La Piedra (Colombia)
Barrio Chino (Buenos Aires)
El Bolson (Argentina)
Puerto Varas (Chile)
La Piedra (Colombia)
Barrio Chino (Buenos Aires)
El Bolson (Argentina)
Puerto Varas (Chile)
It too me a long time to figure out exactly my place in South America and with only one week of my journey left, Ive been sifting through double fistfuls of memories for consistent narratives. Music has for years been a a central interest and communicating through ordered sound feels more natural than trying to do so verbally.
During high school and college I’ve attempted brief forays into projecting my own brand of noise publicly and never achieved much in terms of consistency of sound, band mates, or venues. Ive played gypsy punk, hipster noise, weird boring indie stuff and more jam sessions than I can possible name. Over the past few years I’ve moved further away from guitar and focused on the banjo and turned my cheap beer electric sensibilities into a shot of bluegrass and whiskey.
Heres some photos with various groups of people and events that I’ve played.
Buenos Aires is famous for its art scene. This was one party I went to in the Palermo which was an interpretive dance around a massive Mao head.
The was yet another art party happening just next door for a photo release party. Free wine, Italian food, and live music.
Justice has issues all over the world, thats a given. In Buenos Aires I have had the overwhelming impression that the people here generally are disillusioned and have very little faith in the prevailing structures, but that doesn’t stop them from striking out and against systemic oppression and government negligence. Earlier this week I went to a rally in Plaza Congresso. A plaza with beautiful monuments walled of by high metal fences and funnily enough, two blocks away from my old house.
On a typical day it would be filled with a combination of those more athletically inclined, people on PDA (public displays of affection) filled dates, and a constant number houseless people. On the night of the rally it was more akin to a music festival with large groups playing drums, dancing around, and buying street food. While there was an overall lightheartedness to the event, it was impossible to not be confronted and educated for the reasons behind this massive (200,000 people) gathering.
Argentina has had laws in place against femicide for a number of years dictating a mandatory life sentence. While the rally in general was concerned with the terrible treatment of women in general, the killing of women with relative impunity was by far the strongest issue. As I walked around I felt both the similarity and the strangeness of the setting. In many way it mirrored the rallies I’ve attended back in the states. The people wore familiar flannels and wielded a both signs and drums alike, but the vividness of having 30 people putting their red painted hands up to my face while screaming “stop the murder of women” was more confrontational and uncomfortable than I am used to…
and thats a good thing. This rally opened my eyes and was a visceral experience. From the wall of pictures of the women killed to the silent parents standing still with pleading eyes. The power of having this many people in one place shouting for change against a regime they many believe doesn’t listen actually left me hopeful.
The next day I read some english media covering (al jazeera, bbc, yahoo) the event and some said that President Christina led the event. From my understanding, this is completely false and was organized primarily over facebook (yay social media). The majority of people I’ve talked to while living here hold nothing but contempt for the current president, and from my independent research those opinions seem well founded. Living here has shown the vast incongruences between the situation and its appearance to the english speaking world.
While at times the city can feel suffocating, with the buildings blocking out the fading warmth of the sun and corners all looking nearly the same, there are pockets that defy the main street expectations of the humdrum kioskos, and parillas on stuck on repeat.
The organic market is a hideaway compelling and complete unto itself. The vendors have a swath of organic, vegan, and locally sourced foods generally laid out on atheistically pleasing cloth and hearty wooden tables. The building itself is repurposed like the space around it. Here the city noise fades and families sit down for a saludable meal while sipping on fresh juices and craft beer. Dogs and kids run alike between bees and rosemary a moment apart from Buenos Aires life.
So one Saturday I headed over to my bud Alvar’s house outside of Buenos Aires for an asado. In the simplest terms, an asado is the Argentine equivalent of the American BBQ and is a stable part of local culture (and mouth watering flavor).
To start, a group of my friends and I had planned on meeting up near Plaza Italia to make the long trek together. This involved me waking up around 9ish to take the Subte (subway). Theres a stop three blocks away from my house under the highway and at night it looks like a perfect setting for the Warriors.
Josh and Sophia both were there on time. I grabbed a coffee and a late breakfast and after waiting around for a good 45 minutes we decided to ditch Eric and take the bus. He found us seconds after this photo was taken. There was quite a long line for the bus and when we tried to get on we discovered that Sophia and I didn’t have the 19 pesos ($1.50) needed for the ride. Much to our embarrassment, we had to walk to the Subte station to refill them while Eric and Josh continued on. On our second attempt (after another long line wait) my card was once again declined for reasons that are still unknown, but luckily Sophia had enough for the both of us and we were off.
The time passed quickly since we both took naps and after asking for some directions, we got off in Office Park.
On the 20 minute walk, we passed a kids soccer game and three different cute dogs eating garbage
Accomplishing the final stretch into Highland Park was a little more difficult. Alvar lives in a gated community and this one had security as tight as any airport I’ve seen. Guarded by a small army wielding shotguns, we were asked for our passports (which neither of us had brought). Just as we were about to try and call Alvear again, our two lost companions rolled by in a Remis (a national car call service). We hopped into the back and rolled through the front gate.
Here is La Casa de Alvar complete with a pool turned pond.
