Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Still Standing

I've always wanted to live abroad, but after 6 months of doing it I can say that the sunshine of the dream is sometimes brighter than the sun that actually shines. The realization of the imbalance of luminosity culminates not in regret or as a complaint, but rather in the further understanding of the value of the deconstructing of one's self to the foundation. To the core. To the place we surround with walls bricked with fear and insecurities. Deconstruction is rarely, if ever, a smooth or harmonic thing. It is usually more closely related to implosion or the torrent of a raging river, or both.

As 2008 fades to memory I am thankful to have stumbled upon and crashed into some partial answers. I say 'partial' because the totality of them does not come in between the sunrise and sunset of a sole South American day. No, it turns out these answers I search for will come from night upon night spent sleeping on a single size box spring while my belle sleeps on the mattress half next to me. They are the kind of answers that come from swallowing my stubbornness and accepting the truth of how little I know about the world. They come from when pride has frozen our ability to grow and we decide (or are forced) to break our barnaclized minds free of the giant Caribbean cruise control ships named 'Comfort' and 'Easy'. They are answers that come from walking with chaos until it loses the potency of its dissonance. They come from believing heat and dust, or cold and snow, are no longer formidable adversaries. They come from when we decide second-guessing ourselves is a hindrance to living. They come from the acceptance that if everything we owned disappeared we would become more defined rather than less. The answers come from understanding that I am not what I create, nor am I what I destroy, but I always am. Like Vishnu.

When we decide to live there are repercussions. Our weaknesses stand naked and the more we try to hide them from the world around us, the less we are alive, the more the river will rage, and the more we'll look the fool.

2008 has been a crazy amazing ride. If all goes well 2009 should be more of the same. My best to all of you in the new year and be sure to keep an eye out for the orange gorilla. Take care. Take chances.


I took this photo a couple of days ago - one of the last sunsets over Buenos Aires in 2008.

Currently Reading:
demonstration signs

Currently Listening To:
the wind howling through our glassless windows

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Exploring the City on Two Wheels: Ride 1 & 2

It's been about 6 months since I've had a car. In Buenos Aires there's really no need for one. Mass transit blankets the city well. Between the subway, buses and taxis you can get anywhere you need to go, and you can do it for minimal cost. While I've been enjoying the absence of a car, and all of the responsibilities and cost that go with it, what I have been missing is my bike. After 5 months of storage I finally got a hold of it a couple of weeks ago.

Pedals have been my favorite means of transportation since the first time I biked to school by myself when I was 8 years old. That metallic red dirt bike I had back then granted me my first tastes of freedom. With it I was able to escape the boundaries of my childhood home and the cornfields that surrounded it. Its fat knobby tires allowed me to be off on my own exploring long before I ever had my driver's license and was able to embark on road trips. And best of all it didn't cost me a dime.

Sure, in the beginning I could only go a mile or two before I ran out of juice. One of the great things about being a little kid though is that you don't stay little for long. As my legs grew so did my radius of exploration. Eventually I was able to commandeer my older sister's sky blue 10-speed Peugot which meant not only could I escape my neighborhood, but I could escape the entire town if I wanted too as well. It was my choice. Out on the road my mind was left to wonder, regulated only by the headwind that confronted me or the tailwind that followed.

As time has passed a bike has not only remained a way for me to find some peace and/or escape a city, it has also been one of the greatest ways to see, hear and breathe one. Buenos Aires is a huge metropolis, by far the largest city I've ever put the wheels down in. The idea of leaving it on a bike is an endeavor in itself. So rather than trying to escape and find some exploratory peace outside the city, my first few rides thus far have focused on escaping and exploring within it. Since there's so much of it I haven't seen, it doesn't take long for me to get to somewhere I've never been.

