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Rio Beaches

Flying back from Rio to Buenos Aires, via a short stop in Montevideo, I caught myself already regretting that I didn’t see more of Rio, and Brazil more generally. A full week in one place seems like a reasonably long time, but it isn’t really, particularly when trying to squeeze in a number of experiences each so uniquely Brazilian. It was over before I looked up. Rio was truly a marvelous city, or The Cidade Maravihosa, as it is called by its local inhabitants – the Cariocas. Bright, beautiful, musical, diverse, eclectic, and something more singular and ephemeral that I can’t put my finger on. Buenos Aires, for all its sophistication and grandeur, feels a lot like Paris, or London, or parts of New York. Rio doesn’t feel like anywhere else, at least that I have been.

We stayed at the Rio Othon Palace on Copacabana Beach, the largest hotel of the three main beaches in Zona Sul, the touristy beach section of Rio. There is no way around it, the Othon Palace is a shit hole by American or European standards, but those must be disregarded in lieu of Rio standards (where the Rio Othon somehow warrants a 4-star rating), standards beaten down, made pulpy and unappealing, by the colluding blows of an unstable economy, violently jumpy exchange rates, the natural ebb of high-end travel destinationship, and a high concentration and segregation of wealth. You can see glimpses of what Rio used to be, in its 1950s and 1960s bossa nova heyday, particularly in the glittering ivory of the Copacabana Palace, peaking out through the clouded dank of dilapidated post mid-century architecture. This only reminds you of what is now missing, high culture urbane charm, replaced by other, more diluted, inelegant charms. The Othon Palace is well located and is fronted by a gloriously long and wide white-sand beach, bookended by lush rainforesty mountains, breathtaking from almost every angle. Our nondescript (other than the view) hotel room ran an absurd 1920,00 Brazilian Reals a night, which amounts to just over a thousand U.S. dollars a day. Fortunately, we were staying there free as a result of a timeshare condo I traded in Florida, and didn’t have to suffer the obscenity of those rates, but even knowing them was difficult to reconcile mentally.

View from the Hotel

On our first full day, Arual and I decided that our number one priority had to be to do something about our awkward pastiness, a sign of extreme shame, and an invitation to public derision, gulpy throated hand-covering-mouth look-away disgust and a powerful amount of sexual apathy, the likes of which I haven’t experienced since high-school, and Arual hasn’t felt since our last Tuesday date night, or really any date night (I just want to be clear that I don’t have some recurrent libido drop on Tuesdays, which are like one of my big days otherwise). In any case, we needed a little color, lest we be mistaken for that untalented pasty white British guy from Twilight and that even less talented pasty white girl that he wants to kill/date, or worse, Canadians. Luckily, the sun was doing its part, kicking at a solid 95 degrees and sidling all up in my grill like a creepy close talker with hot buttery breath. We headed over to Ipanema Beach, a short jaunt from our seaside location, where we were told the crowds were a little younger and hipper, a residual image-illusion of ourselves we still desperately cling to. We found a nice little spot in the Farme Gay stretch of Ipanema, creatively titled that because it is well frequented by Rio’s gay and lesbian community, the male members of which, called Barbies, you might not be surprised to learn enjoy basking in the sun with nothing but thin tautly pulled lycra chorizo hammocks, providing more textural detail than one could conceivably want outside of the context of a very thorough pudendal-flesh sifting prostate exam. In any case, we like sunbathing with our gay friends, who appreciate deeply the finer points of undercarriage groomery, and provide cognitive coverage for our fears of being sexually irrelevant to those we would otherwise like to impress. Just because the lesbians, or the body-obsessed gay men, aren’t super digging on male torsos shaped, colored and textured like a spooned out clump of creamy mashed potatoes, suntan oil glistening like two dollops of melting butter in the hairless vortex of a concave chest and its hilltop omphalic neighbor to the south, freckles (a friendlier, less carcinogenically suggestive word substitute for moles) sprinkled sloppily like pepper bits by a drooling idiot chef-God, doesn’t mean it wouldn’t play back home with the hetero ladies.

