31 March 2009

Real Brownies, Bottled Water + Prices Hikes

Today, I realized that LB + I play a game with ourselves in Buenos Aires: we hope, despite all incontrovertible evidence to the contrary, that all of the rampant, spontaneous inflation taking place in Argentina will somehow magically skip our favorite places, and just increase the prices at other restaurants + cafes we don't like very much. And delusions run out of sidewalk eventually. Today, for example we went to Mark's Deli in Palermo Soho--that little hipster paradise mentioned in every Lonely Planet printed after 1980--to eat one of their fantastic brownies. A real brownie, not a Porteño brownie, I mean (i.e., glorified cake). And like we have so many other times, we had the same conversation, only with different things + prices:

--That little bottle of water is seven pesos, she says, shaking her head.
--Wait, seriously?
--Yeah.
--Fuck.
--We could have a bought a 6 liter bottle of water at Coto for that price.
--This sucks.
--And the brownie is more too.
--How much?
--It's ten pesos now.
--How much was it before?
--Eight pesos.
--Damn.
--And the tea used to be seven pesos, but now it's ten pesos.

It's hard not to feel cheated when this happens, and this conversation has happened repeatedly to us in the past six months, at almost every place we adopted in our routine. Out of the blue, prices just go up 25%. One day, a smoothie at our former favorite café was eleven pesos, and suddenly it costs seventeen; not to mention, they've concocted a fee to heat up a fucking tostada. NB: if you don't heat up bread + cheese, then it's just a sandwich, albeit, a really sad one. That's like charging customers to heat up water so it becomes "tea." Is this what it's come down to, charging people for the properties of food?

In a related note, last weeked, after LB + I came home, we realized that Aide, our cleaning lady, drank half of our bottled water. I'm not talking a glassful, which would have been fine, I'm talking two-three glasses. We both like Aide, but we're on a tight budget right since our translation projects have slowed down to a few drops, we're trying to save our money for our trip to Europe in two weeks, and we just can't afford to subsidize her water right now. Shit, we can barely afford a fucking brownie. So what did we have to today? God, this is embarassing: we hid our water. I'm serious. We hid both bottles in the closet with my button-down shirts. I won't get into other things that deserve their own entry, like how I also now move my electric razor into our bedroom when she comes to clean because she dropped it more than once on the floor, almost completely breaking it (never mentioning it either). And I won't get into how I now move my DS Lite into the bedroom shelves too, since Aide dropped that too on the floor once. I've got nothing against her at all. Actually, I'm very fond of her and I think she does a rad job. And to be honest, she's more than welcome to a glass of bottled water too. But I can't afford to buy another electric razor, a new DSL, more bottled water for her, or as I learned today, even a brownie from Mark's deli. At least not more than one a week.

If there's one thing I've learned here, it's that (near) poverty makes you do strange things, creative things, things that only make sense when you're always on the verge of running out of money. With the flash inflation in Buenos Aires, that could be sooner than you think.

13 comments:

Devin said...

Man-o man can I relate to this post Jackson!! I have been so poor-expecially in the last year that I forgot what having at least some money was like! well my birthday was a few days ago and this evening I got a totally unexpected card and "financial help" I guess you could put it in the card-well I guess I shouldn't dance around the amount to prove my point-it was 250 usd-truly I wept -I have been so down financially that since not working for over a year-going on two and my disability case in the "system" that even this amount makes me feel like a temporary King Midas:-) best as always to you and LB!!

Anonymous said...

It's absolutely disgusting you complaint about your maid drinking half a bottle of water. No inflation makes people so cheap and shameless alleging poverty while facing a trip to Europe. What stupidity bubble have you lived your entire life in? At least you have a tap in this 3rd world, maybe you can try to kill yourself daring a glass of water into your first world quality body!! It’s incredible.

Fernanda Ibañez said...

OMG i laughed so much
i'm sorry but you go to very chic places
you'll never save much if you dont stop your "real" brownies addiction haha
i know its hard but you can bought them in a panaderia or some confiteria xD

have a nice trip

haydee (aide) rocks! x)

obviously i say that because there are not my stuff

bye!

JACKSON BLISS 水と魂 said...

Fernanda,

I know, but man, a good brownie goes a long way.

Devin,

I'm so sorry. I hope things improve for you.

