Saturday, January 28, 2006

Rock Star Daughter

My face is still partly swollen and in pain from some sort of allergic reaction; either to a phantom spider that ate its way across my forehead and then down over my right eye, some nasty and slightly infected mosquito bites but that just doesn’t seem possible or, some other type of strange Latin American bed dust that has really done a number on me.

Speaking of strange, I went to an Emily the Strange (1) café the other day with one of my models for the Cartonero photo project (more on this later). Suzanne, a twenty-three year old six foot tall strapping Aussie girl with legs like butter, living in BA for the love of Tango greeted me at the bottom of her apartment building in barrio Once and we rode the elevator up to her penthouse apartment which comes with a 270 degree near panoramic view of our magical city. Touring the labyrinth-like palatial pad, me salivating all the while at pretty much everything, we stepped out on the last and final balcony as she said, “I’ve never so much enjoyed hanging my laundry before… OH LOOK – THERE’S AN EAGLE!” What…?

I had yet to see an eagle in all of my travels here in Argentina and was sure that she had it confused with some type of other bird. I followed the direction of her finger and sure enough, there was some kind of HUGE South American eagle, gently flapping, slowing wending its way through the tall hot buildings on this sunny afternoon. OH MY GOD! “Yeah,” she said. “Isn’t that just wild? It belongs to some guy that lives in the building across from us and he lets it fly around our building when the weather is nice.” Now that’s a story to follow up on…

Suzanne lives with an Argentine fashion designer in the coolest apartment I’ve ever been inside of. In addition to all of the cool windows and views and balconies and plants there is a design workshop strewn with fabric and pieces of clothes. I had talked to her on the phone about the project and she got it right away and was eager to contribute. She made me some coffee and we traded our live stories and then did some test shots to figure out the theme for our shoot next week, arriving on some sort of space dominatrix here on earth to steal the Cartoneros trash.

(1) Two friends of mine started a small t-shirt shop several years back when we all lived in a warehouse South of Market in San Francisco, California. And then they created a cute but strange little daughter aptly named Emily. Recently they suffered a pretty severe divorce but Emily lives on happily all around the world, showing her shy but not innocent face here and there. I’ve had several Emily sightings since I’ve been here - QUE VIVA EMILY!
I hope that Matt and now Rob are proud of how little Emily has grown up instead of feeling like they are being pirated. The funny thing was I asked the owner about the history of Emily and he told me that she came from Alaska to California and then moved over to England (and then to Buenos Aires!)

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Sweat and Dirt... er, Clay

Fueled by the fervor of the Australian Open and by my complete lack of personal discipline to implement a solid exercise regime I finally went out and bought some new tennis shoes to accompany the racquet that I dragged down here but haven't used once in three months. Romain, one of my French flat mates had already told me that his father was an ex-professional tennis player, at one point the fifth highest ranked in France, and that he had been playing since the age of six. But exercise is exercise and war is war.

Up to now the only courts that I had known of to play public tennis were in trendy Palermo, all the way across town. But after a bit more online research and a few phone calls I found one close enough that would actually take a reservation over the phone for $25 pesos ($8 USD) per hour. Romain made the call and we were set. Heading out in a taxi just past noon in the sweltering South American heat we arrived at a cleverly woven complex of four courts directly beneath the freeway that dissects Buenos Aires. Much to my surprise, the courts were actually made of clay, something I had only seen on television. I felt like a real pro as we stepped out onto the smoothly groomed foreign surface, knowing all along that the youthful twenty three year old Romain was going to slaughter me. And after a quick warm up it became very obvious that my self-taught 'King-of-the-Dipshit'(*) style of tennis needs some serious corrections in the form of lessons in the not-so-far-off future if I ever want to improve my game, which I do.