A double-edged sword of the Rio beaches is its perpetual state of cheap vendorism, a predictable result of the extreme wealth gap I suppose. Wandering endlessly on the beach, selling their goods and homespun wares, are vendors of every sort, shape and annoyance. This means that you can, for just a few Reals, sitting in your cheaply rented beach chairs, under rented umbrella staked by some strange man into the sand of your proprietary clump of earth for the day, purchase almost anything your heart desires – cocktails, food of every kind, sunglasses, clothing, jewelry, obscure crafts, poetry, whatever. It also means, of course, that you could theoretically buy, and will certainly be offered, significantly more than any heart in the history of the world has ever desired. Just when the smile on your face grows all idiot huge, a cold coconut-ed cocktail in one hand and tasty presunto e queijo in the other, the pages of your new book (in my case: Harry Potter and The Perfectly Natural Body Changes of Hermione) fluttering gently on your lap, some giant-toed local salesman, bumbles up flicking sand from the pulpy tips of eponymous toes, eclipses the glorious sun and offers you a sarong or t-shirt or fedora or license plate, or fill in random unwanted inanimate object here, that, naturally, says “Copacabana Beach, Rio de Janeiro” on it, as if for some reason that only grandmothers in the late 80s understand you desperately want to, at some point in the future, commemorate your visitation to a far off land by wearing an ill-fitting tank-top (made of a fabric with the substantive elusiveness of cotton candy) that says exactly where you overpaid for it, an enduring unequivocal (at least until the first wash) written testament to your shamelessness. You can just imagine your horribly idiotic child asking a decade later: “hey dad, where did you get that cool faded pink tank-top?” “Well, I am really glad you asked, mildly retarded child of mine, but if you look right here on the front, just below the windsurfer, or on the back (not on the sleeves cause it doesn’t have any, fucking a!!), you will see that I got this fine article of clothing on travel with my first wife, Betty, you know the woman who drops off your significantly more loved older brother every other week, in Rio de Janeiro. Copacabana Beach if you really want to be specific………The shirt does.”

Beach vendors (stock photos)

Perhaps because we were in the gay section or because Arual was drinking a white-wine spritzer and was justifiably confusable with a beach hooker (she isn’t one ……. to my knowledge), we were also offered several times to purchase cocaine. I said no, but they assumed I merely protested too much perhaps, because that was followed by a more sincere, crouched and winking, offers. Eventually, after several hours of only getting through the same two or three sentences in my book (and anxious, naturally, to see what happens with that oh-so lovable Harry, who is like in his mid-twenties and in his 14th year at a wizard school for children), and politely shooing away vendors with “noa, abrigado”, you learn to simply ignore them completely. Responses of any sort, only encourage them for further haggling salesmanship, adjusting prices and technique. It’s better to pretend they aren’t even talking to you and look right past them, a skill I have long practiced when Arual the Saying Something Long-winded and Irrelevant wants to have a “serious conversation” or talk about her “feelings” after a family member’s funeral.

