - or a shit load of indians! $50.00 USD for each person to visit Paraguay... even for just one day.

Que triste,
Aimee sighs. He then launches into a long-winded explanation of how we actually could go into Paraguay for the day and only pay the price of one visa that would work for all three of us. For some reason, we all agree and then strangely enough he doesn´t stamp our passports, letting us pass into Paraguay illegally.
But you must be back by midnight,
he demands. We walk ahead and then stop. Danny wonders if we should go BACK to Posadas to see if we really need visas or just what the deal really is. Nah... were here, lets just go. Fuck it.

Walking away from the border crossing, I get this strange feeling. I´ve done this before in Latin America... and it didn´t turn out so well. The next thing I see is a moto-taxi stand... a WHAT?!?! Dude, we´ve GOT to get on those. All of a sudden the three of us are whizzing in and out of traffic into the center of Encarnación, the other side of the river (like that song that won the academy award last year) - and its a different world entirely. We zig zag over the freshly wet streets and I prepare to tuck and roll each time we bounce over the wet train tracks. I´m also not holding on as I snap pictures all the way into town, mostly of Danny and Aimee - proof that this is really happening. As we pull into the bus station and dismount, still sore from the 20K on horseback two days before, a man in a blue uniform shouts,
last call for Trinidad!
. Wait, that´s us... we scramble aboard and suddenly off again. I´ve not really been paying attention, rather shooting as much as I can. Unfortunatly I didn´t listen to Steele´s advice about ALWAYS caring the big glass and have left my camera bag back in Argentina... because of the weather.

Speeding out into the country the dirt is sooo red, African savanah red. But everything else is green. The air smells of burning trash, or fields, or brush... probably trash. The sun begins to poke its benevolent head in and out of the clouds while cows and horses freely graze along the side of the two-lane highway. Suddenly Danny is waving his arms at me, out on that same dirt road. I had been so enraptured in the moment looking out the window with my own personal iPod soundtrack - Iggy Pop, I Am the Passenger, Queen, You´re My Best Friend, Elton John, Tiny Dancer (which now makes me think only of Samantha), The Band, The Weight (which I have always loved but never knew the name)...

I hastily gather my things and leap of the bus which is pulling away from them, out on to the street - burnt red from the sun and all of the iron in the dirt. The iPod yanks around my next and I´m tangled in camera strap and iPod wires. The first thing I see is a horse, casually grazing inside a barbed wire complex, which is actually a power plant, a big one. Yep, definately in Paraguay where the horses freely grace under, and immediately next to, monsterous and buzzing sub stations. We walk up the dirt road, just the three of us and a couple of random chickens and dogs. Once again I spot them - MORMONS!
You gotta shoot that,
Danny says somewhat ironically. I double back, busting in on an afternoon lunch - the entire family and then these two baby-faced young boys, one is from Hemmit, CA.

The next three hours are a total paradisical oasis of green grass, lush Jesuit ruins and drinking mate under the hot winter sun.
This is the fucking story!
Danny decrees. We leave, returning down that same dirt road. I´ve got about 40 shots left for the rest of the day, for the lesser travelled ´Jesus´ruins. Damn - now I wish I would have brought ALL my gear instead of accquiesing (sp) to the meanacing rain which has now completely dissappeared. We walk up the main road a bit to another crossroads where a multi-colored little bus is parked out in front of a modernish gas station. The arrival of three gringos walking up the road causes quite a stir with the driver and several passengers as they stand outside passing around mate. Yes, this is the bus to the town of Jesus and the ruins which are just beyond the town. The bus ride to Jesus is another almost miraculous experience.
That was absolutely the best bus ride ever,
Aimee would later state.

The bus has to be at least 70 years old. The range of passengers spans the gamuet from an old indigenous-looking woman who sleeps as we bounce down the red dirt road to a young boy in a camoflouge cowboy hat, curiously watching us the entire time, to a group of school teachers sitting up front together.
Don´t worry about pictures of this next mission,
Danny reassures me.
Half the story is this bus ride!