The first set went down 6-1 to Romain but at least I made him break a sweat. Sarcastically, he told me that there is a rule in France where you must be polite and give at least one game to your opponent. For the second set I knew I had to change course if I was going to save face in front of this damn French dandyboy - he was killing me on the baseline and smashing my soft second serves anywhere that he pleased. I chose to play closer on the net and then to run my ass all over the court, which did throw him off a bit. At 3-3 and then at duece I managed to take the advantage but there my game fell short. We finished 6-1, 6-3 both soaked but smiling. When we went back inside to pay, the man behind the desk commented 'ahh... you're alive!' One more great day in BA!

(*) King of the Dipshits is a title that David Fortner gave himself years ago, meaning that amongst a bunch of friends that couldn't play sports very well (dipshits), he was the King. That turned into an annual event amongst six players that is now called the King of the Dipshits Annual Tennis Tournament, which I victoriously overtook the crown from David on our inagural outing, stealing away the self-proclaimed title - King of the Dipshits.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Ex-Cop... currently homeless

Met this guy on the street yesterday in Palermo Hollywood. Speaking English well, he said he'd been to Miami more than twenty times but now... his home is the street.

The Cartoneros

Ask any Porteno (Buenos Aires local) about the Cartoneros and you’re sure to get a different answer; but never the less they will have something to say about one of the strangest phenomenon to be seen in all of Argentina, perhaps the world. Simply put, a Cartonero loosely translates as ‘one who recycles cardboard’ - recyclers that descend upon the city at night, pushing and pulling their home made carts (or carritos, which can provide some confusion over the actually name Cartonero) over the cobble stoned streets, searching through thousands and thousands of bags of trash for anything of value to resell. It’s a literal Orewellean representation of that age-old adage ‘One man's trash is another man's treasure’(1). The easiest way for foreigners to perhaps visualize the Cartoneros (besides me showing you pictures) is to think of San Francisco’s fringe homeless population, estimated at 20,ooo persons. Not the panhandelers you see on the major street corners (for they are usually not homeless, just panhanders, which can earn up to $100USD per day) but the guys with the shopping carts looking for recyclable goods. For those of you that know me - think West Oakland and the recycling center across the street from my old house.

But… the Cartoneros of Buenos Aires are a whole new concept in modern day recycling or a direct result of political and economic upheaval. Men, women, children, families - Argentines... having lost everything after the crisis of 2001(2). And then once they have found thier wares, our trash, its back to Constitucion train station to board a special train - El Tren Blanco - which has no seats or no windows, to take them back to the outskirts of the city to sell their wares, some earning up to fifty pesos ($17 USD) per day to provide food and shelter for their familes, only to start over the next day.

But to actually see this cultural phenomenon taking place, to see pregnant women... bellies exposed, laying on piles of trash is really something else. But my question to you is who is at fault, or does that really not matter? And then, what to do of this situation... like in San Francisco? Social services or tough luck? Is it a failing of capitalism or a result of steady and fastidious government coruption? How can we live in a world where our brothers and sisters in the 'Paris of the South' eat trash? I am curious as to what you think and look forward to reading your comments.

1. Not to be confused with the reality TV show Trash to Treasure where teams actual go out and BUY trash to resell. And for those of you that are money-minded and looking at how to give Uncle Sam (or whatever equivalent pop-historical icon) as least amount of money as possible, try this from some trash-talk tax tips.

2. The 2001 economic crisis left nearly twenty five percent of the country out of work and the majority of its citizens below the poverty line
en masse, digging through our trash with their bare hands, 40,000 per day here in the capital of Buenos Aires, the same number of taxis on this city's streets. More on this later but for those of you that are interested I highly recommend Paul Blustein’s ‘And the Money Kept Rolling In (And Out)’ – a riveting economic thriller in the vein of John Grisham’s legal dramas – thanks for turning me on to such an important work Ed.

Monday, January 16, 2006

So much to say...

... but so little time. A lot has happened in these past two weeks... and I have no idea where to start. There's a French guy sitting to my right, talking at his computer, waving a webcam around. Not sure what to make of all this but I was just introduced as 'a very famous photographer'. Little does he know.