One of the other great anachronisms of Rio, so seemingly remote from the sun-drenched beauty and white-façade edificios that serve as pillars to the gentle smoky striated clouds above the beach, is the casual frequency of theft and violence, lurking as it were behind every corner, or in the shadows under every flickering street lamp, or right there under your nose in the meaty blind spot of human complacency ready to convert from pre-kinetic potentiality to painful irrevocability in an instant, just when the thin first coat of absent-mindedness glosses over the natural tendency for defense of self and property. Our Rio guide-book reads like two books woven together, one trumpeting the charms and eccentricities of a veritable coastal and cultural paradise, the other like a self-defense manual for virgin atheist American women living in Mosul. Every encouragement to visit the gorgeous beaches comes with a friendly reminder never to step away from your belongings or even fall asleep with goods unclenched, and certainly not to walk the beaches at night, where violent muggings and “quicknappings” are somehow quotidian. You shouldn’t miss the nightlife in Lapa or Leblon, but you should cab directly to the restaurant or bar, and back to your hotel, or risk violence and robbery if you turn down the wrong street denoted with street signs you certainly can’t read. Seeing a Favela (one of the poor shantytowns) is one of the best experiences you can have, but never go without a tour guide, and make sure he gives money back to the residents, and never, ever, ever go at night, lest you want several City of God gang children to tear the clammy skin from your trembling bones, laughing Samba-maniacally at the adorable futility of your horror. But, all of that pales in comparison to the greatest danger posed in Rio, at least according to our guide-book, and our hotel concierge, and one of our tour guides – the prostitutes and, particularly, the transvestite prostitutes. This was truly disappointing to me, particularly since I have always been a huge fan of both, and the rare celestial combination of the two, but even I don’t want to be stabbed to death (or stabbed really at all), or potentially raped, by violent hooker transvestites that roam the streets near Lapa once the sun recedes, picking out drunken tourist men seemingly sporting a heavy wallet and light stumbley defenses. All of this creates a low-grade sense of unease in almost any activity you do in Rio, particularly when you are traveling with a notoriously terrible fighter like Arual, who, from what I have seen domestically, can barely even finish washing dishes (which better be clean this time) after being punched. I also feared that they will want to dance fight in the style of the capoeira, for which Brazil is renown, and my go-to Robot moves or the Sprinkler won’t provide for adequate defense, unless they only attack the sides and/or front middle of my torso, where I may actually have some dominant robot arm blocks. Arual really only knows how to do The Worm, which is a very weak fighting position historically.

Scary City of God Kids (Good movie)

Copacabana Beach at Night

Very Rough Approximation of Arual Being Beaten Up by Capoeira

That said, we really didn’t experience any tangible threat of violence or crime against us while in Rio, begging the question of whether the warnings had just done their job, or were far overstated in the first place. I think it was the latter, frankly, as those books are written to confirm the presuppositions of many travelers with a natural tendency to distrust unknowns, and see every petty crime as something more sinister. Either way, the people were extraordinary welcoming, kind, gracious and joyful on every street, dark or lit, that we walked down and the hookers were complete professionals.

Random from Sugar Loaf

Random street art from Lapa

Random pic of building

Random city pic

[to be continued]

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La Boca

Spent a nice day at the La Boca today. La Boca, the “mouth” of the Riachuelo river, a tributary to the larger Río de la Plata (River Plate) that runs through Buenos Aires, remains one of the most eclectic neighborhoods in the city, despite its almost complete touristification. Originally settled primarily by fin-de-siècle Genoese immigrants, it claims itself the birthplace of tango and is identifiable today for its brightly colored high-stacked shanty townism (alleged to have begun traditionally because the barrio-ites were given the leftover paint from the seamen on leave from the freight ships stowing into the harbor). The scene today, of course, is about attracting goofy-hatted touristards like myself. The prime five or six blocks in the caminito district are littered with pricey, unmemorable outdoor cafes, Tango dancers in cheap ill-fitting tango costumery, shitty arts and craft salespeople and two week crash-course animators and cartoonists, just in case you traveled several thousand miles to obtain a caricature portrait of yourself with hilarious giant teeth and ears, which will go nicely next to the picture of an “old west” cardboard cutout you and your disappointingly idiotic children stuck their heads through at Six Flags, Bumfuckville. In any case, if you can wade through the inane irrelevance, there is some significant value in La Boca. It has some amazing architecture, traditional local food just a couple of blocks from the main drag and quite a significant amount of poverty to feel temporally awful about.

