Thursday, September 28, 2006

Casino Royale

Finally made it down to the floating Casinos in Puerto Madero just below San Telmo’s Parque Lezama with my buddy Luis. He’d been out driving his taxi and I was working late at home. I’ve religiously resisted this temptation for many months but suddenly the timing just seemed right and I’ve been dying to go. I’d tried to go before with some friends but there was a wait out front on a Saturday night and we turned around and left. But tonight is Wednesday and I’m still slowly swinging back into the fact that I actually live in South America and with apartment hunting and all, this temporary distraction was just what the doctor ordered.

The air turned brisk as we parked the taxi in the lot. Entering I could have been in a smaller casino like Bill’s in Lake Tahoe or some riverboat casino out there on the Mississippi river. Several prefectura cops are hanging out front as we head up the gangway in search of newfound fortune with a ninja-like approach. We walked in, turned to the left and cruise down the entire full length of one side of the ship, stopping to watch two Chinese-looking men playing some sort of casino version of poker. After a few hands there I notice another table off to the left, sort of in the traffic lane of employees, who would come and go in regular herds of ten when switching shifts, and the corner where a Russian-looking porteño was playing solo against the cute but stern dealer porteña croupier.

We sat down and immediately I began to win, even before I really understood what was going on. 5 card stud and the dealer is forced to show a card at the beginning. There is a $10AR minimum ante and then you can look at your cards and decide if you want to bet or not. If you choose to bet, it’s double your ante, otherwise you fold. The dealer can only play if they qualify with and Ace, King or better. If you beat the dealer the payout is as follows:

One Pair = 1-1
Two Pair = 2-1
Three of a Kind = 3-1
Straight = 4-1
Flush = 5-1
Full House = 7-1

And I don’t remember anything above except for the Royal Flush which paid 100-1!

Two hours later and a couple hundred pesos richer, I think I’ve figured out how to break the boat. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

A Spring Whirlwind

So... BA follows a regimented pattern of seasons, as opposed to the lackadaisical and tame seasons of California. This week marks the beginning of SPRING! For an up close and personal look, take a peak at our man Robert's excellent expat blog and his impressions and photos of spring in BA. Coming from the west coast of the USofA, its impressive - the changing of the seasons - falling on that specifically designated date, the 'first day of spring', in this case, September 21, 2006.

And... its actually great to be back here in Buenos Aires even though I'm still digesting the fact that I live here as opposed to 'am visiting again' as I approach my one year mark.

Also, I will be moving at the end of this week and think I have finally found a new place to live, which was no easy feat. My sophomoric year here in BA now begins. When driving a taxi cab back in San Francisco many years ago, I would always tell my passengers that living in SF was a two year minimum commitment and I whole-heartedly believe that that applies to most major cities around the world. After two years of getting to know a place you finally arrive at ground zero, with most systems in check and only then can you truly begin to appreciate the city in which you've chosen to live.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Shesheo Facil

"I like big butts... and I can not lie," said one famous Bay Area rapper (or not... actually I think its M.C. Hammer that's from the Bay Area and maybe someone like Sir Mix-a-Lot with the butt song, which is different than Baby Got Back, I think, which i can't remember exactly at this moment who was responsible for that one). I dunno... Freudian slip, what do I know?

So... back in BA, slowing things down after a whirlwind Cali visit and I can't refuse a lomo steak dinner at Desnivel in San Telmo - no stranger to foreigners, right there on Defensa just down from the ever popular Plaza Dorrego. Ethan and I arrive at the same time and are seated promptly. Ensalada mixta, dos lomos bien jugoso (very bloody*), un orden de papas fritas y un chorrizo... y una botella de San Telmo Malbec. Gracias.

Dinner at 10:15pm turns into a stop over at Fugees just up the street and around the corner. BsAs hip hop at its finest, seven nights a week (except when they are shut down as is accustom). I order a sparkling water for eNano's new girl - fast talking British good-looking gal named Nathalie, from London - and then two drinks called 'Amores Perros' for Ethan and I, not realizing that the last in a long list of ingredients is menta which turns out to make the drink blue. Two heaping and fruity-as-ever tropical Hawaiian-looking drinks show up and they are indeed bluer than the blue toenail polish on my toes, minus the decorative dice.

Eventually we say adios to the hip-hop Thursday night scene and suddenly its 3:30am and I drift my way back home. Doesn't happen in San Francisco, San Jose, La or Chicago. More to come for snizzle...

* Honestly, these steaks were so god damn rare, it was like eating sashimi with a slight singe on the outsides, but oh man... so damn rare but so damn juicy and natuarl and pure range fed real Argentina beef, it almost makes me sick just thinking about it.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Lamo Lo-Fi Technology

So much has happened in such a short time. Back in Argentina, my home away from home, ready to get started working in my apartment, which I must sadly vacate in less than one week, and my Banda Ancha goes down right in the middle of a conference call back to the States. Since this is the first time in several months that my broadband Internet connection has failed and after thirty minutes of restarting and restarting, I contact Fibertel only to be informed that yes, the line has gone down and they are sorry for any inconvenience that this may have caused. Being in the third world does have some technological disadvantages at times but I count myself lucky for the months of steady Internet I’ve successfully received thus far and Buenos Aires is still way ahead of the rest of the third world in terms of Internet conectivity.

Unfortunately my whole life these days seems to be online, so in the absence of the Internet I decide to tidy up the apartment, throw together some laundry and head for the Lavarap to get each huge load washed, pressed and folded to the tune of $7AR/load ($2.30 USD) only to find that somehow I’ve locked myself into my apartment! After ten minutes of trying both keys several times both backwards and forwards, I resign to bloggin’, something that is a bit of a sideline hobby/obsession when I have time (and there are still many notes to type up, process and blog about regarding my recent Cali visit including the third and final installment of our fantastic Sierra escape and something that is still being formulated on American culture, Television and consumerism – pretty much one in the same – titled ‘Shiny Happy People’).

