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.