Ride 1: To the boardwalk along the Rio de la Plata and Jorge Newbery Airport

pedestrian overpass | a thousand poles and no fish

broccoli boardwalk | solo fisherman

curved river pier | three-wheeled hydration man

Ride 2: Puerto Madero and back

look up | no gas needed

x-ray vision | next to laguna de los coipos

bad-ass old iron street sign | calatrava bridge

puerto madero boardwalk | retired shipping cranes on the port

el congresso

Currently Reading:
street names, and getting lost (on purpose)

Currently Listening To:
Song: Paint a Face
Artist: Neil Halstead

Odd Fact of the Day:
South of the equator, today is the first day of summer and longest day of the year. It is also the second time we're celebrating those things this year.
The first was in Harlem, back in June.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Jimmy Danko + spray paint...

Jimmy Danko + spray paint + xacto knife + holidays + war =

On my first visit to Buenos Aires before moving here, one of the things that intrigued me most was the frequency at which the city's artistic, social and political voices were represented on the streets. I would argue that graffiti exists more as part of the culture here, rather than completely independent as it's own sub-culture. All around street lamps, over passes and construction sites are covered with political propaganda and/or advertising, while barrios like Palermo Soho and San Telmo are tagged densely by artists whose messages span the gamut.

While I've been pasting my gorilla sticker anywhere and everywhere since we got here, it's not the same as busting out a can of spray paint, and after living here 5 months I've been starting to get the itch. What finally tipped the scales was a conversation I had a couple of weeks ago my friend "DOTS". He said he would make a pact with me that if I started tagging Buenos Aires he would simultaneously start tagging in Milwaukee.


So yesterday morning, just before sunrise and with Annie as my partner in crime (photographer/lookout), I found a couple of dilapidated structures for my paint to dance on.

Currently Reading:
The Old Patagonia Express:
By Train Through the Americas
by Paul Theroux

Currently Listening To:
Song: Raising Hell
Artist: Run DMC

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Ghosted Beach Town of San Bernardo

Journal Entry 11-20-2008 3:34pm

For the first time in many months I am sitting and writing before the ocean blue. It's actually more brown than blue here but the endless waves are calming to the soul nonetheless. This time ocean is the Atlantic, which seems in my mind slightly less romantic than its Pacific counterpart I used to live next to, but that argument holds up for only a few seconds. It is crushed by all of the places my mind wanders to when I gaze out past the waves towards the Eastern horizon.

I am not home. Far from it. I couldn't tell you where I am from a non-geographic standpoint, and I guess for what it's worth that is something special in itself. If we were to look on a map the name of the place we find ourselves is San Bernardo, Argentina. It resides on the Atlantic Coast, a 6 hour bus ride south of Buenos Aires.

It's been almost three months since we've ventured out of the Buenos Aires. As the months compile without us having left the city's borders the idea that something actually exists beyond all the concrete and cobblestone seems less and less plausible. The shear immensity of the city is apparent whenever I climb to roof of our apartment 25 stories up and gaze at the endless sea of buildings that extends as far as the eye can see. Grasping the view up there is one thing, but riding the energy below is a whole other, thus our necessary sojourn. With money tight right now as we try to figure out what exactly it is we are doing here in Argentina, our options for escaping the city for awhile were somewhat limited. Thankfully we were fortunate to have a friend offer us the keys to his family's beach house here for a few days, while it sits empty before the big summer rental season that steadily approaches.

San Bernardo is an interesting place. In my eyes it stands as a ghost town on the Southern Atlantic whose layers of paint flake and crack in the faded sun of its soul. With it's lifeblood only really flowing during the two peak summer months of January and February, it stands as an old weathered amusement park that's seems like it's been lying dormant for years. Apartment buildings rise up everywhere on the city's three mile stretch of beach front, yet it is a task to find one with shutters open. Nearly all are vacant rental properties. Of the dozens of restaurants we pass, only a few that are open for business. A handful of people walk the streets, most of whom seem to be business owners preparing for the tourist season. Fresh coats of paint waft up from nearly every block. In ratio to the amount of people, we see just as many, if not more, stray dogs wandering, lying and gimping around. Most of the dogs, as friendly as they are, have seen better days. They remind me of the ghosts of lost children who forever haunt the streets and beaches in longing for the golden years of this amusement park town, in hopes of maybe scrounging up one more peso out of their parents pocket for an ice cream cone or another shot in the arcade. Like a handful of orange trees haphazardly planted with an apple orchard, old concrete structures stand erected with no facade amidst the newer apartments, sometimes 15 stories high, abandoned as skeletons before they were ever finished. In other places rebar grows from crumbled concrete like ancient, petrified, rust seedlings, frozen by weather, time and circumstance. It is unclear how 'golden' the golden years might have been here. The town has had to weather not only mother nature but the turbulent times of its country's past as well. Like looking at rings on tree, it's clear some years here were more nurturing that others.