We arrived mid-day, while the sun was gushing rays unmercifully down on Arual’s bald spot, and on my delicate modely-high cheek bones, already slightly natural pink from the sweet divine European style double-sided kisses of God. We hadn’t eaten (since we had just woken up an hour or two ago) and I had a powerful craving for Sangria and cerdo of some sort. We had been to La Boca briefly years before, so we knew there was going to be a significant amount of annoying tourist trapism to avoid. Our defenses tightened up even more when the cab pulled up to the bustling, roasted peanut smelling harbor inexplicably blaring Born to Be Wild by Steppenwolf, a band that I assume rightfully and summarily died in a just plane crash after that horrible single was released. Either way, it didn’t bode well for our planned natural “ethnic” experience of the barrio.

We powered through the pickpockets and cheesy Tangosists offering pictures (complete with fedora and scarf that had, no doubt, beheaded and been wrapped around, respectively, a few thousand unwashed and potentially infectious touri just that day); slapping away, like the slowly approaching hand of a nipple twisting frat boy, cartoonists, desperate restaurateurs and shoeless patchouli-ed gypsy people under the obscure illusion that I might possibly like to purchase and wear a puka shell necklace or “peace” bracelet made lovingly just that morning in the dark deep unmentionable trenches between their street-crusted hell black toes, spiritual and free, obviously, via a steady and austere regiment of complete socklessness. I stopped occasionally to at least hear the prostitutes out (I hate to be rude) until old threes-a-crowder, Arual, made it all awkward with her stalkery omnipresence.

Once we were free of the mayhem, we could move at our own pace, check out some of the local art, watch some adorably impoverished children play concrete soccer and find a nice little parrillas joint for lunch. We settled on a place modestly named Paradiso, with a large patio under tree cover and offering tasty Choripans (spicy grilled sausages in hoagie rolls). I ordered a full pitcher of Sangria, and scarfed down a Choripan or two, as a nosey guitarist/crooner cranked out the Argentine favorites and went around the crowd (just pointing really) asking friendly questions of the patrons. I avoided eye contact like he had a goiter or an erection, or both, but he nevertheless eventually called on our table. We cringed and over-shrugged violently (even our gestures are like broken sloppy Spanish), moist palms pointing towards an indifferent and kind-of-douchey God asking why he would crucify us so (me being, in the metaphorical scenario, Christ and Arual being the hanger-on Magdalenean whore, in case that wasn’t clear), until I eventually spittle-stammered out “San Francisco, California” in response to what I perceived to be a potential “donde” slipped gently into his Infinite Jest-sized cavalcade of nonsensical Spanish. Americans (point in near future fact), I have found, almost never say they are from the United States. We either say America (suggesting to South Americans that they are not actually one half of a greater hemispheric entity, but really an annex, or extension wing of the “real” America, like those prefab wooden classrooms in high school that the slow-learning or emotionally unstable kids had to use out by the parking lot) or we just give our particular state, like I did, assuming that everyone in the world not named Sarah Palin must intuitively understand our federated state structure and the provincial entities that comprise it. Regardless, I am a terrible person.

Crooner backgrounding my sangria

My Choripan

Of course, our wild-eyed crooner, having no sense of subtlety, heard San Francisco in my fantastic deep Spanglishized South American travel accent, a slower less sexualized version of the effete pan-European that has served me so well on the Mediterranean coasts of Europe, and gleefully rattled off another couple paragraphs of breakneck incoherence that clearly demanded response. Confused and defensive, I realized that it was time to stop dicking around already. I raised high my glass of Sangria, contorted up a giant goofy chromosomally-ambiguous smile, and rattled off a randomly alternating stream of “si”, “gracias” and “bien” interspersed with unpredictable, inappropriate and insincere imbecilic laughbursts until, finally, he was forced to move along, bewildered, rebuffed, sad and little fearful. I looked around the patio for victory signs and found only head-tilted pity, but it was worth it. Fuck them.