Other than a great trip back home to beautiful California with visits in both the Northern and Southern parts, the flight back to BA through Houston was a bit of a shock. Transporting oneself back and forth between the first and third worlds is not to be taken lightly. Fear struck out as I headed for the San Francisco airport asking myself, ‘what the hell am I doing flying back to Argentina again?!’ But leaving the BA International airport and listening to the taxi driver rag on Argentina it all came back. A small pickup poker game with Barbara and Ethan led to a couple of beers up the street at Gibraltar amongst a hip-enough expat crowd and I feel like I’m home.

Now to wait for the banda ancha, beginning thinking about finding a new apartment and then… no wait, first to figure out how to get out of my apartment and then a new era in BA begins.

* - After several calls to the landlord and then to the building super, the door was successfully opened. For anyone that lives in or has visited BA, you’ll know the funny door lock systems we have and how very UNSAFE they are in case of FIRE!

Monday, September 04, 2006

Sierra Escape – Parte Dos

The Argentine lentil soup with chorizo and bacon really wasn’t a big hit with camp, other than the Fletcher Group from down in Fletcher Village (1). “Come on GR, you know its funny,” Steele quips as he tries to pawn off his lemony chicken to the rest of camp, which is sitting around joking about the color and texture of the soup. They are awaiting fajitas (read Mexican) that are standing by as Steele wrangles his chicken off of the stove, freeing it up for the fajitas, which ended up being a real hit with the entire camp, (2) although the Chilaquiles I had whipped up that morning went down well.

Needless to say there we’re some food issues in camp on this trip. MT is talking to Cal about the Trader Joe’s Beef Stew he has brought up and Cal says that he happened to have a Stroganoff type dish last night. “That’s funny!” exclaims MT in only that surprised, wryly MT way. “I had a little Stroganoff thing going on last night TOO!” he blurts out in all earnest. Fletch and I both look at each other and start cranking up.

“I’m happy for myself,” Cal says at some point that evening while the sun sets to the West, still reveling in his solo home run shot in the Long Baller’s Softball game from the night before (3).

Beautiful weather all three days and at 6,500’ in elevation there was not a cloud in the sky the entire time.

Billy Joel comes onto the iTunes rotation (Fletch comes through again with the portable ninja camping speakers) with ‘Only the Good Die Young’. The next song, “Oh What a Night” is completely up for debate. (4)

Sarah and Marina take turns taking pictures of themselves over the container of soup. Desmond Deker comes on the iPod. Steele takes a shot at Fletch about his first snowboarding trip and a ride down the mountain on a snowmobile holding on to the woman’s midsection in front of him for dear life as the navigate down and off the steep and treacherous slope (ouch). Apparently someone had led him up something other than the beginners’ bunny run and he got stuck.

There’s a debate going on to one side of the fire as to the differences between a skank-style dance move and the chicken, but not funky, just the chicken. Cal brings up the similarities between the hustle and the robot. “What about the shopping cart?” MT asks, while he moves across camping bobbing and weaving his head with both hands in front moving forward and back as if he was pushing a cart to some sort of 70’s disco hit. “That looks the same as the baby stroller,” Cal exclaims in a rage of disgust. Continuing on with what looks like MT pushing an invisible cart around camp, he yells, “not when you’re doing this!” as he now adds in the move of pretending to reach out to an invisible shelf on each side of the imaginary isle of a supermarket, snagging goods left and right to add to his cart, bobbin’ and weaving the entire time, this time moving his head to and fro and side to side. [TBC]

1 - Parker Fletcher made it up to the lake for the first time this year at age ten, equipped with his own tent and sleeping bag combo, expanding the Fletcher Love Palace of last year into a full functioning multi-tent complex self-titled ‘Fletcher Village’ located in a pocket up and over a big rock just to the north of the communal camp fire and kitchen. His dad, The Fletch Monster, having flipped our canoe over just a year ago in October, dumping him and myself into the freezing cold fall lake, had never brought little son to the lake and has himself only been up once or twice before.

Parker thoroughly enjoys his weekend, running around, hiking, climbing, swimming, laughing and eating even though he has to endure rounds and rounds of campers shouting “Earmuffs Parker, EARMUFFS!”

2 – The Guizo de Lentejas actually was pretty good. Unfortunately, word spread that I had used lake water to make the stew, which was true. When you bring lake water to a boil for over five minutes, which I did, the boiling water kills off all bacteria and its not an issue. But the rumorous-truth had spread like wildfire and the stew was later nicknamed GR-dia stew. Steele, although he didn’t have a specific name for his Lemony chicken, did state the contents of his marinade several times which included, among other things like red pepper flakes, salt and shallots? Or was that the flank stake, which was very good the night before. Not sure who exactly was responsible for the fajitas but I know Mei Mei was in on it and I think Super Dave as well.

3 – Long Ballers is an eight-year running softball team managed by MT which is mostly people somehow connected to UCSF. This particular night they were playing was my first night back into town. Sarah Wheeler and I sit and chatted for a bit over beers and then got to the game just in the nick of time to see Cal Santos, in an awesome display of force, belt one to deep left field, high-stepping around the base round third fast enough to pull him almost out of the base running line in a sort of ‘whoop, whoop, whoop’ way like you might imagine the Three Stooges doing if they were playing softball.

4 – This was a long debate and fiercely fought by brave and valiant souls. The song we were actually listening to was performed by Franki Valli and the Four Seasons by not only did the iPod say Billy Joel, some members of the camp swore it had to be Billy Joel. I could go on but… well, do you really care?