The old warped boards of these sun-dried stairs I sit on along the beach seem to long to know their place here in this South American world just the same as the shifting shadow that follows me. The footsteps that brought me here across the sand have already blown away as the relentless ocean wind howls it's persistent tune. These are not the easiest of times, but they are beautiful in all of their unconventional ways, beautiful just like this empty little beach town. I can say with certainty that I think I would like this town less if its streets were buzzing with tourists and the fading remnants of yesterday were absent from its framework. It has character and that is something time has not taken away.

I am thankful to be here walking amongst the humble ghosts of this old amusement town, breathing its fresh clean ocean air and having one of my biggest worries be how much its sand I collect in my shoes.


The old stairs on the beach where I sat and wrote.

Saying a long overdue 'hello' to the ocean.

Annie walks with her new friend.

One of the many old neon signs found up and down the street.

Abandoned and newly constructed buildings
are woven together in the fabric of the town.

Remnants on the thoroughfare of another time.

Sunrise on San Bernardo.

Peering at new apartments through the remnants of an old store front.

More neon.

Much like an amusement park, the city is accented
with color everywhere. It was a welcome change
to the grays of the big city.

One of the old empty amusement lots on the city's main street.

An empty amusement park quietly waiting for the summer months.

An old out of commission go-kart track on the ocean's edge.

Annie makes 3 more friends as we wait for the bus back to the city.

Currently Reading:
The Old Patagonia Express:
By Train Through the Americas
by Paul Theroux

Currently Listening To:
Song: Nightblindness
Artist: David Gray

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Adventurous Path of Uncertainty

I never cease to be amazed at how quickly things change for us here. If there is one constant I can count on 'change' is it, and almost daily.

When we first arrived in Buenos Aires our plan seemed so clear. We were going to start a yoga and art studio. When the life of acclimation got confusing, that plan was always where we fell back too. "This is what we're here to do and we're going to do it" seemed to be our philosophy. We were not stubborn, but we were (and are) determined.

However now, as recent weeks have played out in the global economy, our entrepreneurial plans are in flux and we have begun to adopt a plan, that when broken down to it's most basic level, is more about survival. I have to admit that hasn't been the easiest pill to swallow. It is an interesting thing to walk through the course of a day and not know whether the assets you thought you had still exist or not, or knowing there won't be immediate answers available regarding their existence, and then further beginning to plan in case they don't.

I have never been one to walk with fear, although I have met up with it from time to time for brief conversations, many of which seem to have taken place this year. Having reconstructive knee surgery. Moving to another country. Betting everything on a dream. Fear is an interesting thing. Even as I write this it drives people to the banks here to withdraw their money because they believe the Argentine economy could collapse in just a couple of months. (Read more about that here) Dorothy Thompson said, "Only when we are no longer afraid do we begin to live." For me, I think that is what I've had to get over once again this past week. I've had to have one of the those conversations with 'fear' and decide where I'm gonna stand with it. It made me think back to a time in my life about 9 years ago. In a span of two weeks I had broken off a wedding engagement, lost my job, and learned that I would soon be without a place to live. I remember a friend asking me back then why I was still able to hold onto a smile despite the fact that the world I knew was crumbling around me. I told her that I had come to a realization. I said, "You can take all those things away from me and I'll still be me. I am not my fiancee. I am not my job. I am not the house I live in. Hell, take my car too. You can take all those things away from me and ultimately I am still me and that no one and no circumstances can change. No matter what happens, somehow, someway I will survive." I remembered feeling empowered by those thoughts and I have carried them and the belief in myself with me ever since.