I spent a good portion of the remaining afternoon trying surreptitiously to take a picture of the couple at the table across from us, which were ludicrously dressed in full Martin Fierro-esque Gaucho and Gaucho-wife attire and slowly working through a stove of various pork and beef loins. They were drinking wine heavily and talking to the annoying crooner between songs. Arual and I surmised that they had come into town from their estancia in the countryside, where said Gaucho must run a nice little Shetland pony ranch amongst the utter boredom of his wife, dressed like a Spanish caudillo version of Nicki from Big Love. They caught me taking a picture or two, but what the hell, it’s not my fault they are dressed that way. As I have said to many a policeman that has caught me in my neighbor’s bushes, “hey, I am not the one walking around my bedroom naked, am I, officer?” Dominated.

Arual pretending the picture is about her

Awkward......

The crooner wasn’t the only serpent in Paradise, though. We also witnessed a woman, roughly our age, pretty and dressed well and with her similarly well-dressed assumptive boyfriend, then standing just on the edge of the patio and enjoying their own freshly grilled Choripans, accidentally bite-squeeze half of her spicy sausage out the tail end of her hoagie, only to, upon casually chewing and swallowing the causal regretful bite, reach down and locate the sausage from the sidewalk – where barefoot gypsies tread I might remind you – it had by then become one with and place it back in the sandwich for further eating. That doesn’t have anything to do with Buenos Aires, or anything else really, but it deserves recording for the sake of posterity. I drank heavily to wash away the sight and turned to my Gaucho friend to see if he had seen it. He did, and to my delight, we nodded together in the universal language of disgust.

We finished up our pitcher of Sangria and headed out of Paradiso, to do a little sightseeing. After a couple of local shops and some architectural stops, we made a disturbing discovery. Just outside of a rundown walk-through knickknack home museum a few blocks from lunch, we found our short Gaucho man and his “wife” standing on the corner offering to take pictures with tourists for a couple of pesos. My illusions and self-worth duly writhing naked and angry on the ground, replaced by the heavy cross of shame, we doubled our pace, fought our way back through the nine circles of tourist hell and taxied out of La Boca, never to return again………but with no regrets.

Fuerza Bruta

Arual and I went to see Fuerza Bruta (Brute Force) last night at the Centro Cultural Recoleta. The show started here in Buenos Aires about five years ago and has been making the rounds recently in the United States (New York, Miami, Chicago) and internationally to rave fan reviews. It has apparently been a big hit with the New York celebrity crowd, as Beyoncé, Kanye West, Ashton Kutcher, Pierce Brosnan (?) and others have been flocking to it in droves in an adorable attempt to pretend they are just like everyone else.

http://fuerzabrutanyc.com/wordpress/get-the-buzz/

In any case, we didn’t see any stars at our show, and by stars, of course, I mean famous American people and/or Antonio Banderas. John Secada, for all I know, might indeed have been standing right next to me, but we are of roughly equal fame, based on the most informative modern measure available, Facebook friends, which he has been losing steadily for some time now. Either way, I didn’t notice him.

It was a little unusual to attend performance art that doesn’t allow people over the age of 35 to attend (allowable age spectrum was 21 to 35), which put Arual dangerously on the brink of getting left home watching reruns of Law & Order: Violent Ass-Rapist Division (The Psychological Subdivision for Criminal Intent to Violently Ass-Rape), and dripping her lonely few remaining tears into her pre-masticated tapioca pudding. But, alas, we just got her in. Actually, the age limitation makes some sense in light of the blasting and schizophrenic sound and light gyrations, unpredictable tongue chewing e-kids (less than I would have expected actually), and the requisite unintentionally violent mosh/jump dancing. There is something less bothersome about young fun-loving, nonsensically Spanish-speaking Argentinians banging into, and spilling beer all over, you, all adorably making no sense and being foreign (not geographically, of course, but in my heart), than leery-eyed, tight-shirted American 18 to 20 somethings. If this was in New York, and some douchey young lawyer guy or worse, an ironic moustached Jude Law, was jumping into me and jamming an untalented over-spraytanned Jude Lawy elbow into my unwitting ribcage, I would have been mightily annoyed and would probably have to punch him.

