06 February 2009

Running in Buenos Aires

Running in Buenos Aires is curious. Depending on where you run and why, you experiences can range from the monotonous, the life-endangering to the comical and the absurd.

Running in the streets is verboten. Cars won't stop for you and you will surely die.

Running on the sidewalk isn't nearly as dangerous, but it's more upsetting: you will step in dog shit, or twist your ankle on a broken block (that's probably moving right along with you), or trip on one of the dogs running through your legs or get entangled by the construction tape that is quietly pushing you back into the street where you definitely die. And even if Athena casts a protective fog around you, porteños will not get out of your way. Like ever. And it doesn't matter whether you're walking or running; couples will stay glued to one another; large extended families will walk down the block, each of them holding hands like paper dolls; you'll find that porteños are waiting for you to give them the right of away, and when you don't, they will begrudgingly let you pass. Unless they got there first.

This leaves two more options. You can run in a small park and just do 40 circles around patches of dying grass and patches of dirt and sand, as people drink mate, 50-year old women lay in the sun in thongs, moms take their kids to the merry-go-round, dogs urinate beside you, a man tries to sell you icre-cream bon-bons, teenagers make out on benches, and then there's you, sweating your ass off as colectivos surround you, threatening to cut you off even though your feet haven't even touched the street before they fill your lungs with the highest quality carbon monoxide.

The final option, at least for us, was running in a large circle further away from belching buses, ninja taxis, psychopath Volkswagon drivers, dog shit, construction war zones + moving sidewalks. Of course, if you have wheels, or you live near the reserva ecológica or costanera in puerto madero, in that case, all bets are off because you have other options. For for us, we had one final option available, and dammit, we took it. So, to get our run on, we walk for a really long time--in our case a 45-minute walk each way--to La Plaza Italia and run around la Plaza Hollanda. It's not great, but it's definitely the best option we've got it and we're grateful to have just that.

In Chicago, LB + I ran a little more than 100 miles a month. I wouldn't say we're hardcore, but maybe just a little. Well in Buenos Aires, our hearts were broken when we realized how perilous--not to mention unhealthy--running in the city was. But after almost 6 months, we finally broke down. We missed running so much, the way it felt after a good run, the way we could eat almost anything we damn well pleased, we missed how good our sleep was, and the stretching and the meditation we did afterwards, and above all, just the general feeling of healthiness we could take for granted back then. And we wanted it back. Then we started running at Plaza Italia. . .

And it's fine. Well, I should say, it's good enough. If you run early in the morning, they close parts of the park so there's almost no traffic and the air feels almost clean. Not to mention it's cooler and there are less people, incentives in their own right. Beyond that, the show changes depending on when you run. When LB + I run anywhere between 7 in the morning and 9, the paths are sparsely populated, the sun is faint, shade seems abundant. By 10 in the morning, like today, you see a whole different side of Buenos Aires: groups of overweight, half-naked 50-something men striking poses on park benches, a woman figure skating on roller blades, short, awkward gay guys that try to smile at you, macho men who pass every runner because last week they just decided to bring their blood pressure down, only to stop after 400 meters because they don't know how to pace themselves yet, professional marathon runners that zip through patches of human bodies, old women in tight shorts that ride up their asses, dressed in baby bonnets and sunglasses, the flaccid skin on their thighs, literally pouring over the edges of their shorts, then there's random hot women running like little pixies in tank tops, pony-tails, and baseball hats, and army wives (in an ARMY t-shirt, no less), pushing their high-tech baby strollers with amazing dexterity, men dressed up in a button-down shirt and drenched in cologne, strolling with his mistress, a woman running with her dog, a trio, all dressed in matching black spandex shorts and t-shirts, a group of five women, blocking the entire walkway as they chat, infecting the air with their sh's (ah, sheismo), in front of them, a small legion of old people that still know how to shake their ass, move their legs, and make their heart pump furiously. It is everything this city is and everything you never want when you run, all compacted into a parade, an exercise of redemption, and a fashion show. And even when it's ridiculous, it's still amazing.

14 comments:

Devin said...