The truth is we don't know yet what's going to happen here in Argentina, with our assets back in the States, or with the economy of the world. We hope for the best but we don't rule out the worst. There are certain things we can control in life and there are others that we can't. I can control though whether or not I keep wearing a smile. Or what colors to paint the background on the next painting. Or how much ketchup I put on my fries. I can control what chords I strum on my guitar. In other words you have to keep moving forward, even though what moving forward means isn't always clear. I've found that growth most often does not derive from comfort and ease, and life to be more interesting when walking the never boring, and always adventurous path of uncertainty.

Currently Reading:
"Against the assault of laughter nothing can stand." - Mark Twain

Currently Listening To:
Robb Deez

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A Turning Point In History

Sometime after 3am last night here in Buenos Aires we watched live over the internet Barack Obama give his acceptance speech for President of the United States of America. After a measly 4 hours of sleep I'm still trying to take in all that happened. We as a nation elected our first black president. Regardless what anyone's political views are, we have all together as a nation walked through a door in history and passed yet another milestone in overcoming the racial injustices that have haunted our country's shadow for so long. And that alone is something to celebrate. And celebrate we did (and are).

We've crossed over into another time. From today on our nation will never be the same. Not only have we taken a step further beyond color, but we have emphatically said 'no more' to what the current administration has done to our country. It's been so long, and as I take a deep breathe and exhale, it is my old friend 'optimism' that refills my lungs.

I can say first hand living abroad here in Argentina that it was not just US citizens that were pulling for Obama over these last few months. We have taken an enormous step forward with redeeming ourselves in the international community. When I walked these South American streets today, being an American meant something different than it did 24 hours ago. And that put a smile on my face.

I bid you farewell George Bush. You are my President no more...

The newspapers today in Buenos Aires.

We hosted an Election Party last night. It was an awesome time. There is nothing like walking through history with a group of 30 or 40 friends. In attendance was not just Americans living abroad, but Peru, Australia, Canada, Argentina, and England were all represented as well. All were curious. Throughout the night people could be found huddled around the TV broadcasting live in Spanish, or the computer streaming live in English. No point seemed more moving though then when Obama gave his acceptance speech. The diehards that had lasted until three thirty in the moring all stood huddled around the computer in complete silence, entrenched in our new President's every word.

I made it to bed some time after 4:30am and awoke 4 hours later to a blazing sun and a monumental collection of wine and bear bottles. A night to celebrate indeed.

Currently Listening To:
The collective voice of America.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Warm Concrete Feet

It's early Sunday morning (Oct 19th), well early by Buenos Aires standards - 10 am. This great leviathan of a city, that just a few months ago seemed somewhat dormant and gray, is beginning to warm itself on the coals of the spring sun.

The blaze of heat that I used to feel on the bottoms of my feet while walking on the summer sidewalks in San Diego has begun to find its way beneath me once again. Although this time, instead of my destination being the hot sand of a Southern California beach, I find myself arriving to rooftops terraces and inner city parks. Sure, next to friends and family there are few things that I miss more than a salty wind, the calming, blanketing sound of ocean waves and endless blue horizon, but at the same time I am not here to find a bluer ocean, just a different one.

Last weeks thunderstorms have brought waves of green to the trees here, and the warm sidewalks and electric blue skies seem to have brought a freshness to some people's step. Corners of mouths seem to turn up a little bit easier. The concrete will always be concrete but there's something different about it when spring's green and summer's breath descend upon and through the people that live within it.

I unboxed my paints last week and made a trip to the art store to replace some of the art supplies that remain locked away in our storage container waiting for a home. My brushes have laid quiet for too long and it seems they have much to say, so I am going to let them speak. The endless search for the art/yoga studio space rages on however we draw closer by the day.