Annoying Jude Law at Fuerza Bruta in NYC

The show itself was great. I expected good things, as it was created by the same folks that did De La Guarda, which I saw and really enjoyed in New York about 8 years ago. I realize that the show was lambasted by the New York Times and others for being too clubby, overly sexualized, which is allegedly possible, and somewhat trite (artistic message-ly speaking), but for me, two bottles of wine deep from dinner prior to the show, a cold, tall tasty (like $1.50) beer in hand, which one of the female dancers barreling through the crowd also enjoyed a gulp of, watching beautiful and very well-done performance art by, even the most pedantic unappeasable reviewer must admit, extraordinarily talented dancers and technicians is a pretty good time. I also knew from De La Guarda that I was likely to get wet, so dressing appropriately and checking the leather coat for a peso was a grand and awe-inspiring move. I would highly recommend it, even to those jaded friends of mine that somehow find a way to hate the simple innocuous pleasures of the likes of Juno and Little Miss Sunshine (yeah, you know who you are).

Some random obscure pics from the show:

Sun-Day in BA

There is a reason this city is called Buenos Aires (the “Good Air” or “Fair Winds”), and today certainly vindicated the otherwise questionable naming skills of the fine men aboard the ship of Spanish explorer Pedro de Mendoza, who founded the city (or the fort of San Telmo at the time) way, way back when Spaniards still did shit,..…….other than siesta, roll around feigning soccer injuries and make love to women better than I ever could. Certainly a better job than old Christopher Columbus (Cristóbal Colón), whose dedication statue lies just a couple of miles to the southwest of this plaza, and who, quite adorably, was under the impression that a number of small islands in the Bahamas were coastal land fragments off of the west side of India, and was therefore, naturally, credited with the inadvertent “discovery” of a large portion of the globe despite the noticeable and ironic existence of hundreds of thousands of then-current long-term inhabitants. Oh well, a rant for another day perhaps. Either way, these Spanish explorers did a much better job, as I continually nodded today in slow languid pursed-lipped squinty-eyed nods of approval while basking in the glory of early Argentine fall. It was the sort of vindication you feel watching your friend Fat Rita lovingly devour a huge stack of pancakes with remorseless abandon………”yep, because that’s how Fat Rita rolls,” you think to yourself amongst slow pursed-lipped squinty-eyed nods. Today was like that.

I woke up earlier than the couple of others today and went for a run down through Plaza de Mayo, and around and through Parque Colón, then on to the river and around Microcentro. My first taste of feelgood ineffectual pseudo-athleticism and it was gloriously self-satisfying. The BA-ians don’t appear to jog much, and I respect them wildly for it. It’s a silly, silly affair (sorry, joggers), based mostly on the illusion of sportiness, mild sweating and marginal out-of-breathiness. I can run for what seems an endless amount of time, taking little Gumby-limp-legged half steps, more like little tosses of my legs away from my center of gravity, for miles and miles until my mental tumblers rollclick into the right combination of boredom, shame and self-pity to literally (not literally….never literally) force me to stop. And yet, no matter how much running I might be periodically doing at a given point in my life, 20 minutes of any “real” sport absolutely wipes me out, reminding me of the fundamental difference between an athletic activity and what is essentially walking impatiently. In any case, some form of exercise is a must in light of the ridiculous amount of Quilmes and Malbec I am consuming daily, and it’s not like I am bicycling or something similarly creepy (sorry, bicyclists). Plus, I don’t currently have the luxury of my typically most reliable diet component – overwhelming gut-wrenching fear and heart-palpitating stress of screwing up at work.