Next up was the journey for the food. Alvar’s community is supposedly filled with corrupt officials and contained more than 700 families. The houses ranged from classical to post modern with the larger ones being indicative of deeper levels of corruption. We passed by a gym, restaurant, tennis courts, and a plethora of cameras.
Back at the house the preparations began. We were equiped with vegetables, beer, and 18 chorizos and we ready to get started.
My old roommate Nikki showed up coming straight from a soccer game. She illegally plays for UBA and has some forged student papers. (shhhhhhh)
Back on the bus!
Ground sown with cracked plastic cups and cigarette butts. I am outside the hostel’s blackened, ripped poster slathered face. The streets are running downhill into messy opened aired market pools where all sorts wash up. The city wants to collapse. This city of lost dogs, it leans over you like a perpetual drunk guiding lines turning at the seams. At night the colors come. The next morning we are camping in Largo Verde to be drained by a thousand kisses. We will become donuts frosted with sand. Here in the now the hallways wooden floors are kneaded soft. Given old voices they can talk. Telling me to turn back, to use my arms like saran wrap. My mouth is full of water when my legs fail me hands grasping.
The night was when the town came alive. Its difficult to say exactly what changed in the demeanor. maybe it was something in the sand, but Montanita was a drug catered designed and catered to strangers. On the wings of planes and over land they swarmed like so many locusts, hungry for booze, dance and easy love. They came dripping lightening and five dollar bills and left with photo filled phones and worn out livers.
On a different partition laid the a population of hippies who ran the restaurants and bars generally Argentine’s looking for American dollars or just something different.
Cocktail Alley like always was full at an early hour. Loud americans and men from neighboring countries with their almost too young girls friends. Their heads were balding and they had stomachs grown on too many days of beer and idle living. On their laps or arms they had painted girls whose hips belonged in schoolyards swigging back and forth on jungle gym bars. To have called their bikinis clothes would have undermined the word.
The drinks were cheap, fresh, and sweet and breathing them in by the cupful acted as a perfect alternative to the Pacific ocean air. Passing by open doors and women in short shorts passing out pamphlets with the latest events inscribed, the dirty sand was mixed with the ash of a hundred thousand cigarette brands and misplaced libidos.
The night was still hitting the snooze when the gorilla beats coming from a bar aptly named Alcatraz began. Covered in razor wire and containing three levels of hard cement dance floor the inmates were gutted by booze prices and confusing bathroom entrances.
When the last song finally played and bodies moved into the streets the waves were there to greet them. Warm waters and dark desires mixed with an utter confusion informed by pina coladas and the chaos of dozens of languages spoken with eager slurred tongues. Would they find some additional warm to add to the tropical heat? Or would the only kisses come from the always hungry mesquites laying in wait in the dark corners no one bothered to explore with consciousness sewed shut.
He took a look outside. The walls were splattered with a contrary combination of vandalized hip-hop sensibilities tempered with aboriginal folk art. Hunger had driven him from his dark hot room more oven than home. Thinking that he didn’t have enough residual gas for the four blocks to the central market. A local drunk who claimed to be the drummer of a famous rock band locked eyes with him and started stumbling towards him. Hands outstretched and mouth slightly open to let unbrushed air out.
Hey man! I need moneda for a beer.
He slurred his words mouth imitating the wet rolling fluidity of his gait.
It wasn’t even noon yet, the sun was malicious and the man was already pissed drunk.
In his dirty lined hand he held out less than 100 pesos as if trying to conjure it company.
The traveller kept his gaze down and walked past him. This was the fourth time they had met. The first over a beer and the second two flashbacks to the current situation.
A burn was already growing upon the back of his neck by the time he turned the final corner to the mercado central. He let his washing machine stomach be his guide since his nose was already overwhelmed by the mixture of trash, burnt meat, and ambiguously named imported scents that unsuccessfully attempted to cover up the cheap wine sweat.
The drink was began to wear off trading the shiny veneer and numbness of the previous nights activities for a slow throbbing in his central lobe that threatened to become a hell in hand basket hangover.
As soon as he walked past the main threshold the viscous assault began. Menus shoved into his face women calling him “mi amor” in attempt to arrest his attention. It was impossible to avoid the restauranteurs since the way, narrow to begin in with was further obstructed by metal carts, children playing with cheap plastic toys, and sleeping dogs. At the central crux a particularly aggressive woman grabbed his arm while talking rapidly into his face detailing the cheap food that was offered as well as the it delicious qualities. She was a strange mix of auction house and poet. He shrugged her aside with a small
“I’m not hungry” and as he was passing her demeanor changed starting with calling him a faggot and then raising noisy questions about his sexual prowess which followed him until he turned the corner to a deeper part of the market.
The lights were not quite as bright here living the furthest away from the doors and high windows. He took a seat at a stand where all of the hanging menus also included what appeared to be crayon drawings of sad famous disney characters. He inspected a rough picture of Simba next to cheap chicken meals promising a “regalo” of free soup and juice. A women whose clothes were as white as her hair walked up and asked what he desired while balancing a tower of dishes rivaling Babel. He ordered the fried fish while making a mental calculation of the exchange rate. Rice, soup salad, fish, and a florescent pink colored liquid calling itself juice for A dollar fifty.
He spooned a vinegary red hot sauce over a small bread roll. Sweet pepper on his lips, he closed his eyes letting the busy sounds crawl over his skin and into his blood.