Random notes and thoughts...

- Came back to BA to the pad in San Telmo, and the pigeons that hatched a couple of weeks ago on our balcony were not only dead but drowned in the pouring rain which has been non-stop for the past week and a half, and were actively being devoured by a force of glowing white magots like you wouldn't believe - fucking GROSS!

- Dave and Mei left me this evening, heading back to the good 'ole US of A, land of milk and honey... and MONEY! I'm glad they made it down but I think they were glad to go. [update - their flight last night was cancelled and they are at the airport... waiting.] Dave has his projects and work and Mei was on a limited budget, not unlike myself. We did well today, with some serious Consumer Retail Therapy here in San Telmo and a good-bye lunch that would make a vegitarian cry, plates dripping with blood redder than the surreal sunsets of Northern Argentina.

- But what I really want to say is that I've lost my portable hard-drive, the Wolverine... with the past two months worth of photos on it. And if I can't track it down, they are gone, for good... for ever. It's not the end of the world but it's a bummer, for sure, and a very strange concept to have two months of work just dissappear like that. I suppose its like having a hard drive crash but I've so careful this entire time and now, back to square one.

-But on top of all of this, the thing I really wanted to blog about was the circus, in San Juan, complete with 6 african lions and 4 bengal tigers, the largest weighing more than 550 lbs. (very, VERY large). I didn't know they still had these kind of circus acts... and then of course the trapeze, tight rope, circus fly-girls, clowns and midgets. But the real kicker, the thing I want to tell you more than anything else about the circus was its hours of operation. We walked back to our hotel... exhausted and dehydrated and 'silly' beyond belief at 4AM! What modern day circus, mostly filled with kids under the age of 7, ends at 3:45AM?! This is Argentina - please come and visit before I spend all of my gringo dollars and have to come home on April 4, or before I die attempting to climb Mercedario in March - 6,800 mts. hasta FULL!

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Random shots from Barreal

And who doesn't love MT?!

Cute little Victoria, daughter of Berni and Perla

Deserted Argentine Desert

Travelling from La Rioja to the small town of Pagnicillo, we stop to watch the awesome desert electrical storm blow through on a region that receives less than 20cm of rain per year.

In between the Valley of the Moon and Parque Nacional Talampaya, Super Dave is indeed happy.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Dumb and Dumber...

Punta del Este, Uruguay

We leave the house of Ricardo Piñiero, the owner of Argentina´s top modeling agency and drag our tired feet a few more steps out onto the deserted sandy beach - finally. Other than a few odd fishermen and a couple of small gaggles of hot models, there is no one for miles. I had told Tommy that I would come to Punta with him and when Dave and Mei decided that they didn´t want to come to one of the most beautiful (and expensive) beaches in the world, I stayed with my original plan and we headed across the Rio de la Plata into Uruguay (which for you uneducated gringos, is a different country than Argentina.)

After a disasterous eight hour ferry/bus ride (the packed ferry left BA at 12:30AM and we were forced to find space on the hard floor to sleep on) that left me in bed for twenty-four hours with a fever like the devil himself had breathed down on me and a nasty deep caugh that I´m just now starting to recover from, we arrive in Punta del Este, the jewel of all South American beaches and an international playground for the world´s richest. But on a very tight budget with hardly any money to waste, we set off for the middle of nowhere, with no car, no place to stay and only a prayer of hope that something good will come out of this long and expensive journey. Sitting on the sand Tommy´s phone beeps and he tells me another model from the agency is coming down to say hi. Five minutes later another young, tall and beautiful Argentina girl of 22 years of age saunters down and joins us and then after another five minutes Tommy leaves with her back up to the house, which is really a small compound right on the beach. I finally go out into the coolish Atlantic ocean water and feel at peace for the first time in a long while. TBC...

Tuesday, January 03, 2006


Boggie on down with Vicki and the NYC photogs.

Tommy and his girls...