Arual and I had lunch at yet another wonderful sidewalk café today, where the beer flowed like wine and the salads just sat there really. Nevertheless, tasty delights in the early afternoon sun, just off of Plaza de San Martin.  Jose Francisco de San Martin, apparently, is also known as The Libertador, a great hero of the Argentine people and famed wearer of sweet-ass feathery hats, who along with The General, Simon Bolivar, is largely credited with bringing independence to South America, and Chile and Argentina in his particular instance. You would know this had you taken the time to read the South America travel guidebook I brought with me, but I guess you dialed that one in. Not surprised. Whatever. Our waiter, a kindly young Buenos Aires man with a noticeable hint of Northern Chilean provincialism to him and, presumably, a penchant for waiting tables, looked quite a bit like Colin Farrell, minus the bushy-brow-furrowing overacting. Arual didn’t agree, but did reluctantly confess that he had a very familiar face. Of course, keen observer of human nature that I am, I quickly deduced that she was merely trying to throw my scent off of a very likely prior encounter with the real Colin Farrell, by pretending she didn’t really know what he looks like …….our waiter.

The Libertador

Our Waiter

Thereafter to the glorious park hanging off of ass end of Plaza de San Martin, where, under the luminiferous rays of the receding but still proud sun, I starting writing the first chapter of my new fiction novel, a classic but entirely original tale of love, loss, redemption, hatred, vice, carnal passions, re-redemption after realization of illusion of prior redemption, amicable divorce, scalene love triangles, mild regret, indifference, masturbation, unicorns, manticores, necromancy, make-up fornication, pederasty, loss of Godlessness, hooliganism, tatterdemalions, and the like. The working title is “Shakespeare Who? The Beautifully-Written Truth About Everything….Ever, Plus Some: The Literary Masterpiece”, but I am now leaning towards “The Taxidermist’s Daughter” for a more subtle approach. I only really have a title at this point, but am open to thoughts and cash advances.

Capped the day off with a very nice dinner at Dada, a tasty little restaurant bar between downtown and Retiro. The art was really more Surrealistic, but we shouldn’t quibble about the margins. Plus, how do you really conform art (or food) to the parameters, whatever they may be, of Dadaism and still be Dadaistic. Arual had some sort of giant-shrimped risotto and our heroic narrator had the noquis verde, which did actually turn out to be gnocchi, but not pesto as my rudimentary Spanglish suggested. Either way, the comida y vino were absolutely fantastic, and the scene was young, hip and eclectic. Arual struggled to deliver food from plate to gullet without incident, and spent the better part of the evening with a large chunk of food hanging (abstractly) up around the top of her left cheek, until she scratched her nose and an entire crawfish inadvertently fell back into a waiting bed of risotto. I would have told her, but I don’t speak the language here.

[This guy]

Day One – BA

Argentineans cannot make a Bloody Mary for shit. But, as yet, that’s really the only early kink I have detected in the armor. Lounging in the late afternoon at a pricey Americanized outdoor café and bar in Puerto Madero, just between the spicket-mouthed end of Avenida Corrientes pouring traffic into the riverside mediumway, and the provincial beauty of the Casa Rosada and the accompanying row of old-world hotels that delineate San Telmo from the southern neighborhoods, with the lady, whom we shall lovingly call Arual the Succubus (a modern variant of Hekate the Destroyer in the underworld, Lilith the Devil-Whore for the Sumerian/Babylonian crowd or Gozer the Destructor of Ghostbuster fame), to protect identities, as she is burrow-clawing rapaciously into her Time Out Buenos Aires, I feel a deep sense of regret for putting the good people of BA (as it will be hereinafter known) in this awkward position. They already knew they couldn’t pull off a decent Bloody, but the dicky American in me had to make them try. The waitress’ response to my order should have told me all I needed to know, her dramatically slouched left shoulder and sad glossy eyes reflected my obtuseness. It’s like I asked a blind armless midget to hand me the ginsu knife from the highest shelf of the kitchen (…..as if he hasn’t had a hard enough time with things). Not cool. In any case, I now know what my go-to BA “drink” will not be. Arual is drinking Frenet y Cola, we will see how long that experiment lasts.

There are plenty of locals (or at least people who seemingly speak Spanish) at the café, despite the higher prices, tourist fare and unrepentant American classic rock music – lots of misplaced Hendrix, same-song Tom Petty and a sprinkling of Jackson Browne that just makes me sad for him, me and them. Fortunately, the outdoor deck in perfect sun and the generous riverside views have apparently won the day. This is but the first of what should be many, many cafes in the next couple of months, and I think we started rather nicely.