Wonderful post Jackson! I think you should also consider becoming a travel writer! I had seen two movies in the 2007 timeframe that were produced in Argentina and were quite good-for the life of me now I cant remember the names which is quite usual for me! I also watched a movie filmed in Colombia that had a gay/gangster type theme (dont know how else to put it) called 'Our Lady of the Assassins' I think-also pretty good-one Spanish film that I watched some time ago was called 'Bulgarian Lovers' and I thought this was also interesting-although i do not think it would have any interest for folks who are not gay-you never know-If i can think of the names of the Argentine films I will come back with them/Pedro Almadovar is one of my favorite movie producers-although I was a bit let down-not by much with the movie he made that had that very striking woman-gosh now even her name is escaping me-Penelope Cruz?-quite a beautiful woman I think-I do so like the look of hispanic people that should my relationship with my 'one' finally go under -I feel that I shall have to take a trip to S America or Central to find a replacement:-) altho I feel somewhat bad for this as it should be the soul and spirit of the person you love and not their looks-I also think LB is quite beautiful and love it when you post pics of the both of you or on days out with friends-all the best to you and LB and your families!

Still Life in South America said...

"You will surely die." This made me laugh out loud. You expressed this perfectly.

Pedestrians have the right away from cars in Santiago (still getting used to this). However, it's the first place where people have actually run into me as people crossed the city's main thoroughfare. They were kind of aggressive "f**k you, this is my space" maneuvers. I clocked them right back and kept on walking.

Did you know that LB's name translation is bichito? That's my Spanish word of the week.

Mil besos a ustedes!

JACKSON BLISS @ 水と魂 said...

D. + SLOBA,

Thanks guys. Sending you both lots of love + blessings. Devin, you go wherever your heart takes you. SLOBA, I'm happy that Santiago knows how to treat its pedestrians. Now, when are we going to see you again? It's almost mid-February!

Sallycat said...

Great post. Loved the writing. Saw it all with you. Know it well. Love it still!

SC

Marce said...

hahaha great post, this will give me the perfect excuse not to run!
Just kidding, of course.
Have you tried the area around "los lagos de Palermo"? It´s basically designed for runners and it´s way nicer than plaza italia.

Jimmy Danko said...

Solid entry brother. Laughed out loud. All of it so true. Only on my bravest days here do I leave the treadmill and run outside. Makes me miss my old San Diego ocean cliff runs.

I tagged your entry in my 'currently reading' section of my last blog entry. Spreadin' the Bliss...

Annie Ory said...

Hey Jackson...

Great post. Good writing. Clear, effective, smile inducing...

I have yet to run outside since moving here in July. I did it when I came for the test trip last Spring. I just hated it too much. Strangely, for me, it was the way people responded to me that most bothered me. Because of those few outings we brought a treadmill with us and built a special corner in our apartment with a view all the way Uruguay to run. I can't wait until it's done and I can run above the city, over it, past it. I envy you, and the few others I know who've done it some/sometimes, the ability to bite into the sticky, chewy, sour tasting, pungent mix that is this city and come up smiling, "Not too bad..."

Anonymous said...

what i like best is he WRITES. he must. to all the bloggers who DON'T.

JACKSON BLISS @ 水と魂 said...

Jimmy + Annie,

Great hearing from you guys. I love the treadmill, but you know, it's just not the same. I used to run one of those things, and then when I started running outside, I was like, oh this is gonna be easy, and insstead it felt as if I'd never run before. I couldn't believe. It's def. better than absolutely nothing, but just not as good as the real thing. I sort of thinking of the treadmill like masturbation for all of the same reasons. . . How's the evolution of chez vous? Are you both well?

Marce,

Don't do it! Run anyway. Just do it for bragging rights and a renewed sex drive. Do it for the children. And your parents who will worry less about you. Oh, by the way, I think the los lagos de Palermo might be the same thing as plaza holanda because no one knows it's called plaza holanda. But it's on the map. Anyway, you're right, and it's the best of what's around. I can deal with that. For now.

Besos to you 3!

Chaostar said...