Anonymous,

Actually, you're incredible. How dare you judge us for deciding to spend the rest of our paltry savings traveling for a little while. My g/f and I have worked our ASS off the past 2 years, just to save money to be able to come here, and we decided to spend the remainder of our tiny savings traveling for a month. That is our right. We earned that right to spend our own fucking money however the hell we want to. My g/f worked long hours at the hospital in Chicago before we came here, and I taught English and did translation work while we were here. We live on around a $100 a week here, sometimes less than that. And you know why? I get paid in pesos, and that's the money we live on. The small amount we have left in savings my g/f and I earned working really hard while back in Chicago. So you have no right to judge us, OR be an asshole. We worked + saved that money and we have every right to use the rest of it to see a little more of the world.

I'll go a step further and say that all the places were staying at in Europe are youth hostels, or one-star hotels. They're the cheapest places we could find that are also safe, and allow couples. . . We have very little money to waste during our trip. We spentcould have spent that money here, but we choose to use it for our trip, and that's our fucking right, you piece of shit.

The truth is, we don't splurge at all, and we drink a lot of water because we run. We make almost all of our food at home, we eat at a cheap vegetarian place (and get it to go) when we do go out. And we just can't afford to subsidize our maid's water habit. Let me make something clear: we didn't even want a cleaning lady, but when we moved in here, our landlady told us it was part of the deal. We'd never ask for that service, and we feel slightly guilty every times she comes. But we like her, we treat her well, and she can have a cup (or even two) of our water, but anymore of that is TAKING ADVANTAGE OF US.

Also, you ignorant comment wreaks of entitlement, as if the cleaning lady is entitled to our water. Well she isn't. We like her quite alot, and like I said, she can drink some whenever she wants, she just can't drink HALF of it because we're on a fixed budget here in BsAs. I think I made this very clear. Also, she's broken stuff of mine, some of it expensive, and I never made her pay for it, even apologize, so I'm hardly being classist or treating her badly.

Additionally, the water in our apartment is terrible. We're not being babies. Because of the water here, my g/f and I both have eczema in little patches over our skin, that's how bad it is. I'm not going to fucking DRINK that, I can already see what it's doing to my skin. Also, all porteños drink bottled water, because it's much safer and there's quality control. It has nothing to do with money or class.

So let me get this straight: my maid can drink as much of our water as she wants, but we need to drink tap water? That's fucking ridiculous. You are one of the most bitter, fatuous, judgmental dickheads I've ever heard from.

I also think it's absolutely pathetic you don't have the balls to sign your name. I'm ashamed for you. I really am.

In the end, we've been working hard + saving our money to be able to travel on a small budget to Europe, and that's our right. We've earned that right. We don't have to justify our decisions, nor our budget to you, or anyone else. We're good people, and unlike you, we don't judge people for their decisions. We just know our budget, we know our financial limitations, and we know what we can and cannot do.

Now, go fuck off and drink your fucking tap-water.

Joli said...

She probably just wanted something cold rather than specifically bottled water. Decant some boiled cooled water into a jug or labelless bottle, and stick it into the fridge.

Fernanda Ibañez said...

gosh, you were angry man
hahahha

ok... i'll watch Alfonsin's funeral on tv

bye!

JACKSON BLISS 水と魂 said...

Joli,

That's a good idea for the future.

Fernanda,

Yeah, that comment really pissed me off. I mean, LB + I analyze every single thing we buy to make sure we can afford it, and it took us well over a year and a half to save up money for our travel on a shoestring to Europe in a few weeks. We worked so hard to be able to save money in Chicago. And since we moved here, we get paid in pesos, just like all the other Argentines. We're not rich dotcommunists, we don't get paid to work on websites in dollars. We never order wine at a restaurant, we don't even go very often. And unlike our Argentine friends, we don't have moms that invite us to dinner twice a week, or inlaws that show up with picadas + bottles of Shiraz, we're not renting our uncle's apartment for almost nothing, or sharing the rent with our sisters--all ways to mitigate the high cost of living here for sure. Also, we're near-vegans, so a lot of ways to save money won't really apply to us. Fortunately, we love cooking and we cook all the time at home, not only because it's healthier, but obviously also cheaper.