Currently Reading:
The History of Argentina
by Daniel K. Lewis

Currently Listening To:
Up Against the Crown

Friday, October 10, 2008

Beautiful Chaos

There are some days that are harder for me than others to put into perspective. It feels like I've been having a lot of those of late. I sit here, in a small lofted room in Buenos Aires and watch online the economy of US continue to spiral downward while two men are in a heated race for President. It makes for an odd backdrop in my mind as I walk through the streets of Argentina. I'm living in a place that I'm learning to call my home, while simultaneously being infused with the chaotic events of the place where I've always known my home to be.

I think it's safe to say that I don't feel like I've ever lived through a more transitional and pivotal point in history. I'm reading George Orwell's the Lion and the Unicorn, which he wrote in 1941, and found myself connecting to some of the words he wrote almost seventy years ago. The connection for me wasn't with the socialist ideas presented, but rather with his discontent with England's ruling class at the time, and his deep yearning for change. His deep yearning for revolution. For me, for the first time in a long time I feel like there's a chance for change in America. I saw it at the US Embassy two days ago where everyone, including myself, seemed to be voting for Barack Obama.

Am I worried what's going on? Why should I? Life's too short. I'd rather soak these beautifully chaotic times in. They're here whether we like them or not, and it isn't often that we get to experience them through the course of our lives. Plus, they say it's always darkest before the dawn. There's no way to know when that dawn will be, but it will come. It always does.

Currently Reading:
The Lion and the Unicorn
by George Orwell

Currently Listening To:
FDR's Fireside Chats
Blood in My Eyes

by Bob Dylan

Sunday, September 28, 2008

A Second Spring

It's a quiet Sunday,
and I barricade myself indoors.
As a steady rain soaks the streets
all the laundry still hangs outside.
I listen to it tap the tin roof I sit under,
and I hear my thoughts echo off the walls.
My friends dance in my mind,
and a million miles ripple between us.
This rain has fallen on me before,
but never amidst such a dense forest of concrete giants.
My lungs have inhaled this wet spring air before,
but never in a South Atlantic September.
This whole year seems made up.
Like I've stepped into a Salvador Dali painting,
and I'm trying to make sense of that melting clock.
My closet is perpetually a suitcase,
and the only ones who seem to recognize me are
the woman I wake up next to,
my brown leather boots,
and the unshaven crazy-looking guy in the mirror.
I stare at him and he smiles back.
I ask the crazy guy why he's smiling?
His reply-
The clock's not melted,
the canvas is blank,
and all the answer's are in your shadow.
And for a few moments,
the echo stops.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Tearing Down Walls

For the first time in my life I am a property owner. Last week Annie and I closed escrow on an apartment on the top floor of a building in a barrio of Buenos Aires known as Oncé. It's a raw space, absent of a kitchen, shower, or even hot water, but what it does have is potential, and in it we see something that will be our own.

Today, marked Day 1 of the remodel. What does that mean exactly? It means myself and our friend Mauricio, who flew in from Tijuana, Mexico to help us for the next few months, got to smash down walls with a sledgehammer. Unlike in the States, because of fire codes here, it's illegal to build the basic structure of a building or home with wood, so even interior walls are made of brick and concrete as opposed to 2x4's and drywall. Consequently our demo, and the debris that follows, is fairly substantial.

Mauricio and I make an interesting crew. He was born in Tijuana, Mexico, and I was born in Wisconsin. I grew up landlocked by corn and he was surrounded by desert and ocean. While he speaks fairly good English, his first language is Spanish. I on the other hand am just beginning to grasp the basics of Spanish. The overlap for the two of our lives originates in San Diego. I lived there for the last 5 and half years, and he crossed the border everyday to work construction there, sometimes for Annie. Because of his friendship with Annie, the quality work he's done for her and his ability to speak Spanish, he was the perfect fit to help us get our home and studio remodeled here in Argentina. For Mauricio it was an opportunity. These days it's not easy for him to cross the Mexican border, and with the mortgage crisis in the States the construction industry has slowed down dramatically. Even though he would be leaving his wife and children for three months, it meant three months of guaranteed income he could send back to them, not to mention the chance to see a part of the world he might not otherwise be able to see.