We arrived in BA yesterday morning, still somewhat groggy and dislocated from the long flight from San Francisco, by way of Dallas/Ft. Worth (two cities so equally and consubstantially devoid of culture or redeemable quality they decided to join municipal forces for the purposes of aviation and visitor-attraction brochureism). I don’t sleep well, or at all, on planes. Never have. Despite my usual diet of two miniaturized bottles of extremely cheap wine, it’s apparently not in my constitution to sleep sitting virtually straight up around a plane full of creepy and less somnolently sensitive strangers. I also don’t try terribly hard, but then I never have to (try terribly hard that is) in any other situation I can recall, which is well enough to remove lack of effort from the list of suspects. In any case, I don’t sleep well, or at all, on planes. Whether that is for good or ill with respect to my mental state post-international flight is probably up for debate. Inadequate shallow sleep comes with its own baggage. Plus, this just means more time to read my many books in tow and catch a couple of otherwise unwatchable movies perpetuating the talent-illusion of Jim Carey.

Arual the Succubus sleeps like a baby on planes, and more literally than is typically meant by that saying, as she drools at a fantastic clip – from an agape mouth seemingly pulled by preternatural forces towards the roof of the plane or the heavens, or both really. “WTF is she looking for up there….? God?” I, and several now-befriended former plane strangers, laughingly ask among jocular high-fives. Then again, she also snores and chortles a slight bit, so perhaps she sleeps more like an elderly baby, or at least one with a very difficult case of sleep apnea. So, in retrospect, maybe she sleeps like an old obese man on planes, instead of a baby. I don’t really know how babies sleep to be honest. It would be weird if I did.

We immediately went to meet Ignacio, which is apparently a real name for a person, at our apartment (Ignacio runs the long-term vacation rental company with his partner, who I have persistently called “Roberto”, despite his parents’ adorably feeble and, frankly, self-indulgent attempt to give him the Christian name of Martin), where I could unload the ridiculous amount of cash I was forced to carry with me to pay the two months rent and security deposit upon arrival. Of course, it wasn’t the flight I was worried about, as pickpockets are notoriously easy of locate on airliners and having a great deal of cash might actually help if the jet were to go down in the Andes. After the other soccer-player passengers finished gnawing the last vestiges of succulent meat from the big-boned bones of Arual (aw, short-strawed once again), I could pull out my cash and purchase my safety with the shining incandescent power of the U.S. dollar, which before the recent bust, ironically, might have still had the purchasing power to have saved Arual as well. Oh well, we all have to sacrifice in this economy. Little did those silly soccery cannibals, sleepy and confused after gorging themselves on my tryptophanic significant other, know that after we were rescued, I would almost certainly sue them for the return (with interest) of my money under some unreasonable duress/extortion theory. Arual would have wanted me to.

In any case, we made it safely to the apartment on Diagonal Norte, met Ignacio, who thankfully speaks English quite well, and transacted business in raw cash, which has an inherent feel (at least to Americans) of shadiness to it. Watching a moustached man count out tens and tens of hundreds of my dollars usually immediately precedes the receipt of guns, drugs and/or high-priced prostitutes, or all of the above in the ideal context, rather than an extra mailbox key and a laminated list of “very nice” tapas restaurants in the area. Luckily, Ignacio handed me a hand-written rental agreement and receipt drafted entirely in colloquial Spanish to appropriately document my legal rights. He was even kind enough to give me the gist – “eh, don’t worry about this paragraph” – of what it said. Sounds reasonable to me. You won’t even get that buying high-priced hookers.

After kicking Ignacio out (yeah, check the contract people), I duly went to sleep for the next 8 hours (see, I don’t sleep well on planes), before waking up and heading to to this cafe where I now find myself.

(to be continued……….)

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