So yeah, the point is, I have a no-asshole policy. I have a high tolerance for truth, but not malice, self-righteousness or complacency; and I LOATHE judgmental people, especially the bitter ones!

FlorM said...

Hi there, great blog, i´ve been coming here since I read that article in La Nacion a couple of weeks ago.. And I think it´s quite interesting finding out how people from other countries see us..

This post about how prices have increased, it´s kinda funny since you find the situation weird when any argentine will find it absolutely regular.. I mean we are so used to these unstable rates of inflation, we also complain and curse just as you described you did, but the bottom line is your cannot do anything about.
This whole world economic crisis is turning into a real nighmare..
I hope you guys enjoy living in Argentina.. Not having enough money does give you the oportunity of being more creative and somehow that´s exciting too..

See you, good luck¡¡¡¡

Smeltz said...

Hi Jackson,

You're great. I voyeuristically read your tell-off here to your anonymous commenter, and seriously. You're just great. You and your g/f deserve every happy moment you can squeeze out of a shoestring-budget trip to Europe. (Art museums on free evenings, man! I saw the Louvre in six installments that way.)

Just wanted to pop by because I saw in the comments that you're in at USC for the PhD. Fan-fucking-tastic. Congrats. What will you be working on for research, if you don't mind me asking?

Also, is your novel in purchasable format somewhere? I'd love to read your work.

And, I just got a call from The New School today. I got in for poetry. I'm shocked, relieved, and sort of weepy. I'd already moved past rejection and mourning and into considering a stint with the U.S. Marines (no joke). I don't know what's happening with funding, but even the smallest bit of affirmation about my writing is a godsend right now.

One more thing: you own a DS Lite. That is baller as hell and made me laugh out loud.

Again, felicidades, and I can't wait to hear what you have to say about transitioning from all the way sur to all the way SoCal.

ever_trying said...

JB--
Thanks for the comment! Will begin following your blog - am in South Korea this year and love reading about others' travels :) Again, congrats on USC - effing awesome.

Re: the maid thing: I worked for two years in an inner-city school system, and I couldn't agree more that poverty does strange things to people. I'm not sure any of us can judge anyone when it comes to money since we all come from such unique circumstances, but I will say that you shouldn't let one anonymous comment get you down. Screw 'em.

You are entitled to the world. So is your maid. That's the goddamn sadness of it all...

JACKSON BLISS 水と魂 said...

Ever Trying,

Def. I feel you, and agree wholeheartedly. The crazy thing is, and I don't mean to flaunt my resume, but what I DIDN'T tell the anonymous dickhead, is that I've lived in W. Africa without running water or electricity, and I've spent time in Azerbaijan taking care of business in an outhouse, and I was an Americorps volunteer living on $700 + food stamps in CHICAGO! I've worked with low-income kids and adults, and I've been one too, for much of my life. Shit, my mom lives in subsidized housing in SoCal. But I don't think it's a class issue at all. It's probably cultural because I've noticed that there are lot of things that Argentines try to shirk responsibility for. I'll give you one example: a friend of mine told me this story of how his gf was taking the colectivo when she saw a pungita (pick-pocket) trying to jack a woman's purse When she about to open her mouth to say something, the pungita elbowed her right in the mouth, and no one helped her at all. They just stood there. I could tell you other stories that would blow your mind: a woman being raped in stairwell, screaming for help, while her neighbors do absolutely nothing; people walking right into you and not saying sorry. I don't mean to diss Argentina because there are tons of things I love about it here, but the reality is that people are cynical, resigned, and don't believe, therefore, that they can be responsible for lots of things that they actually are, and many times, engender, by being resigned the way they are. At least, that's my take.

As for anonymous asshole X, really, that motherfucker was just jealous. Probably thinks he's a class warrior. As if. Anyway, stay in touch. I'm looking forward to reading your blog in the future.

Besos, Peace, Blessings,

--j2b

ASmeltz,

You and I must be synchronized girl. I JUST decided to check out your blog today after I saw that you got into the New School. Congrats! That's fucking rad as hell. I'm super proud of you. . . but not surprised. Your blog has a charm, a vitality, and beautiful intelligence that's so refreshing: all the qualities a good + strong poet needs. Some of your pics are fucking stellar too. I'm pretty much in love with decomposing Hersehy, PA shot. . .