While the life paths for the two of us have been very different, they converge now here for the next few months in South America, in one of the largest cities in the world. We are each teaching the other what we can, while building a home and eventually an art/yoga studio along the way. Sure in this first week we have sometimes struggled to understand what the other is saying, but the majority of our conversations end in laughs so I think we'll be alright. I feel fortunate to have him here.

Currently Reading:
The Lion and the Unicorn

by George Orwell

The New York Times

Currently Listening To:

On The Real with Chuck D

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Escaping The City

We've officially been here two months now. Two incredibly fast months filled with an intensity that I have never before been witness too. A great deal of energy is required to start a business or buy a home even when you're in a place you've known all your life, but when you do both of those things at the same time, and do them in an entirely different country, the patience and energy required is even greater.

Within the first week of our arrival here a friend of ours told us to get out of the city every 4 or 5 weeks. He warned us to be careful because the city can wear you out. His advice, as I imagine it would in any big city, held a great deal of truth. Buenos Aires moves fast, and to survive you have to move fast within it.

Our first chance to escape the city came a week ago. We boarded a ferry and took a one hour trip across the Rio de la Plata to Uruguay. There in a small town named Colonia, on the other side of the river, we found relief from the noise and fast paced energy of the city.

As we sat on the grass in the sun, near the river's rocky shore, my thoughts were able to drift into the peace of the moment. No car horns. No squealing bus breaks. No phone. No computer. Just the sound of the waves. The rich brown water of this mighty river conjured up images of the Mississippi. And the warmth of the dry sun was reminiscent of a San Diego spring. There wasn't much going on there, but that is exactly why I was so fond of this small river town in the Southern Hemisphere.

One of the most interesting parts of the trip for me came on our ferry ride back to Buenos Aires. As we pulled into the port, returning from our first excursion out of the city, I had a feeling come over me that we were coming home. Home - it's such an interesting word when you think about it. It is often easy to call a place home, but it's entirely different to feel like a place is home, and for the first real time without forcing it, that's how I felt about the city. For the first time, I was coming home.

Monday, August 25, 2008

An Overflow of Experience

Life has been evolving here at a lightning pace. Weeks pass like they were days, and the days are overflowing with not only the experience of the new, but also with discussions of the old... Kerouac, Frank Lloyd Wright, Michelangelo, Dylan, Hermann Hesse.

We went to our first milonga (tango gathering) last week. Even though it was a Monday night the doors didn't open until 11pm and the band didn't start till 1:30 in the morning. Buenos Aires is no doubt a city of the night. I find myself looking at the clock here at 4 in the afternoon and feeling like it's still morning. The city does that to you. Time seems different, skewed - as if I were looking at it's reflection in a fun house mirror.

We had friends over for dinner the other night. Our first dinner party in Buenos Aires. Guests included two sisters from Chile, two Americans (via Austin and New York), and my Canadian friend and his Lebanese wife. I still find myself amazed at the eclectic mix of people we find ourselves amongst out here. So many fascinating stories and so many extraordinary paths.

My friend Brian mentioned the culture shock he encountered upon returning home from his honeymoon in Hawaii not to long ago. It made me think about what my first visit back to the States might be like after living here in Argentina. I can't even imagine. By that time I will most likely have been gone for at least a year. It will be so different to me. I envision the places I know to have grown infinitely smaller, and the supermarket aisles to feel so incredibly vast. I am forever changed by what I'm experiencing. I stare out into a night window and realize that the place I am growing used to, the place I am calling home, is so far removed from my last 5 plus years spent on the beach in California and the Wisconsin corn fields I played in as a child.

My thoughts drift back to something I wrote the other night: Sometimes when you are in the ocean floating about, with the horizon hidden and revealed by cresting waves, it is difficult to see the big picture. Alternatively, when you are on the outside looking in there is no way to know what that mighty blue mass is all about, unless for a time, you have submerged yourself within it and rode in the shadow of its waves. It is "the experience of the experience", of an ocean in a sea of oceans, with winds that both howl and echo, and marvelous days that always die at the unbending hand of time, in the face of partially revealed truths.

