25 February 2009

I Think I Know What Hell Is

Seriously. Hell is the confluence of events all conspiring to make you miserable, like say, my WD external hard drive, when it just stops showing up on my desktop one steamy day, where I happen to store all 9,000 of my iTunes songs to clear up space in the hard drive of my MacBook. And then I read my inbox and I have 2 rejections from 2 literary journals in the course of 20 seconds, one of them very flattering (which is actually more upsetting in a way because it means you were close). Then my upstairs neighbor blasts possibly the worst music I've ever heard from his stereo, one crappy song after another, as if the name of his playlist was The One Crappy Hit After Another Playlist. He went from really bad Anthem techno to Ryan Adam's "Wherever you Go," the theme song of "Robin Hood" and then to Foreigner's "I Want to Know What Love Is." Wait, you don't know that song? Let me repeat the brilliant chorus for you, tweaking just one word:

I wanna know what HELL is
I want you to show me
I wanna feel what HELL is
I know you can show me

Now, I have absolutely no problem with people loving their music because I'm a musician and an audiophile myself, and I get the joy of playing music loud sometimes. But save it for a fucking fiesta dude, or 80's retronight at the boliche. At the very least, don't subject us to your unhealthy appetite of rock love ballads. For several hours, the music was so loud, I couldn't think straight. I'm serious. And what does this have to do with my external hard drive? Well, I can't even plug my headphones into my laptop and listen to good music because right now my computer isn't acknowledging that I have an external drive. Poof! 9,000 songs, all gone. Evaporating like Argentine pensions.

I'm telling you, hell is a fucking conspiracy. And we all know how much argentinos love a good teoría conspirativa.

22 February 2009

Some Differences between the EEUU and Argentina #5

83. You don't think it's possible until you come here, but there is such a thing as too much sun. Don't believe me? Just look at the Raisin Women in their 40's walking around with 16-year old tits

84. I'm sorry, but Argentine music just isn't that good. And there's not enough variety

85. Americans like to give each other a notice of a few days when they go out together. Argentines call each other a couple hours before they go out

86. Argentina is a nightmare for control freaks, which is probably why I like it. Everything and everyone is late. But since you know that ahead of time, you're never super-upset or super-offended when the Subte stalls at Callao for ten minutes, or when you waitress ignores you at Baraka Café for 40 minutes. In America, entitlement turns us into monsters. We get mad when the subway is 8 minutes late, or when the waiter forgets our water. We get belligerent when we don't get what we think we deserve, which is pretty much everything

87. They show the same movies on TV over and over again. How many time can you show "The Fast + the Furious 3: Tokyo Drift," "Jurassic Park," "Legally Blond" and the fucking "Bone Collector?" In America, this only happens during Christmas and holidays, when most of us are knocking back egg nog and ODing on Turtle chocolates. Like we care. . .

88. In America, running is really good for your health. In Argentina, and I can say this unequivocably, it might be the single most dangerous thing you do besides smoke Paco

89. Trying to talk about American movies with Argentines can be mind-numbing and futile, especially when the titles have weird translations. For example, "Cruel Intentions" becomes "Intenciones Sexuales," "Oceans 12" turns into "La Gran Nueva Estafa," and "Alto impacto" or "Vidas Cruzadas" is the Latinamerican translation for Paul Haggis's movie "Crash"

90. In Argentina, chocolate in all of its forms has been replaced with Dulce de Leche. Though sweet and delicious, this stuff is like gastronimic glue, keeping everything together, even when it doesn't belong there

91. Porteñas are pretty damn hot. I'm not gonna lie. But, they're also superskinny, I'd say too skinny, and not in a healthy way either. But more in a my-stomach-has-eaten-the-rest-of-my-body kinda skinny. Strangely enough, they never lose their boobs. LB said it best: Porteñas are skeletons with tits. American women, on the other hand, tend to be a little chunkier on average, and I can't say it's necessarily a healthy kind of chunky either, at least not in the south and the midwest. West Coast women, on the other hand, might be the perfect balance between the chunksters + give-me-another-IV-drip crowd

92. Argentine men honk at hot women on the sidewalk, who almost always ignore them. American men drive by them really slowly, blasting top 40 hip-hop from their souped up speakers. You can't help but stare at that, at least for a second

93. Argentines never seem interested in my career as a writer, nor what I'm writing about. Americans, maybe because they can't believe it could possibly be a career, can't stop asking me questions: what do I wrote about? What do I write? Have I been published? Do I have an agent?

94. In America, you have to get in to a graduate program in order take classes at a university. In Argentina, you pretty much just have to show up on registration day. I didn't realize this until one of my students told me that if I didn't get into USC, then I should just move to LA and start taking classes there anyway. I had to tell him that's not how things work with our higher education system, though it would be nice if it did. Related to this, when someone has a graduate degree from a good university in America, people are usually somewhat impressed because they know most people don't get in. Here, it just seems like a personal decision you make, like whether to buy the baguette or the Pan de Campo

95. This isn't true everywhere, but in some neighborhoods, there is trash everywhere on the sidewalks. And honestly, it's awful

96. There are recycling bins, except no one uses them. Case in point: the last time LB + I were in Puerto Madero, the "paper" bin had actually caught on fire

97. Constructions workers, following some universal law, whistle at women here too, just as they do in every other country I've ever seen

98. Porteños cross themselves when they pass churches. Americans pull out their cell phones

99. Dogs are usually dirty, scruffy, unleashed and sometimes vicious in BsAs (at least to other dogs). In America, they tend to be clean, well-groomed, and used to shameless amounts of human coddling. Additionally, Argetines don't get their dogs neutered or spade, and Rabies vaccines are about as common as the anthrax vaccine. In the US, you can't even adopt a pet from the humane society without those two basic requirements

100. I have yet to meet someone who does his own laundry in Buenos Aires. I know they exist, and I'm sure I'll get a few petulant comments from them, but as a whole, it seems like abuelas have a monopoly on dirty underwear

101. Americans freak out when their personal space gets violated. Argentines pull out their cell phones

19 February 2009

Madres de Plaza de Mayo :: The Mothers of Plaza de Mayo

Though LB and I have been living in Buenos Aires for almost 8 months, we had never seen the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo before. For those of you that don't know much about La Guerra Súcia (otherwise known as the Dirty War), the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo Association was formed during the last military government because tens of thousands of people, especially intellectuals, dissidents, leftists, were all kidnapped, torturted and killed by Argentina's last dictatorship. Public congregation at that time was strictly forbidden. It was against the law for more than three people to meet in public. But the Mothers started protesting together anyway, donning their now iconic white handkerchiefs (a symbol of their sons' diapers) at Plaza de Mayo each and every Thursday as organized "resistencia" to the kidnapping of their sons, and so many others as well, who had simply disappeared without a trace between 1976-1983 during the period known as the Proceso de Reorganización Nacional . Since 2006, the Mothers have ceased their "resistance" march but continue to show up each Thursday for other--mostly progressive--issues. Love them or hate them, and their division into two separate factions, you have to respect the tenacity of these women who keep fighting for what they believe in. My liberal friends in America who like to protest, watch and learn:

Anyway, here are photos, starting with our delicious lunch of veggie tempura + omaee at the Japanese Cultural Center of Argentina.

And Here are Shots from Thursday's Protest:

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.