Hey Jackson... a word from a porteño here... please do try the "lagos de palermo" area. I don't know where you're living, it may be a bit far away but it is the best place to run. I wouldn't consider doing it anywhere else. In fact it's the place I go for biking, also probably in the "Costanera Sur" area, near the "Ecologic Reserve", just beside Puero Madero. Have you been there? As for giving way to someone running, I'm not sure I understand the situation, but it depends on where you are. If you mean the street, well, why would people move away from the sidewalk just because you come running? I mean, it may be a matter of customs but here usually sidewalks are considered for people walking. Also from my perspective of biker I get furious sometimes at runners because in the "lagos de palermo" area they take up the "bicisenda" (small road made for bikes) and keep running making use of the whole "bicisenda" and they see you come pedalling and don't even move a bit... (when the bicisenda is actually intended for bycicles... why do people run there? and why don't they move away?)
Well, you have many parks in the Palermo area (along Avenida Figueroa Alcorta) where you can run and a lot of people run there. In fact last week I was shocked by how many people run there, it looked like a shot from a movie showing Central Park!
Oh, and by the way, I would indeed ask you what do you write about and other things. Actually I'll do it now: What do you write about?? Can I see something? I'm also curious about your music. Maybe it's because I'm an aspiring writer and an aspiring musician, but I AM curious.
And dulce the leche is heaven. Heaven is made of dulce de leche, Cepita orange juice and many other nice things.
Heheh!
Cheers man!!
Martin

JACKSON BLISS 水と魂 said...

Chaostar,

Yes, that's exactly where we run. If we had a car, we'd go to the reserva ecológica.

In terms of the lanes, no one respects them. The runners don't respect the bicisenda, the bikers don't respect the runners, the walkers don't respect the runners, the runners run in the opposite direction of the direction arrows. It's quilombo. We've stopped fighting it. We're only there for 30-40 minutes anyway. Needless to say, in Central Park in NYC, and the Lake Front in Chicago, and the banks of Frankfurt (to throw out 3 examples) there is a basic sense of order, and people by large and follow it. It's much more of a pain in the ass here because people do what they want and they're completely in their own little worlds. I've seen 5 women walking beside each other, completely stopping traffic in both directions, and they couldn't care less. That's something you'd never see in the US. And when people run the wrong way than what the direction arrow indicates, they get their ass kicked or people yell at them back home. I guess the operating rule here is: if you can figure it out, and then it works just fine. Of course, it doesn't always work out that way though.

Lastly, if you want to hear some of my music, check out:

http://mizu.synthasite.com

and click to the music page. I posted 15 songs of mine that I wrote here in BsAs.

You can also read some of my short stories published in online journals--though they're not my best once since I publish those in print journals--at:

http://jacksonbliss.blogspot.com

Anyway, thanks for visiting my blog. Peace, Blessings.

Chaostar said...

Jackson,
Yes, I share your vision, in everything you say, about things here. Personally I have a mixed feeling about the "chaorder" thing here in Buenos Aires. Some years ago I utterly hated it. I felt completely at home in Europe and some places of the US. Recently I just don't know... but I continue admiring the basic, very basic elements of fundamental cleanliness and order of Europe and the US. Not so fanatically as some Europeans do, but just to keep things working ok and clean... here everyone wants, as you say, to do what they want and also everybody wants "a piece of the cake", so it's very difficult for things to work. People here can be really cocky and inconsidered, and sometimes don't you dare tell them anything!! Everybody is so "canchero". My mother was violently insulted some time ago when she suggested to a woman carrying a baby in a cart that she should put in a trash bin the three bottles she had just thrown away in the street. Well, I get what you say and in fact share it. I also have stopped fighting it but I get the feeling that this is not so good... that eventually that way of doing things creeps into you and you'll eventually end up doing the same. I try to remain aware of things and not go down that road.
Thanks for the links, I'll give them a read/listen.
Bye!
Martin

JACKSON BLISS 水と魂 said...

Word Martin.

I know what you mean and happen to feel much the same way. Thanks for stopping by.

Peace, Blessings.

Gillian said...

Hey there! Found your blog by a search for "running in buenos aires" because I've been here for 2 weeks (from NY) and have seen only a handful of runners (most of whom appear to be expats). I'm living in Palermo Soho and will definitely go to "los lagos de Palermo" - maybe I'll see you there sometime! Cheers and thanks for sharing your writing!