Currently Reading:
Narcissus and Goldmund

by Hermann Hesse

Currently Listening To:

G. Love & Special Sauce
Yeah, It's That Easy

(I fixed the issue with leaving 'comments'. Anyone should be able to leave a comment now regardless if they have a google account or not. Also, I shaved off my pork chop sideburns last week. Thought you should know.)

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Vodka and Stripes

I find myself beginning to catch a rhythm here. After 6 weeks the word 'Dissonance' is starting to loose some of it's punch. As I look in the mirror at my frailties as an immigrant, I find my strengths as a person being reflected back at me through the friends I've met here who are also living abroad. The weaknesses feel fleeting, less consuming and a sturdiness holds itself better to my disposition.

This weekend may have been a turning point. Kind of like when you start a puzzle and you finally have just enough pieces laid down to recognize what you're building. These few random answers that made their way to me were not to be found in books, or the ink of my leaky pen. It was not in the wise words of a friend or in the triumph of a goal achieved. Instead it was found amidst one too many vodka drinks, a striped mask, empathetic laughter, and in the unjudging eyes of one close friend.

Friday, against my urge to keep working and studying, we accepted a friend's invitation to go out, and for one night we just let go. I drank in life, both distilled with age and colored with sentient voices. At the top of an iron spiral stair case, in a home I've never been, I was given vodka drinks mixed with traveled lemon twists of ambient life. And later on, under the red and blue lights of a sugar coated bar, I found my voice and my words dancing still into the raspy early morning hours.

I walked home slightly skewed, but there was a boldness in my boots that's been asleep in my shadow for some time now. I don't know if it's awake, but I at least know it's waking up.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Harmony, Dissonance & Frosted Flakes

For this first month and a half in Buenos Aires we are staying in a 3rd floor lofted apartment located in a more Bohemian part of the city. Living one floor above us is a professional opera singer, and most afternoons she warms up by practicing the piano. Her ivory key marches are followed by the most beautiful harmonic vocal scales. Even though her sounds are muffled immensely by the concrete that separates us, what does resonate through brings a calm abinding to this small loft we call home. In contrast, the city streets below carry traffic and noise that is less than calming. The roar of diesel buses and the sounds of daily late night trash collectors permeate dissonantly through our windows. It is these two things that helped to bring me to the words harmony and dissonance.

As we persevere through the first few weeks of acclimating to a entirely new culture South of the equator, those two words stand rich with meaning. They will represent my triumphs and my failures. My understanding and my ignorance. The reciprocity of life.

In these early weeks of living here though it is the things that are dissonant relative to where I came from that stand out in my mind more often than not. Examples include: I can't believe the extraordinary amount of mullet haircuts I've scene down here, including one that I thought only to exist in the mythical world of hobbits and unicorns - the dredlock mullet. It will be years I think before I get used to winter being in the middle of July. I have forsaken Google Maps for a paper map of the city that I've used so often it's falling apart at the creases. They have boxes of cereal with Tony the Tiger on them, and while the contents seem to be exactly the same, they're called Zucaritas. Eggs are not refrigerated in grocery stores and the milk we buy comes in bags. Restaurants don't open for dinner until 9pm.

I list these things not as complaints or as things that I wish were different, but rather as things that are out of harmony from what I've known to be norm for so long. And I remind myself that normal is a word that as my years go by I become less and less fond of.

With each passing day, slow but sure, harmony is seeping its way in. Just like our shower here that drains onto the bathroom floor every time we use it, I know over the course of time these things will all become increasingly more and more transparent to my mind's eye. My first few showers here were followed by a 'what the f@#k?' in reference to the draining water. Now the cleanup has already become a part of daily life that I give little or no thought to. I imagine that to be the same for the Zucaritas, the bagged milk and all the much deeper cultural differences we find ourselves walking amidst here. I will say this though - if a mullet finds its way to my head I guarantee some part of me has given up.

Currently Reading:
The Pearl
by John Steinbeck

Currently Listening To:
Into the Wild Sountrack
Eddie Vedder