Your lovelist of all things Philly stands out to me. I couldn't decide what I loved more, the city as you saw it, or the fact that you saw the city that way.

Oh my god, the marines? You mean like some Biloxi blues shit? Wow, I mean, you're tough and all, but the military is gonna fuck up that pretty face of yours. Not to mention, you'll probably go deaf in one ear, and come back with a hook for an arm. I'm not hating on the soldiers, or anything like that, because they've got a shitty job, maybe the worst job of all, and though some of them are too young and naive for my tastes, I know they believe in what they're doing and their work is tough as shit, and even if they got used by rich white Texan oilmen, they're not bad people at all, and if more of them would read poetry, well, we might have an enlightened army. But I would hate hate hate to see your gift of language sucked up in that black hole.

I hope The New School gives you the hook-up. You def deserve it. I know their funding can be kinda shady sometimes, but I can think of worse things to borrow money for. I mean, I owe 140k, mostly for studying at a school I didn't finish my MA at (Yale), so what do I know? I guess I should shut up, but still, I think being able to get your MFA at an awesome school like TNS would be so rad, definitely a privilege if you can swing it.

You're right what you said: whatever happens, you know that some of the best poets in the business think you're for real, and that has GOT to feel good. And the New School is a good fucking school. It's not like you got an acceptance from Denzel Washington Southwestern Community College or something. When I got my first MFA acceptance, it was like art trumping solipsism. Before then, I was like "yo, what if I'm the only person who thinks I'm a good writer in the whole world," but then, you get that acceptance, then you get your second, and suddenly you realize that you've got it. And you do. Good for you man. That's rad.

The PhD thing makes me excited every time I think about it. It's a PhD in literature + creative writing, so basically, I take normal classes with all the lit geeks, and pass the same oral exams, but the two big differences between the CW peeps + the theory thugs is that we get to take fiction/poetry workshops (my first one will be with TC Boyle, I'm so excited. . . and then there's Aimee Bender after that), and instead of a critical dissertation, we write a 50 page critical introduction, and then a complete novel, or a collection of short stories or poems. . . Here's the crazy thing: USC was my top choice because TCB + AB are two of my fave writers; I'll be only an hour away from my mom who lives in Solana Beach; it's fully funded; LA has tons of beaches; my g/f will be able to find a job really easily there; we'll have an easy time being near-vegans in the city; and, this is pretty dorky, but I'm not ashamed to admit it, I love college football, and USC is really badass. They really fuck things up on the field, and after getting my heart broken by ND over and over again by underachieving idols, it will be refreshing to root for a team that brings it. That's how I write, that's how I read, and that's how I live!

Man, Aseltz (what's your real name, anyway?), my DS Lite is one of the loves of my life. Sometimes, my g/f gets kinda jealous because I could play mariocart for hours. Sometimes, and this is really fucking dorky, I even make up "tournaments" for myself. I guess some part of me refuses to grow up.

BLANK isn't out yet. . . it will take years, mostly because I need an agent, and right now, they love it or they hate it but they won't pick it up. It's. . . ambitious. I think USC might be able to help me out since the writers there are Big Time (and I think the poets are too. Do you know Carol Muske-Dukes, Mark Irwin or David St. John? I don't, but I hear they're great). I've got some things in mind, and I have other manuscripts being considered at small + large presses as we speak. I'll def let you know what happens. When something becomes available, I'll let you know.

Anyway, listen, celebrate that New School acceptance. That's fucking awesome. You deserve that. It's confirmation of your talent. I'm curious to know where you end up. Hopefully, it's not the green zone.

Stay in touch, and drop me a line sometime. By the way, your diss on PDX made me laugh out loud. At one point or another, I had voiced almost everything you had said, to someone at some point.

Besos + Much Love,

--j2b

Still Life in South America said...

OK Jackson, we all know you and LB bathe in bottled water as well. That's going to have to stop when you're backpacking.

JACKSON BLISS 水と魂 said...

SLIBA,

It's true! We also eat escargot saffron sandwiches for lunch, twice-whipped chocolate mousse and raspberries flambé for dessert, and our bread is actually hand-made from a French Baker who rides a hot-air balloon from Lyon to Buenos Aires, twice a day. I mean, hey, you've got to have your standards.